Harrison was the first person in the house to wake up that morning. He blinked his eyes a few times, trying to clear out the crust that had formed during his sleep. He turned his head and saw that Steve wouldn't be waking up for at least another hour, so he'd be stuck here in bed until then. He closed his eyes and tried to go back to sleep, but he knew it was a lost cause.
Harrison found that he was gradually getting used to his dependence on other people. He remembered back when he was first injured, he resented having to depend on others so heavily. Two years later, he still wasn't happy about it, but he was reaching the stage of acceptance.
When the doctors first told Harrison he would never be able to move anything below his shoulders again, he had refused to believe it. That was true to form for Harrison, who had left home on his seventeenth birthday, blowing off high school and his family for several years on the road, bouncing between odd jobs. He finally "settled" into a bartending job when he was 23, although he still slept with too many loose women and refused to take any of the adult education classes that his parents hoped would earn him at least a high school diploma.
After his motorcycle accident, he woke up in intensive care with his parents and younger brother David by his side. His mother tearfully promised him she would always look after him, but Harrison had laughed it off. No matter what the doctor said, he knew he'd be walking out of this hospital in a few months.
It did take Harrison several months to get out of the hospital, but most of that time was spent waiting for the bones in his neck to heal rather than doing physical therapy. There was, in fact, no physical therapy, only devises on his arms and legs that inflated and deflated to keep his blood circulating. The worst part of his hospital stay was when he contracted a rather nasty case of pneumonia which threatened his life and put him on a ventilator. Being on the ventilator was awful because he could neither move nor speak, although for most of that time, he was pretty out of it anyway.
When Harrison was finally transferred to a rehab center, he still believed in his heart that he would be walking out of there. On his first day in the center, he said to one of the PT's, "We'll play basketball together in the YMCA when I get out of here." But after two months went by and he had regained no movement of any kind in either his arms or his legs, they explained there wasn't much they could do for him. In fact, the only physical therapy he received was working on his fingers to get some movement back. Other than that, they taught him how to use his mouth to operate a wheelchair and complete some other activities of daily living.
Gradually, Harrison began to realize that his arms and legs weren't coming back. He saw what his life was going to be like from now on and he was filled with anger and frustration. He wasn't very pleasant to be around during this time. He acted out at anyone who stuck around to listen. He remembered when his father came to tell him he had put in a ramp for the front entrance, Harrison said that he would prefer to go to a nursing home. His mother had cried when he said that.
Sometimes Harrison thought he might have been better off in a nursing home. Sure, he was more comfortable at home, but it was sometimes too much dealing with his mother all the time. On days when Steve was off, he spent the entire day being taken care of by his mother, who had absolutely no respect for his privacy.
He remembered back in rehab, when his parents came in to learn how to catheterize his bladder, a process that had to be done every few hours. He tried not to think of all those years of hiding porn magazines in his room, masturbating in the bathroom, and sneaking girls into his room in high school, when his mother gripped his penis in her hand and asked the nurse, "Is this how I do it?" He still instinctively looked away when she catheterized him, even though it was almost routine now. She barely even asked his permission when she pulled his pants down to expose his flaccid penis.
When he first moved a finger again, it had been a turning point. Harrison was having a lot of trouble manipulating the sip and puff wheelchair--he couldn't even get through a door without bumping into the wall. It seemed like no matter what he did, the chair always did the opposite of what he wanted it to do. Even though the PT assured him he'd get the hang of it, he noticed they were getting a little frustrated with him too.
But being able to move his finger changed all that. He could now operate a chair with his one finger, which was much easier. When he saw his finger move for the first time, he had started crying. That night his parents threw him a little party in his room to celebrate getting his finger back.
Harrison had started to accept his new disability in rehab, where everyone was disabled, but coming home had been very depressing. It was hard to see his old house, which he had waited half his life to get out of, now modified for his wheelchair. His mother had been so chipper the day he moved in, he couldn't help but wonder if she was glad this had happened to him. She had always hated that Harrison was so wild--now that he was paralyzed, she finally could control him.
Two weeks after Harrison came home from rehab, he celebrated his 27th birthday at home with his parents and his brother. None of his old friends came to the party and he was sort of glad for that. As his mother fed him pieces of his birthday cake, he had a profound realization that his life would never go back to the way it was.
"Hey Harry, are you okay?"
It was Ethan's voice. Harrison looked up and saw Ethan in his wheelchair, a concerned expression on his face. Harrison suddenly realized that he had tears on his face.
"I'm fine," Harrison managed. "Uh... do you think you could get me a tissue?"
"Sure," Ethan said. He wheeled over to the nightstand and pulled a few tissues from the box. He wheeled to the side of Harrison's bed and gently wiped his face off with the tissues. "Do you need me to get Steve?"
"Nah, it's okay," Harrison said, sniffling hard.
Ethan put his hand on Harrison's arm. "Do you want to talk?"
"No," Harrison said quickly. He smiled sadly. "It just... gets to me sometimes, that's all."
There was a look of understanding on Ethan's face. "Did you like roller coasters when you were a kid, Harry?"
Harrison nodded. "Sure, doesn't every kid?"
"I wouldn't know," Ethan said. "When I was nine years old, some charity gave money for me and my classmates to take a trip to Disneyworld. I guess their hearts were in the right place, but it was kind of dumb. I got denied from every fun ride in the whole park. I remember watching the other kids riding the roller coasters and I wanted to do that more than anything else in the world, but I knew I'd never be allowed on. I guess that was one of the first times I got really depressed about being disabled."
"It must have been hard to grow up disabled," Harrison said.
"Sometimes," Ethan admitted. "It was easier on me probably because I didn't have any brothers or sisters. My parents decided not to have any other kids after I was born because they wanted to focus on helping me."
"That was nice."
"My parents are great people. Do you have any brothers or sisters, Harry?"
"I've got a younger brother," Harrison said. "Two years younger. His name is David. He was always the good son, you know?" Harrison laughed at that. "He was the one who studied hard and went to a good college, never any trouble at all. He's a nice kid."
"Do you get along with him?"
Harrison shrugged. "Sure. Like I said, David's a nice kid. He even said that if I didn't want to live with my parents, I could come live with him. But I don't think I'd want to impose that on him... I mean, he's got his own life. He doesn't need to be taking care of his crippled brother."
"It sounds like you've got a family who cares about you a lot," Ethan commented.
"Maybe," Harrison said quietly. "But, to be honest, I'm beginning to really miss... you know, women."
Ethan grinned. "So what's stopping you?"
"Four things," Harrison said. "My arms and my legs."
"I think Abby likes you best," Ethan said. "Or at least, she would if you stopped feeling sorry for yourself all the time and tried to talk to her."
"I don't think so," Harrison said. "Abby is all yours, Ethan."
"Mine?" Ethan raised an eyebrow. "Not a chance. If you don't get out there and win her over, she's going to pick Noel."
Harrison frowned. "Noel? He's an asshole."
Ethan shrugged. "Asshole or not, I think he's already slept with her."
Harrison stared at Ethan. He could hardly believe what he was hearing. How could that sweet girl have fallen for Noel's tricks? "How do you know that?"
"Everyone knows," Ethan said.
Harrison felt ill at the thought of Noel having sex with Abby. He supposed it made sense, in some sick way, since Noel was the only guy who was actively pursuing her. Jamie was apathetic, Ethan was too shy, and as for himself...well, he knew he hadn't been paying much attention to her. And somehow, he didn't see that changing in the near future. Noel was going to win the game and there wasn't anything he could do about it.
Harrison was sitting in the living room, watching a talk show on television. Steve had just fed him lunch and then gone off to another room to read. It seemed like when Harrison didn't explicitly need Steve, he tended to wander off. It was somewhat frustrating, if Harrison wanted something and Steve was off somewhere. But then again, it was good to have a few minutes of privacy now and then. When his mother was around, it seemed like she hardly ever gave him a minute to himself.
Harrison heard the sound of wheels on the wooden floor. He turned his head and saw Noel wheeling over toward him, with a sandwich on his lap. Harrison felt his blood pressure rise at the sight of him. He couldn't get Ethan's words from this morning out of his head: I think he's already slept with her.
"Hey, Harry," Noel said with a grin. "Mind if I join you?"
Before Harrison could tell him to get the hell away from him, one of the cameramen named John ran over. "Listen guys, would you mind if we filmed you talking?"
"Filmed us talking?" Noel asked with raised eyebrows.
"Yeah," John said, "it's to... you know, build the atmosphere of the game. It'll just be me here with the camera, no big deal."
Noel shrugged. "Fine with me, Johnny."
"Harry?" John said.
"Go ahead," Harrison said through clenched teeth.
Noel: "This is kind of silly, isn't it?"
Harrison: "No more than anything else."
Noel: "Yeah, but... I mean, us talking? That's boring. Now Abby... that's where the action is."
Harrison: "Noel, if I could move my arms, I'd punch you in the nose."
Noel's mouth fell open. "What?"
Harrison almost smiled at the expression on Noel's face. For once, he had gotten to Noel, made him take this seriously. "You heard me."
Noel's features darkened. "What the hell is wrong with you, Harry?"
"What the hell is wrong with me?" Harrison said. "You're the one who raped Abby."
Noel's face turned as red as his hair. He glared over at John and gave him a dirty look. "You getting all this, Johnny?" But John kept filming them.
"You ever been in a fight before, Noel?" Harrison said, enjoying the uncomfortable look on Noel's face.
"Do I look like I've ever been in a fight before?"
"No, you don't."
Noel wheeled a little closer to Harrison, "I've been in this chair since I was a kid. People don't tend to beat up on crippled children."
"I'm surprised nobody made an exception for you," Harrison replied.
"You been in a fight before, Harry?"
"I was a bartender," Harrison said. "I got in my share of brawls with drunks. I know how to take a punch like a man."
"Do you?" Noel wheeled a little bit closer. Harrison felt his breath catch in his throat. Even with the camera on, there was a distinct possibility that Noel might hit him. Harrison knew how to take a punch, but there wasn't much he could do to defend himself without being about to move his arms. He was pretty much at Noel's mercy. John would hopefully break up the fight before things got too far, but Noel could at least get in one good punch. Harrison braced himself--Noel wasn't a muscleman, but he wasn't scrawny either.
"I'm more of a man than you are any day," Harrison said. He vowed no matter what, he wasn't going to flinch if Noel hit him.
Noel stared into his eyes. "You want to hit me, Harry?"
"You know I do."
Noel leaned forward so that his face was inches away from Harrison's. "Then go ahead. Hit me."
Harrison looked down at his motionless hands lying in his lap. He tried to remember the signals he had sent down to his arms to get them to move. He saw his one finger twitch, the finger he had worked so hard to get to move in therapy. He knew if this were a movie, this would be the moment when his arms suddenly sprung to life. But this wasn't a movie--it was TV. "I can't," he said quietly.
"Then fuck off," Noel said. "And just so you know, I didn't rape Abby, as if I could. She jumped me in the pool room. But you can believe whatever the fuck you want."
Noel wheeled backwards and Harrison let out a breath he didn't know he had been holding. Noel closed his hand over the camera lens. "Shut it off, John," he said. "There isn't going to be a cripple fight. Sorry to disappoint you, you piece of shit."
John lowered the camera as Noel wheeled away, slamming doors behind him. John whistled. "That was intense," he breathed.
Harrison gritted his teeth. As much as he hated to admit it, Noel was right about John. All he was looking for was something to put on television. He would have let Noel punch Harrison just to get it on film. "How do you sleep at night?" Harrison said to John.
John's face flushed bright red. He picked up his camera and quietly left the room.
Abby: "Oh, it's you. They told me I was having dinner tonight with a handsome suitor, so I just assumed it was going to be Harrison."
Noel: "Aw baby, I hate to disappoint you... if you think you can take us both on at once, Harry's welcome to join us."
Abby: "I could handle two guys at once no problem, so one and a half should be a cinch."
Noel: "Ha ha, I'm going to tell Harry you said that."
Abby: "Go ahead, Harry already knows I think you're half a man."
Noel: "Ouch! Is this how you treat all the guys who fall in love with you? No wonder you're still single."
Abby: "You're in love with me?"
Noel: "Actually, I was talking to your breasts."
Abby had been controlling herself pretty well to that point, but now she burst out laughing. Noel looked over and saw one of the producers giggling and giving them a thumbs-up. "You're very entertaining," Abby said. "I bet you were the class clown back in school. You sort of look like a clown."
"Sure, I was this century's Dennis the Menace," Noel said. "To be perfectly honest, I kissed up too much to be a class clown. I had this dream of, you know, making lots of money and banging lots of hot chicks."
"You make a good living, right?" Abby said. "One out of two ain't bad."
"You'd be surprised how often one leads to the other," Noel said. "You know, I make six figures. Does that get you all wet?"
"Maybe if Harrison said it," Abby giggled.
"Harrison," Noel muttered. "He's your knight in shining armor, isn't he?"
"What are you talking about? He's barely spoken to me."
Noel made a face. "Yeah well, he's spoken to me about you."
Abby looked surprised. For a moment, Noel regretted having said anything to her about Harrison. He already suspected that Abby liked Harry a lot; there was no reason to make him look even better in her eyes.
Noel thought a lot about what Harrison had said to him earlier. He eventually decided he wasn't angry about it. Noel understood what Harrison was going through and knew he couldn't help lashing out. And Noel also knew he had been pushing Harrison's buttons, although it was just so hard to resist. Here was a man who felt that his life was over because of his disability, which was just the sort of thinking that Noel resented.
"So what did Harry say about me?" Abby asked.
"Um," Noel glanced over at the television cameras that were filming them. He saw the director leaning forward to hear what he was going to say next. "He, uh... thinks I haven't been treating you right."
"Really." There was no way he was going to tell Abby in front of all these cameras that Harrison accused him of raping her, ridiculous as it was.
"Well, you are kind of an asshole, Noel," Abby said.
"Yeah, your point being?"
Abby smiled. "Well, you do want to win, don't you?"
Noel pulled her hand into his. "I certainly like the grand prize."
Abby leaned forward so that her lips were close to his. "The way things are going now, you don't have a chance in hell."
Noel slipped one hand under the table onto her knee. "I disagree, Abby. I think I happen to have a very good chance."
She let her tongue just barely graze his lips. "I think it's up to me, isn't it?"
Jesus, Noel thought, as he felt his dick throbbing in his boxers. He slid his hand up her thigh. "It is up to you," he said softly. "But you seem like the kind of girl who makes smart decisions."
Noel nearly kissed Abby, but he suddenly felt a hand on his shoulder. It was John, the asshole cameraman from that morning, who had filmed the encounter with Harrison. "Hey, guys," John said. "I'm sorry to interrupt you, but the thing is, we're having trouble hearing you."
Noel stared at John in disbelief. "What?"
John smiled amicably. "Seriously, you guys have tremendous chemistry. We love it. But the microphones just aren't picking up what you're saying right now."
"Johnny," Noel said. "You know what? I think I'd like to punch you in the nose." He smiled. "Can you hear me now?"
There weren't any more interruptions for the rest of the dinner. Noel was surprised by how much fun he was having with Abby--she was both sexy and interesting to talk to. He thought they meshed really well together.
I don't care about the money, Noel thought, but I hope she picks me.
They stayed at the table talking until nearly eleven at night. Noel didn't even realize how late it was until the camera crew started packing up. "I guess this is our cue to leave," Abby said.
Noel took her hand. "May I walk you to your room, Abby?"
"I thought you can't walk," Abby said with a smile.
"It's just a figure of speech," Noel explained.
"In that case, of course you may."
Noel wheeled himself alongside Abby as they went down the hall to her room. His arms felt almost completely better since last night except for a faint throbbing, but he could only imagine what she was going to do to him tonight. He saw the outline of her panties under her skirt and his breath caught in his throat.
As she opened the door to her room, he tried to wheel inside, but Abby only opened the door a foot--not enough space for his chair to fit through. He looked up at her questioningly.
"Not tonight, Noel," she said.
He raised an eyebrow. "But I thought..."
She touched his cheek. "You thought wrong, sweetie. Good night." With that, she closed the door in his face.
Noel was speechless. He backed away from the door, self-consciously looking down at his legs, still covered by the blanket. What had he done wrong?
The cute wardrobe assistant, Lynn, came by carrying an outfit in her arms. She saw Noel sitting in front of Abby's door and gave him a sympathetic look. "Shot down, huh?"
Noel smiled wryly. "Can't win 'em all, I guess."
"I guess you're not too used to rejection," Lynn commented.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Lynn shrugged. "Come on, Noel, we all saw your tapes. You're the player, right?"
Noel laughed. "I am not a player."
"How long has your longest relationship been?" Lynn challenged him.
"So I haven't met the right woman," Noel said, "that doesn't prove anything."
"And tell me, exactly how many women have there been?"
"Not so many, Linzy." Noel shook his head. "If I were able-bodied, it would probably be a pretty average number. But compared to the other guys in this competition, yeah, I've done pretty well. I mean, we've got two virgins here."
Lynn smiled slyly. "Have you ever used your disability to get a pity fuck?"
"Isn't every red-blooded American male entitled to a pity fuck in his lifetime?" Noel retorted.
"That's not an answer."
"Okay, maybe once or twice," Noel admitted. "But that's not the way I like to play it. I don't want a girl to go to bed with me because she feels bad for me." He looked down at his legs. "I'd rather it be because she thinks I'm funny or maybe she thinks I'm cute."
Lynn bent down slightly so that she could look directly into Noel's eyes. "I think you're cute."
Noel felt his hard-on returning. Damn women, they were so good at manipulating him. "I better go to sleep now," Noel managed.
Lynn winked at him. "Whatever you'd like. I've got to get Harry's outfit ready for tomorrow."
Noel watched Lynn walk down the hall, her short skirt just barely covering her panties. Ever since his accident, Noel was relegated to taking baths in order to cleanse himself, but right now he thought what he needed more than anything was a cold shower.
Stay tuned for Abby's next date...