He awoke to the sound of his phone blaring its discordant melody throughout the small study room.
It was his mom.
“Hello?” He spoke, groggily, into the phone.
“Donde estas?” she asked, worried.
“Where are you?”
He looked around and realized he was in a study room within the student union building at his college.
“Estaba… Estudiando…” He lied, “Me quede dormido, perdon.” He rubbed his eyes.
“I was… Studying.”
“I fell asleep, I’m sorry.”
“Ah, okay… Hablame cuando llegues a tu apartamento.” With that they exchanged pleasantries and hung up.
“Oh, okay… Call me when you get to your apartment.”
Declan looked at the time. He’d been asleep for a bit over two hours. He grabbed his bag and headed towards the bus that would take him to his apartment.
The musky aroma of the hallway danced in his nostrils as he walked towards his abode. He quickly retrieved his keys from his pocket and unlocked the door.
An orange cat came prancing into the living room and onto the counter. He gave his head a brisk scratch and placed his backpack on his desk
He walked around, and leaned up against a window. As he looked over the city’s skyline he began to think back on the past three years. He had defected to a nearby city following his graduation from home school, which he managed to finish in rehab.
The pictures hung on the walls brought back even more memories. Karen, Toby, Dr. Anderson… Each of them had help mold the person that he was now. Beside them were pictures of his teammates. Jason, Jesse, Skylar, Tommy, Trace… All a poignant part of his past.
Even though he ended up not going “pro” and retaining his NCAA eligibility, he hadn’t attempted to return to gymnastics. He felt free now, like he belonged. Gone was the insecurity that once plagued him due to his weight, and he was no longer dependent on Gable to validate his existence.
He couldn’t fathom how far away it all seemed. Rehab, Gable, Skylar, gymnastics… A quick smile and a head shake brought him back to where he was. In that moment, he realized how far he’d truly come since that morbidly obese kid he used to be.
The days passed by in a blur, just as the past few years had. He’d loaded himself with hours, in order to keep himself focused, and out of the “college scene”.
He hadn’t even been to a party, since Skylar’s death. The more he wallowed in the memory of his death, the more he longed to tumble one last time.
It was inevitable. He’d pushed his body to the brink of destruction, but something within him missed the rush of flying. The competitive nature of the sport… The time and dedication it took to learn a skill whether simple or difficult.
Before long, he was trying out for the college’s cheer squad.
Although, he failed to make the actual team, ironically due to his lackluster tumbling, he still made some sort of splash, as he was named alternate.
It was all he’d truly wanted out of it; validation.
The day of the Spring Game had finally arrived. He was excited to have been received with such warmth by the entire cheer squad. Some of them were former gymnasts, he’d competed against, and the rest had great cheerleading backgrounds.
As they warmed up on the field, the tumblers all threw different skills, trying their best to avoid running into football players as they raced to catch passes from the quarterback.
“Want to tumble with me?” One of the girls asked Declan.
“Yeah, I’m down. You or me first?” He asked.
“You go ahead,” She nodded.
Declan ran, rounded off, did two back handsprings into a back tuck, however, as he attempted the somersault, his feet made contact with one of the players, knocking them both down onto the turf. They were slow to stand up but instantly began apologizing profusely.
“I am so sorry, I didn’t mean to…” The football player began, but as he stood up, Declan looked into his eyes. Those same emerald green eyes that had haunted him for the past four years stared deep into his own.
The football player ran off, before Declan could say anything. His callousness dug into his heart and soul, like a billion daggers. He couldn’t breathe through the ocean of memories that splashed over him with unrelenting force.
Tears formed in his eyes, and trickled down his check, but he was quick to brush away the moisture on his cheek, to have it be replaced in rapid succession… These weren’t just tears, though. Rain began to fall very slowly, at first, then, all at once. The crowd waned, save for those whom had come adequately prepared.
Although, the rest of the cheerleaders sought shelter, he allowed it to sweep over him, cleansing him of all the emotional debt he had to Gable, and he to him.
He felt himself leave his previous iteration, as though he’d finally transcended. His old life was gone. He was born again. This was his version of recovery.
The game ended some time soon, and they went their separate ways save for a few borrowed glances. Declan hoped to never see him again, as he’d come to realize they were better off as strangers… Yet here they were. Same city. Same school.
Once in his car, he sat back and looked up into the cloudy sky. He allowed himself a brief moment of reflection, and closed his eyes.
Regardless of what he did, all he could see were those emerald eyes that had haunted him from the moment he’d first laid eyes on them, and perhaps a lifetime yet to come, staring back at him from within his eyelids.
Though he’d cultivated an immense sense of self worth and strength while in rehab, he couldn’t stop himself from succumbing to his bleeding heart.
Life was cruel; it was evident he and Gable’s love story was far from over. In time, he would come to learn that no matter what he did, or where he went, in some cruel way, life would always make them cross paths time and again, and there was nothing he could, or would, be able do about that.
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