She's autistic, he's the new boy in town, what will happen when they meet?
|Elizabeth Stevans was a 16-year-old girl with a bubbly personality, despite her autism, had big blue eyes that twinkled when she laughed, had a smile that could make even the grumpiest person light up, and she never, ever said a bad word about anyone.
Her passions were: writing, music, yoga (in addition to autism, Elizabeth also had anxiety, and yoga was the perfect way to lessen that), and, the biggest one of all, nature. Elizabeth adored making nature videos, often times with calming or soothing music on in the background, and posting them on YouTube, so that anyone else who was feeling anxious or depressed could listen/watch them and make them feel better.
She was currently walking in the snow, with her brown winter coat and pink gloves and a little pink beanie and her brown UGG boots, to her job at her daddy, Andrew’s, pizzeria. She’d been working there for a little over six months and she loved it, a lot.
Humming to herself, Elizabeth started to skip, jumping over piles of snow, her inner child showing through, the smile on her face giant, the wind slapping her cheeks making them red, but she loved it all.
She squealed, suddenly, when her body slammed into someone else’s and she got knocked on her butt into the cold snow.
Laughing, because it was a funny circumstance, Elizabeth tilted her head upward to meet the embarrassed, wind-flushed, blue-eyed face of a boy who couldn’t have been more than 16 years of age.
“Oopsies,” she said with a giggle.
The boy, Niklas was his name, instantly held out a hand for her.
“Are you alright? I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there.”
Elizabeth took the offered hand and rose up to her feet, her smile getting wider by the minute.
“Of course you didn’t see me wherever ‘there’ is. You saw me on the ground and you helped me up like a gentleman should. Getting rescued by a handsome man, my day could be worse. My name is Elizabeth, but call me Izzy instead. It’s better that way. And what’s your name?”
Niklas was overwhelmed by the questions, but it wasn’t in a bad way. Elizabeth’s voice was sweet as honey and her giggles were as pure as a child’s laughter.
“I’m Niklas, but you can call me Nik or Nicky, if you’re into the cute nicknames. That’s a pretty name for a girl.”
The girl smiled, albeit sheepishly, and grabbed his hand, the stars dancing in her eyes.
“Thank you, Nicky! You have a pretty name, too. Do you know what your name means? I do. I spend a lot of time looking up what names mean, just in case I have a kid someday.”
Niklas would be lying—both to himself and the girl in front of him—if he said he wasn’t enjoying this conversation. It was refreshing, a change, to have a girl not throw herself at him and beg him to go on a date with her or to be her boyfriend or whatever silly little thing they wanted.
Elizabeth was very talkative, yes, but Niklas liked it. There was something about her, Niklas couldn’t put a finger on it, but she was interesting to him. He was intrigued by her.
“No, I don’t know what my name means, exactly. Would you like to tell me?”
“Victory of the people. Isn’t that nice? Such a strong, romantic name, if you ask me. I mean, you didn’t ask me, but I’m going to tell you my opinion anyway. It’s a lovely name.”
Niklas blushed at her complement and shyly smiled, showing off his wonderful dimples that Elizabeth could fit her tiny fingers into. Elizabeth was very sweet, and she was very pretty too. There was an air of innocence about her like Niklas had very sensed or felt before. Maybe this was the start of something new!
“Thank you for the complement, Izzy. I appreciate it.”
Elizabeth stood up on her tippy-toes and brushed her lips over Niklas’s cheek as her own way of saying “You’re Welcome.”
“Are you hungry? I was just on my way to work at my daddy’s pizzeria. We have all kinds of pizza!”
Grinning at her enthusiasm—that was his favorite part about meeting new people was learning their interests and stuff, just so he could hear their happy tones and see their faces light up—Niklas nodded and tucked her small hand into his.
“I’m famished. Where is your daddy’s business at?”
Giggling at the use of the word “famished” (it was a rather funny word after all), Elizabeth, smiling from ear-to-ear like she’d just won some kind of big prize, gave Niklas’s hand a sharp tug and steered him down the snow-covered sidewalk.
“Just up the block. It’s been in the family for years. It was my grandfather’s at first, he built it, his own new little business, but now it’s my daddy’s. He’s owned it ever since our grandfather died, which was a little over 20 years ago. It’s a great family-owned business. We’d had a few companies try to buy it from us, but daddy always said no, because it was ours and our families.”
As Elizabeth rambled on about the pizzeria, Niklas let it wash over him like a waterfall, taking it all in, along with the old-time buildings of the downtown Detroit Area. It didn’t look that much different from his home-town in Sweden, expect that the buildings were staring to crumble and there were a lot more of them. And, the other thing that was different was that back home in Sweden, even in the downtown area, they had a lot more trees. Detroit, it seemed, or downtown Detroit, didn’t have a whole lot of trees, at least that Niklas could see.
The snow, the chilly air, and the icy sidewalks/streets all reminded him of home. Sure, Detroit had a lot more factories and car plants, but still, it felt like home just the same to Niklas.
Startled, Niklas pulled out of his daydream and focused his attention back on Elizabeth, who had her head cocked sideways, watching him with big blue curious eyes, which seemed to search into the depths of his very soul.
“Sorry. Was lost in thought.”
“It’s okay! I get like that too! Anyway, do you want to go inside? It’s kinda cold out here, isn’t it?”
Niklas liked her charming, if loquacious, nature. He liked that she didn’t stay on one topic for a long time; he enjoyed the quick way she would ask things and then the next minute, be blathering about something entirely different. That was what made her so….. fascinating? Unique? Whatever the word was Niklas was looking for, that was how he would describe her.
“It’s not as cold as where I live, but it is a little chilly.”
Elizabeth arched an eyebrow as she stole the key out of her pocket and unlocked the door, pushing it open, and flipping on the lights, which make the place a whole lot brighter.
The floors were green-and-white tiles, which crisscrossed all across the restaurant, and the walls in the front of the restaurant were blue, and the walls in the back of the restaurant were white. Taking up a large portion of the room they were in was a bar with marble counter tops with all sorts of beers, pop, water, and even a coffee maker on the counter behind it. Tables, some high top and some low top, were scattered across the entirely of the restaurant.
“This is a nice place,” Niklas admitted as he followed Elizabeth towards the bar, where he noticed a row of high-topped stools surrounding the bar. They were black and the legs were made out of wood and, he observed, the top of the stool had a cushion attached to it.
Laughing, Elizabeth tossed her keys on the counter and flipped on the coffee pot, which was also a hot chocolate maker. There was no drink Elizabeth or her daddy, Andrew, liked better in the winter than hot chocolate.
“Thank you! I like to think so. It’s hard work keeping it clean, but we do our best. You said it’s chilly where you are from. Are you from Canada? That would make sense. Oh, do you want whipped cream or marshmallows in your hot chocolate?”
Sliding up onto the bar stool, Niklas flushed a deep red and wiped his sweaty hands on his pants, but the grin on his face was lighting up the already lit room.
“Whipped cream, please. And no, I’m not from Canada. I’m from Sweden, actually. I could understand if you got confused, Izzy, because Canada is cold, but most Canadians don’t have accents, or at least the accent I have.”
Elizabeth, finished with making their hot chocolates, pushed Niklas’s cup across the counter to him while she took a sip of hers, set it back on the counter she was in front of, and sprinted off into the kitchen to make sure everything would be running okay, as that was her job before the waitresses and cooks came in.
When that was all done, Elizabeth came walking back out to the bar, when Niklas spotted, for the first time, what outfit his new-found friend wore.
She had on pink/white stripped leggings with brown UGG boots, a demi skirt that came down to just above her knees, and a Mickey Mouse sweater, which was white, and the usual black and red Mickey Mouse smiling face on the front of it. Her hair was pulled back into a braid over one shoulder, and on her head, was a pink beanie with a ball of fluff on the top of it.
The outfit was not something Niklas, or anyone else, for that matter, saw teenaged girls wear a whole lot, but then again, Elizabeth was not a typical teenager. She was different, she didn’t fit the mold, she wasn’t routine.
Just as Niklas was about to comment on how much he loved the outfit, a different voice, in a tone that was commanding, gentle, and had a pinch of musical laughter in it, interrupted him.
“Darling daughter of mine, don’t you know it’s not good for you to be standing around lazy while your poor ole daddy does all the work?”
Elizabeth squealed and spun around quickly, and her eyes, as if it were possible for them to have more twinkles in them, shone brighter at hearing the familiar voice of her daddy.
She sprinted at Andrew and jumped into his arms, hands going around his neck and legs wrapping around his waist, head buried in his neck, the way they greeted each other every morning.
Andrew only laughed and squeezed her tightly back before kissing her forehead and gently dropping her back to the ground again.
“Morning, pumpkin. Thank you for opening up the shop for me. You’re a good daughter. And, who might this young man be?” He patted Elizabeth on the head as he asked the question.
Niklas could feel his legs quake in his shoes, because even though Elizabeth wasn’t his girlfriend, he was beginning to like her, and he would understand completely if Andrew was a little more protective of Elizabeth if she was so different, because people out in the world liked to attack those folks. But, he ignored it the best he could and, wiping off his sweaty palm on the leg of his jeans, held it out for Andrew as he replied, “Niklas, sir.”
Andrew shook his hand and studied him, humming thoughtfully. Well, he was polite, unlike most teenagers now-a-days. And he’d even called him ‘sir’. That wasn’t something you heard very often!
“Nice to meet you, Niklas. I hope you will enjoy it here.”
Niklas’s cheeks colored as he glanced at Elizabeth, who was humming a small tune under her breath, before gazing back up at Andrew with wide eyes.
“Oh, I’m sure I will, sir.”
*5 months later*
Niklas sighed as he trudged his way up Elizabeth’s driveway, roses in hand, straightening out his suit and tie. He’d been with the Detroit Red Wings Affiliate team, the Grand Rapids Griffins, for a little over two months now, and they were having a party at a restaurant in Detroit. The players could bring one date. Some were bringing their moms (which was adorable!); some were bringing their girlfriends, and some were bringing friends from their childhood.
Niklas wanted to bring Elizabeth for more than one reason. First of all, he had a BIG crush on her and he sensed she had a crush on him. He wanted to ask her to be his girlfriend. That would make him the happiest man alive. The second reason why he wanted to bring Elizabeth to this party tonight was to have her make more friends. When he’d told his teammates about young girl—her cute childish style of clothing, her autism, her fast talking—all of them instantly accepted her and wanted to meet the “girl who was different.”
Steeling himself, because his nerves were so raw and tense and there were butterflies fluttering all over inside in stomach, Niklas raised his fist and knocked on the door three times, hoping for a quick answer.
His wishes came true when the door swung open and into the porch light shone Elizabeth.
Niklas needed a minute to calm down, because his heart was racing faster than a speeding bullet and his stomach was doing flip-flops and his palms were sweaty and his eyes were growing wide as dinner plates because Elizabeth, damn, that girl looked gorgeous.
Her bright red hair was hanging down over her shoulders and back, stopping at her waist, and half of it was pulled back into a little ponytail. She was wearing a pink sparkly dress that ended just above her knees with a pearl necklace and emerald hoop earrings. She wore no make-up, expect for a touch of red lipstick, but her eyes really popped that blue color and her smile, as usual, was her brightest feature. On her feet, she wore brown cowboy boots.
“Beautiful, darling,” Niklas finally murmured when he got back in control of his body, bowing and holding out the roses for Elizabeth to take.
“Awe, Nicky!” It was Elizabeth’s turn to blush, her cheeks turning a dark hue of pink, as she gently took the flowers from Niklas’s hand, raced back inside, put them in a vase filled with water, yelled good-bye to her daddy (“Keep safe, the both of you!”) and hurled back out the door carrying a medium-sized brown purse and wearing a white sweater.
Niklas brushed his lips across her cheek in a gentle act of fondness, before taking her elbow (the ground was rather slippery from all the rain they’d had the night before) and leading her to his truck.
He opened up the passenger-side door, bowed again, and said, in a whisper, “In you get, princess.”
*at the party, 2 hours later*
“Hank, have you seen Izzy? Her dad said I needed to keep an eye on her and I haven’t seen her in a long time,” Niklas whispered to his best friend and fellow countryman. Hank, the minute the couple—Niklas and Elizabeth—arrived at the party, had pretty much taken Elizabeth under his wing. The arm flapping she did before they entered the gym where the party was being held, because she was so nervous, her spinning around, her fast way of talking, didn’t bother Hank, nope, not in the slightest.
Now, hearing the worried edge to Niklas’s tone, Hank gnawed on his lower lip, that familiar rock of concern settling into his stomach, and glanced around the room, trying to find the girl. She couldn’t have gone very far, because she didn’t like straying away from Niklas, not when she was among people she didn’t know.
“Oh, I see her, Kronner! She’s in the corner by the doorway, and she’s drinking some fruit punch.”
Relief flooded through Niklas as he whispered “Thank you” to Hank before sprinted his way through crowds of people, tables, and balloons, before reaching his destination.
“Izzy! I was beginning to worry about you, you silly girl,” Niklas chided, but the tone was happy, and gave away the fact that he was only teasing her.
Elizabeth giggled and set down her punch on a nearby table.
“Well, you found me!”
Niklas grabbed her hand and squeezed it ever so gently.
“Can we go outside and talk for a minute? I have….something I want to ask you.”
Elizabeth already sensed that she was needed for a discussion with Niklas, so she nodded in approval and allowed herself to be lead outside, in the fresh, cool night air.
“What is it, Kronner?”
Niklas turned around and squeezed her fingers between his as he searched her face, trying to figure out what to say and how to say it to the girl who’d flipped his whole world upside down in the best way possible.
“You are beautiful, Izzy. In every sense of the word. Your personality and your face and everything. Is beautiful. Do you have autism? Yes. Do I care? No. I love you FOR your autism, BECAUSE of your autism. I love your quirky ways. I adore you flapping your arms when you get excited or nervous, I admire the way you can spin in circles for hours on end and not get dizzy, I love when you talk fast or when you change subjects so quickly it makes my head spin. I love the way your clothes don’t match and I adore the way that you don’t care that they match. I love you for you. So, I want to ask, this sweet, amazing, beautiful, autistic, quirky girl in front of me a question. Will you give me the honor of being my girlfriend?”
Elizabeth’s head was spinning and she was speechless, tears filling her eyes, but she didn’t even hesitate and pulled his head down, pressing her lips against his.
“Of course I will be your girlfriend, you silly little thing!”