Elliot must have drifted off because the next thing he knew, his eyes were fluttering open and Lise was sound asleep by his side. He rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand, savoring the memory of what had happened between them. He still could hardly believe it. He wasn't a virgin anymore.
He noticed a sensation of pressure in his lower abdomen. From experience, he knew that this meant he needed to go to the bathroom. He couldn't control his bladder at all, but he could sense when it was full and needed to be emptied. And he knew that if he didn't tend to this in the next few minutes, it was going to start emptying itself.
Elliot sat up and saw that his wheelchair was on Lise's side of the bed, and it had been knocked away so that it would be hard to reach even if he somehow managed to climb over her. Anyway, that sort of pressure on his abdomen at this point would cause him to start leaking, so he wasn't able to start shifting across the bed.
"Lise," he nudged her and she stirred. "Lise, I need my wheelchair."
He cursed himself for not making sure his chair was easy to reach earlier. He just got so caught up in the moment.
"Lise," he said again, with more urgency in his voice.
Her eyes fluttered open, but she didn't say anything. She simply yawned.
Fuck! "Lise, wake up. I need my chair."
She was definitely awake now, but Elliot knew the situation was becoming urgent. The sensation had intensified and he knew he had to get to the bathroom now. He didn't want to have an accident. He was furious that he had allowed himself to wind up in this position.
"Lise..." Move it, Lise!
"Okay, okay," she murmured, but she seemed to be moving in slow-motion.
"Jesus Christ, Lise, get me my fucking chair, will you?" Elliot snapped.
Lise was sitting up now. She stared at him as if he had just slapped her. Elliot was immediately sorry he had yelled at her. He started to explain but when he looked down, he realized it was too late. He had leaked on the bed and he could see an expanding circle of wetness. "Fuck," he muttered, dropping his head back against his pillow.
Wordlessly, Lise got up and brought his wheelchair around to his side of the bed. Elliot transferred into the chair and went to the bathroom. The first thing he did in the bathroom was splash water on his face. With shaking hands, he grabbed one of his catheters and inserted it in his penis to release what had not already come out on the sheets.
Elliot had been dealing with bladder issues for a long time now. After his first surgery, when he was in high school, he was still mostly continent. As long as he didn't try to hold it in for too long, he didn't have to worry about having an accident. Only one time during his senior year, during a double-period physics class, did he wait too long and wind up with wet pants. In college, when he had only two or three classes a day, usually scattered in time, he never had an accident once. During long math competitions, when he was worried he might not be able to get to a toilet, he swallowed his pride and wore adult diapers. Nobody could tell he was wearing them and it was a hell of a lot better than wetting himself.
After the second surgery, Elliot woke up with a catheter in his bladder. He could still tell when he had to urinate, although the signals were different, but he no longer had any ability to hold it in. In rehab, he was taught to use intermittent catheters to drain his bladder every four to six hours, or when he felt that he needed it. Elliot was religious about keeping this schedule, although on rare occasions there was a little bit of leakage. But this was the first full-blown accident he had in a long time.
Why did it have to be in front of Lise? Of all the times he could have wet himself, this was the worst. No matter how cool she was about other stuff, this had to disgust her. He had really blown it.
Elliot checked himself in the mirror before he left the bathroom. He wasn't wearing his glasses so all he could see was a slightly blurry version of himself. His dark hair was sticking up and he tried to smooth it out a little with his hands. From the bare chest up, he didn't look all that bad. He stared at his reflection as he worked up the nerve to go back outside.
When he came out, Lise was sitting on a chair by the bed, her clothes back on, her legs folded, looking straight ahead. "I called housekeeping to change the sheets," she said.
"You called housekeeping?" Elliot felt himself getting agitated again. He didn't like the idea of the maid coming in and seeing that the crippled guy had wet his bed. "Why did you do that?"
"Because the sheets are wet, Elliot," Lise said tightly.
Lise had pulled back the covers so that the stain was exposed. He wanted to apologize to her, but he couldn't bring himself to say the words. Sorry I pissed myself, honey. That's what you get for sleeping with an incontinent cripple. There was no way he could recover from this.
Elliot barely had time to get dressed before the maid arrived. Lise was quiet in her corner of the room, so Elliot had to explain to her that the sheets needed to be changed. He hated the expression on the maid's face when she looked from him to the dirty sheets, figuring out what had just happened.
After the maid left, Elliot couldn't even get up the nerve to look at Lise. She began collecting her things to leave the room. He felt awful about what had happened, but he knew there wasn't anything he could do or say to make it better. He knew she'd eventually have to learn how he took care of his bathroom activities, but he didn't want her to find out like this.
"I guess I'll see you on the plane," Elliot mumbled.
Lise was putting on her shoes. She looked up at him. "Elliot, do you even know why I'm upset?"
"Yeah, obviously," he said, gesturing at the newly changed bedsheets. "I'm sorry, but..."
"That's not why I'm upset," Lise broke in.
Lise shook her head, "Elliot, you have a really bad temper. Really, really bad. If we're going to be a couple, you can't yell at me every time you feel uncomfortable."
Elliot was very surprised. And relieved. "I... I'm really sorry, Lise. I didn't mean to yell at you."
"It's not like it's the first time...
"I'm sorry," he said. "I promise I'll work on my temper. This relationship stuff is new for me."
Lise put down her shoe and smiled at him. "I know it is. I just want you to be aware of what you're doing."
"I won't yell at you ever again," he swore.
"Not just me," she corrected him. "You need to stop losing your temper in general. Especially with your students."
"I'll try," he said. He wasn't about to make a promise he couldn't keep. He wheeled closer to her, "So, um... you're okay with... what happened on the bed?"
"It's not your fault," she said, shrugging.
"Yeah, but..." He took a deep breath. "I don't want you to think that happens to me all the time. That hasn't happened to me in a while."
"Don't worry about it," she said as she took his hand.
Elliot was amazed and grateful for her reaction. He couldn't believe she was taking it so well. She was right that he had a tendency to snap at people easily. He just never felt that he had a friendship worth keeping before. But he didn't want to do anything to upset Lise in the slightest--he had already made her cry once and he still felt badly about that. He had to try to control himself from now on. Hell, maybe he'd be a better person because of this.
They attended a dinner that evening, given by the American Mathematical Society. Lise thought Elliot looked very handsome in his dark suit and tie, which brought out his eyes. When she offered to help him with his braces, he refused. "I think I'm going to use my wheelchair tonight," he said.
"Are you sure?" Lise thought Elliot wanted to keep people from knowing he depended on a wheelchair.
He nodded. "It's not that big a deal. Plus I'm exhausted from what you did to me today."
Lise laughed and kissed him.
At the dinner, they were seated at a table with a younger crowd of people. A couple of the names sounded vaguely familiar, such as Walter Epps, who was seated on Lise's left. The only other woman at the table was Ilona Gradovich, a post-doc who Lise could only describe as stunning, with her long blond hair and blue eyes. Ilona was seated at Elliot's right, a fact that made Lise feel slightly anxious.
"I loved your talk today," Ilona said to Elliot, in slightly accented English. "It was amazing."
"Thank you very much," Elliot said.
"Did you stay for the rest of the conference?" Ilona asked.
"Nah, I cut out early."
"You did not miss much," Ilona assured him. "Compared to your talk, the rest of the conference was... trivial. Yours was the highlight of the day."
"I had no idea," Elliot said, smiling as if the opposite were true.
Ilona started discussing his presentation with him, asking questions that Lise couldn't really understand but Elliot seemed to be fielding to her satisfaction and pleasure. Lise got the distinct feeling that Ilona was hitting on him, but fortunately Elliot was too socially naive to know it.
"Are you enjoying the conference so far?" Walter Epps, a young statistician of some notoriety, asked Lise.
Lise smiled politely, "Oh, it's been interesting."
"I haven't seen you here before, I don't think."
"No, this is my first time."
"Are you still in college?"
"I'm in math graduate school," she said. When she told him the name of her university, Epps seemed impressed.
"Quite impressive," Epps said. "I wasn't aware they took women there."
"I'm sorry, that's not what I meant," Epps corrected him. "I meant, do they have equal opportunities for women there?"
"Are you suggesting I don't deserve to be at that school?" Lise was furious.
Epps's condescending smile indicated that this was exactly what he believed. "Please. Are you telling me you understood what Meyers was just talking about right now? Because you certainly didn't look like you did." He shrugged. "It's all right... everyone is at different levels here."
Lise's face flushed and she was suddenly at a loss for words. Epps was correct that a lot of Elliot's work went over her head. Epps's statement played on her fears that she might not have been good enough for the position she occupied.
"Excuse me," Elliot spoke up, looking straight at Epps. "You can't speak to her that way."
Epps waved his hand. "I apologize. I was just making an observation."
"That's a shitty observation to make," Elliot shot back. "Lise Johnston is brilliant. I think she's one of the brightest first year students I've ever met."
Epps looked Elliot up and down, assessing the situation. Epps was a smart guy and it didn't take much for him to figure out that Lise and Elliot were a couple. "Yes, of course you'd think that."
"What the fuck does that mean?" Elliot said, spinning his chair so that he could look at Epps without turning his head.
Lise touched Elliot's arm as a signal to get him to calm down. She noticed that Ilona looked as if she was intrigued by this turn of events.
Fortunately, Epps picked up his plate and stood up from his seat. "It doesn't mean anything. I'm sure your girlfriend is very intelligent, Mr. Meyers."
"Fucker," Elliot muttered under his breath as Epps walked away. He sighed and turned to Lise, "I'm sorry he spoke to you that way. And... I'm sorry I lost my temper."
"You didn't have to defend me," she said, "but it was very sweet that you did."
Elliot shrugged and grinned, "This mathematician crowd... they're all a bunch of pussies."
Lise couldn't quite shake the feeling that Epps was right. She wasn't in the same league as a man like Elliot. No matter how hard she studied, Elliot's natural abilities would always give him an edge. Fortunately, she wasn't bothered by this as much as she thought she would be. She was who she was and there was nothing that could change that. But it didn't mean she admired Elliot any less.
"You're wonderful," she whispered in his ear.
He beamed at her and reached down to take her hand under the table.
To be continued...