“Hey man, it’s already been two days, are you going to continue to be an ass until she gets back tomorrow?“, Jake jokes with me.
“Just focus on your own workout and I will focus on mine”, I smirk back at him.
“I don’t know what you’re sour about? she’s called you like four times a day since she left, she’s obviously thinking about you...a lot!“, Jake reminds me.
“She’s only calling that many times to make sure I’m not doing anything stupid like I did last time she was gone”.
“Do you honestly think that mate?“, he asks me in a more serious tone.
“I don’t know what to think! I kissed her then she pulled away”, I confess to him.
Why am I so stupid to think that she would feel the same way I do? I think to myself. How could we even have a relationship? What if I can never walk again or go back to acting again... what then? She pushes me around in a wheelchair spending all her time trying to fix me. I can’t even take one step without her holding on to me...
"Fuck!“, I accidentally blurt out and throw my crutch to the floor.
“Calm down man! You’re thinking about this all wrong”, Jake points out.
“Enlighten me please”, I sarcastically plead.
Jake shakes his head at me then explains with complete confidence in his voice,
" I’ve known Charlie a bit longer than you, the way she is with you is different than how she is with me or anyone else. She is the most kindhearted person I know, and she never gives up on any of us, she wants all of us to succeed. But when it comes to you, it’s more than that. You make her go crazy with worry, you make her laugh and cry, she smiles every time she’s with you.... she brings out the best in you when no one else can”.
“She feels something for you... and it’s not pity, I know that’s what you’re thinking”, Jake tries to convince me one last time.
The rest of my day was really a blur and I found myself in bed early for the night. I didn’t get much sleep though. My mind awake most of the night trying to rationalize everything Jake said to me today.
Charlotte returned the next afternoon. She was smiling when she found me in the gym, but I could read the worry in her eyes when she looked at me.
" I’m ok Charlotte, I was actually nicer than usual to everyone while you were gone”, I try to amuse her.
“Oh, that’s good to hear! I thought I’d come back to hear that you made Sarah cry again from your cruel behavior”, she chuckles.
I’m relieved to see that we are still acting like our normal selves, bantering back and forth, and laughing. I was worried things would be awkward between us.
" I should help you get packed since we’re leaving tomorrow”, Charlotte reminds me.
She quickly goes from one bureau to the next then to the bathroom collecting things I might need. She hasn’t let me do anything, so I just sit on my bed and watch her run her fingers through her hair, looking around one more time to make sure she didn’t forget anything.
" Is this how stressful packing is supposed to look like?“, I tease her, but she just hisses back at me.
“What’s wrong Charlotte?”
“I’m nervous, that’s all”, she tells me.
I grab her wrist when she tries to walk past me.
“Stop, you didn’t forget anything, you packed everything I’m sure, now sit down and relax for a minute”, I command her.
She sits down next to me then takes a deep breath in followed by a long sigh.
“Sorry, I’m worried about not finding a dress when we get there”, she says softly.
I can’t help but start laughing, ” That’s what you’re worried about? A dress?”
Charlotte scowls and hits me on the shoulder.
" Not every girl is lucky enough to have their dress tailored to them by a famous designer”, she snips at me.
“Charlotte, you will look perfect in any dress”, I try to convince her.
She gets up off the bed, looks through my bag one more time then tells me she must go home and pack her things. This time things did feel awkward between us when we both paused and looked at each other, contemplating our next move. Charlotte acted first and decided to just say goodbye and she’ll see me in the morning. Wow, I really screwed up that moment! I think to myself.
The next morning, Nate brought his car around the back side of the building, hoping the photographers out front won’t spot us when he brings us to the airport. Charlotte gives me a baseball cap to wear, hoping it will help hide my face. She puts both leg braces on my legs but only locks the left one straight. I wish the cap would hide my face better because Charlotte catches me wince in pain and instinctively reach towards my left leg.
I’ve learned that my left side spasms become more frequent when I work those muscles too much or when I’m overly anxious. This morning I’m extremely anxious. How is she going to get all our luggage and me around the airport? I know we are flying first class, but It’s still going to be difficult for me to get onto the plane, and anyone who recognizes me will be snapping photos of it all.
“Hey, everything will be fine, remember?“, she says to me as she unlocks my leg brace and starts moving my leg around, massaging my muscles, before locking my brace again.
Nate already has my wheelchair in the car, so Charlotte puts my left arm around her shoulder, wraps her arm around my waist and stands me up with her. I wince again and exhale when I stand causing her to look up at me with concern.
" I’ll be fine, let’s just walk it off”, I reassure her, then grab my right crutch so we can walk to the car.
Logan Airport is crowded when we arrive. Nate checks in our bags curb side while Charlotte helps me out of the car and into my chair. I hang on to my crutch as Charlotte pushes me to the security check in. We get priority check in but since I’m in a wheelchair, security pulls me aside and searches every part of me and my chair like I’m a terrorist. It was completely embarrassing and attracted too much attention for my identity to go unnoticed by strangers claiming to be my fans.
“Let’s just get to our gate”, I groan at Charlotte who looks just as embarrassed for me.
Charlotte grabs my left hand and pulls me to wheel next to her as we make our way to the gate. I don’t want to make the boarding process more of a problem so I ask Charlotte if we can have the flight attendant check in my wheelchair and we can walk onto the plane together. She happily agreed with my suggestion and the flight attendant allowed us to be the first ones to board.
Our 6-hour flight to London went by quick. We both watched a few movies, listened to music, and took a short nap.
My mate Andy picked us up when we landed and took us to my flat.
" Andy’s girlfriend Kate is going to bring you out dress shopping while I stay here with Andy”, I inform Charlotte.
“What about your tux? When are you going to get that?“, she asks me.
“Oh, Mark already has my tux, he’s bringing it over later”, I tell her.
“Of course, he is!“, she says slightly annoyed.
The gala was being held at the Waldorf, so Mark had a car pick us up. When we arrived, Charlotte and I checked into our adjoining rooms. I still need help, so I made sure our rooms are connected.
Charlotte helps me get into my tux and has me stand in front of her, holding on to her shoulders while she buttons my shirt.
When she reaches the top button, she pauses for a moment and looks up at me.
” Have you seen or spoken to anyone here besides Mark”, she quietly asks me.
“No, I’d rather wait for everyone to stare at me all at one time... get the humiliation over with in one shot”, I try to joke with her, so she doesn’t notice how much it bothers me.
She reaches up and cups my face in her hands and says, “Levi, people only stare because they’re afraid of what’s different or unknown to them. And if that’s all they want to do is stare, then stare back, make them feel uncomfortable. The ones who look at you just for a second are the ones who are fascinated with you... I mean, that’s why I’m always staring at you”, she smiles.
“You stare because you’re fascinated with me?“, I smirk at her.
" Of course, I am! You were just balancing with only one hand on my shoulder and you didn’t even realize it”, she beams at me.
“Shit! I was!“, I chuckle, a little too soon to celebrate as my left leg gives out and Charlotte quickly has her arms around my waist.
She finishes straightening out my tux and helps me in my chair before going to her room to dress.
Women take so long to get ready I complain to myself. But it’s worth the wait because as soon as Charlotte walked back into my room wearing a long silky blue dress that accentuated every part of her perfectly toned body, my mouth nearly dropped to the floor. I was breathless, she was beautiful!
“So how do I look”, she asks with a high-pitched voice, clearly nervous.
“You look stunning!” I tell her. It’s true, I don’t want to look away. Maybe I will just stare at her all night and won’t worry about who’s staring at me.
" Ready for this?“, I ask her, holding out my left hand for her to grab.
" No, I’m not ready for this”, she says.
” I’m not either”, I laugh as we head out towards the gala.
We arrived at the vast room, large glass chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Every round table covered by silky white cloth and decorated with gold silverware, red and white roses for the centerpiece. A large dance floor situated under the balcony which holds the live orchestra band.
Charlotte gasps in awe, like she’s never seen anything like this before. I squeeze her hand to try and ease her anxious thoughts.
“Levi!“, Mark yells from across the room.
All eyes turn to look at me. The entire cast from my last movie is here along with their significant others, the director, producer, and everyone else who’s important. They are all staring at me like I was afraid they would. I feel Charlotte squeeze my hand because she knows how I’m feeling at this moment. So, I do what Charlotte said and make my way over to the people who didn’t look at me like I was some alien and start up a conversation with them.
Turns out Charlotte was right. Mark, my producer and anyone who I was close to on the set treated me like I was me, they were curious and wanted to know how I was doing....and the others, well, I did my best to ignore them.
“Emma! Liam!” someone shouts.
I look over and see Emma and Liam walk through the door, arms linked together at the elbow. Of course, she’s with fucking Liam!
Everyone sat at the round tables for dinner. Mark and his girlfriend sat with us and he proceeded to inform everyone at our table about how wonderful Charlotte’s rehab center is and all the stuff they have there for me. Charlotte looks uncomfortably shy when all attention is focused on her, so I reached under the table and put my hand on her leg letting her know she’s doing fine.
Mark then changes the subject and starts talking about the movie and its release date. All the guys engage in Mark’s conversation. Thankfully, some of my co-stars’ girlfriends include Charlotte in a different conversation, otherwise she would just be sitting there feeling totally out of place.
After dinner everyone was dancing. Charlotte was up standing near the bar getting another glass of wine, and I was sitting alone at the table while everyone else hit the dance floor with their partner. A few songs later I was still alone watching everyone, and I felt myself getting angry the more I gazed at them all, gliding along the floor, me stuck in this stupid chair. Emma made sure to look my way every so often trying to provoke me with her body draped around Liam. I don’t know where Charlotte went, she wasn’t near the bar and I need her here with me before I lose my mind.
Just then I feel her face next to my ear, she’s in back of me, leans down and wraps her arms lightly around the front of my neck and whispers, ” Will you have this dance with me?”
Before I can answer, she moves in front of me and grabs both of my hands, pulling my wheelchair with her towards the dance floor.
“What are you doing?“, I growl at her.
“I don’t want to dance in my chair, it looks ridiculous “, I tell her.
“You’re going to stand and dance with me”, she says.
I pull my hands away from her and cross my arms when we stop at the edge of the dance floor and glare at her.
“I can’t, I will fall in front of everyone, I’m not wearing my braces”, I angrily whisper to her.
She leans down and takes my arms and wraps them around the back of her neck then looks straight into my eyes and asks, ” Do you trust me?
“Yes of course I do”, I say.
“Then dance with me! We got this”, she tells me.
My arms are tight around the back of her neck and her arms are tightly around my lower back as she stands me up. I hear a few loud gasps and look up to see that all eyes are on me.
" Everyone’s staring at us “, I inform Charlotte.
“Let them stare “, she says back.
We are still holding onto each other in a tight embrace.
” Step when I step”, she instructs me until we’ve made it a couple feet onto the dance floor.
She tightens her grip around my waist then takes my left arm off from her neck and brings it down so she can hold my hand in hers. My right arm holds tighter to the back of her shoulder, we are wrapped around each other carefully swaying our hips side to side. Making sure most of my weight stays on my right leg.
“See we’re dancing”, she says softly and smiles up at me.
I don’t say anything, I just see everyone looking at me, and picture myself falling.
“Just Breathe”, Charlotte whispers to me when she notices I’m holding my breath and beginning to shake a little.
“Levi, don’t look at them, only focus on me”, she says softly and holds me tighter.
We are in a dancing hold, and we are very slightly moving side to side, so I wouldn’t call this dancing, but it’s close enough. I put all my focus on Charlotte, forget about everyone else in the room and lean my head down to softly plant a small kiss on her neck then bury my face in her hair as we dance.
“You have no Idea what you do to me Charlotte”, I say so low into her hair, I’m not sure if she heard me.
Halfway through the second song I feel my legs start to shake.
“Charlotte!“, I frantically murmur.
She senses my worry and sits me back down into my chair. All eyes focused on me again like they are waiting for something bad to happen. Charlotte puts her hand on my cheek and moves my face so I can only see her.
“Let’s go back to the room”, she leans down and speaks into my ear.
She grabs my hand and leads us back to my room.
“I’m going to find you something to change into”, she says as she darts for my suitcase. When she starts to walk past me, I grab her arm and pull her down onto my lap, hold her face in my palm and crash my lips onto hers.
At first, she hesitates, but I press my lips harder to hers and she gives in, her lips taste sweet, and she caresses her tongue with mine. I brush my lips across her jawline then down to the base of her neck. I want her so badly it hurts.
She lifts my head, and her mouth catches mine again until she pulls away to catch her breath. When her green-blueish eyes meet mine, I can’t look away.
She starts unbuttoning my shirt then gets off my lap and pushes me back towards the bed. I wrap my arms around the back of her neck so I can stand, and she quickly detaches my belt and tugs my pants down to the floor. I sit down on the bed and pull her close so she’s standing between my legs and I unzip the back of her dress, letting it slowly slide off, revealing her perfect body.
Damn she’s so hot, standing so close to me wearing only her black lace panties! She’s seen me fully exposed before, but this is the first time I’ve seen her. Her flawless skin, her smooth flat stomach, the perfect shape of her small breasts.
I drag myself up onto the bed, so my back is leaning up against the headboard and watch her slowly climb on top of me, straddling her legs over mine. My right-hand steadies myself up, while my other hand grabs the back of her neck, pulling her closer to me to kiss her. The way her lips feel as she kisses me back, arouses a feeling deep inside me, making my need for her undeniable.
She pushes me back to lean on the headboard again, then leans her body into mine and slowly nips at my ear then softly kisses my neck. A shiver runs through my whole body as she moves her lips down to my collarbone. I caress her back with my fingers while she grazes hers down my stomach and stops just above my boxers. My whole body is shaking now, and my paranoia takes over.
I grab her hand before she pulls my briefs down.
“Charlotte, what if I can’t .... you know”, I say to her, my voice cracking.
She puts her finger on my lips, preventing me from saying any more then pulls off my boxers and takes me into her mouth. Her slow movements send a spark through my groin, I feel the flick of her tongue and the muscles in my thighs tighten.
“Fuck!” I gasp. I’m relieved everything works down there, and now my craving for her is getting physically painful.
I can’t wait any longer, so I reach down, pull her back up and roll her over so that I’m half on top of her now. I bring my right leg up and drape it over her hip, squeezing her closer to me and slide myself into her. She feels so soft, so warm as I move in and out of her, it’s intoxicating.
“If you only knew how you make me feel”, I moan.
We lay in bed after, her head resting on my chest and my arm around her back.
" Everything’s going to change now”, she says.
" Not everything, but some things”, I remind her.
For the first time in a long time, I feel like I can breathe again.