Bully For You

Kelvin figured he was an easy target to get picked on. He was relatively short and clearly wimpy in middle school. His grandmother dressed him conservatively and probably a generation or two out of date. He was a gloomy shy kid who never knew his father and lost his mother to a drug overdose when he was five. His paranoid grandmother was overprotective and she spoiled him rotten without really preparing him for the real world.

Kelvin didn't want Nana to worry so he rarely told his grandmother about his troubles, his loneliness, or how he didn't fit in with the other kids. He dutifully went to school prepared to accept whatever was dealt his way which usually meant be confronted by Kianna Swasberg who for some reason took great delight in harassing him and pushing him around. One day she went so far as to knock him to the ground and sit on his chest while taunting him and slapping him in the face and even spitting on him a few times.

Kelvin had no idea while Kianna decided to bully him on a regular basis. She was bigger than him and athletic, playing field hockey and basketball so she was strong and Kelvin was no match for her brute force. He was literally being beat up by a girl.

Kelvin was walking home from school one day when Kianna and her friends blocked his way, snickering and laughing while giving him several shoves. Kelvin attempted to maneuver himself around the girls but Kianna grabbed him by the arm.

"Don't try to get away you little shit!" Kianna barked.

Kelvin stood frozen in fear, never quite sure what the gang of girls would do to him on any given occasion.

"How strong you are, wimp?" Kianna demanded.

"I dunno," Kelvin mumbled.

"Let's find out," Kianna laughed.

Kelvin knew he had absolutely no chance to measure up against his tormentor.

"You're stronger," he said, hoping to dissuade the bully from plummeting him.

"That's because you're a little pussy," Kianna growled as she got right in his face, pushing and shoving him again as her friends laughed louder. "Let's see how much of a pussy you really are."

Panicked, Kelvin briefly considered turning and running but he knew there was nowhere to go and that the girls would catch him anyway. Suddenly, Kianna wrapped her arms around his neck in a headlock and then she stuck her foot in front of his and effortlessly tripped him to the ground. Before he knew what was happening, Kelvin was laying face first in the grassy dirt with Kianna's knee planted squarely on his back. Her friends continued to taunt and laugh at him and a few kicked him.

Kianna forcefully rolled her victim over onto his back and she sat on his chest while pinning his arms under him. She slapped Kelvin hard across the face several times while insulting and ridiculing him. Her friends took turns kicking and kneeing him in the groin and they called him hurtful names. Kianna picked some grass and forced it into Kelvin's mouth and she spit in his face too. There was nothing he could do so Kelvin just lay there helplessly hoping that the bullying would be over soon.

At one point, one of Kelvin's arms broke free and he retaliated the only way he knew how. He reached up and squeezed Kianna's breast, feeling her small round tit through her shirt but his action enraged Kianna who started punching him in the face, blooding his nose and mouth.

"You little perverted piece of shit!" She screamed, administering several blows to his face.

Kelvin tried to shield her strikes with his hand and by turning his head away from her but Kianna punched him in the ear and the side of his face until his head began to ring. Kianna was on her feet now, kicking him in the ribs and when he rolled over to avoid those kicks, she kicked him in the behind several times. Finally, the girls left him bloodied and dazed and he could hear them laughing and jeering as they disappeared. He eventually picked himself up and limped home, once again the victim of torment.

Word got out about Kelvin being routinely beat up by Kianna and her friends and that led to even more ridicule around school as other kids picked on him in the halls, calling him names like weirdo and retard, throwing elbows at him as he passed, and occasionally tripping him or pushing him down the stairs.

On another occasion, Kianna plowed Kelvin into a row of lockers one afternoon when no teachers were around.

"Show me your underwear," she ordered and when Kelvin refused Kianna gave him a horrible wedgie, yanking from behind by the waistband of his underwear so hard that the shorts ripped right up his crack and sprang out of his pants into Kianna's clutch.

Kianna laughed hysterically, threw the garment in his face and then she walked off sneering at his embarrassment.

Kelvin mostly suffered in silence. He wasn't about to rat any of his abusers out knowing that would only stigmatize him even more. He hid the truth from his grandmother and he avoided going out other than to walk to and from school. One day, Kianna walked up to him in the school hallway and punched him in the face without warning or pretense, knocking him against the wall before he slumped to the floor in a daze. Nobody stuck up for him or tried to defend him when Kianna and her friends bullied and abused him. Most kids either looked the other way or joined in on the mocking and verbal abuse.

Kianna's physical abuse stopped when they got to high school but Kelvin was never able to rid himself of the reputation he earned in middle school. He was always going to be the wimpy loser even though he had grown a few inches and put on weight. He was the weird kid who lived with his grandmother and he was largely ignored and invisible in the halls of Hillsboro High, forever humiliated and shamed.

Kelvin was good at computers, he joined the chess club, and he had a couple of friends but he never fit in and kids who remembered him from middle school remained nasty and mean. Thankfully, Kelvin rarely saw Kianna and he avoided her whenever she was in his general vicinity. Kianna remained verbally insulting when she did cross paths with him and she was vindictive toward Kelvin whenever the opportunity arose, calling him gay and a homo and making fun of him for not dating. All Kelvin could do was count the days until high school was over.

TEN YEARS LATER

It had been several years since Kelvin Morris had been back to Hillsboro. He left with every intention of never returning but the death of his grandmother forced him to come 'home' to settle the estate. There weren't many good memories growing up here but Kelvin knew he was a different person now and that he didn't need to be haunted, tormented, or shamed by his past. He spent his first few days back in town sorting through his grandmother's personal affects in the small ranch she had lived in for the past fifty years. Kelvin was the last heir to his grandmother's estate and she had left him everything. He brought her clothes and other household affects he knew he wasn't interested in keeping to the Goodwill and he made several trips to the dump getting rid of years of junk that had collected in the garage and cellar.

Kelvin felt sad about his grandmother's passing and being in her home again brought back certain memories, some good, others not so good. He had no idea how long he was going to be in town but it was nostalgic using his grandmother's house as home-base while working with the lawyer on settling all the details involved in her passing.

One day, Kelvin decided to get lunch at Johnny C's Diner instead of the usual take out he had been eating since his return. The diner wasn't very crowded as he purposefully went after one o'clock and he sat at the counter eating his meatloaf lunch special when one of the waitresses caught his attention. She looked familiar for some reason and when he saw her nametag (Linda) Kelvin was pretty sure he knew who she was.

"You're Linda Davis?" Kelvin asked.

The waitress stopped and looked at Kelvin. "Yes," she said. "Do I know you?"

She had long blond hair pulled back in a ponytail. She was only in her mid-twenties but she looked older for some reason, perhaps tired from her job.

"You probably don't remember me," Kelvin replied calmly. "We went to school together."

"At Hillsboro?" Linda asked with surprise, studying him for a moment. "You sure?"

"You used to hang out with Kianna Swasberg," he said.

"Yeah," Linda said, looking slightly embarrassed. 'That was a long time ago."

"I'm Kelvin Morris," he told her. "The faggot homo weirdo loser wimp you guys used to bully and beat up."

Linda nearly dropped the coffee pot she was holding. "Oh My God," she said, gawking at him. "You look like you could beat the shit out of me now!"

"I would never do that," Kelvin assured her.

"I wouldn't blame you if you did," Linda sighed, putting the coffee pot back on the burner. "Look, I'm sorry for everything we said and did back then," she said, returning to the counter to face her past. "We were just stupid little mean girls."

"I forgive you," Kelvin said.

"You do?" Linda asked with surprise. "I don't think I could if somebody did that to me."

"Life is too short to hold grudges and resentments," Kelvin told her. "I've learned to let go of the bad stuff and focus on the good."

"You one of those born again types?" Linda wondered.

Kelvin laughed. "No, nothing like that," he said.

"Well, thanks for letting me off the hook," Linda said, sounding relieved. She eyed him for a long moment. "If it makes you feel any better, I probably got what I deserved for being such a creepy bitch back then."

"What do you mean?"

"I was pregnant at eighteen and now I'm a single mom waitress," she revealed, sounding defeated.

"You're a good waitress," Kelvin said. "I was watching you. You're very good. Friendly. Polite. Quick. Attentive."

Linda looked at him with amazement. "You don't have to be nice to me," she said. "I was never nice to you."

"You're being nice to me now," Kelvin pointed out.

"You're different now," Linda remarked.

"Not really," Kelvin said. "Maybe I look different but I'm still the same person I was back then - inside."

"Well, I wish I knew that person back then," Linda said sadly. "Maybe I would have been a better person."

"You're doing fine."

"I gotta go," Linda said. "I have customers."

"Is Kianna still around?" Kelvin asked.

Linda was surprised by the question. "You don't know?"

"Know what?"

"What happened to her?" Linda looked pale.

"I've been gone," Kelvin explained.

"She's a paraplegic," Linda blurted out.

Kelvin was shocked by the news. "What happened?"

"Car accident," Linda said, taking two plates from the kitchen pick up window and heading down the counter.

Kelvin felt light headed as he processed the sad news. He never would have wanted bad fortune or ill will to strike any of those girls who had been so mean to him back then. He felt sorry for poor Kianna and he wondered if there was anything he could do to help her.

"Hey, Linda, do you know where Kianna lives?" Kelvin asked when she came back his way.

The waitress looked at her unexpected customer like he was nuts. "Why do you care?"

"I'd like to see her," Kelvin answered.

"Kick her when she's down like she used to do to you?" Linda frowned suspiciously.

"No, just to visit," Kelvin said. "Try to cheer her up."

"I doubt anybody will ever cheer her up," Linda said knowingly, studying Kelvin for a long moment. "Are you for real?" She wanted to know.

"Yes," he assured her.

Linda shook her head in amazed disbelief while stepping toward a cork board near the telephone and she took a small card off of it. She tore off an order slip from her pad and wrote down an address on the back of it. "This is where she lives," Linda told him, handing Kelvin the piece of paper. "She doesn't go out much but sometimes we'll deliver food to her."

"Thanks," Kelvin said with a smile, folding the paper and putting it in his pocket.

Kelvin left a twenty dollar tip for a $9.98 bill and Linda stared after him long after he was gone, feeling redeemed for some strange reason. She really was a good waitress, she realized, and that made her feel better about herself.

###

Kianna lived in a small condo complex on the far side of town. The community looked attractive from the outside as Kelvin parked his car in front of Unit #7 which had a wheelchair ramp built off the front stoop. He walked up the front walk and onto the stoop, ringing the doorbell. A few minutes later, the door opened and there sat Kianna in a small sporty wheel chair. She didn't look all that much different (in the face) as Kelvin remembered her. Her hair was a darker brown now and shorter, cropped to her collar but her eyes were the same deep blue with the fair skin and dimple on her chin but gone was the look of fire, confidence and swagger he remembered her possessing.

"What do you want?" the woman in the wheelchair demanded, her voice a mixture of annoyance and disgust.

"Hello, Kianna," Kelvin replied.

Kianna squinted at him, clueless as to he might be. "Well, you're either a salesman or a Mormon missionary here to convert me."

"Neither," Kelvin replied. "But I am here to see you, no sales pitch or God revival included."

"How do you know my name?" She asked suspiciously.

"You were always rather unforgettable," he smiled.

She frowned. "Who in the hell are you?"

"Kelvin Morris," he announced.

"I don't know anyb….." But then the name clicked in her memory bank and Kianna stopped speaking.

"It's okay," Kelvin assured her.

"What, you come to gloat?" She said with distain. "Are you here to tell me God gave me what I deserved?"

"Of course not," Kelvin replied.

"Then what are you doing here?"

"I wanted to see you."

"I don't want to see you," Kianna replied coldly. "Please just go. I like to be left alone."

"I'd really like to talk with you, Kianna," he said gently.

"What for?"

He shrugged. "It would make me feel better."

"Maybe it will make me feel worse," she countered.

"Linda made it sound like you're a bit of a recluse.'

"Yeah, Howard Frigin' Hughes, and tell Linda to mind her own damn business," Kianna snapped.

"Can't I please come in?" Kelvin asked, his voice soft.

"I already told you no," Kianna replied, trying to close the door in his face but Kelvin held his hand out to hold the door open.

"Don't be mad at Linda," Kelvin said. "She was just as shocked as you were when I told her who I was at Johnny C's."

"You've come to torment me the same way I tortured you," Kianna feared.

"Not true," he told her.

"Then please just go away," she groaned, turning the wheelchair and wheeling away.

But she had left the door open in her haste so Kelvin took it upon himself to step into the condo, softly closing the door behind him. There was sparse furniture to give Kianna plenty of room to navigate in the chair. The décor was bright and simple, a few seaside and countryside portraits on the wall, an entertainment center in the corner, but not much else.

"What happened to you?" he asked.

"God punished me,' she said, keeping her back to him.

"I doubt that's true," Kelvin replied, boldly taking a seat on the couch and waiting for her to react.

"I told you to leave," Kianna hissed after a few quiet moments.

"I want to stay."

She slowly turned the chair to face him. "So, is this going to be your revenge?" She asked suspiciously. "Kill me with kindness?"

Kelvin laughed out loud. "That sounds like an interesting plan."

"I don't want your pity," Kianna said with bitter resentment in her voice. "I don't want anybody feeling sorry for me."

"I don't feel sorry for you," Kelvin said.

"Well, if you don't feel sorry for me than you probably feel satisfaction and pleasure seeing me like this," she snapped.

"I don't feel that either," he assured her.

"I don't believe you," Kianna complained. "You must have some alternative motive to be here. You either want to rub my face in it or you want to tell me how horrible a person I am or maybe you're here to physically rough me up for all the times I beat you up."

"None of that," Kelvin said calmly.

"You could knock me out of my chair," Kianna suggested. "Leave me sprawled on the floor with no dignity. You could make fun of me. Do all the mean things to me I did to you."

"I don't want to do any of that," Kelvin replied.

"Then what in the hell exactly do you want?" Kianna demanded with frustration.

"I want to talk with you."

Kianna was caught off guard by his answer. "About what?" She asked distrustfully.

"Nothing specific," he replied. "Just talk."

"We've never shared a conversation in our lives," she said.

"I know," Kelvin nodded. "Maybe it's time."

"What for?"

"Maybe to change the narrative," he suggested. "I think the last time you spoke to me was about ten years ago and you called me a pathetic loser wimp," he smirked.

"You don't look like a wimp now," Kianna admitted sheepishly.

"You could probably still take me," he joked.

She actually smiled at that one and then she chewed on her lip. "Is this really on the up and up?"

"Yes," he told her.

"You just show up out of the blue to talk?"

"I've been gone since high school graduation."

"Where'd you go?"

"Army, believe it or not."

"Why are you back?"

"My grandmother died."

Kianna scratched her chin. "All of that stuff seems like another life time ago," she sighed. "I barely remember the names of the teachers or most of the kids I went to school with. Even when I was there, I could have cared less about any of it except for my own image and popularity. I was only interested in whoever my boyfriend was at the time and what party was happening that weekend."

"Guess none of that matters now," Kelvin said.

"Except that I reaped what I sowed," Kianna remarked.

"That's not why this happened to you," Kelvin told her.

"I was thinking more like you're about the only visitor I've had other than home aide workers and my family since I moved in here," she sighed. "That's the legacy I sowed. Avoided and shunned."

"And so you hide," Kelvin realized.

"Ironic, isn't it?" She noted. "A lonely person wanting to be alone."

"What happened?" Kelvin asked quietly.

"I was in my second year at Blue County Community College," Kianna revealed. "Pretty much doing the same thing I did in high school. Plus working a few hours at Jimmy's Garage because I liked dinkering on cars. I was dating a guy named Mark. There was a party. I hopped into his car and a minute later my life changed forever in an instant although I don't remember anything from the time he picked me up until I woke up in the ICU paralyzed from the waist down."

"What about the guy?"

"Dead," Kianna announced without much emotion in her voice. "At the scene."

"What happened?"

"We were passing a truck out on Route 36 in a no passing zone," Kianna told him. "Car came the other way and Mark crossed back into the lane but he clipped the truck we were passing and we spinned out of control off the road into a tree."

"How horrible," Kelvin sighed.

"They said my heart stopped on the way to the hospital and I had to be resuscitated several times."

"Wow."

"They told my mother I probably wouldn't make it through emergency surgery."

"Scary stuff," Kelvin remarked.

"I was in a medically-induced coma for a couple of days," Kianna continued. "Sometimes I wonder if it would had been better if I had died."

"Don't say that," Kelvin pleaded.

"I don't remember anything until I woke up with wires and IVs hooked up all over my body and monitors beeping all over the place," Kianna said. "That's how I discovered my legs didn't work."

"That had to be surreal," Kelvin sighed.

"It was a long difficult slow road back," Kianna admitted. "I was angry, I was depressed, I was defeated and I was a real bitch as a patient. I had to rehab at a hospital far from here and learn how to live in a wheelchair. I alienated everybody who loved me and I was such a miserable person when I got home that my mother made me go to therapy."

"You seem to be doing better now," Kelvin observed.

"I have my good days and my bad days," Kianna shrugged. "I guess it's good I've gotten this far. My mother thought I should have independence which is why she made me move in here, although I think part of it was because she just couldn't deal with me anymore."

"I'm sure it was hard on everybody," Kelvin said.

"Every day is a challenge being a paraplegic – emotionally, mentally and of course physically," Kianna told him. "I still wish I was dead sometimes. I'm rarely happy. I live with lots of guilt and regret, anger and resentment."

"Being disabled is a physical thing but it doesn't have to be a mindset," Kelvin theorized.

"No offense, but please spare me your couch side philosophy and feel good bullshit," Kianna groaned with annoyance. "You don't know jack."

"I had a brain aneurysm," he announced.

"What?"

"In the Army. I was in a coma for three weeks. Couldn't talk or walk when I woke up. Had to start all over."

"Oh," Kianna said, less harshly now. "So you were in the war?"

"No," Kelvin replied. "I was at an Army Supply Depot in Kansas. Stricken while taking a leak standing at a urinal. They said it was a pre-existing condition. Perhaps from an earlier blow to the head." He paused for a moment. "Maybe one of those times I got kicked in the head in middle school?"

"Oh God," Kianna said in horror.

"Or it could have been a birth defect," Kelvin reasoned. "Who knows?"

"I think we both know, Morris," Kianna sighed.

"It doesn't matter now," Kelvin said.

"Of course it does," she groaned.

"I'm here to tell you that if this wimpy pathetic loser could join the Army, get through training, have a good tour, and then survive a brain aneurysm then anything's possible," Kelvin said with conviction. "I'm here to tell you to keep smiling and keep trying. Keep things simple. When I feel negative, it's not only about me because that negativity will affect others just as being positive will too so that's why I choose to be positive as best I can whenever I can for as long as I can."

"You're not in a wheelchair," Kianna grumbled with resentment. "You don't get the stares and loathing. You're not seen as different."

"I grew up being different, remember?" Kelvin challenged. "Don't you think I could have come back here full of hate and anger and resentment and revenge? I could have been mean to Linda when I saw her at Johnny C's, called her all sorts of names, ridiculed and degraded her for being a waitress and having a kid at eighteen, but what would that have accomplished?"

"Maybe it would have made you feel better," Kianna replied honestly.

"And here I am face to face with you my sworn arch-enemy," Kelvin told her. "You can't possibly know how much I hated you back then. How I wished you dead. How I used to fantasize about killing you. Humiliating you in front of the entire school. I once had a dream that I hung you naked from the roof of the school for everybody to see."

She looked at him with a disgusted look on her face. "Naked, huh? You had to go there."

"I was fourteen," Kelvin shrugged. "Natural adolescent male hormones at work."

"Right," she said with disapproval.

"What happened to all that confidence you used to have?" Kelvin wondered.

"I'm. In. A. Wheelchair," Kianna said angrily. "There are barriers and challenges and situations all the time."

"But you can still be positive," Kelvin replied. "Find solutions. Overcome difficulties."

"You're so clueless," she complained.

"For years, I told myself that my life sucked," Kelvin told her. "I always assumed there was no hope. But eventually I figured out that even though life is tough sometimes and a rough journey I can still heal from what I went through and I'd be okay." He paused for a moment. "Surely you will be too, wheelchair or no wheelchair."

"Whatever," Kianna sighed unconvincingly.

"Think about it," Kelvin encouraged her as he stood. "I'll come back in a couple of days. We can talk again."

"You don't have to come back," Kianna replied curtly.

"I know I don't have to," he grinned. "I want to."

She gave him a strange look. "You might not be a pathetic wimp loser anymore but you're still kind of weird," she said.

Kelvin laughed. "But in a good way, right?" He smirked.

He left Kianna sitting in the wheelchair, the expression on her face not any different from when he first entered the room but Kelvin was pretty sure he had planted a seed deep within her being and hopefully, with a little tender care, perhaps it would take root. He felt bad about what happened to her but what really saddened him was that Kianna had apparently given up hope and he knew that without hope there was nothing.

As promised, Kelvin returned two days later. Kianna was clearly annoyed when she opened the door and saw him standing on her stoop.

"You're not very good at taking hints, are you?" She asked.

"Can I come in?" Kelvin asked hopefully.

"Do I have a choice?" Kianna groaned, wheeling her chair back.

"I was just wondering if you needed any help with anything," Kelvin offered as he stepped into the room.

"I have a home help aide," Kianna told him. "Plus my mother and sister-in-law help out."

"Well, if anything else out of the routine comes up and you need help, you just let me know," Kelvin said. He took a piece of paper out of his pocket and put it on a small desk in the corner of the room. "Here's my phone number and address in case you need anything."

"Fine," she said impatiently. "Now will you leave?"

"Did you think about what we talked about the other day?" Kelvin wanted to know. "About being more positive?"

"I'll be more positive if you leave," Kianna replied sarcastically.

Kelvin smiled and then he took a seat on the couch without being invited. He saw Kianna roll her eyes.

"What?" Kelvin asked. "You have plans?"

"Yes, a full social schedule," Kianna replied sarcastically.

"I'm just trying to be positive."

"Listen, Santa Claus," Kianna growled. "I've been on my own for a long time now. I didn't know what to expect once I got out of rehab. I had to live with my mother. We didn't see eye to eye before the accident and it didn't exactly get any better after it either. I finally moved in here so we wouldn't end up killing each other. I lost my boyfriend and my legs at the same time. I never finished college. I'm in a wheelchair. So excuse me if I'm not Little Miss Mary Sunshine."

"You could go back to school, you know," Kelvin reminded her.

"I have exactly two options in my life, Einstein," Kianna retorted. "I can either be in bed or in the chair. There isn't anything in between. I spent the first few months after rehab mostly in bed because I was too depressed to get up. You saw the ramp out front. Go take a look at the bathroom. Special toilet. Grab bars. No bathtub. Just a roll in shower. I have to sit in a special chair to shower. God, how I'd love to take a bath again. I have to maneuver my stupid chair where ever I go. I had to learn how to do a lot of things differently. It's been a difficult transition to a lifestyle I'd rather not have."

"You can still be positive about it," Kelvin said again.

"Jesus, what is with you?" She groaned. "Wheelchair living is different. I have to constantly be aware of where I am and how I'm going to get to where I want to go." She lifted up her arms. "Look at my upper body strength from wheeling myself everywhere and pulling myself up and out of the chair all the time. I look like Popeye for god sakes."

"Which is why you can still take me," Kelvin grinned.

"This is my life," Kianna told him. "Everything in this condo is arranged so that I can reach what I need, strategically placed so I can get to what I need. I can operate the faucets and brush my teeth. I can operate most of the lights."

"Well, maybe it's time for you to take the next step," Kelvin said.

She gave him another long look. "I still have no idea what you're doing here," she said.

"Maybe we could go out sometime," he suggested.

"What for?" Kianna frowned.

"Just to get you out of the house for a change," he smiled. "A movie or an ice cream or something."

"I already told you I don't like going out."

"Why not?"

"It makes me anxious," she said.

"I'm sure people are courteous and accommodating."

"I don't like being looked at," Kianna replied. "I don't like being seen as handicapped. I don't like being waited on like some special needs person."

"You're not," Kelvin said.

"Of course I am," she groaned.

"That's not being very positive," Kelvin told her.

"Look, I'm independent enough for myself here," she said. "I can get myself out of bed, bathe, get dressed, prepare food, eat, clean up and get around. It's a simple life and it's enough for me."

"Wouldn't it be nice to go out to dinner?" He asked.

"No," she answered curtly. "I don't go out unless I have to."

"Well, when do you go out?"

"Medical appointments mostly," she revealed. "My therapist usually comes here but I have to go to the doctor's regularly. Spinal cord injuries often cause higher blood pressure, muscle spasms, bed sores, and periodic shortness of breath. There can be urinary infections and bowel problems and bladder spasms but I'd rather not get into all of that stuff if you don't mind."

"So what do you do to keep yourself occupied?"

"The television is my best friend," she admitted. "Plus I'm on the stupid computer a lot. I have a fake name. I'm on all the blogs and other pages, usually making rude and outrageous comments. That makes me laugh sometimes."

"What about the sun on your face and the wind in your hair?"

"What about playing field hockey and basketball like I used to?" She frowned. "I've learned to live with limitations. This is my life."

"Life is what you make of it," Kelvin countered. "You still have your family, friends and neighbors…"

"My family tolerates me," Kianna said. "I don't have any friends anymore. I don't know any of my neighbors."

"How are things with your therapist?"

"She's okay," Kianna shrugged. "Hell, I would have had issues even if I wasn't in a wheelchair," she groaned. "I have caged rage about a lot of stuff. I'm bitter about my condition. I tend to feel sorry for myself too much. I've been a jerk to my family. Sometimes I'll cry myself to sleep. I'm way too impatient. I hate feeling helpless. I'm miserable."

"Life goes on," Kelvin said simply.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Kianna asked, annoyed once again.

"I was all those things for most of my childhood and adolescence," Kelvin told her. "I had issues. I didn't know my father. My mother died when I was five. I was raised by my grandmother who was very loving and wonderful but she really didn't have a clue. I had rage and I was bitter and I felt sorry for myself and I'd cry myself to sleep and I was miserable and I felt a lot of helplessness. It wasn't until I had my aneurysm that I learned how really clinically depressed I was. I had pondered suicide several times. I have a lot of terrible memories but I never learned how to deal with my depression and I denied how fragile my mental health was. At my darkest hours I was lower than low and I'd have suicidal thoughts. You would have thought that the aneurysm would have been the final blow but it was actually my rebirth."

"How so?" Kianna wondered.

"With the help of others, I discovered the ability to reason with myself and understand that I wasn't alone," Kelvin explained. "I rehabbed with a lot of guys who were maimed in the war. No legs. No arms. Head injuries. Burn victims. Really horrible stuff but most of them had this amazing will to overcome, to get better, and to not be defeated. I thought to myself – 'I can do that' and I stopped denying my emotional pain and trauma, sought out support, stopped hiding how I was feeling, let go of my shame, embarrassment, humiliation, and vulnerability, and I started living my life with a new perspective and attitude. I was no longer a pathetic wimp loser. I learned coping strategies to deal with my depression. I talked about my past and told my story. I forgave those who tormented me. I let go of the loss and the hurt and I stopped feeling helpless and started feeling hopeful."

Kianna sat in her chair staring at him with amazed disbelief, unable to respond to anything he had said.

"Why don't you think about some of that and I'll come back for another visit in a couple of days," Kelvin said as he stood and gave her a look.

She remained unresponsive so Kelvin gave her a nod and headed for the door. "Be good to yourself, Kianna," he said before opening the door and heading outside.

Kelvin returned two days later at the same time as his earlier visits (two o'clockish). He rang the bell and Kianna eventually opened it from her chair.

"Oh, it's you," she said with her usual annoyance.

"Could I come in?"

"Whatever," she shrugged, wheeling herself back without much of a protest this time.

Kelvin noticed that Kianna was wearing a sun dress and that her hair was brushed out. She may even have been wearing a hint of makeup. In his earlier visits, she was wearing pajama bottoms and tee shirts, her hair looked unkempt and she definitely wasn't wearing make-up. Kelvin decided not to mention her improved appearance not wanting to offend, insult or annoy her. Instead, he walked across the room to the sliding glass door on the other side of the living room.

"It's a nice day out there," he observed. "Why don't we go out on the patio?" (A cement slab about the size of hopscotch squares with a couple of lawn chairs on it.

"I never go out there," she replied.

"Why not?"

"People can see me," Kianna sighed.

"So what?" Kelvin asked.

"We're not going to go through that again are we?" She groaned.

Kelvin opened the sliding door and when Kianna didn't bulge Kelvin stepped outside on his own and took a seat in one of the lawn chairs in the late spring afternoon sunshine. A few minutes later, Kianna reluctantly wheeled her chair out onto the cement slab and parked herself opposite him.

"You really are annoying, you know that?" She complained.

"So how come you and your mom don't get along so well?" Kelvin asked.

"She's always been such a girly-girl," Kianna complained.

"A girly-girl?"

"Yeah, you know, all perfume and make up and wardrobe. She's been the Head Clothes Buyer at Donovan's Department Store forever. She likes nail polish, hair salons and fashion shows."

"That's nothing like you," Kelvin laughed.

"Damn right," Kianna verified. "I was more like my father, a real man's man. He was the big star athlete in high school. Tough guy too. He used to take me hunting and fishing with my older brothers. Really toughened me up."

"Is that why you were such a tough guy too?" Kelvin wondered.

"I was the youngest girl with three older brothers," she laughed. "I didn't have much choice. They didn't show me much mercy. I had to learn to be tough or they would have annihilated me."

"So, that's why you became a bully? 'Cause you were bullied?"

"Maybe a little," Kianna confessed with some discomfort. "Also, my parents split up when I was in middle school and I was pretty angry and miserable."

"So you took it out on me," Kelvin realized.

"You were an easy mark," Kianna admitted. "You wouldn't stand up for yourself or defend yourself. You wouldn't fight back. Maybe you reminded me of my mother who let my father walk out the door no questions asked. I don't know. I was frustrated and very unhappy."

"How are things with your Dad now?"

"He doesn't know how to deal with this," Kianna said, gesturing to the wheelchair underneath her. "Plus he's with somebody new with a couple of younger step kids so he's focused on them. I haven't seen a whole lot of him since he left."

"I'm sorry about all that."

"I guess that's why I was always with some guy in high school and beyond," Kianna said, giving it some thought. "Always looking for a substitute for my father."

"What about your brothers?"

"One lives in California. One's a contractor overseas. Jimmy still runs the garage over on South County Road."

"You should work for him again," Kelvin suggested.

"Yeah, right," Kianna said, rolling her eyes.

"Seriously," Kelvin told her. "You liked working there before, right?"

"Sure, but..."

"Think about it," Kelvin said.

Kelvin noticed that Kianna had closed her eyes and that her head was tipped back to warm in the afternoon sun.

"It's nice out here, isn't it?" He asked quietly.

"Yeah," Kianna replied, sounding like she was in a dream.

"Were you able to mourn and grieve Mark?" Kelvin asked after a fairly long period of silence between them.

Kianna opened her eyes, lifted her head and looked at him with stunned disbelief. "Jesus, Morris."

"It's an important part of moving on," Kelvin theorized.

"I feel guilty because I really wasn't that serious about him," Kianna revealed. "I liked him and all that but he wasn't the guy I envisioned myself spending the rest of my life with."

"Do you think he would have stayed with you had he lived?"

"Would you?" Kianna remarked acidly.

"Yes," Kelvin replied.

Kianna looked at him with a funny look on her face and then she thought about his question for a few minutes. "I don't know," she admitted. "Probably not. He was always on the go. A free spirit. He talked about taking a cross country trip after college. He was studying to be an environmentalist. Who knows what would have happened? He probably would have gone off to save the world."

"What are your plans?" Kelvin asked, eyeing her intently.

She lifted her eyebrow. "Plans?"

"For the future."

"I don't have a future."

"Of course you do," Kelvin assured her. "You can do whatever you want."

"I'm in a wheelchair," Kianna said with annoyance, sounding like a frustrated teacher talking to a group of clueless students.

"So what?"

"Don't be stupid, Morris," Kianna groaned. "This is my life. There is no future, there are no plans."

"When are you going to stop making excuses?" Kelvin asked.

"If you were in my chair you'd understand."

"I was in your chair, or at least one like it," Kelvin reminded her.

"Well, you're not now."

"Because I decided to have a plan and a future," he said.

Kianna looked at him with exasperation. "You're not going to let up, are you?"

"Nope," he grinned.

"What's the point?" She wanted to know. "People spend their whole life in search of a dream and a goal and a future hoping to meet that special someone to live the perfect life with when there's no such thing. Look at my parents. I grew up thinking they were the ideal couple. Boy was I wrong."

"That's not your truth, though," Kelvin remarked. "You have a chance to write a whole new future."

"God, you're such a pain in the ass," Kianna protested.

"I think you're special and that you can do special things," Kelvin said.

"I think you're wacked."

"You just need to get that toughness back you used to have."

She looked at him as if he was nuts. "Why do you care so much? Nobody else does."

"I believe we're both still here for a reason," Kelvin revealed. "I could have easily died from my aneurism or killed myself. You could have died in the accident. But we're both still here. There must be some sort of divine plan we're not aware of."

"I thought you said no God stuff," Kianna frowned.

"It's not God stuff," Kelvin insisted, standing. "It's Kianna stuff. Do you need anything?"

She shook her head no.

"I'll be back tomorrow," he announced as he started for the sliding glass door.

"Why?" Kianna groaned.

"Haven't you been listening?" He smiled. "I'll see you."

Kianna stayed outside enjoying the warm sun long after Kelvin was gone.

Kelvin returned the next day, ringing the doorbell promptly at 2:00 in the afternoon. Kianna opened it to greet him, once again looking more attractive than during his initial visits and perhaps even a little more cheerful although it was hard to tell with her sometimes.

"It's another nice day," Kelvin smiled.

"It is," Kianna agreed. "I might be willing to even sit out on the patio again."

Kelvin was still standing in the doorway. "Actually, I was thinking maybe I could take you for a ride," he said.

"In the car, you mean?" Kianna asked, confused.

"Sure,"

"I don't think so."

"Why not?"

"I don't do that."

"Why not?"

"I don't like to be seen," she explained.

"Nobody can see the wheelchair when you're in the car, Kianna," Kelvin pointed out.

"I still don't think so," she sighed.

"It's really a nice day out," he said invitingly. "We won't go far."

Kianna looked at him with annoyed bewilderment. "Why do you keep doing this to me?" She complained.

"Come on, let's go," he insisted. "Just for a little ride."

Kianna stared at him for a long moment. "Wait a minute," she said, turning the wheel chair and wheeling herself into the bedroom. She returned after a few minutes wearing a ball cap on her head and large dark sunglasses on her face. There was a purse in her lap. "Not far," she said seriously. "I have bathroom issues."

"Not far," Kelvin agreed with a smile, opening the door wider so she could exit more easily. "You have the keys?" He asked.

"Yes, go ahead, close the door," Katrina said, already wheeling herself down the two tiered ramp. She stopped wheeling when she saw the sporty little forty year old red MG controvertible at the curb. "That's your car?"

"I just got it yesterday," he smiled. "Thought I should break the typecast plus I wanted you to be able to feel the wind in your hair."

"You are such a fool," Kianna said as she started wheeling herself toward the car.

Kianna didn't have the much trouble boosting herself into the low car and Kelvin put the wheelchair into the trunk before climbing behind the driver's seat.

"No speeding," Kianna insisted. "No passing trucks."

"I'm a very careful driver," he assured her.

"You can understand my paranoia," she sighed.

"Of course," he said gently. "We won't even leave town. I won't go over 35."

"Okay," she said, sounding relieved.

Kelvin started the car and he slowly drove through various neighborhoods and along the Blue River. There seemed to be a smile on Kianna's face and her hair was definitely blowing out from underneath her ball cap. The sunglasses hid her eyes so Kelvin wasn't sure if her eyes were dancing or frightened. The car made a relatively loud zoom noise and there was a lot of shifting involved as Kelvin drove the four-speed but it was fun cruising around in the sporty little car.

"You really didn't buy this for me, did you?" Kianna wanted to know, throwing him a glance.

"I thought I deserved a new toy too," he smiled.

"You can't drive this in the winter, you know," she told him.

"I still have my other car," Kelvin said.

She nodded in understanding but she didn't say anything else. After Kelvin drove down just about every street in town, he finally pulled into Red's Tastee Freeze. "You want a cone?"

"Cup, strawberry," she said. "Small."

"I'll be right back," he smiled. "Don't go anywhere."

She gave him a deadpanned look.

Kelvin returned with ice cream in a cup and a small cone for him.

"Thanks," Kianna said, accepting the cup and slowly eating the ice cream. "I can't remember the last time I was here," she admitted after a few quiet moments.

"My grandmother took me here every Friday night in the summer," Kelvin said.

"So, you've been bugging me about my plans and my goals and my future," Kianna said. "But what about you? What's going on for you?"

"I'm still trying to figure it out," Kelvin admitted. "My grandmother's estate is almost settled. She left me the house and a hefty inheritance. I'm medically retired. I have plenty of options available to me."

"Do you mean you might stay?" She asked with surprise.

"When I left here after high school I vowed I'd never be back," Kelvin said. "I hated this place." He gave her a look. "Now, it doesn't seem so bad."

"What would you like to do?" Kianna asked, glancing away.

"Work with bullied kids," he replied without hesitation. "I just need a way to figure out how."

Kianna looked back at him. "Why are you so willing to forgive me?"

"Because if I forgive you then I can forgive myself," he explained.

"I don't understand."

"Forgive myself for allowing myself to be bullied," he expanded. "For being weak. For failing. For letting myself be traumatized over and over again. For being a victim."

Neither said anything for the longest time. They finished their ice cream and Kelvin threw away Kianna's cup in a nearby trash can before returning to the sports car.

"I feel bitter," Kianna told him.

"About what happened to you?"

"About everything," she sighed.

"I found that clinging to my grudges and resentments and hurts was only hurting me and the only way to escape it was to be willing enough to be vulnerable enough to forgive," Kelvin said. "I'm hoping my grandmother forgave me for never coming back."

"Well, she left you everything so she must have," Kianna reasoned.

"She left me everything because there was nobody else," Kelvin remarked.

"She could have left it to the dog next door if she wanted," Kianna pointed out.

"I figured out that I would never be able to enjoy my life or look forward to any kind of future if I remained paralyzed by past wrongs," Kelvin explained. "I got tired of feeling helpless and hopeless and that my life had no meaning. I know I'll never get over some of that hurt and those wounds but if I didn't find some sort of internal peace I'd end up killing myself. I replaced the resentment and fantasies of revenge with a certain sense of understanding, empathy, and compassion."

"I want to find a way to let go of the bitterness and anger," Kianna said. "But I don't know how."

"You've already started," Kelvin smiled. "You just had ice cream. You felt the sun on your face and the wind in your hair. You sat on your patio. The rest will come."

"I feel guilty every time I see you," she sighed. "I'm such a terrible person."

"You were never a terrible person," Kelvin told her. "You had misdirected anger and frustration. You were hurting too."

Kianna had tears in her eyes. "I was a mean bitch."

"Yeah," Kelvin decided after a moment. "You were," he agreed. "But you're not now."

"How do you know?" She wondered with worry. "I still have a lot of anger, frustration and bitterness."

"I know because you're sitting here with me," he answered knowingly as he finally started the car.

Kelvin Morris visited Kianna Swasberg every afternoon at 2:00 for the next several weeks. Sometimes they sat on the back patio. Other times they went for a ride in his sports car. Sometimes he'd run errands for her or do something around the condo the home aide hadn't gotten to. He made her supper a few times. Kianna was still resistant to talking about any goals, plans or future undertakings like college and she refused to go out to the movies or a ball game at Beano Field or out to dinner and that was okay with Kelvin because he knew it would all come with time.

One day, Kelvin was out running a few errands and he saw a nice flowered cement vase that would look good on Kianna's patio. He bought it and brought it to her condo even though it was only 11:00 in the morning. He lugged it around back and placed it on the cement slab and because the glass sliding door was open he decided to step inside to say hi to Kianna earlier than usual. He heard moaning coming from the bedroom and he immediately assumed that Kianna had fallen from her chair or from the bed so he rushed to the room to see if she was okay. The door was open and Kelvin stopped short when he discovered that Kianna was lying on her bed. She was on her back with her tee shirt pushed up over her breasts. She was massaging her breasts with one hand and her gym shorts were tugged down her thighs and she was playing with herself between her legs with her other hand.

Kelvin was horrified to invade Kianna's privacy and he was shocked to see what he was seeing. Her eyes were closed and she was moaning loudly Red faced, Kelvin turned to leave just as Kianna opened her eyes to see him escaping.

"What are you doing here!?" Kianna screamed.

"I'm sorry!" Kelvin yelled as he rushed away.

"Don't go!" she demanded. "I want to talk to you!"

Kelvin groaned with embarrassed humiliation as he collapsed onto one of the lawn chairs on the patio. A few minutes later, Kianna appeared in the doorway in her chair, her clothes properly rearranged to hide what had been exposed for him to see.

"I brought you a plant," Kelvin said, staring at the flower pot and not her. "I heard noises. I thought you might be hurt."

"Hurt?" She asked with disgust.

"I thought maybe you fell or something," he mumbled, too embarrassed to look at her.

"I was…occupied," she said.

"I should probably go," Kelvin said, his eyes still glued to the plant.

"You must really like that plant," Kianna said sarcastically. "Either that or you don't want to look at me."

"I'll just go," he said.

"I didn't know you were a peeping tom," Kianna grumbled.

"I'm not!" He said, finally looking at her. "It was an accident. I didn't know. I didn't realize…"

"I'm just as embarrassed as you are, Morris," Kianna assured him.

He looked down at the ground. "I doubt that's possible," he said.

She sighed. "I guess you finally got your revenge," she said. "That fantasy of hanging me naked from the school roof sort of just came true in a sick way."

Kelvin felt like somebody had dropped a paper weight into his stomach.

"But I forgive you," Kianna added.

There was something in her tone that made Kelvin look at her. "Thanks," he said quietly but he still had a hard time looking her in the eyes and he looked away, distracted.

"Thanks for the plant," Kianna said.

"Sure," Kelvin replied politely. "My pleasure. I should go."

"It's almost time for lunch," Kianna replied. "Why don't you stay and eat with me?"

"Okay," Kelvin agreed, happy to be let off the hook although the image of what he had seen would never escape his thoughts.

She wheeled herself into the kitchenette area and Kelvin followed wondering if it would now always be awkward between them.

"Tuna fish sandwich okay?" Kianna asked.

"Sure," Kelvin said with a smile. "Can I help?"

"No, I can do it," she said, sounding slightly annoyed by the offer.

Kelvin took a seat at the small booth inside a cranny by a bay window overlooking the back yard and watched as Kianna expertly maneuvered herself around the kitchen, doing what she needed to do to prepare the meal. Kelvin was impressed by her abilities but he still felt weird about what happened although he knew he needed to try to forget about it.

Kianna placed two tuna fish sandwiches, some chips, and a couple of cans of ginger ale on the table and parked her wheel chair at the end of the table.

"Thanks," Kelvin said, taking a bite from his sandwich. "This is very good."

"I guess I'm a little bit of a girly girl myself," Kianna sighed.

"Making food doesn't make you a girly girl," Kelvin replied.

"I meant about before," she blushed.

"We don't have to talk about that," Kelvin said nervously.

"Everybody has needs, Morris," Kianna said. "Even people in wheel chairs."

"I should have called ahead," Kelvin said, his voice rising higher with each word he spoke. "I was wrong to show up unannounced or to come inside uninvited. You don't have to explain what you do in the privacy of your own home."

They didn't talk as they finished their sandwiches and ate some chips. Kianna picked up after the meal and when she was done she wheeled herself out onto the patio. For someone who didn't like going out there, she had been going out there fairly often recently. She had her back to him when he came out behind her, so Kelvin moved one of the lawn chairs to sit in front of her.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly, his throat dry. "It's just that-"

Kianna cut him off by boosting herself up on her wheel chair, leaning in and pressing her lips against his mouth and Kelvin almost fell out of his own chair he was so surprised by her gesture. He stared into her eyes and he awkwardly kissed her back.

"Why are you kissing me like I'm your grandmother?" Kianna frowned.

He broke the kiss and looked away. "Sorry," he said with a sigh. "I guess I don't know what I'm doing," he admitted dejectedly.

"What?" She asked with confusion.

He ran a hand through his hair. "You know I like you," he sighed.

"Do you?" She wondered. "Maybe there's just too much history for you to truly forgive me."

"I'm just not good at this," he confessed. "I don't have a whole lot of experience."

"We're twenty-six years old, Morris."

"Physically," he said, looking like a ten year old who just witnessed his dog getting run over by a tractor trailer truck.

Kianna frowned. "Because of me, you mean," she realized.

"It was just hard to trust girls," he admitted.

Kianna sighed heavily. "Maybe you could slowly learn to trust me," she said hopefully.

"I trust you," Kelvin assured her.

"Then why don't you stop thinking so much and trust yourself?"

"Because I don't want to fail," he sighed. "Again."

Kianna searched his face with her eyes and then she slowly raised her hands up to his cheeks before gently kissing him again. Kelvin put his hands in her hair and kissed her back, even daring to nibble on her lip.

"Better?" He asked hopefully as he pulled away from her mouth.

"Better," she said with a smile.

"I'll keep working on it," Kelvin smiled, patting her thigh before standing.

"Thanks for the plant," Kianna told him. "It was very kind of you."

"I'll see you tomorrow," Kelvin replied before leaving the patio and walking around the side of the condo.

Kianna watched him go and when he was gone from her sight she dropped her head back and groaned toward the sky. She couldn't believe he had seen her in such a compromising position and while she was surprised she had taken the initiative to kiss him and disappointed that he was so school boyish in his response, all in all it was a weirdly okay sort of day.

Kelvin wondered if he should just drive his sports car into a tree at about 80 m.p.h. as he drove home. After all the healing and improvement he had made trying to live a positive life he was knocked all the way back to the start again when Kianna kissed him. He was grateful and hopeful that she was willing to express herself in that way but he was reminded of how inexperienced, clueless and ill-prepared he was to be able to provide a satisfying response for her. He was sexually retarded and as wonderful a moment that was for him on the patio, he was cruelly reminded that he had no idea how to pleasure and woman and he found himself slipping back into the common place of sad emptiness he often found himself in growing up.

When two o'clock rolled around the next day, Kelvin didn't get in his car to go see Kianna. He was too embarrassed, ashamed and humiliated. He so desperately wanted to be her friend (and maybe more) but he didn't think he could provide the emotional, physical and sexual satisfaction she deserved. If he couldn't even kiss her right how could he hope to be there for her in any other meaningful way? He sat around the house feeling sorry for himself as all the old messages and tapes came flowing back into his head – you're no good, you're pathetic, you're a loser.

Three days passed and Kianna became concerned because Kelvin hadn't stopped by. Did something happen to him? She had his phone number and even though part of her was hurt that he had stopped coming by she wanted to make sure nothing had happened to him. She was surprised by how much she missed his presence and his visits and how fond she had become of him, an ironic twist of fate given how much she didn't want him around in the beginning. Even the home health aide (Sherry) picked up on Kianna's sadness in the days after Kelvin stopped appearing.

Feeling a mixture of concern, worry, annoyance, angst and anxiety, Kianna wheeled herself to the desk in the corner of the room and picked up the piece of paper Kelvin had left several weeks ago with his address and phone number on it. She sucked in her breath and dialed the number.

Kelvin was lying on the couch, immobile and half-comatose when his cell went off. He had been unable to even leave the house the past few days, all sorts of emotions overwhelming him – from delayed grief about his grandmother to repressed memories about some of the bullying he endured, to the realization that he might never find true happiness. He forgot to look at the caller number as he picked up the phone and answered.

"Hello?"

"What, you catch me playing with myself and suddenly you're too good for me?"

"Kianna?" He sat up on the couch with stunned surprise.

"Is there anybody else you've caught masturbating in the last few days?" She asked sarcastically. "Who else would it be?"

"I….I…I….." he stuttered.

"Are you gay or something?" She demanded and it occurred to Kelvin that she was sounding just a little bit like she used to when she was fourteen. "You see my twat and tits and you're turned off?"

"Of course not," he said with embarrassment.

"Then why did you stop coming over?" Kianna wanted to know. "Are you injured? Did something happen? Are you in trouble?"

"I'm having a hard time right now," Kelvin admitted with shame.

"Why? What happened?"

"I'm a rotten kisser," he sighed.

There was a pause on the other end. "That's what this is about?" Kianna finally asked, a bit of amusement in her voice. "You're kidding, right?"

"No," he mumbled.

"Did it ever occur to you that I'm a lousy lay?" She asked with disbelief.

"I…ah….um…"

"I'm calling from the patio," Kianna told him. "A place you helped me discover. I'm itching to go for a ride. I never wanted to go for rides before. I'm in the mood to get an ice cream. Are you coming over or what?"

"You're not disappointed with me?"

"Morris, get real," she said. "Get your ass over here now." The line went dead.

Kelvin wasn't sure if he should laugh or cry. The relief he felt was indescribable. Kianna still wanted to see him? He felt like a prisoner being paroled and he leapt from the couch with a newfound energy he hadn't known before. He hadn't shaved or showered in a few days so he quickly cleaned up, dressed in fresh clothes and sped the MG to Kianna's house with a huge grin on his face. She was waiting for him in the front doorway when he arrived.

"Let's go for a ride," she said, opening the door and zipping down the ramp before Kelvin had even reached the door.

So they returned to their normal routine, two insecure traumatized people trying to heal and enjoy a friendship together. Sometimes while out for a ride, Kelvin would drive the MG through the Blue County Community College parking lot or the Green College campus just as a friendly reminder that Kianna had options as far as future plans, goals and dreams went.

"I'm thinking on-line courses," Kianna told him.

"That would be good too," Kelvin smiled, glad that she was considering her future.

Another time they were out for a ride when the MG's engine started making a pinging noise.

"Pull into Jimmy's place," Kianna advised.

Kelvin drove the car to the gas station/repair shop on South County Road where Kianna once worked, pulling into the side lot.

"Get my chair," Kianna ordered.

Once Kianna was in her chair, she had Kelvin pop the hood and she yelled for her brother.

A tall burly guy came out of one of the bays and he did a double take when he saw his sister in her wheelchair hanging her head over the engine of the sports car.

"Jimmy, this is Morris," Kianna said. "Get me my tools."

"Morris?" Jimmy asked with confusion, shaking Kelvin's hand. "What's going on?"

"Your sister is going to tweek my car," Kelvin replied.

A grin slowly came across Jimmy's face. He disappeared into the shop and returned a few moments later carrying a large metal tool box. "Here you go, Ki," he smiled. "Get to work."

"Could she come back and do a few hours if she wanted?" Kelvin asked.

"Any time," Jimmy said happily. "There's always something to do around here."

Kianna was too preoccupied with the MG's engine to pay attention to what Jimmy and Kelvin were gabbing about. Jimmy grinned, gave Kelvin the thumbs up sign, and returned to the garage while Kelvin watched Kianna tinker with the car. When she had him start the engine, the ping was gone.

"Maybe I could stop by once in a while and do a little work on some of the cars," Kianna said later as Kelvin drove her home.

Kelvin had first visited Kianna in late spring. Now it was early September and the summer of healing, discovery, development and expansion was coming to a close. One cool September afternoon, Kelvin took Kianna for a ride as usual (only the canvas roof was up to keep the chill off). Instead of driving her home, though, Kelvin pulled the car into the driveway of a small green house that looked like a giant box.

"Where are we?" Kianna asked, glancing around.

"This is where I live," Kelvin replied. "I wanted to show you."

"Okay," Kianna agreed.

She waited for him to get the wheelchair out of the trunk and then she wheeled herself behind him around the side of the house. She was surprised to see a ramp leading up to the back porch.

"Your grandmother was in a wheelchair too?" Kianna asked.

"No, I had this built for you," Kelvin replied.

"Jesus, Morris," she said, shaking her head. "You're unbelievable."

He led her into the house and she glanced around the kitchen.

"Your grandmother's dead," she groaned. "How 'bout updating this place into this century?"

"What do you mean?" Kelvin asked.

"Get rid of this horrible yellow paint," she insisted. "Something more modern. And linoleum floor? Seriously? How old is that stove? Fifty years?" She wheeled herself into the living room. "Shag carpets are so 1970s it's ridiculous. Are there hardwood floors underneath this puke green rug? Go with that. And the wallpaper looks like lima beans. How 'bout a nice shade of purple for this room? The furniture wouldn't even be accepted by the Salvation Army by the way." She wheeled down the hall and glanced in the bedrooms. "Yeech," she said. "Nobody has a paneled bedroom, Morris. Move into your grandmother's bedroom for god sakes. This was meant to be a study or a den."

"I wasn't sure if I should," Kelvin admitted.

"Why, are you expecting your grandmother to come back?" Kianna asked sarcastically.

She stuck her head into the master bedroom. "Oh, God, blinds? Really? And again, that wallpaper is so Victorian. How 'bout a nice teal color for this room? Open the shades. Get rid of that horrible shag carpet. Take down those portraits of dead people from the 1920s that you probably don't even know who they are. That bed looks like it's going to collapse. Morris, you're 26 not 86. Modernize this place."

"I guess you're right," Kelvin realized. "I was feeling like I should honor my grandmother by…."

"She didn't leave you this place for you to run as a museum tribute to her," Kianna interrupted. "Make it your own place if you ever want me to come back."

He laughed as Kianna wheeled herself down the hall and into the bathroom.

"Wow, look at that tub!" She said. "It has legs! Keep it. But that sink is 1950s and that toilet looks like it came from a school rest room. Those gotta go. And put a shower stall in where that linen closet is instead of using that make shift joke you got hitched up in the tub."

"If I do all that, will you come back?" Kelvin asked nervously.

Kianna gave him a long look from her wheelchair. "Yes, Morris," she said. "I'll come back."

"Since you're here now, do you want to take a tub bath?" Kelvin offered.

"What?" Kianna asked, not sure she had heard him right.

"Early on, you said you missed being able to sit in a tub," Kelvin said. "I bought some bubble bath and oils and candles and I could play some soft music if you wanted to sit in a hot tub for a while."

"Wow," Kianna said, giving it some thought. "That doesn't sound half bad." She glanced at the tub. "But you'd have to put me in there."

"I could do that," he said.

"You won't freak out seeing me naked again?" She frowned.

Kelvin blushed. "I'll try not to."

"Start running the water," she grinned. "As hot as humanly possible."

Kelvin turned on the faucet while digging out the bubble bath and oils he had bought and he dumped some of them into the water. He placed some scented candles around the tub and lit them and he dug a radio out from the linen closet and found a jazz station. Kianna had already peeled off her sweatshirt, kicked off her shoes and was working on shimming her jeans down her legs. Kelvin awkwardly helped and then Kianna pulled off her tee shirt and removed her bra, causing Kelvin to look away.

"You said you weren't going to freak out, Nurse," Kianna reprimanded as she pulled her hair up on her head.

"Sorry," he mumbled.

Kianna lifted herself up on the wheelchair. "Pull my underwear off," she instructed.

Kelvin swallowed hard before leaning in, placing both hands on her panties and gently pulling them down her thighs, trying not to stare at what was revealed while doing so.

"Could you lift me into the tub?" Kianna politely requested.

Kelvin cleared his throat before sliding his arms underneath her backside. Kianna wrapped her arms around his neck and he lifted her out of the chair and then he gently placed her in the water.

"Ahhhhhhhhh!" She said with a huge smile on her face. "That feels wonderful." Kianna gave him a quick look. "You're going to have to stay here, Morris. In case I slip under. You don't need a dead woman drowned in your granny's bathtub on your hands."

"Okay," he agreed sheepishly as he picked up her clothes and then took a seat in her vacated wheelchair, peering at her in the tub. The suds came up to her neck so there wasn't anything for him to see.

"So," Kianna said after a few quiet moments with the scent of the candles and oils filling the room and the soft music gently playing in the background. "I think it's safe to say that things have changed between us."

"That's a good thing, right?"

"Yes, Morris, that's a good thing," she smiled, glancing at him. "But, obviously, things are different for me now."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, my sex life for one," she sighed. "That's why I was pleasing myself that time you saw me. I haven't exactly had a lot of romantic opportunities since the accident."

"Have you had any?" He wondered.

"A few," she revealed. "But I wasn't in the right emotional or mental place for them to last or the guy wasn't able to commit to a long term relationship for obvious reasons."

"Where are you at now?" Kelvin dared to ask. "As far as being in the right emotional or mental space?"

"I'd say we're lucky to have each other, wouldn't you?" She asked, giving him a look.

"Yes," he said, trying not to feel flustered.

"I had plenty of boyfriends in my time," Kianna sighed. "And I loved sex. I liked orgasms. I was a sexual person so it's been difficult for me to be like this. I think I'd still enjoy sex but I don't climax like I used to although I still get excited when I pleasure myself. I always feel relaxed afterwards."

Kelvin had no idea what he was supposed to say in response so he didn't say anything.

"I worry about sex being too much," Kianna continued. "Too much expectation, too much exhaustion, too much disappointment for my partner, too much difficulty trying to find the right positions in my condition." She glanced at him. "Is this too weird to hear?" She wondered. "Many disabled people have shame when it comes to sex – or even talking about sex - like it's somehow our fault that our limbs won't respond like a normal able-bodied person or something. I never looked at porn before the accident but now I find myself checking it out from time to time on the internet just to feel involved."

"Everybody needs to feel good about themselves," Kelvin finally responded.

"Positive self-image helps having sex because rotten self-esteem takes the steam out of the sizzle if you know what I mean," Kianna remarked. "I need to understand how my body and my partner's body works to be able to have good sex. I'm much more patient now. Going slow is okay. I'm a more considerate lover and I'm grateful for the kind loving touches and kisses I might receive. When I achieve an orgasm I forget that I'm disabled. My body is no longer broken and I'm floating free and unchained in bliss."

She glanced at him. "What do you think about all this, Morris?"

"I'm a virgin," he blurted out.

"I figured that out the day you saw me doodling myself," Kianna said. "It's okay."

"I want to be able to please you but I don't know if I can."

"We'll find out together," Kianna said knowingly. "I owe you everything, Kelvin. I ruined your life and destroyed your psyche. Give me a chance to give back some of what I took from you."

He sucked in his breath, trying not to cry.

"Just be patient with me," she requested. "I'm kind of messed up too. We've both been traumatized but maybe we can heal together."

Both became quiet and neither said anything as Kianna gladly soaked up the suds and oils in her hot tub bath. When the water began to cool, she told Kelvin that she was ready to get out. He draped a towel over his shoulder and then leaned into the tub and once again slid his hands under her backside and thighs and lifted her up as she wrapped her arms around his neck. She also took the towel from his neck and dried herself off as best she could while he held her.

"Take me to your room," she whispered when she was dried.

Kelvin walked her out of the bathroom and into his paneled bedroom, gently placing her in the middle of his bed.

"You're soaked," She said, gesturing toward his shirt that got wet from holding her. "You should get out of that stuff."

Kelvin didn't argue, pulling his sweatshirt off over his head and then removing the rest of his clothing too before nervously joining her on the bed, feeling like a sixteen year old about to experience sex for the first time even though he wasn't sure if he was going to experience sex for the first time.

Kianna calmly and gently told him what to do, from licking her breasts and nipples, to kissing her neck, to chewing on her ear, to rubbing her wetness between her legs and with all the instruction and experimentation and exploration he was able to bring her to an orgasm with his fingers and tongue, watching her face with amazement as she moaned and enjoyed herself.

Kianna returned the favor by pleasuring him with her hand until he was brought to excitement and she smiled when he was finished, leaving himself on her hand and forearm. The lesson continued well into the evening and when it was over Kelvin was no longer a virgin and Kianna was lying on her stomach naked next to him on the bed with a smile on her face.

"Did I please you?" Kelvin asked, lying on his back and looking at her, his head turned to facing her as she propped her head up on her arms looking at him.

"You pleased me," she confirmed. "Did I satisfy you?" She asked hopefully.

"You answered my prayers," he told her.

"I was thinking about what you said earlier this summer about wanting to help kids who were or are being bullied," Kianna said.

"Yeah?" He asked, staring at her with loving contentment.

"Why don't we team up?" She suggested. "We could go around to some of the local schools and tell our story. Me as the bully, you as the bullied."

"You would out yourself like that?" Kelvin asked with surprise.

"How else will I keep making amends?" She asked. "And if it helps even one kid, haven't we done a good thing?"

"We've already done a good thing," he smiled, leaning in and kissing her.