Brian woke up to a room filled with white. The ceiling above him was white, the walls were white, and the doctor taking his blood pressure wore white. Brian blinked a few times, wondering where all the colors had gone.
“Brian,” the doctor said with a concerned smile. “I’m glad to see you’re awake.”
Brian flashed back to the day before. He remembered the blood pooling beneath his body and the bits of Ivan’s brain on the floor. Anna had called for an ambulance; the bitch saved his life somehow.
“I’m Dr. Williams,” the doctor said, holding out his hand.
“Nice to meet you, Dr. Williams,” Brian said, taking the doctor’s hand. The sensation of touch on his fingers made Brian intensely aware of sensations he was not having. He could feel nothing below where the bullet had pierced his chest. “Do you mind telling me what the fuck is going on?”
Williams stared at him a minute, taken aback by his response. “Excuse me?”
Brian sighed. “What—am I paralyzed or something?”
The expression on the doctor’s face became grave. “I had hoped to break it to you a little more gently…”
“Fuck gently,” Brian said. “I’d like the truth.”
“We’re awaiting the results of some tests and x-rays,” Williams explained.
“Sure,” Brian said. “But you’re a doctor. I mean, you probably have a pretty good idea of what’s going on before you take a look at all the tests, right? Come on. This is my life we’re talking about. Don’t you think I have a right to know?”
“I suppose you do,” Williams answered. “What you’re suffering from is paralysis below the mid-chest.”
“I figured that much out,” Brian said, rolling his eyes. “So tell me, is this going to go away or what?”
“My best guess,” Williams began, “is that the paralysis is permanent. I don’t think you’re ever going to be able to walk again.”
Brian inhaled deeply. “Your best guess? What does that mean exactly?”
“Short of finding some miracle on the x-ray, the paralysis is permanent,” Williams admitted.
Brian rolled his head to the side. He felt dizzy all of a sudden and thought he might pass out. This wasn’t meant to happen. He wasn’t meant to end up like this. “I’ll never walk again?”
“There’s research being done…in the next few decades, you never know…”
“Fuck,” Brian murmured.
“I know how you must be feeling right now, Brian,” Williams said. “I know how hard this must be. But we have therapists who can get you through this difficult time…”
Williams started going on about what a full life Brian could lead from a wheelchair. Brian wasn’t listening; he knew it was all bullshit.
“…will need a statement from you,” Williams was saying. He looked at Brian for a response.
Williams frowned. “Anna Petrova was taken into custody. The police will need a statement, saying exactly what she did.”
Brian looked the doctor hard in the eyes. “Anna Petrova saved my life. She did absolutely nothing wrong.”
“Ivan Petrova shot me, then shot himself in the head,” Brian explained. “Anna pulled herself together and called 911. I’m very grateful to her.”
“The police said her fingerprints were found on the gun,” Williams told him.
“That’s not surprising. The gun belonged to the Petrovas.”
Williams narrowed his eyes. “I think you’re lying.”
“Why would I lie about this? Wouldn’t I want the person who crippled me brought to justice?”
“I have no idea,” the doctor admitted.
“Have my parents been called?”
“Yes,” Williams confirmed. “They’re arranging to have you transferred to a hospital back in New York so they can help take care of you.”
“I’m eighteen years old,” Brian protested. “I can take care of myself.”
“Maybe someday,” Williams said. “Brian, perhaps you don’t comprehend how different your life will be from now on. You certainly don’t seem to be taking this whole thing seriously. I can promise you that you will eventually adjust, but it will take a while.”
“I can take care of myself,” Brian said in a low voice. He knew that once his father found out what had happened with Ivan, he would go ballistic. They were already on bad terms. “I’m eighteen. Isn’t it my decision?”
“Technically,” Williams admitted. “But your father is the one footing the bills. Without him, you have no money, no insurance, nothing. Would you even have a place to live? The hospital has no obligation to allow you to remain here.”
If Ivan were alive, he would have taken care of me. Brian felt the loss of his friend and lover, and tears sprung to his eyes. He had never cried before in his life, but things had never been as bad as they were today. Ivan was gone and he was crippled for the rest of his life.
“Brian,” Williams said, his tone growing gentler. “Brian…I know it seems like things are bad now, but I promise it will get better. You’re fortunate that you have parents who love you and are willing to take care of you. I can’t tell you how many paraplegics have major monetary problems after their accidents. You’ll be in good hands, and things will get better.”
“Fuck,” Brian whispered as the tears rolled down his cheeks.
When Brian opened his eyes, the first thing he saw was his father’s face over his bed. He jumped slightly. If he could feel his stomach, he was certain there would have been a sinking sensation.
“Hello, Brian,” Paul said, his lips curled into a smile.
Brian thought for a second that he was going to throw up. He gripped the sides of the bed and stared at his father’s face.
“Have you heard the good news?” Paul asked. “You’re coming home. You’re going to be staying with us.”
“I want to stay here,” Brian managed. “They said…Dr. Williams said I could get therapy here.”
“Why do you need therapy?” Paul laughed. “Williams said there’s no chance you’ll ever walk again.”
“I need to learn how to…to take care of myself.”
Paul smiled wider. He reached out to stoke his son’s hair, but Brian jerked away. “I don’t really see a need for that, Brian. Your mother will do everything for you. She’ll take care of you. You can just stay in bed all day and she’ll bring you any food or books or whatever you want.”
Brian stared at him. He knew Paul was serious. Once he came home, Paul would make him live the rest of his life from his bed. He wouldn’t even be allowed to get near a wheelchair.
“So, let me see if I understand what happened,” Paul began. “You were…fucking one of your professors? Is that right? Then his wife found out and killed him and shot you through the spine.” Paul shook his head. “And now you can’t even feel your dick anymore. That’s really sad.”
Brian closed his eyes. “Fuck you.”
Paul laughed. “And now they have you wearing a diaper, so you don’t piss all over yourself. That’s great! I bet that’ll really turn on the girls when you’re trying to seduce them.”
“I won’t live with you,” Brian said. “I refuse.”
Paul’s expression grew serious. He stuck his face close to his son’s. “I don’t think you have much of a choice. You’ve got no other place to go.” Paul straightened up. “You should feel lucky. I’m letting you stay with me and you don’t even have to give me head.”
“I’ll get out on my own,” Brian whispered. “I swear to god, I will.”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” Paul said with a smile. “But I’m afraid you’ve humiliated your family for the last time. Now you’re just a poor invalid confined to bed all day long. I think you’ll find that you won’t even miss your libido.”
Brian let loose, screaming curses and threats at his father until his voice became hoarse and his face was red and covered with tears. Paul just stood there, soaking it all up, smiling the whole time.
The nurse came into the room and Brian could see her nametag read “Ingrid.” She was a big woman, slightly overweight with large arms and breasts. But she was young and pretty in her youthfulness. “I hear you have a big date,” Ingrid said to Brian. “And I’m supposed to get you ready.”
“I’m meeting my aunt,” Brian said, returning her smile. “In the cafeteria upstairs. I don’t want her to see me in my hospital gown.”
“In Paris, that gown would cost you a fortune,” Ingrid teased.
“Well, this isn’t Paris.”
Ingrid took out the clothes Brian’s mother had left in the dresser. Brian knew the pants would be too loose because of all the weight he had lost, but they’d probably stay on. Brian had been told that once he left the hospital and got back on a normal eating ritual, his gut would begin to expand immensely if he wasn’t careful about it. Of course, it didn’t seem to matter much what he looked like anymore.
Ingrid pulled back the covers and Brian saw his lifeless legs lying below the white diaper. He was relieved to see that he hadn’t leaked onto the bed again. Ingrid took it all in stride, as she slipped each leg through the pants and pulled them up. She had to help him with his shirt too, since he couldn’t even sit up anymore. Then she hefted him up into her big arms and lowered him into the wheelchair. He watched as she buckled him in so he wouldn’t slip down and straightened out his legs for him.
“Thank you,” Brian said softly.
“You’re very welcome,” Ingrid replied. “Would you like to shave?”
Brian ran his fingers along the stubble of a beard on his chin. “I guess I should, huh?”
Ingrid brought him a razor and wheeled him into the bathroom. It was wheelchair-accessible, so he was able to reach the sink and mirror. It was the first time Brian had looked at himself since he was in the hospital. He looked nearly the same as before, except his face was a little thinner and he had a beard. But so much was different now.
Brian spread shaving cream over his chin and began slicing off the dark hairs. For a moment, he felt tempted to plunge the blade into his wrist, but he wasn’t sure what good that would do. He finished up and washed his face, then took another look at himself in the mirror. He could see above his own reflection the reflection of Ingrid. She was staring at him, a dazed expression on her face.
Brian frowned as he looked at Ingrid’s eyes in the mirror. He recognized the expression as one he had seen a million times before. The look of a woman completely smitten with him. But it couldn’t be. He was in a wheelchair, only half a man. How could Ingrid be looking at him like that? It didn’t make sense.
“I’m done,” Brian said.
Ingrid retrieved him from the bathroom. Now that he could see her up close, he realized he hadn’t been mistaken about the look on her face. She was smitten. Even after seeing his useless legs and the diaper, she was turned on by him. Was it possible that he still had the ability to seduce women, even from the chair? He decided it was time to find out.
“You’re very kind,” Brian said softly.
“It’s my job,” Ingrid said.
“I wish I could make love to you,” Brian murmured.
Ingrid’s blue eyes widened. “What…what did you say?”
“I wish I could make love to you,” he repeated. “I…I really want to. I haven’t seen a beautiful woman like you since I got in here…”
“I…I don’t think…”
“But I can’t,” Brian whispered, his voice breaking. “Because why would you want to? I’m just a…a fucking cripple.”
Ingrid blinked. “That’s not true.”
“Yes, it is,” he insisted. “Someone like you would never be interested in…in a guy in a wheelchair.”
“No,” she whispered. “God, no. You don’t know how wrong you are.”
“I swear to god,” Ingrid said. “The truth is, I’ve never been so turned on in my entire life as I am by you right now.”
Brian stared at her. “I can’t fuck you, you know. I can’t feel my dick.”
“I…I know,” she murmured.
“But if I could…if I could touch you,” Brian said. He looked at her wistfully. “Could I touch you, Ingrid? Please?”
Ingrid nodded wordlessly. She shut the door to the room and sat down on the bed facing him. She stared at him as he ran his fingers up and down her body, beneath her nurse’s uniform. She moaned as his lips touched her nipples, then suddenly his mouth was on her clitoris. She lay down on the bed as his tongue moved up and down, in circles, all over, until she exploded in climax. It was her first orgasm ever.
When it was over, Ingrid sat up, still breathing heavily. “That was amazing.”
“You were amazing,” Brian told her, smiling slightly. “And now I think I’m going to be late for meeting with my aunt.”
Ingrid’s face flushed. “I…I’m sorry.”
She gazed at him and touched his cheek gently. “Brian, I want to do something for you.”
“I can’t feel my dick,” Brian said, his voice choked. “There’s nothing you can do.”
“Yes, there is,” she insisted. “There’s a lot I can do. I’ll show you…later tonight.”
Brian’s eyes widened as she stood up. He allowed her to wheel him out of the room, his mind racing as he thought about what had just happened. Maybe he had been able to seduce Ingrid, but she wasn’t exactly prime quality. She wasn’t beautiful like Jessica had been. And she was nothing like Ivan.
Anna Petrova was sitting in the back of the cafeteria, her thick hands clutching her purse tightly. Brian spotted her from across the room and pointed her out to Ingrid, who pushed him the rest of the way. Ingrid parked him at the table in front of Anna and walked away, winking seductively first. Anna’s face was impassive the whole time.
“Hello, Anna,” Brian said.
She didn’t reply.
“How have you being holding up?” he asked.
Anna blinked. She stared straight ahead.
“I’m paralyzed, you know,” Brian told her. “I’m never going to walk again. I’m stuck in a wheelchair the rest of my life because you fucking shot me. You fucking shot me, Anna, do you hear me?”
“So turn me into the police,” Anna offered. “Who’s stopping you?”
Brian stared at her. It wasn’t the response he had expected. Thing had to go the way he wanted here. If it didn’t, his life was truly over. Brian began again: “I’m eighteen years old. I’m eighteen and now I’m crippled for the rest of my life. Because of you. Don’t you feel any guilt?”
“You killed Ivan,” Anna retorted. “Ivan was the only thing that mattered to me. The only thing that made my life worth living.”
“You killed him!” Brian nearly screamed. He felt his emotions flying out of control. “Do you think I didn’t love him? Do you think it doesn’t matter to me that he’s dead? You drove him to it, Anna. He was unhappy with you. I made him happy.”
“Fuck you,” Anna hissed. She started to pull her coat on.
Brian’s eyes widened. “Anna, no. No, please don’t leave. Anna, I need to talk to you. Please.”
“We don’t have anything to talk about,” she snapped. “You’re right. He loved you, not me. And when he thought you were dead, he shot himself. Now if you’ll please excuse me…”
“Anna,” Brian felt tears spring to his eyes. She couldn’t leave…she couldn’t. “Please, Anna. Please look at me a minute.”
Anna focused her blue eyes on Brian’s face. From looking in the mirror earlier, he knew what she was seeing. She was seeing his youth, his innocence, his good looks, not the man who had fucked her husband. Slowly, Anna’s face softened.
“Anna,” Brian said gently. “I’m never going to walk again. I can’t…I can’t take care of myself anymore. I don’t have anywhere to go.”
“So what do you want me to do about it?”
“I was hoping,” he began, “that you might let me stay with you for a little while.”
Her eyes widened. “It’s out of the question.”
Brian shook his head, tears running down his cheeks. “You…you don’t understand. I have to learn how to do everything again. I…I can’t get out of bed on my own. I can’t even…I can’t fucking take a piss on my own. Half the time I wish I had died that night.”
He could see the look on Anna’s face. She was breaking. He had a chance. “What about your parents?” she asked.
“My parents and I don’t get along,” he explained. “My father cut me off. Anna, if you don’t help me, I’m going to wind up living on the streets. Please. I’m begging you.”
“I don’t know,” Anna murmured.
“I’ve done some wrong things in my life,” Brian said. “Falling for Ivan, lying to you…that was wrong. I know it now. Believe me, I had a lot of time to think while I was lying in bed. But Anna, I never did anything to deserve this.”
Anna’s eyes grew wet. “I didn’t know it was you. I didn’t know you were the person Ivan was seeing. But I did know…I knew whoever that person was, Ivan loved him very much. He loved you so much. You meant everything to him, which was why…” She covered her face with her hands.
“He meant everything to me,” Brian told her.
“I know you’re just a boy,” Anna managed. “I know it wasn’t your fault. It was…it was my fault or Ivan’s fault.”
Brian picked up a tissue from the table. Even though his own face was wet with tears, he handed the tissue to Anna. “Maybe it was nobody’s fault,” he suggested.
“I don’t know, Brian,” she murmured. “I don’t know if it’s a good idea for me to take care of you. Whenever I see you, I’m reminded of the horrible thing I did. But I don’t want you to suffer. I know…I know Ivan wouldn’t want you to suffer.”
Brian was silent.
“Can I think about it?” Anna asked.
“Go ahead,” Brian said. “It’s not like I’m going anywhere.”
Anna’s eyes softened again. “I’m sorry for what I did.”
Brian wanted to tell her that he forgave her, but there was a lump in his throat and he couldn’t get the words out. He didn’t forgive her. But he now had to count on her to get out of this awful place. Finally, he managed: “Can you please take me back to my room?”
To be continued...