Note: This story has been edited and published in the anthology Accessible Love Stories, published by Good Mourning Press. You can find it over on Amazon (I'd link here, but in-story and profile links are disabled for the time being).
"But don't forget who's taking you home,
Or in whose arms you're gonna be
Oh darlin', save the last dance for me."
Susan hummed along with the song until it ended, and then before the MP3 player could move onto the next song, she hit the stop button and pulled the earbuds off. Time for a snack.
Plus Lisa was in the kitchen with David, and there was no way in hell the woman was passing through the house without Susan seeing her at least once.
Susan rolled off of her bed and padded out to the kitchen-cum-dining room, following Lisa's voice through the small apartment she shared with her brother.
Her brother and his friend were sharing the kitchen table, one seated in front of a huge sheaf of papers, and the other on the other side of the table, seated neatly in a motorized wheelchair.
The woman in the wheelchair looked up. "Hey there," she said, running a hand through blond spiked hair.
Susan hoped she wasn't blushing. "Hey yourself. What're you doing here?"
"Oh, nothing much. Just helping your brother out on some stuff."
At that, David shoved the stack of papers into his backpack.
"What's all that?" Susan asked innocently.
"It's nothing," David said, zipping up the bag and shoving it under the table. From his tone, it was clear that he didn't want to talk about it any more. "You hungry?"
The question might have been addressed at Susan, but both she and Lisa answered. "You bet."
"I was just about to go pick up some Chinese," he said smoothly. "You want the usual?"
"Sure," Lisa said.
"Yeah, okay," Susan said, trying not to sound too eager at the prospect of him going out.
Eager for him going out to get food, and just eager for him to leave her alone... with Lisa.
David grabbed his keys and the bag off of the table and left. "I'll be back in twenty," he called over his shoulder as the door closed behind him.
"So," Susan began, nervous at the prospect of being alone around her crush. "How've you been?"
"Good," Lisa said, pulling away from the table with a whirr. She rolled over to the couch. "C'mon and sit down. I don't bite."
"O-okay," Susan said, taking a flying leap (more like a hop, skip, and a jump) over the back of the couch to land on the cushions near where Lisa's chair was parked.
"Why so nervous suddenly?"
"Oh, no reason," Susan said blithely, though her heart was pounding a mile a minute. Honestly, she was surprised Lisa couldn't hear it.
She opened her mouth to say something else, and then something hit her. I should ask her out.
Oh god, I couldn't. What if she doesn't like me? What if she says no? What would David say? Shit, what do I do? Can I ask her?
Before she could stop herself or reconsider, she opened her mouth. "Would you-I understand if you say no, but would you like to go out with me?"
There was a moment of silence.
Slowly, Lisa turned to face her.
"I didn't know you liked girls," she said neutrally.
Susan smiled. "Neither did I, until I met you."
Lisa seemed to be considering a few things in her head. "Hon, you're nineteen years old and as far as I knew before this, you were as straight as your brother. Why the sudden change?"
"I don't know," Susan said. "Maybe I'm just feeling adventurous."
As soon as the words slipped out, she knew they were the wrong thing to say.
"Being a lesbian is not an adventure," Lisa said. Her voice wasn't quite tight, but she was clearly no longer at ease as she could have been.
"I'm sorry," Susan said. "Maybe I chose the wrong words. What I meant was-I don't know," she said, blushing. "It's just that from the first time I saw you, I guess I had a crush on you, and it's just persisted over the years."
"Persisted, huh?" Lisa said.
"Look, all I'm saying-asking, really, is if you'd like to go out on a date with me?"
"Why would you want to date me?" Lisa asked. Her hands spread out, taking in both herself and the wheelchair.
"Oh," Susan said, understanding. "You're nice, you're kind, funny, um." She paused. "Completely breathtaking."
Lisa snorted, but Susan imagined that she could see something of a pink tinge on the woman's cheeks. "Who're you trying to kid?" Lisa asked. "I'm in a wheelchair."
"Do I really look like I care?" Susan retorted. "I know you're in a wheelchair. I was in the hospital with you and David on the night of the accident, remember?"
Oh how well she remembered. The frantic phone call. "Your friend's been in an accident. A trucker hit her. You were the last person she dialed on her phone. I think they're taking her to Valley Medical."
Then the rush to the hospital, her brother cursing at other drivers and spinning the wheel frantically around every turn. Susan remembered too well seeing her crush lying motionless on the hospital bed, dried blood coloring her blonde hair a sick shade of red-brown and the IV drip hanging beside the bed. The neck brace that held her head immobile on the bed, and later on in her convalescence the halo that had left permanent dimples in her forehead.
Susan traced those dimples with her eyes now. They looked like deep acne scars, but were in fact left by the screws that fastened the part of the halo that gave it its name around her forehead. Dimples at even intervals, that were certainly noticeable, but they didn't detract from Lisa's striking beauty, even if there were a few barely noticeable rough patches here and there. They just made her Lisa, and it was how Susan saw her every time someone said the woman's name when she wasn't around.
"So will you go out with me?" Susan asked, trying to keep any note of pleading out of her voice. God, if Lisa said no, Susan would never be able to look her in the eyes again.
For the first time since Susan had met her, Lisa looked hesitant. Her head was bowed and she eyes were far away.
"I-" she said to her lap, clearly torn.
Please, Susan thought.
After too long, Lisa lifted her head, and there was something deep in her eyes. Something warm-no, smoldering. Something banked for a long time that was sparking and ready to burst.
"You don't have work at Roselli's tonight, do you?"
"Uh, n-no," Susan stuttered.
"Then I'll pick you up at six, okay?" Lisa's tone was cheerful, and she was all smiles. "Just be downstairs."
Susan had to fight to keep from jumping for joy. "Okay," she said, trying not to sound too eager. "You want to see a movie?"
"Sure," Lisa said. "You pick."
Susan was just about to voice the name of a movie that she'd been aching to see, and then David kicked open the front door, arms full of food, and there was no more time to talk about anything else with Lisa.
Can I do this? Susan asked herself for what had to be the fifteenth time since she'd raced down to the curb twenty minutes early.
As she shifted from foot to foot, waiting for Lisa's van to show, she looked down at herself. Nice jeans, not the cheap ones she normally wore, and a decent t-shirt. She didn't put too much makeup on, and now she just had to wait.
But was Lisa happy about this? Did she want to go out with her, or had Susan unwittingly forced her into this?
Oh god, what if the handicapped woman was taking her out on a pity date?
Pity date, pity date, her mind taunted her.
"It's not a pity date," she said out loud to the night around her. "Lisa's just nervous, that's all."
Then the object of her affection pulled around the corner, and there was no time for second thoughts.
The muffled sounds of a screaming guitar accompanied by a thumping drumset pounded from the van rolling down the street towards her, but Susan didn't back away from the road.
The van was a special model; built specially so someone with a motorized wheelchair could both ride in it and drive it. It had taken quite a chunk of the money Lisa had gotten from the settlement, but it was the only way she could get around without relying on someone, which she hated, or hiring someone, which would still be a reliability issue and which would take up more money in the long run.
Lisa pulled up to the curb, and the window rolled down. The rock music vibrating the mirrors got louder, but Susan ignored it.
The two women's eyes met for a moment, then Lisa's gaze left her face and moved slowly down her body with an intensity Susan could almost feel. It was as if Lisa's eyes were touching her, stroking her skin, exploring every contour of her body. It wasn't a violating look; more of a measuring one, and Lisa's eyes slowly dragged back up to Susan's face.
"Hop in," the handicapped woman offered, and Susan opened the passenger door and got in.
"So this thing is at Reel Cinemas, right?" Lisa asked unnecessarily as she drove down the street.
"Yeah," Susan said. You know I know you know where it is. Why the game?
There was an awkward silence, and then Lisa coughed into one fist, glancing over at Susan.
"Sorry," she said with a short, nervous laugh. "It's just been so long."
"So long since what?" Susan asked.
"Since I've been out with anyone," Lisa said. "No one wants to go out with a handicapped dyke, and you're the first woman who's shown interest in me in almost four years."
Susan refused to publicly exult over the fact that Lisa had called her a woman. "I find that difficult to believe," she said, blushing. God, she was actually flirting with another woman!
"It's true. I don't even think many men would want to go out with me." Lisa smiled bitterly. "No one wants a woman who can't move her legs, even if I do have a well-paying job and I can get around."
"And now that's changing," Susan said boldly. She decided to be even bolder by reaching her hand out and placing it atop Lisa's.
"Hmm," Lisa said. The haunted look in her eyes was easing a little. "I like the sound of that," she mused as they drove on into the night.
The independent film had come out a few weeks before that night, but it was still popular enough to fill half of the large theatre for a weeknight.
Now, a few minutes before the previews were about to start, the audience was comprised mostly of teenagers and young people in their twenties, all shifting in their seats as they waited through the onscreen pop questions on classic movies.
Susan and Lisa took seats towards the back on the right side of the theatre so Lisa could park her wheelchair, and before Susan could start to sweat about what she was going to do during the movie; about whether or not to touch Lisa in any way, the other woman solved the question for her by placing a tense hand over Susan's loosely. Susan looked over at her out of the corner of her eye and realized that Lisa was staring at the screen quite determinedly, left eye betraying only a little tension. When Susan didn't pull away, she relaxed a little, and the fingers that were draped over the waitress's loosened and covered them more naturally.
The previews finally started, and when the previews for a particularly funny comedy finished showing, Lisa leaned over and whispered, "If this all works out, we should see that."
Susan felt a thrill run through her at the words, and she couldn't keep a smile from curving her lips as the previews ended and the movie began showing.
Throughout the entire movie, she couldn't keep from glancing over at Lisa, who seemed to be focused a little too intently on the movie, and Susan wondered not a few times why.
When it ended, they Susan walked out side-by-side with Lisa, hands hanging alone, though she wanted to take the hand that Lisa wasn't using to steer the wheelchair.
"You like the movie?" Lisa asked, casting a casual glance her way.
"I did. You seemed to like it a lot more, though," Susan said, trying to refer to Lisa's complete ignorance of her during the film.
"Sorry," Lisa said. "I just didn't want to seem like too much of a freak, looking over at you every five seconds..." she trailed off, and Susan realized that hidden under the casual sentence was an undercurrent of, 'I didn't want to get my hopes up.'
Susan's throat closed momentarily, and she fought to not apologize for something she didn't do. Instead, she asked, "Would you like to get some coffee or something?"
"Okay," Lisa said. "I don't have class in the morning until a little later, anyway."
So they went to the local coffee house, fairly empty for the time being, and took a small table in the back.
"So why did you decide to ask me out?" The question looked like it had been galling Lisa all night, and her brows were drawn inward, betraying her tension.
"I don't know," Susan said honestly. "It was more of a spur of the moment thing, but I've been wanting to do it for a long time."
Lisa sipped her coffee and said nothing. Then, "I just think that this might be a-a crush, and I don't want to risk getting my hopes up for nothing," she finally said.
"Trust me," Susan said. "This is not a crush. I know what I am. I know what I like. You aren't just a try-out thing, I do like you.
"I-" she said, then stopped. "How did you know that you liked girls?"
"I just did," Lisa said, shrugging. "I never liked boys, and after I got reported to the gym coach after being accused of staring too long at the other girls, I kind of got in some trouble and got referred to a therapist." Her mouth twisted. "That was about the time my dad started preaching and I left home. Lucky me; I was eighteen, and decided to get an apartment of my own and work my way through the rest of high school."
"I knew you were working your way through college, but I didn't know-" Susan said, appalled. "You left home in the middle of high school?"
Lisa shrugged. "It was a stupid thing to do. I could have dealt with my dad, and when I got an apartment and a job, my grades dropped. I couldn't get a scholarship. Hence why I work so much; I'm putting myself completely through college on my own. But it was my own choice."
"Ah," Susan said. "I can't claim anything like that, but I know I like girls. I've done-" she flushed, a little embarrassed to admit it. "I've dated enough boys to know that I don't like them."
Lisa nodded. "Yeah, David mentioned that you never dated any guys for long." She gave Susan a long, measuring glance. "I'll think about it."
They were on their way home, riding in silence but for Seal softly playing on the radio, and after too long, they pulled up to the corner where Lisa had picked her up.
Obviously the date had gone badly. Lisa hadn't said anything, and Susan was too afraid of Lisa saying "You're a nice girl, but I'm not going to date you," to break the heavy silence.
But it had been a date. And Lisa kept shooting little glances her way, which Susan couldn't read. Lisa's face was like the Mona Lisa's; full of mystery but without the secretive little smile, and Susan wondered what she was thinking.
Something-what, good? She hoped.
Lisa cleared her throat.
Yeah, this is my stop.
Susan popped the door. Now what? She asked herself. Do I kiss her, does she kiss me, do we not kiss at all, what?
She started to ease the door, and then Lisa spoke. Illuminated by the streetlight, she was beautiful, and her voice was hoarse. "I'll give you a chance," she said slowly, and Susan smiled.
Lisa leaned over, hesitantly, giving Susan a chance to duck. When she didn't, she kissed Susan's cheek, and then the waitress slipped out of the van, blushing the entire time.
"I'll call you," Lisa said, and then put the van into gear and gunned it. The door shut on its own, and Susan was left alone under the lamplight.
Long after the van disappeared around the corner, Lisa's kiss lingered on her mind.
Her cheek burned.
Author Note: This story is not going to involve car chases or gunfights or a murder or anything like that. It's just two women who fall for each other. But if you like that sort of thing, please feel free to leave a review.