By: Jess Mercer
(© 2011 by the author)
The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's
consent. Comments are appreciated at...
Steve leaned back in his seat,
his eyes still on the guy who had entered after class had begun and handed a
form to the professor, then taken a seat near the front. The droning voice of
the professor went unheard by Steve as he continued to stare at the new arrival.
Steve was proud of his body. It looked as if he'd spent hours in a gym like some of the other guys, but it had come from three years of work as a framing carpenter. The work had been hard, but rewarding. If he was careful and found a cheap quiet place to live, he could get through this year without working and spend his time on study to build up his GPA. He'd need it to graduate with honours in the spring and get a good job.
He was almost unaware when the professor picked up his lecture notes and walked from the room, until he stood and locked eyes with the guy who had turned to face him, those dark eyes raking him from head to toe. For a few moments they stared at each other, sizing each other up. Steve suddenly realized the guy was the best looking man he'd ever seen, tall and slender with thick black hair, a shock of which tended to fall constantly over his forehead. His eyebrows were equally black as his hair, under which dark eyes seemed to glitter. His skin had a bronze tint, deeper than his own deep tan.
The new student saw a guy slightly shorter than his own six foot three, thick crew-cut blond hair, piercing blue eyes as deep as a mountain lake. He thought of the file card in his pocket and wished. Not that stud. He's probably got a string of girl friends a mile long, with a list of broken hearts even longer. Besides, even if his worn jeans and pull-over shirt were so tight he could almost see the rippling muscles underneath, they were common dress among students. With a longing sigh, he picked up his books and strode out into the hall. That blond guy had the size and muscles he'd need in a roommate.
He stopped in front of a bulletin board in the hall and reached in his pocket for the file card, but before he took his hand away from the push-pin he had used to secure the card to the corkboard, a big hand reached past his and jerked the card down. He turned to see blue eyes scanning it.
"What you do that for? I gotta find a roommate." He saw the triangular face he had looked at in class.
"I need a place. Can we talk about it?" Steve asked.
"I've got to get home and get some work done. I was late registering and I've already got a paper due. If you're interested, come by tonight about seven. The address is on the card."
Steve crammed the card in his pocket. "See you then," he called as the guy walked off without introducing himself.
Steve went on to the university's library and worked until his stomach rumbled, reminding him it was time to eat. After the cheapest dinner he could find in the cafeteria, he walked back to the dismal room he rented. He glanced around him as he undressed and pulled on a robe to walk down the flight of rickety stairs to the rusty shower, hoping there was some warm water left. All too often his showers were cold enough to make him shudder.
God, if only I could afford to get out of this dump, he thought as the tepid water splashed on his muscular frame. It's hell being poor, but at least I've got enough to finish school. With any luck, this guy would have a place closer to campus and wouldn't ask for more than a share of expenses. Na, quit your dreaming. It ain't gonna happen, he told himself.
Steve stopped in a gas station to look at the city map posted inside. The address was only five blocks from campus, but as he studied the map again, his heart sank. Even with shared expenses, there was no way he could afford to live there. Apartment managers in that district wouldn't rent to students, most of the apartments being condos anyway. He started to turn back towards his room, but he'd told the guy he would meet him. His sense of honour demanded he keep the appointment.
Steve stopped in the foyer and looked at the mail boxes. Yeah, there it was, K. Wolf. He pressed the buzzer.
"Yeah?" The voice sounded through the tiny speaker.
"It's Steve. You told me to come by."
"Top floor. Take the lift."
When the lift door opened, Wolf was standing in the doorway to his apartment. "Come on in."
Steve stopped in the doorway. What the hell did this guy need with a roommate? He asked himself as he looked around. The dark green carpet was deep, the brown chairs looked like real leather. Against one wall a huge stereo/video system, and on a big desk, a large computer.
"You going to stand there and
gawk or are you coming in," Wolf's voicesounded impatient.
"Oh, yeah." Steve took a seat near Wolf. "What's a guy like you need a roommate for? No way I can afford to live in a place like this, even sharing."
Wolf scowled, his manner brusque. "I'll ask the questions. If I like what I hear, we'll talk more. Can you drive?"
"What about cooking?"
"Enough to get by. I worked in a restaurant for a while, but nothing fancy."
"Not much. I don't have one anyway."
"Come over here." At the imperious tone, Steve was tempted to leave, but he got up and stood in front of Wolf.
"See if you can pick me up."
"I said, see if you can pick me up. I won't be giving you any help."
Steve shrugged. What the hell was with this guy? He slipped his hands under Wolf's arms and lifted him clear of the chair, finding him heavier than he looked. He lowered the dead weight of Wolf back to the chair and returned to his own.
When he looked up, Wolf was grinning. "When I saw you in class I thought you looked like a guy who could handle me. Want the job?"
Steve's mouth dropped open. "J ... job?" He stammered. "I thought you wanted somebody to share the cost of this place with you. But, hell, it don't look like you need it."
"I don't, but I sometimes need help. You'll have your own room and bath, and do some cooking, if," Wolf grinned again, "I find I can eat it." His face grew serious. "There'll be a few times I'll need you to drive me places when I don't feel like doing it myself. You don't have a girl friend or anything that might keep you from being around if I need you, do you?"
Steve shook his head. "I quit my job so's I'd have some time to study and bring up my GPA."
"Great. There's beer in the fridge. Get me one and one for yourself, if you want."
Steve looked around the well equipped kitchen with envy. It would be fun to cook with all these appliances to help. As he pulled two bottles of imported beer from the fridge, Wolf's voice called, "In the bottle. No glass. There're coasters on the counter next to the fridge. And wipe the bottles off before you open them."
"If that's what you want, my lord, your serf is willing." Steve answered in a voice too low for Wolf to hear. He handed Wolf the opened bottle and a coaster, then resumed his seat.
"You drink much?"
"No way, man. I can't afford it. I used to have a beer once in a while when I got off work, but now I haven't got time for anything but study."
"Good. I'm not playing nursemaid to a drunk. Family?"
Steve shook his head. "I'm an orphan. Have been since I was six."
He was surprised when Wolf's smile grew broader. "Sounds perfect. I think we might just get along. When can you move in?"
"I could get my stuff after classes tomorrow, I ain't got much. But you haven't said anything about what it's gonna cost me."
"Nothing. I told you this was a job. I'll pay you fifty bucks a week."
"For what? I mean I told you I can cook some and I don't mind that. And driving you around once in a while ain't no big thing."
"You might clean the flat if it needs it. I have a service come in twice a month. If you're into washing your own clothes, you can do some of mine while you're at it. There are washing machines and dryers in the basement. Anything else I want you to do I'll tell you, but it won't interfere with your study time. If you've finished your beer, you may go. I'll see you tomorrow after class. My name's Kevin, but you will call me Kev."
"Can I ask you somethin'?"
Kev continued to glower as he replied, "You may. You won't get an answer if I don't like the question."
"Are you always such a changeable guy? I mean one minute you're smilin' and the next you're growlin' at me. I mean I ain't done nothin' to piss you off, have I?"
"No. Just trying to see how you react to moods. There're times I hate life and everybody I see. Think you can live with that?"
"I guess. But I don't see why you'd hate life, man. You've got everything a guy could want."
"The hell I have! I've lost two things I'll never have again."
"Why not? Looks like you can afford anything you want."
"Money doesn't buy everything. Now shut up about it and get out of here."
When Steve followed Kev out of the building after classes the next afternoon, Kev stopped by a Mercedes' convertible parked in a handicapped slot. "You need a car to move your stuff?" He asked.
"It would sure help. I don't have much, but it's a long walk from the campus and your place."
Kev tossed him a set of keys. "You drive, since you know where you're going. I'll wait while you pack."
As Steve drove, he wondered how a guy strong and muscular as Kev could get away with parking is a handicapped space. But driving the Mercedes was a real experience. He wondered about one or two things he'd never seen in a car before, but he didn't dare touch them. This thing's a dream. Wish I had one like it. Maybe some day, he thought.
When he parked in front of the house, he noted Kev look around
with disgust. "How the hell do people live in dumps like this?"
"Hey, we ain't all rich as you. This is the best I can afford and stay in school."
Kev's face flushed. "Sorry. I wasn't trying to put you down or anything. Go get your stuff."
I'm glad he didn't offer to help. I'd hate him to see inside this place, Steve thought as he climbed the stairs to his attic room. I ain't got that much anyway.
Ten minutes later he had stowed his duffel bag and a worn suitcase in the boot of the car and they were driving towards Kev's apartment. He parked in the underground garage where Kev directed him and pulled out his bags.
"Oh, hey, I almost forgot to give you the keys back," he said as the lift door opened and Kev stepped out.
"Open the door and put the keys back in your pocket. That set's yours. I have my own."
"I don't want your car keys, man. How you know I won't steal it or something?"
"I don't think you would, but that car has a tracing device built in along with a few other things I need. If you were to steal it, the cops would have you before you got five miles." Kev grinned. "Hell, you've been more honest with me than I've been with you."
The grin vanished. "You'll find out later. Come on." He led Steve down a short hall and threw open a door. "This is yours. Put your stuff away and get us a beer, then see what you can find in the freezer for dinner. I'm gonna get a shower."
Steve could hardly believe a room that looked as if it had come from the pages of a decorating magazine was to be his. I ain't believing this! I wanted out of that dump, but this is rags to riches.
An hour later, Kev's eyes widened when he tasted the meal Steve set before him. "I thought you were fixing something out of the freezer. This sure isn't."
"Yeah, it is. I just added a few things."
Kev nodded in appreciation when he finished eating. "Good dinner. Makes me even happier you got that card before anybody else saw it. Throw the dishes in the washer and let's hit the books. Five will get you ten old Martin's gonna throw a pop-quiz tomorrow."
"Shit! I still got a paper to do. You have a typewriter I can use?"
"Use the computer if you know how. I've set up a wizard in the format the school wants for papers."
After dropping Kev off at the apartment after school the next afternoon, Steve drove on to the supermarket with the shopping list and money Kev had given him in his pocket. He purchased a few things he wanted in addition to the items on
the list and drove back to his new home.
He opened the apartment door, the bags of groceries slipping from his hands as he stared at Kev, eyes wide. Kev sat in a wheel chair, his legs bare beyond the bush shorts he wore. They ended just below the knees.
"Jeez, you're clumsy! I hope to hell you didn't break anything in those bags you dropped," Kev snarled.
"But how? I mean ..." Steve stammered.
"Pick that stuff up, put it away, and get your ass back in here."
Mind reeling from the shock of what he had seen, Steve picked up the groceries and went to put them away. "Want a beer?" He yelled from the kitchen.
Steve handed Kev the bottle and sat across from him.
"Okay, now you know. I'm a DBK and I don't like to talk about it. You got anything against a guy with no legs?"
Steve shook his head. "It's just .... Well, hell, man, I never thought ... I mean I wondered why you were parked in a handicapped space, but .... Why didn't you tell me when we talked?"
"I wanted to see your reaction when you saw me without my legs. If you'd said anything, your ass would of been out of here so fast your head would be spinning."
"I'm sorry, Kev."
"Don't you ever say that to me again!" Kev yelled. "I don't need your pity. Save it for somebody else. I can do anything I want."
"But I thought you said you might need me sometimes."
Kev's temper vanished as fast as it had come. "Hey, driving in heavy traffic's a bitch, even with the stuff added to the car to make it easier for me. I can't do much in the kitchen if I'm in this damn chair and I don't like to eat out. The chow in the campus cafeteria sucks and restaurants get boring. There are times I can't use the legs, so I'll need you to push me around campus, too. I can do it, but I'm slow at it. No way I can make it across campus in ten minutes. At night I'm gonna need you to wrap my stumps when I take the legs off. I'll show you how. I always do a sloppy job of it and the bandages come off while I'm asleep, so it doesn't do me any good. They'll need some massage, too." He gave Steve a sharp look. "Gonna bother you to touch my stumps?"
"No way." He grinned at Kev. "Hell, they're beautiful and sexy. I'm gonna like touching them, buddy. You're a great lookin' stud."
Kev looked up with a startled expression. "You're gay?"
Steve cringed. Oh, shit! I've just pissed away the best time I could ever have, he thought, then answered. "You've got it, buddy. When I saw you pinning up that card, I was hoping you were looking for a roommate. I was making damn sure nobody else got to look at it before me." He shrugged. "Hell, I guess I'd better start packin'. You sure ain't gay."
Kev smiled. "Come here." He held out his arms and grabbed Steve, pulling him down into a tight hug. "You really had me fooled, big guy. I think this is gonna work out for both of us. You may not even need that bedroom of yours after all."