Watching the Wheels

This is the third of a trio of flash fiction stories I submitted to a flash magazine in 2014; it’s the longest of the bunch. Also, fair warning that this one is quite dark.

Day 766. Hard to believe it was two summers ago already. I grabbed under my thighs and swiveled my legs around to the edge of the bed. I knocked over my pink elephant alarm clock; the relic of a bygone era. It flashed three p.m. I had gotten lost in the same dream again.

I was running in the flowerbed out back; I sprinted so fast it felt like I was floating above the flowers. And then I was. I soared through the air, the breeze twirling my braided ponytail behind me and then it was done. Just like that.

There was my chair. Dad had put pink and purple tassels on the handles, glitter on the wheels. He didn’t understand I wasn’t fourteen anymore. I pushed myself off the bed and into the seat. I propelled myself in front of my makeup mirror – a tri-fold behemoth. Smudge marks covered the glass, as it hadn’t been cleaned since the accident. And who was going to do it; dad? Pickles, my little Cocker Spaniel, bounded into the room and leaped onto my lap. I scratched him under the chin since he seemed to take to that.

Thomas was coming over today and was going to take me to my first party. I looked in the mirror at my face; dad said I looked like my mother with my green eyes, little nose, except I had leftover acne scarring on one cheek. Nothing some foundation couldn’t handle.

Stuck to the mirror with a thin piece of tape was a picture of Thomas and I. Him with his dark features, the brown eyes, the almost invisible scar under his lip, the way his eyebrows came to a point and even in the picture, he favored the good leg and then me, standing.

5th grade, he and I had the same lunch. For days, I’d seen him looking at me from across the cafeteria. I thought he was cute, so I moved closer to him. He threw mashed potatoes at me. I was wearing a new dress, so I threw my chocolate milk at him – the whole carton, unopened.

Sitting in the principal’s office minutes later, waiting on the principal, he leaned into me and said, “My mom died.”

“I don’t have a mom,” I said.

I slipped my copy of Jane Eyre from the side of the seat. Half the cover was missing – probably buried with the dolls, socks and other random objects in Pickles’ Yard of Misfits. I couldn’t concentrate on the words, even though I’d read them a hundred times. I was nervous; I’d drank a beer once when I was twelve, well, I sipped it, well, okay, I spit it back out. Dad had left it on the counter to answer the door and I took my chance. I don’t know why. Maybe because he didn’t let me stay up for The Twilight Zone the night before or maybe because I’d gone on my period that day and he looked like he’d been depantsed in the isle of Wal-Mart searching for my “girly things,” as he’d called it.

A bath, shaved legs and a touch of primer, foundation, blush, brown mascara, black eyeliner, light pink lip balm and a spray of Into the Blue by Escada – okay, three sprays – and two hours later, I was ready for Thomas’ arrival.

There it was; his familiar honk, and then the maddeningly slow descent down the stairs, dad helped to fold my chair into the back of Thomas’ 2002 Honda Civic, gave him an awkward half-hug, and finally, we were alone. I imagined if I could, my feet would be tapping right then. I kept looking from him, with his fierce brown eyes on the road ahead to my new white high heels with the ankle straps.

I noticed his lip looked swollen.

“What happened, Thomas?” I offered.

“Nothing,” he said, and he kept staring ahead.

“Your dad again,” I started.

“Lily,” he said, finally turning his brown eyes on me. I looked back down at my heels.

Before we had even parked, I could hear fun.’s “We Are Young” playing from inside the house. Some hairy guy wearing only Spongebob boxers caught a Frisbee on the hood of Thomas’ Civic. It was Travis. He saw us, looked backed to everyone else.

“Hey guys! It’s Limp Dick Thomas and Wheelie Lily!” he said, to hooting and hollering.

Thomas started to get out, his fist clenched, but I grabbed his arm.

After getting into my wheelchair, Thomas offered me a Miller Lite. He had Corona. I sipped it, not bad. He noticed a gravel path that led beyond the backyard of the house.

“Want to get away from this noise?” he asked. “Sure,” I said, unable to hide my smile afterwards.

He pushed me under a vast White Oak tree. By then, the sun was but a withering ball of fire in the distant horizon. Thomas crouched on a stump next to me.

“About those guys, it’s okay, really, they don’t know about your … accident,” I started.

“You in that chair, my leg, things were supposed to be different,” he said, standing on the good leg, ignoring me. “We were supposed to be different.”

The nape of my neck turned cold. Thomas’s normally soft eyes looked beyond me.

He put his beer can down, inched closer to my face, brushing his lips against mine. I flinched.

And then he was shoving me to the ground, out of the chair, ripping off my skirt. In that moment, I noticed one of Pickle’s treats had ended up in my pocket and had fallen to the grass. Pickles. With her stupid little tail.

I could feel his breath on my neck, as he thrust and thrust.

“You’re just a cripple now,” he said.

Then it was done. And he was gone. I lay there, unable to move, blood running down my leg, and watched, as oddly, the one wheel on my overturned wheelchair was still turning and turning.

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