Pain and Glucose is meant to be a series of shorts about disabled main characters. It’s also meant to be fluff. I should just stop trying with fluff; I’m not good at it.
Realize, these main two are disabled. She is an ambulatory wheelchair user, even if she’s trying to hide it. He is ADHD. The main theme is acceptance like most of my stories.
But there is fluff to some extent! They’re the cutest.
I do not have a fancy wheelchair or the mobility aids the MC has even if I should be classed as ambulatory wheelchair user. I am no where near as troubled as she is either. I took my bad days and extended them to if they were my every day. I also do not have the same level of support as her family. I gave the characters a supportive cast. The non supported group are unnamed.
It’s nice to have an ADHD character to write. If you read several of my first drafts (like this one), you’ll notice those traits come out. I have to tone down my ADHD writing style out of my work before I can publish it.
How confident am I in this story? Or in writing disability? Far more confident than I ever have been.
I refused to claim I was disabled even if I’ve always been. My situation has only gotten worse. I can’t deny it anymore. I shouldn’t hide it.
And my disabilities are one of the biggest factors as to why acceptance of self is my top theme.
There is nothing wrong with being disabled. We’re still people. And that’s why I want to write these stories. I have a lot of different disabilities I can key in on, but my experiences are also limited in a lot of ways.
I’m tempted to give this series to [Cat Gillette] because they have the Autist collection being started. Or they would if I felt confident enough in my autism. I’ve never felt more me until I after I stopped hiding my disabilities. I need to accept me. It’s part of why I write.
Pain and Glucose 1
The Turtle and the Hare
There was always a place I felt comfort. I would sit just like everyone else in the plastic chairs of the lunchroom. No one thought anything of us just sitting there seemingly forever.
Back in high school, I had to use a wheelchair during the school day. I wasn’t able to manage such quick movement between classes. Trying to explain I only needed a wheelchair sometimes made it difficult to make friends. I was “lying about my disability”.
Who lies about needing a wheelchair?
In college, I can spread out my classes and give msyelf plenty of time to reach my destination. I can rest between each one. And there’s no gym. I never realized how great it would feel to not have a gym class.
Those hatefilled eyes from the other kids…
High school is over.
That bullying they offered is over.
And now, I can manage. I can take my time and things will work out. I don’t need a wheelchair always. Just when I’m trying to do too much too fast. I can take my time.
And everyone rests between classes. It’s normal.
People even treat me like a human here! I can just be myself.
“You are always first.” Jack says coming over.
I smile at him. He doesn’t act nervous around me like so many before him. High school isn’t real life. I need to forget about it. “My class is close, so…”
He drops into a chair and pulls out a packed lunch. “Mom went off on my father. That means I’ll be getting homemade meals to prove she isn’t a failure.” He shows off the mess in his container. “It’ll taste good even if it got everything mixed together.” He looks at his meal and then mine.
PB&J. I cannot handle the cafeteria line, so I get everything done before coming. I know the exact routes and paths to keep my energy at top marks. I chose classes and activities to make sure I wasn’t going to push myself.
“And share your germs? Ew.”
“Suffer with your PB&J then.”
“I like it.” I take a bite just because. This is a normal interaction. For normal kids. This is what I always wanted. Not someone to stares at my wheelchair and steers clear of me because of it.
“You have it every day, though. Don’t you get tired of it?” He takes out everything in his bag. “Forgot a fork.” He gets up and quickly collects the item. I look at the bar where such things are kept. Plastic crappy silverware, salt and pepper packets, ketchup and mustard bottles, and a microwave.
“I prefer bringing from home.” He bends the fork and sighs. “But it’ll work.” He grins at me. “You didn’t answer my question before.”
I tilt my head reviewing him. “Which one?”
“Don’t you get tired of the same thing every day? I would.”
This person before me normally buys whatever the daily special is. And if it’s the same from the last week, he’ll pick a random item besides. “There is comfort in having the same thing. Reminds me of home and safety.”
“Safety…” He scans the place. “Where is everyone?”
I shrug. “Some classes go over.”
“Yeah. I know. I was late the other day because of that. Professors don’t seem to get it.” Jack jumps out of his seat with a big wave.
I glance to see Sue and Mike coming over. “Or they were just making out before showing up.”
“That’s plausible too.” Jack drops back into his chair watching them. “Finally got together, huh?”
Mike nudges Jack. “You should try it. College is different. More freedoms.” His eye brows wag a little with the statement.
My verison of college is different with more freedoms is very innocent.
“Not until I’m certain I can pass calculus. I regret agreeing to take it. I should’ve done pre calc. It would’ve counted.” Jack pulls out a massive textbook with a pretty picture on it. The word Calculus across the top makes the picture look like a lie. “Mom persuased me because I had the right marks to say I could handle it.” His eyes widen looking over the pages.
“Just go to the math lab. Find a cute tutor. Do both.” Mike grins. “Let’s get something, Sue.” He takes her hand and walks to the line. The entire conversation had to two standing beside their chairs. They left their bags here while greeting.
Jack glances at me while finding a page in his book. “I wonder if Mike is taking college seriously. I hear about all the parties through him. I never see him do homework.”
“Maybe his classes don’t have any?” I suggest with a hiss.
“Yeah. Right.” Jack laughs and spins the book to me. “Do you get this?”
Jack covers his face. “I have no idea either.”
“Weren’t you in class?” I question pushing the book back. I can only take one class a semester that requires such a heavy book. Good thing I only have a few classes total that are likely to require it. “What did the professor say?”
Jack flips through a few pages. “It’s not connecting. I don’t know if it’s the professor or if it’s me.” He sighs rubbing his face again. “It’s me. Has to be me.”
“I find that doubtful.” I take another bite. “You seem capable of everything.”
Jack smirks at me. “Everything huh?” He mutters something while putting his book away. “Anyway, I think I’m gonna drop the class. I took too many. I didn’t think it would be this hard. I mean I had no trouble getting As in high school. Come here and bam… I’m half lost. Calculus might be my tipping point.”
“Were you a nerd?”
He laughs. “Nerd? Huh? The nerds made fun of me.” He growls a little. Hopefully at memories. His face shows that should be the case. “Ignore that. How are you doing in your classes?”
“Staying ahead of the requests.” I nod pulling a notebook from my bag. It’s where I organized what needs to be done when. If I keep on top of it, it’s easier to spread out the high energy items.
“Can I just steal your abilities? Maybe then I won’t fail.” Jack takes my notebook. “You have everything marked. Even the expected time it would take to do. Wow. This is impressive.”
I frown. He wouldn’t understand how I’m limited on time and energy. I have to consider that. Or I’ll fail. Organization keeps me ahead of things. “I’ve learned things over the years.”
Jack nods handing it back. “Tricks to stay ahead. Wish I could manage anything like that.” He frowns back to eating.
Did I hit a nerve? His memories… And… I look at my notes. “Do you want me to teach you?”
“It’s not a skill I can learn. Tried.” He pulls out his notebook. The first week has everything listed by time and date. Then blank pages with a few scribbles of notes. “I can’t keep it up.”
What do I say to that?
“That line was brutal.” Mike places his tray on the table. Sue copies. She offers me a smile.
“Mom went off and is making me meals.” Jack grins eating again.
“Lucky.” Sue takes the lunch Jack has. “What is it, though?”
Jack pulls out his phone. “Lasgana?”
“Did you just check your phone to figure it out?” Mike questions with a laugh.
Jack sighs. “I questioned Mom when I went out.” He shows off the text message with a big ‘I love you’ gif.
“I love your mom.” Sue pushes the meal back. “We should hang out this weekend.”
Jack straightens his back. “I’m not saying no. But my parents aren’t…”
“You’ve turned us down since school started.” Mike frowns at Jack. He turns to Sue. “You sure his family life is nice?”
“Yup. I visited often over the years. He has a big pool.”
“Then we’re going this weekend.” Mike glares at Jack. Jack fidgets over it. “It’s not like we’re having a party. That’s at six. Just the four of us hanging out at your big pool.” Mike grins.
Jack fidgets again. “I can…” He sighs. “See if my parents aren’t against it.”
“Your mom would gladly say yes. She always loves when you bring friends over.” Sue offers a big smile.
I’m more worried as to why Jack didn’t jump at the chance. Mike is pretty much bullying Jack into accepting.
Mike nods. “Good. Saturday. Hanging out at the big pool.” He nudges Jack. Jack plays with his food. “Don’t forgot.” I watch as Jack flinches.
“Like you forgot your homework?” Sue smirks at Mike.
I open my notes and review things. I don’t think I can handle going over to Jack’s house on Saturday. Not as I normally am seen by them. I never agreed to meet off grounds either. I always claimed I had plans. How can I explain it agan that I can’t go? Would that hurt Jack even more?
I check the time. If I don’t leave soon, I’ll struggle to reach my next class without worry. “Sorry for skipping out.” I put everything away. It’s not much. Less is more when limited energy is concerned.
“I’ll walk you.” Jack is faster putting everything away.
I bite my cheek. Can he go my speed? Can he stop when I suggest it? “Okay…”
Jack holds the door for me as he would for anyone else. And he’s caught as I start my walk forward. I cannot wait for him to stop helping others. And he catches up quickly. “Boosting karma shouldn’t make me lose you.”
“I didn’t get far ahead.” I glance to him going my normal slow speed. Focus on each step. Each movement. Nothing extra. Chose paths with less people.
“Do you normally meander like this?”
I question his words. I could go so much faster in a wheelchair, but a wheelchair gets looks and much of the place isn’t as accessible. I have gone into all the bathrooms by now. I think only one of them would work with my wheelchair. Campus is set for walking. “It’s a calm pace.”
“I wonder if I can even keep it.”
“Why’d you want to walk me? It’s not your direction for class.”
Jack fidgets again. He twists his hands and tugs at his backpack. “Mike and Sue…” He shakes his head. “Mike…”
“Why are you nervous about showing us your house?” Not that I can go. I really cannot take on that energy waste. I would need a wheelchair.
“It’s not that I’m nervous.”
Then what am I seeing?
“You know how I couldn’t organize my assignments?” He refers to the notepad I have mine perfected and his is empty. “Or how I’m never here for the morning options.”
I frown thinking of my morning. I don’t go to the cafeteria either. “Don’t you eat at home?”
“I can’t sign up for anything before nine,” he states annoyed. “And I’ve already been late to my 9:15 class three times.”
“Haven’t you only had it ten times now?”
“Exactly.” He sighs. “It’s the secondary reason I need to drop it. I should aim for a noon class.” He rolls out his shoulders. “How am I to agree to meet up somewhere even if its my own home? I try! It’s not that I don’t.” He sinks. “Sue would just show up. Randomly. And I was never in a state to accept her according to Mom.”
“Is there a state you need to be in?” I know the feeling though. I use my wheelchair more at home than here. It’s how I have the strength for this level of walking. I pause sitting down in a chair with a huff. I went faster than I should’ve. Jack is pushing me.
“Dressed… Why are we stopping?” He drops his things and plops into the chair next to mine. “Not that I mind.” He pauses looking to me. “Did you leave us early every day because we’re too much?” He sighs. “I’ve been thought of as too much.”
“It’s not you. Never you.”
“Mike then? Some of his-“
“Not him either. Having someone to chat with at lunch is nice.”
Jack leans back staring out the wall of windows. It gives a lot of light into the hall. “I don’t think I ever sat here and just stared outside. How many spots like this are there?”
“Four.” I smile watching the windows. I’ve seen many a bird fly into them. But for now, they’re just flying between the different trees beyond the glass.
“A little peace before the chaos that is class, huh?” Jack turns back to me smile bright. “That’s a smart plan.” He pulls out his phone. And sighs. “Mom is willing. Why couldn’t she give me an excuse.”
“I can’t go.”
Jack shrinks. “So I’ll just have kissy faces to stare at while they swim in my pool?” He drops back. “Make my day worse why don’t you.”
“Nah. Mike’s been begging. Even if I said no, he’s likely to show.”
“Did he show last week?”
“No, but Sue did. Told me Mike and you would visit next weekend.” Jack sighs looking to the windows again. “Guess she can’t just drag you around.”
“You were the random person who sat down the first day at my table.”
Jack fidgets again. “It was random.”
“That’s been your answer while fidgetting.”
He sighs leaning away from me. “Is it wrong of me to think you’re attractive and wanted to just get to know you?”
“You like me?”
Jack fidgets again. “I wouldn’t…” He sinks. “It’s not as if… It was a new place and I just… I don’t know.”
I nod. That’s a feeling I get well. “Thanks for sitting with me that day.”
“You’re welcome.” Jack stands up and pulls his backpack on. “I should get to class. Did you wanna meet up at the cafeteria later? Before heading home?”
“Like at 4?”
He exhales. “I didn’t think anyone was taking classes as late as me.” Jack perks up. “Our normal table after classes. Just for a bit. You can work on your homework.” He glances to the windows again. “And maybe on another day we can see all the window spots you found. It’s nice here.”
“Okay.” I stand up slowly. While I put my bag back on, Jack disappears. He has class. As do I. I make my way down the hall. The door is heavy, but not impassable. I fall into my chair not as the first student and also not the last. I smile to those here with me while pulling out my notebook.
I sent a message to my mother. I won’t be safe to drive alone if I stay… I’ll need help if I pick him. Do I want to stay? ‘I need my wheelchair tonight. I’m staying a bit for homework.’
‘Thanks for not pushing yourself. Your brother and I will get your car and you when you’re ready. Give us fifteen to get there.’
I exhale thinking of the wheelchair. I haven’t used it on grounds yet. If someone sees me… It’s only for a little bit. It’s only a little push. I smile over his fluster when I asked if he liked me.
No one has given that to me before. I want to see it again.
Sitting down at the table instead of my car is different. I look to the line. I should eat, but I cannot stand on that line for long. If there’s no one there, then maybe…
I shake it off and pull out my homework. I have a granola bar I can munch on while waiting. That should be enough for now. I normally eat it on the way home. I’ll be fine.
“You’re here.” Jack shows up shortly after I started working. He exhales while collasping into the chair. “I thought you’d bail.” He cringes some before standing again. “I’m getting something. Did you want something?”
I smile at him. The line is too much for me. “I’m fine.”
“You sure?” He steps closer to the line.
“I’m fine.” I tap the granola bar package I ate. “There’ll be dinner at home.”
“Okay…” Jack leaves his things at the table while moving to the line.
I watch him until he leaves sight. While he’s busy, I focus on my homework. I switch out to a new assignment before he gets back. I’m making progress. Perhaps this isn’t a poor decision. When he drops into a chair, I say, “Welcome back.”
“I’m starved.” Jack organizes his tray. “I forgot the drink.” He curses while moving back on line. I smile as he returns with a drink. Two drinks. “Here.” He places the tea before me. “You’ve had this before, right?”
I look at the bottle. “Close, but no.”
He flinches. “Is that okay?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. Go ahead.” Jack starts on his meal. “Missed breakfast again.”
“Late to class?” I question while working again.
Jack sighs. “I tried.”
“Are you early enough to get your money back?”
“Almost. I’ll get the half back. I just missed cut off.” Jack pulls out his homework. “Still need to get the rest of the stuff organized.”
“What do you have to do?” I open the bottle and take a sip. “Thanks for this, by the way. How much do I owe you?”
“Sitting with me while I eat.” Jack pulls out a laptop. He’s carrying that and a textbook? “I had to stop before heading home.”
I look to the line. Most of the people here are either workers or night class students. They’re just coming in after working all day. We’re here late. If the drink wasn’t cheap, I’d probably fight his desire to pay. “I normally head home right after class. More comfortable at home than here.”
“Better people though.” Jack says and ducks his head. I offer him a smile for his comment. “I mean…”
“That’s a reasonable thought.”
He exhales. “So… Saturday…”
“I really can’t go.”
“What are you doing?”
“Things.” I look away. There’s nothing planned minus stay off my feet. I need to get myself ready for the coming week. Even today will be pushing myself a little too far.
“Things… Huh…” Jack sinks. He focuses on his meal and the laptop. “Are you interested in me?”
“Can’t answer the question, but asks it.” I smirk at him. He fidgets again. “It’s not you that has me saying no to Saturday. It’s me.”
I sigh thinking of everything I hide while here. Trying to be normal.
“Okay…” Jack says and looks away. He clears his meal before speaking again. “So… Thanks for staying after with me. Do you rush home for a reason? I mean… You seem to rush while taking your time. Which… I don’t get at all, but I assume you aren’t like me when it comes to just doing things. You’re always early. Always leave early. But take your time to reach anywhere.”
“Have you been watching me?” I scan him. He’s nervous again. His fidgetting is cute. I’ve managed to get him flustered.
“Is that a bad thing? I don’t mean to. But you catch my eyes and…” He sinks a little. “Sorry if I seem a little stalker-y.”
“You don’t.” I take another sip.
He exhales and stands up. “I’ll get rid of my tray. Are you sure you don’t want anything?” He looks to the food options. “We can share a cookie package.”
“There’s only like three cookies in it.” I grin up at him.
“Three cookies would be too much after that.” He grins back. I watch as he collects the little package. He drops back into his chair with the cookies. “I should be wary of getting the freshmen fifteen.”
“Food is still essential to living.” I accept the offered cookie. I smile while taking a bite. “Besides Calculus, are you having any trouble in your classes?”
“Not really. And I think my lateness is the problem in Calc too.” He clears through a cookie. The package sits between us with the lone cookie. He pulls his laptop closer so he can work. “As long as I manage to show up in class and get these assignments in.” He sighs. Sounds like homework will be difficult for him. Or has been. “I’m gonna look for classes that rely on tests more than turn ins. Tests can be difficult, but even if I get distracted during, I still normally pass them. Not turning in assignments…” He frowns at his screen. “I’m trying to build the habit of checking the assignment board for my classes.”
I think it over. “Have you set your internet home page to the assignment board? You’ll need to do less to reach it.”
“Less remembering it. Probably a good idea.” Jack types and clicks a few times. “You didn’t answer my question from before.”
I shift a little spending effort pulling a new notebook out. I only carry two. More than that will be too heavy. “Which one?”
“Why do you always seen ahead and speedy while going a turtle’s pace?”
“Are you trying to say you feel more the hare in this scernio?”
“You haven’t been late to any class.”
I chuckle. “I haven’t. I cannot rush like you do.”
He pauses reviewing me. “You never get up more than necessary. It’s not a lack of need in cases, either…” He pauses again. “Are you not feeling well?” He shakes his head. “Illnesses don’t last that long.”
“Sometimes they do.” I fidget a little. Should I be trying to look normal and deny myself access to real life?
What’s normal anyway?
The memories of the hate from other students… The memories of hindering helpers… The memories of no one treating me the friend, only an object to care for or dodge.
I sigh. “It’s complicated.”
“Life’s complicated.” Jack looks at the line again. “I make up little packages with basic silverware and whatnot at home. How often have you seen me with them?”
“Never. You do?”
He nods frowning at the line. “And I plan to eat breakfast every morning. Even if I have something left out for it, I’m more likely to forget it while running out the door.” He stretches. “Doctor called it ADHD.”
“Others have called it forgetfullness, laziness, etc…” He sighs. “But it’s why I don’t always notice I’m missing something until I need it. Or why I’m late no matter how much I don’t want to be. Or…” He sighs again turning back to me. “I know why I’m likely to forget about Saturday’s visit until Sue and Mike are knocking on the door. I can have all the labels up in my room. I can write it sixty times. And still forget about it until the moment it happens.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Why do you act the turtle?” He stares me down. “Why do you rush to leave without picking up your speed. Why did you have everything organized to the point of putting down the amount of time it needs. Because that’s not something a person who doesn’t have an issue does.”
I look away. “Why does it matter?”
“Because it feels as if I’m only getting to know you on the surface. That’s you’re trying to hide the truth because of fear.” He taps his chest. “I tried to do that so many times. Hiding it only hurts. You should know that by now.”
Tears fall on my notebook. I rub them away while sniffling. I do know that.
“You want to go on Saturday. Why can’t you?”
“Are you afraid of the pool? We can hang out elsewhere. It’s a big house all in all.” Jack mutters.
I pull out my phone. “Let me call for my pick up.”
“No. I’m… I’m bad at this. At everything. I wanna know why you are constantly keeping us at arm’s length. I know Mike and Sue aren’t aware of it. But you… I… I want to know why you are….” He sinks. “I’ll wait with you. I won’t ask again. This level of friendship is enough.”
Is it? “Hey, Mom. Thanks for helping me.”
“I’ll be fifteen minutes. Can you move to the parking lot’s benches or will we get you where you are? Where are you?”
“The cafeteria.” I look to Jack. “My friend can help me reach the benches.”
Jack questions my words. Doubtful he can hear my mother.
“Okay. Aren’t you trying to hide the fact you need a wheelchair? If you cannot walk easily to the car, the wheelchair is safer. Your brother prefers that over carrying you.”
“Bring the wheelchair to me. It’s safer.”
“Wheelchair?” Jack questions as I wish my good bye. “Wait… Wheelchair?”
I offer him a smile. “I cannot rush around. I cannot visit on Satruday because I cannot walk that much. You’re right. I’m hiding. Because the campus isn’t made for a wheelchaired person. The students around me have always hated me for being disabled.”
“Do you hate yourself?” Jack starts packing up.
“We don’t need to rush.” I reach out to still his hand.
Jack tries to calm down. “You can walk…”
“But not far or fast. I find those chairs because I don’t look weird just sitting down and staring outside.”
“I have to.” I offer a sad smile. Now that he knows… He’ll hate me like everyone else. What else can I do though? He could tell something was up. I can’t hide it from friends. I shouldn’t hide it.
Isn’t that what Mom tried telling me before I started?
Jack puts his things in his bag and stands up. “I can carry your things. You can walk easier without the weight, right?”
“Yes.” I place my bag on the table. “I’ve always had this problem. I was slow to walk as a toddler. And I fell over a lot more than others. I would just rest. And running…” I sigh recalling trying to chase my brother. Tears spill out over the memory. Him laughing at me for face planting instead of catching him. “The wheelchair let me keep up with others… But no one wanted to keep up with me in a wheelchair.”
“Because…” Jack takes up my bag standing before me. “When I walk around, it’s hard to notice I’m disabled. I don’t know many times people insulted me even though it’s just part of my disability.” He offers his free hand to me. “I get it more than most would. And the desire to hide the fact. I’m not afraid anymore of just stating why I’m having issues.”
“Your calculus professor?”
“I cannot be failed for being late.” Jack lets me set the pace. I need to set the pace. “That doesn’t mean I’m getting everything I need to pass. I don’t think the professor is trying to help me pass either. I need a later class.”
“Or someone who’ll take the time to listen.” As he just did. “The benches where the bus picks up students.”
“Okay. Lead the way. If we need to pause between now and then just do so. I won’t rush off.”
“Do you really not mind?”
Jack fidgets again. “Friends were hard for me to come by. I would swear to anyone Sue likes me for my happy family tree and big house. She comes from a broken household.”
“She never thought anything of sitting down next to you. Even if there are other reasons for getting to know someone, willingly being a friend in public is…”
“More than I normally get. And don’t know what to do with.” Jack huffs.
“Sorry.” Jack pauses letting me set the pace. “I can’t say whether Sue likes me as a person or not. Because I’ve been used so often. And I know she gains from being my friend.”
“Thanks for… Everything. I’m glad I stayed.” I spot the benches come into view.
Jack waits for me to settle before dropping down next to me. “I wouldn’t mind being your friend even if you were using a wheelchair around campus.” He pulls out his laptop and shows off his calender. “It’s connected to my phone, so when I get an assignment, I just need to write it down in my phone.”
“Sometimes. I’m gonna try my hardest to succeed at this.” He hides the laptop away. “Because I’m smart. Even though I’ve been distracted and studying isn’t a strengh for me, I still got honors more than not. I should be capable of college.”
“As long as they accomadate.”
“Yeah…” Jack sighs. “Would it be impossible to use your wheelchair for your classes?”
“For classes? No. Bathrooms would be a problem.” I frown thinking of how I checked every single one to find few would work. They just… “I don’t want those stares. That’s why I don’t use it.”
“Will you always have enough energy for your classes? Won’t you get a point where you need the added support?” Jack as if listened to my mother while I explained my decision. “People aren’t going to hate you.” He pauses. “I won’t at least. And if I won’t, then it’s not everyone. Some professors won’t like you. But you need to give them a chance.”
I spot my mom’s van drive up. Once I’m safely inside the vehicle, my brother will take my car home. “The wheelchair makes my life easier physically, but makes my disbility visible.”
“Which is more important, though? Living a full life or pretending to live while looking “normal”.” Jack questions me. “Every single professor and most of the students in my classes know I’m ADHD. I’m not hiding it anymore. Because the truth gives me more allowances and less hate. Those people who hate you for using a wheelchair will hate you for walking so slowly to class. It’s a circle.”
I never thought of it like that. Several who are caught behind my slow walk grumble before managing to pass. I bite my cheek while watching my mother and brother bring my wheelchair to me. “Jack?”
I exhale. “Would you hate walking with me in my wheelchair?”
“Not at all.” He nudges me. “Come Saturday. Bring someone who you trust. Use your chair.” He pauses thinking again. “The house will probably be workable for you. Bathroom’s big enough.” Jack nods as my family get to us. “Hello. I assume you’re here for my friend.”
I chuckle. “Hey, Mom, Darren. This is Jack. We’ve been having lunch together most days.”
“Elusive friend, hello.” Darren offers a handshake. Jack stands with a grin. Szing each other up has me rolling my eyes. Darren leans over to me while I switch into my chair. “Is this the one you like?”
“Shush.” I glare at him.
“Not saying anything.” Darren holds up hands in defense. “Saw your car before. Key?” I hand it over. Darren reviews Jack as he pulls his bag back on. “Don’t hurt my sister or you’ll recieve a lot of punishment.”
Jack steps back. “I… Wouldn’t dream of hurting her.”
Darren reviews him as I sigh. Seriously. Big brothers. “I have a black belt in Judo.” Jack shivers. “That’s right.” Darren nods looking to me. “And even if you wanted to be a boyfriend, we need to be certain you’re strong enough for it. Her boyfriend needs to be able to carry her. If you cannot manage that…”
Jack exhales slowly. “Saturday, our table is gathering at my house. You can ask her about it. I hope she can come.”
Darren turns to me. “We’ll talk.” He holds up his cell phone. “I have your number.”
“How?” Jack looks to me. I’m settled in my chair. He flinches.
“Darren steals all new numbers from my phone.” I smile at him. “I explain who they each are and when I see them.”
“It’s how he knows you’ve been eyeing this one.” Mom whispers to me. I’m pretty sure I’m blushing now. “He seems like a nice boy.”
Jack rubs the back of his head then tugs at his backpack straps. He’s fidgetting. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then… Right?”
I nod. “Lunch table like always.” I have no trouble pushing myself in the wheelchair. It is so much more comfortable than walking everywhere. I glance back when reaching the car. Jack has already moved on. “I like him.”
“I’ll keep Darren on a tight leash with him.”
I climb into the vehicle. “Can I bring the van to school occasionally?”
“I suggested you do so. Your chair really can be helpful.”
I purse my lips thinking of the comment Jack made. The same people who hate me for being in a wheelchair hate me for walking so slow. It’s a circle. “I know. I just wanted to try to be normal for once.”
“Your normal requires the chair.” Mom says while we get on the road. “Everyone’s normal is a little different. No one’s normal is bad. Trying to act like someone else’s version of normal will only hurt you.” Mom glances at me. “Did Jack freak out when he heard about your chair? I mean he freaked out when we arrived, but I think that was Darren’s doing.”
I smile. “He said he’d walk beside me while I was in my chair.”
“Give him a chance to see the real you. Your normal. I love the real you. It pains me to see you hiding your truth, child. I hate to see you in such pain just because you refused your chair all day.” Mom pats my knee. “Please think it over.”
I exhale. “Can I go on Saturday?”
“Darren will require himself.”
I laugh. “Stupid brother.”
“You should have someone who we know can fix any errors you end up in. How often have you pushed yourself too far and needed assistance?”
I sigh looking out the window. “I understand.” Mom pats my knee again. She’s always supported me. Always fought for me. Even if she was fighting alone. “He has a big pool according to Sue.”
“You like to swim.”
I smile again thinking it over. I could move faster in the water than on land. I don’t to rely on my legs as much in the water. “Mom, I want to go on Saturday.”
“Then I’ll let Darren know and make sure the van is filled up.”
“Thanks.” I settle with the knowledge. It should be fun.
The rest of the week, I follow my normal pattern. Of hiding. Jack asks to meet up after classes, but I refrain. Not because I don’t want to, but… He understands even if he looks so sad over the loss. If I want to see Jack before classes or after classes are over, I need my wheelchair.
I need to just accept the requirement.
Darren drives me on Saturday. I have my swimsuit with me. I have my wheelchair with me. Jack knows about it. I haven’t mentioned the fact to the other two. “Nervous?”
“Do you think they’ll like my swimsuit?”
“That bastard will.” Darren grinds his teeth over it. “I don’t know if I like him.”
“Don’t hate him just because.”
Darren huffs. “He seems too aloof. You need someone grounded.”
I look out the window. Too aloof. Jack’s disabled. Darren noticed it. That’s what he’s seeing. “You don’t need to be worried.”
“You’ve given up on getting a boyfriend?” Darren perks over it.
“Thanks.” I growl out.
I sigh refusing to watch my brother drive. “What about you? Aren’t interested in anyone?”
“Not really, no. It’s not a sister complex either. How many people will say that to me?” Darren grumbles. “I’m not interested in anyone. I don’t even get why people put sex and relationships in the important category. The idea is sickening to me.” He shudders.
That’s been his stance. Always. He never stop with the girls are icky. “You went through five years of college and dated once.”
“And she was creepy. Kept touching my pants.” Darren shivers. “I have trauma from that date.”
“Okay. No questions about you dating.”
“I’m glad there isn’t anyone going who’s free. I don’t want to just skip out on you.” He sinks. “I can’t believe that’s been a thought in the back of my mind.”
“Is that why you didn’t bring a swimsuit?”
“I’m just the annoying older brother who is stopping the pipsqueak from hitting on my sister.” Darren nods.
“I like flirting with him. He is so cute flustered.”
Darren grunts again. He isn’t liking the fact I found someone I’m interested in. “Still there are requirements he must pass before I can trust him dating you.”
“Difficult.” I pout. “I can be independant.”
“Says the one who is struggling to hide her disability at school. I’m waiting for the afternoon phone call where you can’t drive.”
It’s been… “I’ll bring my chair on Monday. If I only do it twice a week…”
“Just bring it every day. Don’t use it if you don’t want to, but having it there…” Darren sighs. “I really need to see if Jack can support you. I’d feel better if one of your friends could offer you something. Either be able to bring you your chair or carry you to it.”
I inhale thinking of this little party. “I hope I have friends after today.”
Darren glances to me. “You assume the two will bail on you and that kid will be too hot and bothered to just be friends.”
“Just saying.” Darren parks the van looking at the big house before us. “Seems fancy.”
I exhale and climb out of the van. Then I move my wheelchair into position. I look up the driveway. Do I have room? I need my wheelchair for this.
“Shit!” Jack is dressed. He races outside with keys. “Let me move the cars aside so you can pass them. Sorry… I was meaning to do it earlier.” He climbs into one of them in my way.
Darren moves to stand next to me. We’re parked on the road. It was the best way to access the amount of space needed to remove the wheelchair. “Kid wants it.”
I smile watching Jack make space for me. “So do I.”
Darren rolls his eyes at me. “Don’t accept it. Nope. Guy needs to prove himself.” He locks up the car. With the cars moved aside, we can reach the house.
The front stoop though denies me entrance. I stare at it as Jack gets back to my side out of breath. “The backdoor is on level ground.” He leads us around the house while offering random chatter. It’s calming. “Mike and Sue aren’t rushing over.” He hisses. “So everyone knows I’m crushing on you?” He looks away nervous. “If they don’t show, though…”
I laugh. “I brought my swimsuit.”
“Great.” He steps over to a fenced in area to show off a massive inground pool. “Cool right?”
I stare at it. “Heated?”
“Can be, but it won’t be until October earliest.” Jack rubs his head. “It’s too warm out. You’re even wearing a sundress.”
“If your thoughts include her removing said sundress, I would like to show you one of my-” Darren threatens.
“Excuse me, Darren.” I glare at him. He sighs. “I would like to change. Alos a bathroom that’s…?”
“Accessible.” He nods and brings me to the backdoor. Not far from the backdoor is a bathroom. I can even get inside with my wheelchair. “Does this work?”
I nod looking everything over. “Thank you.”
“No problem. I’ll wait outside.” He nods refusing to lock eyes with me.
It has me smiling to see his flustered state. Switching to a swimsuit calms me. I love swimming. There are plenty of pools that aren’t accessible to me though. I couldn’t put pressure on others if it wasn’t a good pool.
“Stop drooling.” Darren whacks Jack’s chair. The two have sodas and are resting. “Stop acting like you ever seen-“
“Sorry.” Jack ducks his head. He stands up and moves back to the pool. “Your wheelchair should probably stay out here.”
The water could be a problem. But the stairs is literally right beyond the fence. I can rest before leaving. I make my way to the water as Jack pulls off his shirt. I scan him in passing.
“Why do you even have a six pack?” Darren isn’t changing out of his jeans and tee. He’s not interested in the water. If he notices me getting fatiged that will be a different story.
Jack shrugs sitting on the steps beside me. “I end up running up and down the stairs a lot.”
“You run a lot.”
Jack sighs. “Yeah. I try not to waste time, but seem to always waste time.” He looks to Darren. “Are you joining us?”
“No.” Darren pulls a chair within reach of the pool. He may get splashed there.
“So you’ll just watch?” Jack steps into the water completely. He holds a hand out for me.
I glare at my brother a moment before following Jack into the water. It’s a big pool connected to a big house on a big yard. “Darren is concerned.” I float a little just getting used to the freedom the water offers.
“He seems to think you seek more than you’re able to chew.”
Jack stares at me a moment. Then he looks to my glaring brother. “I want to date your sister.”
“You’re supposed to ask me that.”
“Wasn’t a question. Making a statement.” Jack turns away from Darren and back to me. “You seem calm in the water.”
“Swimming keeps me fit. I cannot do a lot of the physical activities like others can. I can’t play sports or run as you do. But I can swim.” I kick my leg and start a slow lap. Jack watches me. “You didn’t ask me.”
“Are you just staring?” I stop to stare back at him.
He fidgets. “I… Didn’t mean to?”
“You didn’t?” I move in closer and swim around him. “I like seeing you flustered.”
“That’s a good thing since I always seem flustered with you.” Jack catches me in a hug. It’s to stop me swimming around him, but it’s a little shocking to be held. There’s strength in his arms I wasn’t expecting. “So… Can I ask you?”
Jack tenses. “I want to date you… Ask you out… Take you places… Is that okay?”
I watch him fidget. I’m safe in his arms. “I don’t think I’d mind.”
The relief those words offer have me going back to swimming. Jack slips in next to me. Same speed here unlike when we walk. I need to go slow when walking. He stops when we reach the edge of the pool. “Should we tell your brother?”
I stay close to Jack as we stay at the far edge of the pool. “There’s no need. He kinda knew where things were going. That’s why he’s been fighting you so much.”
“His words should be easier to handle than his moves. Was he seriously going to… Judo…” He shivers. “It’s not like he’s insulting me because of my disablity. That might create concern. But being the overprotective older brother? I’ll handle that.” Jack eyes my brother. Darren gets up to reach us. Jack pushes off the edge first and I follow. Darren goes back to sitting down.
Between our laps, we chat lightly on one edge of the pool or the other. Then I sit on the steps as Jack shows off his real swim speed. His six pack is probably from more than just running.
“That’s amazing.” Mike comments moving to my side although dry. “Is he showing off for you?” He nudges me. I grin up at him. “We brought sliders. Where’s the grill?”
Jack is out of the pool in no time explaining his home again. I sit on the edge of the water thinking of the comfort of being here.
“Ready to get out? Need help?” Darren questions. He isn’t dressed to help me.
“I can make it that far.” I stand up. I’m not getting my chair yet. I want to dry a little in a matching chair to Darren’s. “That was Mike.”
“Assumed.” Darren relaxes beside me. “The three are chatting loudly. So you agreed? Why aren’t you worried?”
“Why should I be worried?” I stare at my brother.
Darren gets up. “I can grill. You guys can be lovebirds.”
I exhale trying to rest and dry off. This was a good idea. I just need to be careful. And come Monday… I’ll need my chair. I won’t have the strength to manage.
“You said yes?!” Sue drops on to Darren’s old chair. “I’m so happy for you. You can’t imagine how smitten Jack is over you.”
I grin. “I think I can.”
Sue nudges me. “Congrats. We’ll double.” She stands up looking at the water. She frowns. “Who’s the weird guy anyway? Mike assumes he’s from the house, but I know he’s not.” She flinches. “Unless he is.” She looks back to the gate.
“He’s my brother.”
“Couldn’t come alone?” Sue nods. “I get it more than you realize. Afraid of jumping into bed first thing. A brother is a good block.” Sue tugs me up to standing. “Let’s go.”
I pause breaking free of her. She waits as I sling the towel around me. I refuse her hands as she rushes forward. I need to take my time.
Jack comes to my side the moment he sees me. “Did you want to put some towels on your chair?”
I look at the thing. Then I could…? Hm…
“Chair?” Mike questions probably just noticing my mobility aid. “What for?” Sue looks just as confused.
Jack has no trouble offering me the towels so I can sit comfortably while drying off. “If you guys couldn’t tell she struggled to move around, I’d question if you paid attention at all.”
Sue reviews my wheelchair. “It looks fancy.”
“Thanks. It’s made specifically for me.” I rub the arm.
Sue nods and moves back to the grill. “Come on. Fire the thing.”
Was that it? I look at Jack. He offers a grin back.
It’s weird that my friends barely even acknowledge the wheelchair. They didn’t comment when I would walk a little ways. They didn’t think anything strange when I took my chair the distance.
It’s so much different from high school. Are they just being kind though?
I relax while getting back in the van. Jack thinks the same thing of Sue. Is she friends with him because of the benefits? I can’t just think that way. They knew nothing about this piece of me. And acted like it didn’t matter.
Perhaps not everyone will be that way. Monday should be harder to handle. But I cannot try to be someone else’s normal. I can only be my own. And that has to be good enough.
I hope you enjoyed the short. It’ll need to be reworked a bit before being publishable, but sometimes that’s not the goal of a story, is it?