“I climb them — there are twelve in total. Then I stand on the landing, and everything blacks out.”
Nobody lives in the house next door. At least, that’s what Haley told me. Our house is in a friendly family neighborhood where everyone knows everyone. The people here click like clockworks — complicated and intricate, always keeping perfect time. Every minute is filled up, with no time for stragglers. And like a clock, one extra piece can set everything off kilter. In this case, there are two extra pieces — me and the house.
Haley is my sister. She thinks we look nothing alike and I guess I’ll have to take her word for it. I’m not entirely sure what I look like anyway. Not anymore, at least. I lost my sight five years ago, when we moved here.
The day we got here, Haley and I went exploring. We peeked through holes in fences, spying on the new neighbors, tiptoeing through yards and climbing trees and dropping down lightly into the next neighbor’s yard. Where we live, all the houses are in the same area — a large cul-de-sac with more than twenty crisp-looking houses placed in a neat, but relaxed oval. One house away from the empty one, two from our own, I stumbled on a naughty runaway vine, the kind that trips and chokes your house, growing over windows and clinging to walls, gripping with a sticky iron fist. Blood poured out of my leg, bright crimson streams quickly staining my feet.
“Oh, no,” Haley whispered.
“Oww,” was my sad excuse of a reply.
Haley had a look on her face, the kind of look that in my five years of living meant she was up to something. “Alright Princess Caroline, since you’re such important royalty, I shall let you lean on me as I escort you home,” she grinned. Weakly, I grinned back, and in no more than an instant, two very young girls could be seen giggling away down the street.
And when I woke up the next morning, I was blind.
Those colors have faded now, and often I wonder if that vine is gone now, or if Mr. Ross’ patio is still blood-stained, him walking out to water his flowers, and wondering whose blood was spilled on his property. I lie in bed, mine being the bottom bunk of an untidy room I share with Haley. I close my eyes and drift off to sleep.
Haley shakes me awake. “Up, sleepyhead!” she says.
I toss and turn a bit for emphasis. “Alright,” I respond lazily.
“I laid out clothes for you,” Haley tells me.
I can sense her aura — a buzz or a certain color that person is radiating. Haley’s is orange and bouncy-excited. I turn my head to face her. “You excited about something?” I ask her.
I guess she’s nodding as she tells me this, but to be honest, I can’t be sure of anything. “What?” I say.
“Secret,” she tells me.
We are home-schooled. Whenever I ask why, I get the same unsatisfactory reply. “You’re special, Caroline, special.” What does that mean, special? Does it mean gifted? Does it mean athletic? Does it mean disabled? Does it mean BLIND? I hate that answer. It’s so… vague.
When I ask this this morning, Mom tells me, “No school today.”
She sounds so depressed, I don’t bother asking why. Her aura is black. Black and liquidy. Like a patch of oil. Thick and gooey, forever sinking through anything and everything, never stopping, slow and sluggish.
Haley interrupts my train of thought. She grabs my hand and pulls me towards the door. I grab my walking stick and head out. Apparently, it’s hot pink. When I was five, that was my favorite color. Every day, I would wear something pink. Pink dress, pink top, pink whatever. I still do. I make sure of it.
“Where are we going?” I ask Haley. She doesn”t answer. “Haley!”
“We’re here!” she chirps.
“What?” I say
“Oh. Where are we?”
“Secret,” she reminds me.
Haley lets go of my hand. She pushes open an old, uncared-for gate, and I walk through. The gate clangs shut, an echo banging around the cul-de-sac. The path to the place where my sister is kindly not telling me about is overgrown and the bricks are loose under my feet. We come to a stop.
“Step here,” Haley says.
I climb them — there are twelve in total. Then I stand on the landing, and everything blacks out.
When I fainted, everything really did black out. I was wiped out of consciousness. I couldn’t see — not with sound, not with touch. All other senses — my window into the big world — no match for a blind ten-year-old, lost. For a second, I was actually helpless.
A hand — which I very well know is Haley’s — warm and heavy, comforting, yet strong, rests on my forehead. “Stand up,” she informs me, more direct and firm than I’ve ever heard. I stand up.
“Caroline, cover your eyes,” she tells me.
I feel something familiar boiling up inside. A hot, flaming mass strangling me. Inside, lava bubbles up so high, I explode. “What? What are you talking about?! Don’t tell me to ‘cover my eyes.’ I’m blind as it is! Don’t act like I can see, ‘cause I can’t! Whatever game you’re playing at, it’s not funny! It’s sick!”
“Please, Caroline,” she says softly, like a wounded soldier saying their last words and “I love yous.” Her aura is blue and small, fading away. Light, but holding a heavy burden.
But for me, “please” doesn’t cut it. “Fine! I’ll be your docile little sheep! I’ll play the obedient little blind girl! Fine!” I smack my hands over my eyes. My face stings.
“Yes, master,” I retort.
She opens yet another door and we both walk inside.
“Uncover your eyes.”
I gasp. The dust from the explosion is still settling, but somewhere in the haze, a bright light beams, and a flood of blues, reds, pinks, greens, a rainbow, streams past my eyes. A little voice in my head says, light, color. My mind is clear. A sudden feeling of happiness overwhelms me. Something nags at my brain. Nobody lives in the house next door.