When she finally let me open my eyes, (she insisted that I keep them closed until we pulled into our destination) I can say that I was pleasantly surprised. I saw the giant dome and could even spot the condensation on the windows in the other buildings. All of my life spent in this city and I’ve never come to the botanical gardens until she brought me. The architecture was gorgeous, and the landscaping pristine as we pulled into the parking lot. Driving along looking for a spot she paused, looking to me for the answer, “Park farther away from all the other cars and we will hope no one boxes us in,” I said, pointing to the end of the row. I should have grabbed the placard from my truck but really I’d be fine without it. After she got out of the car I carefully lifted my frame through the tight space of the interior and pulled the wheels out to reassemble my chair, as she fiddled with her camera in her bag. While I was transferring out I cracked my head on the frame of the car, hoping she hadn’t noticed as I let out nice “fuck” under my breath, I wasn’t so lucky, as I heard her chuckling, her hand covering her mouth.
“Thanks, pretty girl,” I said rubbing the top of my head.
“Maybe we take your truck from now on…” she giggled.
I just winked at her as I wheeled around to meet her on the drivers side. To say she was beautiful would have been an understatement. Her tanned skin and her hair in waves down to the middle of her back along with her perfect little curvy body was almost too much for me to take. I watched as she slung her bag over her shoulder, wanting to just pin her right there against the car and let my hands run along those curves, up and down feeling them in my hands, oh God, I’m in trouble, I thought as she leaned down to peck my cheek. If I were still a member of the standing club I would have been a good foot taller than her, maybe more, so she never had to lean too far. I could imagine lifting her up and kissing her, letting her body slide down mine as I put her back down, or picking her up and tossing her over my shoulder to take her to bed. As we headed into the main entrance all these thoughts were running through my mind, and I wondered how I was going to make it through the day.
“Elliot?” she asked.
“Huh, yeah, what’s up pretty girl?” I responded, trying to shove those thoughts back into the dark recess of my mind.
“You disappeared on me for a minute there…” she said softly her hand coming to rest on my shoulder.
“Sorry…I was thinking…” I answered.
“Thought I smelled something burning,” she laughed.
If she only knew, I thought as she then started telling me about all the different things we would get to see. I listened to her speak about this flower or that and talk about the butterfly room as we waited to gain admission. The excitement in her voice was contagious as I found myself getting amped up about flowers, who knew, right?
“Two please,” I said to the woman behind the desk.
“You’ll find all the information you need in the map brochure here, and unfortunately sir, the butterfly room is currently not accessible for wheelchairs…” the woman said with a frown as she handed me back my card with a bunch of pamphlets.
“Thank you,” I answered, looking over to see Taylor also frowning.
I put my card back in my wallet after we moved away from the desk and stowed it back into the bag under my chair. I looked up at Taylor and could see the wheels turning in her mind, no doubt she was trying to remember if I could make it into that room or not.
“Hey, Taylor, it’s okay…” I said lacing my fingers with hers.
“I think you could make it in, really…we could try right?” she said hopefully.
“You never know,” I answered, pretty sure that if I tried we would get into trouble.
Passing through the first area we were welcomed by the humidity-laden air as we passed under brilliant brick archways and passed old victorian benches, giant Palms and the original plaque from the botanical gardens opening. There were other flowers and plants that I couldn’t recognize but the room reminded me of a garden in London I’d once seen during a party. I watched as she pulled out her camera and began snapping shots of this or that, as she explained what each flower was to me. Her face lit up as we left that room and entered a room filled with gorgeous flowers, tulips, being the only ones I knew by name, and fountains with ornate sculptures for decoration. It was almost too bright with all the vivid colors surrounding us. She changed the lens on her camera and moved around the room, as I followed her explanations. When she turned to me then, brushing a piece of hair out of her face, she smiled, and I knew that I loved her. Yeah, five days in and I was a goner. I let that sink in as she led me through the rest of the gardens, stopping here and there to point out some of her favorite things.
“See, I think you can make it, your chair isn’t that wide is it?” she paused, eyeing me and then the pathway that led into the butterfly room.
“I don’t know Taylor, the woman seemed pretty sure that it was off limits to me,” I said.
“There’s no one in here right now, just come in a little bit. You have to see this, they will land on you,” she persisted as I crossed into the room.
The pathway was narrow and even though I knew I could make it through the whole way I didn’t want to push my luck. I watched as delicate monarchs and other butterfly’s I couldn’t identify wafted through the air around us, it was amazing. I’d never seen anything like it and as I sat mesmerized by it all I heard the click of the camera. When I looked at her she was grinning from ear to ear, snapping away.
Grimacing I said, “Pretty girl there are all these beautiful creatures in here, why are you taking pictures of me?”
“Look at your shoulder Elliot,” she said with a small laugh.
Sure enough, there was a decent sized black butterfly perched there, its wings a deep shade of blue. I sat there in amazement before I got greedy and tried to touch it.
“Sir, we would appreciate it if you would kindly move back to the main pathway, this room is not accessible,” A deep voice appeared behind Taylor.
“Oh, right sorry sir,” I said flatly, bummed that I had to leave.
“Thank you, and enjoy the rest of your visit with us,” the guard said as we made our way out of the room.
“That sucks, you didn’t even get to see all of them…” Taylor said as she placed her hand on the back of my neck.
“Yeah, but we can come back and try again…” I smirked looking up at her.
Three hours after we arrived as I loaded my chair back into her car, I found myself still pondering the fact that I had fallen in love with a girl in only five days. I wondered what I could have done to be so lucky. I took in her profile from behind my mirrored sunglasses as she drove and hoped that our day wasn’t over just yet.
“Where to now?” I asked, still staring at her.
“Well if you don’t burn holes into me with your eyes first, I was thinking we could get your truck and go for lunch,” she said busting me.
As if on cue, my stomach rumbled, “I could go for lunch…” I laughed.
“I’ve been listening to it for the last hour…” she joined in my laughter.
“It was just trying to communicate with yours, Taylor,” I joked.
She turned to me and winked, smirking as she asked, “Did you like the botanical gardens?”
“You know, I really did. I was reading the brochure and it said during the winter months they have a light show and miniature train display, I’d really like to see that,” I answered.
“It really is something, almost magical…” she said trailing off as we pulled in next to my big blue beast.
“Would you want to come to dinner at my brother’s place tomorrow?” I blurted out.
“Is it a meet the family kind of thing?” she asked smiling at me, not looking worried at all.
“Kind of, I mean, yeah…they have a pool and huge backyard…” I stuttered out.
“Elliot I’d love to go,” she answered as she got out of the car.
If it wouldn’t have made me look like a complete moron I would have been fist pumping, whooping, and everything, but instead, I casually put my chair together and tried not to grin like an idiot.
Our date continued after a brief lunch on an outside patio with a stroll through the historic district. We stopped in antique stores, and again I watched her in awe, she took so much in it amazed me. She held the antiques like she was trying to imagine where they had been, who they belonged to, she wanted to know their story. I was coming to realize that it was how she connected with the world around her, whether inanimate objects or other people. She was constantly striking up conversations as we went from shop to shop, it was fun to watch. By no means was I a wallflower but she was just bursting with confidence and this need to know. I liked watching her interactions with others, the way she listened intently as they opened up a part of themselves and just offered it to her, or the way she opened up to them. I’d never met anyone quite like her. As I listened to her speaking with this ancient older couple who ran the largest of all the shops we had been in, something caught my eye. Rolling to a stop in a darker corner of the shop I saw the olive green tin on a shelf in an old cabinet. I’d seen pictures of those tins in my Granpa’s album when I was little. I never imagined I would ever get to see one in person. I lifted up some to try and get a better look at the lid, but still, just couldn’t see it well enough.
“World War II era medic kit. Ya wanna get a closer look?” a gruff voice said from behind me.
Turning I saw the old man, “If you wouldn’t mind?” I said backing up so he could hobble to the cabinet.
I watched as arthritic hands slowly opened the door and pulled the tin from the shelf, as he grunted a little bit he turned to me, “Just wait till you see what’s inside,” he said, grinning.
“It isn’t intact is it?” I asked almost giddy.
“I’ll let you see for yourself son,” he answered, “You collect military stuff?”
“No, I just remember seeing one of those from my Grandpa’s picture album of his time in the war,” I stated.
He flipped the latches after setting the tin on a low table behind us and when I took in its contents I was amazed. Not only were there still bottles and flasks but jars of ointment, surgical tools, and even a few rolls of unopened gauze.
“This is amazing,” I said.
“This was a kit from a motor vehicle, see this number here,” he pointed to the lid, “How it made it back here in one piece I’ll never know, but it sure is neat,”
“I couldn’t even imagine doing anything with these minimal supplies, not too mention with bombs going off or being fired on while doing it…” I said as I inspected the tools.
“Was he a medic?” the man asked me.
“Yes, I’m third generation MD…” I answered still in awe.
“Good for you, Son, I bet your family is very proud,” he said earnestly.
“I…I never wanted to do anything else, but after…I just…I’m back at it now, though,” I found myself opening up to this stranger.
“I can see why. Everyone has things that make them question what it is that really matters to them…but eventually if you’re put here to do something you’ll find your way back…” he said as though he’d read my mind and then pointed to Taylor across the room, “You know I’m sure she’s helped a lot…haven’t seen my Emily smile like that in a long time,”
“Yeah, she’s good at that isn’t she…” I said watching her again, the kit forgotten.
“Some days that’s all you need, Son,” he said softly his hand clasping my shoulder before he made his way back to his wife and Taylor.
I wound my way through more of the shop and gently placed my hand on the small of her back, not wanting to startle her. Emily as I’d been informed, gave me a small nod and I could only wonder what expression had crossed Taylor’s face at my contact.
“I’ll get this wrapped up for you dear, wait here just a moment,” Emily said taking the box from Taylor.
“What treasure did you find, princess?” I asked.
“Oh man Elliot, it’s a No. 1A Kodak camera. It still has the original purchase receipt!” she said vibrantly as she turned to me.
“I’m guessing that’s pretty awesome?” I smiled at her.
“I’ve only been looking for one for about two years, and this one is in pretty good shape too…” she gushed.
“Emily said it just came in yesterday. I can’t believe it,” she said her grin never changing.
“Wow, that is pretty exciting then,” I answered.
After her purchase was made and her information given to the older couple to be on the lookout for other cameras we continued on our stroll in the historic district. It was nearly five o’clock and as the dinner crowd began filling up the street she slowed turning to me, “Elliot should we head back now?”
“If that’s what you want, princess,” I said immediately a little sad that the day was over.
“I was thinking maybe we could grab takeout and just relax…” she said softly.
“Sure, would you be up for a night swim?” I asked not even knowing where that bravery came from.
“I’ll need to run home and grab my suit but sure sounds like fun,” she answered smiling.
“Okay, I can pick up some dinner after I drop you off to your car and then we can meet back at my place,” I said, happy our day wasn’t quite over.
As we pulled out of the parking lot she reached over and placed a hand on my leg, this time, I couldn’t feel it, but I sure as hell could see it. I tried to imagine what it would feel like resting there, was it warm, would I be able to feel the warmth through the fabric of my jeans, I wondered silently.
Wow, a new piece to add to my collection, and an awesome relaxed date with Elliot, I thought to myself as he drove me back to my car. I’d been nervous, to begin with, and then with the rocky start I was full of an even bigger knot of anxiety in my stomach but luckily it went well and he seemed to enjoy what we did. I know it wasn’t some grand date but it was something I wanted to show him. It’s who I am, something I cherish doing and if he didn’t like it I would have been super bummed out. He took it all in stride, though, he even broke out of his little bit of shyness in a few of the shops we visited, not always just following me around. It was a nice pace for us to talk and just learn more about each other.
There were never really awkward moments with him in terms of conversation, he is very easy to talk to or just be silent with. He was super adorable when he asked me to dinner at his brother’s house, he was cute when he was mortified. I could tell that he didn’t intend to just blurt it out but then it was done and I said yes while his ears turned a bright red. I could say that I was nervous to meet his family but really I didn’t care, I am smitten with this man sitting next to me. He has managed to make me lovestruck in just a matter of days. I don’t ever remember feeling this comfortable with another human being in my entire life and my attraction is still growing every minute I spend with him.
As I sit here taking in his profile while he drives and the feel of his still leg under my hand, I’m trying to remind myself that I should take it slow, that he is different than other guys and not just for the obvious reasons…