By the time Annabel arrived at the school to pick up her son and daughter for their every-other-weekend trip to Bluewater to see their Aunt Rachel and Cousin Caroline, Daniel was full-blown crying, with his sister Rowena trying her best to comfort him. He had just been dumped by someone who, so it seemed, was finally a great match. She pulled her brother into a hug and whispered, “You don’t need her. In about 6 hours, we will be with Caroline. Mom and Dad are here.” Rowena knew that Daniel’s crying would eventually subside with large doses of hugs and cuddling. “Christie was a jerk to you anyways,” Rowena whispered as they got into the car.
“I want you to meet my new neighbor when you arrive,” Caroline said over the phone as they got into the car.
“Oh,” Daniel asked.
“Yep, you’ll see them when you arrive,” Caroline replied.
They finally arrived in Bluewater and Caroline came down to the car, very excited. “Daniel, I want you to meet our neighbor, Opal,” Caroline said. “Opal, my cousin Daniel,” Caroline said confidently. Daniel was very nervous, having just arrived in Bluewater for the weekend after being horribly dumped by that lunatic from Virginia Beach, which was not lost on his cousin. Caroline explained to Opal, “Please be easy with him.”
He looked towards his cousin, as if to ask if he was saying too much. Caroline gently took his hand as she said to Opal, “He is very nervous. Someday, me speaking for him will make sense.” Caroline wasn’t ready to tell Opal that the reason Daniel didn’t want to speak up for himself was part of his Autism.
“Let’s all walk,” Opal suggested, thinking a stroll of Valley Square Park might not be a bad idea, hoping to loosen Daniel’s nerves.
Caroline put her arm around her cousin while Opal walked alongside of them, and said, “It’s OK to open up to Opal.” She realized that Daniel needed proof that Opal was trustworthy, and planned on presenting proof. Rowena, Daniel’s sister, would need to meet Opal. After being treated like trash, Daniel was stubborn that any girl would have to pass his sister’s “smell test.”
Rowena came over and realized exactly what was going on. “Opal,” Rowena explained as she took her to the side, “Please understand that my brother is used to heartbreak, sadly. He is simply afraid that it will happen again, and as his sister, I don’t want to see him hurt again. He has a mental disability that makes him very unsure of himself in social situations,”
“Ah, this is making sense now,” Opal replied.
Rowena said, “I don’t mind you getting to know him as a friend, but, until we get to know you better, please leave it at friendship.”
Opal said, “I sort of understand, at least on the heartbreak end. There is a reason I never met my father: my mother says that he was abusive, always drunk, and never held a job for too long. There were a few times he tried to visit, but he is no dad to me. I know it’s not the same, but that’s my background.”
At Rowena’s suggestion, Opal offered Daniel a hug, than sat him down in the gazebo as she put her arm around him. Rowena looked on approvingly as she started explaining the every other weekend visitation arrangements they have. “So, basically Dad and Aunt Rachel get to see each other every weekend, and it lets Daniel and I see Caroline every weekend,” She said.
Returning to the Duplex since it was getting late, Daniel started tearing up a bit. “Here, take my hand,” Opal whispered in a comforting voice as Caroline looked at them, silently approving the idea that her cousin was becoming close with her next door neighbor.
“It’s alright Daniel, take her hand,” Caroline thought to herself, hoping her cousin would become at ease with Opal.