Read Breaking Free: A Living Again Novella Online
Authors: L.L. Collins
It had been two days since she had talked to or seen Greer. He hadn’t showed up to class on Friday, and refused to answer any of her texts, emails, or calls. Today was their first home football game, and her first ever performance with the FSU cheerleading team. She should’ve been ecstatic, and a part of her was. But the other part of her couldn’t stop thinking about Greer and what he must be feeling. She wished she could find out where he lived. She had even checked for him on social media sites but, not surprisingly, he wasn’t there.
Going to practice the night after that awful display had been challenging. Ainsley and Rayne had stayed away from her, and thankfully the squad was big enough that she didn’t have to interact with them. Alexis had never had to handle something like this, and didn’t know what to do. She made a mental note to call her dad and talk to him about it later.
“Lex,” Hailey interrupted her thoughts. “Are you okay? You don’t seem like you’re ready to handle this today.” It was not only the first game, but also a night game, which meant the crowd would be huge. The place would be packed with students, alumni, and fans.
Alexis lined her eyes with liner, looking at Hailey in the mirror. “I don’t know what to do,” she admitted. “I want to make it better, and I can’t.”
“Honey, not everything can be made better. You have such a big heart and always have, but some things are not in your control. You had nothing to do with what those jerks said to him. You’ve tried to talk to him. The ball’s in his court.”
Alexis sighed, turning back to putting on her makeup. “You don’t understand, Hailey.”
“Help me understand,” she answered.
“He’s… different. Right before they got there, he was really opening up to me. He was telling me about himself. He doesn’t have any friends. The things they said; the names they called him…” A tear leaked out of her eye and down her face. “Why are people so mean?”
Hailey turned her and wrapped her arms around her. Alexis didn’t care about her makeup. She let her friend hold her, and let the tears flow.
Greer put the weights on the ends of the bar, hoping that doing his workout would keep his mind off of the thoughts that had been invading him for days. He couldn’t stop the thoughts that Alexis had something to do with what happened to him on Thursday, even though he really didn’t think she would be like that. But over the years, he had learned that you just never knew about people.
She had genuinely looked shocked when those two girls had said what they said, and she had run after him. Alexis had also called, texted, and emailed him non-stop since he had run away.
When Greer had come home from school that day and headed right for his room, his mom hadn’t given him the space he had been hoping for. She read him like a book. When he had finally told her what had happened, she had urged him to talk to Alexis, but he couldn’t do it yet. The only people he had talked to over the last three days was his mom and Camden. He had been mad, just as he expected. He couldn’t wait until Camden came home for a weekend because he was the one guy he actually enjoyed being around.
He had missed classes on Friday. He never did that, and it had set him on edge for the entire weekend. It was now Sunday night, and he knew that he had to face her tomorrow in class. There was no way that he could be that off schedule for another day.
Greer had turned on the television last night to watch the game, which he never did. He could care less about football, but he had to see if he could see her. Every time the camera panned to the cheerleaders, he moved closer to the television to try to see her. He had thought maybe he saw her once, but he wasn’t sure. His mom had come in and seen him watching the game, and she gave him that look that he had learned meant she knew what he was doing.
“What?” he had said.
She had just smiled, looking back and forth between him and the screen. “Call her,” she had said. Sometimes he wished that he didn’t tell his mother everything, because she always knew too much.
Wiping his forehead, Greer picked up his bottle of Gatorade and downed it. He would finish up and then jump in the pool; anything to keep his mind off of the beautiful blonde haired, blue eyed girl that had shown him the first shred of decency he had gotten in years.
Turning to put his bottle in the recycle bin, he caught sight of a car pulling slowly into his driveway. He hated having to make small talk with visitors, and he didn’t recognize the car, so he hurried to the door, making it inside just as he heard the car door close. Greer headed through the house and out to the pool. His workout wasn’t done, but that would have to be enough for now. There was nothing worse than having to talk to some salesman or lost person.
He slid into the cool pool, turning over and floating on his back. He had never missed a day of school after someone called him names, and that bothered him. What was it about this time that made him so upset? Because Alexis had been there to witness it? He wouldn’t blame her if she realized what a freak he was and didn’t want to be his partner anymore.
“Greer?” He heard the muffled sound of his mom’s voice. He lifted his head, and what he saw shocked him more than the display from the cheerleaders on Thursday. Alexis was standing next to his mom. She was at his house. She was wearing a pair of short jean shorts and a bright pink tank top. Her hair was loose down her back, and her eyes were trained right on him.
He looked back at his mom, who stood next to Alexis with a big smile on her face. How in the world had she found out where he lived? It wasn’t like he was near campus and she could’ve seen him. He lived a good thirty minutes from the heart of the college campus.
“Greer,” his mom said again. “Alexis is here to see you.” He saw that look in her eyes, the one that meant use your manners and say something.
Alexis’ eyes hadn’t left his. “Hi, Greer.” She was smiling. He loved when she smiled like that at him. But he wasn’t any good for her; Thursday had been proof of that. She looked back at his mom, then stepped closer. His mom made an indication with her hands that he should get out, then slipped back inside without saying a word.
He took a few steps towards the edge of the pool when Alexis slipped off her flip flops and sat down at the edge, sticking her legs in the water. He watched, transfixed, as she moved her legs back and forth, creating whirlpools around her.
“You didn’t come to class Friday,” Alexis said, looking down. “I’ve called you. A lot. I was worried.”
Thoughts raced through Greer’s head. He knew what he was supposed to say; what was the correct way to answer someone when they spoke. But he had never been good at that. “You’re at my house.”
She lifted her eyes, and he knew that she was looking at him. “Yes. Hailey’s sister has a friend in the admissions office. She got me your address. I had to see you.”
Alexis had gone through that much trouble to see him. The only people that ever did things like that were his parents. Maybe Camden would, too.
“Greer,” she said softly. “Has that happened to you before?”
He knew exactly what she meant, even if he wanted to pretend that he didn’t. Greer walked closer to her and walked up the first two steps, sitting down on the first one. He was close enough to reach out and touch her, but he wouldn’t.
“It has, hasn’t it? That wasn’t the first time that those girls have been mean to you, is it?”
“People don’t like me,” he answered.
“Why?” Alexis’ voice went higher, and he looked over at her. Wide blue eyes met his before he dropped his gaze again. “Have people always treated you like that?”
He ran his hands through his short dark hair, loving but hating that Alexis was here, all at the same time. “I’m weird. No one likes someone who is weird.”
Before he could realize what was happening, she moved closer, putting her hand on his forearm. Usually he hated being touched unless he knew it was coming. But the warmth of her hand on his skin was oddly comforting.
weird,” Alexis said. “I know I don’t know you very well yet, but I think you’re a genuine person. And you are so smart! Those things you were telling me at the lab the other day, I had never heard of. So many good-looking guys, they just want to see what they can get from girls. They stereotype girls like me since I’m a cheerleader and a blonde, pretty girl. They don’t see me for who I am. From the second I met you, Greer, you didn’t treat me as anything less than an equal.”
“I don’t like being around people,” he answered. “Loud noises sound to me like explosions in my brain, even if they aren’t that loud. I have a hard time looking at people when they talk. And I would rather not talk if I don’t have to. I used to be a lot worse than I am now. I have certain things that I have to do or it makes me anxious. As big as this town seems, it’s not. When you grow up with the same group of people, they’ve seen you have meltdowns in first grade, throw a chair in fifth grade, sit with your hands over your ears during a fire drill in middle school, and not understand the jokes and taunts of high schoolers. I’ve always been a joke. No one cares about me. I’m just ‘Greer the Queer’. And last year…”
He dared look over at her, and her mouth was open. “Greer the Queer? Oh, my god. They called you that?”
“That and many other things,” he answered, his hands twisting in his lap. Alexis moved her hand down from his forearm to cover his anxious hands.
“Does this make you nervous?”
“I don’t like people touching me,” he replied. “It feels like sandpaper to me.” Alexis immediately removed her hand, but he stopped her. “But not you. When you touch me, like the other day when you held my pinky, it feels soft. Like our skin works well together.”
She smiled, placing her hand back over his. “I want you to know something, Greer. We’re all a little ‘weird’ in one way or another. People always look at other people to find their faults instead of looking at their own. It makes them feel better about themselves to tear others down. Want to know what I see when I look at you?”
Greer was afraid to ask. Was this the point where she was going to turn on him like those girls Ainsley and Rayne had? He didn’t think she would, but he hadn’t been the best judge of character in the past.
“I see a handsome man with a brilliant mind. I see a man that I want to be my friend. Will you be my friend, Greer?”
Greer processed her words. She wanted to be his friend. She thought he was handsome
smart. He had always known he was smart, and over the years, girls had wanted to talk to him because he was ‘cute’, but never did he really believe that he was handsome.
“I have Aspergers,” he blurted. “I’m never going to be ‘normal’. My brain doesn’t work the same as everyone else’s.”
Alexis was quiet for several moments, and he knew this was it. She would be up and out the door for sure, now. “Greer. Look at me.” Now that she knew that was difficult for him, it was like she was pushing him to his limits for a reason. But he wanted to look at her. He liked her pretty blue eyes. They were the color of the ocean where he and his family vacationed every summer. There was something so calming about watching the waves lap the shore.
“Aspergers makes you who you are. That’s not something I would ever want to change about you. What
normal, anyway? I surely don’t care about being normal, so why would you? Your brain is awesome. Look at all the facts you know, and the things you remember that no one else would.”
“You’re the minority in that opinion,” he said quietly. “I’m a freak. A moron. A worthless piece of shit.”
“Stop!” Alexis shrieked, making him jump. “Sorry,” she whispered. “Please stop saying that, Greer. I wish I could fix this for you. People need compassion and understanding, not judgment. If we all spent more time worrying about helping others rather than thinking we’re so much better than them, the world would be a much better place.”
“Those girls, one day last year they saw me in the quad right after dinner. I was there for a late class. There was hardly anyone around. I don’t even know how they knew who I was, but they all surrounded me. I’m not good at knowing someone’s intentions ahead of time. Everything for me is very black and white, so reading between the lines is challenging. Before I knew it, they were taunting me, calling me names and touching me, talking about me being gay because I wasn’t excited by them touching me.”
Alexis shut her eyes, and Greer saw one tear roll out from under her eyelashes and down her cheek. He had the feeling that he wanted to wipe it away for her, but he couldn’t make himself do that. That tear was for him?
“I’m not gay,” he responded. “I-I like girls. I just don’t know how to start many conversations with them. And, most of them don’t give me the time of day.”
“Even if you were,” Alexis answered, wiping the tear from her eye. “That wouldn’t be their place to say anything about it. When people treat others that way, do you know what that says about them?”
Greer looked at her quietly. “That means that they have something deep inside them that’s broken. Those girls, Greer, they don’t even deserve to breathe the same air as you.”