Chapter 8:  Free

It was Wednesday afternoon, and Serena had dropped Alex off after gymnastics tryouts since Olivia’s swim team tryouts were running late.  After about a half hour of studying for the Psychology quiz the next day, Alex set her notebook aside and went downstairs.  Seeing her mother sitting in an armchair reading, she nervously approached her.  “Hey, Mom?”


“Yes, dear?” her mother responded without looking up, adjusting her feet on the ottoman.


“You know Olivia’s birthday is coming up…”


“Is that so?” her mother asked, continuing to flip through her magazine.  “When is it?”


“Um…Monday,” Alex answered nervously.


Madeline looked up.  “And this is a problem because you will be on punishment until Tuesday, correct?”  Alex nodded.  Madeline put down her magazine and smiled.  “And let me guess, Alexandra.  You would like to celebrate Olivia’s birthday with her.  Am I correct?”


“Yes, I would,” Alex responded, wringing her hands.


Madeline narrowed her eyes.  “Did you break things off with that good-for-nothing boy?”


Alex sighed.  “Yes, Mother.  I’d rather spend all my time with Olivia anyway than some boy.”  Well, at least I’m not lying about the latter, Alex thought.


Her mother smiled.  “Good, dear.  Well, I guess since you’ve acquiesced to our wishes, I could give you a break.  I’ll let you off punishment tomorrow.”


Alex threw her arms around her mother’s neck.  “Oh, thank you!  Thank you!  You have no idea how much this means to Olivia and me!”


Her mother smiled wryly and patted her back.  “I think I do.”




After bounding back up the stairs two at a time, Alex ran into her room and immediately called Olivia.  “Hey, sweetie.  What’s up?” Olivia answered.


“You’ll never guess what just happened!”




“Mom’s letting me off punishment tomorrow!”


Olivia was equally ecstatic.  She jumped up off her bed.  “Really?  That’s great, Alex!  We get to spend my birthday together all day!”


“And night,” Alex added slyly.


Olivia laughed.  “That, too.”


“I’m so fucking excited, Liv…I could just scream!” Alex exclaimed, doing just that.


Olivia pulled the phone away from her ear.  “Not so loud, sweetie.  I value my eardrums.  And I’m sure your mom probably does as well.”


Alex laughed.  “Sorry, Liv.”


“So why’d she let you off early?”


“Well, I told her your birthday was coming up Monday and she asked if I had broken up with ‘Mike.’  I told her I had and that I’d rather spend all my time with you than some boy.  So she agreed to let me off punishment.”


“That’s fantastic, sweetie.  I’m so happy for you.  And for us,” Olivia replied.


“I wish you were here now,” Alex said with a sigh.  “I just wanna throw myself into your arms and stay there forever.”


Olivia chuckled.  “I’ll be over tomorrow, sweetie.  And the next day.  And the day after that…”


“I know!” Alex replied with a squeal.  “So…what do you want in particular for your birthday?”




“Well, that’s inevitable, silly!  I mean besides me!”


“Well, a cake would be nice.  I haven’t had one for the past two years,” Olivia said softly.


Alex felt that her heart would break at Olivia’s solemn admission.  She thought that a person as wonderful and kindhearted as Olivia should not be denied such a traditional tribute to the day she entered the world.  She didn’t want to sound like she felt sorry for Olivia because she knew Olivia hated to have people pity her, so she responded simply, “Done.”


Olivia smiled.  She loved how enthusiastic Alex was to make her birthday special.  She was used to being self-sufficient, but she didn’t mind the idea of Alex taking care of her every once in awhile.  “Thank you.”


“You don’t have to thank me, Olivia.  I’d give you the whole world if you asked for it.”


Olivia felt her eyes prick with tears.  “Oh, Alex.  You already are the whole world to me.”


Alex smiled at the amount of emotion in Olivia’s voice.  Trying not to become overwhelmed with emotion herself, she asked, “So how was the first day of tryouts?”


Olivia sighed.  “Hell.  We had a full hour of endurance tests.  Every muscle in my body aches from having to freestyle from one end of the pool to the other.  And when I walked outside I thought I’d turn into a popsicle!”


“Do you think you’ll make the team?”


“Well, we’ve only had one day of tryouts, but I’m pretty sure of it,” Olivia said with the air of confidence that Alex absolutely loved about her.  “Tomorrow is breaststroke and butterfly, then Friday is back.  Freestyle has always been my favorite, but I’m not worried about the other strokes.”


“You have a killer backstroke, too,” Alex complimented her.


“Thanks, babe.  How did gymnastics go?”


“Good.  We did a lot of floor exercises.  I wanna get a little more height on my salto twists after I do my last back handspring, though. ”


“I’m sure they were perfect,” Olivia said admirably.  She’d watched a few of Alex’s tumbling classes for cheerleading and considered her to be the best on the team.  She knew how hard Alex worked to strive for perfection.  Alex loved cheerleading, however, this was mostly because it integrated her passion—tumbling.  After pausing briefly, Olivia asked, “Did Abbie try to talk to you?”


“Well, she came over afterwards to say hi and tell me I looked really solid today.  She suggested that if we both make the team, we can get together and work on our routines sometime.”


Olivia rolled her eyes.  “I have a routine I’d like to show her,” she muttered.  “One that involves my foot and her ass.”


Alex giggled.  “Liv, you’re so silly.  I’m a little nervous about tomorrow, though.  We’re doing kips on the uneven bars.”


Olivia’s brow furrowed.  “Sweetie, that’s a little dangerous, don’t you think?  I don’t want you falling and getting hurt.”


Alex smiled, touched that Olivia was so concerned about her safety.  “I’ll be fine, Liv.”


“Good, cuz I don’t want you hopping around on crutches on my birthday.”


“Oh, I know, right?  That would really suck,” Alex agreed.


“Yeah, it would.  You nervous about Olivet’s quiz tomorrow?” Olivia asked, looking in her closet for a fresh shirt.  Having Alex for a girlfriend was definitely a positive influence in rectifying her organization habits, or the lack thereof.  After Alex organized her closet by color and garment and got her a giant wicker hamper, Olivia no longer threw her dirty laundry in a sky-high pile on the floor, and she always took care to hang her freshly washed laundry in the closet.  Alex had even gotten her in the habit of folding her underwear and tucking it neatly into her drawers.


“Nah.  I looked over my notes a little before tryouts and after I got back home.  What about you?”


Olivia laughed.  “I think you know the answer to that.”


“Come on, Liv.  Promise me you’ll study before tomorrow morning,” Alex insisted.


“Ok, ok.  But just for you.  I wish I could come over and study.”


“I know, Liv.  Me, too.  But if you were over, I wouldn’t be able to get any studying done.”


“And why is that?” Olivia asked in an amused voice.


“Because you always distract me,” Alex told her.


Olivia laughed.  “I do not!” she protested.


“Do, too!  You’re always playing with my glasses or my hair!  Or making those big puppy dog eyes at me so I’ll cuddle with you.”


Olivia grinned.  “Hey, I can’t help it.  Besides.  It always works, doesn’t it?”


Alex hated to admit it but when Olivia turned those big brown eyes on her like that, she would always do anything she wanted.  “I plead the fifth.”


Olivia smirked on her side of the line.  “I bet.  But speaking of your glasses, you know what helps me fall asleep?”


“What?  You secretly had a pair made just like them?”


Olivia chuckled.  “No, baby.  You remember when I sent you that pic I took of you with my cell right before Thanksgiving?”


Alex smiled at the recollection.  “The one you snuck and took when I’d fallen asleep studying with my glasses still on?”


Olivia grinned.  “Yep.  That one.”


“Yeah.  What about it?”


“Well…I printed it out and sometimes when I’m having trouble falling asleep, I pick it up and stare at it.  You look so cute and innocent in it…it makes me doze right off.  It’s kinda like counting sheep—but better!”


Alex grinned.  “Aww, that’s really cute, Liv.”


“Yeah, I thought so.  Anyway, you wanna review stuff tomorrow morning before 1st period?”




“Cool.  Well, I need to go take a shower, but I’ll give you a call when I’m out, ok?” Olivia said, beginning to undress.


“Ok.  Don’t forget.”


“Trust me, Al.  I’d never forget to call you.  I love you.”


“I love you too, Liv.  Bye.”


“Bye, sweetie,” Olivia said, closing her phone.


Alex snuggled back against her pillows and smiled.  Life can’t get any better than this, she thought happily.  She started to pick up her Psychology notebook again but then thought against it.  Tearing out a piece of paper, she began making a list of all the things she planned to do for Olivia’s birthday instead.