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“It’s not your fault,” she replied. Neither of them was exactly sure of to what the other referred. She wondered if he was sorry she had multiple sclerosis, or that she had to be lifted, or that his hand was on her bare thigh. He wondered if she meant it wasn’t his fault that she was disabled, or that she had to be lifted, or that his hand was on her bare thigh. He wished he knew if she could even feel his hand on her thigh. The feeling of it thrilled him. Her thigh was very soft, smooth, and warm. He thought it would be wonderful to kiss her thighs, but her quickly pushed that thought away. She was cold, rich, and disabled. There was no common ground upon which they could meet except he as her driver and she as his fare. He placed her into the back seat with great delicacy before he folded her chair into the trunk and slipped behind the wheel again.
“Do you remember my destination from yesterday?” she said in a tone of voice that was much less harsh and irritated than it had previously been.
“Yes, Miz,” he said, and pulled away from the curb.
“You don’t seem to be like the other drivers,” she said to his eyes in the rear-view mirror. Clay glanced up at the mirror and saw that she was looking at him, expecting a response.
“Thank you,” he said.
“What do you do, really,” she said.
“I’m a singer, and I write some songs.”
“Do you sing anywhere professionally?” she said, a bit more eagerly than she would have wanted.
“A bit. Mostly, I study and practice singing.”
“That’s very interesting…” she said, and hesitated while she looked at his credentials in the plastic sleeve on the back of his seat… Clayton.” Clayton Wing is an interesting name, isn’t it.”
“What’s your name,” he said. He had been unable to read her signature on the charge slip the previous morning.
“Alicia Radley,” she said. “Why do you ask?”
“Just to keep things equal,” he said, watching her in the mirror for any reaction to his reference of them as equals. She looked away, out the window as they pulled up in front her office building.
“We’ll never be equal,” she said.
“Why not?”
“You’re young and strong and healthy, and I’m… not.”
“Have you always been… like this,” he asked while he picked her up and placed her in her wheelchair in front of the building.
“No,” she said. “I was very athletic into my twenties, but by the time I was thirty, multiple sclerosis did this.”
“Does it hurt?” he asked. He was hoping to find out if she felt his hand on her thigh.
“No,” she said. “There’s no pain. I just can’t move my legs.”
“Can… you feel anything?” Clay asked. She looked up into his eyes. Her heart fluttered when she looked into his warm eyes and tried to imagine what his young body was like under his clothes.
“Yes,” she said. “The sense of touch is very intense. The gentle touch of a warm hand is… intense.” Clayton was surprised. She seemed to be telling him that she was glad it happened. She dug into her purse and again extracted a twenty-five cent piece and handed it to him. “Thank you,” she said with a weak smile and swung her chair around toward the building entrance. She swung around again and rolled back to him. “Do you suppose,” she said, “it might be possible for you to make me a regular fare every morning?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’d have to see what the dispatcher says.”
“That won’t be a problem, I’m sure,” she said.
“Well, I’m also not sure I want a five-day-a-week commitment,” he said. “I chose this job so my time could be more my own.”
“I meant seven days a week,” she said. “But I understand. If you want to think about it… well, I hope you’ll think about it.”
“No,” Clay said. “I’m not interested in an every-day commitment.”