Two Years Later
Beth Townsend rolled over in bed and looked into the face of her sleeping husband-to-be. His name was Christian Lundegaard and he was perfect. Christian was tall with shaggy blond hair and the build of a well-toned athlete. He was a Harvard business school graduate and was quite successful as an investment banker. He was outgoing and forceful, yet he also had a sweet and romantic side to him.
Beth still had thoughts about her last fiancee. Aidan, with his reddish brown hair and pale freckles. And his lies... she couldn't forget that. Even without the wheelchair, Aidan couldn't hold a candle to Christian.
When Beth brushed the hair out of Christian's eyes, all she could think about was how warm and happy she used to feel when she was lying beside Aidan. She remembered how Aidan's smile used to melt her. Christian was devastatingly handsome, but Aidan had been very cute and sexy. Just the thought of him lying in bed beside her, his hair tousled by sleep, made her all wet.
But she had to remember, Aidan was a lie. Everything he had told her was one big lie. That was why she never called him back. The last time she had heard from him was two years ago, when he left a tearful message on her answering machine that said, "If anything happens to me, Beth, just remember I love you more than the world." She didn't know what he was talking about, but the urgency in his voice had frightened her. "Aidan, what's going on?" she had asked him, but he hung up. She could have called him back, but she didn't. A month later, she met Christian.
Christian's pale blue eyes fluttered open and a slow smile dawned on his face. "Beth, what are you doing awake so early on a Sunday morning?" It was nearly nine o'clock, but Christian liked to sleep in on weekends.
"Can't sleep," Beth said. She never told Christian about Aidan, about how she had been in love before, and she wasn't about to start telling him now.
Christian reached out to pull her closer to his body, but Beth shrugged him away. "Come back to bed," Christian mumbled sleepily.
"I think I need to take a walk," Beth said.
Christian frowned at her for a second, but the frown quickly turned into a yawn and he rolled over in bed. "Suit yourself."
Beth tugged on jeans over her bare legs and wrapped herself in a light jacket. It was nearly summer, but it was still cold in the mornings. She wandered around the neighborhood, her head spinning with thoughts of her upcoming wedding. She remembered how excited she had been when it was Aidan she was supposed to marry. Now all she had were doubts. Did she really love Christian? Was she really able to commit to him and nobody else for the rest of her life? She hadn't been certain when she accepted his ring, but she figured she'd never find anyone better than Christian. And she'd certainly never find anyone that she loved as much as Aidan.
Beth squeezed her eyes shut as she walked, recalling the way her whole body tingled when Aidan kissed her. She remembered the way he had looked at her, with total love and devotion. Somehow, just the sight of his face had filled her with happiness. Even accepting the fact that Aidan had been full of lies, she recognized that he was the love of her life.
She wondered what had happened to him. She supposed she might never know.
Beth realized she was standing in front of the diner where she and Aidan had first met. She hadn't been back there since Aidan had disappeared from her life—she had been afraid it would bring back too many memories. But now she figured if she couldn't face a few memories, she'd never make it with Christian.
The diner hadn't changed much from a few years ago. It was just as empty as it used to be (Beth was never sure how they managed to stay in business), with tables far apart that Aidan had liked for maneuvering his wheelchair. Beth noticed there was a wheelchair-bound customer at one of the tables, but he seemed to be a lot more disabled than Aidan had pretended to be. From Beth's cursory glance, she could see the man had to be fed his breakfast by his companion.
"One, please," Beth said to the hostess.
As the hostess led her to a table, Beth felt the memories rushing back. She remembered when she had first seen Aidan here, deep in concentrating over his newspaper, creases of concentration forming on his forehead. She had never dated a disabled man before, but she felt oddly drawn to Aidan. And once he smiled at her, she was hooked.
Beth started at the sound of her name. She scanned the room for the source and her heart jumped into her stomach when she saw the familiar face staring back at her. It was Aidan.
Aidan was the man in the wheelchair she had seen earlier. He was strapped into a chair that was much bulkier than his last model. The chair was tilted back slightly so that his head was pointed up towards her. His arms were strapped down to the armrests. But other than that, he looked so utterly the same. Beth stared at him, her heart pounding in her chest. "Aidan... what...?"
Aidan turned his head toward his male breakfast companion who had been feeding him. "George, can you give us a minute?"
The man nodded and went to sit at the counter. Aidan didn't say anything to Beth and it took her a full minute before she got up the nerve to take George's seat. "Aidan," she whispered, "you've really gone too far this time. I mean, pretending to be a quadriplegic..."
Aidan smiled at her, a little sadly. "Unfortunately, it's not pretending anymore, Beth. I really am a quadriplegic."
Aidan was wearing a short-sleeved shirt and Beth could see his bare arms. His arms were very thin—in fact,they were beyond thin. She could see the wasted muscles in his forearm and his useless fingers. His fingers curled slightly, pulled by unopposed tendons. Beth felt her face growing pale. "What... what happened?"
"Botched surgery," Aidan said, with a shrug. He was still able to shrug.
Beth didn't ask any more questions and he didn't offer any more information. "I was hoping I might see you here. I've had George bring me here every weekend."
Aidan looked down and saw the diamond ring on her finger. "Looks like you're doing pretty well."
"So are you," Beth said. She felt a little angry at Aidan for what he had done to himself. "You got what you wanted."
"This wasn't what I wanted, Beth," Aidan said. "I... I hate my life."
Beth watched Aidan's blue eyes fill with tears. He looked away from her, blinking to try to get rid of them. Beth imagined what his life must be like now, depending on others to help him with every last thing. Aidan wanted to be in a wheelchair, but he never wanted to be dependent on others.
"I can't do anything now," Aidan said. "I haven't been able to go back to my job. I can't feed or bathe myself. I use my chin to control this fucking chair."
"I'm so sorry, Aidan," Beth said. She reached out to touch his arm.
"And I can't feel that anymore," Aidan told her sadly. His blue eyes met hers. "They severed all the nerves and I have no sensation anymore in my body."
Beth felt her own eyes becoming moist. Aidan looked so miserable, it broke her heart. She wanted to take him into her arms and make it all right for him. If she ever needed evidence that she still loved him, there it was. And she could see in his own eyes that he still longed for her.
"If I could move, I'd try to kiss you now," Aidan said to her.
Beth responded by leaning toward Aidan and kissing him. It was a long, slow kiss where their tongues lingered together for what seemed like hours.
"Wow," Aidan breathed when she pulled away. His face was very flushed. "You should know, my mouth has been a lot more sensitive ever since..."
Beth smiled. "I want to go back to your place."
Aidan's eyes widened. "Really? But what about your husband-to-be?"
"I'm still going to marry him," Beth said. She had known in her heart that she would all along. "But I won't ever forgive myself if I don't get to be with you one last time. If that's okay with you, that is."
Aidan nodded. "It's okay with me, Beth."
George drove them back to Aidan's apartment. He drove a large van that allowed room for Aidan and his electric wheelchair to fit in the back seat. Beth sat in the front next to George, but she frequently cast glances in Aidan's direction. Each time she looked back at him, she saw the longing in his eyes.
Beth began to wonder about the logistics of how sex with Aidan would work now. She would have to do all the work, obviously. She was surprised to find that this really appealed to her. She never loved Aidan for his disability, but she found that she was strangely attracted to his helplessness.
When they got up to the apartment, Aidan hesitated in front of the bedroom. "Beth," he said. "Would you mind waiting in the living room while George gets me ready?"
"Gets you ready?" Beth frowned.
Aidan blushed. "I don't know if I want you to see..."
"I want to see," Beth insisted.
Aidan smiled that sweet, boyish grin. "Well, okay."
She followed Aidan and George into the bedroom. She watched George lift Aidan into his bed, arranging his paralyzed limbs at his sides. George began unbuckling Aidan's belt, but Beth stopped him, "I can do that."
"Better if I do it," George said.
"I don't mind," Beth said.
"Beth," Aidan said gently, "he has to take out my catheter."
"Oh," she said, stepping back.
George removed Aidan's pants. Beth had always thought Aidan's legs were thin, but now she saw what thin really was. They seemed to have less hair than they did before too. She watched as George pulled down Aidan's boxers, revealing the thin tube snaking out of his soft penis. She averted her eyes as George removed it. God, how awful for him.
"I can take it from here," Beth assured George.
Beth's eyes met George's for a moment and she could see the confusion in the nurse's eyes. George didn't know why she would possibly want to make love to Aidan. Beth just smiled at him and closed the door as he left.
Now they were alone at last. It was a lot of effort, Beth realized, caring for a quadriplegic. Everything took ten times as long as it would otherwise. With Christian, if they wanted to make love, they just lay down on the bed and did it. But with Aidan... it was so much more involved. And the anticipation drove Beth crazy.
She sat alongside him on the bed and touched his penis gently. As she rubbed it, it became somewhat hard. Aidan shook his head at her, "Don't bother, Beth. I can't feel it at all. And it doesn't get any harder than that."
"Yeah, really." His eyes became teary for a second, but then he blinked and composed himself. "I didn't know it would be like this. If I knew..."
Beth picked up one of his limp hands and held it in hers. "It's okay, Aidan."
She climbed on top of him, gently straddling his abdomen. He could only watch her, his eyes growing wide as she slowly unbuttoned his shirt. She ran her fingers over his chest, which had lost all that impressive muscle tone it had last time she had seen him. She traced his ribs with her fingertips.
"I know, it's disgusting," Aidan said, looking away from her. "My body's gone to shit." He lifted his eyes to meet hers, "Beth, if you're having any reservations about this..."
Beth answered him by pressing her lips onto hers. She laced her fingers into his reddish brown hair and probed his mouth with her tongue. Beth had been kissed many many times in her life, but this kiss... it almost felt like he was fucking her. His tongue twisted and rolled in her mouth, sliding deeper in a rhythmic motion. Beth touched him all over his face, using just her fingertips. She could feel the sweat breaking out on Aidan's face.
Suddenly, he moaned loudly and dropped his head back down against the pillow. Beth pulled away and saw that his face was very flushed and wet. "Oh god," he whispered. "I... I think I came."
Beth smiled and kissed him on the lips. "I'm glad."
"Let me eat you out," Aidan said. "If I never get to do anything else with a woman for the rest of my life, I want to eat you out. Please, Beth."
Beth obliged. She got on her knees so that her pussy was positioned directly over Aidan's mouth. She held onto the headboard for support as Aidan's wet tongue lapped at her pussy. Only this time, he was sliding his tongue deeper into her pussy, like he was trying to fuck her with his tongue. Each time his tongue thrust into her, she felt her fingertips tingle. How did his tongue get so long? Had it grown since they had last been together? It was the best oral sex Beth had ever experienced and she did her best not to cum, prolonging the sensation as long as possible, but it was just too intense. He brushed lightly against her clit with the tip of his tongue, then thrust into her pussy one last time as she exploded in the most powerful orgasm of her life.
Beth collapsed onto the bed next to Aidan. His lips were wet from her juices that he couldn't wipe away by himself. As she stared into his eyes, she felt as if she would never love anyone else this much for the rest of her life. "Aidan," she whispered, "I still want to marry you." She was surprised by her own words, but it felt right when she said it.
Aidan stared at her. "You... you do?"
"Yes," Beth replied. "I really do. I want to spend the rest of my life with you."
"Oh fuck," Aidan said.
Dr. Knefler's surgery had severed all the nerves going to Aidan Randall's lower body. Immediately following the surgery, Aidan suffered a severe stroke in the recovery room. They left him at the entrance to the emergency room of a Berlin hospital and they managed to save his life, but it took Aidan several months to regain the ability to speak normally again.
Back in the states, Aidan was hospitalized for several more months, part of which was spent doing rehab to learn to use his new wheelchair and be as independent as possible without his limbs. Aidan needed assistance to feed himself and make transfers, but he was able to operate a computer and work part-time from home. His health insurance covered the cost of 24-hour-a-day care and he was able to live at home. He hired George to take care of him.
Aidan had not been honest with Beth when he told her he hated being a quad. He only said that because he wanted her so badly and he knew that sort of admission would melt her. The truth was, Aidan found that he was quite happy living as a quad. For the first time in his entire life, he felt comfortable in his own body. He got a sense that this was who he was meant to be and that he was no longer living a lie. He loved being assisted in his daily activities, he loved needing someone to bathe him and dress him, and he loved the attention he received. Aidan asked George to take him outside as much as possible and the two of them traveled all around town.
Of course, it wasn't all good. Two times now, Aidan had gotten sores on his buttocks and been forced to lie in bed until they healed. A urinary tract infection sent Aidan to the hospital one night. He knew that because of his disability, his lifespan was significantly shortened from what it would have been.
And Aidan had to admit that it was somewhat harder to have a social life. He still flirted with women whenever he could—George had taken him to a bar a few times and they had a lot of fun. He had even been on a couple of dates. But he hadn't even come close to getting laid or having any sort of steady girlfriend. Fortunately, his libido was decreased since he became a quad, or else it would have killed him that he couldn't masturbate.
The truth of the matter was that Aidan wasn't really interested in a relationship with someone new right now. It was nearly three years since he and Beth broke up and Aidan thought about her every day. He had been honest in his admission that he was unhappy with his life, not because he was a quad, but because he couldn't stand the fact that she wasn't in it. That was why he started going back to that diner. He was praying he'd run into her again. But now that he had and there was a chance he might get her back, he wasn't sure if he was being fair to Beth. After all, she was already engaged to an able-bodied man who could take care of her. Aidan could never offer her a normal life.
"Beth," Aidan said earnestly, "I don't think you know what you're doing."
"What do you mean?" Beth asked, her beautiful eyes wide.
"I'm a different person now," Aidan explained to her. "You think you still love me, but... I don't think you realize how much is involved in being married to a quad. You're going to spend half your time just taking care of me..."
"So we'll keep George around to help," Beth said, shrugging.
Aidan sighed. He wished he could move his arms just to shake some sense into her. "Beth, do you realize that if you marry me, you'll never be able to get a hug from your husband. There's a good chance we might never be able to have kids. And I... I probably won't ever be able to... to have sex with you."
"What we just did," Beth said softly, "is better than any 'sex' I've ever had."
Aidan looked into Beth's eyes and saw that she was serious. She was going to stay with him and she wanted to be his wife. I'm the luckiest man in the world, Aidan thought. He felt tears rise to his eyes and he wasn't able to blink them away.
Beth reached over and gently wiped away his tears with her fingers. "And every morning," she said, "I'll clean the dirt from the corner of your eyes."
Aidan smiled at Beth and wondered how she'd feel about getting hitched in Hawaii. He had always wanted to go surfing.
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