Ann was feeling much improved by the time she returned home from the hospital, so much so that she considered turning around and driving back. She knew Joel wouldn’t let her stay though, so she decided to stay home and take a nap.
As it turned out, she was more tired than she had thought and she slept well into the late afternoon. She rummaged through her kitchen, looking for some snack food to tide her over till she felt ready for dinner. She took a slice of whole wheat bread and spread some whipped butter over it. The snack didn’t look like the most appetizing thing in the world, but she wasn’t about to eat dinner at four in the afternoon.
After her snack, Ann decided to go outside and check the mail. She changed into shorts and a T-shirt and skipped down the stairs to the apartment mailboxes. Every time she went down a flight of stairs these days, she couldn’t help but think how difficult it was for Joel to accomplish the same task. He’d never be able to come visit her in her apartment.
Most of the mail was the usual junk, but one letter caught Ann’s eye: it was from the National Board of Medical Examiners. It was the result of the board exam she had taken last month.
Every medical student must pass a series of three board exams in order to qualify for a medical license. The first of these exams, called Step 1, was usually given between second and third year and Ann had taken it just prior to starting her third year. The exam was seven hours long and had a relatively high failure rate, so it was a source of large amounts of stress amongst medical students. A failure meant that the student would have to withdraw from their hospital clerkships until passing the exam. Furthermore, this score would be one of the most important things that residency programs looked at when she would be applying for a surgery position in two years.
This is it, Ann thought, as she opened up the envelope.
The score didn’t register with her immediately. She saw the black words reading “FAIL”, but she couldn’t absorb it. She felt her knees go weak and she thought she might throw up.
Tears rose in Ann’s eyes and she swallowed hard to suppress them. She didn’t want to cry here, in the middle of the mailroom. Clutching the envelope in her hand, she hurried back upstairs to her apartment to cry in peace.
Ann had never felt so awful in her entire life. Failing this exam was a really big deal. It would mean she’d have to withdraw from third year of med school while she studied to retake the exam. And if she failed again, she might be asked to leave the class. It was a thought too horrible to contemplate. And the truth was, even if she passed the next time around, a big FAIL would be stamped on every single one of her residency applications. She saw her dream of becoming a surgeon flying out the window.
She wanted to call someone, but she didn’t know who. She knew if she called her parents, they would chastise her for not studying enough. And the last thing she wanted to do was talk to one of her classmates who was celebrating their passing score.
Only one name popped into her mind: Joel.
Joel was feeling tired and left work early. He hoped he wasn’t catching Ann’s cold—the last thing he needed right now was to be sick. He had stopped for a haircut on the way home, which was always a somewhat painful experience. Even though he had been coming to the same barber shop for the past two years, they always looked at him like they didn’t know what to do with him. They could never seem to get the barber chair down low enough for him to make a comfortable transfer and he always ended up needing to be helped in and out of his wheelchair. One of these days, he was just going to get out a scissors and start cutting his own damn hair. It wasn’t like it was that hard to slice his hair off an inch from his skull.
When he got home, he ran into Mary, the girl who did his shopping and cleaning for him. She was putting away groceries in his kitchen when he came through the door. “Almost done, Dr. Dergan,” she said apologetically.
“It’s Joel,” he corrected her for the hundredth time.
“Yes, sir,” she said.
Mary put away the last box of dry cereal as Joel wheeled into the living room to look at his mail. Mary picked it up for him on the two days that she worked and she had taken to opening the envelopes for him. He didn’t need her to do that, but he had to admit it was easier that way. Still, he didn’t want her to think of him as an invalid who needed his mail opened for him.
“Dr. Dergan?” Mary approached him in the living room. Joel judged her to be about Ann’s age and quite attractive. “I was wondering if I could have a week off next month…”
“Sure,” Joel said. “Going on a vacation?”
“Getting married,” Mary said. He could hear the note of apology in her voice and it irked him. Mary had been working with him long enough that she had to be aware that he didn’t date or have relationships. He couldn’t even remember ever having company over in the entire span of the time she had been here. She probably felt sorry for him. At least she never tried to set him up.
“Well, congratulations, Mary,” he said. “Take as much time as you need, just let me know in advance.”
“Thank you, sir,” Mary said. Joel wished she’d call him by his first name already—she made him feel like he was an old man when she called him “sir.”
The phone rang and Mary said that she’d answer it. Joel continued to flip through his mail, taking an interest in the new issue of the New England Journal. He was surprised when Mary approached him, “Dr. Dergan, someone named Ann is on the phone. She sounds very upset.”
Joel frowned and wheeled over to the phone. He picked up the receiver between his thumb and his palm and pressed it against his ear. “Ann? What’s wrong?”
Ann’s voice came in short gasps, “I failed my board exam.” She burst into hysterical tears.
“Okay, calm down,” he said gently, although she was right to be upset. It wasn’t a good thing that she had failed that exam. It was one of the most important exams given during medical school. “Stop crying, it’s okay.”
“It’s not okay!” Ann sobbed. “How am I going to become a surgeon now?”
She had a point. “Do you want me to come over?” he asked her.
“No… too many stairs,” she said. He was glad she had warned him, rather than allowing him to drive over and be confronted with an impenetrable building.
“Do… do you want to come over here?”
“I don’t want to be a bother,” she sniffled.
“You’re not a bother,” he assured her. “Come over, okay? We’ll talk about this.”
Joel asked Mary to put some tea on. He didn’t like tea very much and wasn’t sure if Ann did, but it seemed like a reasonable offering to someone who was upset. Mary, on her part, looked very curious, but didn’t ask any questions. She left after she had poured two cups of hot water and dropped teabags in each of them.
Ann arrived about twenty minutes later. Her eyes were red and puffy and her hair looked like she had just been sleeping on it. “My career is over,” she announced.
Joel wheeled back to let her come into the apartment. She stumbled inside as if she had been drinking and walked over to his couch. She sat down and buried her face in her palms. Her shoulders shook as she cried quietly. Joel had no idea what to say to her. He thought about offering her the tea, but he didn’t think that was going to quite do it.
He transferred to the couch to be next to her. He tried to place his hand gently on her shoulder, but his lack of control over his fingers made it difficult. “Look,” he said, “you’ll take the test over again. It’s not a big deal.”
“What surgery program will take me now?” Ann challenged him. “This is what I’ve wanted for my whole life! I never cared about relationships, kids… this is everything to me. If I can’t become a surgeon, then…”
“Yeah, I know the feeling,” Joel muttered. “At least you still have a chance. I had no chance at all after I got injured.”
Ann wiped her eyes. “How did you deal with it?” she asked.
“I got very depressed for a while,” he said. “I mean, really depressed. But then I applied for a specialty that I could actually do.”
“Are you happy?”
He shrugged. “Sometimes. I’ll tell you, it wasn’t my lifetime goal to be a crippled internist.”
“That’s exactly what I am, Ann.” He took a deep breath. “I want to help you, Ann. I want this to happen for you.”
She lifted her red-rimmed eyes to look at him. Beneath her sadness, he could see how grateful she was to him for being here for her. He could see how badly she needed his comforting words.
Before Joel knew what was happening, Ann was kissing him again and he was letting her. Once again, he felt overcome with guilt. He promised her he’d help her become a surgeon and now she felt obligated to kiss him. He may as well have paid a prostitute.
“Ann, stop…” He pushed her away. “Look, you don’t have to… I mean, I know you feel grateful to me and all, but let’s not kid ourselves, okay?”
Joel was having trouble reading Ann’s expression. He wondered if he was crazy to be pushing her away. It had been six years since he had so much as kissed a woman and there was a good chance there’d be another six years or longer before he’d have a chance to do it again. He was in no position to be refusing advances from attractive girls. This was probably his only chance to get laid, short of actually paying someone.
Joel was reclining on the couch and he watched as Ann slid her hand up his shirt. He couldn’t feel it, but it turned him on to watch her touching him like that. He swallowed hard. He knew he didn’t have the willpower to tell her no a second time.
Ann began kissing him again. Her lips were so soft and sweet. As she mounted him, he wanted to run his hands all over her body, but he knew it would be awkward with the state of his fingers, so he simply pressed his wrists into her back, pulling her closer to him.
She went for his belt buckle and he stopped her this time. “Ann, I really don’t think it’s going to work,” he said.
She frowned at him.
“You know what happened last time…” he lowered his eyes. “I don’t think I can… look, I want to make sure you come out of this feeling satisfied.”
“I was satisfied last time,” Ann insisted.
He looked skeptical.
“I was,” she reiterated.
“I’m your attending, so you have to do what I say,” he said. “Now lie down.”
That got Ann to smile for the first time since she had arrived. She obediently lay down for him.
“Now take off your skirt and panties,” he told her.
She slid her cotton skirt and panties off, but kept her knees together. She looked at him expectantly.
“Now spread your legs,” he said.
It had been just as long since Joel had given oral sex to a girl as he had fucked one and he was slightly worried he might be rusty. He wasn’t nearly as good with his tongue as he had been with his hands, but he was determined to show Ann that he could please her. He supported himself on his elbows as he dipped his face into her warm, wet pussy. Ann’s breathing quickened. Her legs began to tremble and he felt her fingers grasping for his hair. She squeezed her legs together and for a second, Joel felt like he was being crushed, but then she eased up and let him continue.
He spent twenty minutes licking and caressing her with his tongue until she finally squealed and threw her head back. “Oh, Dr. Dergan!” she sighed.
He struggled back into a sitting position and wiped off his lips with the back of his forearm. Ann was drenched in sweat and shaking her head, “Wow… wow… my god…”
“You’re acting like that was your first orgasm,” he laughed.
Ann opened her blue eyes. “It was.”
Joel nearly choked. “What?”
She shrugged and smiled, “Well, I’m not very… experienced.”
He suddenly had a really bad feeling. “What do you mean, not very experienced?” He stared at her, a realization dawning on him. “You’re not a virgin, are you?”
Ann nodded slowly.
“Oh god,” Joel muttered. “I can’t fucking believe this…” He reached for his wheelchair to try to transfer back in. If he hadn’t felt like a dirty old man before, he definitely felt like one now. How could Ann be a virgin? She was young, but not a kid by any means. He had lost his virginity many times over by her age.
“Don’t get freaked out,” Ann said. “I was just really never into relationships. I was too focused on getting into med school. And then on studying…”
“Oh god…” he said again.
“What are you so upset about?” she said. “You should feel happy that you gave me my first orgasm.” She touched his arm. “I am.”
She had a point there. The whole thing would be easier to swallow if he weren’t her attending. That made everything they did seem morally reprehensible. But he was going to drive himself crazy if he kept thinking about this. What was done was done and he couldn’t do anything to take it back.
“You hungry?” he asked Ann, forcing a smile. “I feel like Chinese food.”
To be continued...