I didn’t have much sleep last night, if you know what I mean. When I wake up, instead of Henry’s naked chest beside me I find cold sheets. I do a long cat stretch and prepare to join him in the shower. Except that he isn’t in the shower either because there’s no sound of running water. A bell goes off inside my head and I sit up straight, startled by the possibilities. One would think I’m too old to have my brothers pulling tricks on my boyfriends that would have them running for their lives, but it's not entirely out of the realm of possibilities. Then I see him, sitting at the study with his laptop open and a bunch of papers laid before him.
“Hey,” I call him. He doesn’t answer. Only then I realize he’s using two earbuds. He’s slightly crouched forward, with his shirt off. I take the time to appreciate the view.
Henry isn’t ripped, but he’s lean; he wakes up early every single day and runs around the neighborhood and in the park, either with me or a running buddy, because treadmills don’t do it for him, he has to go somewhere. The thing about him is that he doesn’t run because he wants to keep in shape, he runs because he genuinely likes it. He also does gymnastics twice a week, for fun more than anything else—and man, you should see him in his tights, doing acrobatics in the bars; he moves so fluidly and elegantly in the air that you’d never guess he’s blind. I go with him sometimes, but I can’t say I’m doing anything other than ogling him. He’s so sexy. Then it’s time to go home, he grabs his cane and people stare, incredulously, as he sweeps it in front of him as we leave. A little boy once asked, are you Daredevil?, and Henry nodded solemnly with a conspiratory smile, shh, don’t tell anyone.
He’s so sexy.
Henry doesn’t startle easily, but I know that if I just touch him right now, when he’s so concentrated, he’ll jump out of his skin. To my surprise, as soon as I roll out out of bed and give a few steps in his direction, he tilts his head just slightly to the right and I know he’s listening carefully. I’m always fascinated by how he turns his ears, rather than his eyes, to things he’s paying attention to. You almost never notice it, but sometimes he gets distracted talking to people and won’t even bother to lift his head to face them, even with his upright posture. Especially when he’s listening for the traffic; he just closes his eyes, drops his head and holds his cane close to his body as he listens. I know he can still see, but most times it seems to me that his ears have become his main sense—they say we perceive the world 70% through our eyes, and growing up with deaf people has shown me that this percentage is even higher for them, but it’s likely Henry perceives more with his sense of smell than sight by now.
I approach him, touching his back and sliding my hands up his shoulders and then down his chest, hugging him from behind. At first, he jumps a little—more because he didn’t know where I’d touch him than because he wasn’t aware of me—, but then a smile takes over his lips and leans back. He has a disheveled look and he hasn’t shaved in about three days so he has a sexy stubble, a few shades lighter than his dirty blond hair, that scrapes against my cheek, sending shivers down my neck. I really love it when he doesn’t shave for a few days. But no longer than a few days.
“What do you have there?” I ask into his ear after he pulls his earbuds offl by the cord.
“Work.” He turns slightly in my direction.
The thing about Henry is that he can’t completely turn off from work like I can. As soon as I leave my office, I can put everything on pause and come back the other day, fresh and ready for another round. He isn’t like that. I think most of his workaholic tendencies steams from the fact that he overworks to compensate—as lawyers, we read a lot. A lot. But we can skip the unnecessary and go straight to the point, while Henry can’t—his screen reading software reads him 400 words per minute, which sounds like absolute gibberish to me and absolutely normal to him, but even though that’s crazy fast, it’s not like scanning a page quickly with your eyes and going straight to the highlights. He’s so quick with braille, sliding his fingers over a line in a matter of seconds, but most of our readings don’t come in braille. For the Digital Age, we sure have to read a bunch lot of print stuff (much to Henry’s and the environment’s dismay).
Right now, Henry is wearing glasses. Normal glasses. The lenses don’t do anything for him, obviously, but the little camera in the frame does—he can point with his finger at a printed document and it’ll read him whatever it’s written in that specific place. Or it’ll scan the whole page and play it to him. It also recognizes signs and faces, but that’s not why he uses it.
“Come back to bed,” I ask him, burying my nose in his neck. “It’s too early.”
“What time is it?” He asks me, but checks it himself by turning his wrist as if he’s looking at an invisible watch. 6:23 am, I hear the small device in his glasses say and I think I can only hear it because it’s really close to my ear. “That’s not too early. And I really have to know this by Monday.”
“Please,” I beg him.
Henry spins the chair in my direction and I fall down on his lap. He’s wearing sweatpants, which is too bad. He opens his eyes, smirking at me as he feels around my body with his hands, framing my waist. Just knowing that this is him looking at me makes my entire body ache for more of his touch. He actually looks really sexy with the glasses. He uses it all the time at work but not so much at home.
Babs. It says, loud enough that I hear it.
“You don’t say,” he chuckles and takes it off.
I swing a leg over to his other side, wondering how this desk chair is managing to hold both of us, and he laces his fingers through my hair and gently pulls it until my neck is exposed. He uses his other hand to massage my breasts, lowering his mouth to my sensitive nipples. I grind his hips, looking for both relief and a response.
“You’re impossible,” he groans, standing up. I muffle a squeal against his neck, securing my legs around his waist as he carries me to bed.
Oh my fucking God, I love him so much.
I wake up bit by bit. The bright sunlight peeks through my eyelids, something tickles the skin of my face. Do I smell pancakes?
I open my eyes to find Henry staring at me. Not staring because that would be physically impossible, but… Staring. His blue-green eyes are looking straight into mine, and it’s one of those rare moments they’re not shaking. He’s so close that I can feel his aftershave, but there’s also something. A crease between his eyebrows. I’m about to kiss him when I notice what he’s doing to his fingers.
Not that, you pervert.
They’re tracing my face. At least the side of it that’s not buried in his arm/the pillow. I’m quiet, trying to keep my breath steady so he doesn’t notice I’m awake, else I’m afraid he’ll stop it entirely. I know what Henry thinks about those movies where the blind guy ‘feels’ the girl’s face. It’s so cheesy that when people who figure my boyfriend is blind ask me if he feels my face, I cringe a bit. Okay, a lot. Henry says it doesn’t make a difference, it’s not like he translates what his hands are feeling to a visual image of what I look like, especially because he barely has any consistent visual memory of facial features. When I developed the balls to ask what I looked like to him then, he shrugged and (probably sensing my disappointment), gave me an answer just as cheesy as the face-feeling thing would’ve been, but it made me swoon at the time nonetheless. I think all he knows about my looks is my height and my hair color. When we go out together, he always asks me what colors I’m wearing, just so he knows how to describe me past “5’5, long haired brunette” in case we lose each other, which is a description that doesn’t rule out a lot of people.
But I don’t think this is him feeling my face to know what I look like. I’ve caught Henry doing that before when he thought I was sleeping. I don’t know what it is, but know I shouldn’t interrupt it.
I take the time to look him in the eyes. He’s always looking in my general direction, but never quite managing it. This time he’s really looking at me. Henry has the most gorgeous eyes I’ve ever seen, which strikes me as a cruel universal joke—it’s a blueish-greenish color, so vivid and light, it’s almost unbelievable. I wonder if it has something to do with his condition because no one else in his family has light eyes. People are always commenting on it: wow, your eyes are so pretty. And I think all that attention they get bugs him a little, because behind that ‘Wow, your eyes are so pretty’, there’s always an unspoken ‘but it’s a pity…’. I’ve also heard ‘Are you sure you’re blind? Your eyes look so normal’, to which he answered. ‘Well, I wasn’t sure, but now that you mention it, I guess I’m not! Thanks for helping.’ But yeah. Henry has the prettiest eyes in the world, it’s sometimes a pity we don’t get to see them open all that much because aside from gorgeous, they’re also incredibly sensitive to light.
His fingertips are warm and soft — though soft wouldn’t be the adjective I’d use. They’re rough at the same time, as if I could feel his fingerprints. He runs them through my skin, contourning the edges of my face, my jaw, cheekbone, the corner of my parted lips. Then he trails up to my eyebrows and I quickly shut my eyes. I draw in a sharp breath when finds my eyelashes and he freezes still.
I move, as if only now waking up. Henry moves his hand to my hair and moves even closer, brushing the tip of his nose in my cheek, his lips against mine.
“Good morning,” he whispers. “Again.”
I smile, disentwining our legs. One of them has gone numb.
“Do I smell pancakes?” I ask.
Henry groans, his head falling back on the pillow, his forearm covering his eyes. “Of course, that would be the first thing you think in the morning.”
“I’m starving,” I admit. “And besides, mom makes the best pancakes in the world.”
“My mom does.”
I snort. “We can agree to disagree.”
“Are you trying to imply something with that little snort?” He rolls over me, his forearms sided with my head.
“You were definitely.”
He kisses my eyes. “Shower?”
I nod, knowing he’s feeling it.
Have I said before how much I love things that smell good? I don’t mind. I love nice smelling things. Babs doesn’t get it—walking past a bakery is fucking impossible. I can’t physically bring myself not to stop. Babs is so fast when she’s shopping, she just want to get things done (and spend three hours inside a department store to buy a single pair of jeans, but we don’t talk about that unless I have a celibacy wish, which I don’t), and complains every time I get us to stop somewhere that gets my attention.
Marketing pro tip: make your store smell nice and you’ll have blind people with no depth perception running into your glass doors, I swear.
The point is, my nose is my guide. Like a dog. The layout of the Carter residence was still fuzzy in my head, but as we walked downstairs, I could tell exactly where the kitchen was. It felt like a freaking bakery shop. I inhaled deeply, filling my lungs with that delicious smell that made me salivate. I bet Mrs. Carter could give my mom a run for her money.
“That smells great, Mom.” Babs guides my hand to the back of one of the bar stools lined with the counter. I carefully run my hand over the polished surface in front of me and can’t help but feeling strangely satisfied. No crumbs. I hate crumbs. “Coffee, honey?”
“Yes, please.” Almost immediately, I hear Babs sliding the mug across the counter until it reaches my fingers, as if she’d anticipated my answer. What I love about her is that she doesn’t just shove the cup in my hands without saying anything—being handled like a kid is another huge pet peeve of mine, right next to crumbs. Man, I really hate crumbs.
I blink hard, trying to get rid of the strain I’m starting to feel forming in the back of my eyes. It’s so bright here—not good light that helps with seeing shapes, but painful bright, as in it-hurts-too-much-too-look. I can feel my eyes trying to adjust to the change, but it’s too much. Yesterday it was too dark, now it’s too light. No middle grounds.
“Are you okay?” Babs asks, sliding into the seat next to mine and squeezing my thigh.
I lean in her direction and kiss her face, “Yeah.”
I hear a loud snort. Someone is not happy with our display of affection.
“Shut up,” Barbara growls.
“Len is being a dick.” She sets her mug on the countertop with a loud thud and leans closer, taking my lips in hers. This time, a higher sound belonging to a woman. Babs quickly separates with a girlish giggle, and even though she apologized, she didn’t sound convinced of it at all. “Sorry, mom.”
“Good morning!” Robin’s cheerful voice materializes itself right behind us. “How was your night, dear?”
I choke on my coffee. To her credit, Babs assumes a playful, maybe flirty, tone and chuckles.
“We didn’t get much sleep, unfortunately,” she plays along, sounding carefree and so irresistibly sexy. I want to pull Babs to me by the waist and do ungodly things to her. Even after being together for so long, I just can’t get enough. Honestly, I don’t know how we make it out of the apartment at all. We’re like addicts.
“Hopefully not too unfortunate,” Robin adds and I can almost hear her winking.
I’m wondering if they’re signing this exchange everyone in the room knows why my ears are burning.
“Now that you’re here…” Babs gets up, leading a hand over my shoulder. “I’d like to try something. Get up, babe.” Slightly confused, I obey, allowing myself to be led forward by her hand in my back. “Stand here, please.”
Then Barbara puts something in my hand. Glasses, I realize. Not any glasses, my glasses.
“What is that for?”
“Put them on, sweetie. And turn the sensor on.” Because I’d keep walking facing a goddamn clif if she told me to, I do. She asks Robin to stand in front of me and I open my eyes just enough to see a shadow blocking the bright background. “Now put a new entry.”
I get her now. I usually don’t use the facial recognition feature of my glasses. To be honest, when I got them I considered going for the version that does reading only, but ultimately I was convinced of the perks of ditching the multiple apps I have on my phone for something the device hanging on the frame does so easily.
I raise my hand and give two steps forward until my hand reaches the general direction of Robin’s shoulder. And by general direction I mean it brushes her chest briefly. Oh well. I touch the top of her head so I get an idea of where her head ends so I can direct camera to her face. That way, every time she stands in front of me and I’m wearing the glasses, I’ll know it’s her.
“Robin,” I say and wait to hear the confirmation that it’s been added to the face bank. She giggles softly.
“That’s so cool.”
The next in line is Mrs. Carter. This time Babs directs my hand to her shoulder, presumably so I don’t accidentally touch her boobs, and true to my fiancée’s genes, she isn’t tall at all. I feel a little nervous touching her like that, but Mrs. Carter gives me a reassuring shake. When we move to Mr. Carter, I feel a little more hesitant. He hasn’t said much since we got here, at least nothing Babs has signed back. I’m not sure what that means and honestly, I’m afraid of touching the guy. Like back in school, when the kids would force my hand on something so I’d guess what I’d just touched—most times it was nothing to be afraid of, but it didn’t stop me from breaking a sweat and feeling physically sick every single time they’d hold me.
It’s just Mr. Carter, I reassure myself. Not a tarantula. Not that it was ever a tarantula. Mostly it was wet stuff. Once a pet snake. I fucking hate snakes. Right after crumbs.
He turns out to be a big guy. I quickly withdraw my hands from him, as soon as I find the top of his head. He’s like a statue. I don’t think I hear him breathing. Man, this guy hates me so much—I can tell. Dads usually like me (as much as a man can like a guy who’s fucking his daughter), probably because they see me as much more innocent than your regular seeing dude, but I know this Dad doesn’t buy the good boy tale.
The rest of her brothers are pretty much the same height as Mr. Carter.
“Higher, babe,” Babs instructs me. I’m eye-level with Ren, at least I think so. I go a little higher. “I meant higher.”
How tall is Ren, anyway? Out of curiosity, I touch his shoulder. Higher. When I reach the top of his head, I’m taken aback. What the flying fuck?
“Six five.” He says.
I’m thrown off the loop momentarily. Ren just talked to me. His consonants sound rounded and not quite right, but he has. I think I’m more surprised by that than his height—which admittedly is pretty impressive. I mean, I wouldn’t have guessed it from my 5’5 girlfriend.
Barbara pulls me back with a chuckle, amused at my surprise.
“Ren teaches ASL,” she says, as if that answers everything.
My fiancée proceeds to explain my glasses to her family, how the small device on the right frame has an inbuilt camera that detects words, faces, signs, colors. And we’ll be using it to make things easier this weekend. They can all write and the glasses will read whatever it’s there, as long it’s legible. I mean, it’s a smart idea and it bothers me a little that I didn’t think about that—I’m usually pretty good at adapting. Apparently, Barbara is pretty good at adapting too. I love her.
“You look hot,” Babs whispers to me as we take our places again. I go back to Mrs. Carter’s pancakes as a happy man.
“I always do.”
“I think it’s the glasses.”
“Aw, I didn’t know your fetish was extended to guys with glasses too,” she smacks my arm. “I just want to let you know that blind guys are like the update of nearsighted guys.”
“I’d have to check again.”
“We’ll work on that when we get home.”
The funny thing is, I used to wear glasses. They used to take up my whole face, with magnifying lenses that earned me some embarrassing nicknames in childhood. They used to help me read, but I remember when they stopped helping too—it was the first time I noticed my sight going away. I could read the words in the boxes of a Daredevil comic book and suddenly I could only see the pictures. Even then, I hid it from mom for as long as I could, which wasn’t very long. Shortly after that, glasses didn’t make a whole lot of sense and I stopped wearing them. So I don’t think I could have ever been called nearsighted, pretty much from when I could see I was already non sighted.
Barbara engages in a conversation between Robin and her Mom, and even though two thirds of the party are speaking, I can’t keep up with them as in I have no idea what they’re talking about. Which isn’t a bad thing at all, because it means I get to check my email without looking entirely rude. I fish my earphones from my pocket and as soon as I turn the screen on, I’m welcomed by the VoiceOver announcing the date and time.
I’m used to the artificial voices in my life, but sometimes it seems like every single one is the same. It gets boring, hence why my Siri is a British guy. For variation. I’m distracted by the email my assistant forwarded me with even more legalese when someone taps my shoulder. At first I think it’s Barbara, but the taps are far too heavy to belong to her. When I turn around, my glasses take only a couple of seconds to recognize Mr. Carter’s face.
Henry is awfully quiet.
Which is a miracle, really. Shutting him up is damn nearly impossible 90% of the time, and the only times he’ll do it voluntarily are when he’s pissed or hurt. Actually, no. He’ll talk a lot when he’s pissed too. It’s troubling me.
“Babe,” I nudge him. He doesn’t answer. “Babe.”
“What?” He takes off one earbud. I hear a peaceful classical music coming out of it. I frown.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m great, Barbara.”
Barbara. What happened with Babs?
My parents left about thirty minutes ago to go to the supermarket, the boys are watching a random soccer game, Robin is baking and at some point I was helping her and Henry… Is fucking silent.
“Is it work?” I ask him. But it isn’t work. I circle the counter so I’m facing him. “I can’t do anything about it if you don’t tell me what it is.”
He opens his eyes and immediately I know what’s wrong. His irises are going back and forth like he’s reading something while the car is moving impossibly fast. I see the crease between his eyebrows and the way he keeps pressing his eyelids shut as if to reset the movement, without success. I was right—he’s in pain. His eyes don’t lie. I slide my hands into his.
“Have you taken something yet?” I ask softly. “Do you want me to go get your pills?”
“No, it’s…” He lowers his head to the granite. “Manageable.”
“No it’s not.”
“Babs, please.” He looks up again, but quickly closes his eyes again. He swallows hard and I wonder if he’s feeling the nausea yet. “I don’t want to sleep the entire day.”
I try to get to a middle term.
“I’ll make some coffee. And you’ll take paracetamol. That okay?”
He takes a deep breath in and nods, massaging his temples, his lips a thin line.
Even then, I know that isn’t all.
“What’s wrong with him?” Ren asks me when he stops by the kitchen to grab a Cheetos bag hidden inside the cupboard. Henry nearly jumps off his seat when he loudly opens the package.
“Headache. I think it’s the light.” I point at the several windows in the house. I’d never noticed how bright the house is in the morning. “He’s very sensitive.”
He frowns. “But he’s blind.”
“He can see light.”
“Then he isn’t blind.”
“That’s literally all he can see.”
“Not blind.” He shrugs.
“Then you’re not deaf.” I retort with my eyebrows raised. “You can hear a little.”
“Not the same, stupid.” He looks outraged.
“Exactly the same, dumb.”
He waves a hand, unconvinced, and turns the Cheetos bag in our direction. Henry quietly gags, dropping his head into his arms. He hates the smell of Cheetos, but it ‘s even worse when he has a migraine. I pull it away and Ren shrugs and strides back to the living room just in time to watch a player making a goal. Henry winces with the noise of the commemoration, dropping his head lower.
“Let’s go to the room, okay?” I say.
“No, it’s…” He looks green. He takes another breath before giving in. “Okay.”
I signal to Robin I’ll be back, knowing that he’ll fall asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow. I rush ahead of him and shut the curtains in my old room.
“Just paracetamol, right?” He asks when I drop the pill in his hand. I bring his finger into the bottle, where the braille label reads PRCTML. “Thanks.”
He lays down with a heavy sigh. I lay down next to him, entwining our legs and massaging his head.
“Hey,” he whispers after a couple of minutes. “Your dad asked me…”
I frown. “When? How?”
“He wrote it down. You were with Robin.” He says, already fighting the sleep. “He asked me… If we’ll have... babies.”
I feel laughter coming up my throat but I fight it back.
“Of course we will.” I say. We’ve talked about this before and the consensus is at least two kids. Only children are lonely.
“I know, but… He was concerned,” Henry is the one sounding concerned. “That the baby… I mean, my blindness and your family’s deafness… They’re all genetical. What if… I mean…”
“Shhh,” I kiss him quickly. “Don't worry, okay?" "What if..." "I don’t think that’s how it works. We can check. But either way...” He breathes out, "Yeah."
I can feel when he falls asleep a few minutes later, because his entire body relaxes. I don’t even consider going back, I just close my eyes.
“Henry,” I call him, softly. He makes a sound, neither here nor there. “I think I might be pregnant.” I think I hear him chuckle and say, sounding drunk with sleep, “Good.” Good.