Emptiness. Grief. Troubled thoughts.
Edmund was edging closer to a mental breakdown. It hasn’t been easy ever since the funeral took place. He knew it wasn’t ever going to be the same, but a small part of him had hoped for the unexpected. His father was his best friend and he couldn’t help but reminisce their time together. The early morning breakfast banter to the fist bumps before heading to bed, he was his only companion.
It isn’t easy to be a teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome. Edmund had a difficult time in school. His therapist had often made him read leaflets that were supposed to educate him about the disease. He had often focused on the part where it said that people with Asperger’s have very few friends with whom they talk excessively. Friends he hadn’t come across in the past seventeen years.
It was a just another evening as he sat on the floor and watched the others glide on the wooden floor, ecstatic with joy. He stared at the grey sky outside and was thinking about this Radiohead song that was playing on the radio as his mother dropped him there. It wasn’t until a gentle touch on his shoulder that he had realized he had zoned out yet again.
“Hey there, want to dance?” asked Rhea, the cute dance instructor. She was about his age and had long flowing hair that was very hard not to notice. Here is a fun fact; most Asperger’s patients tend to focus on one particular object. Rhea happened to be Edmund’s point of focus.
“Uhm no, I am good” he sheepishly replied.
“Tell me one thing, you come here every day. You don’t dance. You don’t talk to others. You sit on the same position on the floor and stare outside for hours and then you make your way home. Why do you even bother coming here if you don’t like dancing?” she couldn’t help herself. The question was bugging her for over a month now.
Edmund simply got up and walked to the door and he gave her one final glance and said, “Maybe, someday” and he simply walked away, leaving her question unanswered.
The very next day as he entered through the doorway, Rhea surprised him from out of nowhere.
“You. Don’t say a single word. We are dancing today and yes, you will be my partner”
Without giving him a second to contemplate on the sentence, she pulled him to the center of the floor and suddenly, Edmund could feel an electric vibe through his legs as he tried keeping up with her beat by beat. He commended himself for putting up an encouraging performance as two tracks later; he could feel his body give away. He started panting and Rhea having realized that she was pushing him too far also slowly came to a halt.
Edmund crashed to the floor and looked up at Rhea, and was smiling. It had been nearly two months since he had etched a grin. Nearly two months since his father had left him.
“See! That wasn’t too bad” said a happy Rhea as she joined him on the floor.
“Thanks, I guess”
“So tell me the reason behind joining dance classes?”
“My therapist encouraged my mother to sign me up for these classes. Apparently, dancing is a really good therapy. Maybe it is, I mean this is the first time I actually enjoyed it”
“That’s what happens when you dance with the great one” she smirked and then went on, “Therapy for what though? Do you have any issue or something? If you want you could talk to me about it, you know”
“Nah, it’s alright. Maybe some other time” he casually replied.
“There you go with your love for using the word ‘maybe’. One of these days I will need an answer, mister.” Edmund couldn’t help but grin at the pout she made after completing the sentence. It was magical.
As the months went by, Edmund started to find himself in a happy place. Dance lessons were all of a sudden his highlight of the day. He had finally found a friend. He had someone else other than his step-brother Harry to talk to in school. His therapist also proudly proclaimed to his mother how he was showing signs of improvement.
But things at home weren’t that bright. His stepfather still didn’t like him that much. The man had a decent point. Edmund did usually get into trouble at school because of the bullies. But Gabe always thought he was the one who caused the problems and wouldn’t even listen to Harry as he tried to explain him otherwise. His mother used to try arguing with him during the early days of the discovery of him having the disease but she had given up by now. All she cared about was the safety of Harry and Edmund. It wasn’t like Gabe hit Edmund or anything. It’s just that the man never had anything else for him other than a look of contempt and a few lines like “Was his father this unruly too?” and “He isn’t my concern” and most of Gabe’s references didn’t bother Edmund except when Gabe mentioned his father. But his father had taught him how to keep his cool.
But no matter how many lessons one is given about being patient, everyone reaches their breaking point someday. And it was Edmund’s day. The entire day during Physics class, Rodrick and his crop of half gorillas, half jocks had abused him by calling him out as ‘autistic’. He didn’t mind. He was used to this. Also, he always imagined them as gorillas when they hurled out the abuse. But they shifted their focus to Harry and started name-calling him as well.
If there is anyone in this world who Edmund would give his life for it would be his parents and his step brother Harry. For the past sixteen years, Harry had been there for him when his parents weren’t around.
As the ‘autistic’ chants got louder, Harry retaliated by screaming out, “WATCH IT!”
And just like every other high school movie fight, Rodrick grabbed his collars and said, “Or what?”
Edmund could feel the blood rushing to his veins. Rhea had placed a hand on his shoulder to calm him down but Edmund lost it the moment Rodrick punched Harry and with no prior planning whatsoever, Edmund went for them.
As his eyes unraveled, he could see Rhea smiling at him. “Good morning, dumbass”, she replied graciously.
“Yeah, you guessed it right. You were unconscious for sometime”
“What happened? What did I do?”
“Let’s just say, you went all Brock Lesnar on them. Knocked them all out. And then you staggered to the floor. They are all in the hospital now. On the bright side, your parents and Harry managed to convince the principal that it was an act of self-defense. To be honest, there wasn’t much convincing needed. The entire school vouched for you”
“Are you for real?”
“Yeah, you are everyone’s new hero. Anyway, I will be leaving now. See you at dance class, cutie” and she pecked him on the cheek and left.
Edmund could tell he went all red and whispered awkwardly his goodbye.
Little did Edmund know how much really his life had turned around.
That night after dinner, Gabe ushered him to the balcony and started tearing up. He kept on going about how much he was sorry about mistreating him from day one and promised him that from that moment onwards, they were now a family. And they would be there for each other no matter what. While the subsequent hug was a little awkward but they were getting there.
It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later until Edmund had gone back to dance classes. In the meanwhile, he was constantly texting Rhea and went all red every time Harry joked about the possibilities of the two of them being together.
Class had ended an hour ago but Edmund knew Rhea stayed back for additional practice. He saw her glide around like a ballerina to this French musical piece. She gave Aphrodite a run for her money. Edmund entered the room and stood at a corner and was smiling at the sight in front of him. She realized his presence about an hour and a half later and ushered him to join her.
As they locked themselves in their dancing positions, he looked into her eyes and saw something different. A look of comfort, a look of longing. They kept dancing to the song and lost themselves within the beauty of the art form. And as he pulled her towards him, he placed his hands behind her waist and looked into her eyes. He didn’t know where his newfound confidence was coming from. And he asked, “Remember you once asked me that you would need answers one day?”
“Today I need an answer”
“Rhea Williams, will you be my girlfriend?”
She took a little break while Edmund tried to muster up every bit of courage within him if there was an impending rejection.
“Close your eyes, dummy” she whispered.
It was an unusual request but he obliged.
“Yes” and their lips met.