She tensed. In that moment, all my current fears flashed before my eyes. Inside my mind, I was reeling, was it me? Was it my gut, the fact that my lifeless feet just rested there, a little crooked and bare? Was she repulsed by me? It took everything in me to not shut down right then as she backed away from me, a terrified look on her face. Something about the look in her eyes though gave me enough hope to barrel through that twenty-five-minute dinner. When I asked her to tell me before we began eating she promised she would after we were finished, twenty-five minutes of silence, enough time for my overactive imagination to come up with a list as long as Santa’s of reasons she should not be with me. Then when she did decide to open up a little bit, I realized it wasn’t me at all. By some small miracle my gut and crooked feet didn’t repulse her, some other guy had done a number on her… She didn’t have to tell me that, I could see it all over her face.
While I was dying to know what had happened to her, what exactly the old wound her brother had brought up was, for now, I knew enough to back off. I wanted her to want to tell me what it was, so I let it go that night. Eventually, I hoped she would trust me enough to tell me. When she left the other night I found myself missing her almost instantly in the quiet of my house. I couldn’t believe how easily I was falling in love with her. As the heat between us died down and we cuddled on the couch we talked about life, work, and anything else we could think of. Conversation flowed so easily between us as though we’d known each other for way longer than a few days. I know it was just beginning to scratch the surface but as I found my way to bed I couldn’t get her off my mind. Her tanned skin, exposed by the tank top she’d been wearing, the way her dark hair fell in soft waves, tickling my neck as we kissed, all of her, I fell asleep to thoughts of her beautiful face close to mine as we kissed.
I missed our morning coffee meet up the next day but we texted all day long while I tried to get her to tell me what we were going to be doing on our date. Needless to say, she wasn’t offering any more hints. Pulling my head down out of the clouds, I took a call from my father late in the day on Friday.
“Elliot, how is it going? Any issues?” he asked, sounding far away.
“It’s been fine, Dad. Thank you…” I said quietly, barely making out my mother’s voice in the background asking how it went.
“I knew when I saw you the other day you were ready. Something was different about you. You were ready El,” he said.
“Glad you saw it because I sure didn’t…” I chuckled.
“Your mother says hello,” he said, completely changing the subject.
“Hi, Ma…” I said as she took over the phone.
“Oh honey, I’m so proud of you, I don’t think you know how happy this makes me,” she said, choking up.
“Ma, really it’s not a big deal…but listen I have to go, I have a patient in a few minutes,” I lied.
“Did you hear that Bill, he’s got a patient…” I heard her say before my father said his goodbyes and we hung up.
I couldn’t help but chuckle at my mother. Sometimes she was tough as nails and then on a dime she would lose her mind and cry, but lately, with me, she hadn’t been anything but tough. I can’t even imagine what she is going to do if Taylor and I get together. Poor Taylor, I thought to myself as I wheeled down the hall to Mark’s office. I don’t think she knows what she’s getting herself into with my crazy family.
“Hey bud, what’s up?” Mark asked when I came through the door.
“Can I… I mean… would Julia mind if I brought someone to dinner? I mean if she’s able to come that is,” I asked, lifting myself up for a few seconds and then dropping back down.
“I knew it!” he nearly shouted, “I knew something was up… you’ve been this whole other person the last few days…it was almost like nothing ever happened.” Mark said with a look on his face I knew too well.
“Well, would she mind?” I asked, hoping to avoid what I knew was coming next.
“Elliot, are you kidding? You know she makes enough to feed us plus the entire neighborhood at these dinners, besides she is going to flip when I tell her,” he said, without taking a breath. “Where did you meet her? Is she hot? Stripper? I knew eventually you would find a stripper!”
Every single time I’ve ever, in my life started dating a girl my older brother has assumed she was a stripper. Every girl. From the time I was fourteen he’s been asking me this ridiculous question and I had known by the look on his face that it was coming.
“Yeah man, stripper…Her Name is Candy,” I fed into his insanity.
“Seriously?” he asked.
“Yes, seriously. I met her the other night at Glamour with Brian,” I kept up the joke.
“No, really?” he asked for the third time, total shock on his face.
“No you asshat, god why do you always assume I’m going to date a stripper? Her name is Taylor, and I met her earlier in the week. She’s kind of a Jane of all Trades, though stripper is not one of them.” I laughed.
“Damn I thought maybe once you would prove me right…” he said, laughing too.
“Well listen I just wanted to check and make sure it would be alright, I mean I haven’t even asked her if she can go but I figured I’d rather introduce her to all you nuts sooner rather than later so she knows what she’s getting herself into,” I said.
“Bring her, and you are just as nuts, if not more than we are…” he said, reaching for his ringing phone, “Be over at two.”
I finished out the day and decided to skip the gym, the soreness from the night before still bothering me. After I got home I changed clothes and took the truck out to get it washed then decided that a relaxing night on my deck would be nice. The weather was warm and breezy and as I cracked a beer and transferred onto one of the lounge chairs my phone went off.
“Hey princess,” I answered.
“Hi Elliot, I’m not interrupting gym time, am I?” she asked.
“Skipped it tonight, I went a little hard yesterday,” I answered.
“I wondered, it looked like you were in pain last night,” she said.
“What is on your agenda for the evening?” I asked.
“Getting my gear together to do some engagement shots and then home to relax,” she said, as I heard her rustling around.
“Sounds fun. You ready for our date tomorrow?” I laughed.
“I sure am, question is, are you?” she teased.
“I guess, we will just have to find out, won’t we,” I joked, laughing harder.
“I like it when you laugh Elliot…” she said softly.
I didn’t know how to respond to her statement so I remained quiet for a few moments before she spoke again, “I’ll meet you at Davy’s at nine thirty okay? I really have to get off now or else I’ll be late meeting this couple.”
“Have a good night pretty girl,” I said.
“You too Elliot,” she replied before hanging up.
Not long after she hung up, my phone started ringing again and I realized that my relaxing evening probably wasn’t going to happen.
“Elliot, you’ve been holding out on me, I can’t believe you told Mark first!” Ethan exclaimed.
“Hello to you too, Ethan. I only told him because I had to ask him if I could bring her to dinner, or else I wouldn’t have told either of you just yet,” I said flatly.
While I loved my brothers, and would do anything for them, they could be very intrusive.
“Mark didn’t even tell me, Becky told me because Julia told her…” Ethan said.
“At this rate, I may not even come. If you all are going to make a huge deal out of this, I’ll keep her away… I haven’t even asked her to come yet, I was just trying to make sure adding another person wasn’t a big deal…” I said in a huff.
“Elliot…We are just excited for you. Really,” he said pausing, “I mean it’s been a while you know. Will mom like her?” he finished honestly.
“I think so, I really do. I think she would fit in with us easily…” I said before I could stop myself.
“You have already fallen for her, haven’t you?” he asked, surprised.
“No…” I said, hoping he couldn’t hear the lie.
“You’re so full of shit, El,” he chuckled.
Despite the brotherly jagging and irritations, Ethan and I were close, and he probably knew me better than any other person on the planet, even Mark.
“Hey, I’m just trying to get to know her, but if it does work out yes, I’ve fallen,” I answered.
“Good. It’s about time El,” he said.
We chatted for a little while and then I said goodbye with promises to keep him in the loop. I watched the sun go down while I finished my beer. Every once in a while, I sit out here like this gazing at the sunset and just being at peace with the cool breeze. It’s extremely relaxing but a lot of times I miss having people around, splashing in the pool, cooking out on the grill and tossing around the football. Maybe in a few weeks, I’ll host the Sunday dinner, I thought as I crossed back into the house.
A little after nine I headed into my bathroom, which was the only one in the house that had been modified. The guest bathrooms on this level and on the upper floor had remained untouched. I pulled in under the sink and started my nightly routine, while I thought about the upstairs and how long it had been since I’d been up there. Thankfully Becky came over once a month to help me do a mass cleaning since it was such a pain for me to get upstairs. My father had asked me after rehab if I wanted a chair lift installed and at the time it didn’t seem like I would ever need it, why did I need to go up there, when everything I needed was right here on this floor. I was surprised actually that Taylor hadn’t asked about it when I saw her pause to look up the staircase before she left.
I was just transferring into bed when my phone dinged with a message.
Hey prince charming, surprised I didn’t hear from you tonight, did you fall asleep early?
No, I just spent the evening relaxing. I figured you were busy so I didn’t want to bother you. ☺
I’ve been home for a little while now, just heading to bed though and wanted to say goodnight.
Well, goodnight then pretty girl… sweet dreams.
Goodnight Elliot, I can’t wait to spend the day with you tomorrow.
It’s funny that she said that because I’d typed and deleted it three times. I really was excited to be spending the day with her and as I let myself drift off to sleep I wondered what she had in store for us. I woke up with Taylor on my mind, wondering what it would be like to wake up next to her. Did she have crazy hair in the morning? Did she snore? Was she a cuddler? What did her little curves look like in the morning light? I tried to push those thoughts aside, if I let them take over I wouldn’t be able to concentrate all day with her around and in the flesh.
I hurried to get out of bed and start getting ready. When I finished in the shower I pulled out a pair of perfectly distressed jeans, and Indian motorcycle t-shirt to pair with some gray Chuck Taylors that I’d had for ten years or more. I remember my first pair of those shoes, I was twelve, and had begged my parents for them. When they finally gave in, I wore them till they had holes in the soles. It was all I wore through high school unless I was running or wearing my cleats. My mother had threatened on several occasions to throw them away because they were so worn out. I chuckled to myself thinking about how I’d never have that issue now as I ran a little bit of gel into my hair. I hadn’t shaved this morning and I hoped Taylor didn’t mind. I rechecked my bag and grabbed the keys and some aviators off the entry table and ignoring the stomach flipping nervousness headed to my truck for our adventure.
It was only nine and I had some time to kill, it would only take me fifteen minutes to get to Davy’s. I cued up a playlist on my phone that would break eardrums and sat wondering how exactly I would fit in her tiny car. I was always thinking now, can I get in there, will I make it up those three steps, will I fit? I’d managed once to squeeze myself, and my chair into Becky’s Prius with Ethan, but that was different, I wasn’t trying to impress anyone then. Letting the music course through me I was trying to force myself to realize that I was going to have to get over some of the things that bothered me about being in the chair. Around my family, it was no big deal, anymore, but around her, I wanted to be… Normal? Strong? Manly? Whole? Who I used to be… I wanted to impress her, sweep her off her feet and make her mine. I scrubbed at my face with my hands trying to climb out of this mini chauvinistic funk that I’d slipped into in a matter of minutes, enough is enough Elliot, she’s already said she likes you, don’t mess this up, I mentally scolded myself. I turned up the music and pulled out of my driveway, trying to imagine what she had planned.
When I pulled in I noticed her talking to someone, her cheeks flushed. I hurried to get out of the truck, a little less gracefully than normal due to her look of unease. When I turned, though, he was almost to me, it was this guy Dave I used to play softball with, before. Then it dawned on me, this is her brother, Dave, who knew me when…