Deirdre

by Wulleente

The rain drummed a steady rhythm on the roof, I was leaning against the window, absent-mindedly tracing the rains runlets with my finger. I stared out into the dark, watched the city passing by the city lights magnified and blurred by the raindrops. It had been a long day, and a dreary one. I felt someone watching me and noticed the cabby was giving me the eye via the rear view mirror. I pulled the old cardie closer around me, luckily I had had the time to change after work. Otherwise the look would have been more harmful. Usually I would have taken the bus, but on a night like this the way from the bus stop to my front door was just too far.

Finally we pulled into my street, the rain had slowed down but I knew I would be soaking wet by the time I finally reach my front door. The cab pulled over and slowly rolled to a halt. I watched the cabby rush out to retrieve my wheelchair from the boot. I observed how he fumbled with it and finally propped it open next to the rear door, which he opened for me.

"Need help?" He sized me up with his eyes.

Tough decision I thought, either accept his help and get into my apartment much quicker and at least a little dryer or do it the hard way and transfer into the wheelchair on my own. The fast way meant allowing him to touch me, I looked at him again.

"No, thank you."

I slid closer to the edge of the seat, grabbed the handle on the cabs ceiling, with the other hand I held on to the armrest of my chair and swung into it. My legs limply followed, feet still in the cab I adjusted in the chair. I knew the cabby was watching every move I made, and I hated it. Again one of the moments where I would have given everything to just get out of the car and gracefully walk to my front door. I decided to ignore him, and the rain which slowly soaked my scalp and the old cardie.

I grabbed my calf and pulled my left leg out of the car, propped the foot on the footrest, and repeated the move with the right leg. I had to be more careful because my shoe tip was caught under the front seat. I made sure my feet were safely on the footrest, grabbed my backpack, fastened it to the back of my chair, paid the cabby and rolled towards my door. I didn't need to look back to know that the cabby was still staring at me. I just have that effect on men, well and on women, let's better say on people, mainly the kind that can still use their legs.

I unlocked the door and wheeled in.

Back then I used to have a similar effect on people, I got gazes a lot, but in a more sinful way. I grinned to myself as I made my way to my apartment. Again someone had sprawled my mail all over my doormat.

"Son of a bitch!" I mumbled as I bent down to retrieve it. With my right hand I tightly held on to the armrest whilst I picked up the scattered letters with my free hand. I had keeled over and out of my chair too often picking up things. There are a few mistakes you actually learn from.

There had been times when bending down had been way easier, and when people, mainly men, actually had paid me to do that. I again grinned to myself.

The mail propped on my lap I opened the door and wheeled in. My ground level apartment was dark and a tad too cold for me, turning up the heating would solve the temperature problem but wouldn't really help with the stuffy air in there.

I placed the mail on a coffee table and got rid of the wet jacket. The thick wool had kept the water from soaking the rest of my clothes so for now there was no need to change. Wheeling into the kitchen I grabbed a dishwashing towel and dried my hair with it.

Another lonely evening in this dump. I looked around, throwing the towel back onto the counter. I turned a bit and retrieved the backpack. One pro of working in a Steakhouse was you didn't need to cook. And for this particular Steakhouse had 5 stars I always had a very good dinner. I microwaved the dish and ate it straight out of the box. No need to get all fancy, I would only have to wash the dishes afterwards.

When I had finished dinner it was well past midnight. No use in going to bed before 2 am so I wheeled over to the living room. The stereo remote was still resting on the coffee table next to the sofa, so I just wheeled closer to my favourite seat. I fastened the breaks one after another grabbed my feet and put them on the floor before I slowly slid over onto the couch. I picked up my legs and slid up a bit so I could easily rest on the couch with the high armrest for support. I picked up the remote and Satie started to fill the room. I leaned back and closed my eyes, my mind slowly drifting off. I sat there for a while, just relaxed, enjoyed the music and dreamed about better times. The scratching sound of the finished CD pulled me back into the present and I decided I might as well go to bed.
I transferred back into my chair and got into my bathroom. I undressed slowly and looked at myself in the mirror. Slowly removed the leftovers of my make up, took out the tinted contact lenses and then wheeled over to the toilet to cath myself and check my bowel movement. Just the all evening routine, noting to write home about. Whilst I sat there I sneaked another gaze into the mirror. My upper body was still nice, my breasts full and firm. Maybe a bit smaller than they used to be, due to the muscle tissue I gained.
I looked down on my flaccid limp legs. Atrophy had thinned them, misshaped them. My feet which laid loosely on the ground looked as if they didn't belong to me, with the curled in toes. Those toes... men used to lick champagne off of them. I cleaned myself up and got back into my chair. For a second I thought about taking a late night bath but it wasn't worth the hassle.

I felt a bit dizzy, it was time to go to bed. Slowly I wheeled into the bedroom and over to my queen-size bed, fastened the breaks of my chair and slid off the seat, keeling over head first onto the soft mattress. Like a seal I crawled into the middle, dragging my legs behind me. I rolled over and sorted out my legs, bending over I massaged my calves to support the weak circulation. It still felt weird touching the lifeless flesh and skin. Like giving a massage not to myself but to another person. My hand, finished with my right leg went over to the left, massaging the calf and then wandering upwards to my thigh. I turned the leg in a bit, not using its own muscles but my hands. My fingers traced the tattoo which started a few inches above my knee. The Celtic knots and lines which moved up my thigh just to disappear at my hip. Back then I thought, not for the first time this evening.

I pulled up the blanket and tried to get into a comfortable position. I didn't even notice how I drifted off to sleep.

I would love to say that I was awakened by the first rays of sunlight, by the early birds, or even better, by the scent of freshly made coffee. But that wasn't the case, hadnít been for ages. My last alarm clock I threw away when I dropped out of college, back when I decided to make a living off my looks and not my brains. Who would have known that my career would be such a short one?

I ruffled through the blonde curls I usually covered with a black wig at work, and turned to the clock next to my bed. Well past eleven, like always. I dragged myself back into my chair, adjusted my legs and made my way into the kitchen. Still naked I filled the coffee machine and whilst the coffee was running through I went into the bathroom to get dressed. I got my running clothes from the rack, rolled up the legs and one after another slid my feet into them, carefully not to tangle up my toes in the fabric. I slid the pants up mid thigh and then lifted myself up, leaning to the left side to pull them over my now airborne right buttock. I repeated the movement to the other side and closed the pants before I fetched my sports bra and the sweatshirt. The last item were my running shoes and socks. I grabbed my right leg at the calf and pulled it up onto my lap, rolled up the sock and slid my foot into it. Then I retrieved the shoe and put it on, lacing it tight. I put my leg down and repeated the motion with the left leg. As I put my foot back on the footrest I looked down at both of them. It humoured me that I still use my old running shoes, well worn and dirty. Let alone the fact that I still call my sports clothes my running clothes.

I returned to the kitchen for a sip of black coffee before I made my way out the back door. Choosing my favourite round along the beach promenade. I live far enough from the amusement district and the tourists traps so the promenade was quite empty at this time of day and I had no problems speeding up, doing my version of a sprint. On some days I would go slower, taking in the wonderful landscape, the view of the ocean, the salty scent in the air. I would watch the seagulls and enjoy myself on a beautiful day. Perhaps buy an ice cream cone on my way back home. But not today, I felt the urge for speed. To hear the blood rush in my ears, to feel my breath labour. So I sped up.

Soon I felt sweat form on my forehead, and my shirt started to stick to my torso. I should have worn my gloves, my hands slowly started to ache, but I didn't really care.

45 minutes later I unlocked my door again. Out of breath and soaked in sweat I made my way back into the kitchen for a spartan hookerís breakfast, hot black coffee and a cigarette. I spiced it up with a bowl of cereal and a bottle of cool water to re-hydrate.

The kitchen clock told me it was close to one, still enough time for a long soak. I always loved long bathes so I got into the bathroom and ran myself a nice hot bath scented in vanilla and honey. I undressed and transferred myself onto the hydraulic lift which would slowly lower me into the tub. I watched how the water started to cover my legs whilst I pushed the remote to lower myself deeper into the water, anxiously waiting for the moment when I would feel the water. The tickling sensation right around my line of injury. And there it was, I groaned in pleasure as the hot water hit the sensitive skin a few inches above my belly button. The lift stopped on the ground and I pushed myself deeper into the tub, stretching out and covering my upper body in hot well scented liquid. I took my time in the tub slowly sponging down my body, shampooing and rinsing my hair. I had always taken good care of my body, used different creams and lotions, kept out of the sun to stay pale, worked out and held a straight diet. Except on stage I had never worn makeup, I didn't like the way it felt on my skin, clogging the pores.

Stage.... my memories drifted back to the time I was in senior year in college. It had all started out on a cold Halloween night. I had
dressed up as Elvira, mistress of the dark. In a club a guy approached me, offered me a job as a dancer, an erotic dancer... Burlesque dancing, he called it. He liked my Elvira act and I figured this would be a nice and easy way to put me through my last year in college and perhaps finance the trip to Europe I was planning after graduation. I had always enjoyed dancing, it had been a nice and fun way to keep in shape, why not use it to earn some money?

So I agreed. My act was a success. A success so big I decided to make a living out of it. And so I did.

I shook off the thoughts of better times. The water had started to cool down and it was time to get ready for work. I rinsed my hair one last time and sat up again, fetching the remote to get out of the tub. Carefully I towelled down and wheeled over into the bedroom to dress. Casual clothes would do for I would change into my work clothes at the restaurant. I looked into the mirror and suddenly realised I hadn't spoken a single word since I had entered my apartment the previous evening. I stuck out the tongue to my reflection and went on dressing. It was half past three when I Locked my door, I heard footsteps on the staircase above me and when I went past the stairs I saw my upstairs neighbour come down the stairs. He nodded politely and wished me a good day. I did the same. At least he was gentleman enough to hold open the door for me. I passed him with a calm "thank you" and our paths diverged. I was proud, I actually had spoken to someone outside of work. Sometimes weeks passed by in silence. I made my way to the bus stop and just as I reached it I saw the bus approach. My timing had always been good. I grinned. The doors opened and Margo got out, the slightly overweight driver was a regular on this route and the only exception to my silent days.

"Hi Margo."

"Hi sweetie, you all right?" She pulled out the ramp for me.

"Sure." I wheeled myself in and we drove off in silence. Me in the back, her in front.

The drive was short and when Margo helped me out of the bus she smiled at me.

"Have a nice day at work I guess I'll be picking you op later, I'm due for some overtime."

"Great," I smiled at her, "Then I'll get you some of our left-overs:"

Margo beamed I had occasionally shared my dinner in the bus with her, sometimes when the bus was all empty I would stay in till she reached her final stop and we would eat together, and talk a bit. I knew all about her family and her life. And she knew what she needed to know about me. Some infos I had left blank, it was enough information for her to know that the disability was the result of an accident, she never asked more and I never told more. I also knew that on her salary she would never be able to eat as a guest in the restaurant so what our cook called left-overs, for her were pennies from heaven. As I am confined to this chair our friendship was confined to this bus, and it was all right with us.

She squeezed my shoulder and I made my way to the restaurant. Miguel met me at the door, Miguel our original spanish head waiter from Wisconsin...

"Hola bonita senorita, como esta ustedes?" He opened the door for me and followed me inside.

"Drop the act Miguel," I laughed. "For the next hour you'll be Michael to me.

He joined in into my laughter and gave me a gently push inside. Soon everyone would begin his or her act, the waiters would start
speaking with a fake spanish accent and I would begin my act, the mysterious cool concierge.

We're only open in the evenings, some sort of high class promotion thingie. When we entered parts of the crew were already setting up the tables, cleaning and getting the joint ready for the evening. I said hi whilst I rolled my and was greeted back by several co workers. The all in all mood was good they were joking and having fun, mentally preparing for a bumpy ride tonight. As I was in charge of the reservation book I knew it would get full, like always on the weekends. But today we had a few "special" customers, like politicians and one or two actors. It promised to get tough.

I wheeled into my bosses office, as usual he would be tied up in the kitchen for a while, so I could change in here, we had worked out some sort of schedule, I had a place to change therefore I took on a few duties which weren't exactly in my job description. Like doing his books...I got out my work dress and started changing into the little black dress with the plunging neckline and the quite revealing back. Getting this thing on usually was quite a challenge for me but as always I managed with a few tricks.

The dress was special cut, it looked best when I was in that half sitting position I would take later behind my desk. It also was cut to cover my tattoo. The tattoo that once had been my trademark, and had given me my stage name; Deirdre. The tattoo had been another reason why my act was so successful. It covered half of my back and shoulder, my hip and thigh. I had kept that name, as I had kept the tattoo. I have had it before I started dancing and it will never go away, I loved the design back when I had tattooed and I still loved it. It was a part of me, and also it was the part that detached me from myself. I checked again if the artwork was all covered. I had spent enough time showing it off, now it just belonged to me. And there was the issue of a patron seeing it and recognizing it. My boss was okay with my past, after all, that's how we met. He'd been a regular, often trying to hit on me. And after that fateful evening he came to me, offering me the job.

Perhaps he felt a bit guilty because he was in the brawl that night at the club. The brawl where someone got thrown onto the stage where I had still been performing. The guy pulled me with him off the stage, I had a bad landing, a really bad landing.

When I hadn't shown up for work a few weeks later he had started looking for me. And he found me, in rehab, in a wheelchair. We became friends and after a while he offered me the concierge job. He figured with my looks and attitude I would be an asset to his restaurant. And I was.

I put in my contact lenses to change my eye colour from green to blue and started to pin up my hair. I took some time to put on my make up and wig, carefully designing my look, completely with smoky eyes. The knock on the door pulled me back into reality.

"Are you ready beautiful?"

I turned to see Jim's smiling face. He was dressed perfectly, looking like the sophisticated restaurant owner he was. "Sure, just finished the last touch-ups."

I wheeled across the room. "Let's go be mean to some customers." I cleared my throat. "I mean let us greet the guest." My voice had dropped half an octave as I modelled the british accent into it. Accentuating my words.

Jim grinned, he got behind me and pushed me over to my desk. Like my dress the chair was a special fit too. When I was sitting on it, it looked like a normal bar stool but it had a small backrest for support and a thin seatbelt which looked like a belt for the dress. To complete the ensemble we had glued little magnets to the soles of my shoes so my feed wouldn't slide off the footrest.

I fastened my breaks and Jim got in front of me. As he bend down I wrapped my arms around his neck and he easily lifted me up. For a few moments it looked as we were dancing a slow dance.

With often practiced moves he positioned me on my chair and helped me fasten my seatbelt and position my legs. He stepped back a few paces, and like a painter observes his artwork he looked at me.

"You're satisfied?" I smirked.

"Like always." His grin broadened.

Usually we would exchange a few puns, like that he only hired me because I wouldn't leave my workspace, not even for a toilet break. Or something like that. But we were already running late. He nodded silently and left whilst I picked up my headset and opened the book to check on the reservations for the day.

We had worked out a very special system, obviously I couldn't guide the patrons to their tables so I had radio contact to the kitchen and a button under my table to ring for a waiter. The button set off a light at the bar and a waiter would immediately be send out to me, to guide the guests to their tables. To the guests it still was a miracle how the waiters suddenly appeared. And they still wondered how I could stay all night in the same position without stretching or having to leave for a toilet break. I always smiled and told them that I was plain good in my job.

Michael, now Miguel passed by me to open the door. Soon the first patrons walked in, I politely greeted them and had someone guide them to their table. The pace sped up during the evening and it became so full that I had guests waiting outside. I had just finished another phone call for a reservation and written it down in my book when some one greeted me. The voice sounded vaguely familiar. I looked up and my upstairs neighbour looked me direct in the face.

"Welcome to el Matador, do you have a reservation?"

He nodded and named a name, apparently a firm name, and a time. Obviously he didn't recognize me. Well how could he under all that makeup and the wig? And I guessed the only thing he ever noticed about me was my wheelchair. And I had to admit I wouldn't have recognized him either, I never had looked at him that closely plus we had only seen each other a few times passing at the front door. Or fetching the mail.

"Yes, your table will be ready in an instance, you're the first to arrive, if you wouldn't mind you can wait at the bar, someone will fetch you when your table is free." I kept completely calm, nothing gave me away but on the inside this really was amusing me. My camouflage was perfect.

"I'm okay, thank you." He backed off a little to the opposite wall and watched the people.

I got on with my work, I felt his gaze on me. From time to time I looked up, only to find him staring openly on me. It wasn't uncommon for patrons to seize me up with looks, and to be honest I always enjoyed it. I flashed him a knowing grin and all he did was nod in appreciation. Relaxed and cool, I liked that. And I liked even more that he was about to hit on a shell, a non existent character, my avatar not myself. I was amused.

His table got ready and the rest of his party arrived before he could land a line on me, I was still busy.

Later that night I sat at my window watching the moon and still smiling about the fact that a guy who has been living above me for
several years didn't recognize me. He had flashed me a nice smile when he left the restaurant, and a nice tip which Miguel handed me later.

A few days passed rather event less, just that I noticed the guy from upstairs a lot more often in and around the restaurant. Was he trying to hit on me?

 My apartment building had an in build pool for the tenants, the weather was too bad to do my "running" I decided it wouldn't be such a bad idea to use the pool. I sometimes swam there but it was pretty difficult for me because it wasn't really accessible for me. There was no lift or ramp to get into the water. Well the getting in wasn't the problem but the getting out was really hard. I had enough upper body strength to pull myself out of the water but I had to be careful not to hurt myself on the tiles when doing so. I got out of the chair and changed into my bikini on my bed. Then I laid out my robe on the seat of the chair and transferred back into it. I slipped into the robe, tied it, grabbed a few towels and left my apartment. The pool was just down the hall from me, and luckily our janitor was very thorough when it came to the pool standards, the water was always clean and the temperature just right. I mainly used it in the mornings, most of the tenants were at work then so I had the water to myself. The janitor had added a nice treat for me, there was a rope in the water connected to a switch in his workshop so if I got in trouble I could always call him... well if he was in his workshop. When I opened the door to the pool I heard splashing. Someone was in the water. Damn I would have preferred to be on my own.

But well now I was here, all spiffed up and no place to go. There had been times when I would have been embarrassed, if someone
had seen me struggling into the water, showing weakness. I had stopped bothering about that long ago. I entered the hall and saw someone doing laps in the water. It was the upstairs neighbour. I had to grin, was there some higher power trying to tell me something? I wheeled closer to the pool and watched him, whilst I pulled up my leg and slipped the neoprene shoe on my left foot. The shoes were a precaution so I wouldn't scratch my feet on the ground. I repeated the move with the right foot, and just as I was closing the shoe he noticed me. I had startled him, I grinned.

"Oh hi there!" He waved at me, "I didn't knew you went in here as well."

"Sometimes I do." I waved back.

He swam closer and looked at me, his arms propped on the rim of the pool.

"You keep to your self a lot."

"I guess so, I have a weird work schedule." I shrugged my shoulders.

"So you don't do the hermit act on purpose?"

"Don't think so." I grinned, he seemed really nice, but I knew he had his eye on another girl, me. My grin broadened.

I opened the robe and let it slowly slide down my arms, one of my old tricks, and it seemed still to work fine. He watched in interest.

"Do you need help?"

He didn't ask shy or sheepishly it was a nice reaction, a polite reaction, not the reaction I was used to when undressing but okay.

"No thanks, I'm okay." I got rid of the robe and bent forward to put my feet off the footrest, wheeled a few inches back, dragging them on the floor. Then fastened the breaks and lifted myself off the seat, carefully I lowered myself to the ground till I sat on the tiles. I laid out one of the towels and slid onto it before I grabbed my legs one after the other and put them over the rim of the pool. On the towel I slid closer to the rim. I was right next to him now.

"I'm George, by the way I think we never got introduced." He extended a hand.

I already knew his name, but why should I tell him?

"Hi, I'm Helen." I shook his hand.

"Nice to meet you Helen."

I leaned forward to feel the water temperature and splash a bit of water on my body to acclimatise before I lowered into the water. I dove and swam a few strokes before I surfaced again. I heard him behind me whistling.

"Wow nice artwork, I think I never saw such a big tattoo on a woman before."

I turned around, swimming to keep my head afloat. "Thanks" We swam a while, did a few laps enjoyed the company. I knew he was watching me swim, observing how my thin legs limply followed my body, how they would just dangle beneath me. He either was too shy to ask questions or he just didn't bother. I didn't mind it.

All gentleman he helped me out of the water afterwards, without making a fuzz out of it. We hadn't spoken much and now we just said bye and went our separate ways.

I wouldn't have thought to see him again so soon but that night when we opened up George was standing across the street, I could see him from my desk and wondered if he had recognized me after all. He patiently waited till the place got crowded and then entered, asking for a table as if he'd just walked down the street and decided to have dinner out of the blue. I smiled knowingly. He knew I'd seen him waiting. Nothing in his behaviour showed any sign of recognition. So I figured my cover was still intact. I told him he would have to wait for a table and he, of course, agreed. He tried a few times to strike up a conversation but every time got interrupted by a patron, the phone or a waiter. Inside I was rolling on the floor, laughing. He tried his best to look sophisticated and cool, but several time he reminded me more of a puppy after a tough shower.

At some point the waiter guided him to his table and he dined alone, paid and went back into the foyer where I was sitting.

"What do I have to do to get an opportunity to talk to you in private?"

Well that was an open approach.

"There is no way to talk in private to me."

It was the truth even though it startled him. For a second I felt pity for him, being brushed off so bluntly, but what else could I have said? The <me> he was trying to hit on didn't exist outside of this room.

"But what if I want to get to know you better?"

He didn't give up easily, I liked that. Maybe the easiest way would have been telling him that I was married to a heavy weight champion or something like that. But in a weird way I enjoyed this. Usually I brushed patrons briskly off who tried this scheme, but George was different, I liked the idea of playing with him. He knew both my faces, both persons and he hadn't made a connection.

"If you want to get to know me better, find a way." I smiled mysteriously. "I wish you a good night sir."

I had put him up to a challenge, I wasn't sure I could win. But I surely had the better odds, I knew more about him than he about me.

I finished my shift late that evening but the evening. When I finally closed my book and took off my headset I saw someone lurking across the street, I didn't have to look closer to know that George was waiting there for me to leave the restaurant. Lucky for me Jim had decided to have a little staff party, the evening had gone well and we all felt up for a few belts and some nice dinner. There was only one issue. From where George was standing he would be able to watch how Jim got my chair and helped me into it. Usually there were big flowers on the window sill, allowing me too look out but making it really difficult to look in. but Jim had a gardener fetch them earlier that week to get them re potted.

The stool was too high for me to get off it and into my chair on my own so Jim blocking the window wasn't an option either. When I saw Jim approach with my chair I signalled him to stop in the doorway.

"We have a viewer." I slightly nodded in the direction of the window.

Jim just nodded. "And you don't want a witness?"

"Not that particular one."

Without another word Jim hit the lights and the room went dark except for the faint light that was cast in by the street lights. Jim made his way over to me, all our movements had been practised for years, we had no problems repeating them in the dark. We made our way into the restaurant and on the way switched on the light again. I peeked around the corner of the door frame. I wish I could have seen his face when he realised I was gone but he was too far away.

We all had a great time till the wee hours of the morning. But I was cautious, when I had changed back into my street wear I checked twice if George was still out there. But it seemed he had given up. It was too late for the bus so I had Jim call me a taxi. I was waiting at the curb, praying that the rain, I could already smell in the air, wouldnít start until I was home save. I saw the cab approach and come to a halt right in front of me. Luckily it wasn't the same cabby as a few nights ago. I hauled myself into the cab and the driver stored away my chair. He made the usual remarks about the weather and the regular small talk. I was quite drunk so I zoned out several limes and kept my responses to nodding and smiling. Curiously I noticed that even though I drank less than I used to the alcohol had a much worse effect on me. Well maybe the matter that I drank less was the reason for the strong effect. When the cab pulled over in front of my building I was so tried and so woozy I had the hardest time getting into my chair. I needed a while to seat myself and the bending forward to get my feet on the footrest seemed a lot more difficult than usual. Luckily I had already paid the cabby and he, not particularly concerned about his guest, had already driven off.

I sat up straight again, still one foot short on the footrest business. But the bending had put the kind of pressure to my belly which made me think quite thorough about my previous dinner. I heard steps behind me, coming from the house.

"Hi, decided to sleep outside tonight?"

I turned my head and saw George approach, well actually I saw two Georges approach but I wasn't about to admit that just now.

"Seems to be the perfect night for that." I looked up to him.

"You're drunk!"

"Severely." I mumbled grinning at him. "What are you doing here?"

"I do live here, remember?"

"Yes, yes, outside?"

"I just came home a few minutes ago."

I blinked rapidly, my vision was so blurry. I pulled on my jeans to lift the foot which was still on the floor. Crossing my legs seemed easier than bending down again. After a few tries I managed to cross it over and keep it in place. I slowly turned to George.

He laughed. I must have given a really sorry picture.

"Are you going to stand there and laugh at me or are you going to offer me some help to get inside?"

I was a little bit proud of me for being able to form such long sentences. Still laughing he got behind my chair and pushed me inside. I promised myself to never drink so many cocktails again. George took my keys from me and opened my door before he pushed me inside my apartment.

"Let's get you fixed up for bed then." George had no problems to find his way in my apartment, I guessed his was cut similar.

I sighed as I saw my bed. Bed was a good idea.

"I know we don't really know each other and I'm just a neighbour but you seem to need help, tell me what shall I do??

I nodded, grateful for the offer. But there were some things he didn't need him to witness.

"Thanks I'll be fine from here on."

George nodded and wished me a good night. I head the door shut close after him and got rid of my shirt and bra. I was slow and not feeling very well. I put my leg down and pulled the other foot off the footrest as well. Wiggling out of my pants seemed to take forever. When I had pulled my pants off and fumbled my feet back on the footrests I wheeled into the bath room, it dawned on me that when I tried to cath me in my current state of intoxication the tube would possibly end up in one of my ovaries. I yielded and cursed a little when I pulled out one of the "emergency" diapers from the box I kept them in. I hated the diapers but this was better than wetting the bed accidentally. I wheeled back into the bedroom and keeled into my bed. I laid out the diaper and positioned myself upon them. After fastening the straps I wearily grabbed my blanket. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

I had, of course, forgotten to shut the drapes so I was awoken by the sun after what had seemed like 10 minutes of sleep. My head hurt like hell. All in all I wasn't in the best shape. I tried to get back to sleep and eventually dozed off again for a little while.
When I came to again, I noticed something was off. I turned my head and blinked a few times before my eyes adjusted to the bright sunlight in my bedroom.

George was sitting on a chair he must have brought in from the kitchen, and was reading the morning paper. I hectically pulled up my blanket.

"What in the world are you doing here?"

He slowly folded down the paper and smiled at me.

"And good morning to you too, I brought breakfast." He pointed at a tray on my night stand, containing french toast and fresh coffee.

I was resting on my stomach and now tried to turn around on my back, carefully not to loose the blanket. The faint sound of wrinkling plastic reminded me of one of my less proud moments and I prayed to god he hadn't seen my diapers, nor heard that sound.

I dragged myself up a little, to rest against the headboard, and tugged the blanket tight around me.

"Thank you, but again, what are you doing here?"

"I felt it saver to check on you, after the state you were in last night."

"That bad, uh?"

He nodded grinning, "worse."

"I see." I took the tray and tasted the semi warm coffee.

He watched me as I slowly ate the toast and even brought me a refill on the coffee. Nice change having someone delivering breakfast to bed.

"Don't you have to get to work?"

"I've been working out of my apartment for a while now, sort of an office at home, so I can decide when to work and when not, as long as I get the work done."

I nodded, still I'd appreciate him leaving soon so I could get out of bed. The restaurant was closed today, lucky me, I could stay in bed all day. If I wanted to. But even though I couldn't feel it I was pretty sure the diaper was full by now.

I felt embarrassed sitting in front of a semi stranger, knowing, even though he might haven't noticed it at all, that I was wearing a full diaper. Perhaps my mind had started playing tricks on me but I thought I could even smell it by now.

I complimented him out, the kind way but declined his offer for a swim later. I really didn't feel up to it. Plus I wasn't sure if he was
trying to hit on me, or if he even suspected I was his mysterious <lady in black>.

I felt weary. Hung over and weak. I had been right, the diaper was more than full and I had to clean myself up, I also changed the sheets, just to be safe. Everything took so long it was as if I moved in slow motion. I had to pause several times. It was a day to simply lay around ad pity myself for a while.

It should have been raining, but I wasn't the sun was out and it was a pretty warm day. I decided instead of laying on my sofa in my badly ventilated apartment I could as well go outside into the community garden and lay there a bit in the sun.

I grabbed my book and a bottle of water and got out. There were some old deck chairs in the garden, I wheeled close to one and tried to get into it. It was so low I had to trick my way in, in order to not turn over with it. I felt someone was watching me, from the corner of my eye I noticed George was on his balcony. I decided to ignore him. Even down here I could feel the pity in his gaze. He watched me putting my feet off the footrest, how I carefully lowered myself on the deck chair and slid over, pulling myself up a bit. I had to grab one of the armrests to bend forward far enough to get my feet onto the chair. I tried to straighten them out a bit so it would look at least a little decent before I tried to find a comfortable position. He was still watching me when I took up my book and started to read.

The next time I looked up he was gone.

I was back to my normal self when I came in for my shift the next day, I hadn't seen George again and had to admit I was a tad sad about that. I was still trying to figure out what to make of him. He was stalking me at work, and kept running into me at home. Was he aware of who I was?

I vividly remember times when I had to fight off guys with a stick. Back then I would have 10 on each finger. But since that fateful night all I seemed to be able to attract were some weirdoes who were more into my chair than into me.

It was a slow night, we had a few regulars and a few reservations but at my desk it was quiet. I saw George approach through the window. I had thought about it for quite a while and was willing to face him. But in my role. I would stay in character to find out what he knew.

He opened the door and swiftly approached me. I nodded at him and greeted him firmly.

"A table for one I assume?"

He shook his head. "Actually no, I came here to see you. It seems I am not able to find you anywhere else so this is the only chance to talk to you. I wondered if you'd go out with me?"

I blushed. Luckily my grandma had taught me the trick to blush on cue.

"Well why should I go out with you?"

I arched an eyebrow and laid a bit more emphasis on my fake british accent.

"Well, why not, I am polite, nice, mend my own shirts, don't eat onions, lean towards handsome, and on occasions swallow swords." He brushed an imaginary fluff off his revers.

"And so not full of yourself." I had to laugh. He actually was quite cute. I assumed he had no idea who he was talking to. The wig, the tinted contact lenses and the phoney accent... No chance he'd found out. But he would eventually. I wasn't sure what to make of it. Should I toy a bit with him or should I just rebuff him? I opted for the latter, he was really nice, the way he had helped me the other night, and how he had brought me breakfast.... Why in hell had he to fall in love with Deirdre?

"So what are you saying?"

I straightened up and looked at him. "I am sorry, but I think going out would not be a good idea."

"Why?"

Something in my head yelled <think fast, think fast>

"I am already spoken for."

"Who cares?" He smirked.

"I care." I should have known he wouldn't give up that easily. "And to be honest you're not my type."

"Oh come on. Just a nice after work drink, no strings attached."

"Thanks, but no thanks. Don't you have a nice girl to go home to?"

For a second his facial expression changed. It was just the blink of an eye but I had noticed it.

"I see you got someone at home."

Now it was on him to blush.

"No there is no one."

It was clear I wasn't able to get rid of him, but he had made me curious. I checked the book and there were no guests expected for a while.

"Why are you this persistent? You keep showing up here, watching me from across the road..." I trailed off.

He shrugged. "I don't know when I first saw you here well you look nice, and you have this aura around you. Like a dancer, the way you gesture. Bend your head, and your posture."

"A dancer?" slowly it got creepy.

"Yes this certain...." He waved his arms. "You know..."

I certainly wasn't about to point out to him that he had never seen me walk. But I for sure felt flattered by his compliments. We kept on talking till the next guests arrived. He excused himself and asked if he'd come around another day again to continue our little chat. I nodded politely and he was off.

I really had a lot to think of, he really was nice, well spoken, well educated, a real gentleman. Sadly he wasn't in love with me, but with a fictional character I made up. Should I tell him? I was afraid, he just had fallen in love with a <normal> girl, and there was a good chance the fact that his normal girl was his wheelchairbound neighbour might repulse him.

When I came home that night I found him on the staircase. Staring into the darkness.

"What..." I coughed to mask the accent which accidentally had slipped my mouth. "What are you doing here?"

"Good evening," he smiled weakly. "You have a tendency to ignore greeting phrases."

"I know, sorry. Good evening. And yes I know, you live here. But why are you sitting here and not in your cosy apartment."

He shrugged, "well I was waiting for you."

Something tingled in the back of my neck.

"For me? Why that?"

I had approached my door and already opened it.

"I felt like having company today and I don't really know many people around here."

I nodded, "well come in then."

He followed me in and I switched the lights on.

"Want something to drink? A coke?"

"Sure."

I made my way into the kitchen and when I came back he was reading the booklet of the Satie CD which was still in my stereo.

"Quite the taste in music you have there."

I smiled and handed him a can of coke. After looking around for a good spot he sat down on the couch. I wheeled up to the coffee table and came to a halt opposite him. Fetched my own can from my lap and opened it.

"Cheers." I toasted him. "Cheers." I patiently waited for an explanation.

He took a long sip. "I'm sorry to impose on you, but as I said I don't know that much people around here and you know..." he trailed off.

"Has something happened today?"

"Well yes, in a way, and no, in another way, I don't know."

"You do know that you make absolutely no sense?"

"Sorry." He leaned forward. "I know we have met only a few weeks ago, but you're actually the only person I had closer contact to in quite a while. Since I moved here there was just work and sleep. When I got the opportunity to work from home I seized it. I can work on my own schedule now and actually have more spare time."

"I see and that's why you were on my doorstep just now?"

"No, no." He laughed, "I needed someone to talk, I think. And you seemed just perfect, so far we got along quite good I think and you're the closest to a friend I got round here."

I silently nodded. Even though I had a feeling I wouldn't like what would come now.

"You know I met this girl in a restaurant, she works there, well she's no girl she's an amazing woman. And I want to get to know her, but she brushed me off."

I nodded. Another man who saw me as the pal, the friend, and not a woman.

"And what shall I do about it? Call her and tell her how nice a guy you are?"

He shook his head. "Nah I already did that."

I had to laugh. He really was cute. But unless I found a way to miraculously transform into Deirdre for good, he wasn't interested in me.

I took a sip of coke to get rid of the bitter taste in my mouth. He was telling me about the beautiful woman whose nametag read Deirdre and who had those beautiful eyes, and this shock of black hair and the movements of a dancer. If I hadn't been sure that I had fallen in love with this sweet guy already, I knew now for sure. The way he described Deirdre to me, how the lilt in her voice mesmerized him, the natural grace with which she moved... I felt a sting in my heart. For once because here was a guy who really was in love with a woman, and who could express his love in such a beautiful way. He was sincere and open hearted, and truly in love. And he was in love with me and didn't even know that hurt even more.

I had fallen silent and been watching him silently.

"So what do you think?"

He had caught me a little off base, caught in my own thoughts.

"Think about what?"

"Me, her, what shall I do?" He gestured wildly.

What should I say? George, forget her, she's not the right girl for you? Take me instead? I just shrugged my shoulders. What do you know about her, except her looks, what makes you think that it would work out between you two?"

"Nothing yet. But I would surely like to find out more about her. And I also don't know if it would work out, but why not give it a try?"

"Yeah why not give it a try..." mentally I rolled my eyes.

He got up, "Thanks you're a real pal." He came over to hug me.

It was a great hug. His scent was so intense and so good, I inhaled deeply. Reluctantly I let go of him and he wished me a good night.

When I was alone I switched on the Satie CD and changed onto the sofa. His scent still clung to the pillows. I turned on my side and grabbed my knees one after another to pull up my legs a bit. Curled up like this I laid there, listening to the music dreaming of what could be whilst a part of me tried to decide what to do.

When the restaurant opened I was sure George would show up sooner or later. I had thought about the whole matter for the better of the night and on my run that morning I had finally decided on a plan of action.

I didn't have to wait long. There he was, crossing the street with a bouquet of dark red roses in his hand. Wordlessly he presented them to me. I took them, nodded in appreciation and smiled.

"Will you go out with me?"

I shook my head, laughing. "Will you ever give up?"

"Not until you say yes."

"If that's the matter." I smiled. Time to follow on my plan. "But under my conditions."

He immediately beamed. "Of course, whatever you say!"

I wrote down the address of a nice club and a time and handed it over to him. I'll meet you there. But if I tell you to leave you will do so, without questions and discussion."

"Yes ma'am." He saluted and went out the door again.

I smiled and buried my nose into the bouquet and inhaled deeply. When Miguel came by with a water filled vase I knew the little episode hadn't gone by without being witnessed. He grinned broadly and put the vase on my desk.

When my shift ended that day I was well prepared, I had brought a black business suit and a dark red blouse. It would look great with the black wig and my dark green eyes. I just hoped the tinted contact lenses stayed in place or I'd look like an eskimo dog, one eye blue and one green.

I got some sneaky remarks from Jim and Miguel about having a date and we joked around a bit through the closed office door whilst I changed into the suit. Tugging in the blouse was more difficult than I had thought, the material was smooth and silky and kept slipping out of the waistband of the trousers.

When I opened the door again half of the staff was there, awaiting me with applause and whistles. I shot them a glance and the applause subsided into giggling. The cab was already waiting at the door and soon we drove off to the dark jazz club I had chosen for my date with George. Mainly I had picked it because it was full wheelchair accessible and only secondly because of the nice ambience and the good music.

When I wheeled in I was about thirty minutes early, and I prayed to god that George didnít show up early. I wheeled over to the bar to get hold of a waitress. A flimsy red head approached me and I asked her for a little assistance. She found my question a little weird and wasn't good in hiding that, but for I was a paying customer she obeyed. She guided me to a table in the back, actually it was a little booth with a huge soft bench instead of chairs, which suited my purpose.

She stood beside me, and watched closely as I rolled next to the bench, fastened my breaks and put my feet, one after another, off the footrest. I lifted myself out of the chair and swung over onto the bench. She waited till I had slid into the middle of the bench. I smilingly handed her ten bucks and she loosened the breaks and rolled my chair away.

I had chosen the booth because I wasn't sure I could support myself on a normal chair all night. The chair at work had a seatbelt and the backrest to hold me in place, on a normal chair I had to be cautious every time I bent over or turn too quick, and I wasn't about to risk sliding off a chair and in the process blowing my cover.

I again adjusted the blouse and my jacket and looked if my feet and legs were straight. I figured I was decent enough and waited for my waitress friend to bring me the ginger ale I had ordered. I had about 10 minutes left to relax before George would appear. I absent-mindedly sucked on the straw in my drink and wondered about what good would come out of this. Such a nice guy. How would I manage to not loose him, or better convince him to go for his blonde crippled neighbour instead of the ethereal dark receptionist? I was a little lost in my own thoughts when I noticed a movement out of the corner of my eye. George was standing in front of me, he shrugged out of his coat and grinned broadly.

"I wasn't sure if you'd show up."

"Why shouldn't I?" I smiled up at him.

He slid into the booth, right next to me and hugged me hello. Again that scent, which gave me weak knees.... but then... I had to smile at my own poor joke. He ordered a drink and we started talking. Within minutes we were exchanging the stories of our lives. He told me about his work, his family, that he had been living in the Midwest for quite a while. And I told him about me. To be honest I told him about Deirdre, who as after all a big part of my life, and the upper part of my body. I told him that I had been a dancer, and managed it to ship around the question what kind of dancer, that was nothing to discuss on the first date. And that I had stopped dancing a while back and was now working at the restaurant. Again I managed to leave out the part why I stopped dancing.

My plan was to get to know him better, show him who I was. I had figured that he probably would never make the effort because of the chair, but the chair was not all there was to me. Most men just saw my wheels and except of asking how I got to be a paraplegic no one ever had bothered. Perhaps if George could get a chance to see the real me, the person in the chair... even if that meant to masquerade as another person. The wig and lenses were only on the outside, and if he just was out for the looks I would do better without him.

But my plan was also, no lies. I would not paint a wrong picture of myself, I would just leave a few spots blank for now. We talked for what seemed like hours. And soon found out we had a similar taste in films and music, as well as books. When I checked my watch casually I noticed that it was close to the closing time of this joint, we had to get out soon. Si straightened the tablecloth with my hands, looking down on them whilst I did so.

"It is time now, George, go please."

He looked at me baffled, and a bit scared. Perhaps he was afraid that he had said something wrong. I couldn't change that now. He nodded calmly apparently he wasn't about to break his promise. He got up without a fuzz hugged me again, said his goodbyes and left. Not without stopping by the bar to pay up his bill.

I leaned back and watched him leave, and so did the waitress I had bribed earlier. Slowly she walked over to my table.

"He paid for you as well."

I smiled. "Thanks, I guess I found the last gentleman."

She chewed on her bubblegum. "Maybe but shouldn't you tell him?"

I immediately understood what she meant.

"One day.... Could you get me my chair please?"

"Sure." She nodded and moved on.

I transferred back into my chair effortlessly and grabbed the bag I had hung on the handles of the chair. I put it on my lap and made my way into the lady's room. In there I opened the bag and after I took it off, threw the wig into it. I ruffled through my locks which were a little crumpled. Then I got out the box for the contact lenses and took them out too. There also was a blue jumper in the bag which I now pulled out and put on over the blouse. I couldn't risk to run into George and still look like Deirdre. When I came out again the waitress had to look twice. She shook her head laughing.

"Honey it seems there's more you should tell him."

"I know," I replied winking, "one day..."

I waved goodbye and rolled out the door. The club wasn't far from home and I decided it would be a nice workout if I >walked< the short distance. I sped up a little to get warm in the cool nights air. I must have made a good tempo because shortly before I turned left into the street where I lived I saw a shadow in the dim light of the lanterns. IT was George who was slowly walking towards home as well. He slowly was strolling home. I checked again if my transformation had been complete and when I was sure that no piece of blouse was sticking out of my collar I sped up to him.

"Evening there, taking a little walk in the dark?"

He jumped and turned around, startled.

"Gosh you nearly gave me a heart attack!"

I laughed. "And good evening to you too."

George nodded smiling, "On your way home?"

"Yes, you too?"

"Sure am. May I give the lady a push?"

"You may, James, you may."

We both laughed and he got behind me and started to slowly push me towards our house. I leaned back a bit to get a whiff of his after shave.

"You're out late, long day at work?"

I was about to reply when I remembered my no lies policy.

"Not really, I went out, you know see something different from time to time." This was only a little white lie.

"And you?"

"I just had a really weird but nice date."

Weird? That caught my attention.

"Weird, but good? The woman you were talking about yesterday?"

"Yes."

I did my best to hide my curiosity.

"Want to talk about it?"

"Why not?"

By then we had entered the house and were in the hall. He looked up the staircase, "I think my flat isn't an option, but at least let me fetch a bottle of wine."

"Okay," I nodded, "take your time so I can change into something more comfy." I smiled over that cheesy phrase. He laughed and went upstairs.

I opened my door and left it ajar. I quickly got rid of the jumper and the blouse and got into an old t shirt. Then I quickly, well as quick as I could, I got rid of my boots and wiggled out of the trousers. I didn't think he saw them but there was still a risk. Before I grabbed some loose slacks I wheeled into the bathroom to cath myself, it wasn't good if I let the routine slip too often. I disinfected my hands and opened a fresh cath set. As soon as the tube had reached my bladder the urine started to run. It seemed I had drunk a lot that day. I waited patiently, then cleaned myself up and got into the slacks. I didn't want to bother with shoes so I roamed around in a drawer till I found a pair of thick wool socks which I put on. When I resurfaced in my living room George was already sitting on the couch, he too had changed into some old sweats and had already poured us both a glass of white wine.

I tilted my head a little.

"Sorry, the door was open, I thought you wouldn't mind."

"I don't, that's why I left it open. But it seems I should work on the time I need to dress." I grinned.

I noticed that he had switched on a CD. The Labeque sisters were playing piano and they already were in the middle of the first suite expanola. I had really needed some time I had missed the first 4 tracks of the CD and they were quite long tracks. I wheeled over to the sofa, I had been so close to him all evening, I felt like getting close again. But I was a little sacred he might get uneasy when he had to witness me transfer onto the sofa. The moment I parked myself next to the sofa, as close as I could get, George automatically moved over a little on the cushion, to make room for me.

That was the invitation I had needed.

I fastened my breaks and put my feet off the footrests. George grabbed his wineglass and took a sip, whilst he watched me transfer onto the sofa.

"You know I watched you get into that deck chair the other day."

"Yes, I saw you."

He had the decency to blush.

"Honestly I never thought about this."

"About what?" I had completed my transfer and was now about to push myself up against the armrest so I would be facing him. My legs tangled lifelessly off the couch. I leaned forward and pulled one leg up to fold it under. The other leg >hung< over the ankle of the folded leg so it looked >normal< like someone sitting sideways on a couch. I leaned back again, relieved to get the load off my back.

In a shy boyish move he brushed his hair back and rubbed his scalp.

"That you can't get up."

I again tilted my head, my forehead wrinkled in a >what the hell?!?!?!< manner.

He turned deep red.

"You know it's like meeting a police man when he's off duty?"

"You lost me."

"You know..." He was gesturing with his glass in hand. "I always see you in the chair, I never thought about you needing the chair, it was always more like you just having it, using it. When I watched you the other day, I think that day I actually realized that there was a reason for it. And when I saw you in that deck chair it was like meeting a police man on his day off. You recognize him but you know there's something missing."

"How much wine did you have?"

"I'm babbling, eh?"

I nodded.

"Then, not enough." He leaned over to re-fill and then noticed that my glass was out of my reach. Casually he took it and handed it to me.

"Bottoms up!"

I grinned, "Chin chin."

I took a sip of the well chilled chardonnay and looked at him.

"Weren't you about to tell me about your weird but nice date?"

George laughed. "Indeed."

I leaned back again and laid my head against the backrest of the sofa. George laid out the date for me. Which was quite amusing. He told me about how beautiful Deirdre was, how well spoken and polite. That they had so much in common and how good he had felt in her presence. I nodded slightly, I had felt good too.

"All in all I had a great time with her." George took another sip, he was by now on his third glass.

I smiled.

"So what was the weird part?"

"Hmmm..." He leaned forward to put down his glass and seemingly absent-mindedly grabbed my foot which was still dangling off the sofa, pulled it up into his lap and started massaging it.

"The body contact."

My eyes had been glued to my foot in his hands. I looked up to his face. He too was looking down, massaging whilst speaking. "What about the body contact?"

He shrugged, "she didn't seem to care much about it. I hugged her as I arrived and she hugged back, but only a little. I touched her hands a few times but she didn't really react."

<yes> I thought because she was enjoying the touch so much.

"And when I laid my hand on her thigh she totally ignored it. Well perhaps I should be lucky she didn't brush my hand away."

<damn!!!> I had to think fast.

"Maybe she's just shy and not used to the contact." My thoughts raced around in my head.

Suddenly I smiled.

"I guess she's probably a bit old school, manner wise, and was afraid to return the gesture. But that she allowed your hand on her thigh should give you a clear sign."

"You think so?"

"Well it would be an explanation."

"Right, and she's british, at least she sounds as if she were. And Brits have weird manners."

"True, true." I nodded, still mesmerized by his massage.

We fell silent and suddenly I had to fight off the tears, there was this wonderful man, massaging my foot. And I couldn't feel a thing. Back in the old days I would have killed for a good foot massage, after a long day on stage I sometimes felt like my feet were bleeding and about to fall off.

"You know, I consider myself a really lucky guy."

"Really?" I looked up again, and George now looked at me as well.

"Yes, I have two great women in my life." He smiled softly. "Funny I feel so at home here, with you. And when I was with her tonight, it was our first real date but I already felt close to her like I've known her for quite a while."

I felt the urge to tell him. But I didn't know how. I should do it fast and best without hurting him.

He was still kneading my foot, stretching the curled toes....

"You like it?"

"Hm?" I had been lost in my thoughts again.

"The massage."

"Sure looks nice."

He looked up with a quizzical look on his face. Then it dawned on him.

"Oh shit!" he slapped his forehead. "You don't feel your feet!"

I nodded, "them, my legs, and parts of my torso."

"Sorry, I forgot."

A solemn smile appeared on my face. "I thought so and I liked it."

"The massage or that I forgot?"

"Both I guess."

He smiled and leaned forward to grab my other foot. "Then you don't mid if I go on?"

"No," I laughed, "but warn me the next time when you pull a leg from under me."

The moment he had pulled I slid down a few inches on the sofa and had nearly spilled the wine.

"Oh sorry, I ..."

"You forgot..."

He blushed.

"You seem to have short term memory problems, have you been to a doctor yet?"

"If I would pinch your toe now it wouldn't really bother you, would it?"

"Nah," I grinned, "but if you look nicely I'd be polite enough to say ouch, just for you."

My feet were now resting in his lap.

"I wonder if you're in love with her, what are you doing in there then? Massaging another womanís feet?"

"Good question, but we're friends and I think it should be okay to massage friendís feet."

"Aha."

He smiled, "but it's time now, I have a long day tomorrow."

"Okay have a good night."

"You too," he got up and again hugged me for a goodbye. I returned the hug and smiled up to him.

The next weeks we spent a blissful time together, well he and Deirdre did. He never questioned the way we met. He would come around during my shift and ask me out, I would tell him a time and location. I would be there when he came and ask him to leave when I felt it was time to go. Most of the time we spent in restaurants or clubs we talked a lot, and he often told me about his nice neighbour Helen. Which made me smile. But every date left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. I had made it a habit to check the thigh closest to him from time to time to see if he was touching me. Sometimes I found his hand and casually squeezed it. The relationship slowly built and holding hands and kissing from time to time soon wouldn't be enough. It broke my heart but I had to end it one way or the other. I was pretty sure that if I told him the truth Deirdre would loose a lover and I would loose a good friend. We had spent quite some time together in these weeks, in which he would tell me about the woman he loved. It was like listening to your own eulogy. Whilst being stabbed in the heart several times.

I was floating in the pool to relax a bit after I had worked out tough in the morning. The day before George and Deirdre had spent the evening at the jazz club again. The waitress <Ginny> was already used to the routine and the extra pay. We, means they, had had a beautiful evening, enjoying each others company. I was floating on my back pondering about my course of action with George when a sudden splash pulled me out of my thoughts. The water around me began to move and waves were emitted by something that apparently just had hit the water. I struggled to keep afloat and check what had happened when George's head surfaced close to me.

"Boo!"

"Hell! I nearly drowned!"

"Well nearly, and then I would have been here to rescue you." He beamed.

We joked around in the water a little I did a few laps with him, he raced me, and of course he won... When I noticed that my fingers were all wrinkled up I decided it was time to leave the pool. I swam to the edge of the pool, fumbled around with the laid out towel and pushed myself out of the water. I tilted forward and dragged my legs out behind me. When I had turned around I saw that George was watching me. He swam closer.

"You do know that you have some impressive muscles on your arms and back?"

I sat there, legs straight in front of me and kept me upright by resting on my arms.

"Yes I know." I laughed. I pushed my upper body forward a little, trying to balance it without support. It worked for about three seconds before I swayed to the side. I was prepared and caught myself quick enough to not keel over.

"And I am still impressed by that artwork on your back and thigh, must have been painful. Or..."

He didn't know how to finish the question. I relieved him.

"Yes it hurt, all the way down. But it was worth every sting."

I grinned.

"Wanna have lunch together?"

"Sure." I towelled down as far as I could before I lifted myself back into the chair. "Where to?"

"Well I figured I'd cook for us." he leaned on the rim. "If I may impose on your kitchen? Or do you want a lift upstairs?"

I thought about the offer for a while, I would like to see his flat but was a bit awkward with the thought of being carried up there, plus he had to return down for the chair. And when I wanted home the whole carrying would start again.

"I'd prefer my flat. And my kitchen is quite good equipped and has hardly been used."

"Okay"

We met up an hour later in my flat. George was loaded with grocery bags. He made his way into my kitchen, had a quick look around to see where the utensils were and started cooking.

"So how can I help?"

"Hmm help?" He turned a bit whilst he was washing some salad. "I'm not used to cooking with helpers, why don't you just entertain me a bit?"

"Entertain you?" I laughed, "What do you want? A lap dance?"

He looked over and winced, "no thanks I thing them wheels of yours would hurt some sensible parts of my body."

I had to laugh.

"I guess talking will do too." He was searching for a frying pan.

"Okay, what do you wanna hear?"

"Hmmm" he unwrapped some sort of meat.

"When did you get your tattoo?"

"When I was about twenty."

"Why such a big one?"

"Dunno felt like the right thing to do. I liked the design, still do."

"Indeed it's a great design. Why these Celtic ornaments?"

"I always liked them." He was chopping vegetables now.

"So, uhm. Back then you...." He trailed off.

First I thought it was because he had to concentrate on the knife but when he looked over to me, sheepishly I knew where he was going.

"Yes back then I could still feel my legs. And walk."

"You never told me, you know."

"Yes, I know." I didn't really felt like talking about it, especially because it meant revealing things of my past which had quite a resemblance to the past of his girlfriend.

"You don't have to if you don't want to."

"Someday I'll tell you but not today, okay?"

He nodded, "Okay."

We kept the talk on easy chatting and the relaxed fun mood soon returned. We ate a spectacular lunch together and then parted so each of us could go to work.

On the bus to work I was again thinking about the whole Deirdre matter. A decision had to be made. Soon. And I was ready to make it, either way, I couldn't go on with it, not like this. I was feeling miserable most of the time, and I knew if I didn't tell him soon, George would be miserable as well and it would be worse with ever day I kept up this charade.

So when he came to visit me at work that evening I had a clear plan of what to do. Sadly it didn't work out the way I planned it.

In all my years at the El Matador nothing like this had ever happened. Why had it to happen the moment my boyfriend was in the room?

He came in late, near to closing time to check when we would meet tonight, and where. The restaurant was still pretty full and we had a big party of business men who were celebrating some sort of big sale. They were drunk as skunks when George arrived. I had already told him that I had to talk seriously with him tonight and offered to meet him in the jazz club. He must have been sensing that something was off, he insisted of knowing what I had in mind. We had been talking for a few seconds when two of the business party came out into the foyer. They were agitated and pushing each other, joking around and making passes at me. I could sense that George didn't like it but he kept calm. I was well able to handle their cheap lines. One of them came close, a little too close. George stepped behind me, securing his territory. The other one came close too, and shoved the first one away. They had a brawl, apparently about who of them would have the pleasure of spending the night with me. George was just about to enter the fight when one of the guys got shoved so hard he bumped into me. In a theatrical scene I keeled over, chair and all. Jim and Miguel came flying in and guided the guys outside within seconds. George was kneeling beside me the same second.

"Are you okay dear? Come let me help you u..." He froze.

I looked up to him, and I swear I will never forget the look on his face. The mere shock. The dress had slipped a little, only a few inches but enough to expose a part of the Celtic tattoo he had admired only this morning. I saw how his eyes flew over my body. He carefully touched the dark lines on my back. He noticed the backrest, the seatbelt, and now also my flaccid, thin legs. Jim and Miguel were standing a few feet away, waiting for things to happen.

I looked down, too ashamed to look into his stern face. Wordlessly he got up and left the restaurant.

A few patrons had come out to check out what the commotion had been about, they witnessed how Jim opened the seatbelt and Miguel took the chair away. Effortlessly Jim picked me up and carried me though the full restaurant directly into his office. I buried my face in his jacket, unable to stop the tears that ran down my cheeks. Carefully he laid me down on the couch. "Did you hurt something?"

I shook my head, still unable to say a word. I pushed myself up and bent over to check out my legs. I couldn't feel any broken bones or dislocations.

"I think I'm okay." I sniffed. "Perhaps a few bruises."

"He didn't know, did he?"

I shook my head, tears again burning in my eyes.

"How the hell did you manage that?" Jim was staring at me in disbelieve.

"Don't ask."

"I won't" He went to the door, "I'll close up the joint and then we'll get you home."

I had cleaned myself up a bit when Miguel entered with my wheelchair. He offered his help but I politely denied. All I wanted was to get out of there. I got rid of the wig and the lenses and grabbed my stuff to get home. There were still patrons in the restaurant and I felt the stares as I made my way out. But I didn't bother. Outside the building I hailed a taxi and went home. The cabby was giving me weird looks through the rear view mirror, I tried to ignore him.

When I got inside my flat I knew why he had looked so strange. My make-up was in shambles I had thick mascara rings underneath my eyes and looked pretty beat up. I wanted to talk to George, it had been the first thing on my mind, but now I figured I should clean myself up first.

I let in a hot bath and got rid of my clothes. When I cathed myself I again checked if I had injured my legs in any way, nothing broken. At least that was something.

I had a semi long bath and afterwards got into some nice warm sweats. Now I had to talk to George. I got out the phone book and looked up his number. He didn't pick up. I wheeled outside and rang his door bell... no answer. I looked up to his window, he was home, ignoring me. Inside again I looked up the flight of stairs. Well it was a long way to Tipperary. I fastened the breaks of my chair, took my feet off the footrest and slowly lowered myself to the ground. I slid closer to the handrail got a hold of it, one hand on the first step and lifted my unfeeling butt onto the step. I put my hand on the next step and again pushed up my behind. After I had repeated that move a few times I grabbed my feet and pulled them up on the stairs too, I didn't want to drag my feet over the stairs. My arm and shoulder felt sore, I hadn't been able to break my fall in any way so I had landed on my hip and shoulder, but I figured if I still could drag myself up a flight of stairs I wasn't seriously hurt. Probably a bruise. A flight of stairs in about thirty minutes, that had to be new record. And I wasn't even there yet. Luckily he had a name on the doorbell. I dragged myself across the floor and made a mental note to tell the janitor that there were two ways to clean a floor, the right one, and the wrong one.

Totally exhausted I steadied myself in the door frame to catch my breath. I reached up to the doorbell, but again there was no answer, so I knocked. And I knocked again. After a while I heard a muffled noised behind the door, eventually he had figured that it couldn't be me, knocking at his flat door. When George opened the door he was shocked to find me on his doorstep.

"What are you doing here?"

I was about to retort a wise crack but I thought it wouldn't be the best thing to do.

"I'm doing my crawl to Canossa."

"I see."

"Won't you ask me in?"

He opened the door a bit more. I was about to crawl in when he made a disapproving noise. George scooped me off the floor and carried me inside, shutting the door with a swift kick behind us. Carefully he sat me down on the couch and waited till I had adjusted myself. I looked around.

"I like what you made of this place."

His flat was indeed cut completely the same as mine, but the rooms were brighter, and he had really nice furniture.

"Thanks." George's voice was cold and stern.

This was no time for small talk. I agreed.

"Look George, I am sorry."

"You lied to me." he paced around the room. "You played with me, with my feelings!"

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to." I felt tears well up in my eyes again. But fought them back. "This wasn't easy for me, I meant to tell you everything tonight."

"Why didn't you come clean from the beginning?"

"Because I thought if I had, the beginning would also have been the end. When I saw you at the restaurant the first time and you didn't recognize me, it amused me. But when you came back and I noticed that you were hitting on me, I figured you wanted Deirdre the mysterious woman and not Helen the cripple." I wiped away the tears.

"How dare you assume what I want or who I want? You didn't even give me a chance! Instead you let me fall in love with an imaginary character!"

Slowly I shook my head. "She wasn't an imaginary character."

Finally he sat down, looking at me. "I don't understand."

"When you were with Deirdre, you've always been with me. Everything she told you I told you. Every nitpick from her childhood, every funny story. I am her and she is me. Well at least I was her for a big part of my life."

"Okay I am listening."

"Time for my big monologue, eh?"

George nodded and leaned back.

"I am Deirdre, I am the woman who fell in love with you, deeply in love. And I am Helen, the woman who thinks her disability would repulse you. So I decided to hide it, for a while at least. Till you had time to get to know me, the real me, not the cripple."

I noticed how he winced at the word.

"Shouldn't you start at the beginning?"

I nodded. "Perhaps but I don't know if you really want to hear it."

He shook his head. "For once let me decide."

"Okay." I took a deep breath.

"Like I said, Deirdre's story also is my story, I just left a few blanks. I was a dancer. Your typical little pink ballerina. In junior high I changed to from classical ballet to modern dance. It was a hobby for me, nothing I wanted to do for a living, but I liked it and it was fun. I was a wild kid who roamed around quite a bit. As you know I got the tattoo when I was about 20. I was in college then and thought it would be a nice idea. One day in my last year in college a guy approached me in a club. It was Halloween and I was dressed up as Elvira. Exposing great portions of the tattoo. He asked me if I'd like to dance in his club. I was curious so I tried it out. The guys went wild when I got on stage, the tattoo got famous and so did my act. Because of the Celtic origin of the design Deirdre was chosen as my stage name. I spent my last year in College as a stripper in a night club."

Carefully I looked over to George, he sat in his seat calm and was listening.

"I made a lot of money and I didn't really bother about the undressing on stage. I figured I would go on dancing and put some money on the side for rainy days. I was famous and I could have had any man I wanted to."

From the corner of my eye I noticed another wince.

"One day at the club..."

I felt how my mouth got dry. And gulped.

"The club was crammed there were way more people in there than should have been, and they all had come to see me. I don't know how or who it started, but a fight broke out in the middle of my act. Within seconds bottles and chairs were flying through the air. I tried my best to calm the mob down. I don't know what hit me exactly but something sent me flying off stage. It was only a foot or so high.... I must have landed on something or someone for that matter and broke my back."

George was white as a sheet.

"That's why I didn't tell you. It's not the most respectable way to become a paraplegic. And if I had told you, you might have found the parallels in Deirdre's and my life. I spent quite some time in hospitals and rehab centres. When I came out most of my savings were gone for the medical bills and the new flat, which had to be re-modelled to be wheelchair accessible. Jim the manager of the El Matador had been a regular at the club, he had been there that night, and had been the only one to visit me in the hospital. We became really close friends, he helped me find the place and offered me the job at the restaurant. My life had changed so quickly, so radically I had difficulties to cope. I had not only to adjust to the fact that I would never again walk or even feel my own legs, but also to the fact that I wasn't a woman any more. Most men saw the chair and turned away. Except for the guys who tried to hit on me because of the chair. My social life died down. Sometimes the only time I got treated as a human being was when I was behind that desk at the restaurant. So when you asked me out I desperately wanted to hide my disability to not disgust you. I know it was wrong and that such a relation stood on clay feet, I wanted to tell you a hundred times. And on every date I got scared and wanted just one more day."

I looked up again to find that George also had tears in his eyes.

"Can you forgive me? I guess you won't even consider a woman in a wheelchair for a girlfriend but I desperately want you to at least understand why I did this."

Slowly he shook his head and got up. He sat down on the couch next to me and took me in his arms.

"Just for once could you let me decide?"

I cried.

We stayed like this for a long time. Finally George broke the embrace. And looked at me.

"You know I always wondered whom Deirdre reminded me of. I kept confusing you two in my mind and wrote it up to the fact that the two of you were the only women in my life at this time. Or should I better say the one of you?"

"So you aren't mad with me?"

"I have to admit I am still sore, and I really have a lot to think about. Would you mind giving me a bit time to think all this through?"

"Of course. I think I better leave then." I looked around. "Would you mind giving me a ride?" Smiling he took me in his arms again and scooped me up. Downstairs he seated me in my chair.

"Good night." I reluctantly let go of him, "good night."

When I entered my flat I noticed how exhausted I was. I wheeled directly into my bedroom and got ready for bed. My neck was tense and my shoulder had started to hurt a little more. With every turn of my wheels I felt the sore muscles. It really was time for bed. I didn't even bother to cath again before I went to bed. Sleep overwhelmed me before my head had hit the pillow.

The night was horrible, I had some of the worse nightmares I ever had and when I awoke I wished desperately to return to my nightmares.

I couldn't move. The parts of my arm and shoulder I could see were dark blue and green it was swollen and every move of the arm hurt. My sheets were wet with my sweat and I felt awful. I stayed in bed, the thoughts in my mind raced around George and what would happen between us next. If something would happen. At one point I checked the clock. I needed to get up, I needed to follow my bowl routine and call Jim that I would take a few days off. I was in no shape to work.

Getting out of bed was a new experience in pain and seemed to take forever. Weakly I wheeled into the bathroom. And transferred onto the toilet. For a while I thought about staying in the bath, it would make things a lot easier for me. But I compromised on keeping the catheter in. When I was done with my bowel routine I grabbed a collection bag and connected it to the tube. Being the common t shirt sleeper I was happy I had no pants to fuzz about.

I fetched my mobile phone and wheeled back to bed.

Jim was very understanding and said that they could survive a few days without me, but that I should come back fast, and call the moment I needed something.

I put the phone on my night stand and tried to get back into bed. My preferred keeling over method seemed to be the fasted and least painful one. There was a trapeze bar above my bed but I seldom used it and I wasn't sure I could lift my arm high enough to grab it in my condition. There was a bottle of water next to my bed and I kept a pack of painkillers in the night stand for the tough days. I decided that this was a tough day. The bed dive was an experience but the rolling on my back and pulling up my legs was even worse.

I took two pills and hung the collection bag to the bed, checked if the tube wasn't flexed and still properly connected and pulled up my blanket again. Perhaps I could go back to sleep for a while. My shoulder was still throbbing but I already got woozy from the medicine. Slowly I drifted off to sleep again.

When I came to the next time it was well past three in the afternoon. A noise had woken me and I dizzily looked around. George was standing outside my bedroom window. I again had kept the drapes open. He was knocking on the window pane, an awfully concerned look on his face. I lifted my head a little and nodded. I waved my head that he should come in.

"Front door isn't locked" I yelled.

He nodded and a few minutes later I heard a sound in my flat. The bedroom door opened slowly and George's head appeared in the gap.

"Hi, it was so silent, usually I hear you roam about in your flat or your music, I thought I'd check up on you."

I was still a bit woozy but managed a smile.

"Thanks, that's mighty kind of you. I'm feeling a bit under the weather today."

"Our fall out or your falling down?"

He still hadn't entered the room.

"A bit of both I think." The smile was weak but at least it was there. "Wonít you come in?"

"Sure, if I may, I mean I don't want to disturb your rest."

I plainly patted the bed beside me. "I am allowed visitors."

Slowly he came in and sat down next to me. Luckily on the opposite side of the collection bag. And the tube was still covered by the blanket.

"Still sore with me?"

"Not really. To be honest I feel a little flattered."

"Flattered, why?"

He kicked off his shoes and stretched out on the bed next to me.

"I thought about it for the better of the night, you sounded very sincere yesterday and I guess you went through quite a deal to keep your little secret. You did a great job I have to admit, but it must have been difficult."

I nodded.

"And it didn't feel too good either."

"I hoped you'd say that."

He came closer and hugged me. My first response was hugging him back, the second was a muffled yelp. Shocked he let go of me immediately. I winced. "Sorry. I think I bumped my shoulder a little. And, or pulled a muscle."

Carefully he bent over me and pulled up my shirt sleeve.

"Holy shit! Can you move it at all? Have you called a doctor?"

"It hurts a little but it'll be better soon it's just a bruise and perhaps a bit sore from the workout yesterday. Nothing I need a doctor for."

"With workout you mean the little climbing action, don't you?"

I blushed.

"I see."

George fell silent his forehead furrowed, he was thinking about something.

"You haven't answered my question, can you move properly? Can you get into your chair, or even sit up in bed? Have you been out of bed at all today?"

It was so nice to have someone there who cared as much as George did. I was a little ashamed, but I wanted to be honest with him, "no I can't move properly, it hurts. I can get into the wheelchair but it is pretty difficult and takes quite a while. I got up this morning to go to the toilet."

"What about eating? Did you eat something?"

I shook my head. "Not hungry."

"But you must eat! I'll be back in a minute!"

He kissed me on the forehead and ran out of the room. I drifted off to sleep again, still weary. A scent woke me, I smelled fresh hot coffee and toast. Slowly I opened an eye.

"French toast and coffee again?"

"Why not? It's delicious and you should eat something."

"Thank you that's really kind of you." I pulled myself up a little and took the tray from him.

"And I brought some ointment for your shoulder."

"Thanks." I looked up to him, "All this feels like you've made a decision."

"Perhaps. I want to be with you, with Helen, not Deirdre. But I don't know a thing about paraplegics, I have to admit I'm a little scared."

"I'm sorry there's no manual, all I know is that I want to be with you too, perhaps we could be scared together? But I want you to know, everything is more difficult, even the little things."

George came closer, "I know, and I am not sure of what awaits me, us, but I am willing to try, if you are."

"I am." I smiled and snug a little closer.

George lovingly nursed my back to health. Perhaps my little crash had been the best way to start our relationship. This way George was confronted with some of the bitter sides of being with a para. He massaged my shoulder, helped me in and out of my chair... He needed a little to get used to the catheter and bowel routine, I was a little embarrassed at first but we got through it together. George had moved my TV set into the bedroom and we had spent the better of the days in bed together. He had fetched his laptop and worked via a wireless connection. I had gotten rid of the catheter and was back on my regular routine but my shoulder wasn't healed completely.

An erotic static had built up between us, I had noticed he was a little scared to touch me, mainly because of my bruised shoulder, I hoped. So when I noticed that my shoulder was back to normal I figured it was time to explore that part of our new relationship.

George was still asleep, spooning me from behind. I carefully pushed myself a bit closer to him, feeling his chest on my back. His arm was loosely wrapped around my torso. I grabbed his hand and slowly moved it across my body to my breast. A muffled sound and a slight movement told me he was waking up. His fingers moved on my breast, groping around the new territory. I soft moan told me he liked what he touched. I kept my hand on his and enjoyed his touch on my sensible breasts. His soft breath in my neck I enjoyed every move his fingers made. I felt him move behind me, he moved away a few inches and slowly rolled me on my back.

"Good morning dear." He was leaning on one arm, his other hand still under my t shirt, cupping my breast.

"Good morning" My voice was a husky groan at most.

"I see I don't even need to ask if you're up to this kind of exercise already."

My grin broadened. He squeezed my breast and sent a shiver through my body. I groaned.

"I see, we're sensible there, eh?"

I nodded, whimpering as he twisted my nipple.

George leaned in for a deep kiss, our tongues twined, he tasted so good. He helped me out of my t shirt, exposing erect, dark pink nipples. Immediately he went down and started nibbling and licking my breasts I felt like I was in heaven. It had been ages since a man had touched me like this I felt I could orgasm just by the sight of someone caressing my body. He kept fondling and licking me, I felt how my breathing laboured and I quickly approached an orgasm. George noticed it, and got more fierce. The warm waves of the orgasm ran through me and I leaned back to enjoy it.

When I opened my eyes again George was smiling at me, still stroking my breasts. "Well that was easy."

"So I noticed, should I've played hard to get?"

"Naah."

He kissed me.

I noticed he was moving his hips, and looked down. The tip of his erect penis had escaped the waistband of his boxers, and demanded attention.

"I think it's your turn now." I smiled as my hand nestled with his waistband. He groaned when I touched him.

Guiding him up with a firm grip I brought him close. I started licking and nibbling. He pushed inside my mouth.

Soon I noticed that his moves got more demanding. Within seconds he orgasmed.

I licked the last drops of his semen off my lips and smiled at him.

George snugged down next to me, kissing me.

"That was a nice appetizer."

"Appetizer?" I smiled.

He blushed considerably. "Yes well I suppose we should talk about .... you know." his eyes swayed south.

"The midlands?" I snickered, again putting on my best english accent."

"Aeh yes... the midlands."

"Well as far as I know everything is still where it should be. But there might be a few things you'll need some getting used to."

"Please elaborate."

I happily noticed he had gone back to caressing my breasts.

"Well for one, I can't wrap my legs around you, or bring my hips up."

He nodded.

"The muscles don't work and I suppose my vagina might be a bit flaccid." It was in me to blush now.

"Have you ... you know, since your accidents."

"Yes, but it didn't work out that good."

"Do you get wet?" he peeked under the blanket as if to check.

"Yes I do, when stimulated directly." That sounded pretty medical but was the easiest way to put it.

I watched how his hand wandered under the blanket.

"You're still dry. I think I should change that, if I may."

"You may." I grinned.

Again George leaned in to kiss me. For a while we lay there and cuddled and caressed each other. His hand buried in my lap. Between kisses he whispered in my ear what he was doing and how it felt. I noticed how I got aroused again, he was so sensitive, so caring. And it felt good to see that I still was able to arouse him. And I could see that quite good.

"I think the treatment is working." He grinned.

Slowly he got up and knelt down next to my legs. Carefully he parted them and got between them. I watched in awe how he lowered himself between my legs. I could see his penis disappear between my legs. George steadied himself on his arms, hovering above me.

"How do I feel?"

"Unusual, but good." He grinned and slowly started to move. We resumed to kiss and caress and I watched his movements. Secretly I had hoped to feel him inside me, perhaps some other time. George noticed it. And he already knew how he could pleasure me. Again he started to nibble and caress my breasts. I already had been turned on but his lips on my body brought me close to the edge again. It was amazing to watch him, how his face changed when I approached his climax again. He came hard this time and when he did he bit down on my nipple. Pain shot through my body, mingling with another orgasm.

Totally exhausted he collapsed next to me. Leaving my legs splayed apart. My hand wandered down I was soaking wet and I could feel his juices seep put of me. I was in heaven.

THE END

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