A few months after Mabel's 16th birthday, her parents died in a tragic accident and now a blind Mabel was a ward of Aunty Kay. In her absence, Mabel would fall prey to her cousins' incessant bullying and tricks. One day, they had put peanut butter in Mabel's favourite sneakers. A fuming Mabel rushed into Troy's room and delivered a stinging slap with the one sneaker in hand to his face. I told you she was a blind psychopath Troy shouted. Sensing Mabel's distress, the guy introduced himself as Leo but an embarrassed Mabel scurried away. For the next few months, whenever Troy had his friends over, Leo and Mabel would secretly meet in the kitchen. He was 18, fascinated with cars and her first crush. Reality rudely intruded on their secret meeting spot by Troy whose shouts brought his sisters rushing in. An angry Adele, who was liked Leo viciously slapped Mabel d as she let loose angry words and barbs at Mabel's ploys. Mabel, immensely hurt rushed to the safety of her small room. After what seemed like hours, the door creaked open and Leo called out. Mabel flung her pillow at him and told him to go. Leo persisted and pressed a soft kiss to her lips telling her that she was a breath of fresh air in this hell-hole. He continued to caress her neck and shoulders. Kisses turned heated, caresses became more frantic and clothes discarded as Mabel's heart and innocence were offered up and consumed in the lusty atmosphere. In the dawn, after kissing a clinging Mabel, Leo left. Mabel blurted out her love when her cousins barged into her room unannounced. Troy and Adele laughed as they boasted of the bet Leo was a part of or else he would never look at a blind nerd. In the coming weeks, Leo was MIA! One Saturday after dinner, Mabel overheard Aunty Kay on the phone talking about the Johns moving to another state. This hurt Mabel to the quick who vouched to never fall for such a ploy! In the 5 years since that fateful day, Mabel blossomed into an intelligent, caring and capable young woman. Despite her disability, she successfully pursued her passion of cooking with the upcoming release of her first cookbook. That heart wrenching summer with Leo was pivotal for Mabel. Lost in her happy thoughts, she nearly missed her beeping phone signalling that her publicist and best friend, Maria had arrived to give her a lift to the venue but then encountered a slowly deflating tire. Luckily, the service guy Zack, was nearby to pick up the call. With both ladies safely ensconced in the truck, and their vehicle in tow, they made their way to the garage. Mabel smiled as she overheard Maria flirting with Zack. Before long, they arrived at the garage. The door creaked open signalling someone's entrance. After a shuffling of papers, a masculine voice called out Maria's name. Mabel froze in disbelief as her friend went about her business. She could never forget that husky baritone. It was LEO! As Maria concluded her paperwork and payments she hollered to Mabel which grabbed Leo's eagle gaze. The air was tight with tension as Leo stumbled over Mabel's name. As Mabel hurriedly nudged her friend to go ahead, a strong, calloused hand grabbed Mabel's wrist. Mabel was having not of that and delivered a stinging slap to an unshaven but hewn jaw. She was overwhelmed by repressed hurt. Maria tried to calm the situation down with the ladies hurriedly escaping after a few attempts. Zack met a stunned Leo standing in the same position, weary lines on his face. After some consideration, he held up a business card with a naughty smirk. Mabel refused to talk on her way back to the hotel but lying in bed that night, her memories came to the forefront. After a sleepless night she called Maria to confirm her schedule. A barrage of questions of Mabel's well-being were fired by Maria, which Mabel answered quietly. Seven o' clock sharp, the doorbell rang with a sombre trip to the restaurant. When the meals arrived, a frizzle of awareness ran up Mabel's spine. A voice which haunted her dreams announced Leo's presence. Crossing her hands across her chest, Mabel sat back without a word. As soon as Leo broached the topic of the first time they had made love, Mabel lost it and flung her plate of spaghetti at him. He made light of the attack and pleaded that he was threatened by Adele the morning after their sweet night. She had maliciously filmed them entwined asleep and would share a copy with the entire school. He had stayed away to protect Mabel's reputation. Troy had lied to the Coach which got him kicked off the team. His dad had gotten a job transfer out of state which was a clean break. Leo continuously professed his love whilst raining kisses along Mabel's face, hands and wrists. She softly returned her love enveloped in those strong arms that were imprinted in her memory forever and a day.
The Covid-19 pandemic that has swept through America has been quite a confusing experience, filled with a series of mixed emotions. It has been a period of time where I've been able to truly reflect on myself and my life— not because I never had the time, but rather because of everyone else's reactions to total isolation compared to my own. I am fortunate enough to say that my experience with this pandemic has been relatively okay, especially in terms of my education, compared to the experiences of those who I've talked to. For those that I know, their plight has not revolved around the virus going about, but rather the education system and its response to the national disaster. They are crushed under the weight of ginormous assignments with cutthroat deadlines; drowning in stormy seas of unusually terrible grades, circulating disappointment from their families and hardships at home, and merciless teachers who— despite their roles as guides for their students' futures— sneer at them for not being able to “do their jobs.” Their mental health withers by the mere second. Much of these people are mentally disabled. They'd rather be dead than continue their education under these circumstances. Oftentimes I find myself wishing to switch places with them, just to give them a bit of peace. Unlike my disabled peers, my plight comes from coping with the effects of this world's ableism while being in the pandemic. I am autistic. I was unaware of this fact for most of my life, and I did not get an official diagnosis until earlier this school year. I grew up in a neighborhood that had an extremely poor reception of my existence, and so I was ostracized, undermined and bullied by most of my classmates as well as my teachers. With that being said, I had become more comfortable within the walls of my own home rather than the outdoors where many children played. I never understood why the world seemed to be so against me, I had simply thought I was born unlucky. And so the norm for me became sitting alone on my bed, chatting with online friends who shared similar hardships of my own, completing my daily tasks, and then going to sleep. Every day was the same, and yet I never complained despite how obsolete my living situation was. I thought it was better than daring to ever step outside the lines where I was guaranteed safety. I never felt that lonely until the pandemic came around the corner in March, and everyone was on the internet complaining about a living situation they were forced into— one that I had long grown accustomed to since I was a little kid. It wasn't until then that I realized just how much of the lived experience had been taken away from me. Yet I still didn't understand why it was all happening, and I continued to not understand until I got my diagnosis in October. It was later that month that I was given the grace of being able to finally meet some of my online friends, who were either autistic as well or simply just accepting. It felt like I was able to breathe in fresh air for the first time I had been alive. I didn't feel chained to a specific way that I should act. I could move my limbs however I desired, I could speak in a way that was authentic to me, I could rest my eyes wherever was comfortable without being reminded of social “rules.” I was free to stim in any way my mind and body guided me to. I was free. For the first time in my life I felt free, and I mourned heavily that night when I had to go back to my daily life, confined to the bars of my room where I felt like I'd rot away. I was given a smidgen of freedom before being locked away again. My heart continues to yearn for just another taste, under the forced isolation and quarantine from the plaguing virus.
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