Today we have an excerpt from Krissy Bells' A Special Love. A Special Love is about Ann Marie and her autistic brother Michael, and how Ann Marie discovers insight into her brother's special gifts. Check out the excerpt below.
“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.”
Excerpt from A Special Love:
Since Michael had began attending the high school, Ann Marie had been eating lunch in the courtyard under a maple tree. But it was terribly hot outside that particular day, and the air conditioning had lured her inside. She loved Michael—she did—but sometimes she felt like he was her whole life. At school, she just wanted to blend in. She’d rather be a nobody than be known only as Michael Adler’s sister. So far, no one had put two and two together, and she had to admit that the anonymity was a relief.She was in the far corner of the cafeteria but could see him across the room. He was pretty hard to miss. Always finished eating so quickly, Michael ricocheted from table to table, greeting each student with one of his signature handshakes. He was already famous for them, though it was fewer than two months since he had transferred. He was dressed nicely, wearing her favorite of his shirts. It was a blue plaid button-up, and she had matched it with dark-wash jeans. His headphones were wrapped around his neck, and he held a water bottle in his hands.But even from all the way across the room, Ann Marie could see the pizza sauce smudged on his face; he was always ecstatic on pizza day, and his gluten-free diet had been disregarded over the years, as it had proved minimally effective. Ann Marie fought her urge to go and clean him up, and instead looked back down at her book.Michael made his way to Ms. Sharon, who was known for being one of the friendliest lunchroom and hallway monitors in the school. She dressed like a grandma, with loud, printed tops and polyester pants. She had short, vivid red hair that was curled tight to her head and wore lipstick that never matched—today it was bright pink.“Hi, Michael,” she said. “How is your day?”Michael greeted her with a handshake. “Do you like water, Ms. Sharon? Do you?”“Yes, Michael, I do.”“What kind of water do you like, Ms. Sharon?”“All the water,” she replied, puzzled.“I like salt water the best, Ms. Sharon. Did you know ninety-seven percent of the Earth’s water is salt water?”“No, I didn’t. Can you let go of my hand now, sweetie? It’s getting tired.” She chuckled.Michael quit shaking her hand and let her go. “Go sit down now,” Ms. Sharon said, and Michael took a seat back at his table.Seconds later, Michael bounded back out of his chair. He made his way to a round table filled with cheerleaders. They were dressed in their navy and silver uniforms for that night’s big game. Each of them had a matching navy bow secured tightly around their identical, perfectly positioned ponytails. Michael struggled to pull an open chair from the table. He finally managed and sat down, still holding his plastic water bottle. The girls looked at Michael and then at each other, confused as to why he would choose a seat at their table. Michael, however, was content with his new surroundings and took a swig of his water before pulling his headphones over his ears, listening to the sounds of the ocean.The girls resumed their conversation and eventually got up, leaving to mingle with two fellow cheerleaders who were working at the corner fundraising booth to support the football team. Realizing he was now alone at the table, Michael decided it was time to venture to another.He slid his chair back and stood. Grabbing the chair hastily with one hand, the other still clasping his water, he attempted to shove the cafeteria chair back into its proper place under the table. But the chair didn’t move: its back leg had crisscrossed with the chair directly behind it.Michael continued his attempts at pushing the chair back, but the leg was stuck firmly entangled with the other chair. Frustrated with the lack of progress, Michael vigorously shook the chair, inadvertently jostling the student in the chair behind him.Luke Roberts was better known for not attending school than he was for being present.His black graphic T-shirt was ripped down the side, and the tattered jeans he wore were scribbled on with black marker, which he had done to occupy his time during a particularly boring class period. His eyes were squinty and dark, only emphasizing his accompanying dark hair and dark demeanor. He sat at a table with two other boys, Roger Gent and Tim Lewis, both also known for having spotty reputations to match Luke’s.By the time he felt his chair being knocked for the fourth time, Luke was fuming. He shot up from his seat. His compact but muscular build flung the chair backward as he stood, and the chair flew toward Michael.“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 his head. 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. LikeMichael, 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.
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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