Chance Encounter: A WordPress Interactive Novel (4 of 7)

 

ChanceEncounterWPCover

CHAPTER FOUR

 

When Alex arrived at the high-class Italian restaurant the next day, he felt no sense of guilt for being twenty-five minutes late. Nor was he concerned how inappropriate his plain old T-shirt and threadbare jeans would look on this fancy, almost certainly business-oriented occasion. He would obey his father’s wishes, yes, but this did not mean he had to go out of his way to be pleasant.

While he indulged the maitre’d who patiently insisted he put on a jacket, Alex saw a young woman who was equally patient in her attempt to negotiate the passage of her wheelchair through the archway leading to the powder room. Perhaps trying to make the waitress nearby feel better, who was anxious to help but obviously inexperienced in dealing with people with disabilities, the woman made a bet on how well she would go. “Duh… Darn it, I missed it again! Looks like you’ll definitely get your ice cream. And one for your boss, too, as someone’s got to pay for the damage… I might as well crash the whole building and be done with it!”

He gazed at the two women laughing so hard that they leaned on each other for support, and thought of his mother. She, too, joked about herself more than everybody else ever did. It was her, who taught Alex that instead of pitying and patronising the disabled, one should treat them fair and square, and that was that. You could lend a hand when they needed it, but that should never stop you from tickling and poking at them for a bit of fun.

By the time Alex found the right table, where his father sat happily chatting with an elderly couple while Jeanie fidgeted in agitation between two empty seats, his stomach was growling. Peter paused momentarily to smile and wave at him, which was a surprise. “Dad must be really close to these people to not feel embarrassed by me,” Alex thought.

“Hello Alex, come and grab a seat. We’ve been hearing all about you for half an hour now. Your father simply wouldn’t shut up!” The old man rolled his eyes, pretending to be exasperated, while his wife and Peter laughed.

The couple introduced themselves as Robert and Sue Jennings, friends of Peter’s for more than thirty years and owner of a prominent timberyard with which Borgen Enterprises had long associated. Alex could not remember whether his father had ever mentioned them, but was glad to see him genuinely relaxed, surrounded by people who loved him. Well, apart from Jeanie, of course.

“Is Susan OK by herself? Should I go and help her?” Jeanine feigned concern to grab everybody’s attention. She adjusted her hair and dress as if getting ready for battle.

“No, it’s fine. She’ll be back in a minute,” Sue said. “We normally just leave her to muck around. Once she even fell asleep in the lobby of a theatre where we watched Lion King the Musical!”

Robert burst out laughing. “That’s right! We keep saying Susan should get a role in that show. Should that wheelchair ever break down, she can walk on crutches, just like those giraffes!”

“Oi, Dad and Mum, are you gossiping behind my back again?” Robert was interrupted by a cheerful voice whose owner soon appeared behind him. Even with a previous glimpse of her, Alex was stunned by Susan’s evident confidence and agility. She drove that wheelchair as delicately as a fighter jet pilot – and equally as fast, too. Her legs resembled two burned matches.

———-

How do you think Susan lost the use of legs? She was (1) injured in a car accident as a kid, or (2) assaulted during a bank robbery? Please leave a message below. Your vote will determine the story’s development in the next 600 words.

The next chapter will be posted on February 19, Friday, at 8pm AEDT (Australian Eastern Daylight Time, GMT+11). Voting begins right after the chapter is posted and ends at midnight AEDT the following Tuesday. The story will have a total of seven chapters, 64 possible endings.

 

 

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