Long after Abby had gone, Steven replayed her visit in his mind. She’d come bearing coffee and muffins. They’d spent a few hours in the garden, and they’d had the talk he swore he’d never have with another woman, wrapped in the pretense of a non-date because that was exponentially safer than addressing the upcoming event for what it was.
She said she’ll go!
She’ll go out.
On a non-date.
Steven giggled in excitement. I am such a girl!
But he couldn’t squash the hope that one day it could be something more.
Maddie arrived after the shift change to assist Steven onto his side. “Hey Sweetie! What’s got you so happy tonight?”
Steven wasn’t ready to divulge his little secret, not even to his closest friend. “No reason.”
“You can’t hide anything from me, mister.”
Steven sighed wiping his hand across his face. It was impossible to keep a secret from Maddie, but, if Steven told her, his parents would know, and Steven wanted to bask in the excitement of the moment, before everyone was talking about it—and his family would be talking about it.
“Promise you won’t tell anyone?”
“Cross my heart, hun.” Steven reached across his chest to grab side rail as Maddie pulled him toward her with the draw sheet.
“You can’t tell Sophie…or Logan.”
“I may or may not be going out, tomorrow.”
“Oh that’s nice, dear.” Maddie picked up a pillow and gently put it between Steven’s knees.
“With a girl.”
Maddie’s voice perked up. “Do I know her?”
“Mmhmm.” Maddie set the pillow that always got tucked behind Steven’s back onto the foot of the bed and she pulled a chair over. Steven relished the opportunity to hold himself up while his friend was momentarily distracted, even a few weeks ago, he’d have toppled forward into the railing, if he wasn’t padded.
“Do you remember Abby Harris?”
Maddie covered her mouth with her hands. “Oh, she’s such a sweet girl; she’s perfect for you!”
Maddie’s expression confirmed Steven’s fear that one of his oldest and closest friends was envisioning weddings and babies and everything else. I need to nip that in the bud right away.
“Hey, it’s just a little bowling. Nothing romantic. You know I don’t date.” Maddie returned to busying herself, but Steven could see the smirk on her face.
“I’m happy you’ve made a new friend, hun. She’s a nice girl. You call it whatever you like, but I can tell you’re excited about getting out of here with her.”
Maddie straightened Steven’s blanket and reached up to pull the string on the fluorescent light above his head.
She patted Steven’s cheek. “It’s nice to see a smile on your face. I’ve missed that. Ring the buzzer if you need me.”
“See you in a few hours, Maddie.”
Sleep evaded Steven and for the first time in over fifteen years, he missed having the ability to toss and turn. He wasn’t comfortable but he refused to whine to Maddie about it because he knew, no matter what she did, no amount of repositioning would make the butterflies in Steven’s stomach go away.
At two a.m., Maddie came in and rolled Steven onto his back, propping and positioning him with the appropriate pillows. Once he was situated, she handed him a urinal and a straight catheter so he could empty his bladder before making herself busy with something on the other side of the room.
The strangest things came to Steven’s mind when sleep was evasive. Relieving himself should have been a simple function, and now, it was a simple as it could be. Steven thought back to when he first became disabled, how he’d get several rubber catheters a month—how he had to carry a tube of lubricant in his bag of tricks and rinse his catheter in the public restroom sink every time he needed to use the restroom. Steven was thankful someone finally decided it was simpler and more hygienic to have a new one each time—pre-packaged and portable. Medicine had come a long way over the years.
Maddie gathered the trash and discarded it, once Steven was comfortably tucked in, Maddie slipped away, leaving Steven, once again, to his own devices.
Steven sighed. He longed for the independence that was just outside his grasp. Sometimes it was demeaning to ask the staff for something as simple as providing another blanket, or adjusting his body so he could more easily sleep. Steven was relieved that it had been Maddie who chose to check in on him, when typically it would have been an aide turning him and fluffing. Steven knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that she cared for him with love.
At three, Steven was still awake. He’d counted the little holes in the ceiling tiles above his bed; every tick of the clock on the wall grew louder and louder. Steven’s thoughts skittered all over the place, and he found it impossible to rein them in. Will I appear too needy? What if she decides this is all too much? What if she changes her mind? Never in his life had a girl had Steven so unnerved. He perked up each time he heard footsteps in the corridor, hoping someone would pop in and interrupt the errant racing of his mind.
At four a.m., Steven pushed the call bell. He needed to get some sleep, and it was obvious he couldn’t accomplish that on his own.
It was his old friend that came rushing through the door. Maddie threw on the overhead light and bombarded Steven with questions about whatever might cause him to ring his bell in the middle of the night.
Steven sighed. “I can’t sleep. I can’t get comfortable.”
She smoothed his hair, “Do you need repositioned? How can I help Steven? Where does it hurt?”
“No, it’s nothing physical… it’s just, the date… but it’s not really a date… and I don’t know how I’m supposed to act or feel. While we both agreed we don’t date… it’s a date… and I’m just… so… tired. Please help me?”
She smiled. “You’ve really gotten yourself worked up. Why didn’t you say something sooner? I’d have brought you something to help you sleep. It’s a little late for that, you’ll sleep right through your,” she cleared her throat, “what did you call it? A non-date?”
“I have tried everything to distract myself. I’ve counted sheep and the ceiling tiles, I’ve even come up with the outline to a sensitivity training for the nursing staff to attend.” Maddie shook her head and chuckled.
She clicked the mouse a few times as she browsed Steven’s digital chart. “There’s an order here for something to help with anxiety. All these doctors would rather leave an order for anti-anxiety meds and sleeping pills in every chart rather than be awakened in the middle of the night for a restless patient. I swear they teach you that in medical school.”
“They do and that’s exactly what they tell you.” Steven laughed. “I could give you an order if there’s not one in my chart. I do have privileges at this hospital, you know.” “You know that’s not permissible. You can’t treat yourself. I’ll see what I can do.”
Maddie disappeared, but soon returned, carrying the typical paper pill cup and a drink. “Here, this should let you calm down and make you a little drowsy without you feeling all hung over in a few hours.”
Steven swallowed the tiny white pill and took a deep breath. Maddie leaned him ahead and fluffed his pillow. She tidied up the blankets, but then she put her hands on her hips, surveying her patient.
“I don’t want to disrupt you, but let’s get you rolled onto your side, that way I’m not in here jostling you about in an hour. I wasn’t even thinking, but if you’re trying to go to sleep, I don’t want to wake you so soon. Would you like the urinal again?”
“Probably not a terrible idea.”
Ever so gently, Maddie helped Steven reposition, once again he was tucked in comfortably and a sense of calm washed over him. “Sweet dreams, Steven. Have a wonderful day tomorrow. Don’t over think it, just have fun. Please give Miss Abby my best.”
“Thanks, I will, Maddie. Have a wonderful day off.”
Maddie let out a snort as she turned for the door. “Yeah, sure. I’m going to go home and sleep, and then I have to be back at seven tomorrow night.” Without another word, she was gone.
Steven took a few deep cleansing breaths and closed his eyes, he walked himself through the relaxation techniques his massage therapist taught him years before, picturing each limb as it relaxed and grew heavy. Steven started the process with his feet, and by the time he got to his hands, he was drifting off to some far away land.
Steven awoke to a hand gently shaking his shoulder, a timid voice calling his name. Steven’s eyes slowly opened, an unfamiliar face coming into focus. The girl was young—fresh out of college young—and she appeared a little unsure of herself. The girl was thin and gangly, with dirty blonde hair and a pretty face.
“Good morning, Dr. Chandler, I’m Joanna. I’m here to help you start your day.” She held out her hand, the hint of a smile on her lips.
Steven wiped his mouth, suspecting there was a thread of drool that stretched from his face to the pillow. He wiped his hand on a tissue and shook his head. “I don’t think you want to shake my hand right now. Nice to meet you Joanna. Please, call me Steven. Dr. Chandler is my uncle.”
“Nice to meet you, Steven. They said in report that you had some anxiety meds in the middle of the night. How are you feeling, now? Why were you anxious?” Steven didn’t want her to be concerned or suspect he’d had some sort of episode that might cause him to be stuck inside when he was so excited about going out.
“I was just having a restless night, I couldn’t get comfortable and by the time I realized I needed help getting to sleep, it was really too late to take a heavy sleeping pill. I have a big day planned today and I guess I was sort of nervous.”
“Did you get some sleep, then?”
Oh, I slept. Like a rock.
“Actually yeah, I feel well rested. I’m almost surprised, it was so late when I finally crashed.”
“Good! I know you get a bed bath, do you have any special routine?”
“Well, if you get me the urinal and a catheter, I can take care of my bladder care. I took care of my bowel plan yesterday so I won’t do that again for two more days. Other than that I don’t really have a schedule.” Steven counted on his fingers. “Recuperating for five months really has had a way of messing up any other schedule I had.”
“I can imagine it would. Let me go grab everything and we’ll get you going.” Joanna returned with the supplies Steven needed, pulling and positioning him until he was comfortably situated.
“There you go, is there anything else you need me to do? I don’t want to be pushy, but if you need anything, just let me know what you need.”
“If you could just hand me a blue pad for under the urinal, I’ll be fine.”
As Steven finished bathing, Joanna stood at his small closet comparing long-sleeved pullovers. Do you want one of these? It’s fairly warm outside today, you could get away with a light jacket.”
“I like the Henley, it’s the dressiest thing I have at my immediate disposal. We’re just going bowling, but I’ll feel underdressed taking a young lady out wearing basketball shorts. I try not to be defeatist, but on days like today I miss the luxury of a warm shower. I miss having the option of wearing what I’d like to in lieu of what is practical.”
Joanna smiled. “I can appreciate that. It’s not defeatist. We take too many things for granted—I can’t imagine going—how long did you say you’ve been recuperating?”
Steven sighed. “Months, and when I finally get in there, they’re going to have to drag me out, kicking and screaming.”
Joanna laughed. “I’m sorry I can’t help you with the satisfaction of a shower, but I can offer you a pair of pants.” She held up the pants Sydney gifted Steven at Christmas.
“I forgot about those! The amount of Velcro seems a little intimidating; I imagine it will take some amount of effort to get me into them. Do you think we can do it?”
“If you don’t mind me wrestling you around a bit, we can get you into them. They look nice.” The fabric was distressed and the pants looked well worn, comfortable. No one would know they were adaptive pants, and Steven wanted to look nice for Abby.
“Okay, let’s do it.” Joanna’s matter-of-fact attitude made Steven feel comfortable in her care. He was confident that she could tackle the task at hand.
In no time, not only was Steven dressed in street clothes, but he’d had a fresh shave—Joanna had even scared up a small bottle of cologne. “That smells nice. What did you do? Raid someone’s locker?”
“No, I did not! The ladies on the hospital auxiliary made up toiletry baskets and put them in all the staff lounges before Christmas. You never know when someone is going to need a little something.”
“Oh, that was really thoughtful.” Steven studied his reflection in the mirror and frowned. He picked up a comb and fought with his curls. It had been eons since his hair had been so long, he needed to add getting a haircut to his ever growing list of things he needed to tend to since he was becoming more self-sufficient.
“Thanks for helping me feel more like myself.”
“Before you go, would you mind looking in that closet for a beanie?”
“What do you need a beanie for? I told you it was warm outside.”
“Look at this hair; I can’t do anything with it.”
Joanna walked right past the closet and out of the room, when she returned she stepped behind Steven’s chair holding up a small tube. “A little product okay?”
“If it’ll help tame this mess into submission, I’m all for it.”
Joanna worked her fingers through Steven’s hair, then she ruffled his hair, stepping back to admire her work. Steven laughed when he saw her smile in the mirror. Joanna touched his shoulder and made a hissing sound. “There, now you have sex hair, just work it. You look hot.”
While it was true that she’d tamed the frizz, Steven’s curls were even more pronounced. “Good lord! I look like I belong in a boy band!”
When Steven bounced his head off his dressing table in mock frustration Joanna gasped. “Don’t do that, you’ll get a concussion and then you’ll have to go to the ER, instead of on your date.”
“I never said it was a date!”
“You lamented taking a young lady out in basketball shorts. I’m sorry if I assumed.”
“Don’t apologize. It’s not supposed to be a date. Just a couple of friends spending the afternoon together.”
Joanna leaned against the radiator, “So, where you goin’?”
“Just down the street to the bowling alley. There’s one on Broadway. It’s only a few blocks away.” The city was ever evolving, so Steven had called the establishment before asking Abby, just to ensure they were at the same location.
“I’ve been there. Do you use the ramps?”
“Yeah, a few of us would go over there after work to unwind. We’d have a few beers, eat a burger. I like bowling there, not everyone has the ramps, but they do. I don’t use the bumpers, I want to win on my own merit. When I have my personal chair, I can shoot pool and throw darts. Won’t be able to do that this time, but it’ll still be fun. I’m usually able to pull in behind the ramp and line up my shot, should be interesting today, with my legs sticking out like this, I’ll have to do everything from the side.”
“I’m sure you’re up for the challenge. I need to keep moving, is there anything else you needed? Breakfast should be here any minute.”
“No, I’m good. Thanks for everything. It was nice meeting you, Joanna.”
“Likewise Steven. See ya ’round.” She gave a little wave as she bounced out the door.
Steven looked at the clock and groaned. He had four hours to burn before Abby arrived. He opened my bedside table and took out his wallet. Sophie brought him a stash of mad money every Monday when she did her banking, just a few bucks to buy the occasional magazine or cover the cost of takeout if he was alone for the evening.
It would be a real gas if they made it all the way to the bowling alley, only to discover an empty wallet. He never kept more than fifty bucks. The staff was honest and Steven trusted their integrity, but he had no reason to have much cash. He thumbed through the bills. Two twenties and a few single ones—more than enough to pay for a few games and the rental on Abby’s shoes. Pizza or wings would be a welcome indulgence for Steven if Abby was game.
Steven opened his mirror and ran his fingers through his crazy hair. Joanna say’s you’re hot, buddy, lets hope Abby thinks so too.
Steven rolled down to the nurse’s station to see if anyone was taking a break, a few hours in the garden might be just what he needed to sooth his soul. April Clark was writing chart notes. The charge nurse was an old battle axe who would do everyone a favor when she finally retired. There was no way Steven was asking her to join him on the roof. With a sigh, he turned and rolled himself to the fourth floor waiting room.
The food cart clattered past—Steven had only ordered a muffin and a can of juice, but neither was a favorite, just something to fill the hole while he waited, but his stomach was full of butterflies. Breakfast would wait.
Steven recognized the young couple who sat in the corner of the room, she was hugely pregnant. He held a pair of crutches and wore a large brace on his knee. The guy was the Huskie’s quarterback, he’d taken a hard hit during the fall and his knee had been trashed. Vance Harrison had done the reconstruction on it. Harrison was a jerk, but he was skilled at what he did. Steven had been shocked when he’d learned about his behavior when it had been Steven on the table.
An older couple sat at a round table working a jigsaw with a young girl who sat wearing a SOMI brace; a Sternal Occipital Mandibular Immobilizer. The device would keep her neck and spine aligned while protecting her body from further injury as she healed. The girl had acquired a cervical cord injury in an auto accident several weeks before. They’d conversed a few times in the gym. She had broken vertebrae in her neck, but the SOMI would prevent further permanent damage.
The room filled up when a large family came in, visibly upset and congregating in the center of the room where two large couches faced one another. Not wanting to intrude on someone’s private pain, Steven slipped out of the room and made his way back to his room.
It was nine a.m. and Steven’s tray had come and gone. In its place was a bottle of chocolate milk chilling in a large cup of ice and one of the huge brownies they served in the cafeteria. Steven smiled when he spied the napkin that bore a hastily scribbled note. “Don’t overthink it, Steven! Have fun! Maddie.”
Comfort food that hit the spot!
Steven thought back, with a smile, to the night before Christmas when his friend went all the way to the cafeteria to get milk for his cookies. The girl was one of his closest friends and he cherished her existence in his life. Maddie was a nurturing soul—she was nearly fifty and he wondered briefly if she and Quinn had ever entertained having kids—maybe there was an organic reason they’d never reared their own brood, or perhaps like so many of their co-workers put career ahead of family. They’d never discussed it and he’d never be so forward to ask, but it wasn’t lost on Steven that his friend would have made a wonderful mother.
Steven picked up a medical journal that his uncle had dropped off; inside its covers an article comparing the advantages of cord blood over the use of adult stem cells; there was another article discussing the introduction of menstrual blood into stem cell research. Preliminary findings were favorable; the hope that it held more promise than any other adult stem cell for regeneration.
Steven sat with the journal on his lap for more than an hour, he couldn’t seem to make heads, nor tails, of the information. Typically, Steven would have found such prospects exciting, but as he wait for Abby to arrive, his thoughts skittered everywhere but, and he threw the journal down in frustration.
Steven shoved his earbuds into his head and pulled up a meditation album on his iPod. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes, shutting out the rest of the world.
He smelled her perfume before her hand shook his shoulder and he smiled, without opening his eyes. “Abby,” he whispered. He felt her breath on his face, before she removed his earbuds.
He yawned loudly and stretched. Abby was wearing a turquoise sweater and a cropped denim jacket. She looked like Spring. “Hey.”
“You ready to get out of here?”
“Sure, hop on. I hope you’re not opposed to being on door detail, I’m sorry you have to get on and off so many times.”
“It’s ok, let’s go.”
Abby started laughing when she went around the back of the chair. “What did you do?”
“My buddy, Mac, designed it. It’s completely safe. Just flip the board down and step on. Keep a firm grip on my hand grips. If you need me to stop for and reason, just holler.”
Abby stepped onto the skateboard Mac had installed on the chair Steven was renting until his was replaced. She bounced up and down before leaning around Steven’s shoulder a broad smile on her face. “You did this for me?”
“I wanted you to feel secure, and I wanted you to be safe.”
“What a sweet thing to do. Thank you!”
Steven spun the chair in a circle and Abby squealed. She play-slapped his shoulder and they both laughed.
Steven carefully wound his way through the corridors, mindful of other patients, and of the precious cargo on the back of his chair.
Steven’s hands began to sweat when they arrived at the exit. The door opened automatically and they were assaulted by the sights and sounds of the city—sensory overload for someone who had not been outside the confines of the hospital in so many months. The chilly breeze, the smells of the food trucks, horns beeping, people talking. Steven froze.
His chest constricted and he let go of the joystick.
Cars barreled down Davenport Avenue in front of them.
I can’t do this.
While he’d been making his grand plans, it escaped Steven that he would be driving, unprotected, in traffic—with a passenger, no less.
What possessed me to think this was a good idea?
Abby sensed Steven’s hesitation and stepped directly in front of him. “What’s wrong? Steven?”
Steven swallowed, staring out at the busy street. He tried to find the words, but they just wouldn’t come.
Abby cleared her throat, not impatiently, but the sound was enough to keep Steven in the moment.
“I’m sorry; I don’t think I can do this.”
“Nonsense, Chandler. Do you intend to be a hermit the rest of your life?”
Steven shook his head. Apparently I didn’t think this through.
“So, come on, let’s go. Is there sidewalk the entire way?”
Steven stared off into the distance. Is there? He nodded. “Yes, I’m pretty sure there is. They were paving and installing curb cuts when I had my accident, although I imagine that’s all completed.”
“So we won’t be playing in traffic, as long as we use the crosswalks, we’ll be alright. I risk my life like this everyday.”
She was making light of it, Steven thought, and it was no joking matter, she was risking her life everyday. Do you have any idea how dangerous a busy street is for a person with a disability?
Abby rubbed Steven’s shoulder. “We all have to eventually face our demons, but you don’t have to do this alone.”
Steven nodded. I trust you Abby.
“Let’s not worry about the entire street. One curb at a time, Steven.” Abby held out her right hand and Steven grabbed it tightly. He looked once, twice, after the light changed—as the audible and visual signals prompted them to cross. He took a deep breath and held it as he inched out into the street. Steven’s heart beat against his ribs, his head throbbing in tandem.
When they were safely on the opposite sidewalk, Steven gasped for air; he let go of the joystick and slapped his palm to his chest.
Abby swiped her fingers across her damp cheeks. “You okay?”
“I think I will be.”
“I’m right here with you.”
“I know,” Steven replied. “Thank you.”
Abby stepped back up on the little platform Steven had installed on the back of his chair for Abby’s convenience. She gave his shoulder a squeeze and Steven began moving down Davenport, enjoying the newly poured sidewalks—the ride was smooth sailing. As he drove, Steven remembered that it hadn’t always been an easy ride—broken concrete, crossings with a cut on one side, a high curb on the opposite. There were times he’d have to traverse an entire block to access the street. Out of necessity, he often rode in the street.
I don’t know if I can do that again!
When they approached Vernon Street, Abby tapped Steven’s shoulder. When they slowed to a stop, she hopped from her perch and took his hand, once again. Steven gave her a squeeze and looked both ways before venturing into the intersection. Time stood still as they inched their way across. Steven’s mind screamed for him to go as fast as he could, to rush her out of harm’s way, but Abby grounded him and they crossed at her pace.
Coming upon Ward Street, Abby tapped him again, but Steven shook his head and continued on their way without stopping. Steven didn’t want Abby expending all her energy quelling his fears, when they had a fun afternoon planned.
The next time Steven stopped for a light, Abby grabbed his shoulders and gave them a squeeze. She leaned down and spoke firmly in his ear, “I’m proud of you Steven.” Steven’s face split into a smile as he pulled into the crosswalk. I’m kinda proud of me, too.
When they rounded the corner, the brightly colored façade of the bowling alley came into view; as they drew closer, bass from the sound system pounded and pulsed. Steven’s heart sped up. So much had happened since he’d done anything for pleasure.
Steven looked over his shoulder. “This is us, can you open the door?”
Abby hopped down, but instead of reaching for the handle, she hit a silver button and the double doors opened wide. “Well, that’s a big change,” Steven exclaimed. He wondered if other modifications had occurred since the last time he’d visited.
Steven made a mental note to acknowledge the change with the manager, but he wanted to investigate further. The staff had always been welcoming, they were the first place in town to offer ramps and bumpers for people in wheelchairs and they had put in a lowered section at the bar so you could roll right up to it to get your order. While the place wasn’t beautifully accessible, the bathrooms passed muster and the staff went out of their way to be kind, so Steven never complained.
When Steven offered to pay for their games and Abby’s shoes, his guest excused herself to the restroom. Her breath tickled his ear when she leaned in close and whispered. “I’ve got a tape measure in my purse, you want me to go check the restroom and see if it complies with ADA regs?”
Steven barked out a laugh. “Sure, let me know what you find!”
Abby returned with a wide grin on her face. “I love this place. You should see the restroom. It’s incredible. The grab bars are at a good height, the sink is accessible, and the baby change station doesn’t sit directly on the grab bar.” Abby had become an undercover accessibility inspector. That shit is cool.
Single fathers were the norm, in a way they’d never been before and as such, the changing table was a dilemma Steven faced in the men’s accessible stall, as well. “I’ll have to check out the men’s room, too.”
Steven led Abby to the lane where the attendant was placing the ramp. She turned to Steven and Abby with a smile. “Dr. Chandler, so nice to see you. Will you be using the bumpers today?”
Abby cocked her head, her eyes big. “Will we? I don’t know a thing about bowling.”
Steven smiled at the attendant. “We’ll start with the bumpers.”
“We need to set up our lane to get started; can you type our names into the computer?” Steven looked down at his outstretched legs and frowned. “I don’t think I can get close enough.” When Steven glanced up at the screen he couldn’t contain his smile; the attendant had entered CHANDLER into the computer, to indicate the lane when Steven had paid, but seeing Steven and Abby Chandler emblazoned across the huge screen filled Steven with a warmth he’d never experienced in his thirty-three years.
That warm fuzzy feeling turned into a chill at the frown on Abby’s face.
“Is everything ok? Did you pick a ball?” She looked down at her at the floor, her cheeks nearly as red as the hideous shoes on her feet. “What’s wrong, Abby?”
“I tried a couple, but I didn’t realize they were so heavy.”
“They have different weights, come on, we’ll pick together, I might need your help, too. Steven led the way to the back, examining the balls for something that was heavy enough to gain momentum coming off the ramp, but light enough for he or Abby to lift. He sighed, audibly, as he studied the choices, the weighed balls had been stored with no sense of order.
“Why don’t you get one for me first, I think I know what I want, I just need you to find it and set it on my lap.”
“Ok, what do I look for?”
“See that little number stamped on the ball? That’s the weight. If I were bowling without the ramp, I’d have you try to find one with the proper size finger holes as well, but that’s irrelevant for what I’m doing today. You’ll want yours to have the proper finger holes.”
“Gotcha. What size do you want?”
“First, open my backpack, there’s a small pillow in there. Can you hand that to me?” Steven placed it mid-thigh, so the ball would rest securely and not get away. “Now, I think I can handle about fifteen pounds. So just look for the number fifteen, when you find one, I’ll get close so you don’t have to carry it too far.”
Abby turned the ball carousel. She smiled and reached down to the bottom shelf. She made a grunting noise when she lifted the ball—Steven grunted when she dropped the black Brunswick onto his lap. Steven thanked God for pillows and fiberglass casts. The girl’s aim is perfect… if she intends to incapacitate me.
She blushed and giggled softly. “Sorry Steven.”
“Come on; let’s find one for you. Let’s start with an eight pounder? You have tiny hands, so you want one with smaller openings for your fingers. You want it snug, but not so tight that your fingers stick in the holes.”
Abby walked around from one rack to the next, eventually choosing a Columbia with a dark purple swirl. “Is this ok? The holes are a little big, but it’s the only eight that I could find.”
“You should be okay. Do you want to go first?” I asked her.
Abby’s eyes grew wide and she shook her head. “I’d rather wait.”
Steven approached the ramp, and lined up his shot. He was used to pulling up head on, with legs bent, maneuvering from the side posed a challenge. Steven moved round the device and lined up the front, he wasn’t trying to impress the girl, but a gutter ball on the first shot would be embarrassing, for sure.
Happy with his adjustments, Steven gave the ball a firm push. Steven returned to where Abby sat, offering his hand, but she batted it away, her eyes on the lane as the ball hit the pins. Six, with the four pins split. No chance of a spare, but Steven wasn’t there to show off.
The ball ejected from the return and Abby reached while it was moving. “Stop! Don’t ever do that!” Steven yelled.
Abby quickly backed up and turned away. He’d said the words sharply, out of concern for her safety and Steven immediately regretted his actions. I’m so out of my league.
“Abby, I’m sorry, come here. Please?” Abby shuffled to Steven without meeting his gaze. Steven grasped her hand and squeezed. He turned his palm up and with his left index finger traced the long scar that ran the length of his right ring finger.
“I’m not mad at you; I didn’t mean to react so harshly. See this?” She nodded her head, not speaking or making eye contact. “I used to work in a bowling alley when I was about fourteen, one night when we were hurrying to clean everything up, I reached in between two balls as one came up from the ball return, my finger got smashed between two balls and it split open from end to end. I didn’t want you to hurt yourself.”
She fingered the scar and traced it with her fingertip. “I understand. I’ve never done this before, perhaps you could explain before you freak out next time, ok?”
“Touché.” Steven reached over and lifted the ball onto his lap. The pillow was only so thick.
Steven’s next roll netted him two more pins.
Abby was bouncing from foot to foot. “Are you cold?”
“Don’t stress over this. It’s only a game.”
“Have you been watching? Do you understand what to do?”
“I’m afraid I’m going to fall on my ass.”
“The shoes are supposed to be slippery; you want to be able to slide in them.”
“I have been watching, but I’m not really sure I can do this.”
“Ok, first, pick up your ball. Are you right handed?” She nodded.
“So place your middle and ring finger of your right hand into the double hole at the top. Next place your thumb into the single hole.” When she was cradling the ball to her chest, Steven led her to the back of the approach. “When you start, you want to visualize the pins. Hold the ball up in front of your chest with both hands. When you’re ready, bring the ball down to your right side. You want to take four steps to the line. Step one—lead off with the back foot on the ball side. Push the ball straight in front of you until your arms are extended and level with the floor. Your opposite hand should be helping to support the ball in front of you.”
“Okay, anything else?”
“Yes, step two—swing the ball straight back. Step three—swing the ball forward. Your last step is your ball release. You want your feet to slide forward, your left foot will be behind you. Do you think you’ve got it?”
She looked baffled. “Can’t I just push it down your ramp? I feel like I’ve got the handicap here, pardon the pun. It looks like I have to do all the work.”
“I have the ultimate faith in you Abby. Just take your time, you don’t need to hurry, just walk up to the approach. Use the arrows on the floor to line up your shot. You don’t even have to look at the pins; in fact maybe it would be easier if you don’t.”
Abby grabbed her ball and followed Steven’s instructions to the tee, except, on the backswing, she must have loosened her grip. Steven sat dumbstruck as her ball flew in his direction, instead of rolling down the lane. He juked out of the way as it narrowly missed him.
Abby turned her face crimson. “I think the holes are too big.” She walked over to retrieve her ball and apologized before she tried to take another swing. Her second release was done like a pro—Abby turned and began walking toward Steven.
Steven watched, his mouth agape, as the ball made its way down the center, zeroing closer and closer to the center pin.
“Abby, turn around!” She spun around, just in time to see her ball make purchase on the center pin. The remaining nine pins fell in its wake.
“Strike!” The words flashed on the screen as an instant replay of her ball hit the pins. Abby jumped up and down, clapping her hands. When she got close to Steven their palms collided in a high five.
“That was awesome!”
When Steven picked up his ball Abby frowned. “Isn’t it still my turn?”
“Nope, your frame is done.”
“But, you got two turns.”
Steven pulled Abby over to the computer and explained how scoring worked, even though it was all computerized, Steven wanted her to understand how the game was played.
Steven returned to the ramp and proceeded to roll peanuts.
Round after round, they played and they laughed. Steven couldn’t remember having such unabashed fun and if the perpetual smile on Abby’s face was any indication, she couldn’t either.
Steven frowned when he looked down at his watch. Abby had the last throw of the second game and they’d soon have to go—he watched with a smile as she picked up the ball, lifted it to her chest and walked to the lane. She swung and followed through, but in her enthusiasm, lost her footing, sliding to her behind with an “Oof!”
“You ok, Abby? Are you hurt?” Steven cursed his inability to pull her off the floor and make sure she hadn’t hurt anything.
She shook her head, “No, just my pride.” She got up gingerly and looked around to be sure no one had seen her fall.
“You know, that’s a tell tale sign that you’ve fallen.” Steven teased. Abby blushed and walked over to the ball return, finishing her game.
“I won both games! Can we do this again?”
Steven held his stomach as he laughed. “So you did, and yes, I think I could come to enjoy this non-dating with you.”
Book Boyfriend Boxes continue, with non-food boxes for our friends with dietary concerns.
Girls night in? Steven would like to send you a manicure set, some relaxing bath bombs and a pair of cute Valentine’s Day socks!
Drop by my reader group, The Roll Models anytime during the release day party for fun and prizes!
Guest authors? They’ll be here!
Prizes? We got ‘em!
Up for grabs—ebook copies of Shattered, Boyfriend Boxes, a Kindle Fire, Chick Lit Baskets, even a proof copy of Shattered with highlighted line edits and author notes!
Don’t miss the party! We’ll be drawing names every hour
The packaging of the Book Boyfriend Boxes has commenced!!
Who is coming to the party?
Credit for these incredible cookies goes to Sarah of https://www.instagram.com/sarahmajestysweets_/
“Majesty 👑 Sweets, Treat yourself like royalty”
A huge thank you goes out to JD Michaels for making this phenomenal cover and to Tempting Illustrations for the added graphics!
Coming Valentine’s Day 2020!
Close your eyes and imagine a journey where even the smallest things in life cannot be taken for granted.
We have a release date!!!
Join D. A. Charles in The Roll Models Lounge on Valentine’s Day 10a.m. through midnight EST to celebrate Shattered’s Book Birthday!
Some of you have waited more than a decade for this day to arrive. Drop the party where we send our guests home with the gifts!
Hourly Book Boyfriend Box drawings. Chick Lit gift baskets. And maybe even a Kindle Fire or two.
Have you added Shattered to your TBR in Goodreads? https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/49215838-shattered
My name is D. A. Charles. Through some small miracle, and years of hard work, I’m getting ready to release my debut novel on Valentine’s Day.
Shattered is the first in a four volume saga; it is a coming of age/medical drama which introduces the reader to Steven Maxwell, a young man whose entire life has been changed in the blink of an eye.
The Roll Models Saga was first introduced as a work of derivative fiction with over four thousand reader reviews and I’m really excited to be able to finally bring this series back to my base, but I need put it in the hands of readers outside that limited circle.
While I’m working with a great group of people to bring it to print, I need the help of reader/reviewers like you!
If you’d like to join my street team and receive an ARC, fill out this request form here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1RKZStdZZgW4FNPDKr8W1j7TJFG3vM25e7YdoLuVu6i4/viewform?edit_requested=true
Interested bloggers can complete my ARC request form here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1cvINkGJk7Q4wyjD21SCxWCSY0DP4ZE6iIf7yX99IcAg/edit?ts=5de59b47
I have established social media platforms—facebook, twitter, instagram, pinterest, a website I own and host.
https://twitter.com/dacharlesauthor/ https://www.facebook.com/dacharlesauthor https://instagram.com/dacharlesauthor?igshid=ols0r2aejjva
I welcome readers to join my reader group, The Roll Models https://www.facebook.com/groups/impactstreetteam/?ref=share
Since 2010, readers have been begging author, D. A. Charles, to publish the story originally posted as the Twilight Fanfiction Impact.
Shattered, the first volume of The Roll Models Saga, is nearing completion.
We’d love to put an ARC copy of Shattered in your hands!!
Sign-up for reviewers-
Sign-up for book bloggers-
Eighteenth birthdays only occur once in one’s lifetime and they are supposed to be life changing—fate had a grim sense of humor when she attended Steven’s Maxwell’s party.
Irrevocably shattered when a devastating accident changes every aspect of his family dynamic, Steven Maxwell must salvage what’s left of his life; fitting the pieces into a puzzle that not only leads him through recovery, but to self discovery.
Abigail Harris has her life all planned out in perfect compartments. Her job. Her family. Her social life. Abby doesn’t have room in her life for the unexpected. She doesn’t have room in her tiny apartment either—especially when not one, but both of her long-divorced parents end up on her threshold within hours of each other.
Enter Abby’s Christmas Eve nightmare, turned medical mystery—the young educator is shattered when her health takes an unexpected detour.
Cue providence stepping in and sending an ambassador with a disability who welcomes Abby into his world and shows her—a life with physical limitations is still a life with quality.
Shattered is not broken.
The Roll Models Saga
Close your eyes and imagine a journey where even the smallest things in life cannot be taken for granted. Connect with characters so deep that when you open your eyes, all the layers that have been pulled back reveal an emotional response you never expected.
I’d like to thank you for your love and support of my writing endeavors.
I have a little update to share about that little fic you’ll all remember as “Impact.”
A year ago I told you that I’d received an offer from Jd Michaels and StoriesAboutUs http://www.storiesaboutus.org to assist me in publishing the series in its entirety. Today, I’m excited to announce that the first book in “The Roll Models Saga” will soon be in your hands!
“We are so excited that D. A. Charles has agreed to join us for the inaugural season of StoriesAboutUs with her summer 2019 release of “Shattered”; it is a detailed and emotional journey which all who read it will be glad is only the beginning of her “Roll Models Saga” book series.” Michaels.Adams.
Stories About Us has been linked to us by Alec Frazier, Director of Autistic Reality and our story will be part of the Stories about Us initiative curated by Tari Hartman Squire of EIN SOF Communications. Stories about Us seeks to connect creative writers from the Disability Population with the entertainment industry.
Alec has been a lifelong advocate for People with Disabilities. As mentioned, he runs his own disability advocacy firm, Autistic Reality, https://www.nothingaboutuswithoutus.net which does lobbying, peer advocacy, public speaking, and enhances the representation of the disability community. He is also a published author (two times over), in his own right. I’m excited to be working with Alec and his colleagues—as they share the same beliefs I hold in regard to inclusion, accessibility and disability issues. I know “The Roll Models Saga” will be treated with love.
Shattered is not the story you remember, because it’s the prequel to Impact with tons of new material. Shattered ends where the Impact you love began, and volume two, “Impact” will pick up there and continue.
I anticipate four books in the series, but I have the support behind me to publish the series in the way I envision it.
I’m utterly delighted that this labor of love has finally come to fruition and I will finally be able to put it in your hands.
Thank you for your undying love and support; your words of encouragement when I was discouraged that this was a monumental task.
And thank you from the bottom of my heart, to Alec Frazier, Jd Michaels and Tari Hartman Squire for believing in me and taking this leap of faith which will allow my readers to have this story back in their hands, and on their bookshelves, too!
It’s with great pleasure and excitement that I can announce I’ve received an offer to publish The Impact Series, in its entirety, from Jd Michaels, the Executive Vice President for Diversity and creativity at BBDO Worldwide. BBDO is an international advertising firm with over 100 offices around the world. They have been linked to us by Alec Frazier, Director of Autistic Reality and our story will be part of the Stories about Us initiative curated by Tari Hartman Squire of EIN SOF Communications. Stories about Us seeks to connect creative writers from the Disability Population with the entertainment industry. Alec has been a lifelong advocate for People with Disabilities. As mentioned, he runs his own disability advocacy firm, Autistic Reality, which does lobbying, peer advocacy, public speaking, and enhances the representation of the disability community. He is also a published author (two times over), in his own right. I’m excited to be working with Alec and his colleagues—as they share the same beliefs I hold in regard to inclusion, accessibility and disability issues. I know “Impact” will be treated with love. I’ve continued to peck away at this epic saga (lol) through multiple career changes and several life-changing events, including my husband’s heart attack and triple bypass surgery last fall and it’s with great pride that I can, finally, announce that “Shattered”—book one of the series—is completed & is in the hands of my pre-read team. Shattered is not the story you remember, because we haven’t gotten there yet. It’s nearly all new material, but I didn’t think you’d mind getting to know Steven Chandler a little better. Shattered ends where the Impact you love began, and volume two, “Impact” will pick up there and continue. I anticipate four books in the series, but I have the support behind me to publish the series in the way I envision it. I’m utterly delighted that this labor of love has finally come to fruition and I will finally be able to put it in your hands. Thank you for your undying love and support; your words of encouragement when I was discouraged that this was a monumental task. And thank you from the bottom of my heart, to Alec Frazier, Jd Michaels and Tari Hartman Squire for believing in me and taking this leap of faith which will allow my readers to have this story back in their hands, and on their bookshelves, too!
Celebrating Twenty-five Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act
On July 26, 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law, making it the most comprehensive piece of legislation written to protect the rights of individuals who have disabilities. Sadly, twenty-five years later, there are still many Americans who have no idea what the law is, or why it’s significant.
I suppose I’m passionate about the ADA because it’s affected the lives of so many people I hold dear, but I’d like to think that it would hold significance for me even if it weren’t so important to the ones I love.
My mother was born in 1936 and at seventeen years of age she had her first clinically identifying episode with what would later be diagnosed as Multiple Sclerosis, a debilitating disease of the central nervous system. Despite the fact that she was very self-conscious of her mobility issues, Mom lived her entire adult life gracefully and with dignity, as a person with a disability.
When Mom became disabled, there were no laws to protect her civil rights. After a lengthy absence her freshman year of college, mom went on to graduate with her class and secured a job as an elementary educator. She taught at a school that incorporated ungraded classrooms as part of their educational program–an atmosphere where students were grouped, based on their ability and level of work, rather than chronological age. Mom left her teaching job when she was expecting me, and wasn’t ready to return until five years later–after my sister’s birth. The exascerbations and remissions of the MS ebbed and flowed, but sadly, when Mom was ready to return to her teaching job, she could no longer legibly write or sign her name and she was turned away because of her physical limitations. One of Mom’s greatest disappointments in life was that she was never able to return to the job she loved.
Today, the Americans with Disabilities Act protects workers with disabilities and ensures that they are provided with reasonable accommodations so they can continue working. Had the ADA been signed into law twenty years sooner, Mom’s life might have been very different.
I’ll never forget my first act of grass roots advocacy. The ADA hadn’t yet been drafted, and polite letters failed to “encourage” our local library to install a lift to provide access to our century-old library. I had no clue, at the time how empowering advocacy could be. When writing letters to the library fell on intentionally deaf ears, we called up our state representative and the local media, inviting them to our “assembly”. I helped my friend dress up in her Sunday best, escorted her on foot as she drove her Amigo buggy across town and we stood outside the library, explaining to the local newspaper and television station that, while it was wonderful the library offered a free service to deliver books to library patrons with disabilities, it was impossible to know what was even available at the library without first being able to get inside. Within weeks, a letter from our thoroughly chastised library came to my friend’s home, inviting her to discuss her ideas so that the library could better meet the needs of everyone in the community.
I remember once thinking that the ADA was like a magic key that could open the doors to the kingdom. I grew up in a small, rural community where not one business entity was accessible. The old idiom “being on the outside looking in” could have been written expressly for individuals with disabilities, because before the ADA, that’s largely how life was, how it is still, in some parts of our country, but because of the ADA, those people on the outside looking in have the tools to bring about change in their communities. The ADA accessibility guidelines ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access and if they don’t, the ADA makes it possible for an individual with a disability to file a discrimination suit against non-compliant businesses, and often a positive outcome occurs.
In 1985, my son was born with a developmental disability. Thanks to safeguards put into place by the ADA when he was just five years old, he is gainfully employed by an employer who has made accommodations for his specific needs. Because of the ADA my son is able to be a self supporting contributor to our community.
I understand that the ADA doesn’t have the same impact on individuals who aren’t personally affected by disability, but it’s a law that benefits us all. I can remember a day when many places of business had steps, when doorways to public restrooms were so narrow one could barely walk through, when public transportation wasn’t available to everyone. Equal access ensures that every person can enter an establishment and fully participate; not just the guy who pushes a wheelchair, but the mother pushing a stroller or a courier pushing a hand truck, as well.
While I can remember a life before the ADA was in place, I can’t imagine life without it for the people I care about. I am grateful to every individual involved in drafting and enacting this life-changing piece of legislation, and had the express pleasure of once spending a day with someone who was instrumental in its birth.
Our nation might be celebrating the silver anniversary of the ADA today, but those with disabilities celebrate the ADA every, single day.
To learn more about the history of the ADA, check out the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund’s historical summary of the birth of the ADA, years before its 1990 consummation-The History of the ADA, A Movement Perspective by Arlene Mayerson. Arlene’s detailed, behind-the-scenes account of the steps that led to the legislation we now know as the Americans with Disabilities Act is intriguing and eye-opening. As a society, we take so many things for granted and I don’t think many of us consider the exhaustive steps that are sometimes necessary to bring about change.
September is Awareness month for a number of issues and I’ve added some timely posts to my disability resource blogger.
On September 3, my sweet friend, Marmy, shared a guest post with us about her personal experience with Thyroid cancer.
September is also Blood Cancer Awareness month and my friend Born has shared a her family’s experience with a leukemia diagnosis in a collaborative piece she wrote with her son. It posted on September 12.
Spinal Cord Injury Awareness month is September and while I’d be remiss not to mention it, I’ve not added anything about SCI awareness to the blog. I have been sharing a ton of great information on my Facebook Community and author pages for those who are interested.
And last but certainly not least, I posted a call for questions on autism from readers in August. On September 10, I posted a guest interview with my friend, Alec Frazier who is autistic. An introduction to Alec, his answers on autism and a number of other diagnoses and accomplishments have posted in part one of our interview.
We had such an awesome reader response that the interview will be split into three weekly installments. Part two will post on September 17 and the final installment will post on September 24.
A reminder, the blogger is filled with information on Assistive Technology, travel, housing, advocacy… there is something for everything and while I’ve tried to include the things most commonly found on disability resource websites, we’ve also included things that many sites don’t offer… a one stop shop for individuals with disabilities, if you will. So, stop by the blogger to explore our guest posts, check out the resources if you have a need and please leave a comment if you have anything to add. We look forward to having you.
Today, July 26, 2014, marks the twenty fourth anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, in my opinion, the single most important piece of legislation in American disability history.
In the days since its invocation, the ADA has paved the way for Americans with Disabilities to live in a world that is less restricted by both physical and attitudinal barriers. I don’t think any piece of legislation will ever completely “fix” the way society views individuals with disabilities, nor will it cause every public entity to become compliant, but I remember a day before the ADA, with friends and family members who had disabilities, and our world, today, is a different place.
I remember a day when we struggled as a family unit to get my mom onto the toilet in a public restroom, when most businesses had steps, not ramps, and when many families shuttled their “special” kids off to an institution (they called them special “schools”) to be raised and educated by strangers. I guess they were embarrassed. I could never understand why. I was raised in a family where you took care of your own and you didn’t hide them. I grew up in a time when expectations of those with disabilities were low–a mindset that perpetuated individual goals which were even lower. And I’ve seen what sort of power there is in independence, and freedom and personal choice. The ADA has opened so many doors for people with disabilities, both literally and figuratively.
One of the greatest things I’ve seen with the ADA is the way it’s grown and evolved to meet the needs of a changing world, and I hope that continues to happen as we move further into the twenty-first century.
Some exciting things have happened this week to commemorate the anniversary, things that are being kicked off now in anticipation of an even more exciting anniversary—the Silver Anniversary of the American’s Disabilities Act on July, 26, 2015.
In honor of the ADA anniversary, The Southeast ADA Center, a member of the ADA National Network has put together the ADA Anniversary Tool Kit; a project that highlights awareness through the dissemination of background and history of the act, information on the Supreme Court decision on Olmstead, which prohibits the unnecessary institutionalization persons with disabilities, disability statistics, and other ADA resources.
Download your Tool Kit now at www.adaanniversary.org and join the movement to help America recommit to the ADA by signing a pledge of your own. You can help celebrate the ADA’s silver anniversary in one year, by being a part in the nationwide goal of 25,000 signatures.
The ADA Legacy Tour kicked off in Houston at the Abilities Expo, on July 25, 2014, a rolling exhibit that will travel the US to raise awareness and to help get the nation geared up to celebrate this memorable event, the Legacy Tour will wrap up in Washington DC on July 26, 2015 to celebrate the anniversary.
I look forward to attending some of the celebrations in the upcoming year to commemorate this important date to people with disabilities. I hope to see you there!
Update on Impact!
I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who has read and supported Impact through the exciting journey that began nearly five years ago. You’ve been so much more than readers, and have become so much more than friends.
The decision to remove Impact from the site where it’s been available since 2010 is a bittersweet one, but your words of encouragement have made me believe that Impact could be something more. In order to offer Impact to a more mainstream audience, and to make it accessible to everyone in the future, I’ll be taking the time to edit it and make appropriate changes so that I can offer it to my readers as a work of original fiction. I appreciate your understanding and your patience.
Updates on Impact’s progress, as well as any other pertinent information will be posted here. The Impact blogspot is currently undergoing a facelift, but it will remain as an information and referral site for individuals with disabilities. It can be accessed at www.no-snickers.blogspot.com
Thank you for your comments, reviews and your words of support, but more importantly, I thank you for the precious investment of your time as you accompanied me on this journey. There aren’t enough words to express my gratitude.