Title: A Special Love
Author: Krissy Bells
When Robert Adler and Meredith Conrad fall in love, all that is left for them to do is prepare to live a fairy-tale life. With the blessing of their second child, a son named Michael, everything they have always dreamed of begins to become a reality. But his autism diagnosis is something they never anticipated. The struggle they face after the diagnosis puts a strain on their family that begins to tear them apart. Years later, Michael begins high school, and the true love his older sister Ann Marie finds there helps bring her insight and appreciation of Michael’s unique gifts and identity. It might be just what is needed to put their family back together.
Krissy Bells was born and raised in the Detroit metro area. A former school secretary, she now spends her days as a stay-at-home mom. She is passionate about her family and friends, her Dachshund named Harry, and anything topped with cheese or chocolate. Krissy can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for reading!
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“What are you, retarded?” Luke yelled, his words echoing throughout the cafeteria. Michael jumped backward, caught only by the table behind him. He leaned back, startled. Luke’s monstrous shout drew Ann Marie’s attention, along with the rest of the lunchroom’s, to the altercation. He swung around to find Michael to be the perpetrator of his chair’s assault. “My bad,” he said. “You are retarded, you idiot!” He grabbed the plastic water bottle from Michael’s hand and poured it over hishead. Distracted by the water falling over him, Michael began to smile and bounce up and down. “Look, he likes it!” Luke said, and with the bottle now empty, he whipped it at Michael. It rebounded off of his forehead and landed on the floor.
A silence now resonated through the cafeteria, only pierced by the taps of the empty plastic bottle bouncing on the tile floor. Michael’s face, only seconds before filled with joy, was now changing. After the bottle struck him, his expression became carnal. Michael’s eyes squinted, his forehead crinkled, his jaw clenched, and he exposed his teeth. He emitted a soft but growing roar as he prepared to retaliate.
“What is this weirdo doing?” Luke turned his back, laughing with his friends. Ann Marie approached the scene, silently sliding between them, coming face-to-face with her brother. She took his hands in hers, terrified at what he might do. Still furious, he stared past her to the back of Luke’s head.
“You want to get your soda, don’t you, Michael?” she asked. Michael’s focus was unfazed. Ann Marie stepped to the right, interrupting his line of vision. “Michael, look at me. Look at Ann.” His eyes met hers briefly and then darted back to Luke. “No, Michael, look at me.” She moved, meeting his eyes again. “Let’s go get a 7 Up.”
“No, a Coke, Ann. I want a Coke!” Michael replied.
“Look at this,” Luke said, now turning toward them to observe their exchange. “This retard has a hot girlfriend!”
Ann Marie turned, but before she could speak, someone stepped in between them. Like Michael, Kevin McKendrick was new to Willow Creek, though his arrival had sent the school’s female population into a frenzy. He was clean-cut but casual, usually found in a T-shirt and jeans. He was still unsure of his place there, thus he had so far kept mostly to himself, choosing to remain polite but distant. Ann Marie had noticed him in her U.S. history class when he had done a presentation on the Revolutionary War. He was hard not to notice. He looked more like he belonged on the cover of a magazine than in a classroom. Though his back was now to her, she could easily tell it was him; his tall, brawny frame and closely cropped chestnut hair was a clear giveaway.
“Apologize,” he said.
She fell asleep under the tree. Kevin didn’t let go of her hand. She woke up after a short while, looking into the green leaves above. She blinked her eyes as light beamed down from the sky, finding its way through the tree branches up above. She turned her head, her vision still blurry with sleep. She looked into Kevin’s eyes. They were light hazel, almost gold, and his dark eyelashes were longer than any she had ever seen. His fingers fluttered on her soft hand as he ran them over her skin and intermingled her hand with his until they felt like only one.
“Hi,” he said.
“Can I ask you something?” she questioned.
“Of course,” he replied.
“Why did you defend us that day in the cafeteria?”
“To be honest, I wasn’t defending you. I was defending Michael.”
“But why did you when no one else did?”
“I guess you and I—we’re a dime a dozen, but Michael . . . he’s like that yellow leaf in a mix of green—one of a kind. I wasn’t going to let someone make him feel bad for it.”
Ann Marie leaned herself forward until she could feel Kevin’s breath against hers. Pressing her lips to his, she felt what could only be described as a shimmer. It started at the cusp of her lip and flowed like water surrounding her heart. Kevin looked back into her eyes as they lay under the sky.
“You know,” Kevin said, “when I was a kid, I had a bad stutter. Kids used to pick on me every day at school. One day, I came home crying, and I never forgot what my mom said. She told me that God doesn’t make mistakes. She said I was perfect, that it was special, that I was different from everyone else—one of a kind. I never forgot it.”