Looking out toward the Charles River, Elizabeth stopped short at the sight of an unexpected figure. At first, all her eye caught was the glint of sun against metal. As was her habit, her head darted quickly to confirm that it was round metal, that it was the spokes of a wheel. Usually when this happened to Elizabeth, the wheel turned out to be attached to a bicycle. This time it wasn’t a bicycle, but the very thing Elizabeth’s mind kept a constant watch for.
Across the water she could see a young man in a red wheelchair. He was sitting close to the edge and watching the swirling, dark water. His hands sat folded in his lap, and he didn’t seem to notice the wind dancing with stray bits of his loosely tied black hair. He wore a brown coat, and jeans covered his compact legs. His feet were tucked neatly below him.
Time may have slowed. Though she was across the river, Elizabeth felt as though she stood just in front of him and they were the only breathing creatures in the world. There was nothing else. I want you.
Elizabeth’s body threatened to wrench itself from her control. She could feel her skin flushing. Her gut ached and seemed to cry out. She didn’t know who he was, but she wished that she could. The longing started in her stomach and stretched up to her lungs and throat. Though she didn’t often see disabled men in the harsh New England climate, whenever she did see a wheelchair, the same reaction overtook her body.
For a moment she allowed herself to imagine being close to this man, brushing her fingers through his black hair, touching the muscles of his arms, and watching him adjust his lifeless legs. Even from here she could tell he was a paraplegic and there was nothing temporary about the wheelchair.
“Hey, Elizabeth! What are you looking at?”
Elizabeth snapped out of her daze and saw her friends several yards ahead, waiting for her. “The water,” she said. “It’s so beautiful this time of year.”
She rushed ahead and dragged them with her so they would not have the chance to see the man. Just before they turned the corner, Elizabeth snuck one last glance back. He hadn’t moved, and his eyes remained locked on the rushing water.
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