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Calipers on the Train

Rating:; Genre=Fiction; Pages=22; Characters=44,682;
I sat contentedly in my seat for some time as the train pulled out of the station and made its way towards the edge of London, past the grimy backs of the small factories and derelict empty lots that always huddle against railway lines. I read a little, occasionally gazing absentmindedly at the passing scenery.

After a bit I began to feel the heat of the summer sun taking effect, and needed a bit of ventilation. There was a nice looking young fellow, probably not more than 22 or so, sitting across the table from me. As I caught his eye, he gave me a quick smile and must have read my mind. "It's getting rather warm", he said, "do you mind if I open a window". I smiled back and replied that I would welcome some fresh air.

As he stood up, his arm must have accidentally caught the corner of the book that he left hanging over the edge of the table between us. The book proceeded to perform a perfect double back flip with a half-twist, falling to the floor and disappearing under the table between us. With a somewhat embarrassed grin he sat back down and proceeded to bend down under the table to retrieve it. He obviously saw something totally unexpected. I could see his entire body lurch and, as he tried to straighten up, crack his head solidly against the bottom of the table. That must have really hurt.

I certainly thought that I knew the reason for his hitting his head on the table. As I had said, it was rather warm. To keep some air circulating around my legs, I had hiked my skirt up somewhat and my legs were spread a bit. Undoubtedly, as he bent down under the table to recover his book, the young man could probably see all the way up my skirt to my panties. And, probably even more of a surprise, he could see the cold steel of my leg calipers stretching the entire length of of my legs, from where they were rigidly attached to the heels of my shoes to the metal and leather bands and buckles securing them to my upper thighs.

Emerging from under the table, clutching his book and carefully rubbing the soon-to-be lump on his head, his face was as red as a beet. He had obviously lost all of his composure, his eyes darting hither and yon, but never letting his eyes meet mine. My first thoughts were to feel sorry for the obvious emotional state in which he now found himself. But these were quickly replaced by the simple humor that I saw in the situation. I tried to use the magazine that I had been skimming to hide the laugh I could feel rising in me.

My stifling a laugh certainly did not seem to help his situation. "I am sorry", I said, "I should not be laughing. That really must have hurt. It is just that you look so ... ", I was fumbling for a word, "... so ruffled. What happened down there, anyway? Or did something surprise you, perhaps?" These last words I said with a slight giggle in my throat. When that didn't seem to help, I tried again, but this time a bit more seriously, "I really am sorry and I certainly should not be teasing you. It is just that you are not the first guy that I appear to have had an effect on, though I must admit, none of the others tried to brain themselves!"

He was still obviously quite uncomfortable with the whole situation. I then quickly added, "We should start all over again. Hi! I'm Patty Stone. I am not embarrassed by what has happened and you should not be either. And, you certainly have not been rude or impolite. It must have been a bit of a surprise when you went under the table for your book and saw my skirt up a bit and the fact that I am wearing calipers on my legs. You could hardly be expected to have seen that through a solid oak table earlier, could you? You do not look anything like Clark Kent."

He was finally calming down and, for a very brief instant, he looked directly at me. But, looking away quickly, and still red-faced, he glanced down at his watch and stuttered, "Hi! My name is Bill Parker." A small smile started to form at the corners of his mouth as he continued, "Uh, no, I guess not, though I feel about as tongue-tied as he usually is when he's around Lois Lane. Terri Hatcher sure is a very pretty girl on that /Lois and Clark/ TV series." In a somewhat lower tone, one that I had to concentrate on to hear, he added, "But she has nothing on you for looks, that I can see."

It was my turn to blush and feel a little embarrassed. I had not heard a compliment that seemed as sincere as this one was in a long time. I was rendered speechless and, for the first time that I could remember, I had no snappy comeback. All I could manage was a quiet, "Thank you." I tried to catch his eye but he continued alternating his glance between his watch and the scenery going by out the window.

Now I stuttered a bit. "Uh, you know, as I said ... er ... what I mean is ... although I seem to have this effect on some people, I have never been complimented on the way I look as you have just done. My calipers usually get a couple of hard stares, maybe a double-take, and then either a grimace or a flash of pity and then it is all over. They are on their way and I am left with nothing but my thoughts. I do not know what to say about your probably getting a clear view of my underpants under my skirt. But they are clean and do not have any holes in them. And it certainly is a lot cooler having my skirt hiked up a bit."

As I said this, I could see his composure change and, although his eyes remained soft and sincere, his face took on a much more serious appearance. "You really are pretty, you know. And, I do apologize for what has happened", he began. And then the smile came back and he looked me squarely in the eyes and said, "I really did enjoy the moment there under the table. It is not often when you are able to see all the way up the skirt of a very pretty girl."

"But what there is to see is not very pretty", I said, "leg calipers, with all of their straps, belts, and buckles can hardly be made to look pretty."

"What is the reason for the leg braces? Did you have a ski injury or maybe it is something more serious like traumatic paraplegia, multiple sclerosis, or spina bifida? It certainly cannot have been polio?" he opined, in a very matter of fact way, "I know that polio is a thing of the past, with the polio vaccines and stuff like that. You certainly are way too young to have been around during the last polio epidemics."

I was quite taken aback by his knowledge of the various reasons as to why I might have been wearing calipers on my legs, the ease with which he spoke about it, and the apparent interest he had in my situation. His use of the term leg braces, instead of calipers, and the strong American accent told me he must be from the United States.

"Yes", I answered, "polio is a thing of the past, here in England and the rest of the western world, at least".

"What does that mean?" he replied.

"You mean, how and where did I get polio?" I said.

"Well yes," he responded, "you certainly have my interest aroused."

"My father was in the foreign service. Six years ago, when he was an attache in Burma, I came down with polio. For one reason or another I never received any of the polio vaccines. I was sixteen at the time."

"So what happened?"

"Well, nothing much to say. I recovered, went through rehabilitation, and got on with my life."

"Go on," he prompted, "there has to be more."

"No, not really", I said. "Originally, learning to use calipers and crutches was pretty awful. I was first fitted with the crudest pair of leg callipers in Burma and the wooden crutches they gave me were almost worthless. But, then, our family was returned to England. The foreign service must have felt responsible for my coming down with polio while my father was on assignment. They shipped me off to Warm Springs in the States where I was then fitted with a set of well-constructed callipers and provided with a pair of crutches that really fit me. I see that you know that in the US, they are called leg braces instead of callipers. Warm Springs has a fine rehabilitation program in spite of the fact that there are just about no new polio cases nowadays. However, over the past few years there is a lot of what is called Post Polio Syndrome, or PPS, that is affecting former polio patients. I go back to Warm Springs every few years, either for crutch and calliper repairs or for totally new crutches and leg callipers. And, after these eight years or so, I have simply tried to adapt."

But this apparent interest in me, my polio, and my callipers now piqued my own interests and I then added, "You seem to be quite knowledgeable about crutches and callipers and I can see that you seem to find me somewhat interesting. Maybe there is a story there. What do you think? Now, maybe, it is your turn to tell me about you."

"Well of course I am interested" he said, and added quickly, "as I said, I think that you are very attractive and one certainly does not see many girls wearing leg braces and using crutches these days."

"Many?" I exclaimed, with a touch of irony, "None! It would be so nice to have other girls my age to talk to, about shoes and dresses, how one manages to get long pants easily over the callipers while getting dressed. I have no idea what guys really think about these things. How should I dress on a date, how should I act, what about if we go on a picnic where there is swimming, what do I do at a park or at the zoo, would he be upset if I wore shorts and had these ugly things on my legs out there for all the world to see? There are all sorts of things that I would like to discuss with someone my own age and who is in the same situation that I am in."

"Well, I'm certainly not a girl your own age that you can talk to, but I am of the opposite sex and I can certainly let you know how I feel about you and your having to use leg braces. The only things important is the person herself, how she thinks about herself and what she thinks of me. We are all physically challenged, so to speak, if that is the politically correct term to use."

"Thank you." I acknowledged, then continued, "But, you still sound to me as though you have some special interest in my callipers and crutches."

"Would it offend you if I told that I think you look lovely?"

"Not at all...but you have already said that. Why do you think I like nice clothes and make-up? And, as you have said, there's nothing wrong in using callipers, is there?"

"I think your legs are very attractive. All of that metal, leather, buckles and straps, going up your legs and under your skirt makes your legs look quite intriguing"

"Make the most of what you have, I always think," I said, somewhat obliquely, then went on, "It is not all bad, either, you know...in fact there might be some advantages!" I stopped and another smile tickled the corners of my mouth, as I added, "At least, I am beginning to discover at least one, where you are concerned. Even crutches and callipers might have some good points. Would the sight of any girl on crutches and wearing callipers especially catch your eye, Bill?"

"I think any girl as attractive as you would catch my eye, but yes, I would not deny it."

"Thank you," I said, acknowledging his compliment, "but unless I am very mistaken, I think you would do more than just look. I think that you might suddenly find that you had an errand to run which meant that you had to go the same way as I was going!", I smiled.

He appeared to not know what to reply to this statement. Finally he said, "How do you know that?"

"Because I have found other guys following me occasionally. And I am now pretty sure that it is no co-incidence. At least, I see no other reasons, I mean, so I it must be because of the callipers and crutches."

"Does that bother you?"

"Bother me? The only thing that bothers me is when they will not come up and talk to me! How can I get to know a guy who will not talk to me?" I said gently, then went on, "I know that I am handicapped. I can never get away from that, and I cannot really do anything about it. This is how I am, and I would always prefer to have someone who wanted me as I am. So, if someone were interested in me because of it, I would be delighted. Do you have a thing for crippled girls, Bill? It would be great if you did, so please give me a true answer", I finished.

"Er, yes, I suppose I do", he said and I could see a faint tinge of pink being raised at the tips of his ear lobes.

Seeing this, I immediately said as gently as I knew how, "Please do not be embarrassed. I promise you that you are not the only guy who seems to be attracted to crippled girls. I am just beginning to realize that it is more than just one or two guys; there are many. And since I happen to be crippled myself, I am all in favor of it. By chance, a year or so ago, I met a young woman who lost a leg to cancer. Because the remaining part of her leg was so short, she could not be fitted comfortably with an artificial leg. She walked with crutches all the time and, unless she wore a long skirt, had no way to hide her crippledness, except for the crutches she need to walk with. So, she wore pants, shorts, regular skirts and dresses all the time. She told me that there seems to be a whole population of men out their who are fascinated by her being an amputee. And, of course, I have noticed that there are also men who are fascinated by my using callipers and waking with crutches."

"I guess that I would be stupid to deny it, in the face of such a watertight case against me, I suppose. Yes, I admit it. I find that I am very attracted to you and your braces. Does that bother you? It bothers me a bit, however, in that I seem to betting some pleasure out of your misfortune."

"Like I said, I'm all in favor of it. I mean, I caught your attention, didn't I?"

"You're very forthright about it, though."

"Why be shy?" I shrugged, "Life is too short to wait around for it to happen. I prefer to go out and go for it. I am enjoying talking to you, knowing that you are attracted to me, as I am attracted to you. I do not mind a bit if part of my appeal to you is because I wear these callipers; in fact I am rather flattered. Not to mention that, you were bound to discover that I am handicapped, sooner or later, anyway, so it makes it easier all round if I am open about it from the outset. It prevents awkward moments. But, I was not always as up-front about it as I am now, I will admit. And I never expected the situation to be such that you would get a look at my underpants", I smiled.

"Was that part of the rehabilitation process, too?"

"Not at first, no," I said, "although we crippled girls in rehabilitation and therapy often find ourselves in situations where various and sundry people have lots of opportunity to have a look up our dresses at our underpants. Having a brace maker fitting my callipers when I was wearing a skirt was a different experience for me as a young girl. And, there is very little privacy during rehabilitation. As to the callipers themselves, originally I had intended to do no more than accept the way I was and stop pretending to be anything else. That meant using the crutches and callipers and letting people see me as handicapped. However, I had not anticipated the special attention that I began to get, above and beyond having young men looking up my skirt at my underpants during brace fitting and physical therapy. Maybe I am some kind of exhibitionist underneath, because I began to feel a little stimulated at those times. Anyway, the problem is, I now get plenty of attention, but very few follow-ups, if you know what I mean. So I decided I would have to be a bit more bold, and I would have to create own openings." I explained.

"I must say, it doesn't seem to worry you much, does it?" he commented.

"Using crutches and callipers?" I asked. He nodded in reply and I went on, "No, not that much. Why should it? I mean, it just is. I'm still the same person, inside."

"Yes, I know, but it must have made a difference to your life?"

I nodded. "Of course it has. And in more ways than you might think, too," I answered, slightly cryptically, "but it could have been much worse, you know. I'm alive. At least I do not have a spinal injury, which are pretty common in bike accidents. I think that it must be dreadful to be paralyzed and have no feelings or sensations in your legs. My legs are paralyzed but I have sensation and feeling in them."

As I said these words my hands reached down to my legs and I stroked my thighs gently through the fabric of my skirt with my fingers. "One of the things I really enjoyed during my physical therapy sessions was when they would spend hours and hours massaging my legs. It always felt so very good. And sometimes when a nice male masseuse would be massaging my thighs, it always was so sensual," I winked at Bill with a little quirky smile, and then moved my hands back to the table and continued, "so, the way I look at it, I can either spend the rest of my life wishing I still had two legs that worked perfectly, or I can face reality and get on with living a pretty normal life with my legs in callipers. I would rather do the latter."

He smiled a broad warn smile and I think I made a real friend. The next thing he said took me by surprise however, "I really like your days of the week underpants!"

"What?", I said, "You surely weren't down there under the table that long to see the kind of underpants I am wearing."

"When the right opportunity presents itself, the male senses go into overdrive. And, your legs really are very pretty. Obviously the polio has not affected them in the ways I saw in some of the old pictures of polio victims. Their legs always seemed to be so thin and scrawny."

"Well", I said, "I did get polio after I was already well into my teen years and I did receive good therapy at Warm Springs. Also, I do try to keep all of my muscles in good shape with moderate exercise. I use my hands and arms to manipulate my legs without the callipers as much as possible. My doctors have told me that I will never regain normal control of my legs and that I will always have to use callipers, but they did tell me that exercising them as I do without the callipers will let my legs retain most of their muscle tone, muscle mass, and muscle shape. it's nice to see that you noticed."

"Where are you headed?" he asked to change the subject to less personal grounds, and adding, "I'm stopping at York."

"Me too." I replied, somewhat surprised but exceedingly pleased that we were to be getting of the train at the same station. "What's it like? I've never been to York before. Is there lots to see?"

"Old, mostly", he said, "I haven't been there since I was a very young child. Are you visiting friends?"

"Sort of. Friends of friends. They live not far from the station. I'm staying with them for a few days. And you?"

"Fed up with the Smoke." he supplied, using the idiomatic nickname for the vast city now falling rapidly behind us as we accelerated through the rolling hills of Hertfordshire. He continued, "I thought York would be an interesting place to visit again. So I'm going. I hope I'll be able to see you while I'm there?"

"Where are you staying?" I inquired without answering his question.

"I haven't booked. Pot luck, I guess."

"Hmmm." I said, thoughtfully, but without amplification. We sat in companionable silence for a moment, looking at each other.

"Can we talk about them some more?" he asked suddenly.

"About my callipers?" I inquired. He nodded a reply, and then I carried on, "At first, as I said, in Burma, I hated it. Nothing fit correctly, and everything I wanted to do took such effort and concentration. It was difficult to adapt, I guess. And those darned ill-fitting wooden crutches didn't make things any easier. In fact, I think they were mostly a hindrance, instead of a help. I often tried to get along without them, just using the callipers and good balance. Unfortunately, I have very little muscle power left in my legs and I had a devil of a time getting around. I am a naturally active person."

"Did you find it made a big difference when went to Warm Springs?" he interrupted.

"Oh, totally!" I laughed, "Of course, it was a bit strange at first, but mostly because I had forgotten what it was like to spend whole days with people in the same state of affairs I was and without at least part of it being a terrible effort. It seemed so peculiar to be able to get around at almost a normal sort of speed, instead of always moving slower than I wanted."

"Is that the first thing you noticed?" he asked.

"Almost...don't forget, I'd spent more than a year struggling with those Burmese callipers and the crutches that didn't fit. I had to just about drag two totally useless legs around for almost a year. Not surprising that my first feelings at Warm Springs were a sense of freedom, even if I will always have to use these callipers and crutches."

"Do I take it that your attitude to being an - um - er, a post-polio has altered, then?"

I ignored his fumbling with the words and responded cheerfully, "Yes, it has, considerably! Nowadays I don't think about it; it seems perfectly normal for me to do things the way I do."

"You mean like remembering to pick up your crutches before you go anywhere? That sort of thing? And, always making sure that you set the knee locks of your braces?"

"Well, that comes pretty naturally when you try doing without crutches and forget about the knee locks a couple of times!" I laughed, "But the harder part is learning to carry things, or to use crutches without getting them all tangled up in swing-doors and such. And what to do with them when I'm not using them."

"Really?" he remarked, surprised.

"Does that sound strange?" I asked, adding, "You'd be amazed at how many people fell over my crutches until I figured that one out! Nowadays I put them under my seat, if I can, or in a nearby corner."

"So I see. That's what surprised me so much. I'd not seen your crutches and then seeing your legs and up your skirt made me realize that you...you...er...", his voice tailed off and he began to redden again.

"I thought I'd explained that you needn't be shy about it." I said, taking on my teasing attitude again.

"Um, yes. Well. That you're crippled, I mean." he stuttered. "I can't quite get used to the idea of discussing it like I'd talk about the weather, or something as everyday as that." he explained.

"It is everyday for me, though." I said, quietly.

"True, but it's a special treat for me, just to meet you!"

I looked at him, opened my mouth to say something, decided not to, shut it again, then turned to look out of the window. I waited, wondering whether to prompt him.

Eventually he seemed to come to some decision, because he turned and faced me squarely, his features serious. "Patty, I know this might be a strange thing to ask, considering that we've only just met, but can I ask you a rather personal question?"

"Of course. Go ahead! If you've already seen my underpants, how can you get any more personal with just some words?", I responded. I didn't know what he was going to say, but I felt a great wish to open up to this guy, and I also wanted to know a lot more about what drove his interest in girls who use callipers.

"You needn't answer if you'd rather not." he said, slightly timidly.

"All right, I won't, if I don't want to. But I do want to. So ask." I replied.

"Well, it's this." he started, "You just said that you've encountered guys like me who seem to be especially interested in your leg braces. Do you think that i'm some sort of a sicko because of this?"

"Well, I guess, at first, I did not know what to think about guys being interested more in what I had on my legs than about me myself. And then I realized that was usually how things were anyway. What about a girl catching the eye of a guy with her eyes or her hair color, or the clothes that she was wearing, or the size of her breasts. Why should his interest in my callipers be any different? I am attracted to certain guys because of things like hair, clothes, and the like."

"Okay. I guess I never really thought about it like that. I really am interested in the whole person, but the leg braces are something special when I see them."

"Why, is it a special treat? Because you don't see many girls like me. Is that why?"

"No, I don't exactly mean that. The rarity is pretty obvious. But I don't think that it's just the rarity that's interesting to me. After all, there are other ways of being different from the norm, and I don't imagine I'd be attracted in the same way to an albino girl, or any girl, simply because of an extremely unusual lack of skin pigment?"

"Then what is it about my callipers?" I averred, thoughtfully.

"Well, a girl in leg braces is a special treat for me. And, to tell the truth, I really just don't know exactly why."

Now I was really interested and wanted to know more. "Come on, search your inner self. you've really have me interested in this. Look, I'll be wearing these callipers for the rest of my life and if some guys are especially attracted to them, I really want to know why. It's not often that one can find someone to really talk about this. I really have to know." I pleaded.

"Ah, I see. OK. Hmmm...." he pondered for a moment and then began. "It is all sorts of things, I suppose. Part of it is the fact that when a girl is using crutches and braces, instead of being in a wheelchair without the braces, she is at her most visibly handicapped. Like she is telling the world that she knows she is crippled but she does not mind if they know too. I have seen many other women in braces and crutches, but some of them wear pants or skirts so long they actually drag along the sidewalk. The whole world can see that they are crippled and are wearing full braces on both legs. But they seem to want to fool the world and end up only fooling themselves. You know, I do not find those girls attractive at all. The braces have to be there, they have to be clearly visible, and the girl has to appear comfortable and confident with them. Then there is the way that a girl on crutches moves when she is wearing full-length braces on both legs; that can be very graceful. Akin to it is the contrast between the swinging motion of her braced legs, and the movement of the crutches; the motion actually appears to be fluid and supple, while the crutches and braces are stiff and rigid. The way that her skirt moves and sways as she swings along on her braces legs and crutches is just so sensual."

"Wow, I never thought about things like that, but could not much the same be said of someone with a plaster cast on a broken leg?" I countered.

"I suppose so", he said, "but it isn't just the crutches or the rigid legs; in fact, the crutches and the rigid legs are only contributing items to the whole. It's the reason for them that's important. Your braces and crutches are of interest to me because you in some real sense lost the total use of your legs, but the braces and crutches compensate. It's really, as the psychologist say, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

"That's what I thought. So what is it about a girl in callipers that particularly attracts you personally?", I insisted .

"I hope you won't mind me saying this, but to me, and guys like me, I think, legs encased in braces, with the steel uprights and all of the leather belts and buckles, look much more attractive than unbraced legs. Seeing women swinging on crutches in a stiff-legged fashion is quite fascinating. Many post-polio's today use plastic and Velcro braces. They are just not the same. Also some use foot-plates with their braces such that the braces are not rigidly attached to the shoes. In this situation the footplate just slips inside the shoe. Again, that does not do it from me. I like to see the braces attached right to the shoe and, of course, I really like the ankle straps on the braces you are wearing. Not every one has them. Do you mind this kind of interest"

"Why should I mind? You think I'm going to complain if someone says that I look attractive in these callipers? As to the ankle straps, my physical therapist at Warm Springs said that I need the ankle straps to keep my ankle joints properly aligned." I smiled.

"No, of course you wouldn't complain. But I am still worried that you might not take kindly to being told that I think that braces on a girl's legs adds to her attractiveness."

"You mean that you think I'd be less attractive if I did not have braces on my legs?" I suggested, not looking in the least surprised at or disturbed by the idea.

"No, not less. Differently. I just happen to prefer a difference, I guess."

"So tell me." I persisted, "What is it that you like? I still want to know."

"I think braced legs looks more 'leggy', somehow." he began, and went on, "It's as if the braces forces a person to make a selection between 'better' and 'worse'. In some odd fashion, even the swaying of your skirt when you walk is fascinating, particularly in the way that a skirt almost has a swinging motion of its own. Does that answer your question?"

"Mostly." I said, vaguely, then turned to look directly at him. "What about if I was just in a wheelchair ? Would I still attract you? As much as I do as I am, I mean."

"I think I'd find you attractive anyway; I mean, you attract me as a person, not just as a physique. Sounds corny, but it's the truth!"

"That may be the truth, but it doesn't answer my question!" I accused, smiling.

"I suppose not," he confessed, "and the answer is possibly, just possibly, mind, you are a tiny little bit more attractive as you are. But it's all a bit speculative, because I'm attracted to the girl that's in front of me, not some theoretical alternate."

"Well, all right," I acknowledged, "but to put it another way, you'd not prefer me as any other kind of handicap?"

"Persistent, aren't you?" he said, "You should have been a lawyer! And no, I wouldn't." he admitted. He paused for a moment, "Can I as a question in return?"

"Shoot." I answered, wondering where our conversation was going now.

"Why do you want to know what I find so appealing about you?"

I rolled my eyes to the heavens, "You men!" I said, and shook my head slightly, displaying bemusement at his obtuseness. "I don't know. Does it have to be written in neon letters, twelve feet high? Same reason any woman wants to know what guys like! Why do you think?"

"Oh. Um." he muttered. "Of course. Stupid question." Another question appeared to rise in his mind. "What did you mean, I was just another guy you'd had that effect on today?"

"Well, as I said, none of the others tried to brain himself, but while I was waiting for a cab today one guy walking past nearly bumped into a lamp-post, and at the station, when I was looking at the departure boards, one man lit the wrong end of his cigarette and another choked on a can of Coke!"

"Why, because they were too busy staring at you to look what at they were doing?"

"Must have been." I averred, with a chuckle in my voice. It wasn't a malicious chuckle, "I wasn't taking pleasure in their discomfiture, I was amused. Is that what happened to you?" I asked, sounding suspiciously innocent.

"More or less", he said gingerly rubbing the back of his head, "the raised skirt, those beautiful white cotton panties, and your braces were such an unexpected event that I forgot I was under a table!" he laughed. "I've not often dreamed of meeting a girl like you, but to find a dream come true, well, it's not surprising that I banged my head!"

I didn't say anything at first, just smiled with an almost feline look of contentment on my face. "You really like girls who use leg callipers, don't you, Bill?" I said after some time.

"I admit I've always been fascinated, yes." he was now revealing his innermost feelings. I think that he was beginning to feel at ease with me. And it was not simply because I might have been the embodiment of all of his most secret dreams, there seemed to be some deep channel of communication between us.

"Hmmm," I said, thoughtfully, then asked, "And you've never met anyone like me before?"

"No - you're the first." he told me candidly, "I've always thought, but never been lucky enough. There aren't many of you around, you know."

"Yes, that's right. When did you first discover it? Your interest, I mean?"

"Oh, lord, years ago!" he answered, "When I was in kindergarten."

"As young as that?" I commented, sounding astonished. "Are you sure?"

"Absolutely certain. I remember this fascination that I have with leg braces going all the way back to my very early childhood in the US.

"It sounds like there should be another story behind that"

"The event that first alerted me to the fact, for me at least, is that I remember that Sister (I went to a Catholic elementary school) had an old Infantile Paralysis/March of Dimes canister on her desk. Even though polio was long a thing of the past, she encouraged us to put coins into the container that looked like a little iron lung. She told us that this money would go to help children that maybe did not have polio but they were crippled in other ways that we could help, with food, and clothes, and books, and things like that. Standing beside the iron lung was the picture of a March of Dimes poster child. The little girl appeared to me to be about the same age as I was. She had braces all the way up both legs and crutches under both her arms. She had one of her hands outstretched and the photographer had undoubtedly obtained just the right look of supplication on her face, as if she were seeking contributions to ease her plight. I remember being struck by that little poster girl and would surreptitiously glance at the display whenever I could. For some reason that I can't explain to this day, I was simply fascinated by the metal and leather braces on her legs. I remember wondering how she walked and how she played with those things on her legs. I can't remember ever not being fascinated by a person wearing leg braces. Another funny thing, my fascination is with double long-leg braces; not a single braced leg or "half-leg" braces.

"And you never met a real brace-wearing girl?"

"Over the years, I had some sightings, but all of older women who must have had polio years and years ago. Once I was over at a friend's house. That evening, just before my parents came to collect me, my friend's father's boss arrived with his wife, who was wearing braces on both legs and also used metal elbow-crutches. I remember her struggling to unlock her braces as she sat down beside me on the sofa. To this day, I wish I had been twenty years older at the time. My parents were late and I got to have dinner with them. Seeing her struggle up to a standing position and then swinging her braced legs to the dining room table on her crutches was an image that stayed with me a long time. I actually sat beside her during dinner. Women wore their skirts shorter at that time. Her skirt was pushed up her legs a bit and I could even catch a glance of the thigh bands and buckles far up her legs. Oh, how I wished mom and dad would not arrive early. But, try as I may I could not see all the way to the tops of her braces to her panties as I was able to do with you."

I laughed. "Can you remember every single occasion in which you've seen a girl in braces?" I wondered. "And in such detail, even to the kind of panties she was wearing?"

"I think so." he mused, "during over fifteen years or so I hadn't seen more than about 10 or so, if that, and I was sure that I could remember the most salient details of each occasion. What I could hardly believe was that, after so long, I am sitting here talking to a girl who not only used leg braces, but is genuinely beautiful as well."

The train was slowing. The time had flown by for me, and all I could think about was how to see more of this guy.

"Can we meet again?" he asked. My heart was in my mouth dry with anticipation.

"If you'd like." I replied, then added, "But how, if you don't know where you're staying?"

"I could call you." he suggested.

"Not in York, I think, though." I said, explaining, "I'm staying with people I don't know too well yet, and I don't think it would be very polite to go out with someone else while I'm there. Look, why don't we wait until we are back in London?"

I tore a corner off my magazine and wrote on it, then passed it to him. "Here's my number in London. I'll be back a week from today. Call me then, Okay?"

He passed one of his business cards across to me. I took it and examined it. "William A.R. Barker." I read out loud, "International Jewel Thief." I looked up, a twinkle in my eyes, "Is that you?"

"That's for friends, of course. The formal ones say 'Broker in Precious Stones'. That's what I do."

"So you could shower me in diamonds?" I giggled.

"Yes, but you wouldn't like them much. Be a bit like being coated in gritty soot. Sorry. The ones I deal with mostly get used for cutting coal and making aircraft engines, and suchlike. Industrial diamonds. Smaller than very fine sand, and often nearly black."

"How dull." I grimaced, adding, "I thought industrial diamonds would at least glitter a bit. Seems only fair, considering how important everyone says they are!"

"Perhaps. But don't forget they're just squashed coal. That's why you need them to cut it. Some kinds are only a hair short of being diamond, as it is."

"Journey's end." I said, looking out at the city of York sliding past. I bent down and to pick up my crutches, putting them beside mw, leaning against the seat. "I guess it's time. It's been a pleasure meeting you."

"And you. I'll call you the minute you get back." he replied, standing up and putting on his coat. "Would you like me to help with your bag?" he offered, putting his own suitcase on the seat.

"Yes, please. It'd take me ages to find a porter." I agreed, then smiled ruefully. "That's one of the shortcomings of using crutches and balancing on callipers - I have a real hard time carrying things!"

I could sense him watching me, apparently fascinated, as I used my hands and arms to slide my rear end and then my braced legs across the seat to the aisle. My skirt dragged to my right as I moved, pulling it up my legs a bit, and revealing the upper parts of my callipers. With my hands I lifted my left leg out into the aisle, extended it and then locked the calliper in extension by using the little metal ring at the knee joint. I then pushed myself up with one hand on the table and the other on the back of the seat. When I was upright, and balancing myself with my arms still on the table and seat back, I swung my right leg forward slightly and brought my heel to the floor. With a flick of my right hip I locked the right calliper in extension and I could hear the metal ring drop into place with a firm clicking sound. The hem of my skirt was still clinging a bit above my knees and I took a second to adjust my skirt with it finally just covering the leather pad of each calliper at my knees.

I looked up and caught him watching. "See? You can't stop looking, can you?" I teased, but with a smile in my voice making it evident that I had no objections. "If you've already seen my panties, why should I mind seeing anything else you want to?", I added

"You know I love to watch." he admitted.

I wrinkled my nose at him, then turned around to reach for my crutches that I left leaning against the seat. As I bent down I could feel the rear of her skirt lift up the back of my legs a bit giving him another look at the upper parts of my callipers. Now, slipping my arms into the cuffs of the Lofstrand-style crutches and grasping the hand holds, I took a couple of small swings of my legs to adjust my position and get my balance. "My stuff's under this seat." I said, pointing down, and pulling the strap of my shoulder-bag over my head.

He looked into the luggage-space between the seats. "Another pair of crutches?" he asked, noticing that they were a pair of Canadian-style crutches there.

"Yes, actually. I use two different kinds. Which ones are better depends on what I'm doing. The Canadian type crutches, that I first got from Warm Springs, give me a bit more stability when I know I will be doing walking in hilly terrain or for going up and down a lot of steps. The particular type of Lofstrand type crutches, that I am actually using now, I found in Germany. They are lighter and less bulky but I tend to not feel as stable with them."

He reached for the Canadian pair, and took out the suitcase. The train came to a halt with a sudden jerk, causing me to momentarily lose my balance. I grabbed his arm, then released it, saying with a shy smile, "Sorry, I almost lost it there for a second. Falling on my rear here in front of you would not be very good for my ego. And, with my skirt probably flying up you'd probably get another good look at my underpants."

"No, don't worry. Trains always seem to do that. And, I certainly would not have minded catching a glance at your underpants" he reassured me with a smile. Now it was his turn to blush. For me, my arm was still tingling at the memory of his touch. He slung the strap of my overnighter on his shoulder. He then picked up my bag in one hand and the pair of Canadian crutches in the other, and thus arrayed, headed for the door.

He held the door open for me as I followed, waiting as I set my crutches on each step, swinging down my braced legs to the same step, and repeated the process until I stood on the platform beside him. I was surprised to discover that he was taller than I'd first thought. I hadn't realized how long, lean and lissome he was. He was fabulous!

"Ready?" he asked, motioning to the ticket-collector at the barrier.

"Ready!" I averred, and started off crutching towards the gate. He followed, half a pace behind, and I could sense him soaking in every detail of the way I moved. I was intrigued, as well as excited, knowing he was there looking at me. i'd never thought about my walking with these crutches, since it had become so natural to me. But now, my senses were afire. I could feel my head slightly bob each time I moved my crutches forward and they hit the ground. As my braced legs swung forward, I could feel that I lifted my hips ever so slightly so that my heels would clear the ground by just a fraction of an inch. I was equally fascinated by the way my skirt seemed to sway and flutter in response to my swinging motion. Before meeting Bill I was never aware of this.

I knew he was looking, and I stopped to turn and looked at him, "You are awful!" I said, accusingly, but with a smile that belied my tone. I shifted my weight back to the crutches and fell into step alongside him.

"I thought you said you liked attention?" he countered.

Now, I became entranced by the slight thump of the rubber-tipped crutches alternating with the click of the heels of my shoes. I could actually hear the heel of my left shoe hitting the ground a fraction of a second before the heel of the right shoe hit. I had never noticed that before either. It was fascinating! "Oh, I do, I do!" I laughed, "but you're ogling, aren't you?"

"Yes, but you're so good to look at." he answered, "I can't help myself!"

I laughed at that last comment and tossed my head as I went through the gateway. I had to fumble for my ticket, so Bill waited for me on the other side, having had his more to hand than I.

"My friends are over there." I pointed, waving to a man, who waved back and started to come over.

"Well, I'll leave you to it, then." he said, putting down my bag and leaning the Canadian crutches against it. "And I'll call you when you get back! I promise."

I laughed. "Oh, I know you will!" I said, "I'd put money on it, even!"

"See you, then." he said, giving a parting wave and heading for the taxi stand.

I could see him take one last backwards look at me as I passed under the arch, catching a final glimpse of me swinging along with my callipers and crutches. I knew that I'd see him again. I just hoped it would be soon.

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