Gone

I’m pretty sure this is the very first story where I had one of the characters die. Since then, I believe there’s only been one other character that has died. So I’m mostly not violent. 😉 A sad story to write. Hope you enjoy, and let me know what you think!

“Get out, Hilary!” I yelled. I pushed my little sister out of my room.

“I was just looking around!” Hilary whined.

“It doesn’t matter!” I shouted. I was fuming. “You shouldn’t be in my room at all!” I pushed my seven-year-old pest, I mean sister, the rest of the way out of my room, slamming the door shut behind her. I sighed, plopping down in my desk chair. I then began to work on my homework.

Just a minute or two later, I heard a knock on the door. “Who is it?” I called grumpily.

“Erika.”

I immediately recognized my mom’s voice. “Come in.”

My mom opened the door and slipped into my room, Hilary trailing in behind her. I gulped. My mom perched on the end of my bed, with Hilary on her lap. I could feel a lecture coming on.

“Erika,” my mother began sternly. “I think you owe an apology to your sister.” She held up her hand to ward off all of my protests. “I understand about you wanting her to stay out of your room, but you could have asked her to do it in a more kind and loving way.”

“But, Mom—” I began with a whine in my voice, until my mom cut me off with a glare. I turned to Hilary. “I’m sorry,” I grumbled grudgingly.

My mom sighed. “That’s good enough for now, but I expect a sincere apology later,” She nodded towards my school books as she stood up. “You can get back to your homework now.” She picked up Hilary and left my room, closing the door softly behind her.

I immediately jumped up from my desk chair and paced around the room, stomping furiously. I stopped by my bed and slammed my fist into the mattress viciously. “She always takes Hilary’s side!” I growled to no one in particular, glaring at my door. I finally sighed, frustrated, and slumped back into my chair to work on my homework.

~~~

I sat in silence during dinner, just picking at my food. I was still fuming. My dad had finally made it home, and Hilary was chattering on and on about everything that had happened to her that day. Needless to say, I was having a hard time keeping my temper under control. I really just wanted to get away from Hilary.

“How was your day, Erika?” my dad finally managed to ask when Hilary took a break to eat her hot dog and macaroni and cheese. Of course, it was her favorite meal.

“Fine,” I muttered, pushing back my chair. “May I be excused, please?” At least I’d said it politely.

Mom looked over at my plate. “You can probably eat some more of that food,” she told me in her no-nonsense voice. I slid my chair back into place.

“Did you have a bad day at school?” Dad asked. He wasn’t really concentrating on me; he was too busy trying to keep from laughing as Hilary’s hot dog began to drip ketchup on her plate.

“No, it was fine,” I mumbled. I ate several more bites of my food. After choking down the rest of the macaroni and cheese and half of my hot dog, Mom finally let me leave the table, so I hurried up to my room.

After the rest of the family finished dinner, I went downstairs to use the computer in the living room for my homework. I narrowed my eyes when I got in there. The computer was taken… by Hilary, of course. I checked the screen over her shoulder. Ugh. Of course. She was playing some princess game. She looked up at me, smiling.

“Look, Erika, I’m designing a princess and her horse. I’m making her look like me.” She paused, grinning proudly. “Do you think I could be a princess?”

I rolled my eyes. “You have to be the daughter of a king or queen or married to a prince. Now, get off the computer. I need to do my homework.”

“But I got here first!” she complained, putting on her pouty face.

My homework is more important than your silly princess game!” I snapped. I picked her up out of the chair and set her down on the couch. I sat down in the chair myself and immediately began working on my homework.

“Erika!” Hilary squealed, tugging on my arm. “Don’t close my—” Too late. I clicked the button to close the window with her princess game. She flopped down on the floor by my chair, sobbing loudly. Drama queen. I ignored her.

“Erika? Hilary?” Uh-oh. Mom poked her head into the room and spotted Hilary sobbing in a heap on the floor. Of course, she fell for Hilary’s drama queen act. “Hilary! Oh, what’s wrong, honey?”

What happened next was totally predictable. Hilary ratted on me, but completely exaggerated the whole thing, painting me as the mean, scary bully, while she was the absolutely innocent angel. She was sobbing throughout the entire story. I do have to admit that she’s a pretty good actor. She was pretty convincing. Almost.

Unfortunately, my mom bought the entire performance. She comforted Hilary, and told her that she should stop crying. Then she turned a steely glare on me. “And you, young lady, will go to your room immediately. I’ll be up there to talk to you in a minute.” She turned back to Hilary. Luckily, I had enough sense to remember not to stomp up the stairs or slam my door. I flopped down on my bed.

It had hardly been a minute before my mom came into my room, a frown pasted on her face. I stayed where I was, staring up at the ceiling. She perched on the edge of my bed again and studied me.

“I’m very disappointed in you, Erika. You really need to work on loving your sister more. I understand that sometimes little sisters can be annoying, I had three of them, but, since you’re older, we expect you to be more mature, especially now that you’re in eighth grade. Is that clear?”

I reluctantly said what I knew that she wanted me to say. “Yes, ma’am.”

My mom looked at me thoughtfully. “Maybe you should read First Corinthians 13 tonight.”

I sighed and nodded, my fingers crossed behind my back. I might read just enough to be able to give my mom a short summary in the morning. I don’t mind church stuff, but I didn’t want to read anything that my mom thought would help me be nice to Hilary.

Mom stood up. “Dad’s playing Go Fish with Hilary, so you can use the computer for your homework if you still need to.” She patted my knee, standing up. “Think about what I said, Erika.” She left my room quietly, closing the door gently behind her.

~~~

The Wednesday night youth group meeting is one of my favorite parts of the week. That’s mostly because I get to hang out with my friends. Our youth pastor, Keith Jenkins, is pretty cool, too. He’s only twenty-five, so he’s really good at making his lessons interesting to us. He’s also really good to talk to.

That’s why, when I got to church, I headed straight to the youth worship room instead of the fellowship room. I knew that the worship room was where Mr. Jenkins stayed until about fifteen minutes before the service started.

“Mr. Jenkins?” I called when I peered into the worship area. He looked up from reviewing his notes about the sermon and smiled.

“Erika! Come on in.” He sat down on one of the chairs and patted the one next to him. I came in, letting the door shut behind me. He motioned me over. “Sit down. Do you have something on your mind?”

I looked down at my hands. I’m not very good at opening up to people; it doesn’t feel very natural to me. “Uh, kind of.”

He leaned towards me. “Go ahead. And, remember, anything you tell me is confidential; I won’t tell anyone about anything unless you tell me otherwise.”

“Well,” I hesitated, “I’ve been having trouble with my sister.” I told him everything that had happened, starting with Hilary in my room. “She’s just so annoying. She’s such a pest!”

Mr. Jenkins nodded. “I understand. Sometimes it’s really hard to get along with our siblings.”

“Sometimes!” I protested. “She’s always bothering me!”

He laughed. “But you do see your sister a lot, which makes her a very good candidate for a really close friend.”

I snorted. Not very ladylike, I know. “No way. I’ll never be able to be friends with Hilary. She gets on my nerves so much. Sometimes, I wish… I wish she’d never been born!”

Mr. Jenkins studied me. His face was dead serious now. “You may feel that way now, but someday you’ll realize how much you really need her and love her.”

~~~

About halfway through homeroom the next morning, the intercom buzzed. Mrs. Walton, my homeroom teacher, was clearly indignant at the interruption, but she replied anyway. “Yes?”

“Please send Erika Gardner to the office immediately.” the voice requested, crackling over the speaker.

Mrs. Walton nodded at me. I was immediately the center of attention as I stood up to leave. Ugh. I hate it when other people stare at me, and they were all wondering what I had done. I quickly escaped into the hall, my mind racing. I couldn’t think of anything I’d done (at least, not lately) that would be severe enough to force me to go to the principal’s office. Most of the time, I’m a pretty good kid, except for a few mistakes every once and a while, like the time in third grade when I dared Donny to go down the playground slide on his back, head first. Not good. I got in trouble big time. There was also the time last year, seventh grade, when Cindy and I started a food fight. That was fun. But I couldn’t think of anything I’d done lately.

Finally I reached the principal’s office and walked in. Uh-oh. Something must have been really wrong, because both of my parents were there. Both of their faces were pale, and my mom’s eyes looked puffy and swollen, like she had been crying.

The principal stood up and nodded at me. “I’ll leave the three of you alone.” She left the room, closing the door behind her.

I glanced nervously at my parents. Something was going on, and whatever it was, it was definitely not good. My mom looked over at my dad, and he reluctantly took over.

“Sit down,” he told me. I obeyed. He took a deep breath and began. “After the Johnsons picked Hilary up to take her to school, they were involved in a car accident. Hilary died in the crash.” He was clearly having a difficult time.

I opened my mouth to protest, wanting to say something that would help Hilary not be dead, but no sound would come out. The room started to spin before my eyes, and I gripped the chair, my knuckles getting white. I could hear my parents talking to me, but they sounded really far away. “No,” I was finally able to whisper hoarsely as the room stopped spinning. “No!” I yelled, sobbing hysterically. “Hilary can’t be dead! She can’t! She can’t…” My voice faded away into choking sobs.

~~~

I diligently went to Hilary’s funeral that Saturday, but when we got back home, I threw myself down on my bed, sobbing. I remembered what Mr. Jenkins had said on Wednesday night, the day before Hilary died. Boy, was he right. I really did love Hilary, deep down inside. Sometimes you never know what you got till it’s gone.

 

“They say you never know what you got till it’s gone…”

Gone-tobyMac-

Chloe – Part V

The final part in the Chloe story! Please let me know what you think, and I hope you enjoy it. Click for Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.

Jen and I slipped into the living room after dinner while our parents were talking. I heard her flop down on the couch. “Your parents are so going to let you go to public school.”

I snorted. “What makes you say that?”

“They’re practically hanging on my parents’ every word,” she pointed out. “They’re not really exchanging notes on raising blind kids. It’s more like they’re asking my parents for advice.”

I thought about it for a minute. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. It’ll be awesome if they let me go to Thatcher.”

“You have a crush on John, don’t you?” she teased, laughing.

“What makes you say that?” I asked, surprised. Nobody really knows how to read my feelings, not even my parents most of the time.

She giggled. “Hey, I’m a fellow blind person. I can tell what others have on their minds a lot of the time. You’re hoping you’ll get to go to Thatcher to be with John.”

“And…” I prompted.

“And because you want to be normal,” she added, a bit of the levity falling out of her voice. “You know that it won’t really happen, right?”

“I know,” I replied, sighing. “But it’s not just being normal, I also want my parents to just treat me like I’m normal.”

I heard her sigh. “It took my parents a while to do that. They have to learn, just like you have to learn how to respond to change in your own way. Sometimes it’s really hard for them to realize that they can’t hold on to their image of you as a poor blind girl and that they have to let go.” She took a deep breath and let go. “You have to let go of that false identity, too. You can’t let the label ‘blind’ define you your entire life.”

I nodded slowly, then remembered that she couldn’t see me. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

“Chloe, Jen!” my mom called from the dining room. “Could you girls come in here?”

We walked into the dining room, which my mom had dressed up really nice for our guests. One of her fancy tablecloths had been laid out, along with the nice silverware and real china, well, for everybody except me. My mom didn’t really trust me around breakable things.

“Chloe,” my dad began, “we’ve been talking to Jen’s parents about how you want to go to public school, and they’ve given us lots of helpful tips. They think that you’re probably responsible enough to be able to go to public school, so…” He took a deep breath. “We’ve decided to let you go to public school at Thatcher this year.”

“Really?” I asked, hiding my excitement.

“Yes,” my mom told me. “You know that this will be a really big commitment, right? You’ll have to work very hard on your schoolwork and keep your grades up, okay?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I agreed. I couldn’t believe that I was actually going to public school.

———-

I walked carefully down the high school hallway, my cane tapping gently against the lockers. My first week at Thatcher had been a tough one, but I had mostly figured out how to get around the school. Most of my classes were pretty easy, since, with my mom’s homeschooling, I was a little ahead of the class. My teachers were really nice, too, and super helpful. Most of the kids acted like my cane was poisonous or like I had a disease or something, avoiding me. I didn’t mind that much. I still hadn’t made any friends, but being a loner didn’t bother me.

A locker slammed almost directly in front of me. I went wide around the area where the locker had slammed to avoid running into the person. I felt a foot hit my shin, and I stumbled, slamming into the hard floor. Laughter rang out around me. I could feel my face burning.

“You need to learn how to walk, blind kid,” a taunting voice said to my left. Giggles reached my ears. I felt somebody grab my shoulders and yank me up off the floor. The next thing I knew, I lost my breath as he slammed me into a locker. There was more laughter, and I could feel the anger bubbling up inside of me.

“Leave her alone, Brian,” a slightly familiar-sounding voice called, and I heard footsteps approaching. The guy holding me, Brian, I guess, loosened his grip and stepped back.

“I was just messing around,” he protested.

“Whatever,” the voice snorted. “Are you okay, Chloe?”

“Yeah, I’m fine, John,” I replied.

“How’d you know who it was?” Brian asked, surprised.

John nudged me with his elbow. “She has a built-in voice recognition system, right?”

I laughed. “Yeah.” John led me down the hall towards the front door. “Thanks,” I whispered in his ear.

“No prob,” he told me. “Besides, what are friends for?”

The End

Chloe – Part IV

This short story is one of my favorites, but it’s fourteen pages long, so I’ll be posting it in parts. Please let me know what you think. Hope you enjoy! Click for Part I, Part II, and Part III.

“Hi, Mom,” I said cheerfully as I slid into my seat at the dining room table. “What’s for dinner?”

“Spaghetti and meatballs,” she replied. I could smell the sauce and the pasta in the air, but I knew she liked it when I asked, like a normal kid, instead of saying something like, “Oh, I love spaghetti and meatballs!” Sometimes it makes her uncomfortable when I show how much I can figure out without my eyesight.

“I’m home!” my dad called, slamming the door into the garage. I heard him clomp into the kitchen. “Hi, honey,” he said to my mom. I heard them kiss and could barely keep from gagging. He came over to the kitchen table. “Hi, Chloe. How was your day?” He leaned over and hugged me.

“Good,” I told him. “I got a lot done.”

“Good,” he replied. I could hear a smile in his voice. Unlike my mom, he didn’t treat me like I was fragile all the time. He treated me like a normal person.

“I went for a walk in the park down the street, and I met a blind girl,” I told him. It wasn’t exactly a lie, but it wasn’t the whole truth either. “She was really nice. I was wondering if you could convince Mom to let her and her parents come over sometime. I’d really like to get to know her better.” I knew my dad would at least mention it to my mom, and, if he agreed, he’d convince her, too. She always listened to him.

“Sure, Chloe,” he agreed. “It sounds great. I’m glad you’re getting to know other blind people. It’ll be good for you and probably pretty helpful.”

You have no idea, I thought. “Yeah, you’re probably right, Dad,” I said aloud.

He grinned. “You know I am.”

———-

Later that night, when I was up in my room, my mom came and sat on the end of my bed. “Be sure to tell your friend that she and her parents can come over tomorrow night for dinner,” she reminded me.

“Yes, ma’am,” I replied, hiding my grin. I was so happy that everything was working out. My mom kissed my forehead, then, after a short pause, left the room and went downstairs. I reached for the phone and punched in John’s number.

“Hello?” a high female voice asked when I picked up the phone. I frowned. This was definitely not John, and it didn’t sound like Jen. I gulped.

“Hi, can I talk to John?” I asked nervously.

“Who is this?” the lady asked suspiciously.

“Tell him that it’s Chloe,” I replied, trying to sound pleasant. Really, I was nervous, but I tried not to let it show.

There was a long pause as I heard the person on the other end set down the phone. “Okay, he’s coming,” she told me.

A few seconds later John came on the phone. “Hi, Chloe, sorry about that,” he told me.

“Who was that?” I asked curiously.

“Oh, that was my aunt, Jen’s mom,” he replied. “Okay, we just moved into my room, and I now have you on speaker phone so Jen can hear too.”

“Great,” I said.

“So how’d it go?” Jen asked impatiently.

I laughed. “You and your parents are officially invited to dinner at our house tomorrow night,” I told her.

“Awesome!” she exclaimed. “Did they give any specific reasons?”

“My dad said that he thinks it’s great for me to get to know other blind kids, and it’s apparently helpful for them to get to talk to other parents with blind kids.”

She laughed. “Yeah, that’s what my parents say. I guess we’ll see you tomorrow then.”

Chloe – Part III

This short story is one of my favorites, but it’s fourteen pages long, so I’ll be posting it in parts. Please let me know what you think. Hope you enjoy! Click for Part I and Part II.

The next day I was at the park bench again, waiting eagerly and listening for the sound of John’s footsteps. I had left the house while my mom was out with some of her friends, so I had easily made it out of the house. Finally, I heard John’s footsteps, along with another pair of footsteps that I didn’t recognize. They stopped right in front of me.

“Hi, Chloe. I already found an open picnic table. You ready?” John asked.

“Yeah.” I stood up. “Who’s with you?” I asked.

“I told you that she’d notice.” The girl’s voice had a hint of laughter in it.

“Yeah,” John agreed reluctantly. “Chloe, this is my cousin that I told you about, Jennifer. Jen, this is Chloe… oh, I don’t know your last name.”

“Caldwell,” I told him.

“Chloe Caldwell,” John repeated, grinning.

“Nice to meet you,” I told Jen.

“You too,” she replied. “Are you guys ready to get started?”

“Yeah,” John told her. “Chloe, Jen’s going to help us out. She’s had a lot of experience with these sorts of things, especially with her in the same situation as you.” We strolled over to the picnic table that John had picked. I explained everything to Jennifer that had happened, about my argument with my mom. I could tell that she understood.

We reached the picnic table and sat down. I heard Jennifer rest her elbows on the table. “Do you have any ideas, Jennifer?” I asked.

“Ugh. Please, just call me Jen. Only teachers call me Jennifer. Although my parents call me Jennifer when they’re mad, too.” I heard her lean forward, her arms brushing against the table. “My parents were the same as yours when I decided that I wanted to go to public school. I think that it might help if your parents could talk to my parents about this.”

“Do you really think that would help?” I asked hopefully.

“Yeah,” Jen replied. “So, how are you going to get our parents together?”

I thought for a second, and then an idea popped into my head. “I guess I can just ask my mom if a blind friend and her parents could come to dinner some night. I know they like talking to other parents with blind kids. And she encourages me to be friends with other blind people, so it’ll probably work.”

“Sounds good,” Jen agreed. “Why don’t you do that, and then you can call us and tell us how it goes.” She slipped a small sheet of paper to me. I felt Braille numbers on it. “Here’s my number,” she told me. “John knows how to set up a conference call, so we can all talk at the same time.”

“Got it,” I said. “I’ll go get to work.”

Chloe – Part II

This short story is one of my favorites, but it’s fourteen pages long, so I’ll be posting it in parts. Please let me know what you think. Hope you enjoy! Click here for Part I.

Silence. I could imagine him gaping at me. The silence only lasted about thirty seconds before he spoke. “That explains it.”

I was confused. “Explains what?”

“Explains why you weren’t making eye contact while we were talking.” I could hear the smile in his voice, and my jaw dropped. He must’ve notice the surprised look on my face. “What’s wrong?”

It’s just…” I hesitated. “Most people act totally different towards me when they find out that I’m blind. They either ignore me because they don’t know how to react, or they treat me like a little kid or like I’m made out of glass. But, you—you’re acting exactly the same!”

He laughed again. “”My cousin’s blind, so I’ve learned a lot about all of that. She hates it when people treat her different just because she’s blind. So I’ve gotten practice with treating her ‘normal’.” He paused. “It sounds like your mom could use a couple lessons in that.”

“Definitely,” I told him, and began telling him everything that had happened, up until he had sat on the bench.

“Whoa,” he said, interrupting me. “So your mom doesn’t know where you are?”

“Uh, no,” I admitted reluctantly.

“You’d better get home before your mom goes nuts. It’s already been about half an hour.”

“I guess so.” I sighed, standing up. I wasn’t looking forward to going home.

I heard him stand up, too. “I’ll walk you home.”

“I don’t need any help!” I snapped.

He laughed. “I know. But, from what you said, I think we live in the same neighborhood. I’m heading that way anyway.”

I could feel the heat rising on my face. “Oh,” was all I could say. I hesitated. “I’m sorry for snapping at you— wait, I don’t even know your name.”

“I’m John,” he told me. “I don’t know your name either.”

“I’m Chloe.”

We walked back over towards my house. John was great, not trying to help me unless I asked him to. We talked on the way home, too, and found out that we had a lot in common, especially a love for books and reading.

“So, do you use audio books to read?” he asked as we strolled down the street. I nodded. There was a long pause, just the sound of our footsteps and the tap-tap of my long feeler-cane. He finally broke the silence.

“I was just wondering, and you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to, but why are you blind?”

I’d never really talked to anyone about being blind or anything like that. This was new territory for me. But I realized that I didn’t mind opening up to John; it felt like we had known each other for ages. So I told him. “I was born blind.”

“So you’ve never been able to see?” he asked. I nodded. “Same with my cousin. What number is your house?” He changed the subject abruptly.

“368.” I had memorized it a long time ago.

“Then it’s this next house,” he told me. “I only live about four houses down. Do you have one of those scanners that reads books and things?” I nodded. “Then here’s my number. Call me later and let me know how it goes.” He pushed a slip of paper into my hand, and then I heard him jog ahead of me down the street. My cane thumped against the familiar wooden fence. I hoped I wouldn’t get in too much trouble.

As soon as I opened the front door, my mom was hugging me and crying into my hair. “Oh, Chloe,” she sobbed. “I was so worried. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay, Mom. See, I’m fine,” I insisted.

“I know, but that was very irresponsible of you. What if something had happened to you? Why don’t you go to your room for a little while.” I nodded and went up to my room without any fuss.

I guess my mom doesn’t realize that my room is my favorite room in the whole house. I spend most of my time in it, and all of my gadgets are in there: my book scanner, talking computer (I named the voice ‘Bob’), and my Braille books. I read the Braille books sometimes, but other times I like to just listen to the books.

When I got into my room, I pulled out my book scanner and scanned John’s number into my computer. “Bob” read off the numbers to me, and I pressed them into the phone. I waited while it rang.

“Hello?” It sounded like him, but I figured that I should check.

“Hi, this is Chloe. Can I talk to John?”

“Oh, it’s me, Chloe. So…” He was waiting.

“It wasn’t too bad. She was super upset when I got home, so she sent me to my room as punishment, except it’s not a punishment for me.”

He laughed. “Yeah, I guess not. Do you spend most of your time in your room?”

“Yeah. All of my gadgets are in it.” I couldn’t figure out what to say next, and I guess John couldn’t either, because an awkward silence followed. I searched for something to say, but I couldn’t think of anything. I shifted uncomfortably in my chair.

“Okay, now that’s what I call an awkward silence,” he finally said. I laughed, relieved. “Did you ask about going to school again?”

“No. She was too upset. She would definitely not have reacted well.”

“Do you want to meet at the park tomorrow so we can try to figure out how to convince her?” he asked.

“Really? I mean, you’d help me?” I was surprised.

“Yes, of course. So, what time do you want to meet tomorrow?”

Chloe – Part I

This short story is one of my favorites, but it’s fourteen pages long, so I’ll be posting it in parts. Please let me know what you think. Hope you enjoy!

I flopped down on my oversized bean bag on the floor of my room. I was completely bored. Summer was almost over, and it had been like every other summer of my entire life. I had hardly left the house, mostly because my mom wouldn’t let me go anywhere. She was always worried that something would happen to her “poor little Chloe”. That, and I didn’t have any friends to do anything with. I had hoped that this summer would be different, since I had just finished my freshman year of high school.

I could hear the kids across the street playing, and wished, for the millionth time, that I could be normal like them. It was a wish I knew could never come true, but I still wished anyway.

“Chloe?” I heard my mom call from behind the door.

“Come in,” I responded. I heard her open the door and walk in. The bed creaked when she sat on the edge. People say that she’s pretty. I just love her soft voice.

“What did you want to talk about, sweetie?” Mom asked. My sensitive ears picked up the curiosity and worry in her voice.

“Mom, do you think that I could go to public or private school this year? I think I’m ready to stop home schooling.” I immediately sensed her tensing up. Just great.

“Oh, honey, I think it might be better if we home school for a few more years. High schools are hard enough to get around in even if you can see. For a blind girl,” she hesitated, “they can be really dangerous.”

“But, Mom—” I began, and then stopped. I took the whine out of my voice and started over again. “You know that I’m not totally defenseless! I could figure it out.”

“Chloe…” My mom paused, and then continued reluctantly. “It’s not just that. A lot of times kids alienate people who are different.” She sighed. “I just don’t want you to get hurt, either physically, mentally, or emotionally.”

I could feel the anger rising in my chest. “Mom, you can’t protect me my entire life. Just because I’m blind, you try to keep the world away from me! I don’t need you to do that! I can handle it. I’m older. How am I going to learn if you’re always trying to shield me from everything?” I was shouting now, and I couldn’t stop. “You won’t even let me leave the house! I feel like a prisoner in my own house!” Finally, I ran out of breath. I grabbed my cane, the one I use to help me feel my way around, and stormed out of the room and out of the house. I could hear my mom calling me, but I ignored her and kept going. I could feel the hot, angry tears streaming down my face.

I walked to the end of the block and stopped. The only times I had ever left my house, we had been in a car, going on trips or to doctor’s appointments, and I had no idea where I was going. I could tell that I was at an intersection, but I had no idea where. I heard someone push the crossing button on the pole.

“Excuse me?” I called.

“Yes?” It was a woman’s voice, clear and strong.

“Is there a park or anything around here?” I asked. I figured that a park would be a good place to sit and think.

“Sure,” the lady responded. “I’ll take you there.” She led me across the street by my arm. I went with her reluctantly. I really just needed her to tell me where it was, not take me there, but I followed her anyway.

“Here it is,” she told me. “Turn left here and you’ll be in the park.”

“Thank you so much,” I thanked her.

“No problem. It was on my way anyway.” I could hear the smile in her voice. “Will you be able to find your way home?”

“Yes. Thanks again,” I told her and turned down the path, the sand and pebbles crunching under my feet. The birds were singing, and I could hear squirrels scampering in the trees. My cane hit something hard. I felt it and realized that it was a park bench. I sat down on it and started thinking. I was so deep in thought that I didn’t hear the footsteps approaching my bench, not even when they stopped right in front of me.

“Hi, can I sit down here?” The young male voice startled me, interrupting my thoughts. I turned towards his voice.

“Sure,” I told him. I heard him sit at the other end of the bench. I felt pretty uncomfortable.

“Did I surprise you?” he asked. I could feel his eyes on me.

“A little,” I admitted. “I wasn’t paying attention and didn’t hear you coming.” I didn’t know if he had noticed that I was blind yet. If he hadn’t, he probably would soon.

“Are you in high school? I’ve never seen you at Thatcher.” He seemed genuinely curious.

“Yeah, I’m in high school, but I’m home schooled,” I told him.

“Oh,” he paused. I could tell he wasn’t sure what to say next. You don’t have to see to know these things. “So, let me guess. You’re a… junior?”

I laughed. “No.” I’m going to be a sophomore this year.” I hesitated. “So, what grade are you in?”

“I’m a junior.” He paused again. “So, do you like home schooling?”

“It’s okay, most of the time. But sometimes I wish my parents would let me go to public school,” I confessed. “So you go to Thatcher?” I asked quickly, changing the subject. “What are you involved in? Sports?”

“I play a little football and baseball,” he replied, seeming eager to change the subject again. “Wait, why won’t your parents let you go to Thatcher?”

“Because my mom thinks that I’ll get teased and trampled and everything. She’d be worried sick about her ‘little girl’ in the ‘huge high school’.”

He laughed. “Thatcher’s not that big. Anyway, why’s your mom so worried about you at high school? I mean, there’re lots of girls at Thatcher who are smaller than you, and they survive. And it’s pretty easy to get around Thatcher, once you figure it out. So why’s she so worried about you?”

I gulped. I had been expecting this moment, when I would have to tell him that I was blind, but I still didn’t know what to say. So I just blurted it out. “Because I’m blind.”