The bus from Hampton Middle School rumbled up the front drive just ahead of the bus from
Rockwell High School.
Lauren selected one family-size bag of frozen broccoli spears and one equally large bag of
cauliflower florets from the freezer and set them on the island counter behind her. She ran
around the corner to the pantry and grabbed two large boxes of spaghetti and a restaurant-
size jar of sauce. At the kitchen sink, she looked outside to see why the boys were taking
so long to come indoors.
“Something wrong, Lauren?” John asked.
“No. Your car stopped the boys in their tracks.”
“Jacob would be happy to take them all for a spin.”
“Here they come; Bryan’s herding them this way.” When she looked to the door, Adam
bolted inside first. Devon followed, and then Philip rolled in ahead of David and Cameron.
Bryan and Jacob stopped on the porch to have another conversation.
“Nice car!” Adam said boldly, fixing his eyes on the stranger.
“Thanks. You’re Adam, correct?”
“Yes, sir. Man, I sure wish we had a chauffeur.”
“Excuse me?” Lauren put a hand to her hip. “Who carts you around whenever you want to
“You do. Or Bryan. Or Buddy and Noah.”
“That’s right.” She didn’t mind a bit when the teenager slipped his arm behind her and stole
The rest of the group dropped books and belongings on the small table beside the half wall
dividing the kitchen from the breakfast room.
“Come over here, boys. I want to introduce you to the man who designed our home. This is
Mr. John Reynolds.”
“Hello, sir.” David shook hands. “You did a great job on the barn.”
“Well thank you very much, David, but I can’t take all the credit. Adam and Michael did a
splendid job of designing the structure.”
“That’s all he thinks about—horses and the barn.” Cameron blew out a breath, rolling his
eyes in a wide arc. “I’m Cameron, by the way.”
John chuckled. “So I gathered. And you must be Devon,” he said, looking to the other boy
with dark hair. “And that leaves Philip.”
Philip put out his hand. “Yes, sir.”
“Get a quick snack, boys, and get on your homework. You have a couple hours until
dinner.” Lauren turned to John. “You might want to move away from the refrigerator.”
“Yeah,” Cameron added. “And whatever you do, don’t block the microwave. Adam
doesn’t care who he runs over when he’s getting something to eat.”
It was Devon who reached the refrigerator ahead of Adam, and began to collect an armful
of deli meats. “Lunch was the pits today.”
“Hey, don’t think you’re going to eat all the good stuff, squirt!” Adam warned.
Devon waved a package of roast beef in the air in front of the older boy and grinned.
“Possession is nine-tenths of the law!”
Adam didn’t quite understand what he read on Devon’s lips. Philip finger-spelled
possession and signed the rest.
“It won’t be the first time I’ve broken the law,” Adam grumbled. With Devon out of the
way, he opened the French door refrigerator and scouted the shelves. He took out sliced
cheese and the squeeze bottle of mustard. “We got any pizza left from last night?”
Cameron stood behind Adam, fidgeting.
“Where’s the rest of the potato salad?” Adam practically shouted.
Cameron hissed an impatient sigh and threw up both hands. “He expects an answer with
his head stuck in the refrigerator? Jeeze!” He tapped Adam on the shoulder. “Did you
forget you can’t hear or something?” He pointed to the salad on the shelf.
“Oh yeah. Thanks.” Adam searched the other side of the refrigerator. “Okay, so I still
don’t see the pizza. I bet they fed it to Michael and Terry. Man, I told them to save me
Philip tossed the blond hair from his forehead, amused. He raised an eye when Cameron
cupped both hands to his mouth.
“Hey Adam! Negative on the pizza! I ate it for breakfast!”
“Michael, John Reynolds is here and he’d like to meet you.” And to her student assistant,
she instructed, “Buddy, you are excused for the moment. If you’d like, you may
join Bryan and our guest in the sunroom. I know John would like to meet you and Noah
before he leaves.”
“What about Terry, Doc? Do you want us to try and pry him out of his room?”
Lauren shook her head. “I’d like him to meet John. You can encourage Terry, but don’t
“Yes, ma’am.” Buddy excused himself and left the room.
“Mr. Lambert, how was your therapy session?”
“Well, I guess that’s one way to put it. I believe the respiratory therapy is helping your
breathing, don’t you?”
“Can’t you find any young and single female therapists to work with me?”
“Don’t start with me, Mr. Lambert.”
This particular bedroom on the new south wing was one of Lauren’s favorites. Dark
pine furniture suited Michael. Ash-blue wallpaper, impressed with a simple wheat
design, added a measure of softness to the room without making it look feminine. Antique
gold lamps accented the nightstands. A patchwork quilt of bold colors brought the entire
Posters of fast cars took up a section of one wall, while photos and pictures of female
entertainers—popular country singers mostly, decorated the wall to the right of his bed.
Every bathroom in the home was designed to accommodate a wheelchair user. The
bathrooms in each resident’s bedroom included bonus items. The space-age features in
Michael’s bathroom—including the soaking tub with a lift—could all be operated by
either touch pad or voice command. Music, water jets and adjustable lighting made
showering a spa-like indulgence.
Operations in the bedroom were equally off the chart.
Michael adjusted the temperature to a warmer setting. The thermostat was a small part of
a sophisticated environmental control system. Practically everything in the bedroom—
electronics, Michael’s computer, the light switches and even the draperies—could be
operated and controlled by Michael’s voice.
“I told Mr. Reynolds about the designs in your sketchpad. He’d like to see them.”
“He doesn’t need to see that stuff, Doc. I made those drawings a long time ago.”
“You told me you completed the last two drawings a few days before your accident. I
don't think you understand; Mr. Reynolds could open some important doors for you if
you’re serious about studying architectural design in college.”
“There you go again. I’m telling you, Doc, I’m not college material! People would
stare…would think I was crazy!” His voice wasn’t strong after working an hour with the
“Very well. Have it your way. But at least do me the courtesy of meeting him.”
“I hope the guy is prepared. He’s gonna think this is some stupid joke.”
“I doubt that.”
“Look at me, Doc. Nothing works remember? No hands, no arms or legs. Nothing. Six
months ago, I couldn’t even breathe.”
“I remember.” Lauren turned to the knock at the door.
Adam hurried into the room. “What are you doing stuck in here, Michael? Mr. Reynolds
is waiting to meet you. He’s got to get back on the road soon to meet with another client.
Man, you gotta see his car! He showed me his website on the computer and all the awards
he’s won for his building designs. You should see his yacht! In his travel blog, it said he
just got back from Florida. He’ll be going back there again soon.”
“Well good,” Michael smirked. “He can drop me off on one of the keys. Oh wait, I forgot,
I wouldn’t be able to get on the boat, now would I? And I’d probably just roll overboard
with the first good wave.”
“Hey, the least you can do is come meet the guy. He did like our barn design, didn’t he?
He barely changed anything.”
Michael’s Texas drawl gave Lauren the edge she needed to keep up with the speed of
their conversation as she signed for Adam.
“Okay, okay, I’ll meet the man. But I don’t want to show him any drawings, Adam, do
you understand me? And don’t say a word about what I’ve created on the computer!”
Lauren interrupted. “Michael, maybe I should tell you something about Mr. Reynolds
before you go out there.”
“Forget it. Let me make a grand appearance and get it over with.”
“It’s too bad Mr. Reynolds couldn’t stay for dinner,” Cameron said. “Man, he’s been
everywhere! Some of the places he was telling us about, I’ve never even heard of.”
“Well I’m glad he didn’t stay,” Noah answered. “I’m not sure spaghetti and meatballs
with store-bought sauce would be up to his standards.”
“He would’ve been cool with it, I bet.”
“You’re right Cameron,” Lauren smiled. “He would have stayed if he hadn’t had to meet
with another client. I know for a fact spaghetti is one of his favorite dishes.”
But Noah wasn’t convinced. “Just the same, I’m not ready to entertain celebrities with
“You do fine, Noah. Don’t sell yourself short. Your cooking has improved immensely
since you joined us last May.”
“Yeah, he finally learned how to cook hotdogs,” Buddy teased.
“I learned a lot from Devon,” Noah admitted. “If it wasn’t for him, I’d still be in the
dark about how to use a cheese grater. And he’s good at finding recipes that aren’t too
“Where is Michael?” Lauren asked.
“I think I saw him go into the sunroom, Doc,” Buddy said. “I’ve got to get back to
homework duty. Bryan asked me to tell you he’s with Terry, doing some knee therapy
“One hour to dinner,” Noah called out over his shoulder.
“Send me a text so I don’t miss it. I need all the fuel I can get.”
“You’ll be called, Mr. Gilman, don’t worry,” Lauren assured him. She headed in the
opposite direction toward the sunroom.
Michael sat motionless, staring through the row of floor-to-ceiling glass panels that
retracted accordion-style to let in the outdoors. Beyond the glass, the home extended to a
massive two-level deck with an elaborate outdoor kitchen, dining and lounge areas.
“Michael, can I get you anything?”
“You seem preoccupied. Anything wrong?”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I tried. You brushed me off.”
“How did it happen?”
“He dove off a dock at a lake when he was sixteen. It hadn’t rained in a while where he
lived in Vermont, and the water level was below normal. I met him two years later at a
summer church camp. That was twelve years ago.” She pulled up a chair and sat down.
“I guess I know now why you were so anxious for me to meet him.”
“I wanted you to meet him because you’re a talented young man who might make a great
architect if that’s what you’d like to pursue. I wasn’t trying to deceive you or even
surprise you. I had no reason to tell you John used a wheelchair or that he had a spinal
cord injury. It’s not the focus of his life.”
There was a long pause while Michael thought and stared. “He could move his arms
“John broke his neck at a level slightly lower than yours—C5, to be exact. He’s also
incomplete, meaning he has retained a certain amount of sensation in some parts of his
body. He’s not able to use his fingers or legs, and he has to use a power chair.”
“Can he drive?”
“He has a van modified so he can drive from his chair. His chauffeur drives him around
in the sports cars. Jacob is also his personal assistant.”
“Tell me something, Doc. How would it have turned out if you had done the surgery after
I got hurt? Would I still have been paralyzed?”
“Yes. I saw your scans and medical notes, Michael. I don’t think I would’ve done
anything differently…at least not anything that would have affected the outcome. Your
injury is complete. You had a lot of bone fragments cutting into the spinal cord and there
was barely anything left after they were all removed.”
“Okay. So I met Mr. Reynolds. Now what?”
“That’s up to you. John has made a wonderful life for himself. There’s no reason you
couldn’t do the same. There are plenty of careers to choose from.”
“Is he married?”
“No. He hasn’t found anyone yet.”
“Did he ever have a thing for you?”
“Yes, he did.”
“Did you ever go out with him?”
“No.” She shared the high points of the story.
“Is he able to make love?”
“How the heck do you know?”
“Relax, Michael; get your mind out of the bedroom. I know because he told me. I’m not
sure how much sensation he has—what limitations he has in the performance department—
so don’t ask for more details. The difference between the two of you is he knows there’s
more to sex than just a ten-second performance.”
“Bryan…was he your first?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
“Wait a minute,” Michael said, suddenly intrigued. “You mean to tell me you were a still
a virgin in your twenties?”
“Is there something wrong with that?”
His mouth gaped opened, but nothing came out right away. “No,” Michael finally
answered and then he paused. “I guess not.” He looked to the doctor. “It’s just you’re
“So “what”?” she asked and he licked his lips, unsure.
“I don’t know…desirable? Admit it, Doc, you’re hot and you know it.”
“I admit nothing, Mr. Lambert.” Lauren folded her arms. “Being attractive doesn’t mean
one is easy.”
“What the hell did you do on dates? You did date, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I did. And the rest is my business.”
“How long did you two date before you got married?”
Michael smiled to himself. “I guess you knew Bryan was the one? And you made him
wait three whole months?”
“Yes, Mr. Lambert. I did.”