Wednesday, January 30, 2019

new Devo Diary

Hi everyone, here is the latest chapter of Devo Diary! I know you are all wondering what happened to Sean. Since there was a part 1, there must be a part 2, right? I did hear from him again but not for several months, and so much happened before that. So please be patient for part 2--like how it happened in real life, it will turn up when you least expect it.

But don't worry, he was not the only hot para I met around this time. Next up:
Devo Diary Chapter 54: Wheelchair Basketball

More basketball practice with The Mantis, more early days of Paradevo, plus the theatrical release of the movie Murderball.

And as always, the Table of Contents

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

New post for Forever First Love

Here is the next chapter for Forever First Love. Thank you for everyone who read the previous chapters and for the comments. This chapter is all about Matt in hospital.


Chapter 3

Monday, January 28, 2019

New chapter "Will Love Prevail"

Hi friends,🌞
after a small delay since I worked late shifts over the weekend I now edited over the next chapter and give you Chapter 14 of Will Love Prevail. This is somewhat of a transitioning chapter in Mark's story since Chiara left.
Thanks for your patience and sticking with me and my story, feedback always welcome. 
Hugs and hope everyone is well,
Dani 💌

Sunday, January 27, 2019

New Release! My Perfect Fiance

For those of you who loved reading Noah and Bailey's story in My Perfect Ex-Boyfriend, but were frustrated because you didn't get to see enough of them being a couple... well, I listened to your feedback.  And I wrote a sequel that has a ton more of Noah and Bailey, even chapters from Noah's point of view.  It's one of my favorite things I've written:




Get it on Amazon, available NOW!  Here's the blurb:

My fiancé is the greatest guy ever.

Noah is sweet, he’s ridiculously sexy, he’s teaching my headstrong first grader how to read, and even his snoring is at an acceptable level of loudness. I can’t wait to marry this man. There’s only one thing that can stop us from living happily ever after:

My ex-husband, Theo.

Theo was a terrible husband and worse father. But now he’s back in my life, and no matter what I say, he can’t accept the fact that I’m marrying another man. Theo is desperate to get his family back.

And he’s not going down without a fight.


Get it on Amazon, available NOW!

Update to Love is Blind!

Here is this week's update to Love is Blind.  As usual, I would love any feedback because it is a work in progress.  But FYI, there are some deleted and reorganized scenes, so that could explain some discrepancies:

Chapter 4

And I finally made a Table of Contents!

Also, I have a surprise for you guys that I'll post later today!  Some of you might have figured out what it is, but for those who haven't, will post again soon!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

In/Exhale Continues


I'll keep this short and sweet today!

Previously on In/Exhale: David goes to his job interview with the Deafie he met at the Jonesville Deaf Club meeting, and it doesn't go the way he'd expected. Kai has some time with Renee in which they seem to be getting closer, only for the bubble to burst, breaking her heart. David discovers keeping Kai safe is a lot harder than he anticipated.

This Week on In/Exhale: David catches up with Kai, who's struggling with everything that's going on in his life. Kai apologizes to Renee, but lashes out at Jon as the day concludes.

Coming Up on In/Exhale: Kai and Renee finally get to celebrate Valentine's Day together. Although Kai's day gets off to a rough start, he's determined to make the day as special for Renee as possible. The two grow closer, but a late-night phone call threatens to derail everything. . . .

February 12, 2001 - Part III



Unfortunately, the past few weeks have been pretty rough for me and I haven't been able to be as productive as I would have liked. As a result, as of this writing, February 13, 2001 isn't finished. However, I'd say it's about 90% complete, and since I was able to get my last dose of specialized medication on time this past Saturday, I'm hoping I'll be feeling well enough to post the first episode of the likely four-part season finale starting February 6, 2019. I'm very excited that the first couple episodes will actually happen around Valentine's Day, which I think is the first time that I've ever been able to coincide what's happening in In/Exhale with real-life holidays.

I'm slowly catching up with posting full days/chapters on my site, http://chiealeman.com/, so if you prefer to read them that way instead of in episode form, they post every Sunday. Once the season concludes, I will format the entire season into an ebook as I have in the past, and offer it for free download on my site. Additionally, I will take a break before Season 4 begins to re-start (and hopefully) finish my story Love UnSeen. If I'm lucky, I'll try to work on both that and S4 at the same time.

Thank you again for your support and feedback despite my long absence from the site. It really means a lot!

-CA

PS - As always, you can catch up with In/Exhale at any time via the Table of Contents - you can even find summaries of major story arcs at the bottom of the page.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

New Post for Forever First Love

Here is the second chapter of Forever First Love. This chapter is mainly about Matt's accident.  Hope you enjoy.








Forever First Love - Chapter 2




Here is the first chapter for anyone who missed it.


Forever First Love - Chapter 1

Monday, January 21, 2019

New Chapter "Will Love Prevail"

Hi friends,
happy Monday! I was just watching the Super Blood Wolf Moon through binoculars on my balcony, it looked very awesome.🌘
Well, I was a little worried about last week's chapter and I hope I didn't shock you too much with the turn of events and somewhat explicit scene.🖤
In my original story Chiara wasn't going to be with Mark yet for a while and remember I rewrote the story to give you some close moments between the two so you wouldn't have to wait too long. 💑 Yes, I took Chiara away again and I'm coming around to some of the original story plot again. I hope you are still going to stick with the story and I hope you're still going to enjoy the following chapters.
Comments are always welcome and I thank you so much for reading.
Here is Chapter 13 of "Will Love Prevail".
Hugs, Dani🌜

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Update to Love is Blind

There's a blizzard coming tonight, so I wanted to schedule this post before the power went out.  Without any further delay, Colin and Sophie finally meet:

Chapter 3

Also, if you missed it, here is Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.  Next time I will for sure make a TOC!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Update to He's Not Mr. Perfect

Oof! I almost missed this week's installment. Got some pretty bad news, didn't have the heart to finish editing it today, on Friday, so I hope it's all good. I leave you with

Chapter VI -- Dinner & a Movie

From now on, things will take off for these two. I feel like you've had enough of date-chapters, haha Would love to hear what you think about it in the comments.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

New Devo Diary

It's time for more Devo Diary! In this chapter, I meet the sporty para of my dreams. What could possibly go wrong? I know you all have been waiting for more hot wheeler action, so here it is.

Devo Diary Chapter 53: Sean, part 1


Table of Contents

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Chapter 1 - Forever First Love


Hi, here is the introduction to my new book. Unfortunately there are no devvy parts today but it will get to those parts pretty soon. Hope you enjoy and that there aren't too much typos.


Monday, January 14, 2019

Chapter 1 - Forever First Love

Forever First Love


Chapter 1




Chloe





I remember the first time that I met Matthew Hopkins so clearly. My parents had decided to have a BBQ in the garden, and Ben’s mum had recently started working with my mum at the bank. The Hopkins were new to the area so mum thought it would be nice to invite them. Mr and Mrs Hopkins arrived with 3 children behind them, twins Sarah and Emma and their younger brother Matthew. My sister Nicola was playing in the Wendy house at the bottom of the garden so the twins quickly vanished into there. I was practising my kick ups in the middle of the lawn and Matt confidently approached me and asked, “fancy a game of heads and volleys?”




For the rest of the night I played football with Matt. We practiced penalties, kick ups and had a game of cuppy. followed by playing Mario Kart on the Nintendo for what felt like hours. When it was finally time for the Hopkins to leave, I was gutted. I had found a new friend and was hoping that it wouldn’t be the last time that I saw him however, our mums promised we would do something the following weekend which both myself and Matt were very happy about.

New Chapter "Will Love Prevail"

Hi friends,
another week gone by and I have been so busy starting the new year and life stuff....
But here is Chapter 12 of "Will Love Prevail".
It's not as long as usual but I hope you are okay with that. I have been working a lot last week and just trying to at least get something posted for you. More next week.
Thanks for reading and commenting, very much appreciated,
Hugs, Dani

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Chapter 2 - Forever First Love

Chapter 2

 

Chloe


 

I can’t believe how quick the last 3 years had gone. One more exam and I was a fully-fledged nurse and Matt would have his degree in business and finance. We could then finally begin our lives together for real.

 

“Good luck babes, you go and knock them dead,” Matt stated as he placed a firm kiss on my lips. “I can’t wait until you are qualified and you can be my very own dirty nurse.”

“One more exam and this nurse will show you how good her bedside manner is,” I replied whilst giving his bum a firm squeeze.

 

Update to Love is Blind

Hi, everyone!  Thanks so much for the feedback on my new story!  As I said, writing about a blind character is new to me, and especially writing from that guy's perspective.  So I appreciate your thoughts and telling me if I'm on target!

Chapter 2

And for those of you who haven't read it yet, here is Chapter 1.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Chapter 3 - Forever First Love


Chapter 3

 

Chloe

When Mr and Mrs Hopkins returned it was my turn. I slowly walked down the hall and froze outside the ICU door. Carly grabbed hold of my hand and gave it a little squeeze. Quietly and slowly I pushed the heavy grey door open, and before me lay Matt, hooked up to that many machines it was hard to make him out. I pulled up beside him and carefully picked up his hand and brought it towards my lips. “Don’t you worry about this. I need you to rest now because when you wake up we have a hell of a fight on our hands,” I sobbed whilst kissing his hand. “It’s going to be hard work, but I’m with you every step of the way. We’ll beat this, just you wait and see.” After a couple more minutes the doctor told us we needed to leave because Matt needed rest.

Update to He's Not Mr.Perfect

Hey!

First of all, sorry about missing last week. I got stranded at the beach, no internet to speak of, so I couldn't update, sorry about that. Now I hope you like this (redemption? lol) chapter, because it wasn't going to be today's update at all, I wrote it this week as a bonus thanks to the spare time I had and I thought it was a pretty nice addition. Not as long as the last chapter, but I think it's nice enough to make up for it. Tell me what you think, I really appreciate it.
About the story Anita, I liked some of your suggestions of alternating between the stories and I think I might! Let's see how it goes.

Without further ado:

Chapter V - Cappuccinos & Croissants

Enjoy!

Oh, and I have finally put together a Table of Contents to make your life easier.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Chapter 4 - Forever First Love


Chapter 4

 


Matt



I didn’t sleep well that night, my mind was constantly going over whether I could make Chloe go through the torment of living her life with a useless cripple. I loved her more than I could imagine ever loving anyone else. If I decided to let her go, it would break my heart, but I knew I needed to make a decision sooner rather than later, and not for me, but for Chloe.


Around 10am two members of the nursing staff walked in and told me they were going to give me a bed wash and generally clean me up. So far other than my bowel management this was by far the most degrading aspect of my disability and one that I was in no rush for anyone else to witness.


The curtain had been half pulled around me to prevent anyone who walked into my room from seeing me immediately. I was laid naked on the bed whilst one of the nurses was emptying my catheter and the other one was cleaning around my penis.


Just at that minute I heard a rustling at the curtains and very quietly Chloe appeared around the side. “It’s only me,” she said quietly in a very hesitant voice.

“Great, good timing,” replied one of the nurses. “You can watch what we do so you can help him in the future.”

“Er… erm, ok,” stuttered Chloe.


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Chapter 5 - Forever First Love


Chapter 5

2 years later

Chloe

I’d finally got into the swing of reality as I returned from my world trip. After I’d returned I couldn’t face returning to live in my own town, because the likelihood would be that I’d bump into Matt on a daily basis and I still wasn’t quite ready for that. The last thing I had heard about Matt was from my mum around 11 months ago when he had been discharged from rehab and had moved home with his mum and dad around the corner from my parents. My mum felt the need to fill me in with way too many details and at that point I told her I no longer wanted to hear about Matt until it was something serious to do with his health. So now I was living around 30 minutes away just outside Leeds city centre with my good friend Carly.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Chaper 6 - Forever First Love


Chapter 6

Matt
I rolled into my old bedroom at my parents’ house and sighed. The room reminded me of so many happy times as a kid and I couldn’t help but smile. On my wall there was a collage of photos throughout my school and college years and Chloe was on nearly every single one. I rolled closer and took a closer look. One photo that brought back strong memories was a photo of a group of us camping in Chloe’s back garden. Instantly I was thrown back to that night.

Three tents were pitched around the outside of the garden and in the middle we all sat on the cold, damp ground with a bottle in the middle ready to play spin the bottle. We’d played the game for a little while, but now the cider we had been discretely drinking was starting to reach our heads and we were all feeling over confident. “Ok, next two people it lands on need to have a full blown snog that lasts for a minute,” said Anthony, a lad from school, in a cocky voice.
“Ok, it’s my turn to spin the bottle,” demanded Carly. She spun the bottle and before I knew it, it had landed on me.
“Ok big lad, your turn to spin it to find out who you are going to snog,” stated Chloe’s cousin Darryl. I looked around and I knew instantly where I wanted it to land. I was known as one of the popular lads in my year and all the girls sat around were posing waiting for it to land on one of them. However, not one of those is where I wanted it to land. Laid on her belly next to me was Chloe who was resting her face in her hands. She was wearing a football T-shirt and shorts and had her hair scraped back into a pony. “Come on Matt,” Chloe moaned. “We haven’t got all day.”

In/Exhale Continues

Welcome back, everyone! This week is an emotional roller coaster for Kai, Renee, and David...

Previously On In/Exhale: David found Kai naked and confused at Nikki's new apartment. Concerned he may have tried to overdose the night before, he tells Dr. Miller about it, who drills Kai. Kai denies it; he's more concerned that he may have had sex with Nikki and cheated on Renee, though his memory of the previous night after he left Frankie's house is sketchy. Dr. Miller decides it would be best if Kai moved up his admission to Harbinger to Valentine's Day, and celebrated the holiday tomorrow instead. David has to go to a job interview, so he encourages Renee not to leave Kai unattended, though he won't say why.

This Week On In/Exhale: David goes to his job interview with the Deafie he met at the Jonesville Deaf Club meeting, and it doesn't go the way he'd expected. Kai has some time with Renee in which they seem to be getting closer, only for the bubble to burst, breaking her heart. David discovers keeping Kai safe is a lot harder than he anticipated.

Next Time On In/Exhale: David catches up with Kai, who's struggling with everything that's going on in his life. Kai apologizes to Renee, but lashes out at Jon.


February 12, 2001 - Part II



The final episode of Feb 12 will be the week after next, or January 23. I'm doing my best to finish up the last day of the season, but it's been tough. I *might* have to take an extra week off after next week to finish. I'll do my best NOT to, but heads up in advance.

Thanks for all your comments last week. It's good to be back on the blog. I wish I was able to be more productive so I could guarantee more consistent content in the weeks to come, but I am grateful for those of you who waited for me and Kai to return.

-CA

As always, you can catch up any time with the Table of Contents.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Chapter 7 - Forever First Love


Chapter 7

 

Chloe


 

After the wedding I’d received one or two text messages off Matt but that was all. I’d hoped our friendship would rekindle into best friends again, but that didn’t seem to be happening anytime soon.

 

Final Update For The One

Hi everyone


This will be my last post for The One and I will be posting the new story Forever First Love next week. I have put an extended chapter on today and people who want to read it the rest it is available on Amazon. I have recently found out that you can download the Kindle App without actually having a kindle if people weren't aware.




Chapter 7


Link to the book

Monday, January 7, 2019

What It Was - Table Of Contents

Hi friends,

here is the start of a TOC for "What It Was"

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10

Love is Blind: Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 8 - Forever First Love


Chloe
Since the football game, Matt and I had become inseparable again and I was over the moon. We texted and spoke on the phone constantly and made sure we met at least once a week for tea. Earlier on in the week we had met up in my local pub for our tea and to play the quiz, when Matt let it slip that he’d been playing wheelchair rugby for the last six months. I pestered him to let me go watch him so tonight I was meeting him at the local sports centre to watch him play and then we were going out for food.

New chapter "Will Love Prevail"

Hi friends,
hope everyone started out the new year well.
Thanks to everyone who is still reading the story.
I give you this week's chapter Chapter 11    of  "Will Love Prevail".
Hope you enjoy and if you do, I would love some comments. Thanks for reading.
Have a wonderful week,
Hugs, Dani

Here is the TOC

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Another thing....

I wanted to mention that for anyone who reads my books on Kindle Unlimited, I just put my box series about Dean and Callie (Santa's Girl) on KU for the first time.

Get the Santa's Girl Box Series on KU!

New Story from Annabelle: Love is Blind

So due to majority rules, the new story I'm posting is about the Iraq War veteran who was blinded in service. This is my FIRST blindness story, so I'm a little nervous about it, but Devogirl told me it was devvy, so I've got my fingers crossed you like it. 

Love is Blind

Summer, 2011


Colin

Where is my goddamn toothbrush?

I don’t get it.  My toothbrush was right on the ledge of the sink when I knocked it off in my attempt to pick it up.  I didn’t karate kick it off the ledge—I just knocked it off with the back of my hand and heard a clattering noise as it landed.  Which means the toothbrush should presumably be on the floor, within a one-foot radius around the sink.

Except it isn’t.  I have gotten down on my hands and knees and felt every single inch of the floor in a two-foot radius around the sink, and that toothbrush is nowhere to be found.  It has disappeared into a toothbrush vortex, entering an Evil Parallel Toothbrush Universe in which, I don’t know, toothbrushes are used to clean people’s toes instead of their mouths.

But that’s my life these days. 

My fingers hit the porcelain of the bathtub and I contemplate feeling around inside the bathtub.  It couldn’t have gone in there, could it?

Shit.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Chapter 9 - Forever First Love


Chloe


 

It had been two days since the rugby match and Matt had been the model patient. I was surprised how patient he was, but then again I’m guessing that came from learning to live with his disability and having to rely on carers.

 

I called around after work on Wednesday, which was nearly 48 hours later and Matt was sat up in bed watching television. As soon as I walked into his bedroom he pulled the quilt up to his chest. I didn’t react and sat myself down in his chair. I instantly wondered if he minded, so I asked, “you don’t mind if I sit here do you?”

“No make yourself at home,” he replied.

“So how are you feeling now? I asked. “I must say you are looking rough,” I laughed whilst giving his beard a little rub. “In need of a trim as well I’d say.”

“Thanks for the compliment,” Matt replied in a sarcastic tone. “Truthfully though, I’m not 100% yet but I’m in a hell of a lot less pain. I’m going to venture out of bed later, but not without Gemma watching me.”

“Can I have a look?” I asked.

“Sure knock yourself out,” he said.

I stood up from the chair and pulled the quilt down a little bit and stopped once I realised Matt wasn’t wearing a top. I knew that pulling it further down would only torture him and that was the last thing I wanted to do. I hoped it wouldn’t take long for Matt to become comfortable with me again like he did in the past.

 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

New Devo Diary

Happy New Year everyone! I almost forgot my day because of the holiday mid week, haha. As of next week I'll be sharing alternate Wednesdays with Chie.

Here is the next chapter of Devo Diary:

Devo Diary Chapter 52: Uri

So in this chapter I have a very brief flirtation with an AB guy, but then it's off to wheelchair basketball practice with The Mantis.

Table of Contents

Oh and by the way I have been writing more Daredevil fanfiction and posting it over on Archive of Our Own. If you're interested in that kind of thing, please check it out.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Love is Blind, Chapter 2

Colin

Time to take my pill.

Every morning, before I go downstairs for breakfast, I take one of the pills in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom.  The label for Lexapro is written in braille, but I don’t need it.  The bottle is always on the bottom shelf of the medicine cabinet, all the way on the left.  The next bottle in the row is Tylenol, which is easily distinguishable from the Lexapro by its size.  There’s one other bottle, which is my sleeping pills, although I only take those if I need them.  So the Lexapro is the only one I take every single day.

They started it back at rehab, when I refused to participate in my therapies anymore.  It wasn’t always that way—I started off strong.  Really strong.  I got out of the hospital after being seriously ill for a long time, and I was eager to get back to my real life.  I knew I had a lot of challenges ahead of me, but I was used to hard work. I thought it wouldn’t be anything I couldn’t get past with some training.  In other words, I was fucking deluded.

For three months, I was a model patient.  I learned to navigate voice-operated programs on the computer and my phone.  I learned to walk using my white cane without bumping into things (much).  I was even learning to cook.  They got me into the kitchen and had me make scrambled eggs.  I seasoned them with salt and pepper and parmesan cheese, and I joked with my therapist that they were the best eggs I ever made in my life.

The night I made the eggs, I had trouble sleeping.  I had struggled with insomnia since my injury, and usually would listen to an audiobook or ask for a sleeping pill.  But that night, I decided to use my newly acquired kitchen skills to make myself a cup of tea. 

I had a mental map of the rehab unit, so I felt confident of finding the kitchen without any difficulty.  I was so confident, I didn’t even bring my cane.  I had been there dozens of times in the three months I’d been in rehab.  Dozens of times.  It hadn’t even occurred to me I’d have any trouble.

But as it turned out, I missed the turn for the kitchen.  I kept walking, intermittently feeling the walls for landmarks, but not finding anything familiar.  At some point, I realized I had accidentally wandered out of the rehab unit entirely.  If it were daytime, someone would have rescued me quickly and brought me back, but since it was two in the morning, there was no one around.  No one I could hear, anyway.

At first, I was confident I could find my way back.  I kept feeling the walls for landmarks.  At one point, I felt the edges of a sign and was certain it would tell me where to go, but while the signs on the blind unit all had braille characters, this sign was flat.  I ran my fingers over it, frustrated that I had no way of extracting the information it contained.

It took half an hour.  Half an hour of wandering around, growing more and more frustrated and scared, before a woman’s voice asked if she could help me.  I told her in a shaky voice that I was trying to find my way back to the blind rehab unit.  She led me there, and here’s the punchline: I was only about three minutes away.  I’d been going around in circles the whole time, trying to find something practically under my nose.

I couldn’t sleep after that.  All I could think about was how I’d gotten hopelessly lost going to a place I’d been to many times before.  The thought of doing something new without help was unfathomable.  No matter how hard I worked here, I would always need help.  I was always going to be on the brink of being lost. 

For the first time since I lost my sight, I felt the full weight of my disability.

I lost interest in therapy after that.  I figured what was the point? A lot of days, the therapists had trouble persuading me to even get out of bed.  I got sick of hearing their motivational speeches.  They could see and I couldn’t, so what the hell did they know anyway?  I wanted to go home.

That’s when a psychiatrist came in to evaluate me.  No PTSD, he decided.  Just depressed.  He prescribed the Lexapro, but it didn’t help.  I still wanted to go home.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy as all that, and I knew it better than anyone.  Maybe I was competent to say I wanted to leave and they couldn’t hold me against my will, but so what?  It wasn’t like I could physically leave on my own.  I didn’t even know how to get out of the building, much less find my way back to Dorchester.  I was trapped by my disability.  They had to call my parents, who flew in to see me and to try to convince me to stay.  It didn’t work.

Well, maybe he’ll do better once he’s home, they all said.

Except I haven’t done better at home.  I’m the first to admit I haven’t made any progress whatsoever since I left rehab.  At first, I dutifully went to the low vision clinic in JP, but I refused to go once they pushed me to do anything outside of the VA.  I’ve been to the psychiatrist there once, but missed my last two appointments.

I pull the bottle of Lexapro off the shelf.  I shake it—it’s about half full.  I remove the cap and place it carefully on the sink so it doesn’t end up flying into the toilet bowl.  I shake one pill into the palm of my left hand.  Then I hesitate.

These pills don’t help.  I should just dump them down the toilet—on purpose this time.  I can’t figure out why I’m taking them other than it makes my mother happy.  I’m on the maximum dose now.  It does nothing.

I sigh and toss the pill in my mouth.  I turn on the sink, let some cold water run into my hand, and throw that down my throat to help me swallow it.  Taking the pills keeps my mother off my back, at least.

I head downstairs to get some breakfast.  I don’t use my cane inside the house, so I have to walk slowly and carefully. My parents’ house is small and I know it really well.  I keep my hand on the wall intermittently when I walk, and the dim shadows I can see are enough to ensure I probably won’t walk into a wall. Probably.

There are twelve stairs to get from the second floor to the first floor of the house.  I have to count carefully as I walk down them, holding onto the railing.  Last week, I counted wrong somehow and ended up on the floor.  I couldn’t see it, but I was told I had a black eye for days.  If I were smart, I’d use my cane in the house, but I don’t want to.

When I get to the base of the stairs, the scent of eggs fills my nostrils, and I nearly gag.  Ever since that day in rehab, I can’t stand the smell of eggs.  I know I’ve told my mother that, but she’s making them anyway.  The smell is bad enough that I nearly go back upstairs.  But I barely ate dinner last night and my stomach is growling.  Better eat.

The stench of eggs grows stronger when I get closer to the kitchen. Now that I’ve lost my sight, my buddy Dan (the only friend I’ve got who still talks to me) asks me if my other senses are heightened.  For example, do I have Super-smell?  Short answer: I do not.  But I know eggs.  I could recognize them a mile away.

A pan sizzles loudly, and I don’t get any closer.  I have no interest in getting anywhere near the stove anymore.  I can microwave anything I need to eat.  My parents put braille labels on the buttons of the microwave so I’d know what was what.

“Hi, Colin.” My mother’s voice.  I’ve gotten used to her forced cheerfulness.  “Everything okay?”

“Yeah,” I mumble.

Another sizzle from the pan.  “Do you want some eggs, honey?”

My stomach turns.  “No.  I’ll make myself some cereal.”

“I can make it for you,” she offers.

I bite back a smartass response.  She’s always pushing me to do more on my own, but somehow she doesn’t think I’m capable of making a goddamn bowl of cereal. 

“I can handle it,” I say through my teeth.

I turn to the cabinets where I know my parents keep the bowls.  I open the cabinet and pull out a medium-sized bowl.  Frosted flakes are kept on the countertop.  I find them with my fingers, open the box, and shake them into the bowl.  I don’t hear any hit the counter, which I count as a win.

“So what did you talk about with Major Floyd yesterday?” Ma asks me.

I leave my bowl of cereal to find the fridge.  Ma keeps the milk on the door of the fridge, bottom shelf, all the way on the left. 

“Quit pretending you don’t know,” I say.  I pull out the half-full carton and bring it back to the counter.  “I’m sure he had a talk with you about me.  Didn’t he?”

Ma is quiet for a minute.  She’s always been a crap liar.  “He mentioned he thought you might want to learn to read braille for books.”

I open the container of milk and sniff it.  I made the mistake of not smelling the milk in the past and ended up with a bowl of frosted flakes and sour milk.  And once a bowl of frosted flakes and orange juice.  I almost lost it when that happened. 

“So?” she says.

“So… what?”

“So are you interested in getting better at braille?”

“No.” I tip the milk carton just enough so that I don’t drench my cereal.  I hate soggy frosted flakes.  “Not really.”

“I think it would be great for you,” she says.  “It would be a challenge, but not too overwhelming.”

Somehow she’s seized on my “not really” to mean “maybe.” 

“I called the library,” she goes on.  “They didn’t have any braille books at the Dorchester branch, but they said they could order some and have them in a few days.”

“The library?” I replace the cap on the milk and walk back to the fridge to put it back where it was, where I’ll be able to find it next time.  “I’m not going to the library.  Are you out of your mind?”

“I thought it would be nice to get out of the house,” she says.

“I get out of the house.”

“Walking to the corner store every day and back is not getting out of the house.” 

Every few days, when I feel like I’m suffocating within the walls of my bedroom, I take a walk.  I’ve got a map in my head of everything on the five-block walk to the mini-mart at the corner. I know where all the crosswalks are. Raj at the mini-mart knows my situation and doesn’t act awkward when I come in the door.  He pours me a coffee, and I know the stools and the counter are on the left.  The chances of my falling, injuring myself, looking like an idiot, or getting lost during this excursion are relatively minimal.

“Please, Colin.” The smell of eggs is fading.  Maybe she’s done cooking.  “I think this would be good for you.”

I feel around in the drawer below the counter for a spoon.  Ma was always the queen of weird spoons—the silverware drawer contained impossibly tiny spoons, comically giant spoons, spoons with holes in them for no discernible purpose. I used to joke around that it would take me half an hour to sort through all the crazy spoons and find a normal-sized spoon.  But now I feel in the first slot of the silverware sorter and pull out a normal spoon on my very first try.  It’s all she has in there anymore.  I don’t know where her crazy spoons all went.

“No, Ma,” I say.  “I don’t want to.  It’s… pointless.”

“You say everything is pointless.”

Maybe because everything is pointless.  I come out of my room for meals, I go outside every once in a while, I shower and brush my teeth—what the hell else does she want from me?

I pick up my bowl to carry it the three feet from the counter to the kitchen table.  It’s something I have done dozens of times before.  Something I’d felt confident I could handle without any difficulty.  But just like when I was in rehab and thought I could find the kitchen, there’s something waiting to trip me up. 

Except this time it’s literal.  I trip on the leg of one of the chairs.

The miracle is I manage to hold onto my cereal bowl.  But the contents go flying.  I hear Frosted Flakes hitting the floor and milk sloshes against my hand clutching the bowl.  The spoon clinks against the ground.  Or is it the table?  Who the hell knows?

If I were alone, I don’t know how I’d possibly begin to clean this up.  Maybe this is something they would have taught me if I’d stayed in blind rehab—how to clean up a bigass mess you can’t see.  Because your parents left a fucking chair in the middle of the room.

“What the hell?” I yell, my right hand balling into a fist as I slam the bowl down on the table with my left.

“Calm down,” Ma says quickly.  “It’s no big deal.  I’ll clean it up.”

“But you…” I kick at the chair—hard. There’s a loud thump as it topples to the floor.  “You left a fucking chair in the middle of the room when you knew I’d trip over it!”

“Colin, language…”

All the blood rushes to my face.  “Really, Ma?  Are you fucking kidding me?”

“Colin…”

But it’s too late.  My fist has taken on a life of its own.  Before I can stop myself, I’ve thrown a punch directly into the wall.

If I didn’t spend over an hour every day burning off my frustrations by lifting weights in my bedroom or if the walls in the kitchen were a little better reinforced, the outcome might have been different.  As it is, the plaster cracks and yields under my fist.  I may not be able to see the damage, but I know it’s bad.

And then I’m shaking.  I’ve never punched a wall before.  Never done anything like that.  I’ve seen plenty of guys in my platoon do it.  Some of those idiots broke their hands on walls less yielding than this one.  But not me.  I didn’t have a temper.  I was the guy who talked the other guys down.

I can’t believe I broke the wall.  Shit.

What the hell is happening to me?

I hear soft whimpering.  Ma.  She’s crying.  Christ, she’s crying.  I made my mother cry.

“I’m sorry, Ma.”  I rub my hands over my face.  My right knuckles feel sore—I wonder if the skin is broken.  “I didn’t mean to…”

She doesn’t say anything.  She’s still crying. 

My chest feels tight, like someone is cinching a belt around my rib cage.  “Ma?”

“I don’t know what to do for you anymore, Colin.” Her voice is barely a whisper.  “Tell me what to do.  Please.”

She’s crying harder now.  I feel awful.  I want to hug her, but I don’t entirely know where she is.

“Look,” I say, “I’ll… I can go to the library with you.  We can do the braille thing if you want.” I’m desperate to get her to stop crying, so I add, “It won’t be so bad.”

“You’ll really go?” Her voice shakes when she says the words, but she sounds hopeful.  This is not going to be something I can back out on if I agree.

“Yeah, I’ll do it.”

I jolt because my mother’s arms are suddenly around my neck.  She’s hugging me, like the way I wanted to hug her.  I hug her back, but I feel as empty as ever.  I’ll go to the library if it will make her happy.  I’ll bring my braille for dummies book.  I’ll do it for my mother.

I’ll pretend for her.  But really, nothing’s changed.

 

Sophie

Carrie McNally runs the Children’s Floor with an iron fist.

Carrie feels strongly about it.  She’s had this job for ten years now. Since you were in high school, Sophie, she always says. So that means she knows what’s best.  Kids will get out of control if you let them.  Children will be the ruin of the children’s library.

As such, there are some rules that must be followed in the Children’s Floor:

1) Absolutely no running.

2) Indoor voices only.

3) No snacks or drinks.

4) Toys can be played with for maximum of thirty minutes, and then must be returned to their proper location, even if nobody else is waiting to play with them.

5) Only adults may touch the computers.

6) No laughter or sounds of enjoyment.

Okay, the last one isn’t a real rule, but considering how steadfastly Carrie adheres to the other rules, it may as well be.  Telling kids they can use “indoor voices only” is all fine and good for a seven-year-old, but it’s hard to tell that to a one-year-old.  A one-year-old does not know what an indoor voice is.  They’re lucky if they know their name.

But Carrie is my superior and I’m not in any position to argue with her.

Right now, Carrie and I are manning the desk at the Children’s Floor together, which isn’t a very hard job.  Carrie is mostly playing with her iPhone, and I get up every fifteen minutes or so to reshelf books or check if anyone is having computer difficulties—not because it needs to be done so much as I hate sitting next to Carrie.  She’s unfriendly to me to the point of being hostile.  Do you know what it feels like to spend an entire afternoon sitting two feet away from someone who barely speaks a word to you?  It’s not fun.

I’d hoped she’d warm up to me during the three years I’ve worked here, but she hasn’t.  If anything, she’s less friendly than she was when I started. I think it bothers her that our boss Steve has taken a liking to me, and she can’t figure out why.  Morgan thinks Carrie is secretly in love with Steve.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see a toddler hurrying to the point of *gasp* running across one of the aisles of picture books while holding a *double gasp* cookie.  I glance over at Carrie and see her immediately sit up straight in her wooden chair, her hawk eyes seeing everything.  Carrie will not let this go unchecked.  Not in her library.

She gets up from her seat, smoothing out the creases on her pencil skirt and brushing imaginary dust from her argyle sweater.  Carrie has the ultimate librarian look.  She’s in her early forties, with hair that is an undetermined mix of gray and blond, with glasses that always sit low on her nose.  She looks like someone who would be sexy if she had on the right dress, lost the glasses, and tousled her hair a bit. (Isn’t that always the way with librarians?) Sometimes I look at women like Carrie and wonder… if she could be beautiful, why wouldn’t she try to be? 

I know I would.

Carrie reaches the toddler in five short strides.  By now, the little boy’s mother has come into sight too.  The mother is juggling an infant in one arm and has a diaper bag in the other arm, the size of which rivals the bags under her eyes.  This poor woman is clearly aware her toddler is running in a strict no-running zone.

“Excuse me,” Carrie says to the mother in the sharp, impatient voice she uses whenever anyone is breaking any of the rules of the Children’s Floor.  “There’s no running in the library.”

“Yes,” the woman manages as she shifts the infant on her hip.  “I know.  I’m so sorry.”  She makes a grab for her son’s arm, but he escapes her and hurries down the next aisle.  “Ryan, please don’t run!  Please!”

The boy stops for a moment to munch on his cookie.  Crumbs fall from his mouth and dust the carpeting.  Carrie inhales sharply.

“You’ll have leave if he can’t control himself,” she says.

“But my daughter is…” The woman scans the library, searching for her other child.  I spot her in another aisle, flipping through one of the chapter books.  I recognize the girl.  Her name is Delilah and she reads extremely well for a seven-year-old.  On my recommendation, she’s been working her way through the My Weird School series.  I’ve put two of them aside for her today.  “She wanted to look at books.”

“Then perhaps you and your son should wait outside,” Carrie suggests.

“Yes, we could, of course…” The woman swipes a few stray hairs from her face that have escaped from her messy ponytail.  “Um, let me just grab Ryan… and I need to tell Delilah…”

I take this opportunity to jump out of my own seat.  These wooden chairs are both dangerous and uncomfortable, and it feels so good every time I stand up.  I can’t believe Carrie’s been sitting in these awful chairs for over a decade.  No wonder she’s cranky.

“I’ll go talk to Delilah,” I say as I hurry over to them.  I smile at the mother, hoping she recognizes it as a smile.  I’ve been told my smile looks more like a grimace.  “I’ve got some books for her, anyway.”

The mother lifts her slightly bloodshot eyes to look at me.  I brace myself for her response.  I recognize her daughter, so I’d assume they’ve been to the library enough to recognize me.  But you never know.  I’m relieved when she smiles back at me.  “That would be great.  Thank you.”

Delilah is sitting in the B aisle, cross-legged on the carpet, deeply engrossed in a book as her dark hair hangs down to obscure her face.  She’s directly in front of the Judy Blume shelf.  Judy Blume—one of my favorite authors when I was a young girl.  I’ve read every word she’s ever written—even her adult books, although I didn’t like those nearly as much. 

Delilah turns a page, too caught up in the book to even notice I’m standing over her.  I kneel down beside her to see what book she’s reading.  It’s Freckle Juice.  One of the first things I ever read by Judy Blume.

“Hi, Delilah,” I say.

She lifts her own freckled face, and it breaks out in a smile.  “Hi, Sophie.”

When I first ran across Delilah at the library three years ago, she stared at me with gigantic eyes and gasped, “Are you an alien?”

Kids react to me by staring.  Always.  Sometimes they get scared like Declan Sheehan did, but a lot of them just blurt out questions.  Delilah wasn’t the first kid to ask me if I was an alien.  Kids have asked me if I was wearing a Halloween costume.  They’ve asked me if my face got melted.  Sometimes they just blurt out, “What happened to you?”

But the best thing about kids, especially little kids, is they adjust to anything.  There are adults who have been coming here for the entire three years I’ve worked here and still give me looks of disgust or pity, whereas all the regular kids now treat me just like any other adult.  They accept things and move on.

“Are you enjoying that book?” I ask Delilah.

“Uh huh.” She crinkles her little upturned nose.  “I hate my freckles.  I don’t know why anyone would want to have them.”

Delilah does admittedly have a lot of freckles.  They pour down her nose and dot her cheeks, chin and forehead.  But they suit her.  She is a beautiful girl.  When I was seven, I would have given anything to have skin like Delilah’s.  Freckles, moles, zits—anything would have been preferable to the reality.

“I like your freckles,” I tell Delilah.

Her cheeks flush.  Her skin is pale and a window to her emotions.  “Sophie?” she says.

“Yes?”

She’s staring intently at my face.  I know what she wants to ask.  She’s dying to know.  Nobody is more honest than children, and many of them will ask me outright.  Miss Sophie, why is your skin like that?  What is wrong with your nose? Where are your ears?

If they ask, I always answer honestly.  But they have to ask.  Call it shame or pride, but I won’t volunteer the information.

Delilah, however, is mature beyond her years.  She’s too shy to ask, so she just drops her head and mumbles, “Did you put aside the My Weird School books for me?”

“Of course I did.”

She rewards me with a beautiful smile that doesn’t look anything like a grimace. 

After the little girl picks out a few new books, I help her check out all her selections, then send her out in the hallway, where the rest of her family has been quarantined.  The mother flashes me a grateful look, and I have to bite my lip to keep myself from apologizing on Carrie’s behalf. 

When I get back into the room, there are no sounds of children talking or laughing.  Carrie must be happy.

“Sophie?” Carrie says to me as I slip into the seat next to hers.  She doesn’t look up from her phone as she says my name.

“Yes?”

“We need to have a talk.” This time she raises her eyes.  “Later.”

That sounded ominous.

“What about?” I ask.

She narrows her eyes at me. “We’ll discuss it later.”

I know Carrie doesn’t have the ability to fire me (because if she did, I’d be long gone), but this doesn’t sound good.  I sit there for a moment, my stomach churning.  What have I done?  I’m never late.  I haven’t been shirking on any of my responsibilities.  I haven’t been running in the library or eating snacks.  What could we possibly need to have “a talk” about?

I settle back in my uncomfortable wooden chair and try not to think about it.

To be continued....

Love is Blind, Chapter 3

Colin

I don’t know what shirt I’m wearing.

My mother puts all my T-shirts in the top drawer of my bureau.  They are all neatly folded and none of them are inside-out or anything I’ll have to fumble with while I’m getting myself dressed.  But they all feel like T-shirts to me and they all look like dim, fuzzy blobs, so I have no idea what is what. 

This morning I selected the T-shirt at the top of the pile.  I think it’s my navy blue Pats T-shirt.  I felt the logo with my fingers and it seemed about the right size and shape.  I’ve had that T-shirt for a decade now and I know it well, but not enough to distinguish it by feel, apparently.  So I think it’s my Pats shirt.  But really, who the hell knows?  And I’m probably never going to know, because I’d feel like a dummy if I went downstairs and asked my parents what T-shirt I’m currently wearing.

My parents bought me a color identifier that a blind person can swipe across clothing to find out the color, so that would have helped me figure it out.  But when I got home, you can bet the last thing I gave a shit about was whether my T-shirt was green or blue, so I put the damn thing away somewhere, and now I don’t know where it is. 

Correction: I threw it somewhere. Possibly against a wall. Hard. So not only is it lost, but it’s probably also broken.

I beat both my parents to the kitchen this morning, so I decide to make myself some breakfast.  I make myself a bowl of Frosted Flakes again, only this time I check the path from the counter to the table, to make sure nothing is in my way before I plow forward with my cereal bowl.  Although I have a feeling after I punched a hole in the wall, they’re going to be extra careful about that. 

I wonder if they fixed the hole in the wall yet. Probably not. 

Just as I’m digging into my cereal, heavy footsteps enter the kitchen.  Must be my father.  Still, I appreciate when I hear his voice say, “Good morning, Colin.”

“Hey, Dad,” I say. 

“Do you want me to make you some coffee?”

“No, I’m good.”

A chair scrapes against the floor, then creaks as my father settles down into the seat beside me.  I tense up, tightening my grip on my spoon.  Dad and I used to be close, but every conversation I’ve had with him since I’ve been home has been awkward.

“So your mom says you’re going to the library today,” Dad says.

I nod.  “Yep.”

“She said you’re going to try to learn braille better.”

I know he’s trying his best to engage me in conversation, but I don’t feel like it.  I’m not excited about going to the library to read some dumb braille book meant for a child, and I sure as hell don’t want to talk about it.

“Yep,” I say again.

“Well, I think that’s great,” Dad says.  “And maybe you can also look into taking some college classes.”

My father thinks I should go back to school.  Reeducation or some shit like that.  Obviously, a military career isn’t in the cards for me, at least not one involving combat, so I should be thinking about what I want to do with the rest of my life.  Besides walking back and forth from the corner store.

“Good morning, Colin.” It’s my mother’s voice now.  When did she come in here?  I didn’t even hear her footsteps.  How did I miss that?  “Are you ready to go soon?”

“Uh huh.” Apparently, all I can manage this morning is grunts and one syllable words. 

“Colin…,” she says.  I can tell she wants to say something to me, but she’s not sure if she should say it.  She’s afraid of upsetting me.

“What?”

“Nothing.  Never mind.”

What?”

“Well, honey…” She pauses again.  “There’s just… there are a lot of Frosted Flakes spilled on the counter.”

I suck in a breath.  “Oh.  Great.  Thanks for letting me know.”

“I’m sorry, I just… thought you should have the feedback.”

I’ve only finished about half my cereal, but I push back my chair and stand up.  “I’ll clean it up.”

“No, don’t be silly.  I’ll clean it up.”

“You don’t think I can clean up some fucking Frosted Flakes on my own?”

I see the fuzzy outline of what I think is my mother standing by the counter.  It’s so dark, it’s hard to know if it’s her or just an illusion of what I think might be her.  The outline isn’t moving. She’s probably trying to decide if she should call me out on swearing—if it’s worth risking another hole in the wall of the kitchen.

“Get ready to go,” she finally says.  “I’ll take care of the kitchen—you finish your cereal and go get your shoes on.”

But I’ve lost my appetite.  “I’ll go wait in the living room,” I mutter.

Nobody tries to stop me. 

Fifteen minutes later, I’m sitting on the living room sofa, listening to music piping from my phone.  I’d rather watch some TV, but I don’t enjoy it when I can’t see the picture. My eyes are shut when I hear footsteps approaching me. 

“Colin?”

I open my eyes and roll my head in the direction of the voice.  I see nothing—my mother isn’t close enough to make her out.  If she moves, I might be able to see her better.  My vision is better when objects or people are moving—I’m like a T rex.

“Do you still want to go to the library, sweetie?”

I don’t.  I never did.  “Yeah, okay.”

Considering I barely ate breakfast, Ma nags me until I agree to put a cereal bar in the shoulder bag that I take with me whenever I go out.  It’s got my cane folded up inside, as well as a pair of tinted glasses.  My eyes themselves apparently look okay, but my buddy Dan informed me I look weird when I’m staring off into nothing.  I didn’t think I was vain, but I wear the glasses outside, so I must be.  The tint on the lenses is just enough to hide my eyes without significantly affecting my ability to see shadowy images.

I’ve also got Grade 2 Braille For Dummies. I flipped through it last night, and it’s got all the commonly used abbreviations, so I can look them up when I find one I’ve forgotten. I’d like to say I feel excited or optimistic about any of this, but I don’t.

 

Sophie

I’m about halfway through the book I’m reading to the children this week when I see them.

That woman who brought her son to my storytime last week, whose son was afraid of me.  She asked me after there was another storytime done by someone else (i.e. someone not as frightening as I am.  when I told her no, she seemed nonplussed.  And now she's standing in the corner of the room, just barely visible to me from the wooden chair where I’m sitting.  And she’s holding up her phone in a way that makes me think she might be filming something.

Oh my God, is she filming me?

That’s illegal.  You can’t film someone in Massachusetts without their permission.  So if she’s filming me, she’s doing it illegally.  If I weren’t reading to the children, I’d march right over there and ask her exactly what she thinks she’s doing.

Then I notice she isn’t alone.  There are two other women next to her, who are clearly with her.  They’re all wearing identical yoga pants and one of them is holding an infant.  The one with the infant whispers something to the woman and points in my direction.

And that's when it hits me like a freight truck.  I know this woman.  I went to school with her for years.  Her name is....

Dawn.  Dawn Fisher.

A memory of Dawn comes back to me.  It was her ninth birthday.  She asks our teacher, Mrs. Kaminsky, if she can hand out party invitations to the class.  Mrs. Kaminsky looks through the invitations, flipping through the cards made out in Dawn’s precise handwriting.  You can’t hand these out unless you invite the whole class, the teacher says in a low voice.  You can’t leave out one person and invite everyone else.

 And then Dawn’s petulant voice, not even trying to keep the other kids from hearing: I don’t want to invite her!  Nobody likes her!  Nobody will come if she’s there!

There was eventually an invitation to Dawn’s ninth birthday party, extended to me with obvious reluctance.  She even made sure to inform me, It’s not going to be that fun for you.  I’m not sure if that was true, but I never found out because I threw out the invitation before my parents could see it.

“Miss Sophie?” It’s Ava C, raising her hand. 

I clear my throat, desperately trying to ignore the woman who may or may not be illegally filming me. “Yes, Ava C?”

“Why did you stop reading?”

I get so flustered, I nearly drop the book.  “Sorry, I just got a little distracted.”

“Distrack by what?” a towheaded little boy named Brian wants to know.

“Just…” I wave my hand at the air.  “Nothing.  Never mind.”

A cute little girl named Maia with her hair in cornrows raises her hand.  “Miss Sophie, how come you weren’t reading to us on the other day?”

“Well, Miss Carrie wanted a turn.”

Maia crinkles her nose.  “Miss Carrie is a meanie.”

I secretly agree, but I know better than to say that.  Instead, I raise the book in the air again.  “I’m here now.  So let’s finish this book.”

By the time I make it to the last page, Dawn and her friends have disappeared, but I’m thoroughly frazzled.  I feel like I’m going to throw up.  But instead, I grab my purse and head downstairs to the adult section, where I’m supposed to be working the rest of the day.  I’m always supposed to be on the Children’s Floor on Tuesdays, but Carrie informed me I’d be working downstairs today.  When I tried to quiz her on why, she shrugged and murmured an evasive comment about staffing numbers.

It’s the midmorning, which is a notoriously slow time in the library.  It’s a great time for us librarians to get some reading done or possibly catch up on Fruit Ninja.  It’s possible Carrie was being honest about staffing though, because when I get downstairs, there’s absolutely nobody manning the desk.  Worse, there’s a couple waiting there.

I better take care of this. The last thing I need is more complaints lodged against me.

When I get closer, I notice that the couple is more likely a mother and her adult son, based on the fact that he’s only around thirty and she’s at least in her sixties.  The man is wearing purple-tinted glasses and I notice he’s holding a white cane with a small ball at the tip in his left hand.  He must be blind.

When you look the way I do, people will not infrequently make comments along the lines of, “Maybe you should date a blind man.”  Sometimes they say it to be cruel, like back when I was in grade school.  Other times, they are genuinely well-meaning.  They think they’re being helpful.  “You’re so nice, Soph.  I bet a blind guy would really love you.”

I would never admit this out loud, but… well, I’ve thought it too.  I wonder if the only chance to be with a guy who is really attracted to me is if he can’t see.  But it’s a stupid thought, if only because an extremely large percentage of the men who are visually impaired are also the same age as my grandfather.

This guy isn’t though.  He’s young.  And also?  Just being real here?  He’s hot.  This guy is really, really hot.  He’s tall but not too tall—maybe six feet—with reddish brown hair that’s cut very short, but is still just barely long enough to be adorably tousled.  The reddish brown stubble on his chin gives him a rugged look that is augmented by a sexy scar just below his hairline.  And on top of that, he’s built. His navy blue New England Patriots T-shirt can’t conceal some impressive muscles in his arms and chest.  Tom Brady’s got nothing on this guy.  I also notice a green US Army tattoo peeking out from under his shirt sleeve.

God, he’s sexy. And I have to admit, there’s something comforting in knowing he won’t look up at me and have that same pitying expression everyone else does when they first lay eyes on me.

Wow, I’m becoming a regular cliché. 

I slip behind the desk, working to catch my breath from racing downstairs.  The older woman looks up from her phone and the smile on her face falters when she catches sight of me.  When someone I’ve never met before lays eyes on me for the very first time, there are three stages they go through, the first two of which are nearly universal:

1) Shock as they register my appearance. 

2) Aversion of the eyes.  I can’t say whether this is because they find it distasteful to look at me, or else they don’t want to look because they feel it could be perceived as staring.

The third stage varies from person to person.  Some people manage to get over their initial reaction and are able to look at me just like anyone else.  Others look in my general direction, but avoid eye contact.  And still others will look right at me with an expression of abject pity. 

I don’t need anyone’s pity, thank you very much.

The woman averts her eyes, mired in Stage Two.  She is looking at my computer so she doesn’t have to look at me.  The man, unsurprisingly, doesn’t react at all, and only looks relieved when my chair creaks to signify my presence.

“Can I help you?” I ask them.

“Yes, I think so,” the woman says.  Her eyes dart around, desperate to find a target other than my face.  They settle on the poster behind my head, which recommends our monthly book club. “We reserved a book that was supposed to be ordered from another library.”

“Okay,” I say as I boot up the computer.  “And is that for you or for him?”

Before the woman can answer, the cute guy sneers at me and says, “It’s for him.”

Wow, I can’t believe I did that.  If I were capable of blushing, my face would have been bright red.  “I’m sorry,” I mumble.

The woman smacks him in the arm and shakes her head. Yes, she’s definitely his mother. “Colin,” she murmurs.  “Please.”

He just shrugs, his expression unreadable behind those tinted glasses.  I don’t blame him for being angry.  I just condescended him, and he didn’t like it.  I of all people should have known better.

“The reserved book is under Colin Kelly,” the woman informs me.  She’s looking straight at me now.  Good for her.

I check in the bookcase of reserved titles under the letter “K.”  I locate a single, thin hardcover book with raised dots on the cover.  We don’t carry braille books at our library, but it looks like we were able to have it sent over from another library.  I look at the cover and see a picture of a lion, which seems a little unnecessary.  The book can’t be more than a couple dozen pages long, with thick, braille-imprinted pages inside.  I suspect the book is more appropriate for a child than for a grown man.

I hold out the book in Colin’s direction, but he doesn’t react.  I realize a second too late what I’ve done, but his mother rescues me from more embarrassment by taking the book out of my hands. 

“Thank you, dear,” she says.

“Sophie,” I say, offering my best attempt at a smile.  “If there’s anything he… I mean, either of you need, let me know.”

I watch as his mother takes his arm and leads him over to an empty table, where he carefully sits down.  I’m trying not to stare, but at the same time, it’s not like he’d know.  I can hear the irritation in his voice as he speaks with his mother, and the only words I can make out is him snapping at her, “I’m fine, Ma.  Go look at books!”

His mother seems reluctant to leave, but she finally does.  But instead of browsing through the shelves, she approaches me at the desk.  I hold my breath, wondering what she’s going to say to me.

“Sophie?” she says in a low voice.

I nod.

“I’m Arlene Kelly.” She holds out her hand to me hesitantly, as if she’s not sure if she wants me to reciprocate.  She appears relieved when I present an entirely normal hand for her to shake.  “Listen, are you… going to be here for a while?”

“Yes…”

She smiles apologetically.  “I was wondering if you might… if you could just keep an eye on my son over there.  He… I mean, I’m sure he’ll be fine, but if I’m out of earshot and he needs anything…”

“Sure, no problem,” I agree. 

I don’t know Colin Kelly, but I’m fairly sure he’d be absolutely furious if he heard this conversation.  But fortunately, he doesn’t seem to be paying attention to us.  He’s removed his tinted glasses and he’s got the lion book opened on the table in front of him.  He’s also pulled a second book from his shoulder bag, and he’s got that open as well.

Mrs. Kelly reluctantly wanders off, casting one final glance in the direction of her son.  The truth of the matter is even if she hadn’t asked me to watch Colin, I would almost certainly be doing so.  It’s hard for me to keep my eyes off him, so it’s nice to have an excuse. 

My friend Natalie always jokes around with me that I “need to get laid.”  For Natalie, who is not a model but certainly in no way objectionable in her appearance, getting laid is easy.  For me, it isn’t nearly as easy. They say that a man can tell within thirty seconds of meeting a woman if he wants to have sex with her, so I’d say within thirty seconds, my fate is sealed.

I’m not a virgin.  At one dark party in my last year of college where there was far too much alcohol, I started making out with a guy named Vince, who had straight black hair plastered to his skull and a slight overbite.  I knew him from our shared Art History class, and one thing just let to another. He followed me back to my dorm room as we groped hungrily at each other, and we quickly made our way to my bed.  He was very drunk.  I was not drunk.

I wonder what it would be like to kiss Colin Kelly.

Speaking of the devil, Colin doesn’t look particularly happy.  He’s got one finger on the lion book, and he’s flipping through the other book with impatient fingers.  He’s clearly frustrated.  It’s obvious blindness is a new condition for him, and braille is very challenging to learn.  I rise from my seat and approach his table.

When I get to Colin’s table, I stand there for a moment, summoning the courage to speak to him after the way he snapped at me earlier.  Also, he smells nice.  I’d heard stories about blind men letting their hygiene go to hell, but Colin smells very clean.  Like Dove soap.

“Um, hi,” I say.

Colin lifts his eyes.  They’re green—nice eyes, but unfocused.  He’s not looking in my direction or at anything in particular.

“Hi,” I say again.

“Are…” His reddish-brown eyebrows bunch together.  “Are you talking to me?”

“Yes.” I nod vigorously until I realize he can’t see me doing it.  “My name is Sophie.  I’m the librarian you talked to when you came in.”

“Oh.”  He frowns.  “So… what? Did my mother tell you to come over and check on me?”

“No…”

He snorts.

“Well,” I say slowly, “she said to just… you know, keep an eye on you.  In case you needed anything.”

“Right.” He shakes his head.  “Well, I don’t need anything.  So… you can go away.”

This is the moment when I probably should go away, as he suggested, but his lack of vision has made me braver than normal.  Instead, I say, “Would it be okay if I sat for a moment?”

He shrugs.  “Sure, lady. Knock yourself out.”

I slide into the chair across from him, and I notice his gaze drops to where my head is.  I wonder if he has any vision at all or if he’s just estimating where he thinks my head would be.

“Are you trying to learn braille?” I ask him.

He lets out a long sigh.  “Yes. ‘Trying.’  It’s wicked hard.”

I notice the way he doesn’t entirely pronounce the “r” in “hard.”  It’s not very prominent, but he’s definitely got the Boston accent. It’s cute.  I wonder if he was born here in Dorchester. 

“Listen,” I say, “we’ve got almost every book in the library on Audiobook.  If you tell me what you want, I can get it for you.”

I see the look on Colin’s face.

Oh no. 

“Audiobooks?” His voice is dripping with sarcasm.  “You’ve got audiobooks?  Well, jeepers, I didn’t even know there was such a thing.  And here I am, learning braille like a dumbass when all along there was something called Audiobooks.”  He slaps the lion book with his hand.  “Thank you, kind librarian, for opening up this whole new world for me.  How can I ever repay you?”

“I’m just trying to help,” I mumble.

He snorts again.

“Fine.” I rise to my feet.  “If you need anything, I’ll be at the desk over there.”

And now I realize I’m pointing.  As if that would help him.

“Over there,” he repeats.  “Got it.”

I make my way back over to the desk.  I could be upset that Colin was such a jerk to me, but I’m not. This is a good thing. Next time someone makes an idiotic comment to me about how I should date a blind guy, I’ve got a perfect answer: I tried to talk to a blind guy and he was the biggest jerk I ever met.


Colin

I was an asshole to the librarian.

I felt bad about it as I was doing it.  Even as the words were coming out of my mouth, I was sorry.  But “asshole” seems to be my default lately, and I couldn’t seem to turn it off. On top of that, I slammed my forehead into the side of the door when I was coming into the library because my mother let it go when I thought she was still holding it.  Either hold the door or don’t, Ma—don’t let the damn thing go right in my face! She apologized to me a hundred times, probably scared I’d throw a chair across the room.

I didn’t.  I have some self-control, for Christ’s sake.

The librarian had a really sweet voice.  She sounded young and cute.  As she spoke, I developed a mental picture of her.  I imagined she’s short.  A little chubby with a cute, round face.  Short blond hair that curls along her chin.  And even though my sense of smell isn’t what it used to be, she has this nice, flowery smell.

In the months since I got home, my libido has been at zero. I’ve jacked off a few times, but more out of a sense of habit or because I couldn’t sleep.  I didn’t enjoy it—not much, anyway.  Most women my age talk to me with a patronizing edge in their voices that lets me know flirting with them would be stupid. 

But when I heard that librarian speaking and smelled that hint of flowers, I felt the first tug of something more.  Something inside me I thought was dead.  You know, that feeling you get when you meet a hot girl and you want to be close to her and flirt with her and make her laugh.  I hadn’t felt it in so long, I’d almost forgotten how good it feels.

And then she called me “he” while I was standing right in front of her. 

I hate it when people refer to me as “he.” Like I’m a child.  Or something less than a person. And when a cute, pretty librarian calls me that, it’s a painful reminder about how everyone else in the world sees me. A year ago, a girl like that would have been flirting with me.  I would have been trying to get her number.  Now I’m “he.”  Is the book for him?  Is he trying to read?  Good for him!

I’ll probably never get laid again.

Then I tried to read the braille book, and it was hard.  It was beyond hard.  This was a book meant for a grade-school student—facts about lions and why lions are cool.  And I had to go back to my reference book nearly every other word.  I got knocked unconscious twice while on my tours of duty, once by an IED and once by the RPG blast that did this to me, and I’ve bashed my head about a dozen times since I’ve been home.  I wonder if it’s starting to affect my brain.  Maybe I’m getting dumb on top of everything else.

So when that librarian Sophie sat down beside me and started talking about Audiobooks, I just lost it.

On the plus side, I didn’t break anything.

After an hour or so of struggling to read the lion book, I’ve gotten through a grand total of two pages.  It’s pathetic.  I’m ready to leave.  I’ll bring the book home and work on it there, where there are few distractions.

Now where the hell is my mother?

She has checked on me twice since she’s been here.  The last time was about fifteen minutes ago.  Presumably, she’s nearby, but I don’t know where.  She’s probably somewhere I could find her easily if I could see, but since I can’t hear her voice, she’s essentially lost to me. 

I consider my options.  I could ask Sophie, that librarian I was a jerk to, to find her for me. She’s not near me, but I suspect if I call her name, she’ll come over.  Alternately, I could wait for my mother to check on me again.  Lastly, I could call or text her on my cell phone.  My cell phone is set up to respond to all my voice commands so that I don’t have to press any keys—it even reads my text messages and emails to me.

The last option makes the most sense.  It’s easy and I don’t have to involve another person.  But at the same time, I want to call Sophie over.  The name “Sophie” is on the tip of my tongue—if I say it, I’ll get to talk to her again.  I’ll get to hear her voice again.  Smell her flowery soap or shampoo or whatever it was. 

“Colin?”

It’s my mother’s voice.  Well, that solves that problem.

“Are you ready to leave, sweetie?”

I nod.  “Yeah, let’s go.”

To be continued.....