Crippled

INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT 

ROBERT, 40, sits at his computer, lit only by the glow of the monitor. Around him are piles of unopened boxes. The walls are bare. A mattress lies on the floor, sheets strewn across it.

ROBERT
  (v.o.)
  I was tired of being alone.

Robert TYPES away at the computer, responding to the pleasant DING of instant messages.

INT. OFFICE – DAY

Robert reads a massive technical manual at his desk but it’s obvious that his thoughts are elsewhere. Without realizing it, he’s nervously playing with the wedding band on his finger.

In walks HENRY, 44, a coworker. He sits down across from Robert.

HENRY
  Robert, tonight the night?

ROBERT
  I meet her after work. Stella. StellaLive is her AOL name.

HENRY
  (snickering)
  You sure she’s a woman?

ROBERT
  Why would she lie?

HENRY
  You silly, naive man. Did you get a picture?

ROBERT
  No.

HENRY
  What do you know about her? How much does she weigh?

ROBERT
  She works in an insurance firm but really loves theater. That’s where StellaLive came from. She’s very sweet. But mature, too.

HENRY
  How old is she?

ROBERT
  26.

HENRY
  (taken aback)
  Damn, Rob, I’m impressed! You dirty old man…

ROBERT
  You know it’s not like that. I just need someone, I really do.

Henry picks up one of the pictures of Robert’s kids on his desk and idly looks at it. He puts the picture back down.

HENRY
  You’re divorced, not crippled. At least take off your wedding ring before you meet her.

Robert is caught by surprise. He’s been playing with the wedding ring on his finger throughout the entire conversation. He slowly pulls the ring off and puts it in a desk drawer.

INT. MEXICAN RESTAURANT – NIGHT

The restaurant is nearly empty. A BARTENDER watches a basketball game on TV, leaning against his bar. THE HOSTESS reads a paperback book, occasionally glancing out at the empty parking lot.

Robert sips a Dos Equis, the only diner in the place. His eyes are fixed on the door of the restaurant.

EXT. MEXICAN RESTAURANT – NIGHT

An old Toyota pulls into the handicapped parking space.

INT. MEXICAN RESTAURANT – NIGHT

Robert can see the Toyota in the handicapped spot from where he is sitting. The headlights turn off and the door opens but Robert can’t get a good look at who has gotten out.

After a moment, the Hostess puts down her book and opens the door for STELLA.

Stella, 26, enters, propelling herself along with the assistance of two spindly metal canes. She is pretty, in a fragile way, ninety pounds of young woman coming toward Robert. Dark circles limn her eyes and her skin is pale. Her legs don’t quite work right and she drags them along, limping toward Robert. She greets Robert with a shy smile.

It takes Robert a moment to realize that this girl with multiple sclerosis is Stella. Disappointment and confusion cross his face until he sees her smile and he can’t help but smile back.

The Hostess trails behind Stella, trying to be helpful. Robert and Stella share an awkward embrace, Stella’s metal canes getting in the way. Stella sits down.

ROBERT
  So, Stella….

STELLA
  Robert. I hope you’re not too disappointed.

ROBERT
  No, no.

Stella reaches out and grabs Robert’s hand briefly.

STELLA
  I feel comfortable with you.

ROBERT
  I just didn’t know. Do you get along okay, with…

Robert points to the canes hanging from her chair.

STELLA
  Multiple sclerosis is an inconvenience at times. Times like this. A challenge. But I can do just about anything I want to do, with a little help.

Robert smiles.

ROBERT
  You seem like a determined young woman.

Stella picks up the menu.

STELLA
  I try to be. I really try.

TWO HOURS LATER

Robert and Stella walk through the restaurant, empty plates of food on the table behind them. Robert clears chairs from Stella’s path and opens the door for her. The Hostess gives Robert a pitying smile.

EXT. MEXICAN RESTAURANT – NIGHT

Robert has Stella’s car keys in his hand. He opens the door for her. He then leans down and kisses her. They kiss for a long moment, Stella swaying on her canes.

STELLA
  I really want to hug you.

ROBERT
  We could get in your car.

STELLA
  It’s a little cramped in there.

Robert has his arms around Stella’s waist, supporting her. A long moment passes.

ROBERT
  I live nearby.

STELLA
  I’m not normally, you know…

ROBERT
  I know.

INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT

Robert and Stella stand in front of Robert’s computer.

STELLA
  So, this is where it all happened.

ROBERT
  Yea.

Robert turns away from the computer put his arms around Stella.

STELLA
  I can’t stay too late. I live with my mom.

Robert gently takes off Stella’s canes. She holds onto him for support. He lifts her up and puts her on the bed.

SEVERAL HOURS LATER

Robert and Stella are lying in bed, both nude and asleep. Stella’s leg begins to rapidly twitch, waking Robert up. He watches her leg vibrate, astonished. He strokes her leg with his hand and the twitching stops. Stella wakes up.

STELLA
  Oh my god, what time is it? Oh no. She’s going to be pissed. Could you follow me back? I hate to drive this late at night.

INT. ROBERT’S CAR – NIGHT

Robert follows Stella’s Toyota down winding suburban streets. He’s wearing sweats. His hair is tousled. Stella pulls into the driveway of her mom’s house.

EXT. MOM’S HOUSE – NIGHT

Robert opens up the car door for Stella. He sleepily escorts her to the front door of her house and they share a silent, furtive kiss.

Robert is about to get back into his car when he hears a noise behind him. Standing in the cold air is LOUISE, 56, Stella’s mother.

LOUISE
  (angry)
  So, you’re the Internet guy. You know, she’s not going to lead a normal life. She has MS. It’s a                         degenerative condition. She could die a year from now.

ROBERT
  I’ll take my chances.

Louise looks at Robert in disbelief.

LOUISE
  You’ll what? Listen to me–

Robert sees Stella in the doorway. He shouts to her.

ROBERT
  (stronger)
  I’ll take my chances.

ROBERT
  (v.o.)
  I’ll take my chances, I’ll take my chances, I’ll take my chances…



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