A/N: It's not necessary to have read the original story to understand this stand alone outtake, which was inspired by Betti Gefecht's story 'Little Green and EasyBella' and written with Betti's blessing. Her awesome story is about an Autistic Edward, and I thought an outtake would be the perfect thing to write for the Fandom Gives Back for Autism cause. As I said, it's not necessary to read the original story to understand this stand alone outtake, but I urge you go check it out because it's terrific.
Thanks to the 'Lisabetta' in my life who inspired the character of Elizabeth Kurtz. Her sunny disposition and unique way of looking at life is a joy to behold.
Profuse gratitude to Keye, Sandy, Kat and Wendy for the pre-read and hand holding. Thanks to my beta, Jess (jkane180), for being so awesome. Last, but not least, thanks to Betti Gefecht for allowing me to delve into her Twi-verse and write a story with her Edward in it. Mwah!
**The plot and all characters in this story (other than Edward Cullen) belong to me.
You're a wonder, how bright you shine
A flickering candle in a short lifetime
A secret dreamer that never shows
If no one sees you then nobody knows
And all these words you were meant to say
Held in silence day after day
Words of kindness that our poor hearts crave
Please don't keep them hidden away
Sing it out so I can finally breathe in
I can take in all you say
Reaching out for someone I believe in
All I really need today
I want to feel your love
Will you reveal your love
Please don't keep your love hidden away
~ Josh Groban
My name is Elizabeth Kurtz, but I prefer to be called Lisabetta. To me, the name Elizabeth belongs to an old auntie or grandmother. I'm only fifteen years old. Sometimes I wonder what's wrong with parents—assigning their kids ridiculous monikers that they have to try to grow into or live up to.
I have blond hair and blue eyes. My mom has compared my hair to 'corn-silk' and called my eyes 'crystal blue.' Why must everything be so complex? My hair is yellow—my favorite color, by the way—and my eyes are blue. Blue is as good a color as any, I guess.
As long as we stay away from orange. Lisabetta doesn't like orange. No, no, no, no... danger, danger.
I often refer to myself in the third person, which kind of freaks people out. It's something I do to self-soothe (or at least that's what my therapist says); if I'm talking about myself that way, it makes it less personal to me, less real, less happening right now. You feel me?
Lisabetta is autistic. Lisabetta's mother would correct that to be high-functioning Autistic because she's a little bit sensitive about Lisabetta's state of being.
Mom has a hard time accepting that my mind works different than everyone else's. It doesn't make me stupid; in fact, I could run circles around most people my age academically, but it does severely affect how I communicate with and understand the outside world. Even though I know intellectually that I react differently—that other people aren't afraid of the color orange, loud noises, being touched, or being burned by rain—it doesn't change the feelings that rear up inside me when confronted with a particular stimulus.
People who don't know what Autism is tend to treat me like I'm contagious. Grown women tug their children closer as if just being within sight of me might make them 'catch it.' Eye roll. Get educated, people.
My mother is among those who believe that Autism can be triggered by vaccinations. Of course, the drug companies say 'no' as they concoct yet another 'super shot,' which is a cocktail of numerous vaccines all blended together in one convenient delivery system. I have no idea what happened when I was two years old, but I'm sensitive enough to feel medication once it's injected into my body now. Last year, I stepped on a rusty nail (freakin' ouch), and Mom brought me for a tetanus shot. Damned if I didn't feel that stuff as it moved through my veins. The flu shot I was forced to get for school?—I felt it sizzling down certain pathways inside me. I couldn't function properly for two days after that. Last week, we were due for our flu shots again, and Mom insisted I get a mercury-free one; you would think a school for Autistic children would routinely provide them, but maybe they figured we were already screwed, so why bother? I could still sense where the vaccine went inside me, but there was no sizzling this time. The doctor told my mother that I was just being 'dramatic,' but I think she might change her mind if she was as in tune with her body as I am with mine.
For the past year, my home has been the Lamont School of Music. Students, and even some of the staff, called it the Lam-o school. The name was coined by the Vo-Tech school across the street. They couldn't get inside the high iron fencing that surrounded Lamont, but we could still hear them. They tease us and call us names. Personally, I think they're just scared like we are, but they let it out in a different way.
I don't sleep well at night, which is why I'm laying here right now, picking at my sheets—which they washed with the wrong soap this week, by the way—and contemplating random thoughts. That happens to me a lot, probably because I'm trapped inside my mind most of the time. Other people have friends and family to blow off steam with; I only have myself.
Muffled noises reach my ears, and I freeze in place. It's coming from the vent on the wall in my room. Fear creeps through me... Brody is gone, so how could there be sounds coming from his old room?
Here at Lamont, the boys and girls bunk on separate floors in the same building. Brody's old room is directly above mine, and the ventilation system allowed me to hear him up there. When we first discovered this, I think both of us were kind of freaked out. Certainly no words were spoken about it—words were a rarity for most of us here. One night, there was a light tapping coming through the vent, and after a few nights of it, I realized it was Morse code.
The next day, I checked a book on Morse code out of the library and studied it. I learn really fast—maybe because I'm trapped inside my mind so much—and soon, I was translating Brody's messages and answering him back. Brody didn't speak in words, but he never stopped talking in Morse. We all have our own way of communicating, and I found a friend in Brody simply because I was willing to learn to speak his language.
About a month ago, Brody was transferred to another school; I've been lonely and have had trouble sleeping ever since.
"No... no... no..." a terrified voice mumbles over and over again. "No... no... no..."
After a few minutes, it sounds like screams dampened by the sound of a pillow. Perhaps Brody's room has been assigned to a new student?
Crawling slowly from my bed, I move to sit next to the vent, leaning my back against the wall. The muffled screams continue, sometimes interspersed with more chants of 'No... no... no...' The voice—male—is so pitiful, sad and scared. My heart clenches up, my stomach turns, and I find my fingers entwining in the vines that adorn the fancy brass vent cover on the wall. The metal digs into my flesh, but I barely notice because this voice calls to something inside me.
When I can breathe again, I lean over to grab the drumstick I used to use to tap out messages to Brody.
It was part of a set, and Brody had its mate. One day, when I went to check my mailbox, I found the drumstick with a yellow ribbon tied around it. Yellow was my favorite color, and I was happy that someone went out of their way to give me a gift wrapped with my color. At first, I wasn't sure why someone would give me a drumstick, seeing as I play the harp, but I couldn't help but smile at the color and cool, smooth feel of the satin ribbon under my fingers. Later that day, I saw Brody carrying around the matching drumstick; his had a blue ribbon around it, which was his favorite color. From that moment until Brody left, we tapped out messages with our drumsticks every night.
As my fingers touch the smooth wood of the drumstick, a tear forms and rolls down my face. I don't full out cry, but I miss Brody. He doesn't like to speak or write, so I have no way to keep in touch with him. I think I may be in love with him, but I'm not sure because I've never felt that way before. All I know is there's an empty hole inside me that I can't seem to fill—a void that feels very black in my middle. I told the doctor about it because I feared I might be terribly sick, but they assured me nothing was physically wrong. I beg to differ. It feels pretty physical to me.
I'm drawn back out of my wandering thoughts by another muffled moan. Someone is in more pain than I am right now. His voice tugs at something inside me, and then I realize what it is—he misses someone deeply, too! His cries and moans are of missing someone you wish you could be with. My heart feels too big for my chest, and I feel the tears gathering up behind my eyes.
With a soft sigh, I start tapping at the vent in a series of longs and shorts. I suspect the boy in the room above me doesn't know Morse, so I just keep tapping out the same comforting message over and over again, hoping he will feel it.
You're not alone.
Because isn't that the fear housed inside many of us? That we're all alone in this world? I suspect even unimpaired people feel that way, but just imagine being trapped inside your own mind, knowing what you want to say but being unable to communicate it as the words get all jumbled up, free-floating inside your mind as if there's no gravity. Imagine someone touching you, and it feels like a thousand needles pricking along your nerve endings.
You're not alone.
I tap out the words over and over. Slowly, the muffled cries cease, and I can feel a curiosity in the silence that follows. Smiling to myself, I tap out the message again.
You're not alone.
Eventually, I hear shuffling and a muffled bump. The boy must be sitting against the wall by the matching vent in his room. I smile to myself. Even if he doesn't know what I'm tapping out, he's not moaning any more or screaming into his pillow.
You're not alone.
Suddenly, there's a muffled tapping sound coming back through the vent, and I realize that he's copying my message. It only takes him a few tries, and he's tapping my message back at me like a pro. He doesn't know what I'm saying to him, but I think he knows on some level that I'm trying to comfort him. We continue to mirror the message back and forth over the next hour.
My eyes begin to droop, and I know I must get some sleep. Changing my pattern, I tap out goodnight a few times. He taps it back. Tonight, I fall asleep with a smile plastered on my face for the first time since Brody left.
The next morning, I awake to the sun streaming through my window. Stretching my arms and legs, I feel energy fill me. Shuffling over to the window, I part the curtains and revel in the rays of sun that warm my skin. The sun is one of my favorite things: it's warm, yellow, life sustaining, and makes me feel special. When its warmth touches me, I feel as though I'm being infused with energy. Mom thinks I'm crazy, but I can feel it inside me. Not so much through the window, but when I'm outside and it touches my bare skin—there's nothing like it.
Happiness floods through me because I know today will be an outside day. It also means there won't be any rain. I'm really scared of the rain; I refuse to go out in it because I'm afraid it will burn my skin. Even though Mom and the doctors have assured me that rain is simply water falling from the sky, I can't shake the feeling that it will burn through my skin like acid.
Lisabetta doesn't go out on rainy days. Danger, danger.
After I'm dressed, I make my way down to the dining room for breakfast. In here, boys and girls can sit together if they want to, but it rarely happens. If it was up to us, we'd all sit at our own table, but there just isn't enough room for that here. We have no choice but to sit with others. Only new students are allowed to sit alone at first, and that's how I discover the new student that has the room above mine.
He sits alone at a table in the corner, head down, with a full tray of food in front of him. His body is motionless, arms at his sides. I watch from the corner of my eye for a while, and he never moves a muscle; he could be a statue.
There's an empty table not far from the one where he sits, so I move over to it. Again, I sneak glances at him, but he doesn't seem to notice anything around him. Not surprising. Taking my fork, I begin tapping the same message from last night.
You're not alone.
His body shudders subtly, and his head turns slightly toward the sound of my tapping. Watching closely, I see his fingers twitch. This is him! It has to be. He's wearing a plaid shirt in tones of blue and gray—totally acceptable to me. His hair is reddish-brown, and it looks like he's been running his fingers through it incessantly. He probably has; many of us have repetitive and/or self-soothing habits.
I tap out the Morse code again. You're not alone.
This time, his head rises and turns my way, although his eyes are still staring down. He remains like this; it seems to be his new pose.
I tap with the fork again. You're not alone.
Slowly, his eyes rise until they meet mine. He's beautiful, almost pretty. Long, dark lashes frame jade green eyes. I don't usually like to look anyone in the eye for long, but I find I can't look away from the deep sea green. As our eyes remain locked, I continue tapping out my message lightly on the tabletop, changing it slightly.
You're not alone, Green Eyes.
And suddenly, I don't feel as alone, either.
After morning classes comes one of my favorite parts of the day—Music Theory. I play the harp, and quite well if I do say so myself. I don't like loud, jarring noises, so the soft sounds that vibrate from the harp are perfect for me. My fingers control the sounds—how loud, soft, long or plucky they are.
The Spring Concert is coming up soon, so we're starting to practice together as an orchestra. The teachers are adding us in slowly because it's too nerve jangling to have all of us in the same room at once playing our instruments. We're not your average musicians, after all.
Today, the harps—there are only two of us—the pianos and the flutes are together. When I enter the room, there are about ten students and three teachers. As I take a seat in one of the burgundy (a good color) cushioned seats of the auditorium, I feel a different presence—there's someone new here. Don't ask me how I know; I just do. Tapping into my senses, I realize the feeling comes from behind me and to the left. As unobtrusively as I can, I turn my head.
Sitting alone, six rows back and six seats in is Green Eyes. He's staring down into his lap, again playing mannequin.
"Lisabetta?" Mrs. Gray calls out softly. "Please come up and play your piece for us."
I've composed my own song, and Mrs. Gray has decided to let me play it. I fear I might pee myself like an overexcited puppy as I walk up on stage and take a seat at the harp. Once my fingers are on the strings, nothing else exists for me. Closing my eyes, I can still see each note as it floats gently from the strings as they're plucked. Pink, yellow, blue, pink, pink, blue, yellow, yellow, yellow, blue, pink, green...
When I finish playing, I keep my eyes closed until every echo of every note has faded away. Opening my eyes slowly, they look over to the right side of the auditorium where Green Eyes sits. Except something has changed—he's no longer staring into his lap—he's looking right at me, and his mouth is slightly open. Again, I notice how very pretty he is.
Mrs. Herr, one of the other music teachers, notices Green Eyes looking up at the stage. "Edward? Would you like to come up and play?" she asks gently.
His head snaps back down, and he becomes a statue again. Mrs. Herr lets it go because that's what they do here—there's no forcing.
Over the next week, Green Eyes—I know his name is Edward now, but I like my name for him better—moves closer to the stage, row by row. Fifth, fourth, third, second...
At night, I continue to tap messages to him and he taps back. He continues to sit alone at meals, but his lips curve into a slight smile when I tap my fork on the table. He's only met my eyes once in the dining room, but I always find him looking my way when I finish playing the harp. I think he likes my music. Yesterday, his head was cocked to the side, and his eyes looked brighter.
Today, he's in the first row when I come in. He always sits in the corresponding seat number to whatever row he's in, so he's right by the exit today but closer to the stage than ever.
"Lisabetta?" Mrs. Gray calls. It's my turn.
Again, I choose to play my original piece, which I'm very proud of. It's soft and flowing, and most of the others like it, too. My music is meant to be self-soothing.
I'm halfway through my piece when something intrudes. It's not wholly unpleasant; it's just that I'm not expecting it, and my fingers falter on the strings, creating a discordant note. Discordant notes are always orange.
Lisabetta doesn't like orange. Danger, danger. Orange is bad, like acid; if rain had a color, it would be orange. A whimper escapes, and I halt my fingers.
My melody continues on without me. I open my eyes to see Green Eyes seated at the piano playing my composition. There's no sheet music in front of him because it doesn't exist since it's all in my head. He's been listening all week, and now he's playing it. The notes sound so beautiful coming from his fingers. He understands my song! You have to understand a song to play it right.
With a contented sigh, I begin playing again, picking it up where Green Eyes is in the song, and our notes spiral into the air, tendrils of color that meet in the middle of the stage swirling together in perfect harmony.
When the last note reverberates through the air, a tear slides down my cheek. Lisabetta doesn't cry. Too much... feelings turning orange... danger, danger. My chest squeezes, and air is hard to come by. I stand up quickly, turning away, and lurch from the auditorium.
In this school, it's not uncommon for a student to get up and leave the room. Some teachers get bent over it, but Mrs. Gray seems to understand when things turn orange for me.
I go back to my room and lay on my bed for the rest of the afternoon, shaking. I wish I could sleep, but I can't. After I've been lying there for a few hours, I hear a tapping sound coming through the vent.
You're not alone.
The next day, one of the attendants in the dining room is wearing orange. I spot her across the room, and my chest gets tight. Danger, danger... Danger, Will Robinson. It's a bright, prison jumper orange. My insides burn; my retinas burn. Danger.
Lisabetta doesn't do orange.
The woman comes closer, rolling a cart with empty trays. No, no, no, no. Lisabetta doesn't do orange.
My left leg starts bouncing up and down, and I tap my right hand on the table. As she gets closer, I bang my hand harder. Danger.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Green Eyes pick up his head, looking my way.
There's a keening sound filling the air, and I realize it's me.
Josie, one of the other attendants, pokes her head out of the kitchen and sees what's happening.
"Susan!" she calls out to the woman with the cart. "Susan, weren't you told not to wear orange? You need to leave the room right now!"
Susan looks up, startled. "Nobody told me nuthin' about no orange," she drawls as she continues coming closer.
It's too much. There's a roaring in Lisabetta's ears, and she can no longer hear what's going on in the room. Self-soothe. Self-soothe. Danger, Will Robinson. Meltdown is imminent.
The tray on the table flies up, the plate, cup, and silverware moving through the air in slow motion. Josie is standing there with her mouth moving, but Lisabetta can't hear her. No, no, no. Code Orange.
Lisabetta is not capable of leaving the room on her own because she's frozen. The orange is between Lisabetta and the door. Code Orange.
Everything goes dark.
I open my eyes to darkness. It's nighttime. Rifling through my memories, I see a glimpse of orange and immediately stop. I'm groggy and surmise that they had to sedate me because of a Code Orange. Not wanting to dwell, I turn over and just accept that the day is gone.
There's tapping coming through the vent, and I think it's been going on for a while.
Freezing, I gasp at the velvety voice that comes through the vent. It's beautiful, just like Green Eyes. I've never heard him speak—I don't think anyone has. Scrambling over to the vent, I sit with my back against the wall, barely able to breathe.
"Lisa...betta. Okay?" Green Eyes speaks again, and I know it's hard for him.
"I'm okay, Green Eyes." I slump back with a sigh.
Green Eyes doesn't speak again, but I can hear him shifting around against the vent. We sit there so long I fall asleep and wake up stiff. It's so worth it.
A few days later, Green Eyes comes up to play my piece with me from the beginning. He looks at me for permission first, and I nod. His lips twitch, and I think he might want to smile, but he doesn't.
He improvises a little bit while we play, and it sounds wonderful. Usually, that would send me into a tailspin because I'm very possessive over my music, but I love what he does. This time, I don't have to run from the room.
Later, we have a scheduled nature walk. Several teachers take us for a hike through the wooded paths behind the school which lead out to a beautiful meadow. There aren't any orange flowers, so I can go.
We make a non-contact human chain with teachers every so often along the line. A few students cause a ruckus, but the threat of going back to school quiets them down.
The end of the trail peters out into a beautiful meadow, which is my favorite place to go. We aren't allowed to wander the woods alone, for obvious reasons, so it's a treat when we get to come here once a month. If I'd taken any time to think on it, I'd have realized that the last time I was here was with Brody just before he left school. We didn't know he was leaving then, and we were happy to walk beside each other. This was our place. Our place. He knew I loved the color yellow, and when we came here and there were buttercups—well, that became his name for me. Not out loud. Brody didn't speak with his mouth, but he would tap out 'Hello, Buttercup' on the vent at night. It was his secret, private name for me that nobody else knew.
I freeze at the periphery of the meadow, looking across to see buttercups in bloom, swaying gently in the breeze. I stagger over to one of the benches along the edge of the meadow that the school installed and plop down. I peek over at the buttercups again, and I see Brody—he's walking carefully along the flowers, taking care not to trample any, and he gently touches one with his index finger. The rays of sunlight play off his blond hair, which is lighter and finer than mine. His skin is a ruddier hue than mine, his cheeks always rosy, and he smiles up at the sky with such innocence. I blink, and he's gone. That was my last memory of him here in this meadow.
Brody is gone.
Brody doesn't live here anymore.
A feeling snakes through me, and my vision blurs. I blink, and it clears a little bit, but I feel something warm sliding down my face. Tears? I'm crying—really crying—for the first time in years.
Brody, Brody, Brody, Brody, Brody, Brody, Brody, Brody, Brody, Brody, Brody, Brody.
A hiccup comes out of me, interrupting the sound of Brody's name, which I realize that I've been chanting aloud. Slapping a hand over my mouth to stop the name vomit, my hand is met with my tears. They burn. Tears are orange.
Danger! Danger, Will Robinson! Melt down imminent!
The world disappears, and I start rocking, trying to find my way out of the dark maze. I'm beyond self-soothing with third person. I'm lost! Me. Lost in this dark place. Where is the sun? Where is my sun?
Suddenly, my vision turns from orange and black-holeness to yellow.
Yellow bobs in my vision, and sounds start to return.
I sense a presence next to me that I refuse to acknowledge. Who would dare come near one of us during an episode?
But there's yellow.
I blink, bringing the yellow into focus, and it's a... buttercup… A buttercup being held by the stem carefully between two fingers… Two very long, piano playing, male fingers. Green Eyes. I would know those beautiful, long fingers that share music with me anywhere.
Drawing in a breath, I slide my drying eyes to the side. He's sitting on the bench about a foot and a half away, looking down at the ground. His body is swaying slightly, and his chest looks tight. This is hard for him.
I realize that I'm not rocking anymore, and I don't see orange. The yellow of the buttercup brought me back.
"You're... B-butter...cup." Green Eyes' brows knit in concentration, and his voice is scratchy from disuse. I've never heard him speak other than the night he whispered through the vent.
His fingers push the flower closer to me, indicating I should take it. Carefully, so I don't accidentally touch him, I pinch the bottom of the stem between my fingers. I don't mind touching sometimes, if it's someone I like and trust, but in general, touching is a no-no.
I cradle the buttercup in my palm, stroking its soft petals with my index finger. "Beautiful," I whisper.
Green Eyes clears his throat. "You are Buttercup."
Realization hits. He's not saying 'here's a buttercup,' he's saying that I am Buttercup. I draw in a breath. Nobody knows about Brody's secret name for me! I can't stop myself from seeking out his eyes.
"What?" I whisper. "How could you know?"
After a short while, he raises his eyes to meet mine. They're even more beautiful up close—shimmering emeralds fringed by long, dark lashes. "M-my room."
There must be something in his room that told him about my nickname. Did that mean Brody left something behind? "Oh..."
We have to sneak to his room because girls aren't allowed on the boys' floor. We haven't spoken beyond the few words in the meadow, but when we return to school, there's an unspoken agreement that we are co-conspirators in this rule breaking. I know it, and he knows it.
As we file back into school, and everyone heads to their assigned classes, Green Eyes and I slip into the stairwell. There shouldn't be many people around the dorms in the middle of the afternoon, so I think our chances of getting caught are slim. It's still exciting, though, and I let out a giggle.
Green Eyes holds a finger up to shush me, but I can see a smirk tugging at his lips. He's pretty, but if he smiled, I'll bet he would knock me over. Nobody should be that pretty.
Green Eyes leads the way, trudging slowly up the steps, which are red, but due to the huge chips in the paint, you can tell they used to be gray. The first door we come to is painted green, and it says 'Girls' Dorm.' We continue up the stairs until we reach an ORANGE door!
I balk. Sitting on the steps with my back turned to the offending door, I start rocking.
Green Eyes comes back when he realizes he's lost me. His eyes are quizzical.
"No orange." I shake my head hard. "Danger. Orange is bad."
Green Eyes holds a finger up, indicating I should wait a minute. I nod, and he disappears through the orange door. No, no, no, no! Maybe he'll never come back! The urge to escape the orange door strikes me, but my lungs aren't filling with air. He's trying to help me, so I decide it can't hurt to be on this side of the door with my back to it.
A few minutes later, the door opens again, and Green Eyes sits next to me on the steps. He's got a pad and some crayons. He opens the pad, and writes in red crayon, Red is okay?
He takes a yellow crayon and writes, Yellow is okay?
I nod again.
Lifting the pad out of my view, he takes the red and yellow crayons and colors with them until they blend in the middle and then writes something else. When he lifts his hand away, there is orange between the red and yellow. I look to see what he wrote.
Red + Yellow = Orange
My eyes widen. I never thought about it that way. If red is good, and yellow is good, why should orange be bad when it's simply a blending of the two? Can I go through that orange door?
We stand up, and I turn slowly. The door wavers, and I feel nauseated, but Green Eyes holds the pad up. Red + Yellow = Orange
I nod, and he opens the door. I close my eyes and run through it. Nothing happens. The world does not end. My skin doesn't melt from my bones. I smile. I probably won't be touching anything orange anytime soon, but I think I might be able to deal with it better from now on.
We don't come across anyone in the hushed hallways. Every sound we make seems so loud, but nobody comes to investigate, and I know his room is up this hallway; turn left and go four doors down on the left. I know this because my room is in the same exact place one floor below.
We enter his room, and it looks just like mine, except for the bedspread. Mine is yellow, of course. His is a simple beige.
Green Eyes kneels down by the vent, motioning with his hand. I look at him quizzically, but he points emphatically at the vent. Slowly, I kneel down and look at the vent cover, which has the same vine design as mine. Scratched into the metal are the words, I'll miss my Buttercup. There is a marking next to it that looks a lot like a big tear drop.
"Oh!" My fingers run over the letters, and since they are carved into the metal, there is a tactile sensation to go along with the visual.
I can almost see Brody doing this. What did he use? A pen? Did he filch a butter-knife or fork from the dining room?
Green Eyes writes on the pad. Who?
"Brody," I whisper, and his name sends a pain through my chest. I miss him. I wonder how he is.
"Another school. He doesn't speak or write, so we can't..." I gulp, unable to talk about this anymore. I've never talked to anyone about Brody before, but I don't have to worry about Green Eyes telling anyone because he doesn't speak much.
Green Eyes and I find we are very musically compatible. Mrs. Gray allows us extra time to practice together, and we write our own music for the Spring Concert. He writes one question on the pad before we start, How do you know what music to write?
"The melody is yellow to me."
Green Eyes scribbles, Yellow = Love
I never thought of it that way, but I suppose the feeling I get when I play a yellow song is love. When I look at a buttercup, I feel love. When I look at the sun, when I feel it warm my skin, that's love to me. My mother's embrace is yellow.
"Yes! Is that why we can make music together? You play love, too?"
Green Eyes looks into my eyes and fully smiles for the first time. It's a lopsided smile, and it's so beautiful. It reaches his eyes this time, and they glow.
"Who are you missing?"
Apparently, I said the wrong thing because the smile slips off his face, and his eyes darken. He shakes his head once hard, turning away.
"Sorry, Green Eyes," I whisper.
I don't know what to do. He's standing with his back to me, fists clenched. I know the stance. He's lost in his own world. He brought me out of my horror show with a buttercup. What can I do for him?
I rush over to my harp, and my fingers glide over the strings. I play the song that first pulled Green Eyes to the stage like a magnet. I realize the song was inspired by Brody—I wrote it right after he left.
I have to play it through three times. On each pass, Green Eyes relaxes a little more. The tension leaves his hunched shoulders first, and then he loosens his clenched fists. By the middle of my third time, he sits on the piano bench.
I decide never to mention his lost love again. I know how much it hurts, too.
As the weeks go by, Green Eyes and I fall into a rhythm of playing music and tapping at the vent. He gets the same book I did and starts sending short messages. I'm happy to have someone to 'tap' with, but it's not the same, and sometimes it makes me miss Brody even more.
It's a rainy Monday, and I feel depressed because I won't venture outside today. After lunch, I have a free period, so I shuffle toward my room.
"Lisabetta?" Mrs. Gray calls out to me. "You have a package, honey."
That's funny because I just received a care package from Mom on Friday. I shrug, taking the small box from her hands, careful not to have any skin contact. I like Mrs. Gray a lot, but I don't touch unless there's a good reason.
The box has a typed address label on it and a return address I don't recognize. I bring it to my room and place it in the middle of my bed. I stare at it for a long time. Strange packages scare me. I doubt anyone sent me a letter bomb, but I'm still afraid to open it.
It's time for my class, so I leave it there until later.
When I return to my room, the box is right where I left it, looking all brown paper covered and stuff. With a sigh, I sit on my bed and rip off the wrapper. Inside the box, I find a small electronic device. I have no idea what it is. It's black and shiny, about the size of a pack of gum. I turn it on, and a small screen lights up. Cocking my head, I look at the buttons along the side, and one of them has the triangle symbol for 'Play.' I push the button, and shock races through me as I listen.
It's from Brody! He's tapping out a message to me on the recording!
I miss you so much. I thought I would never get to speak to you again. Now we can. You have a nice friend at school that sent me a letter. My brother tapped out the whole thing for me because you know I hate to read. Edward told me how much you missed me and said he showed you the carving on the vent. He has my old room.
Life isn't the same without you. I know we'll see each other again. I hope you'll send me a recording back. Love, Brody
My eyes fill with tears, and I don't even freak out when they start falling. Green Eyes found out where Brody was and sent him a letter. I'm so filled with emotions that I don't know where to put them. My heart swells up and feels too big to fit in my petite body. Not trusting that I can keep my hands to myself—I just want to give Green Eyes a big hug, which I know won't go over big—I wait the few hours until bedtime.
When darkness falls, and I hear Green Eyes moving around his room, I tap on my vent. We have a signal when I want him to look up what I'm saying. Three taps, each three seconds apart. I can hear him scramble to grab the dog-eared Morse code book that he keeps checking out of the library. Well, nobody else takes it out!
I tap out my message. Thank you for giving me Brody back.
After a few minutes, he taps back. You're welcome, Buttercup.
~Two Years Later~
Green Eyes has been my best friend in Lamont. He learned to tap without the book after six months—not bad for a rookie. He never spoke to me of his lost love, but I could see this darkness in his eyes sometimes, and it was one I understood well. There are some things that are locked away deep inside us; things we don't take out unless we want to stir up a shit-storm—things on lock-down.
Green Eyes and I made some beautiful music together. Does that sound like some silly romance line? We really did, though. We've been friends and musical partners, and our songs have been featured in every concert over the past two years. I've sent Brody a recording of every one, and he loves them all.
Brody and I still 'tap' to each other every week. I'm so excited because next week I'm going to see Brody for the first time in two years. Mom talked with Brody's family, and they finally understand how much we mean to each other. I can't wait.
Friday is graduation. It's a subdued affair around here because of all our issues, but it's still something to celebrate. The sad part is losing friends as we all go our different ways.
Green Eyes has promised to write to me, and we're going to send each other recordings of our compositions. He looks really nervous when anyone mentions going home. I don't blame him; I'm nervous, too.
All of our parents sit in the auditorium for the ceremony, and only those who want to go up on the stage to receive their diploma. When I go up to receive mine, I don't look out in the crowd because it's too much stimulus, but I know Mom is there with Aunt Rosie.
Some students are leaving with their families today. Mom is coming back to pick me up after the weekend because she has to bring Aunt Rosie home. It's best if we're not all cooped up together.
The Saturday after graduation dawns cloudy and cool, which fits my mood. The dining room is more than half empty. Green Eyes and I huddle together at a table, but our eyes don't meet. He's leaving tomorrow, and I'm going to miss him so much. My heart does that swelling thing, and I want to throw up.
You're okay. Green Eyes taps out on the table with his fork.
I sigh. Buttercup doesn't like change.
You get to see Brody.
This brightens my mood considerably. Thanks.
We will always be friends.
And I know he's not just saying that because he doesn't say much, but what he does say, he means. I know. I'll miss you.
And I will miss you.
"You've gotten pretty good at Morse code, Green Eyes," I whisper.
He smiles crookedly. He's always pretty, but he's dazzling when he smiles.
We don't say goodbye on Sunday. We look each other in the eye and smile as we exchange addresses. As I watch the car driving away with my friend in it, I cry.
Heading back to my room, I finish packing my things because Mom picks me up tomorrow. I don't sleep the entire night, and I have dark circles under my eyes in the morning.
Mom loads all my stuff into her trunk, and we get into the car. I sit in the back seat because it's where I feel safer. Mom doesn't mention my father—who I haven't seen in ten years. He's still alive, he's been sending support checks all these years, but he can't deal with having me. Mom never told me that, but I know. The passenger seat sits conspicuously empty on the way home.
On Wednesday, we head to the train station to meet Brody and his mom. The postman brings the mail as we're leaving, and there's a letter for me from Green Eyes. I hold it in my hand for most of the hour- long drive. When we are nearly there, I open it because I just can't wait any longer.
I hope you're doing well at home. Brody should be coming to see you soon, and then I know you'll be happy.
Leaving school was weird for me, but I came home. I mean I'm really home. You know how we don't talk about things that are in 'the vault?' Well, love was waiting to welcome me home. Now I know what I was missing all that time. I included a picture.
Good luck with Brody.
I reach deep into the padded envelope and pull out a Polaroid. It's Green Eyes, and he looks even more alive than he does when he loses himself in the piano. Cheek to cheek with him—touching!—is a pretty brunette, and her eyes say she's just as happy to have him. She must be what was locked away in the vault. I smile, knowing that Green Eyes is in good hands.
"We're here, Lisabetta," Mom says softly. She gives me a smile of encouragement because she knows how hard this is for me and for Brody. But it's harder not being together.
The train pulls in and comes to a stop, smoke curling up from the engine. Almost everyone has disembarked when I see a blond head, bent low, not meeting anyone's eyes. The way he holds himself says it's Brody, but he's a... man now. Suddenly, I feel insecure and small. What if he doesn't find me attractive anymore?
"Lisabetta, it's okay," Mom whispers in my ear. "Breathe."
I suck in a breath, and then he sees me, and it's too late to turn back.
When his blue eyes connect with mine, I know I have nothing to worry about. He strides toward me as fast as he dares—certainly fast for Brody, who doesn't like jarring movements—and he stops when he's three feet away. His face is flushed, and I'm pretty sure mine is, too.
His eyes are alight with happiness, and he steps closer.
A little closer.
He reaches his hand out palm up and looks at me expectantly.
I'm shocked by this because Brody was never much of a toucher. I don't like to touch either, but this is Brody in front of me, so I put my hand on top of his, palm down. A thrill shoots through me once we're touching skin to skin, and nobody is looking away or screaming.
Brody swallows, and I watch his Adam's apple bob slowly. There's suddenly a frightened look in his eyes, and his hand trembles under mine. Cocking my head, my eyes question him.
He steps in closer, his hand sliding away from mine. Swallowing again, Brody reaches out, his fingers, tentatively touching the fabric of my sweater. My heart is beating hard in my chest, but it's in a good way this time. At least I think so. His hands pull me forward, and his arms slip around me gently, drawing me against him.
I don't feel the panic that I usually feel when someone touches me, and I allow Brody's body to move in close. Our fronts graze lightly, and he brings his cheek to rest against mine. My arms slowly wrap around his waist, and his slide around my shoulders with his hands splayed on my back.
I'm on high alert, afraid that one of us will freak out, but we don't. A light tapping starts on the back of my shoulder blade—Brody is sending me a message.
Funny, he's welcoming me home when he's the one visiting. "But -"
I'm interrupted by how tightly he hugs me against him. I like it. The air leaves my lungs in a small gasp, and my heart swells up, but it's in a good way—a way I'd like to feel over and over again.
Brody's fingers start drumming against my back again.
I missed you. You are home. Welcome home.
I feel Brody's lungs inflate, and he presses his cheek closer to mine, his lips grazing my ear. "Buttercup," he whispers, and I finally understand what Green Eyes meant about being home in his letter. Home isn't defined by where you physically live; it's found when two hearts come together as one.
A/N: While I don't purport to be an expert on Autism, I did have a real life inspiration for the character of Lisabetta. From my limited understanding, there are various levels on the Autism Spectrum. I hope I've done justice to this subject and you've enjoyed my little tale. I'd love to hear your thoughts on Buttercup and Green Eyes.
Thanks again to Betti Gefecht for letting me borrow her Edward for this story.
Thank you so much for reading.