If Marie had been in grade school, she might have been scribbling the name “Marie Ziegler” in the margin of her notes. Since she was no longer in grade school and instead an “adult” of 24, she simply walked around campus humming to herself and sighing for no reason. She was In Love. Deeply, madly, desperately.
There had been times in her life when she had thought she was in love before, but now she had no doubt in her mind that those other times had been bogus. She was in love with Sam Ziegler. She loved everything about him. She loved his smile, she loved the way he got nervous and tried to impress her, she even loved the way he snapped at people in the library. She loved him.
She realized it while lying next to him after they had sex for the first time. She felt him pulling her close to him and the warmth of his body overtook her. It was at that moment that she realized how much she cared about him and that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him.
She wasn’t able to hide her excitement from her mother during their weekly telephone call. Beth Rosen was a smart woman and knew right away that her daughter sounded different. “Who is he?” Beth demanded to know.
“Mom!” Marie laughed. She had mentioned she was dating someone several weeks ago, but hadn’t given her mother any details.
“Come on, you only sound this way when there’s a boy you’re crazy about,” Beth reasoned.
“Well, okay,” Marie admitted. “There is someone…”
“What’s his name?”
“Ziegler? What is that… German?”
“Um… I don’t know.”
“What does he do?”
Marie didn’t appreciate the twenty questions. “He works at the library.”
“At the library? What does he do there?”
“He’s an, um… manager.”
“A library manager?” Beth sounded skeptical. “How old is he?”
“Twenty-nine and he’s only a library manager?” her mother sighed. She hadn’t even met Sam and already was critical. Marie sensed that the wheelchair wasn’t going to go over any better. “So is it serious?”
“I think so,” Marie said. She took a deep breath. “I think he might be the one, Mom.”
“The one I want to… you know, marry.”
Her mother was silent for a long time. “Wow,” she finally said.
“So when can we meet him?”
The question stopped Marie in her tracks. Meet Sam? She pictured the look on her parents’ faces when they laid eyes on him and she felt slightly ill. As much as she adored Sam, she had a feeling they weren’t going to think much of him.
“I don’t want to scare him off,” Marie lied.
“Nonsense, you don’t want a man who scares that easily,” Beth said. “You’re 24. It’s not like you have all the time in the world.”
“Fine,” Beth said. “Keep dating this man who’s almost thirty, works in a library, and won’t meet your parents. I don’t need to have grandchildren.”
She wished she had some guy that her parents would adore, but it wasn’t a deal breaker. Her parents would eventually get used to Sam, she was sure of it, but she just wasn’t ready to deal with their reaction right now. She needed to feel more secure in her relationship with him. Once they were talking rings, she’d bring him home to meet her parents.
Thanks to the Viagra, Sam and Marie were able to have sex on a semi-regular basis, which amounted to a couple of times a week at Sam’s apartment, where he had access to his pills. He never got an episode of autonomic dysreflexia, which he assumed was because he wasn’t actually climaxing. He did end up with a few bad headaches, but it was well worth it for the sake of pleasing Marie and feeling like a man again.
If it were up to him, Sam would have preferred to eat her out. When they were having sex, he felt like it was completely out of his hands, but during oral sex, he was in control. He enjoyed experimenting with moving his tongue in different ways to see what would get Marie to scream the loudest.
Some days, they focused on him. Marie would touch and lick him in all the places he could feel: his arms, his hands, his neck, his face. She would run her hands through his hair as she ran her tongue over his lips. With the loss of sensation in half his body, he found that the areas he could still feel were now hypersensitive to her erotic touch. Even though he didn’t have an orgasm in the traditional sense of the word, the sensations would become so intense that it brought tears to his eyes.
He wasn’t sure at what point he realized that he loved Marie. He had been attracted to her from the first moment he met her, which grew in lust as well as a deep affection. But suddenly, he realized there was more than that. He loved her. There were other girls before his accident, but he never felt remotely this way about any of them. Marie was special. She was amazing.
As they lay in bed together in his apartment with his arm wrapped around her as she pressed her body against his, he felt her free hand running through his hair. He kept his hair somewhat longer than he used to, on the shaggy side, in order to assure that the scar on his scalp was hidden. He felt her fingers running along the jagged edges of the scar.
“Does it hurt?” she asked him.
He shook his head.
“Do you remember the explosion at all?” she asked him.
Again, he shook his head. “Honestly, I can’t remember anything from the few weeks before or after it happened. I don’t even really remember what I had been working on at the time. But I’ve been told it was pretty much entirely my fault.” He sighed. “I guess I got what I deserved.”
“You’re a good person, Sam,” Marie said softly. “Maybe you made a mistake, but you deserve to have a good life.”
He hugged her tighter to his chest. “I love you, Marie,” he blurted out.
For a moment, his insides froze up. He didn’t know why he had said that, except that he felt it, and it had just come out. But it was too soon. Too soon to profess his love and it was sure to freak her out. With those three little words, he had blown it.
He stiffened, waiting for her to pull away from him, but instead she drew closer. “I love you too, Sam.”
He kissed the top of her head, savoring the perfectness of this moment. He wished he could spend the rest of his life with Marie, but he worried that it could never be that easy for him.
Marie glanced at her watch as she mounted the steps to the Caldwell Library. It was nearly six, which meant that Sam would be getting off from work any minute. She figured they’d go back to his apartment and she’d cook for him. It seemed like the only food Sam ate anymore was either his mother’s cooking or TV dinners. And what did they say about the way to a man’s heart being through his stomach?
She was nearly at the door to the library when she thought she heard someone calling her name. She whirled around and her heart sunk in chest as she came face to face with her mother and father. What on earth were they doing here?
“Marie!” Beth Rosen cried. “We’ve been waiting here for you.”
“You… you have?”
Steve Rosen nodded. “Your mother told me all about this boy you like so much, so we decided to come down and meet him.”
Oh god oh god oh god…
“Well, I’m not sure if he’s here right now…” Marie murmured.
“Actually, we called the library before we came to make sure he was on duty today,” Steve said.
So there was no way out of this. She glanced over at the doors, briefly considering making a break for it. Instead, she forced a smile onto her face. “Um, okay. Come in, I guess.”
For a fleeting moment, she hoped Sam wouldn’t be behind the counter, but of course, he was. His face lit up the instant he laid eyes on her, giving away his identity to her parents. And there was no line of students checking out books to give her a moment to think of what to do.
From far away, she knew Sam came off well. He was fairly good looking and his wheelchair was mostly concealed by the desk. But as soon as her parents saw the chair, the charade was up. She wasn’t ready for this and she knew that Sam wasn’t either.
“Hi, Sam,” she said as she approached his desk. “Um, these are my parents.”
All the color drained from Sam’s face. He flashed her a desperate look as her father reached out to take his hand. “Nice to meet you, Sam,” Steve Rosen said. “My wife and I would like to take you and Marie out to dinner, if that’s all right.”
I’m sorry, Marie mouthed.
Sam was still speechless. Marie was trying to come up with an excuse when Dean, with his usual impeccable timing, came up behind Sam and rested his hands on his shoulders: “You ready to take off, buddy?”
“Perfect timing,” Beth Rosen said with a smile.
Sam sat there, clearly not sure what to do. Finally, Steve spoke up, “Should we get going?”
“Uh, yeah,” Sam muttered.
Marie held her breath as he rested his palms on his wheels and backed away from the desk. It was at this moment that her parents became aware of the wheelchair. She had dated a couple of guys that they hadn’t approved of in the past, but Marie had never seen her parents look so shocked. Her mother’s mouth fell open and her father just stared. Marie felt herself turning five shades of scarlet.
“Marie?” Sam crooked a finger at her. “Can I talk to you for a second?”
She quickly followed him around the corner, deep into an aisle of books. She looked behind her and saw that her parents were still too stunned to move or ask questions. She turned back to Sam and saw the mixture of anger and fear plain on his face. “Marie, what the fuck?”
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “They… they were standing outside the library, waiting for me.”
“Why the hell would they do that?”
She shrugged helplessly. “Because I told my mother I was in love with a guy who worked at the library.”
Sam’s eyes softened. She knew he couldn’t stay angry at her. “Look, I’m sorry, but… I can’t do this.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, this dinner… I’m not going.”
Marie frowned. “What are you talking about? I mean, I know it’s a surprise, but—”
“Trust me, you don’t want this,” he said.
“Look, I know this isn’t the best situation,” she said, “but they’re already here. What am I going to tell them?”
“I don’t know,” he murmured. “Make up an excuse, anything. I can’t go.”
Sam straightened up in his wheelchair, trying to correct his poor posture from the lack of his stomach muscles. “Aside from the fact they’re still in deep shock from finding out their daughter is dating a cripple?” He sighed. “Look, I’m guessing you didn’t tell them about my head injury either and… I think if I we all go out tonight, they’re going to find out on their own.”
“Sam, I don’t know why you think people can tell,” Marie said. “Nobody can tell, I swear to you.”
“Listen, I’m really nervous, we’re going to be in a crowded restaurant…” He shook his head. “They’re going to know, I promise you.”
Marie glanced back at her parents, who were staring at them intently. She knew they weren’t going to take no for answer. The worst thing Sam could do at this point was to back out, whether he thought so or not. “Please, Sam,” she said. “Do this for me.”
He shifted in his chair. She had to admit, he did look really nervous. But she was certain that he was overreacting. He was magnifying his insecurities.
“All right,” he finally said. “All right.”
To be continued...