Part II. Another Conversation

The judge and Mrs. Prescott were, blessedly, attending a society function in Montgomery and would be gone until Sunday afternoon. Alex wasn’t in a hurry to divulge his little secret to his mother; she was involved quite enough in his life as it was. For her part, Jasmine was in a terror at the idea of Jane Prescott learning that her only son was romantically involved with the help, as she surely must see the girl she’d hired to help her child; on top of which, eventually Jane was bound to learn that the help was also the direct descendant of poor, white trash, making matters exponentially worse.

While he was in rehab, his step-father had bought Alex a car. The Accord looked strange and kind of lonely beside his Honor’s convertible Mercedes and his wife’s Escalade, but it was designed for Alex by a former client of his Honor— designed to be driven with the left foot and not the right; the driver’s seat was slightly elevated so that Alex could get in easily; the dash slanted slightly so that everything was pointed toward the operator. It had a handicapped plate. Alex was scared of it; he had no intention of ever using it, though he hadn’t mentioned that to Jasmine. Jasmine drove a sticker-emblazoned and rather worn Jeep Cherokee, which would have been difficult, if not impossible, for him to climb into. She parked in the little drive beside the guest house, careful to leave herself enough room to back out in the Accord.

She was knocking on a door to get to Alex for the second time that day. This time she was wearing her little black dress. She’d been a nervous wreck for a month (contemplating the day’s conversation with her date and its many possible outcomes) and remedied anxiety attacks with Ben and Jerry’s to the point that she was shocked the dress fit. It was honestly too warm for the black, calf-skin boots but she looked so good in them she didn’t care. He smiled as he invited her in, then followed her to the small, slightly cluttered living room. She moved a stack of paperback books to make room for both of them to sit on the loveseat. He unlocked the KFO and sat in only two fluid movements; for a long time it had been several difficult jerks and a sort of choreographed falling.

“You’re getting good at that, you know?”

Alex grunted, “Do I have a choice?”

“Yes,” she said soberly. “You have several. You just make good decisions.”

He leaned in to kiss her. “You’re beautiful, Jasmine.”

Somehow when it came from him that phrase struck her heart instead of her ego and she felt her cheeks warm. She kissed him lightly on the lips. “So are you,” she told him.

“Yeah,” he rubbed his right thigh distractedly, “the top half.”

Taking his hands into hers, she leaned down and kissed his thighs, then his knees, and his calves, twice for the wrecked one. When she sat up again they looked at each other in silence, holding hands. Jasmine’s heart raced.

“I don’t understand,” he murmured, closing his eyes, “how you can know, know what my legs look like, and not be repulsed.”

“Well, Alex, I wasn’t repulsed by the fact that you were a raging asshole for the first two months I knew you. Why would I be scared off by some scars?” She said this lightly, then lay her head on his shoulder.

He wasn’t to be distracted by lightheartedness so easily. “Not just the scars, Jasmine. All of it—not that the scars aren’t bad enough—but, the braces, the crutches. You practically had to carry me to the table that day—how can you be attracted to someone who can’t even walk three feet without help? Who’s almost thirty and lives with his parents. Can’t drive; barely leaves the house…” there was a frantic edge to his voice. The desire to comfort rose in her again but she choked it down, let him continue. This was a discussion they’d have to have at some point; might as well be the first date. He took a breath, let go of her hands and continued.

“Jasmine, I don’t even want to be with me; and you’re so full of life, so beautiful. You’re offering to anchor yourself to something… to someone who can’t do all the things that you do. You won’t be satisfied with me, I can’t make you happy. I don’t have anything to give to a woman, not anymore. I don’t understand what you’re doing—maybe you feel sorry for me, but… you don’t have to take it so far.”

Uncertain of what he wanted to hear, what she should say, she relinquished control of her speaking skills and let loose words she hadn’t intended to say. “I love you, Alex.”

He snorted, looked at her and then away. “You’re crazy.”

“No, look at me. You’re strong, and talented—I’ve heard your diatribes on Hemingway and The Great Gatsby and the future of American literature, you must have been a brilliant professor—and you can still be. You’re still young, you’re still beautiful, there’s no way your injuries could take that from you. You didn’t deserve to be hurt; you didn’t deserve for that bitch to walk out on you.” She felt her eyes start to sting. “You don’t deserve to spend the rest of your life regretful and bitter, hating yourself for things you can’t control. And you, you make me feel something I’ve been looking for my whole life and never found before—when I walk into a room and see you, when you speak to me, when I touch you… it’s right, Alex. It’s supposed to be.”

“You believe that.” His eyes were wet and wide.

“I’ve never lied to you, have I?”

He pulled her against his chest and whispered, “I love you, Jasmine” into the top of her head.

Part 3