Kyle ran back to his room as fast as his two legs would carry him. His heart was pounding in his chest as he fumbled with his keys to open the door to his suite. He hoped to see Jordan at his desk as usual, peering through his glasses into a thick textbook, but he was nowhere to be seen. Kyle turned his head and observed that the door to the bathroom was closed and the light was on.
“Oh, fuck,” Kyle said.
He sprinted over to the bathroom and tried the doorknob. It was locked. He banged on the door, “Jordan! Jordan, are you in there?”
Please be alive. Oh god, please be alive.
There was only silence that seemed to last for an eternity. Finally, Kyle heard the lock turning on the bathroom door and it swung open. Jordan wheeled himself out, looking fairly intact as far as Kyle could see.
“What’s your problem, Daniels?” Jordan squinted at him. “You look like you’re about to have a heart attack.”
Kyle nearly collapsed onto the floor. “You’re okay...”
“Yeah, I’m okay,” Jordan said, shaking his head. “What did you think I was doing—swallowing a bottle of pills? Is that what Kirsten told you?”
Kyle blushed. “Not exactly...”
“I’m not a fucking moron, Kyle,” Jordan said. “She wanted me to off myself, didn’t she? That’s why she came up with that bullshit story about causing my accident.”
Kyle frowned. “You knew that was a lie?”
Jordan nodded. “Come on, she was eight years old. She was too fucking scared to even climb the tree, much less booby trap my treehouse. It’s pretty ridiculous.”
“So why did you pretend you believed it?”
“I wanted to see where she was going with it,” Jordan explained. “And by the look on your face, I guess I was right. That’s what I get for trusting that bitch, huh?”
“I’m just glad you didn’t really do it,” Kyle said, lowering himself onto the couch. His heart had slowed considerably.
“Thanks for trying to stop me,” Jordan said quietly. He wheeled closer and held out his hand to Kyle, “Truce?”
Kyle took Jordan’s hand and shook it. “Yeah.”
“Now that we have a truce,” Jordan said. “I need your help.”
“Yeah, sure,” Kyle nodded eagerly. “What can I do?”
Jordan picked up a small tape recorder from on top of his desk. “I want you to call Kirsten and tell her I took the pills. Tell her you’re calling 911 unless she makes you an offer. I want it on tape.”
Kyle took the tape recorder from him. “I guess you two are really broken up then.”
“It’s not the way I wanted it to happen,” Jordan said, looking down at his legs.
Kyle dialed the number for Kirsten’s room. He was almost hoping she wouldn’t answer. He couldn’t lie the way Kirsten or Jordan did. “Kirsten?”
“Hello, Kyle dear. What’s going on?”
She sounded so confident. She was so sure Jordan would take those pills.
“Jordan’s unconscious on the bathroom floor,” Kyle said, gripping the receiver. He held up the tape recorder to capture his words. “He’s still breathing though.”
“He is?” There was a twinge of something in Kirsten’s voice.
“I’m going to call for an ambulance, Kirsten,” Kyle said. “Unless you can give me a really damn good reason not to...”
“Name your price.”
“Ten thousand dollars.”
Kyle swallowed hard. “Fine, I guess I’ll go take a walk then.”
Kyle heard a click and realized Kirsten had hung up. He replaced the receiver and saw the bewildered look on Jordan’s face. “I can’t fucking believe it,” he muttered. “I had to hear it for myself...”
“You knew what she was like,” Kyle said.
“I didn’t think she was like that,” Jordan said, his voice cracking slightly. “She used to be... different. I don’t know what happened. I can’t believe she’d really want me to be dead.” He rubbed his eyes. “She really fooled me.”
Kyle held out the tape recorder to him. “What are you going to do with this?”
Jordan shrugged. “I guess I’ll play it for her so she knows not to fuck with me in the future.”
“You’re not going to play it for your parents?”
“Nah. What good would it do?”
“Are you kidding? She was ready to let you kill yourself. They’d cut her off for sure.”
“So what?” Jordan sighed. “It wouldn’t change anything.” He looked away. “Besides, I don’t want to hurt her.”
“You’re a better person than I am,” Kyle remarked.
Kirsten hadn’t known how she would do it, but ever since the summer, she had known her cousin had to be eliminated. One night in August, Kirsten overheard her parents discussing the fate of the company. Jordan, even in his wheelchair, was deemed a better candidate to run the company than Kirsten, who was a girl and wouldn’t even be carrying the family name.
It seemed horribly unfair that because of nothing besides her gender, a cripple outranked her. It made her absolutely furious. She would have agreed not to marry if that was what it took. But it didn’t really matter. Jordan was the male and the company would be his someday. Unless, of course, there was an unfortunate accident.
Everyone knew how unstable Jordan was. If his father hadn’t happened to come home early from that business meeting, he would have been dead already. All he needed was a push in the right direction. Of course, she cared about Jordan, but this was business. Nothing personal.
Furthermore, the things Kirsten had told Kyle were true. Jordan was deeply depressed and those stupid pills his doctor prescribed for him weren’t doing him a bit of good. The only way he’d be happy is if he were dead.
As Kirsten hung up the phone with Kyle, knowing the deed had been done, she expected to feel a sense of satisfaction. But for some reason, she didn’t. On the contrary, she felt a touch of misgivings. This didn’t feel right.
It has to happen this way, Kirsten told herself. I’m doing the right thing.
Kirsten remembered when she and Jordan had been very small, how they had done everything together. When she found out about Jordan’s accident and that he might die, she shut herself in her room and cried for days. As soon as they let her, she visited him in the hospital. They didn’t speak much, only held hands quietly while he lay in bed.
Kirsten didn’t see Jordan for many months while he was away at rehab. She remembered how excited she was to see him again when he came back home; she was nine, he was ten. Her mother had warned her before he arrived: Jordan isn’t the same as he was before. You can’t play like you used to. He’s going to be using a wheelchair now. Kirsten’s mother had also forewarned her about Jordan’s diapers and to not make him feel uncomfortable about it.
When Jordan’s mother had wheeled him into her house for the first time, Kirsten could barely hide her shock. He still had the same face (although much thinner), but he almost seemed shrunken in his wheelchair. He didn’t seem like the same person at all. Kirsten wanted to go play outside like they used to, but it was obvious from looking at him that he wasn’t going anywhere.
Kirsten’s mother carried Jordan up the stairs to the den and set them up playing an awkward game of Monopoly. Jordan had always been just as outgoing as she was, but now he seemed almost afraid of her. As they played the game, barely speaking, all she could think about was how she wanted her best friend back. She wanted things back the way they used to be, instead of Jordan in a wheelchair forever.
She had finally asked him, on a whim, about his legs. He had looked horrified by the question, but instead of backing off, she pressed him to let her see them. In the back of her mind, she sensed that he no longer had the ability to refuse her.
Kirsten was fascinated by this turn of events. Back in the privacy of her room, she watched Jordan transfer out of his chair for the first time. It was clearly very difficult for him. He locked the brakes on his chair and grabbed onto her bed with one hand, holding onto his chair with the other. His legs were completely limp. Once he had his butt on her bed, he had to pull his legs up with him one at a time.
Take your pants off, she had ordered him.
He had been scared and resistant at first. Finally, he unbuttoned his pants and she helped him pull them off completely. His diaper was just barely covered by his shirt. His legs were thin, his knees large compared with his thighs. His young skin seemed almost baggy on his bones. She reached out and dug her fingers into the skin of his lower leg. You really can’t feel this?
An embarrassed look came over his face as he shook his head. Kirsten had never seen anything like this before, but it didn’t bother her. It gave her a bit of a thrill to touch his legs, knowing he couldn’t feel anything. When his legs started jumping or twitching involuntarily, she could always calm the spasms. And even at nine years of age, she had recognized her attraction to him.
Kirsten had known Jordan was in love with her before he even knew it. She teased and embarrassed him by giving him erections as much as she could. She knew he wanted her, but he was scared to even touch her without asking for permission first. When they wrestled playfully together and she felt the weight of his limp legs against her, she felt a throbbing in her clitoris. She wanted him too.
She lost her virginity to him when she was twelve. They had been wrestling and she had him pinned against the ground, her legs straddling his chest, her fists restraining his forearms. She could see the lean muscles of his biceps flexing as they peeked out from under his T-shirt. She looked into his brown eyes and she could see how badly he wanted her. She wasn’t even sure if he knew about the erection he had that was poking her inner thigh. She couldn’t stand it another second. She kissed him. A minute later, they were pulling each other’s clothes off. Jordan only could get his pants down around his knees but it gave him enough room to get inside her.
Kirsten had always been attracted to Jordan, but she had never seen him that way before. He dug his fingers into her bare skin as he moaned and gasped. It was his first time too, and she suspected he had never masturbated, seeing as he had no sensation down there. She was making him feel things he had never dreamed of. After he came, he had thanked her. Really, she should have thanked him, but she wisely kept her mouth shut.
They learned about sex from each other. Jordan especially was always ready to experiment with something new to please Kirsten. At thirteen years old, she had heard about oral sex, but she was surprised the first time Jordan spread her legs apart and buried his face in her pussy as she tried to suppress her squeals. Oral sex was easy for him, because his tongue still worked perfectly and he could do it while he was sitting in his chair and she was on the bed. The first few times, he went with the old staples like writing the alphabet with his tongue, but he gradually perfected his technique on her. After years of practice, it got to the point where it seemed like he was just moving his tongue a millimeter or two in tiny little circles over her sweet spot. It drove Kirsten nearly insane, and later one of Jordan’s girlfriends confessed to Kirsten that it made her feel like she was levitating off the bed.
They were each other’s only sexual partners for many years. Jordan was home all day without outside contact and Kirsten, while away during the day at school, never found any other guys who she found nearly as attractive as her cousin. However, when high school started, Kirsten began to feel that she wanted more experience with different boys, so she started dating other guys. She took Jordan with her when they went out, and she encouraged him to date her friends. To Kirsten’s surprise, her friends were as crazy about him as she was, but Jordan was undyingly faithful to her, at least in mind if not in actions.
She remembered one occasion when they were both in high school, out at a bar they often frequented with some of her friends with fake ID’s. There was a college kid named Cliff who had been hassling her for the last few weeks, and although Kirsten could generally handle herself, she was getting very tired of refusing the guy’s advances. Kirsten’s friends, half of them male, did nothing, probably too afraid of Cliff’s burly buddies, but Jordan stood up to him. “Why don’t you leave her the fuck alone?” he said.
Cliff looked Jordan over, his wheelchair and his paralyzed legs, and he snickered. “Yeah? You going to make me?”
Jordan didn’t say anything. He simply stared at Cliff. From over at the bar, Cliff’s large friends came over to join him.
“Tell you what,” Cliff said with a smirk, “if you can stand up now on your own two feet, I’ll leave this bar right now and never bother the girl again.”
Cliff high-fived his buddies for coming up with this brilliant retort. Jordan stared down at his legs for a minute. Kirsten knew that he couldn’t stand up, not even for a second, but all of a sudden, he got a determined look in his eyes. “Kirsten,” he whispered to her, “help me out.”
He grabbed onto the table in front of them and she helped him to keep his balance as he pushed himself out of his chair. He pressed his palms against the table, his arms trembling as they supported the weight of his entire body. Kirsten saw his legs hanging down, not actually carrying any weight, but touching the floor nevertheless. “Okay, I’m standing,” Jordan said to Cliff, still not quite tall enough to be eye-level with him. “Now get the fuck out.”
Cliff looked Jordan up and down. He reached out and shoved him, intending to knock him to the ground, but Jordan’s arms were strong and he held on to the table. “Get out,” Jordan repeated.
“Fine,” Cliff said belligerently. “Freak.”
Jordan had collapsed back into his chair, and all Kirsten’s friends were staring at him with awe. Kirsten could see his face was shiny with sweat—it had taken an enormous effort on his part just to stand for those thirty or so seconds. “Thank you,” she said to him. That had been the only time she had ever kissed him on the mouth in public.
It was all too clear that Jordan was willing to do anything for her. He would have jumped in front of a moving car—all she had to do was ask. When she had first suggested using his doctor to get drugs for her friends, he had done it without question. The idea that he might take the pills himself had been far from her mind back then.
When Kirsten had told Jordan that she was going away to college, he had been devastated, although he tried to hide it. “I wish you could stay,” he said simply. He was still receiving home tutoring to get his college degree, although he intermittently talked about attending a real college. He hadn’t been in a real school in a very long time and Kirsten suspected he was scared. He already had a routine that was comfortable, plus Kirsten was still in high school and he wanted to be near her.
Kirsten hadn’t realized quite how upset Jordan had become by her decision. The girl he was casually dating at that time, Linda, had mentioned to Kirsten that Jordan was acting very strangely. But Jordan never treated the girls he dated very well.
When Kirsten’s mother told her that Jordan had tried to kill himself by OD’ing, she had rushed to the hospital to be near him. She remembered seeing him lying in the hospital bed, the purple circles under his eyes, the smudge of charcoal on his lips. She hadn’t wanted him to die. She had, in fact, been terrified of losing him. She loved him. And not just because of how much he loved her.
Shit, did I make a mistake? Kirsten wondered.
She heard a knock at the door and looked up sharply. She wasn’t expecting any company now. “Who is it?” she asked, a tremble in her voice.
“It’s Edward!” The accent was unmistakable.
Kirsten reluctantly stood up to open the door. Prince Edward had many qualities she liked, but she wasn’t in the mood for his European arrogance right now. All she could think about was her cousin. Still, she couldn’t very well be rude. “Hello, Edward,” she said as she opened the door.
“Hello, darling,” he replied, handing her a bouquet of flowers. He was very sweet, if a little dry.
“What are you doing here?” she asked him, trying to keep the impatience out of her voice.
“I came to see you, Kirsten. I thought I might accompany you on a walk through the park.”
A walk through the park. That was the sort of activity she never could have engaged in with Jordan. He was always self-conscious about going out in public. It was hard enough to drag him out to a restaurant, impossible to get him to make out with her on his lap in a public arena, even though it was something she often fantasized about.
“I’m not really in the mood, Edward,” Kirsten sighed.
Edward’s royal brow furrowed. “What’s wrong, darling?”
When she didn’t answer him, he reached out to caress her chin. Edward had very soft hands from the easy life he had lived. Jordan had rough and calloused palms from ten years of pushing the wheels on his chair. Sometimes he wore leather gloves (with the fingers cut off) to protect his hands, but it never kept his palms from getting torn up.
Edward drew her closer to him with his fingers. She could feel him touching her, but little else. She felt no tingle, no electricity between the two of them. But the truth of the matter was that nobody could make her tingle the way Jordan did. Even after knowing him her whole life, he was the only one whose very touch made her wet.
Kirsten suddenly realized that she’d never feel Jordan touching her again. She’d never get to feel his touch on her face or his tongue exploring her pussy. She’d never get to caress his smooth, limp feet again. She’d never get to see the way his face lit up when she walked into the room. That was it. He was gone.
Without warning, Kirsten’s eyes filled with tears.
Maybe it’s not too late, she thought desperately. “Edward, I have to go,” she said.
“Go? Kirsten darling, is something the matter?”
“Yes!” she cried. “Stop calling me ‘darling’ for one thing... it’s so fucking condescending! And furthermore, when you kiss, you’re supposed to move your tongue a little bit, for god’s sake! Obviously you have no experience pleasuring a woman in any of her orifices.”
Edward’s lips formed a straight line. “Everyone told me you were a little whore, Kirsten.”
She set her jaw. “At least it’s better than being an arrogant prick who can’t please a woman.”
As Edward struggled to form a retort, Kirsten brushed past him out the door. Tears were now streaming down her cheeks and she made no effort to hold them back. She had to see Jordan again. She had to.
Kirsten spotted Kyle leaving his dorm and she ran over to him, nearly falling into his arms. “Kyle!” she sobbed. “Is Jordan...?”
Kyle pulled away from her. “You’re too late.”
Too late? But it hadn’t been long enough for that! She had only been with Edward a few minutes and Kyle had said that Jordan was still breathing and he...
Kirsten suddenly felt very dizzy. She stumbled slightly and grabbed on to Kyle’s shoulder to maintain her balance.
“What’s with you, Kirsten? Isn’t that what you wanted?”
“No,” she whispered. “It’s not what I wanted.” As she spoke, the world grew black around her. Her fingers loosened their grip on Kyle’s arm and she slid to the ground.
Kyle caught Kirsten and kept her from cracking her head on the ground as she fainted. He sure didn’t expect that kind of reaction from her, especially after the phone conversation they had just had. He figured she deserved to be messed with a little bit after what she tried to do.
Kyle picked Kirsten up and carried her into his dorm room. He laid her down on the couch, wondering if he should call for an ambulance. She seemed to be breathing okay though. He checked her wrist and he felt a steady pulse.
“Kyle?” It was Jordan’s voice from within the bathroom. “I thought you were going to the library?”
“Kirsten fainted,” Kyle replied.
A few seconds later, the door to the bathroom swung open, “She what?”
“Kirsten fainted right outside,” Kyle explained, watching as the color began to return to her face. “I carried her in.”
Jordan wheeled over to them, the concern plain on his face. “Why did she faint?”
“I told her you were dead.”
“And she fainted?”
Kyle smiled. “Maybe she had a change of heart?”
Jordan pulled open alongside the couch and touched Kirsten’s face gently. He felt the pulse on her neck. “Is she okay?”
“She’ll be fine.” But as he spoke, Kyle saw the blood on Kirsten’s shirt and he felt his stomach sink. She was bleeding? From where? Was she hurt worse than he had thought? “Is that blood?” he asked, pointing to the spot.
“Oh,” Jordan murmured. “Nah, that’s okay.”
“Is she bleeding?”
“No, she’s not...” Jordan looked away. “That’s just... me.”
“I was shaving and I cut myself.”
Their eyes met for a split second before Jordan broke the contact. Kyle could see there was a good day’s worth of stubble on Jordan’s chin. He hadn’t been shaving. What the hell was going on here?
On a whim, Kyle reached over and seized Jordan’s left hand. It took him half a second to see the blood-soaked tissue paper wrapped around Jordan’s wrist. The tissue paper was doing a poor job stopping the considerable flow of blood. “What the fuck is this?” Kyle cried.
Jordan jerked his hand away. “Fuck off, Kyle, okay?”
Kirsten was started to stir now on the couch. “Why are you doing this?” Kyle hissed.
“Listen,” Jordan said, “just take Kirsten and get out. This is what she wanted and this is what I want.”
“You want to die?” Kyle challenged him.
“Yes. I do.”
Kyle shook his head. “This is really fucked up, Jordan. What did you do with the tape I made of Kirsten?”
“I erased it.”
Jordan eyed Kirsten nervously as she dazedly sat up on the couch, rubbing her head. “What happened?” she murmured.
“You fainted,” Kyle told her, touching her shoulder gently.
As he watched her, he could see her remembering everything that had just happened. Realization dawned in her eyes and she stared at Jordan. “You’re okay?” she said. Without waiting for him to answer, she fell into his arms, hugging him close to her. “You’re okay.”
He hugged her back, spreading blood all over the back of her shirt. Kyle could see the color leaving Jordan’s face. Although Kyle never saw the wound on Jordan’s wrist, he was willing to bet it wasn’t going to stop bleeding without stitches.
“I’m so sorry, Jordan,” Kirsten sobbed into his shoulder. “I love you so much. I’m so sorry.”
“Yeah,” Jordan said, swallowing hard. “But... Kirsten, I think you should let Kyle take you to a doctor now.”
Kirsten pulled back, “You think so?”
“I worry about you, you know?”
“Why can’t you take me?”
Jordan averted his eyes. “You know I hate hospitals.”
Kyle set his jaw. “I’m not leaving this fucking room, Jordan.”
Jordan’s leg began to twitch. It jumped up and down in the footrest, and he reached out to calm it with his good hand. “God fucking damn it,” he said.
Kirsten looked between the two of them, her brown eyes narrowing, “What’s going on here?”
Kyle nodded at Jordan, “You want to tell her or should I?”
“Tell me what?” Kirsten demanded.
Jordan had been angry with Kyle in the past, but never quite so much as at this moment. And it took a lot of effort to be angry, considering how much blood he had lost (and there was a whole bunch more blood Kyle didn’t know about in the sink). Jordan knew if he went to the hospital with a slit wrist, that was it for college. After two suicide attempts, his father would never let him be alone again. Which meant that he’d never be able to finish the job.
And Jordan wanted to finish the job. It wasn’t even about Kirsten anymore, although that had been the catalyst. Hearing her offer Kyle money to let him die hurt even worse than he had imagined it would. He was tired of her games and the way she always manipulated him. He missed his mother. He missed his legs. He was tired of watching the world go by from a wheelchair. Ten, twenty, thirty, forty years like this... he wasn’t interested.
“Tell me what?” Kirsten repeated, more insistently this time.
Jordan sighed. If only Kyle had gone to the goddamn library like he said he was going to. He held up his left wrist. “Happy?”
“Oh my god!” Kirsten screamed. “What did you do?”
“I cut it open with a fucking razor, what do you think?” Jordan was beginning to feel very woozy and he definitely didn’t feel like arguing about this with Kirsten.
He expected more from Kirsten. He didn’t know what exactly—some sort of strong reaction. But instead, she just hugged him again, burying her face in his neck. He hugged her back because he wasn’t sure what else to do. “Don’t, Jordan,” she whispered in his ear. “Please, don’t.”
It really was too late though. He felt himself sliding down in his chair as he no longer retained the strength to control his stomach muscles. I hope it’s too late to save me, Jordan thought to himself.
To be continued....