Graduation Night, continued....
Roger was gripping the steering wheel so hard that his knuckles had turned white. So much depended on tonight. He had to win Adam over and make sure he didn’t testify for Richards. If things didn’t go well tonight, his whole life would be ruined.
Roger felt Joy’s hand on his shoulder and nearly jumped out of the car. “Honey,” Joy said, “you’re so tense... what’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Roger said quickly.
Joy had no idea who Adam was, of course. She had no clue about the past they had together. Roger had never even once mentioned his former best friend’s name to her. If Joy found out about the history they had together and Adam’s role in the accident... god, what a risk he was taking tonight.
“You said his name is Adam?” Joy asked.
Roger nodded, too keyed up to speak.
“And you know him from high school?”
Roger nodded again.
Joy leaned back in her seat, scanning the streets for parking. “I’m surprised they suggested Whitehorse,” she said. “That place is always so hard to get into on Saturday nights and they don’t take reservations. There will probably be a line at the door.”
“I told him that,” Roger said, “but Adam said it wouldn’t be a problem.”
Joy shrugged and smiled.
They found parking several blocks away from Whitehorse and had to walk the rest of the way. As Joy had predicted there was a long line in front of the restaurant, at least an hour’s wait. Roger saw Adam’s silhouette in his wheelchair and a woman at his side. “That’s him,” Roger said to Joy.
She raised an eyebrow. “You didn’t tell me he was...”
Roger had avoided telling her that Adam was a paraplegic. He figured it would just result in more questions that he couldn’t answer. He didn’t answer her now either.
Adam flashed the couple a welcoming smile when they approached, which Roger took as a good sign. He looked over at Adam’s date and his jaw fell open. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his life.
“Hey, Rog,” Adam said. “This is Brynne.” He looked over at Joy and held out his hand to her. “And you must be Joy. I’ve heard a lot about you. I’m Adam.”
Joy took his hand, blushing slightly. “Hi, Adam. Nice to meet you. And nice to meet you, Brynne.”
Roger frowned. He didn’t like the way that Joy was looking at Adam, but he decided he was just imagining things. “I don’t think we’re getting into this restaurant so easily,” he said.
Adam and Brynne exchanged looks. “I wouldn’t worry about it,” Adam said with a smile. “Brynne, can you talk to them for us?”
Brynne went inside the restaurant and half the men waiting on line strayed to watch her. Joy shook her head and said aloud, “My god, she’s really gorgeous.” Then she blushed again.
Adam laughed. “Yeah, I guess she is. It can come in handy sometimes,” he said, as Brynne stuck her head out and waved them inside.
To Roger’s surprise, there were seated on one of the better tables in the restaurant, probably due to Brynne’s influence. He was in awe of what this girl could do with her looks, and even more in awe of Adam for being her boyfriend. This girl could have had anyone she wanted, but she was with a guy who couldn’t even walk.
The conversation was slightly awkward when they first sat down. Brynne broke the silence by talking about her adventures finding work as an actress. She was easily beautiful enough to be an actress, but she said it was hard to break into the industry.
There was a dance floor in the middle of the restaurant and Roger noticed that Brynne cast a few longing glances at the dancing crowd. Adam must have noticed too, because he nudged Brynne’s shoulder and said, “Brynne, why don’t you go dance with Roger?”
Brynne shook her head and squeezed Adam’s hand. “Nah, I don’t really want to dance.”
“Come on,” Adam encouraged her. “Do it for Rog—he looks really bored. Besides, it’ll give me a chance to get to know Joy.” He winked at her.
“Okay Harding, you convinced me,” Brynne said. She grabbed Roger’s arm. “Come on, let’s see what you got.”
Roger dutifully followed Brynne onto the dance floor. He felt anxious though, like everyone was looking at him and wondering how he could be here with such a beautiful girl. He put his arms around Brynne’s shoulders and realized he was shaking. She pulled away from him and smiled. “Relax, Roger,” she said softly. “I won’t bite.”
Roger turned his head and saw Adam and Joy leaning toward each other talking quietly. What the hell were they talking about? Roger silently cursed himself for arranging this dinner.
“The best thing about being in a wheelchair,” Adam said to Joy, “is that I don’t have to dance.”
Joy laughed and he could see her tension easing up. “Not a big fan of dancing, huh?”
“My general feeling is that most guys look like idiots when they dance,” Adam said. “Case in point: Roger.”
Joy put her hand over her mouth to suppress a giggle. “Oh lord, it’s true.” She shook her head. “You seem to know Roger pretty well.”
“He was my best friend in high school,” Adam said, noting the surprise on her face. “I guess he never mentioned me.”
“Well, uh... maybe...”
“That’s okay,” Adam said. “We haven’t been in touch for a very long time.”
Joy nodded. Adam thought Joy seemed like a really nice woman. He was impressed that Roger had managed to do so well for himself, after being such a loser back in high school. I can’t let Richards destroy him.
“What was Roger like back in high school?” Joy asked.
“Total ladies man,” Adam replied earnestly.
Joy looked at him in shock and Adam burst out laughing. Joy shook her head and smiled. “So you’re saying he hasn’t changed a bit?” she said.
“Well, he didn’t used to be a lawyer,” Adam said thoughtfully. “Also, the beard is new.”
“Did he blame that beard on me?” Joy asked, crossing her arms. “He’s been telling everyone at work that I made him grow it, but that’s just not true. I hate it just as much as everyone else!”
Adam smiled. “That’s okay. Rog is a sound sleeper... I bet you could get rid of it tonight if you’d like.”
Joy laughed. “I’m tempted, believe me.”
Adam looked at her for a minute and furrowed his brow. “Wow, I can’t believe Roger is really getting married...”
“I can’t believe it either,” Joy said with a nervous smile. “How about you and... uh, Brynne.”
“Me and Brynne?” Adam shook his head. “No, I don’t see it happening. At least not in the near future. Or far future, for that matter. She’s, like, twenty.”
“So it’s not serious then?”
“Then why bother?” Joy asked earnestly.
Adam looked at Joy, surprised by her candor. It was a question he had been asked so many times in the last couple of weeks, but he hadn’t expected it from a woman he had just met. “She’s a nice girl,” Adam replied. “We’re having a good time together.”
“I’m sorry,” Joy said quickly. “I didn’t mean to... You just, seem like the sort of person who’s looking for more than that.”
“Well, it’s just this sense I get...”
Adam bit his lip. Joy was absolutely right. He was sick of living his life with way. It wasn’t the sort of person he was, although it was the sort of person he had somehow become. He was sick of one night stands and lying his way out of relationships. He wanted someone to love, who would love him back. Like Roger and Joy. “I don’t know,” Adam said quietly.
Joy put her hand on his. “I didn’t mean to upset you. You seem like a sweet guy.”
Adam looked up into Joy’s eyes and for a moment, he got the sense that if he wanted her, he could have her. All he would have to do is lean forward and kiss her, it would be that easy. Maybe it wouldn’t last, but he was sure he could get her to forget about Roger for a little while. But he could never do that to his best friend, even though Roger had done worse to him.
Instead he broke the moment by pulling his hand away from hers. He smiled thinly. “If I ever meet the right girl,” he said, “then I’ll consider it.”
Joy nodded, realizing that he didn’t want to talk about it anymore. She leaned back in her seat and studied his face. “I have to admit,” Joy said, “you don’t seem like the sort of person Roger would be friends with.”
“Is that an insult or a compliment?” Adam teased.
Joy laughed. “Neither, really. But most of his friends are very... well, conventional. They’re all lawyers, of course. A tad boring, to be perfectly honest.”
“And I bet none of them use wheelchairs either,” Adam said knowingly.
“Well, yes.” Joy blushed slightly. She wasn’t as beautiful as Brynne, but she was very attractive with her face all pink and her eyes wide. Adam could see why Roger liked her so much.
“I wasn’t disabled back in high school,” Adam informed her. “It happened after.”
“Oh,” Joy looked at him in surprise. “If you don’t mind my asking...”
“I was in a car accident.”
Joy frowned at him for a moment and he could see her slowly putting it all together. “It wasn’t the car accident with... where that woman died...?”
The very same. But Adam couldn’t say that to her. He didn’t want to wreck Roger’s web of lies. If Roger got caught, and no doubt he eventually would, Adam didn’t want to be the one responsible for it. “No,” Adam said quietly. “It happened during college, after Rog and I lost touch.”
Joy nodded, accepting his lie. Adam couldn’t understand how you could love a person enough to want to marry them, yet not tell them about one of the most important events in your life. There was no way Roger could hide from this, as much as he wanted to pretend it never happened.
Adam looked up at the dance floor and saw that a rather large, muscular man was intimidating Roger away from Brynne. Roger was backing away, a nervous look on his face. God, really nothing had changed since high school. Adam remembered they crashed a bar once with fake ID’s and Adam had to save Roger from getting his ass kicked when he tried to flirt with the wrong girl. Not that Adam himself had any idea how to intimidate people, but he at least knew how to talk to people without pissing them off.
“You’ll have to excuse me, Joy,” Adam said to her, “I have to rescue my date.”
“Oh, dear,” Joy murmured, looking up at the dance floor.
Adam weaved his way through the dancing couples in his wheelchair. The man trying to cut in on Roger was about six feet tall with muscles that stretched his black T-shirt. His head was shaved and there was a tattoo of a skull on his left arm. Adam wheeled right up to him without hesitation.
“Brynne honey, come back to the table, we’re going to order some food,” he said, taking her hand in his. Brynne flashed him a grateful look.
The big man’s mouth fell open. He stared at Brynne. “You’re with him?”
Brynne nodded and lowered herself into Adam’s lap. She kissed him gently on the lips. “How about a ride back to the table, sweetie?”
The man’s eyes widened and he took a step back. “Okay, good for you, man. Good for you.”
Roger’s face was bright red when they got back to the table and Joy was trying to comfort him. “Sorry, Adam,” he said.
“Hey, it’s no big deal,” Adam said. “I got her back, right?”
Adam could read his old friend’s expression—he was still a loser, even after all these years.
When Roger came back to the table, he was unable to hide the humiliation he was feeling. Not only could he never in a million years get a girl like Brynne, he couldn’t even hang on to her for the course of a few dances. He hadn’t felt like this big a loser since before he had met Joy.
“Aw, honey,” Joy said, enveloping him in a hug. “It’s okay. He was a big guy... you did the right thing by stepping away.”
“If he had tried to cut in on me and you, I would have clobbered him,” Roger said, trying to save a little face.
“I know you would,” Joy said. She was such a sweet woman. He was so lucky to have her. “Hey, I really like your friend Adam.”
“Yeah?” For some reason, this made Roger feel uneasy.
“He’s very nice and he’s... fun,” Joy said. “You have to admit, most of your friends from work aren’t a lot of fun.”
“I suppose,” Roger mumbled.
“We should invite him over for dinner next week,” Joy suggested.
Roger blinked. “You mean, invite him and Brynne over?”
Joy shook her head. “Brynne? Oh, come on. I mean, she’s very beautiful, but I don’t think she’s right for him at all.”
Joy was talking about Adam like she had known him for years. Roger didn’t like the look in her eyes as she spoke about him either. She had never taken an interest like this in one of his friends before.
Roger felt a surge of jealousy coming on. It was clear from Brynne’s appearance that Adam hadn’t lost his incredible gift with women. Was Joy already starting to fall for him?
“We should set him up with my friend Carla,” Joy suggested. “Don’t you think they’d hit it off?”
But Roger wasn’t fooled for a second. In the past, Roger had asked Joy to get a date for one of his single friends, but she had always been very negative on the idea. Now all of a sudden, she was taking an interest in Adam’s love life. Women were only willing to fix up guys they found attractive. Setting him up with one of her friends would allow her to get a window into what he was like romantically without actually dating him herself. Roger saw through this little trick right away.
When Adam and Brynne came back to the table, Brynne riding on Adam’s lap, Roger could barely look his former friend in the eyes. But Joy seemed unable to stop talking to him. As Roger observed, he noticed that she even touched his arm a few times.
Adam had stolen a girl away from Roger only once in high school. Most of the time, girls shunned Roger before he had a chance to develop much of an interest, but Alyssa Holland was different. Alyssa sat next to him in French class junior year and was actually willing to talk to him. A few times, they even got together after school to study. Roger thought about her constantly, but was having a lot of trouble working up the nerve to ask her out.
Then he made the huge mistake of introducing her to Adam. He didn’t even seem that interested in her initially, but two days later, he saw them making out in the hallway between fourth and fifth period. Roger’s legs nearly gave way beneath him.
Roger was too upset to ever say anything to Adam about it. He consoled himself with the thought that Adam’s relationships never lasted more than a few weeks and that he probably never had a chance with Alyssa to begin with.
He was wrong on the first count. Alyssa Holland and Adam Harding were an item for about four months, which was Adam’s longest relationship through all of high school. When they broke up, it was rather messy and Roger was never sure exactly what happened, except that Adam said Alyssa hated him now. Roger would have bet it had something to do with Maggie McConnelly.
Roger had gotten over Alyssa and had put it out of his mind. But now it seemed like the same thing was starting to happen with Joy. Well, Roger wasn’t going to let that happen. Adam could take him for every penny he had, but he wasn’t going to take Joy from him. Roger would make sure of that.
After two hours of chatting and eating, Roger’s anger had only grown stronger. He could see the look on Joy’s face and he knew he had to do something.
Adam smiled at the women, “If you’ll excuse me, ladies, nature calls.”
“I’ll come with you,” Roger said. He leaned toward Adam, “There’s something I wanted to talk to you about.”
Roger followed Adam as he wheeled in the direction of the restroom. Once they were inside the restroom, Roger raised an eyebrow at Adam, “I guess you, uh... you’re not having any problems with that anymore...”
“Not exactly,” Adam said. He pulled out a catheter tube in a plastic wrapper and held it up. “I have to use this, unfortunately. But that’s life, right?” He wheeled into the handicapped stall and shut the door behind him.
As Roger took a piss in the urinal, he felt some of his anger dissolving. Things were hard for Adam. Then again, Adam had spent the last ten years of his life moping about it and taking advantage of women. Maybe it evened out.
Adam left the handicapped stall and washed his hands at the sink adjusted for his wheelchair height. He smiled at Roger in the mirror. “So what did you want to talk to me about, Rog?”
Roger crossed his arms. “What the hell did you think you were doing out there?”
Adam frowned. He had that same innocent look on his face, the one he had when he was getting exactly what he wanted without even having to try. Roger hated it when he acted so unaware of the impact he had on women. “Huh? What are you talking about?”
“It’s not enough you’re dating the prettiest girl in the club,” Roger said. “You have to make a play for my girlfriend?”
Adam laughed. “You’re joking, right?”
“Do I look like I’m joking?”
The smile faded from Adam’s face. “Come on, Rog, I’m in a wheelchair. Are you really so insecure that you can’t trust a cripple not to steal your woman?”
“Don’t give me that bullshit, I know the way you operate,” Roger growled. “Do you plan to add Joy to your list of conquests?”
“Hey, fuck you, Rog,” Adam shot back. “I’m not going after your precious fiance. Goddamn it, what the hell is wrong with you? I was trying to... look, this is pointless. You’re completely insane.”
“I’m not insane,” Roger said. “I’m sick of you stealing girls right out from under my nose.”
“Girls? What girls? When have I ever stolen a girl from you?”
“Alyssa Holland?” Apparently, Adam didn’t even remember who she was. “Oh right, Alyssa... I didn’t steal her from you...”
“I was in love with her,” Roger said. “But it’s not like you cared. You just take whatever you want. Why can’t you let me be happy for a change?”
Adam shook his head. “Let you be happy? You really are crazy, Roger. I almost went to jail for you. I almost died because of you. But you know what? All that stops right now. You got your wish—I’m calling David Richards tomorrow and we’re sending your ass to the poorhouse.”
Roger felt a sinking feeling in his stomach. What had he done? What had possessed him to provoke Adam this way? Yet he couldn’t make himself stop. He was too angry. “Whatever you do to me,” Roger said, “at least I don’t have to stick a tube in my dick in order to take a piss.”
Adam’s mouth fell open. Roger sensed that he had crossed some invisible line and there was no going back now. “You spineless piece of shit,” Adam hissed. “You’re going to be so sorry, believe me.” He began wheeling his chair toward the door. “And regarding your precious Joy, you were right, I could have had her if I wanted. But I didn’t want her. And in a few months, she’s gonna be the only thing you’ve got.”
Adam had never felt so angry in his life as he felt right now. How could Roger talk that way to him, after everything he had done for him? Roger had changed. The guy Adam had been friends with back in high school never would have behaved this way. Or maybe Adam had just misjudged him back then. Maybe he had been just as big a slimeball ten years ago, but now he had the confidence to back it up.
Alyssa Holland... god, it was a long time since he had thought about her. He remembered that Roger had introduced them. He had gotten a sense that maybe Roger liked her, but he didn’t specifically say anything. Then Adam ran into Alyssa later that day after school and she had asked him if he’d be interested in studying French with her that evening.
Sorry, Adam had said, I take Spanish.
I know, Alyssa said and she winked seductively.
Alyssa was very cute, to say the least, and it was hard to say no to her. He didn’t even try.
Things got fairly serious fast between him and Alyssa. He hadn’t expected it to last very long, but somehow it did. It was at least partially because Maggie had started dating Derek, and Adam was feeling dejected. But even so, when he had his Saturday night dates with Alyssa, he always phoned Maggie up beforehand and asked her if she was free. Of course, Alyssa never knew about this, since Maggie never took him up on it. But she did know he was good friends with Maggie and she didn’t like it one bit.
He remembered they had a Friday night date to go to a new restaurant that Alyssa was very excited about and then a movie afterward. Adam was all set to go when he got a phone call from Maggie: she had found out Derek was cheating on her. Without hesitation, he had canceled his date with Alyssa and ran over to Maggie’s house.
Adam didn’t make up an excuse for Alyssa—he told her the exact truth about what happened. Alyssa was furious. She gave him an ultimatum right then and there: end his friendship with Maggie or she would break up with him.
It wasn’t much of a decision. He didn’t even need a minute to think about it.
Adam never regretted losing Alyssa. But it was upsetting to think that Maggie was the single force preventing him from a long-lasting relationship since the day he had met her. And yet she rejected him over and over again.
Even now, Maggie still had a stranglehold on him. She had told him straight out that there would never see each other again, but somehow he still held out hope that she would come to her senses. He could be enjoying a serious relationship with Brynne, but Maggie was still infiltrating his thoughts.
Well, enough was enough. Maggie wasn’t going to ruin his life any longer.
Adam said his apologies to Joy and got the hell out of the restaurant as fast as he could. He appreciated that Brynne didn’t ask any questions—she seemed used to fast getaways. She hailed a cab for them outside and they were on their way home before Roger even got back to the table.
Brynne, being her usual self, became amorous in the cab. She slid up close to Adam and began kissing his neck. It was all he could do to keep from pushing her away. He was furious at Roger and he couldn’t focus on anything else.
Adam gently tried to persuade Brynne to go back to her own apartment, but he could tell she was in the mood and wanted to come upstairs with him. “Maybe tonight is our night,” Brynne said suggestively. Of course, Adam knew there was no way he was going to be able to get it up tonight. He was way too upset and Roger’s callous remark had left him feeling self-conscious. At least I don’t have to stick a tube in my dick in order to take a piss. How could Roger say something like that?
In the confines of Adam’s bedroom, Brynne stripped off all her clothing and lay down in his bed naked. He stared at her... she had the most beautiful body he had ever seen. She was nothing short of amazing. Yet as he unzipped his pants and touched his penis, he knew with certainty that he wasn’t going to get hard this time either.
Goddamn it, Adam thought. What the hell was wrong with him? Why did this keep happening? He felt tears of frustration rise in his eyes.
Brynne noticed the look on his face and touched his cheek, “Sweetie, it’s okay. Really.”
But whether it was okay with her didn’t really matter. It was killing him that he couldn’t fuck Brynne. He wanted her so badly it hurt, but there was nothing he could do about it. The viagra wasn’t working anymore. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’ll go down on you, okay Brynne honey?”
Brynne nodded and spread her legs for him. Usually, he loved eating girls out... it was something he often fantasized about when he jerked off and he knew he was great at it, but today he wasn’t into it. Brynne seemed to enjoy herself nevertheless, climaxing loudly. Shortly after, she drifted off to sleep with a smile on her face.
Adam transferred into the bed beside her, but he couldn’t sleep quite so easily. He was remembering back how he had felt eleven years ago, when Dr. Firth had told him that he wouldn’t be able to have sex again. It was even worse than finding out he’d never walk again. Then when he got home from rehab and got some privacy in his room, he found that an erection was possible, although not nearly of the same magnitude it had been before. It took more effort, but he was eventually able to climax and ejaculate.
But still, Adam worried his erection wouldn’t hold out during a sexual encounter. He didn’t get as hard as he used to before the accident and he frequently lost his erections. Moreover, he didn’t have any prospects for a partner. At age 19, he was still technically a virgin and he was beginning to worry he would be for a long time to come.
When Adam started college away from home, he chose the sensible major of computer science and his friends were mostly guys, mostly computer geeks who couldn’t get a girl to save their lives. They were deathly afraid of women and it was as if they wore girl-repellent. Adam shared his frustrations about finding a girlfriend with his new friends, bitterly recalling to himself how easy it had been back in high school. Of course, Adam felt a little bit of resentment against his friends, because they at least had a chance of reforming, but he had no chance of ever getting out of his wheelchair.
After nearly a year of college, Adam was spending all his time with other guys and was unable to work up the nerve to even speak to a member of the opposite sex. Sometimes he wondered what would have happened if things hadn’t changed from that time—if he had never figured out how to use his charm and looks and disability to get women. The sad truth was, he’d probably be the same person he was now: a lonely 29-year-old crippled computer programmer. But he wouldn’t have a hot twenty-year-old girl lying next to him in bed.
But things had changed. And it was all because of Donna.
Donna was, as the other guys dubbed her, a computer whore. She preyed on the computer geeks that no other girl would touch with a ten-foot pole. She dated them, slept with them, then moved on. Adam’s friends eagerly welcomed her into their circle, each one hoping to be next.
Adam watched Donna as she dated each of his friends, one by one. He couldn’t help but feel jealous of the guy at the time, even though it was inevitable she’d dump him in a couple of weeks. And it was only natural for Adam to start to feel attracted to Donna. She wasn’t pretty, but she was cute and there was something inexplicably sexy about her. Plus she was the only girl who spoke to him.
When the other guys talked about who would be “next”, nobody really thought that Adam would ever be next. Even though Donna was sleeping with the computer geeks (the lowest of the low), they figured she at least had some standards. Adam and Donna became friends, but he never held out much hope that she’d date him. Their relationship seemed to consist mostly of her torturing him by asking him uncomfortable questions. (“You really can’t move your legs at all?”) Then one late night when they were programming a C++ compiler together, Donna kissed him as he ran the debugger.
Adam had two years of pent up sexual energy and for the first few weeks with Donna, he was unable to keep his hands off her. It was his first relationship while he was in a wheelchair and he had always wondered how those dynamics would work in terms of making out. Usually, she would sit on his lap while he was in his chair or he’d transfer to his bed and she’d lie on top of him while they kissed.
The subject of sex didn’t come up for a while and Adam was scared to be the first to mention it, although he knew it was inevitable. The first time he was lying in bed with Donna and her hand moved toward his zipper, he grabbed her wrist to stop her without offering an explanation. He went down on her instead and even though she was very satisfied, she was reaching for his zipper again the next day.
After this occurred for the fifth time, Adam knew he had to tell her something. “Donna,” he said, “I don’t think I can have sex.” It was the last time he had said that truthfully.
Donna looked at him with utter surprise. “You can’t?”
“Well... I... I don’t know.” Adam turned bright red. “You’re the first girl that I’ve... uh....”
“Do you get hard?” Donna asked.
“A little,” Adam replied.
At that moment, all he wanted was for Donna to drop the subject. He was too anxious about having sex with her, and the more he thought about it, the more it seemed impossible. So he’d be a virgin for the rest of his life. He’d just have to try to forget about sex.
But Donna was far too tenacious for that. She insisted on taking his pants off, exposing his too-thin legs and his dick that was nowhere near erect. He wore protective undergarments back then too, which Donna graciously didn’t mention.
The moment was lost, but the next time they were in bed and groping at each other, Donna did the same thing, but this time she pulled down his undergarment and began massaging his dick. He got hard, but not hard enough to fuck her. But she was persistent.
Then one evening, after they were together for about two months, they were making out in bed again when Adam suddenly felt a warm tingle go through his body. His eyes widened and he looked up at Donna, who was smiling. “You’re inside me,” she whispered to him. As she rode him, none of his fears were realized—he kept his erection and he climaxed shortly after she did.
Adam probably didn’t love Donna, but he cared for her a great deal. And he appreciated having a girlfriend, after going so long without one. Adam was never certain how Donna felt about him, however. She was fairly casual about their relationship, like all the others, yet she was dating him much longer than any of the others.
Adam was also finding that relationships were different now that he was disabled. He felt very uncomfortable showing any sort of affection in public, because he felt like people were watching him and wondering how a guy like him had a girl. He didn’t like going out to dinner and the movies were a hassle because there was never a good place to park his chair in the theater. When Donna suggested they go out to a club, Adam looked at her like she was crazy.
Yet in the bedroom, she seemed very happy. As soon as they were alone together, they fell into each other’s arms like two long lost lovers. Sometimes they spent the whole day in bed.
The relationship came to a screeching halt, however, thanks to a heating vent in Donna’s suite-mate Susan’s room, which transmitted sounds to the hallway. Adam was on his way to visit Donna in her room, when he heard his own name echoing from the vent. “I can’t believe you’re still dating Adam!” It was Susan’s voice. “This is a new record for you, Donna.”
“What can I say?” Donna’s voice. “He fucks my brains out.”
Adam smiled at that one.
“He’s really cute.” Susan again. “But... what’s that like? You know, with the wheelchair and everything?”
“Dunno, he’s got a lot of issues,” Donna said. “I mean, I definitely couldn’t see myself being with someone like that long term. I would never marry a guy in a wheelchair or anything. But we’re having fun, so I’m gonna keep him.”
Adam had never considered the idea of marrying Donna, but her words stung nonetheless. It seemed like she was dating him as a novelty but he’d never be worthy of anything more serious. And it was, as Adam imagined, what every other girl probably thought too.
Adam had his revenge on Donna. The next day, he visited her suite when he knew Donna wouldn’t be home and Susan would. He remembered that Susan had called him cute, and all it took was a little charm and a little pity, and Susan’s tongue was down his throat by the time Donna walked in on them later that night. According to Susan, Donna spent the night in her room crying, which she had never ever done before. Adam didn’t feel sorry at all.
After that, it was a matter of conquest. One pretty girl after another fell to his deceptions. His greatest conquest in college was late in his junior year when he was receiving private tutelage from his forty-year-old English professor Dr. Laura Westin. It hadn’t been easy to persuade a woman like Dr. Westin into bed with her 21 year old student. But when Dr. Westin had asked him if he had a girlfriend and he had looked down at his legs and replied tearfully that girls couldn’t think of him that way, he could see her melting.
Adam never felt any degree of guilt about these women. Not only did he not love any of them, he found that in retrospect, he didn’t even like most of them. But as he now looked down at Brynne, sleeping quietly beside him, he felt a stab of guilt in his chest. That girl Marisa was right—he was a terrible person for the things he had done. Somehow he had completely lost his compassion for women.
Brynne’s eyes fluttered open. She looked up at him sleepily and smiled, “What are you looking at, Harding?”
Adam reached out and the tips of his fingers grazed her cheeks. “You’re so sweet and beautiful,” he said. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“No cab fare home,” Brynne retorted with a wink.
“Let me ask you something,” he said, looking into her blue eyes. “Where do you see yourself in ten years from now?”
“Ten years from now,” Brynne mused. “I guess... I’ll probably still be working a secretary job. Probably hitched to some asshole who treats me like crap. Maybe I’ll have squeezed out a couple of rugrats by then...”
Adam raised an eyebrow. “That’s your goal for ten years from now?”
“You didn’t ask me my goal,” Brynne said. “You asked me where I see myself. It’s pretty consistent with the rest of my life.”
“So what are your goals then?” he sighed.
“What do you want me to say?” Brynne shook her head. “That I want to be climbing the Appalachians so that you can tell me about how you can’t join me cuz you’re crippled?”
Adam shook his head. “I just... I don’t think you have any idea what you’re getting into with me.”
"The thing is," Brynne said, "you could climb the Appalachians if that was what you wanted."
"Oh really?" Adam said, rolling his eyes.
"What? You think you'd be the first disabled person to ever climb a mountain? They have special gear you could use...."
"Is that what you want? To go mountain climbing with me?"
"No," Brynne said earnestly. "I just want to make out with you."
Adam felt a touch of relief at Brynne's reply. He was sorry he had started this conversation in the first place and he was glad she was giving him a way out. He pressed his lips against hers, "Okay, I can handle that."
"And I want to move in with you," Brynne added.
Adam's mouth fell open. "What?"
"You heard me."
"Are you... are you losing your apartment or...?" Adam stammered.
"Not at all," Brynne said. "I love my apartment. But the thing is, I love you more."
Adam stared at her. "I... I don't know what to say. I mean, wow... I... you know I'm crazy about you, Brynne. I mean, I love you."
"You do?" Brynne's eyes lit up. She was so damn beautiful.
"Well, you're my first..." Adam stopped himself in the middle of his own lie. This wasn’t the time for bullshit. "Yeah, I love you."
"So it's settled then," Brynne said happily. She frowned at the expression on his face. "I'm not rushing you, am I?"
That was the biggest understatement of the year. Yet... that wasn’t what was bothering him right now. It was this nagging sense that there was no way things could work out between him and Brynne. And it wasn't just because their relationship was founded on his lies. There was something more. He just got this feeling that Brynne was meant for better things. There were only two ways this could go: either he'd wind up dragging her down with him or she'd wind up leaving him after he really had fallen in love with her.
"I think you're making a mistake, Brynne," Adam said honestly.
"I don't think so."
"You can do much much better."
"I don't think so."
Adam bit his lip. "Listen, what if we're never able to... have sex?"
"So exactly what did we just do?"
"I ate you out."
"Better than any 'sex' I've ever had," Brynne said, gazing into his eyes.
Adam couldn't help but feel a little ego boost and wondered if she was telling the truth. "I have to protect myself," he told her. "I mean, this... this relationship is going to mean a lot more to me than it will to you. When you leave me..."
Brynne pressed her fingers against his mouth, "I'm not going to leave you, Adam. Stop it. When are you going to learn to take a chance on someone?"
He realized that she was right. Really, what was the worst that could happen? They break up. But that was inevitable anyway. And maybe... maybe they wouldn't break up. Maybe Brynne was The One. If she wasn't, then who was? Certainly not Maggie. Hadn’t he just promised himself that he wasn’t ever going let Maggie influence his decisions again?
Adam smiled at her. “Okay, let’s do it,” he said. “Let’s move in together.”
To be continued...