So Abby, are you ready with your decision?
Abby: “Yes, I am.”
Well, before you tell us who you picked, we have something to tell you: you’re not going to be making that decision tonight.
That’s right. Because we have one more suitor who is in the house now and waiting to meet you. Abby, we would like to introduce Reese Cameron.
Ethan’s arms were killing him, but he struggled to keep himself upright as he waited for Abby to make her decision. When the announcer told her they had a surprise for her, Ethan nearly collapsed. He looked over and saw Harrison frowning as a figure emerged from the house.
The first thing Ethan noticed was that the guy was walking on his own two feet. He, in fact, didn’t seem to be disabled at all. “What’s going on here?” Ethan whispered to Harrison.
“Don’t you get it?” Harrison muttered. “They’re throwing in an able-bodied guy to make the competition more interesting.”
Ethan’s mouth fell open as Reese Cameron walked right up to Abby and kissed her hand. He didn’t need to be a woman to recognize that Reese was a very attractive man. And according to the announcer, he worked as an attorney.
As Ethan studied Reese’s features, he wondered why Abby would even consider choosing one of them over Reese. Abby wasn’t out looking for a disabled guy. Ethan had been disabled his whole life and he knew there was a chasm between himself and the able-bodied community.
Unlike the other men, Ethan had never experienced what it was like to be AB. Ethan believed he was happy with his life the way it was, but sometimes he wished he could experience what it was to be AB, if only for a day. He wanted to know what it was like to walk into a store or restaurant and not immediately have attention called to himself and be asked if he needed any help. He just wanted to know what it was like to be like everyone else.
Ethan had grown up in the most supportive home environment he could imagine. When he was born with spina bifida, his parents actually moved to be closer to a good school for children with disabilities. They encouraged him to socialize and to participate in sports and most importantly, to be independent.
The one negative aspect of attending schools for handicapped children was that Ethan now felt ill at ease with AB individuals. He felt that the differences between him and them were enormous—it was like they were of a different species. It was sometimes a major problem, since the majority of the world was AB. When he went to a regular college, he often felt very self-conscious about talking to people and trying to make friends.
Abby didn’t make him feel uncomfortable though, for some reason. He got the feeling that there was someone close to her who had a disability. In any case, there was some reason that she was more understanding than most people.
But either way, Ethan guessed she was relieved to see Reese entering the competition. She was probably thrilled that she was finally going to have a normal date. And he couldn’t blame her.
Reese: “Hi, Abby. I’m Reese. It’s good to finally meet you.”
Abby: “Uh, same here... I guess. You’ll have to excuse me, this is a bit of a surprise to me.”
Reese: “I completely understand. I just found out today what kind of reality show this was going to be.”
Abby: “I’ll be you were shocked.”
Reese: “Well, of course.”
Abby: “Me too.”
Reese: “I’m really looking forward to having dinner with you tonight, Abby. I’d like to try to show you a good time.”
Abby: “I’m sure it will be a pleasure.”
Harrison sat in his wheelchair in the kitchen with his dinner in front of him. Steve was by his side, scooping food off the plate and bringing it to his mouth. It was hard for Harrison to believe he had been eating this way for two years now. It felt so strange in the beginning, but now he was used to it, just like everything else.
Steve fed him the last of his mashed potatoes and wiped his mouth off with a napkin. “Do you want to go back to your room now?” Steve asked.
“That’s all right,” Harrison said. “I think I’ll stay out here for a little while.” Harrison and Steve had never become friends in any way. Harrison supposed it was difficult to become friends with a person when you had to perform all their daily and sanitary tasks. It was probably easier to do it if you didn’t know the person. Still, sometimes Harrison wished Steve made an effort to get to know him a little better.
Steve took off and Harrison was left alone in the kitchen. He was ready to back his chair away from the table when Reese entered the kitchen. When Harrison looked at Reese, he couldn’t imagine how Abby would chose anyone but him. Even being a heterosexual male, Harrison could tell Reese was a very good looking guy and he made a good living. And aside from that, he was whole, unlike the rest of them.
Reese flashed Harrison a broad smile. “Yo, it’s Harry, right?”
“Yes,” Harrison said.
“Good to officially meet you, man,” Reese said. He picked Harrison’s right hand off the controls and shook it.
Harrison bit his lip. He wasn’t able to move his hand back into position now to control his wheelchair, but somehow he felt uncomfortable asking Reese to move his hand. He still felt very uncomfortable asking people for assistance.
“Hey,” Reese said, “was that guy feeding you?”
“Was he, like, your lover or something?” Reese said, cracking a smile.
“No,” Harrison replied tightly.
“This contest is really fucked up, man,” Reese said. “I mean, look at you. They’re making Abby hook up with you? How do you even do that? That’s some crazy shit. I’d be embarrassed to put that on TV if I were them.”
Harrison stared at him. “I... I don’t know.”
“I guess it’s good for you guys though,” Reese went on, “I mean, you get to have a date with a hot woman, right? I’m betting you don’t date much, huh Harry?”
Harrison was almost too shocked to answer. He was trying to figure out a reply when he looked over and saw Noel had wheeled into the room. Noel was glaring at Reese. “Why don’t you get the fuck out of here, Reese,” Noel said.
“Excuse me?” Reese said, raising an eyebrow.
“You heard me,” Noel said quietly.
“Are you trying to fuck with me, Stevens?” Reese said. “I really hope for your sake that you’re not.”
“What, are you threatening me?” Noel retorted, wheeling himself closer. “You want to have this out? Come on, bring it on, dickweed.”
Reese stepped forward a little menacingly, but Noel didn’t flinch. Reese waved his hand dismissively, “Fuck this, I’m not fighting a cripple.” He grabbed an apple off the kitchen table and strolled out of the room.
Noel shook his head in the direction Reese had disappeared to. “You okay, Harry?” he asked.
“I’m fine,” Harrison said. “I don’t need your help.”
“Maybe not,” Noel said, blinking his long eyelashes. “But when he’s dissing you, he’s dissing me too. And I like to stand up for myself. I figured you did too. You didn’t have any trouble telling me to fuck off the other day.”
“Noel, he would have kicked your ass,” Harrison said.
“Maybe,” Noel shrugged. “I could tell he was all talk.”
Harrison studied Noel’s face for a minute. There was no trace of sympathy. “Look,” Harrison said, “I... I’m sorry about what I said the other day.”
Noel smiled. That was what he had been hoping to hear, but he couldn’t believe Harrison actually said it. “Hey, that’s okay. I probably deserved it.”
“I didn’t really think you raped Abby,” Harrison said. “I just didn’t realize how... aggressive she is.”
Noel laughed at that. He had heard about Abby and Harrison in the hot tub and even though he had felt a little jealous, he also felt happy for Harrison. “You gotta love her, huh?” he grinned. “Was this your first time since...?”
Noel was worried he might have gone too far again with his question, but surprisingly, Harrison seemed to want to talk about this. “It would have been my first time,” he said, “if we actually had sex.”
“You didn’t? Why not?”
Harrison looked down. “I can’t... I mean, I haven’t been able to get it up since...”
“Oh!” Noel said.
Noel knew exactly what Harrison was going through. When he was injured at fourteen years old, he had only first discovered masturbation months earlier. Following his accident, he had no sensation at all in his penis and couldn’t get an erection. Because Noel looked so immature, the doctors didn’t discuss his impotence with him, thinking they could save the conversation for later. So Noel worried and waited.
Months later, he still had not had any sign of an erection, so he finally worked up all his nerve and asked his doctor about it. The doctor told him that since he had not gotten any return back yet, it probably wouldn’t come back at all. The doctor told him he’d most likely never be able to have sexual intercourse or ejaculate or even get hard at all.
When Noel started high school, it seemed like all any of his friends talked about was sex. By the end of his sophomore year, half of his friends had lost their virginity, and Noel hated the fact that he would remain a virgin for the rest of his life. Every once in a while, he attempted to masturbate, but if he got hard at all, it was just for a few seconds. It seemed like the doctor was right.
During his junior year of high school, Noel started going out with a girl named Carrie, who he knew for sure had fucked at least one other guy. She often hinted at the fact that she wanted to have sex, but he couldn’t work up the courage to tell her that it would be impossible for him. He was mortified by the idea of the other guys knowing he couldn’t get it up. And Carrie seemed like the type of person who might spread rumors.
Despite his efforts to stop her, Carrie managed to unzip his pants one night alone in her room. He had thought it was all over when he saw his limp dick sticking out of his boxers and he had already started to apologize. But to his surprise, as Carrie started to stroke his dick, he started to grow and he could feel the nerve ends firing. That night, he lost the virginity he thought he’d have forever.
“I had the same problem,” Noel confided in Harrison. “Let me ask you: have you tried to stimulate it in any way?”
Harrison blushed a little. “Uh, no. I mean, Steve or my mom wash it for me and change my catheter, that’s pretty much it. I haven’t, you know, had a girl touch it or anything.”
“Well, maybe you should.”
Harrison shook his head. “What girl?”
“Forget Abby,” Harrison said, “now that there’s a normal guy in the competition, we don’t have a chance.”
“I hate it when you say shit like that,” Noel sighed. “But regardless, say I win the competition or Ethan does, there are still other women out there. And if you’re having trouble meeting someone...”
Harrison raised an eyebrow. “Yeah?”
“Well, I have this friend,” Noel began. “He’s a para, like me. He was 27 years old and had never gotten laid, so he decided to, uh... hire a call girl. I know it sounds crazy, but he said she was wonderful.”
“You are crazy if you think my mother would allow me to have a hooker in the house.”
Noel stared at him. “Let you? Excuse me, but aren’t you an adult?”
Harrison sighed. “Listen, forget it.” He looked down at his hand, which was still out of place since Reese shook it. “Noel, do you think you could put my hand back over the chair controls?”
“Sure,” Noel said. He picked up Harrison’s limp and withered hand, splinted into place. Noel couldn’t help but shiver slightly—if he had broken his spine a little higher up, he might not have control over his hands either. Noel was disabled, but he was completely independently and almost never needed help with his activities of daily living, but if his arms had been affected it would have been a very different story. He supposed he didn’t blame Harrison for some of the bitterness he was feeling. “There, is that okay?”
Harrison tested out his finger, making sure he had full range of motion to move the chair. “Yeah, it’s pretty good.”
Noel smiled and patted Harrison on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, Harry. I think you’re going to be okay.”
Harrison tried to smile back. “Who said I wasn’t?”
Cheryl Jones was sitting down with the executive producer of the show, Douglas Watson, contemplating the pictures of the five men Abby would be choosing from the next day. Watson had been producing television shows for a long time, but this was his first reality show and he seemed very nervous about the whole project. Cheryl had worked on similar shows before and she was trying to help him out, but he was more stubborn than she expected.
“Have you spoken to Abigail?” Watson asked. “Is she leaning toward one of the men?”
“She’s very secretive about it,” Cheryl told him. “And she still hasn’t had her date with Reese yet.”
“Reese Cameron, right?” Watson pulled out the photo of Reese’s strikingly handsome face. He shook his head. “Reese can’t win, you know that, right? The outcry from the disabled community would be terrible.”
“I know,” Cheryl said, trying not to sound irritated.
“We fixed it so he can’t win, right?” Watson said.
“Nothing is for sure,” Cheryl pointed out.
“Still...” Watson trailed off. He picked up the picture of Noel, his red hair nearly jumping off the page. “Now what about this young man, Noel Stevens? Noel had a lot of chemistry with Abby, as I recall. He’s very presentable, too. Do you think she might pick him?”
“It’s not unlikely,” Cheryl said. She had a feeling that Noel had a crush on Abby, but she wasn’t sure he was Abby’s favorite, even though it was common knowledge the couple had been fooling around off-camera. “But I don’t think he’s her favorite.”
“Who do you think is her favorite?” Watson wanted to know.
“Harrison,” Cheryl replied without hesitation.
“You mean Harrison Burke?” Watson said, raising his eyebrows. He pulled out the picture of Harrison’s ruggedly handsome features. “The quadriplegic? You must be joking.”
Cheryl shook her head. “I think she’s crazy about him.”
Watson looked unhappy. “I don’t know, Cheryl. I didn’t want Burke on the show to begin with—you’re the one who talked me into it. I think he’ll give people the creeps.”
“You don’t understand because you’re not a woman,” Cheryl said. “Harrison is a heartthrob. Every woman in America is going to fall in love with him and root for Abby to pick him.”
“You’re joking,” Watson said again. “Burke can’t even move... well, he can move a finger, but just that one.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Cheryl said. “I mean, isn’t that the whole point of the show? To demonstrate that disabled men are still sexy?”
“The whole point of the show is to get people to watch,” Watson stated.
Cheryl bit her tongue to keep from saying what she was thinking, which was that Watson had missed the point.
Abby: “Oh hi, Noel. They’re just filming me getting ready for my date with Reese. Kind of silly, I know.”
Noel: “You look really pretty.”
Abby: “Why, thank you. It’s never too late to start kissing a little ass.”
Noel: “Actually, I get the feeling that it is too late.”
Abby: “What are you talking about?”
Noel: “I can’t lie, Abby, I’m crazy about you. But I know you’re not going to pick me.”
Noel: “Look, the reason I’m here is because... I ran into Reese and Harry a little while ago and... well, I think you should know, Reese is a huge asshole.”
Abby: “Is he?”
Noel: “He was really giving Harry a hard time.”
Abby: “Are you trying to eliminate your competition?”
Noel: “Nah, I know you’d pick Harry over me anyway.”
Abby: “Don’t be so sure. Don’t you remember? I’ve got a thing for redheads.”
“Yeah?” Noel said. He smiled up at Abby and wheeled himself a little closer, encouraged by the seductive look on her face.
“You are awfully cute, after all,” Abby said. She bent down and brushed her lips against his. He felt his heart speed up a notch.
“Abby, you’re too wonderful to be in a stupid competition like this,” Noel breathed.
Abby laughed. “You’re only saying that because you think I’m hot.”
“That doesn’t mean it’s not true,” Noel said. He reached out and touched her cheek with his hand. For once, he wasn’t thinking about jokes or getting laid or anything like that. He just appreciated the soft touch of Abby’s skin against his fingers.
Abby: “Oh my gosh, roses! Reese, that’s so thoughtful!”
Reese: “A beautiful flower such as yourself deserves roses.”
Abby: “Haha, that’s a great line.”
Reese: “It’s not a line, Abby. I’m being genuine.”
Abby: “Oh, please.”
Reese: “I am. I honestly think you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”
Abby: “Oh, please!”
Reese: “Well, definitely top five.”
Abby: “I don’t know, Reese. The other guys have been wooing me all week. You’re going to have to work pretty hard to catch up.”
Reese: “You like one of those guys?”
Abby: “You could say that....... What’s so funny?”
Reese: “Nothing, nothing... so which one do you like?”
Abby: “I can’t tell you that...”
Reese: “Well, it doesn’t matter either way. I’m sure I can make you forget any one of those fine fellows.”
Abby: “Oh, really?”
Reese: “I’m sure of it. I’ve got some that none of them has.”
Abby: “What’s that?”
Reese: “Two things, actually. My legs.”
Reese: “That was a joke, Abby. It’s okay to laugh.”
Abby: “Seriously, Reese, this date is over.”
Reese: “What? Come on, it was a joke.”
Abby: “I don’t think it was. See, Noel warned me about you. He told me what you said to Harrison.”
Reese: “Stevens warned you? Fuck him, that fucker is dead.”
Abby: “Reese, don’t make me kick your ass.”
Reese: “Yeah, okay, I’m shaking in my boots, Abb—ow! Goddamn it, Abby, ease up!”
Abby: “You gonna behave yourself?”
Reese: “Ow! Yeah, quit it! Jesus Christ!”
Abby: “That’s better.”
Who will Abby choose? Will it be Reese? Ethan? Noel? Harrison? Or Jamie? Stay tuned to find out....