Graduation Night, continued....
Adam lay in his bed with his eyes fixed on the ceiling. It seemed like every passing day he stayed in this place, he became more like the occupants. He didn’t know what those little pills they were giving him contained, but they made him feel lethargic, like his head was in a cloud. It was hard for him to think clearly, easier to just drift into sleep.
Leo was in the bed next to his, humming along with the music from his headphones. Leo had a pad and pencil… he was probably drawing erotic pictures again. Leo had shown Adam some of his drawings of girls in compromising positions yesterday. Adam had to admit that Leo was a decent artist; it was a shame that this was were his talent was going.
Adam’s thoughts strayed to his love life. The two women in his life, Brynne and Maggie, were both gone now. Brynne he didn’t feel as bad about—he hadn’t wanted to make her cry, but he knew this was the right thing to do. Maggie on the other hand… it was tearing him up inside. Even after all this time, he loved her with every bone in his body, even after the way she had treated him. He had to move on, try to find someone who might actually love him back, but he still couldn’t stop thinking about Maggie. He sometimes thought he would have given his arms too just to see her again.
The wheelchair with the one broken footrest was pushed into one corner of the room. As if it wasn’t enough that it was broken, they had to also put it somewhere hard to reach. Adam supposed he could have asked Leo to bring it over to him, but there wasn’t really anywhere to go. He had already made the rounds on the floor yesterday and it had been more frightening than anything else. He wondered how much longer he was going to be stuck in this awful place.
As if on cue, Dr. Richman walked in at that moment, wheeling in Adam’s regular chair. On the seat of the chair was a fresh set of clothes that Adam’s mother had brought him the other day. “What’s this?” Adam asked, trying not to get his hopes up.
Richman frowned. “I had a long talk with a Miss McConnelly today,” he said. “It seems that while your story is somewhat bizarre, you’re in fact telling the truth. I’m sorry for not believing you.”
Adam’s head was spinning. Miss McConnelly? Maggie had been here? “Yeah?” he said guardedly.
“We’re writing up your discharge papers,” Richman said. “But I suggest that after you’re released from here, you straight to the police.”
It was no use telling him that Adam had already tried the police and found that they were useless. “Thanks,” Adam said.
“Miss McConnelly will help you get home,” Richman added.
Adam’s mouth fell open. “What?”
“She’s outside,” Richman said. “She agreed to help you get to a taxi and back home. Some of the medications we’ve given you have probably made you drowsy.”
Adam couldn’t believe his ears. Maggie was actually here. She was outside and they were going to see each other imminently.
Ever since the accident, Adam never got that butterflies in the stomach feeling anymore when he was nervous. But he felt a little queasy at the idea of seeing Maggie McConnelly again. As much as he had wanted to see her again, he was terrified of her seeing him, especially like this. After all, he was in a psychiatric inpatient unit, for god’s sake—it wasn’t exactly his finest moment. He hadn’t had the opportunity to bathe or shave in a few days, his hair was probably standing in all directions, and he felt like he had circles under his eyes.
But all that was dwarfed by the fact that Maggie had not yet seen him in a wheelchair. She didn’t know the Adam who couldn’t walk, who needed help just to get up a couple of stairs. She knew the Adam who dated a different girl each week, who danced well when forced, who was ready to jump off a cliff for a chance at a date with Maggie. She was used to him being four inches taller than she was, bending his head slightly when he tried to kiss her.
Adam got dressed, but he took his time. He knew Maggie was waiting, which was why he was prolonging this as much as possible. Right now, Maggie didn’t know him as a disabled person. Soon, that would change.
Leo watched him get ready. “Wow, man,” he commented. “I can’t believe you gotta go through all that every day.”
Adam shrugged. “I’m used to it,” he said. He wheeled himself into the bathroom. The mirror was just low enough for him to see his face. How different do I look? he wondered. He still looked very young, but he obviously was no high school kid anymore. There was a good stubble on his chin that would have taken him months to grow in high school, but this place never would have given him a razor to let him shave it off.
“You looked like you’re getting ready for a date,” Leo joked. “Is that hottie Brynne picking you up?”
“We broke up,” Adam said.
“Aw, I’m sorry, man,” Leo said. “Believe me, I’ve had girls dump me when they found out I was in this place.”
Adam looked down at his legs. This was the biggest difference of all. It was obvious, even with his pants on, how little muscle mass there remained in his legs. They looked like legs that hadn’t been walked on for a decade. He saw his foot was slightly rotated in the footrest and he bent down to straighten it out. Adam dreaded her reaction to seeing his legs. He considered taking a blanket from the bed to cover them, but that was just delaying the inevitable.
I can’t hide it from her, Adam thought, this is who I am now.
He looked up at his face in the mirror again. It was suddenly very obvious to him that he and Maggie would never be a couple. It was just never meant to be. But maybe she’d feel comfortable enough around him that they could be friends again someday. It was the best he could hope for.
As Maggie waited in the office of Dr. Richman, she considered making a break for it. After all, she had already helped Adam by telling them the truth, which was really what she had come here for. She had wanted to leave right away, but Dr. Richman was insistent that Adam couldn’t make it home alone. “We’ve got him on some very strong medications,” Richman had said.
Of course, Maggie had suspected that she’d wind up seeing Adam today. In a way, it was what she wanted. They both needed closure.
It chilled Maggie to think of what Roger had done to Adam. Had he intended to kill Adam or just his credibility? Either way, it was a frightening thought that their old friend Roger was capable of such a thing. Then again, the man she had spoken to on the phone, who had threatened to divulge her secret, was a different man than the one she had known ten years ago.
But Adam… he was the same. His voice was perhaps a notch deeper, but she could tell that what was inside hadn’t changed. He was still hesitant to do anything to hurt Roger, still lusting for Maggie, his high school love. But there was definitely something new. A bit of resignation perhaps?
Dr. Richman stuck his head into the office. “Miss McConnelly,” he said. “Mr. Harding is ready.”
Maggie shifted in her seat and the small chair creaked threateningly under her weight. She held onto the armrests to push herself into a standing position. She ran a hand nervously through her cropped hair and smoothed out her outfit, which consisted of a black blouse and pants. She had tried on several outfits beforehand, searching for the one that would appear the most slimming. Nothing really helped all that much, but she had finally settled on her current attire. It didn’t really matter—she was certain that Adam would take one look and that would be the end of it.
Richman led her out of his office and into the hallway. Before Richman said a word, Maggie saw the wheelchair and her heart skipped a beat. That was him. That was Adam.
As she drew closer, she could see the features of his face more clearly. God, he looked just the same as he did back then. Hair a little shorter and that stubble across his chin was unfamiliar, but he had the same dark eyes and the same easy smile.
Her eyes lowered to his legs, motionless and positioned carefully in the footrests. It had been eleven years since he had last walked. She watched him move the chair with ease that surprised her—the chair turned itself with barely a flick of his wrist. She supposed he had a lot of practice with the chair, since it was the only way he could get around now. As much as he looked the same, Adam really was a different person now.
Maggie felt her eyes filling with tears. The more she looked at him, the more she realized that she was still in love with him. But it was too damn late for that.
“You can take him out now,” Richman told her.
She walked towards him. Adam was looking right at her, but she could see he didn’t recognize her. He smiled politely in her direction and even when he took the handles of his chair and began wheeling him, he simply threw a casual thanks over his shoulder. He probably thought she was a nurse. Anyone but his precious Maggie.
Richman waited by the exit to the psychiatric unit to unlock the door. As Maggie pushed Adam out the door, the doctor said, “Good luck, Mr. Harding. It was good meeting you, Miss McConnelly.” Maggie’s breath caught in her throat. At the mention of her name, Adam’s eyes widened and he looked around excitedly. He scanned the lobby without success. Finally, he craned his neck to get a better look at the woman pushing his chair. Maggie watched as the recognition dawned in his eyes. His jaw fell open. “Maggie?”
Adam stared at her, speechless. She came around to the front of his chair so that he could get a better look. She could see in his eyes that he wasn’t looking at her the way he used to. He was looking at her the way everyone else did. Only it was worse, because it was Adam.
“Maggie, why didn’t you tell me that you… you…”
“Why do you think?”
Adam lowered his eyes. “You could have told me,” he said quietly.
They shared an awkward silence, and all the while Adam avoided looking at her. It was something she was used to, but not from Adam.
Finally, Maggie folded her arms across her belly. “Do you want me to get you a cab?” she offered. “I won’t get in with you. I’ll just… get the cab and we’ll go our separate ways, okay?”
Adam took a deep breath. “Yeah. Okay.”
Until that moment, Maggie didn’t realize she still had hope. She had been hoping that Adam might surprise her. Maybe he would look through the extra 200 pounds and still see the girl had had fallen for back in high school. But it was very obvious now that this wasn’t the case. Adam was just like everyone else, legs or no legs.
She hailed the cab for him. He wheeled himself outside to join her, but they didn’t speak. The cab came and the driver stepped outside to help him get inside.
“Well,” Maggie said, “it was good seeing you again, Adam.”
It was his last chance. Last chance to say, “Maggie, wait! I still love you!” But he didn’t say it. He simply nodded at her. “Likewise,” he said.
Maggie blinked back tears. She reached deep into her pocket and pulled out the bracelet that Adam had given her way back when, the one that Roger had saved all these years. She remembered that Roger wouldn’t let her give it back to him. Maggie, if you give him back this bracelet, it will kill him. She held the bracelet out to him now. “Here,” she said. “This is yours.”
Adam took the bracelet and he saw the recognition in his eyes. He read the inscription he had written to her, back when she was the hottest girl in high school. To my dearest Maggie. Love Adam. “Okay, thanks,” he said quietly.
Some people just aren’t meant to have happy endings.
That was not Maggie McConnelly, Adam thought to himself as the taxi took him back to his apartment. That was not that girl I fantasized about for half my life. No friggin way.
But it was Maggie. It was obviously Maggie. He could see the remnants of the old Maggie in her nose, lips, and even in her cropped hair. And especially in her eyes.
Adam leaned back in the uncomfortable plastic-covered seat of the cab. He looked down at the bracelet, still in his hand, and he bit his lip hard. He had given this bracelet to Maggie the last time he had seen her. He had still been able to walk and she was still beautiful. He had saved up for months for this bracelet because he wanted her to know how much he loved her. He had pictured her happiness on receiving this gift, leaning forward and pressing her lips against his…
Adam looked down and saw that there was a bulge in his pants. His first hard-on in weeks. That Maggie. Goddamn her, she did it to him every time.
He still loved her. He still wanted her. At 100 pounds or 300 pounds, it didn’t matter.
God, he wanted her.
Slowly, it dawned on Adam what he had just done. Maggie had come to rescue him and he had done exactly what she had been afraid he would do. He rejected her. After all these years, she had given him one shot and he had fucking blown it.
To be continued....