We’d been training for some weeks, and today we were off for our first five-mile run. We were out in the barn so Don could get on his racing chair. He had two, and he was slowly breaking in both of these new machines.
I was not looking forward to the run; it was December and cold. Special shoes and clothing in layers were necessary. Today, as I bent and stretched, I noticed how much leaner and harder I was. I could see the muscles moving under my skin; I felt more limber, I slept better, laughed more, and sex was better than ever.
I was dressed in running tights, having not yet donned my wind gear over the top. I stopped when Don came in and ogled me.
“Damn, Lous, you were always hot, but shit, baby.”
Releasing the hamstring stretch, I moved to him, bent and kissed him. “Thank you. I know I bitch about it, but I feel amazing.”
He grinned lecherously and rubbed his groin. “Oh, I know, I’ve seen the benefits.”
“Oh, I think he doth protest too much.” He pulled on his jacket, hat, scarf, and then gloves.
I just made a face at him, and then donned the wind pants, shoes, top, and the remaining cold-weather gear.
After closing the barn door, we jogged up the driveway and turned left onto the quiet road to begin our training.
The night before we had planned and then driven our route, wanting to make sure there was nothing we’d need to avoid. It had all looked good. This morning we’d gotten about half way, when Don slowed and finally stopped. I noticed after several paces and returned to him.
“What is it?”
“Pain? Pain where?”
“Lower back and my legs.” He was rubbing his back and thighs. “I don’t think I can finish baby.”
“No. You want me to call an ambulance?”
He grimaced. “No, but I think I need to get home.”
“I’ll push. You take it easy. We’ll call the doctor when we get back.”
I jogged back pushing Don. He was quiet but I knew he was in pain. I wondered though, if this pain could be the start of something. If so, would it be good or bad? Finally, our driveway came into view and I was glad to see it.
In the barn, we used the hoist to move him. This was unusual because he usually slid across on his board. Something wasn’t right.
“Baby, do you want to lie down for a bit? I’ll get you the heating pad and you can rest and see if that helps. I’ll give the doctor a call too.” I was rambling and I put my hand over my mouth to stop it. Nerves.
“Yeah I will, Lous. Thanks.”
“Sure.” I pushed him back to the house after shutting up the barn. I got him to the elevator and from there to our room. I helped him change and got him onto the bed and on his side.
After getting out of my running gear, I hunted through the perma-mess that was our linen closet to find the heating pad. Eventually after some mild swearing, I found it buried under the pillowcases.
Returning to Don I put the heating pad on low and laid it over his lower back. “There you go. I’ll go and call Dr. Robinson’s office and see if we can get you in there.”
“Okay baby.” Don sounded tired. “Come here for a sec.” He patted the bed.
I crawled onto the bed by his side and lay down facing him. I reached out, touched his face, and shuffled closer. His hand fell onto my waist. I leaned forward to kiss him.
He tugged on me and our lips met, softly at first and then with a rising heat. I pulled away.
“Donny, you’re supposed to rest and I’m supposed to call the doctor.”
He closed his eyes for a few seconds, sighed and said, “Yeah please call because this pain is weird.”
For a moment, I just gazed at him. His face was still the one I loved, but it was tired, and I could see the pain in it. Suddenly there were tears in my eyes as I realized things would not be forever this way. We’d get older, life would change, and one day we’d be gone from this world.
I pushed those thoughts away. True as they may have been, it did no good to dwell on the actual futility of our lives. Nothing good could come of it.
I leaned closed to Don again and gave him a final kiss. “I’m going to call the doctor.”
“Okay babe. I’ll just lie here, alone. Don’t worry about me.”
“Baby.” I sat up and looked at Don’s legs and thought, “I wonder….”
I clambered off the bed, went around to Don’s side, and made sure the heating pad wasn’t too hot. I kissed his cheek, and then as I moved to leave, I dragged a finger over the sole of his left foot.
Don’s eyes opened, he turned slightly and found my glance. “What did you do?”
I held up my left hand and dragged my right index finger over the palm, as I had with his foot.
“I felt that, Lous.” He raised himself up. “Call the doctor, Louis because I fucking felt that!”
We sat in Dr. Robinson’s office at the Johnson Institute, listening to what the doctor had to say.
“It can mean you’ll get more feeling back, but Don it is so unlikely that you’ll ever walk unassisted. With a lot of work, you may get yourself onto crutches.”
Don was excited. “Isn’t that a good thing? Even if I can only walk in the house or something?”
Dr. Robinson sat back in his leather office chair. He was quiet for a moment as he considered what Don was saying. “You may think it is, but it’s up to you. You’d be the one putting in all the effort, Don.”
“I’m not afraid of hard work.”
“No one is disputing that you are.” The doctor leaned forward again. “And if it’s what you want, I’ll speak with your physiotherapists so they can come up with a plan. But frankly it’s too early to tell yet.”
Don sighed, and I reached over to catch his hand.
“I’m not trying to disappoint you. It’s amazing you’re as mobile as you are, considering the accident you had. But you need to more time to heal. The bruises to the skin heal, but inside is a different matter.” Dr. Robinson scribbled some notes into Don’s file. “Make an appointment to see me in a month, but if anything happens before then, come in.”
We thanked the doctor and left the office. I said nothing because I knew Don was disappointed.
“He wasn’t very excited, Lous.”
I considered my words. “I think he was just being cautious.”
We got to the elevator and Don pressed the down button. He reached for my hand and said, “I will walk again, Lous. I will.”
I just smiled at him. I have no doubt about that at all.
Christmas was a mere two weeks away. I’d put the finishing touches on our first-ever real Christmas tree. I nodded at Don who was ready with power cord and light plug. He shoved them together and the tree came to life.
Multi-coloured lights blinked slowly and colours changed as they bounced off the various shining decorations and tinsel.
We’d never had a real tree in our previous house. Why? There were a couple of reasons. First, it was small house, and secondly, because we were both so busy then. The pre-lit, artificial tree was just simple and convenient.
This year as Christmas drew near; Rena had been over on a cool Saturday morning. Don was out in his office, and she and I sat in the kitchen having coffee together.
“Will you decorate the house for Christmas, Louis?” Rena sipped her black coffee, and nibbled a slice of pecan coffee cake.
“Yes, I guess so. The tree and stuff are upstairs in the spare room.”
She sat back and said, “Don’t put up that old tree, Louis.”
“Why? It’s fine.”
She leaned forward. “This is your new house, and in a way, a new life. It’s time for a change. You two should get a real tree.”
I thought about that—a real tree—maybe it would be nice. I could take Don and we could choose it together.
“…it would look wonderful in your big living room! In front of that gorgeous picture window … I can see it, can’t you, Louis?”
I smiled at her. “Yeah, you know, I think I can.”
It had been a cool night when Don and I went to buy our tree. We went to a local tree lot to make our purchase. After talking to the attendant there, we decided on a fresh eight-foot balsam fir. Once paid for we took our wrapped and bound tree home, and set it up. As advised, we left it a day to settle before decorating it.
I moved behind Don and bent down to kiss him. We checked out the tree together. It looked and smelled beautiful. I couldn’t wait to see it from the outside of the house.
“Merry Christmas, baby.”
Don looked up at me and grinned happily. “Love you, Lous. Merry Christmas. The tree looks great … and there are no bald patches, don’t worry.”
I laughed as I looked at my watch. “Come on Don, we need to get dressed. I’ll clean up this stuff later on.”
“Fine. Who gets married at nighttime, and in December? That’s what I’d like to know.”
I pushed him toward the elevator. “Your pregnant sister, that’s who. Now let’s move it, or we’ll be late.”
It had been a quiet, simple ceremony followed by a sit-down dinner with maybe seventy-five guests. It was calm and dignified, not like some weddings, which are loud and boisterous. It was possible to talk to your tablemates without resorting to raised voices. It was a pleasure to be there.
Miriam looked radiant. It was obvious she was pregnant, but her creamy, flowing silk gown fit perfectly. Doug looked handsome.
We men had all dressed formally in tuxes and black ties. Donny’s had been tailored so he could be comfortable in his wheel chair.
Rena was happily ensuring that everything went off with no problems, while Robert, impeccably dressed, sat with us talking.
“So, you two have been training a lot. When do you run your first real marathon?”
Don replied, “May. We’re doing Toronto then.”
Robert nodded. “Starting close to home, that’s a good idea, and you have five more months to train.”
“Yeah, it’s going pretty well so far. Cold weather training isn’t much fun. We’re looking forward to spring.”
I wasn’t looking forward to spring; running in the rain with wet feet wasn’t my thing, mind you, neither was running in the cold. However, we were doing it! We’d installed an elliptical machine in the barn. I’d been increasing my challenges with speed, hills and high-endurance intervals. This equipment allowed for a number of specific workout alterations.
It seemed to be doing its job as my suits were getting tight in the shoulders, arms and thighs, and it was not because I was getting fat! I was better and stronger than I ever had been. The feeling and the results were worth the effort I was putting in.
The benefits were not just out on the road, but I simply felt happy. I was a better partner, lover, and runner.
“Well,” Robert was saying. “Rena and I will be there cheering you on. Do you have a finishing place you’re aiming for?”
“I’d like us to finish in the top thirty, if we can,” Don answered. “Our ten kilometer is on point for that.”
“Is Toronto a full marathon, Don?”
“No, it’s a half.”
I’d not been really paying attention, but that made me listen. “Half-marathon?”
Don turned to me and smiled. “Yeah, babe. That’s what we’ll do in Toronto.”
“So how far is a whole one?”
“It’s about forty-two kilometres, around 26 miles.”
I felt a bit sick. “Do we plan on running a full marathon?”
“Boston is a full marathon.”
Now I really felt ill. “Will we be ready by then? That’s double what we’re going to do in May.”
Don took my hand. “Lous, we’re running the half in May; we’re running 10k now. We will be ready.”
I squeezed his hand and took a deep breath. “Okay, you’re right. I’m just panicking. Of course, we have lots of time.”
Robert, who had watched this exchange in silence, said, “So, I know you want top thirty, but what happens if you don’t make that?”
Don glanced at me and then Robert. “Honestly, Robert, I’d be happy no matter where we finish. Louis is doing this because he loves me, and I’m doing it for a story and to prove to myself I can.”
After leaving Robert, we mingled with other guests, talking to various people we knew, and those we’d just met. At the end of the evening, we waved Doug and Miriam off.
Miriam hugged everyone, and finally me. “Thank you for everything, Louis. I’m glad you were here. I’m glad you’ll be our baby’s uncle.”
I smiled at her. “Well, I have nothing else to do.”
She laughed. “I’m glad anyway then.”
I embraced her again. “Have a seriously good honeymoon.”
Doug came to claim his wife. I shook his hand. We all watched them climb in the car and waved goodbye.
We turned and went back inside the hall. There we rehashed the event with Rena and Robert over a final round of coffee, and eventually got home around midnight.
Christmas Day we hosted dinner, and had Rena, Robert, Miriam and Doug join us. We also invited my parents and Harry. My father was unable to travel, so they didn’t join us.
Dinner was filling and delicious and everyone had fallen asleep after we’d eaten, well, over-eaten. I left them quietly and went into the kitchen to clean up. I’d collected up the recycling, slipped on a coat and toted the bottles and cans out to the barn.
After sorting everything, I picked up the blue bin, and turned around ready to leave.
I dropped the box, clutching my heart. “Harry.”
He moved across the floor and pulled me into his arms, his lips on mine. I pushed away from him, but it did no good. His kiss was insistent and his tongue sought mine. I knew I shouldn’t; I knew it was wrong. It felt right though, his arms around me. I gave in, slipped my arms around him and returned his passion. He kissed me until I moaned, and ground against him.
He kissed my neck, nibbled my ear and whispered, “I want you, Louis. Say yes.”
I closed my eyes, wanting him too. The urge to agree, to have sex with him, nearly overwhelming, but instead I said, “Harry, I can’t. If we start this affair, it will end horribly. I like you Harry, but ….”
He didn’t release me, just held me close. I closed my eyes and stood in his embrace, leaning into him, feeling his breath on my neck. He whispered, “Okay, Louis. I won’t ask again.”
We held on a little longer. Sadness washed over me as he said those words. Small tendrils of doubt wend their way through my thoughts, but they were cut short as I heard Don’s sliding door open on the other side of the barn.
I pushed Harry away and picked up the blue box. Don was in the doorway as I turned around.
I grinned at him. “Yes, baby. Thought I’d get rid of it, and Harry helped me.”
He looked at us both. “Great. Anything I can do?”
“Nope.” I handed Harry the blue box. “I’ll push you back, babe.”
“Sure, okay. We all seem to be awake so I thought we could play; Spit-in-the-ocean.”
I kissed his cheek. “Sounds like a plan, let’s go.”
Harry chimed in. “Not the strip version though, right? I didn’t put on my best underwear today.”
Don laughed. “Um, thanks for that.”
We all bustled into the kitchen. I put on coffee while Harry and Don set up the game.
The remainder of the day was full of fun, laughter, food and a few rounds of spiked eggnog.
It was also full of some very hot, exhausting sex, after the guests had gone, of course. I bent to kiss Donny before collapsing alongside him.
“Oh man, that was good baby. Wow.” I ran a towel over his cum-stained abs.
“Glad I didn’t disappoint you.”
I turned to look at him. “What does that mean? You never disappoint me.”
“I’m not Harry though, am I?”
I closed my eyes and breathed in. “How much did you see, Donny.”
“Enough to know that you were fucking enjoying it.”
“You didn’t look sorry.”
“No. That’s because I liked it. I like Harry.” I turned onto my side. “I like him, but I love you. And yeah, I shouldn’t have kissed him. But I did and it won’t happen again.”
Don stared up at the ceiling. “Fuck him if you want to. I pushed you into his arms anyway.”
I ran my hand over his muscular chest, and pecs. “I’ve always been attracted to Harry, but a couple of hot nights are not what I want. I love you Don, always and only you.”
He pulled me over onto his belly, and kissed me hard. Reaching over, he kneaded my ass. “You sure?”
Don’s voice was full of lust when he said, “Show me again."
It was a warm Wednesday in early May, and we typically cross-trained on this day but Don had made an appointment with the physiotherapist.
In mid-January, Don had started to work with a physiotherapist. He’d gotten some more feeling back in both legs, but nothing close to what is normal. There were many times he could move his feet when he wanted to. He was determined he’d get back onto his feet with the aid crutches. It was hard work and he often came home exhausted.
“Okay. Well, I’ll drive you in, baby, and while you’re in there, I’ll put my rollerblades on and get some training in.”
“Sounds good. I’m ready to go when you are, Lous.”
“Let’s go.” I grabbed my blades and locked the front door as Don rolled down the ramp.
The drive into town was uneventful, and as I parked the van, I turned to Donny and said, “How about a burger after we’re both done?”
Food was always a way to get Don smiling. “Oh yeah, somewhere good though. How about that steak house we like? One of their craft beers and a good burger!”
I leaned forward to kiss him. “I like the plan, babe.”
After pushing Don inside, I returned to the van, put on my rollerblades and skated up to the nearby park to get in some exercise. It was a lovely day and it felt good to be moving my body. The park was quiet and empty since it was just 8:30am, and I was able to get in some good sprints. After pushing myself through them, I spent the next thirty minutes just blading and enjoying the weather, and the scenery.
On my return route, ahead of me on the path was a stroller on its side, various groceries everywhere, and an upset young woman with a baby in her arms. She was yelling at someone, so I stopped.
“Can I help you? Are you okay?”
She turned to look at me. “No, yes. I’m sorry, but can you watch these … my son …” She pointed into the distance.
There was a child of about five years running toward the swings.
“I’ll pick these up for you.” I righted the stroller. “Here.”
She put the baby in and watched her son run past the swings. “Oh, my god!”
“Go. I’ll pick up all this, and the baby and I will sit here and wait.”
She looked at me with hope and fear.
“I will be right here.”
“Thank you.” She took off running after her little boy.
The baby was cute, and I spoke to … her, I think. “Your poor mum is on the run after your brother. So, we’ll wait for her.”
I babbled to the child as I picked up the fallen groceries. I wondered how the young mother managed all of this. After pushing the stroller, and taking the groceries to a nearby bench, I sat on down. I wished I had my shoes with me.
My phone vibrated and I pulled, out of my pocket. It was a text from Donny: Hey, don’t rush. I’ll be a bit longer, started late. Come for me at 10.
It was 9:30am now. I replied to him with an ‘okay love you’ and shoved the phone away. I could see the mother and child trotting back.
“Oh, thank you. Has she been okay?”
I smiled at the mom. “Yes, she’s been quiet. Are you okay?”
“I am. I should get going. This has made me late.”
“I have a van over there. Can I drive you home? I just need to change out of these.” We both looked down at my rollerblades.
“Oh, I couldn’t ask…”
“You didn’t. I offered. And anyway, my husband is with the physio for another thirty minutes. I’d be happy to take you and drop you somewhere.”
She looked at the kids and nodded. “That would be great.”
“Settled then. Good. I’ll take the groceries and skate to the van and change out of these, while you walk with these two, okay?”
I picked up the four plastic bags. “See you in a minute.”
After unlocking the van, I stored the groceries and then sat on the side and took off my rollerblades. I was just tying my running shoes when my soon-to-be passengers arrived. I then realized that I had no car seat for the little boy.
My little rescued party got in, and we stowed the boy into the backseat as well as we could and mom and baby, sat beside him, with the stroller wedged in.
I entered the address into the GPS. It was maybe five minutes away, so I’d be extra careful on the way there.
It was a quiet ride, and I helped unload them all onto the porch of the tiny house.
“I can’t thank you enough for this.”
I smiled at her. “Not a problem. Hope the rest of the day is uneventful.”
I shook her extended hand and waved at the kids.
The dashboard clock said 9:50am, so I had time to get back to pick up Don. I pulled into the lot, but he wasn’t waiting. Fine! I jumped out and walked into the office.
“Good morning!” the receptionist said. “You can go through. Room four.”
The door to Room four was open I stuck my head in. “Hello?”
I turned and looked down the hall.
I’m not sure if the tears started immediately or not, but I was shedding them as I watched Don lurch toward me on crutches for five steps before they sat him back down in his wheelchair.
I ran to him. We threw our arms around each other. “Oh baby, that’s amazing.”
He grinned at me. “I wanted you to see.”
“I saw, Donny. I saw and I am so fucking proud of you.” I buried my head in his shoulder.
“Don’t cry, Lous.”
“I can’t help it.”
“I know baby. I love you.”
I sniffed and wiped my eyes. “So, you can get out of this chair and run now you lazy prick.”
He laughed and held me tighter.
Author's note: Thank you for reading. I'd love to know what you are thinking and if you'd like to read the second book of Changes. You can write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.