Chapter 16 ~ Greta
“What’s wrong Butterfly?” Axel stood outside the girl’s toilets, concern thick within his tone.
“N-nothing Axe, just g-go to English class, I’ll see you after second period.”
“Danny, I know something happened. I’m not going anywhere.”
I sobbed as quietly as I could, washing the black paint off my face in the basin. It was the latest in Greta and her friends bullying attacks on me, the humiliation at lacking the strength to fight against them broke my spirit. I didn’t want him to see me this way.
The truth was, I desperately required a backbone. I had lived my life not wanting to maliciously hurt anyone, to see the world equal and harmonious but – there simply was no way that dream would come to fruition.
I fell to my knees on the cold tiled floor, banging the bone hard and a yelp ripped from my throat. Next minute, the door was kicked open, and in the doorway, seething with fury, was Axel.
“Who did this to you?” His demand echoed through the empty lavatory.
I wanted to curl up and cry, the heaves from my chest as I struggled to calm, would not allow speech as tears trickled from my eyes. His robust and safe embrace wrapped around my lithe frame and I surrendered, shuddering as emotion poured over me.
“Please Butterfly, tell me?” He implored. I couldn’t though, this was my problem.
“I-its f-fine.” My stammering was not convincing at all, even I could hear it.
“Clearly you are not. Was it the cheerleaders again? I can talk to them…”
“No!” I cried out, clutching at his shirt as I bawled into his chest. “Please, j-just let m-me clean up.”
“Dan, this is ludicrous. This is the third time this week I’ve found you. First, it was the door incident that you ‘supposedly’ walked into. Then the can of grape juice that was poured through your bag, now this – you have to stand up to whoever is doing this, or at least let me…”
“Don’t be foolish Axe – this is only happening to me because they found out we were together.”
“What do you mean… were?”
“Nothing,” I snapped, pulling back from Axel and picking myself up.
“Don’t ‘nothing’ me Daniella – what do you mean… were?”
“M-maybe… maybe we shouldn’t be.”
My heart sunk. I loved him more than anything, but the entire school population definitely didn’t agree with us. Everyone except our friends wanted us to perish for sinning.
“What?!” Axel screeched, jumping up from the ground. “I love you, we are not breaking up because of some stupid whore and her harem of bitches…”
I interrupted him, “I never said it was her…”
“You didn’t have too. I have eyes, I see what they do, how she purposely tripped in the cafeteria two weeks ago. What about the way you try and hide when they are around, the fear that flashes in your eyes and you immediately bolt in the other direction or the way you shake when she comes over to talk to us. You think I’m blind? You asked me to stay out of it, but she will not get away with this…” Axel cupped my face, pressing his lips against mine. “You mean everything to me Butterfly, I will not lose you because you are simply too gentle to hurt anyone. You and I belong together.”
“Axe – m-maybe w-we don’t?”
I couldn’t look at him, I was ashamed of the words that had just come from my mouth, but us being together had caused the school to lose their minds.
His hands fell from my face, and he took a step back from me, “I will find her Dan, and I will force Greta to back off, but nothing will erase the words you just spoke. You need to sort out for yourself if I’m worth it or not because I know you are – so do you love me or not?”
I wrapped my arms around myself, yearning for comfort. “I-I…”
“Fuck ya then…”
My eyes snapped open, and I launched upward into a seated position, heart pounding against my chest as I shakily wiped the sweat from my forehead.
“What’s wrong?” The groggy sound of Axel’s voice made my heart constrict. The memory from our youth had resurfaced and attacked when my defences were down. “Did you have a bad dream?”
I leaned over, curling into his side as he held me close, protected by his warmth. “Yes,” I managed to rasp out.
“What was it about?”
“Us. The day you found me covered in black paint.”
It must have been the middle of the night because the pitch blackness surrounding us severely limited my sight. “I remember, that was the first time I’d ever heard you sound so petrified to love me.”
“You know it was never you… right? I was afraid. I just wanted to be left alone.”
He pulled me even closer, “I know. I can’t lose you Butterfly, I won’t survive this one.”
My heart clenched painfully again, and I clambered on top of Axel, softly and sensually kissing his tantalising lips, stroking my tongue with his before pulling back. “I love you Axe, I’m not…” I began to kiss my way down his neck, “…going…” and down his chest, “…to leave…” nipping at his lower abdomen, “…you ever…” until, I reached his delicious and wondrous cock. “…Again…” I vowed, engulfing his now rigid solder with my warm wet mouth.
“Fuck yes…” Axel moaned as his member slipped in and out, my tongue circling the head of his dick before sliding back down my throat. “Forever… Butterfly.”
I stood around the front of Greta’s house once more seeking the courage to do what I needed. I hadn’t intended on facing her again, but we had decided on a letter drop as the best form for notifying the town’s people about the dance studio. Somehow I ended up at the very house I was terrified of.
I wasn’t weak.
And I was ready to fight for my man.
This would not be what undoes me.
“Why are you here again? What… whatever your name is?”
Greta’s mother had appeared in the doorway, noticing my hesitance. “I’m here to see her.”
“But you ran. I don’t understand what happened. Did she say something? I know she can be venomous, but you must understand, Greta carries pain others do not know about. She’s depressed, pushing all of her friends away. I can’t imagine what it’s like to suddenly be unable to walk, losing her life the way she has – amongst other trials she’s endured.”
“She’s not dead.”
“She may as well be, she has no life.”
This was a broken home, not the scary colonial mansion of a spoiled bully, no. This was a place unable to heal from tragedy, space where people suffered in silence and ignored the so blatantly obvious – Greta was wheelchair bound, she was still capable of living. “Please… I need to see her.”
I pleaded not just with my eyes, but also with my body language, taking a step forward. Her mother, desperate for a connection, some hope that she may gain back her child, conceded and extended her hand, offering me entrance to their home.
“I don’t know how to help her, all she does is brood in the darkness,” Mrs Wheeler was clearly buried under the weight of her daughter’s predicament. As I made it to Greta’s room, her mother gripped my shoulder comfortingly and with hope sparkling in her eyes, before leaving.
Inhaling deeply, talking myself into believing this is what I needed to do, I opened the door and stepped past the threshold.
Everything was as before, the dark gloominess suffocating the suite as my vision slowly adjusted. Greta’s wheelchair sat in front of the drawn curtains with the small separation – the only light allowed in was the only way she could see the world outside. Clearly, there had been no progression in her mental state – did she hide because of her chair?
Crossing the expansive and lavish floor the size of my house without walls, I plonked down on the chair beside her, ignoring the sudden anger that impregnated the stagnant musty air. Again, we sat in uncomfortable silence, only this time, I could feel how she loathed that I had returned, almost like how you know, when you walk into a room, and you realise they had been talking about you just before you arrived.
I lifted one leg over the other and relaxed into the seat, I will stand firm – I will be brave.
After roughly ten minutes, I felt the invisible thorns retract and be replaced by a feeling of annoyance.
“So, my name was not Rachael, which I did apologise to your mother for.”
I waited for a reply, but nothing came.
“How did you end up like this?”
Again I felt a wall of fury boil up and push against the side of me, that question had riled her temper, but still, she said nothing.
“So… sucks to be alone, doesn’t it? To be an outcast, unaccepted, unwanted, incapable of being who you really are.”
I heard Greta shift uncomfortably beside me, I had hit another nerve.
“Does it burn to know the one person that emotionally understands how you feel, is the very person you made feel that way?” Now there was nothing, no sound, no breath, no feeling from her – she knew exactly what I was talking about.
We remained silent for a moment, just allowing the awkward energy to swirl around us before I opened my mouth.
“I’ve been working on programs for our new dance studio. This is a place I never thought I wanted to return too, but I think, coming home, was what I needed.” I’d broken the weird tension with mindless dribble, it was all I could think of. “There’s going to be lots of great opportunities for all children to shine, not just staying with the one lead like other programs do, favouring one over another. Everyone deserves their chance to be in the spotlight...” I must have wafted on for over an hour. In the grand aspect of things, talking about dancing with an ex-cheerleading bully that was now confined to a wheelchair was maybe not the best idea, but I didn’t know what else to say.
I said my goodbye, but was met with continued silence and left.
Every day I returned, Mrs Wheeler and Gladis were funny, warm, they definitely appreciated my persistence. Why did I deem it necessary to visit? Maybe because I knew firsthand what isolation was and couldn’t bear the thought of repeating mistakes, or because I had made a promise at mum’s grave to be a better person, do better? From what I gathered, her friends had abandoned her, she had thrown everything she could into rehabilitation, but the truck that hit Greta head-on had severed the lower part of her spinal cord, now movement was limited – Karma really was a bitch.
Once again I found myself staring at the same drapes I had for the past week. I huffed, wondering what I would talk about now, noticing the flyer I had left the previous day, still sat on the table in between our positions, I don’t think she’d even moved it.
“I see you looked at the flyer I left. Class open’s this weekend, you’re more than welcome to come. We have an adult’s class…”
“I’m stuck in a fucken wheelchair you inbreed slut.”
The first vicious words left her mouth and struck my heart with pin-point precision, this time though, I was not the same woman I once was. “I know that you nasty cow, the paint you threw at my face didn’t blind me.” Shit, maybe I do still have a lot of anger inside.
“Why are you fucken here?”
“Because you have no friends, no one wants you and you stare out the window at a world you are no longer a part of. Call me names again, and I will tip your chair over and leave you there – telling your mum and Gladis you wish to be left alone to wallow in solitude.”
“So you’re what?” Greta sneered. “Here to pity me? Be a saint and rescue me – god, you’re not a bible basher are you?”
“You don’t deserve my pity, I actually came here to beat your ass to the ground like I should have done seven years ago.” I snapped at her harshly – and rightly so, she did deserve an ass-whooping.
A small chuckle began to permeate from inside her chest before it expanded and laughter filled the room. My eyes widened as I looked at this crazy person incredulously.
“When did you grow balls? No one speaks to me like that.”
“Around the time when you kicked my stomach causing me to miscarry my baby.”
She choked on her cackle, “I-I…” Greta inhaled deeply, scrambling to find what to say. “Tessalee was my attending when I woke up, she let slip when she was furious at my self-loathing.” Could I blame Tessalee? No. I guess we are all human, even if we are professionally forced into silence. “I didn’t know – I’m sorry.”
“Yeah well, there’s nothing I can do about it now. I ain’t apologising for the loss of your legs though, that’s on you.”
I could, for the first time ever, feel the pained dread and regret seep off of her. This was uncharted water I was dealing with, and I didn’t quite know what to do.
“Daniella, why are you here?”
I reflected on her question for a moment, gathering my thoughts. “I don’t know. Do you know why I came back?”
“Because my mother passed away.”
“Don’t say you’re sorry for my loss. It’s meaningless. I was never cruel to you, but I ignored her attempting to gain distance between Axel and I, because of how you and your gaggle of bitches tortured me, now she’s gone, and there’s nothing I can do about it. After all these years we still love each other, and we are together.”
“So that’s what you came to say, rub it in that you’re still with him?”
“Yep, after everything you have done, you still couldn’t stop me from being with him.”
“I never wanted to stop you.”
“Really? It sure seemed like you did.”
“I was always jealous of you.” Her confession floored me, how could this girl that had everything be jealous of me?
“Why?” I spat.
“Because you had talent – no one dances the way you do. If anyone could take my title of head cheerleader, it would be you.”
“I wasn’t even interested in being a cheerleader.”
“But you could have taken it, you had the ability.”
“So you tried to destroy my life because you were insecure – about nothing?”
“It wasn’t just that, my daddy doesn’t love me, and I sought affection from guys to fill that void. My daddy doesn’t even love my mother, they may be married but he doesn’t live here, he lives with his campaign manager and their kids on the other side of town but uses my ‘disability’ to gain sympathy from the public. He’s been having an affair with her since as far back as I can remember. The one guy that wanted nothing to do with me was Axel, I thought if I could get him – it would heal the pain I had inside…”
“That’s so fucked up Greta.”
“Yep. I know I caused this retribution. This is my punishment for my horrid behaviour. I stare out this window hoping every day that something kills me because that is what I deserve.”
“You need to see a therapist.”
“What I need is someone to call me on my bullshit.”
“Well…” I rose to my feet, stepping forward and grasping the dusty drape. “I’m calling bullshit Greta Wheeler, it’s time to get out of the darkness and stop being such a nasty cow. Your life is not over, there is always someone worse off than you. Yes it’s shit that you’ve lost the use of your legs, but there are plenty of people out there that were born without legs or arms, they manage to live a full life and even find love – which clearly you yearn for.” I ripped back the curtain, allowing the sunshine to flood the room as she groaned and hissed, covering her eyes, like the witch from OZ that had water tipped on her. I’m melting, I chuckled at my vision.
“Close it,” she screeched.
“No! It’s time you got off the self-pity train heading nowhere.”