I really enjoyed reading the submissions for the summer first sentence prompt contest. We had six entries all together and they all showed a lot of promise! It was tough to pick a winner. Very tough!
Judging was done by me alone. To make it unbiased I had my husband open the entries, remove the identifying information, and print them out. Once I selected a winner, I went back to see whose entry it was.
It’s fascinating to see all the different directions that people went with the same first sentence.
(Note: Athira, could you get in touch again? When I tried to email you, the message bounced saying your inbox was full).
She turned the corner of the ramp and eyed the doorway in front of her, unsure that her wheelchair was going to fit through. “Shit, shit, shit,” Sasha swore out loud and then murmured under her breath, “There goes my interview.” She presented her design online and has been in touch with the PR department for a few weeks. They have finally asked her to have a dinner with the boss – a kind of informal job interview.
She thought it a bit strange but accepted the invitation. And now she was stuck because she didn’t double check the restaurant’s accessibility. It said on their website they were accessible. She should have known better that what able-bodied people considered accessible and what really was accessible were two different things. So typical. Heavy garbage bins were partly blocking the door that itself looked rather narrow.
“My sentiments exactly,” replied a pleasant male voice behind her.
Sasha slowly turned her wheelchair and forgot all about the stupid door. She was staring into the most breathtaking emerald eyes. There were laugh lines around those captivating eyes. And then he actually smiled and those lines went to work. She’s never seen anything more sexy than those beautiful smiling eyes.
“Do you think we can move those bins and then we can make the manager feel really bad about it and perhaps we get a free dessert?”
She laughed at his suggestion. Not that it was a bad suggestion – she did get a few free things here and there after presenting the trouble she had to go through to access an “accessible” restaurant or a store. She laughed because it was always refreshing to meet somebody who was able to joke about their disability. And Mr. Emerald Eyes surely knew something about it. His wheelchair was like hers – sporty, no arm rests, a clean Z frame, knobby tires to handle the bad Boston weather.
But tonight was mild and dry and he was wearing a short-sleeved Polo shirt that matched his eyes perfectly. His black jeans ended above his knees. Or above where his knees would have been had he had any. She could make the outlines of his stumps. The muscles of what remained of his thighs were well defined. So was the rest of his body. Sasha was afraid she might start drooling soon…
She caught herself staring at him and quickly smiled. “I wish we could but apart from looking quite heavy, there really isn’t a place where we could push them unless we could get them the whole way into the alley and I don’t think the restaurant manager would appreciate it. No free dessert for us if the rubbish ends up in the alley.” She was starting to babble. And there was his smile again. Suddenly Sasha stopped feeling nervous. There was somebody who understood her predicament, didn’t judge her, and didn’t look at her like she was dumb. The latter happened to her plenty. Somehow when one was in a wheelchair, many people assumed that one’s intelligence was quite low. And they would start speaking to her slowly and in a loud voice.
“I’m Ben. Since it looks like we both will have to forgo eating at this place, may I invite you for dinner? There is a lovely and, I assure you, fully accessible Italian restaurant around the corner.”
Sasha extended her gloved hand and the tips of their fingers met before they shook hands. A little bit frustrated, she sighed: “Hi, I’m Sasha. I was supposed to meet somebody here but I don’t have his cell number, so I guess that’s it. I’ll get a message to him in the morning that I couldn’t make it. I guess I could ask somebody who is walking into this restaurant to give him a message but frankly, I would hate to see the pity in his eyes when he realises that I am in a wheelchair and thus can’t get in.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. My mother set me up on a blind date once. Let’s say the terror in the girl’s eyes and the pity of the people around us were enough that I didn’t want to meet any new people for a year. Please, say you’ll go to dinner with me.”
She laughed as he made puppy eyes at her. “Sure. But weren’t you meeting somebody?”
“I was but I guess I am in the same situation. No cell number and in no mood for pity.”
Sasha put her hands on the rims. “All right then. Let’s go. I am starving.”
They wheeled the half block to the restaurant in silence as the sidewalk wasn’t wide enough for them to wheel next to each other. Ben let her go first, enjoying the view of her shoulder-length wavy brown hair. She was wearing black sleeveless dress that stressed her well developed figure. She was gorgeous. Her arms were strong, breasts full, perfect hourglass figure. Just the way Ben liked his woman.
He liked to touch the softness of a woman’s body. The lifegiving softness. The breasts, the hips. He was thanking the stars for those rubbish bins. And he was glad that he chose to use his wheelchair instead of his prosthesis tonight. He wasn’t planning on it but after the long swim he had, he just didn’t feel like walking. Plus he liked to see a reaction of a potential employee to his amputations. It was always quite revealing. He was a very hands-on boss and if his employees didn’t feel comfortable around him, it influenced their creativity. He understood that the initial shock was normal and that most people forgot about his legs, or rather lack of them, within twenty minutes of talking to him. Ben put most people at ease. He was smart, good looking, and he was told his smile was his most charming feature. He smiled plenty. Life was pretty good to him. For the most part. He owned a successful advertising business, had a lovely apartment on the water, good friends, and a faithful service dog. At 34 he was very active, spending his summer sailing, mono-skiing in winter, and swimming all year long. Yet despite a few flings, the truth was that most women didn’t want to spent their life with a double above knee amputee. And those who thought they did either were curious about his
amputations but that curiosity wore off fast or they pitied him and wanted to take care of him. Ben didn’t need anybody to take care of him. He did just fine by himself since he came from rehab twelve years ago.
His gaze went to Sasha’s legs as she turned toward the restaurant’s entrance. Her dress ended right below her knees and he could see the atrophy on her calves. She had a tattoo above her left ankle, a rose. Ben took a deep breath, trying to dispel the thought of first kissing the rose and slowly making his way up, discovering how much and where she could feel his gentle and maybe not so gentle kisses.
“Yay, no steps.” Sasha pretended to squeal like a teenager who just found out that One Direction was coming to the town. Ben loved this woman’s laugh and her dark sense of humour. As he already loved her body, the moment of truth would soon come, the possible deal breaker. Was Sasha as smart and witty as she was beautiful? Ben wasn’t the typical male who liked his woman beautiful but preferably a bit dumb. He loved a smart woman who would intellectually challenge him, who would argue with him about politics and philosophy, yet would be open-minded. Such woman was a rarity.
As he opened the door for Sasha, she gently nodded her head in thanks and locked her eyes with his for a couple of seconds. She was glad for the few moments when she was wheeling in front of him because she couldn’t ogle him. Her bad habit of staring at interesting and good looking people got her into a trouble a few times. It was hard to explain to people that she loved beauty to the point of doing something socially unacceptable, like staring at them. She would stop if she saw something that interested her. It used to be easier before her accident six years ago. But now when her ootprint was larger, people got impatient with her. She was blocking their precious sidewalk when she would stop and stare at the intricate pattern of the old brick wall or the lone flower on the side of the pavement. Sasha had a degree in design but her love was photography and her mind would take a photo of the intricate pattern or the flower when she didn’t have her camera with her. Which she usually had, right under her wheelchair seat. Except for tonight, so she was bound to stare at her companion because she wanted to remember every detail of his beautiful eyes, the smile lines, the black curly hair, the long, slightly crooked nose, the lips that begged to be kissed.
“Would you like a booth?” the hostess interrupted their companionable silence. Sasha and Ben just gave each other look and started laughing very hard. “No, thank you,” Ben replied once he had control of himself.
“And we’ll keep our wheelchairs too, so please remove the chairs,” Sasha quickly added.
Ben grinned at his beautiful companion. “This hostess is new here, so let’s hope she will learn not to ask us about the booth again. Though one never knows. Just curious, how often do you get the booth question?”
Sasha made a very serious pondering look. “About once a year, I would say. And about twice a year the question if I am going to keep my chair.”
Once the couple was seated, the wine started flowing and the food was abundant. The thoughts about their butts sitting in a wheelchair were forgotten. They talked about their love of Boston and their favorite places there, they criticised politics and were very pleased that each other’s dinner company tended to think similarly on political issues, they argued a little bit about religion, and over their tiramisu and cannoli that they shared they started talking about art.
“So, Sasha, as a New Yorker, what is your favorite museum there?” Ben was hoping she wouldn’t say MOMA. As much as he loved modern art and learned a lot in MOMA about design, advertisement, and what moves a modern man, Ben was fond of the Old Masters. They were the ones who moved his soul. He would spend hours sitting in front of El Greco, Rembrandt, Vermeer or Caravaggio. He would study the play of light and shadow, he would let himself be absorbed by the expressions on the faces and when overwhelmed, he would go to the impressionist section and let be surrounded by colour. By dots of colour.
“Definitely the Met and I am not apologetic about it.” The fire and passion in Sasha’s eyes were clear. “Until I moved to Boston two years ago, I went to Met at least once a week. Thank God for their suggested donation. Ever since I was a girl, I would go there, give them a dollar or two and say with the thickest accent I could muster: ‘Vun teecket, pleaze.’ I don’t think I ever paid the suggested donation.”
“Vun teecket, pleaze?” Ben was imitating her while laughing. “I should try it one day. I love the Metropolitan Museum. I go to New York every three months or so to see what’s new in modern art and design but I go to Met to recharge.”
Sasha looked at him and understood. After her accident and the stay in rehab, she felt so empty. She craved beauty more than ever. Sitting again, this time in her own chair, in front of the Masters brought her to tears. Tears that beauty is here to stay. That despite the shit that happens to us we can forget about our difficulties and look at a painting and feel bodyless, weightless, absorbed in eternal beauty.
After a few moments of just being quietly with the other person while feeling the deep connection, Sasha finally spoke: “I was supposed to meet my prospective employer tonight but even if I don’t get my design job because I didn’t show up, spending time with you was so much better. Thank you for the most amazing evening.”
Ben pondered her words for a moment. Design, job, employer. His face lit up: “Are you by any chance Ms. Alexandra Petrova?”
Sasha lightly nodded, surprised.
“Well,” Ben continued, “then, Ms. Petrova, I hope I will see you every weekday from Monday on at your new job. I was very pleased with your designs. And I am hoping that I will be able to steal some of your evenings and weekends as well.”