Read Breaking Free: A Living Again Novella Online

Authors: L.L. Collins

Tags: #Contempoaray

Breaking Free: A Living Again Novella (3 page)

BOOK: Breaking Free: A Living Again Novella
11.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub




Greer looked around the room, watching the guys fumble over their teacher. He didn’t understand such foolishness. He was here to learn. He hated these large classrooms, much preferring the quiet of a small setting. But he had been down this road before, last year. He had made it then, and he could make it now.

Just remember what to do when you get overwhelmed
, his mother had reminded him this morning. He had nodded at her and backed away, not wanting her to touch him. Sometimes he could take it, but not this morning. He was already on overload, it being the first day of classes again. He was a sophomore now, but that didn’t stop the anxiety. He had new classrooms, with new professors. And he could hope that maybe this year, he wouldn’t be called names. Greer had thought that after high school, all of that would stop. But when you lived in the same town you had all of your life, and ended up in college with some of the same kids, it kind of followed you.

“Greer the Queer”
resonated through his head, and he shook his head, refusing to allow that thought to come. The problem was, once his brain started thinking about something, it was hard for him to stop.

He forced himself to look at the list that Professor Wilkins had just put on the screen. He hated lab partners. He didn’t need anyone to work with him; he could do it all himself. And he was bad at small talk. Really, really bad. He didn’t understand the need for constant eye contact and talking. He talked when he had something to say.

Sighing, he found his name next to an Alexis Nichols. Great. A girl. Not that it mattered. Boys and girls alike had been terrible to him his whole life. Boys hurt him and called him names, and girls rolled their eyes at him and whispered to their friends. He had one person other than his mom and dad that he could call his friend, and that was Camden. He had been his friend since they were little; their parents were best friends. He moved out of Tallahassee for college, though, so now Greer was all alone. He didn’t have any siblings, and as much as his mom and dad tried, it never happened.

He pulled his phone out of his pocket and opened up the email to email her. Other than science, he was great at technology. He spent a lot of time working on computers and researching the latest and greatest. He knew everything there was to know about both current and past devices.

Greer was surprised to see an email already from his lab partner. Hopefully she wasn’t one of those girls that looked in the mirror all the time and popped their gum. He hated the sound of popping gum. When he was younger, that would send him right over the edge into a shouting mess. Over the years, he had learned how to better handle most social situations. It would never be comfortable, but he was able to make it through.



Hi. My name is Alexis, and I’m your lab partner. Do you want to meet for coffee or lunch and we can figure out our schedule? I’m a pre-med major and a freshman and don’t know many people yet. I look forward to talking to you soon.



She seemed nice enough. He looked around the room, wondering which one she could be. Was she blonde, dark-haired, or red-headed? Was she one of the girls sitting around on their phones, completely dismissing the teacher? She said she was pre-med. So probably not. That was a good sign. She was studious if she was pre-med. And she was in Biology 2 as a freshman, so she was smart. Maybe this wouldn’t be as bad as he thought.



I’m on campus Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I don’t live on campus since I’m from Tallahassee. I have one hour between my classes. I can meet you at 11:15 but I have to be gone by 11:45. Let’s meet at Pizza Hut on campus. I don’t drink coffee.



He reread the email to make sure it sounded okay before he hit send. His mom and his therapist had been teaching him for years how to communicate effectively that way. He could be rather abrupt and insensitive. Thinking that it sounded okay, he hit send and turned his attention back to Professor Wilkins, who was wrapping things up.

“She’s a looker, huh,” a whispered voice came from next to him. Greer hated people whispering in his ear. The sensation of someone’s breath tickling him, and thinking of all the germs he could get from someone being that close made his stomach churn.

He turned, gritting his teeth against the overwhelming feeling he had to wipe his ear. A guy had sat down next to him. One that he didn’t know, which was why he was talking to him. Greer realized he must’ve been talking about their professor. She was pretty, but he rarely was affected by those things. Most people were pretty on the outside but ugly on the inside, and he knew that all too well.

“Yes, she’s pretty. But she’s the teacher. Teachers need to be respected.” The guy looked at him quizzically, and he knew that he was wondering what his deal was. Greer knew he was a good-looking guy, but he was odd. When he had first started college, he had been hit on by a lot of girls. His dark cropped hair and bright green eyes attracted them. He was tall and well-built, thanks to the time he spent in his garage working out. But it didn’t take long before they would realize that he wasn’t what they expected.

He had come to terms with being weird, and that once people started talking to him they would just walk away. The very things that made him odd were also the things that made him really smart. He had been valedictorian of his class, which oddly enough hadn’t earned him any popularity.

The guy mumbled under his breath and returned to his seat, looking out of the corner of his eye at Greer every few minutes. He could only imagine what words he was mumbling. He’d heard them all. Freak, retard, idiot, weirdo, queer; those were the favorites.

When class let out, Greer made his way out of the doors, finding himself scanning and wondering which one of the girls was Alexis. He had never had a friend that was a girl before, other than his mom. He was even more awkward around girls than he was around guys. Next, he had his composition class. That was often hard for him because interpreting things wasn’t his strong suit. But he persevered, just like he did with everything.



He was meeting her. In five minutes. This “Alexis” that he was going to be partnered in lab with the whole semester. He would have to talk to her a few times a week, and work with her on experiments. He really liked doing things himself. He could rely on himself to get it done and do it correctly. What if she was mean? His partner last year in Biology 1 just let him do all the work. He was okay with that. He hadn’t liked him, but he hadn’t called him names, either.

Give her a chance,
his mom had urged.
You have to learn to work with other people if you’re going to have a job after college.
Greer had never had a job, unless you counted mowing lawns in his neighborhood and working on computers. He had saved thousands of dollars and had bought his own car when he was eighteen, not wanting to drive before then. While he was still undecided on his major, he was going back and forth between being a doctor or being an engineer. A doctor would be more difficult for him, since he would have to talk to patients all the time. But his parents said that would probably be good for him, to be outside of his comfort zone. He knew they were right.

“Greer?” a soft voice broke through his thoughts, and he stood up, shoving his chair back. He looked at this girl, this woman, in front of him and felt speechless. He wasn’t good at talking in the first place, but she… she was way out of his league.

Her long blonde hair fell in soft curls down her back, and her big blue eyes blinked while she waited for him to answer. Her smile took up her whole face. A small dimple showed in her left cheek. She was average height, and wore a shirt that said FSU CHEER. Oh, great. She was a cheerleader. All of his hopes were dashed at having a good semester in Biology lab. He remembered back to last year when he had a class with a handful of cheerleaders. One day they had all surrounded him and started talking to him. He had been in disbelief until the real reason for them being there had surfaced. One started taunting him about “had he ever had a
girl”, and “did he even know how
that thing
worked down there.” They had all been touching him and taunting him…

“Are you Greer?” she repeated. Crap. He had been staring at her for too long. He needed to answer.

“Yes. You must be Alexis. You’re my lab partner.”

She was still smiling. He figured that was a positive. “Yes. Nice to meet you.” She stuck out her hand and he reluctantly put his out. He knew it was part of what he needed to do, but he hated it. He pulled back as soon as he could, then settled himself in his chair. He had cheese pizza, just like he did every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. He sat here from 11:15 to 11:45 and ate his pizza, listened to his music to drown out the noise around him, and drank a Coca-Cola. Today, he wasn’t listening to music. He was meeting Alexis.

She sat across from him and opened her own pizza box. He smiled. She liked cheese pizza, too.

“Cheese is your favorite, too?”

She nodded, chewing a piece of her pizza. “I like it completely plain.” She picked up her drink, still watching him. He wondered how long it was going to take her to realize he was a freak.

“You’re a cheerleader?”

She looked down at her shirt, then back up at him. Her smile was so pretty. She hadn’t looked at him in any weird way yet. That must be a record.

“Yes. I have been my whole life. What do you like to do?”

Greer shrugged, looking away. He hated talking about himself. There was nothing that interesting about him. “I’m good with computers, and science.”

“What are you majoring in?” His eyes met hers again as they both chewed quietly for a moment. She was asking about him and wasn’t rolling her eyes.

“Not decided yet. Trying to figure out whether I want to do pre-med or engineering. I have until the end of this semester to decide.”

“Those are two very different things.”

“I’m good at both. I’ve always loved taking things apart and putting them back together. But I also have a mind for science. So, I’m not sure yet.”

“I’m good at science, too,” Alexis said quietly, looking away. He wondered why she seemed sad about that. But he wasn’t good at reading feelings, so he couldn’t be sure. She looked back at him, her eyes lingering on his face. Greer wondered if it was about to come; her realizing that she was partnered with a weirdo. “I think we’re going to make good partners,” she said finally. “Usually I hate partnering because I end up doing all the work. But I can tell that you’re dedicated to school and you love science, too. I think it’s all going to work out great.”

Greer looked at her, his heart racing. Alexis was… happy to be partners with him? She thought it would work out well? This was a first.

“Can you meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays for lab? I don’t have classes then. That would be best for me.”

Alexis pulled her hair back into a ponytail, and Greer found himself transfixed, watching the motion. Understanding people had never been a strong suit of his, but there was something about Alexis that made him feel safe. He knew that particular feeling could sometimes be very wrong, as he had learned that the hard way many times.

“That would be great, Greer. I don’t have classes either so we can meet whenever you are free. I have cheer practice but not until evening.”

He stood up, realizing it was 11:50. He was late. He had to leave here at 11:45. “I have to go. I leave here at 11:45. It’s 11:50.”

“Okay,” Alexis smiled, standing up also. “It was nice to meet you, Greer. I’ll see you tomorrow then? Text me or email me a time that’s good for you and I’ll be there.”

Greer watched as she turned and walked away, her ponytail bouncing. He had just had a normal conversation with a beautiful girl that just so happened to be his lab partner. And she had made him lose track of time. Grabbing his bag and his trash, he hurried across campus, wondering if this was going to backfire on him like always.

BOOK: Breaking Free: A Living Again Novella
11.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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