Byron swore silently when the phone rang just as he was leaving for his morning work out. He considered just letting voice mail answer it but he hated talking to those things and supposed it wasn't right to inflict his on someone else. He quickly wheeled around and pushed himself to the end table where the cordless receiver was resting and snatched it up with a leather gloved hand.
"Camp Forrester..." It was hard to hide the irritation in his voice. He was always edgy on this day in particular and he was really looking forward to getting out to do some thinking.
"Well, hello there, my cheerful friend!" answered the laughing voice on the other end of the line. Byron opened his mouth to apologize. "Don't worry, I always did like dark and brooding types. It's so very gothic! Lucky for you I'm taken or I'd be fawning after you like some corseted damsel in a romance novel."
Eddie always made Byron laugh, "Yeah, I'm thankful that Roger got you too. The sight of you in a corset might be just too much for the general public to handle! Please don't tell me you're calling to remind me again about the fundraiser tomorrow night!"
"Okay, I'm not calling to remind you again about the fundraiser tomorrow night. But you are coming right??"
Byron rolled his eyes, "You know I'll be there! I wouldn't miss this for the world. Your work is crucial. Without you raising the funds for the camp, I wouldn't be able to stay out here in my little hideaway! I'll be there to help in any way I can."
"Just bring your swarthy good looks and a rousing speech! That's all the help I need from you. Oh and dress up pretty too. Never know who you might meet there!"
"You're not going to try to fix me up again are you? Please, don't Eddie... you know..."
"What, Roger? Oh Byron, I really have to go. Roger needs me in the other room. Bye now!"
The line disconnected and Byron swore once again. He hadn't lied about needing Eddie. The man was a genius at fundraising. His accessible mountain retreat was one of the recreation opportunities offered to the adults with developmental disabilities and severe mobility impairments who received services from the organization he Eddie and Roger had founded.
Byron had always managed to avoid meeting these "set up" women Eddie picked out for him but this time it would be unavoidable. His tux was pressed and ready, and come hell or high water he'd be at that fundraiser tomorrow! He just hoped he could turn her down easily.
Byron deliberately chose the most punishing trail on his property. He could feel the knobby tires of his off road wheelchair through his leather gloves as he stared down the steep and bumping incline. The weather was perfect for it. Just like it was on this day 15 years ago when his world stopped turning.
He pushed off. He knew this trail as well as every other trail in the area so navigating its pitfalls did not take too much of his concentration. This was good because this was the anniversary of the beginning of his journey into the chair and he knew better than to try ignore the memories that sprung unbidden into his mind.
He was a senior at West Vale High School and the star quarterback. Several universities had expressed an interest in him and he'd chosen the one with the best incentives and most impressive football program. He was going to be a star. Everyone knew it.
Naturally his team had made it to the state finals and he played impressively! No one could touch him as he ran for touchdown after touchdown. Ironically it wasn't even a game related injury that made him fall to his knees when the final buzzer sounded announcing the team's championship. He was in the end zone, holding the ball he'd just caught for the final touchdown and suddenly his legs just gave out underneath him.
He was concerned but quickly forgot as his team mates lifted him and carried him into the locker room to deposit him on a bench. It was when he couldn't get back up off the bench that he began to panic. He couldn't feel or move his legs. A trip to the hospital and several tests later showed that a blood vessel had burst in his spine and he had a spontaneous spinal hemorrhage. It was almost always completely reversible... almost always.
The trail headed up now and the exertion made the memories more bearable. He pushed through the painful images of his friends drifting away one by one. He pushed through the agony of rehab and the devastation of finally accepting the rest of his life in a wheelchair.
He let his mind drift to meeting Eddie as the trail headed down slope once again and towards home. Both Eddie and his lover Roger had been in rehab at the same time with injuries from a car accident. Roger and Eddie were watching TV and they invited Byron to join them. The three of them became fast friends.
Even when Roger's and Eddie's relationship became obvious to Byron he didn't care. It was just good to have friends who accepted him and who didn't look at him with pitying eyes that remembered the Byron that was. He was glad the friendship had lasted beyond the rehab center.
Byron had to make up for years of educational neglect when the football dreams fell through. He was literate but knew virtually nothing beyond the 8th grade level. He went to the local community college and then nearby state college and got his degree in finance. He earned a tidy sum of money investing in the dot com boom of the late 90's and got out just before the bottom dropped out.
He was comfortably wealthy and he had enough money to purchase this property and set up the foundation which funded the camp . It was Roger and Eddie who gave him the idea to cater to adults with special needs. It was of special interest to Roger which wasn't surprising given the severity of the man's condition. The foundation flourished under Eddie's excellent direction and they were all very pleased when they were able to expand the services offered.
Byron pulled into his front yard where he'd left his every day chair and transferred. He had a long day's work ahead of him and an early morning tomorrow so he'd be on time for the gala. He sighed and headed for the shower.
To be continued...