- Our Companies
- Hosted by Us
- Other Links
Amanda's Eyes - Chapter 10
Submitted by woody on Mon, 11/03/2008 - 02:49
Ten - Game Day
To get the whole weekend off, Ken had to work every night that week, so he didn’t have time for much beyond school, community service, homework, and his job. He’d done more searching for information on the blind but still didn’t feel completely prepared for his date with Amanda.
At work, between intermissions, he told Patty about Kelly dumping him for the football player, and she agreed with him that it was a rotten thing to do, especially since he’d had no hint that she might be looking for another man. After discussing Kelly some more, they both got a case of the giggles as they found themselves in a competition adding up all of her bad qualities.
Ken had started it off. “She’s too short.”
“Her tits are too big,” Patty countered.
“Uh, Patty, I’m sorry, I’d have to disagree on that one. She’d have to be truly deformed for her tits to be too big.”
“God, you are such a guy!”
“Guilty as charged… but her butt’s flabby.”
“I do NOT want to know any more about that… her hair color comes out of a bottle.”
“She’s a lousy dancer.”
“Her nose is too big… didn’t it get in the way when you two kissed?”
“No, we worked that out … but she’s really too clumsy to be a cheerleader.”
“She’s got horrible taste in guys.”
“Present company excluded?”
Patty looked at him, calculatedly. “I don’t know… the jury’s still out on you.” But then she couldn't hold it in and started laughing, and he couldn’t help but laugh with her.
As always, when talking with Patty, it didn’t take him long to feel better.
And then when he told Patty about his experiences in the reading sessions, and it came out how he’d asked Amanda to his game and dance, she thought it was terribly sweet and romantic. She laughed about how he’d invited her in a momentary lapse of sanity right in the middle of a shouting match and reminded Ken that this was just the sort of reason why she thought he was such a great guy. He could turn a confrontation like that around into a romantic interlude.
He asked again why she’d never agreed to go out with him, and she reminded him, “You know, I’ve told you every time you ask. I’m committed… and it’s beginning to sound like you might be on the way there yourself.”
“Oh come on, Patty, it’s not like that… well, maybe it could be like that… It’s weird. For a while she was the nasty, ugly bitch who swore at me and sniped at and belittled me every time I had to read to her. Now I’m thinking of her as a pretty girl and a potential girlfriend.”
“Uh huh, just what I thought. You better be careful, Ken. To someone who has a heart -- and a fragile one at that -- you could turn out to be a real heartbreaker. Of course,” she added, smiling nastily, “Kelly was never in any danger from you on that account.”
He smiled sadly, “No, I suppose she wasn’t.”
On Friday, Ken arrived at Lincoln High early for his last day of community service. He needed to talk with Miss Harris about his date with Amanda that evening.
“Did you know that Amanda is going to my football game with me tonight and my school’s homecoming dance tomorrow night?
With a bit of a smile turning up the corners of her mouth, she replied softly, “Yes, Ken, I’ve heard about the invitation, and I’d like to thank you very much for doing it.”
“Well, I’ve never done anything besides read to a blind person before, and I need some help with what I have to do to take care of her at the game and dance. Can you help me with it? I’ve done some reading, but all of a sudden, I really don’t feel ready.”
“The things you need to do right now are stop thinking ‘blind girl’ and stop thinking ‘help.’ Amanda is a 17-year-old girl with the same feelings and wants and needs as any other girl you’ve ever spent time with. It would be a huge mistake to always think of her as fragile or limited just because she can’t see, so stop thinking that you have to take care of her or treat her differently. Tonight is your first date with a cute girl who you met in an after-school activity. That’s it!
“Now, that said, there are some things you’ll need to be aware of. I’ve got a few pamphlets here on being a sighted guide. If you take a little time to go through them you’ll be a lot more comfortable with Amanda. They’re nothing too complicated, just information on how to help a blind person ‘see’ where they are and what’s going on around them.”
She gazed directly at him with a serious look on her face, “You need to be aware that in the two years since Amanda lost her sight, she hasn’t put much effort at all into dealing with her visual impairment. We’ve offered her training on working with a guide and on using a cane if she wanted to. She’s been offered a guide dog, and we’ve tried to get her to learn Braille so she could be more self-sufficient in reading and getting around. We’ve even tried to help her learn to use a computer like mine to browse the web, read, and do homework. So far, she’s refused it all.
“She’s living in denial. It’s like she thinks this is all a bad dream, and one bright and sunny morning she’ll wake up and everything will be like it was before her accident. Her eyes will be fine, and she can just go back to having what she thinks of as a life. Of course she’s angry about her situation and that anger shows up in the unpleasantness you’ve been on the receiving end of a few times in the last two weeks.
“Going out with you is a big step for her. It’s also a huge risk for her because she’s showing her vulnerability. That’s a first step to accepting what’s happened to her. If this goes well and she can understand that there is a life for her after the accident, it could help her accept what has happened and stop fighting the people who want to help her. I suppose that puts more pressure on you than on an average ‘first date,’ but I thought you ought to be forewarned.”
Ken thought for a moment and asked, “Is this a bad idea?”
“No, it’s a wonderful idea. It’s a win for both of you. Amanda will get out of her house and do normal high school activities, and you get to spend some time with the wonderful girl I’m sure Amanda keeps locked up inside her. Don’t think for a moment that you’ve made a mistake.
“One more thing you need to think about. Amanda is going to be depending on you more than any other girl you’ve ever been out with. You’ll have her in a completely new and unknown environment where she has no points of reference at all. She's never been to your school before, and you've noticed how she stumbles around here at her own school, even though she's been coming here for three years now. At your school, without a guide, she’ll be lost and could easily become frightened and angry. You are that guide. You can’t just walk away from her to talk with the guys -- even for just a few minutes -- or anything like that. I know that puts more responsibility on your shoulders than you might have expected, but I’ve been listening to you, and I think you’re capable of handling it. Just have a good time, pay plenty of attention to the girl with you, and everything else will take care of itself.”
He nodded his head, then picking up the pamphlets; he walked back to room six to read them until Amanda arrived. After going through the one on being a guide, he concluded that it really didn’t sound at all difficult. He just had to remember that he had someone with him who depended on him to let them know what was coming up, and also that other people wouldn't know that she was blind and couldn't see to avoid them.
One pamphlet talked about how to act when meeting a blind person, emphasizing that you focus on the person, not on the blindness. He got a laugh out of the comment that you didn’t need to talk louder to someone who was blind. It sounded really silly, but he could see that happening. A very sensible recommendation was to identify yourself when speaking to a blind person since they can’t see you speak.
He thought more about the football game. Could someone who couldn’t see enjoy the game? The environment at a game can be fun to be part of -- the energy in the stands -- the cheering -- the excitement -- game food -- the band. The play on the field is all visual, though, so what could he do to help Amanda enjoy that? He thought about ways he might narrate the game for her, and suddenly a great idea hit him.
He was thinking about things he’d have to bring to the game when Miss Harris brought Amanda into the room. He immediately noticed that she was dressed differently, and her hair looked cared for. It was surprising what just a change in clothing could do for her appearance. He’d noticed before how thin she was, but today, without the baggy sweatshirt, he could see that she definitely was shaped like a girl. Her hips were kind of narrow, but her waist thinned nicely, and she had small breasts that were in perfect proportion to the rest of her body. The change in her hair, clothes, and even the way she stood, made it clear that with just this tiny amount of personal care, she really was a beautiful girl.
“Hi, Amanda. You look great today.”
“Thanks, I guess. I’ve heard that quite a few times today and it’s getting old. All I did was dress differently, and everybody starts acting all weird.” She seemed to be trying to blow his compliment off.
“Hey, one thing I’ve learned is never push a complement away, No one ever gets enough of them, and we should enjoy them when we can.”
She suppressed it, but he could see a slight grin on her face at that comment. “I guess that makes sense. In that case, Thank you.”
She sat down and held out the book. Ken took it but didn’t open it. He wanted to talk a little about arrangements for tonight first.
“For the game tonight, you need to dress warmly and…”
Her countenance immediately darkened. “What’s wrong with you? Do you think I’ve never been to a football game before? I haven’t always been like this you know. I used to go to games and dances and all that stuff, just like everyone else. I know how to dress for a football game. If you’re going to act like I’m some damned invalid moron, let’s call this off now.”
“Amanda, I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking of you that way at all, and I certainly didn’t mean it to sound as if I was. I’m just a little nervous. I figured you haven’t done this in a while, and I just want it to be fun for both of us. How about I just let you ask any questions you might have and I try to keep my foot out of my mouth?”
Her temper cooled as quickly as it had flared, and he could tell she was fighting hard to avoid smiling. “Okay, what time are you picking me up? I assume that you are picking me up; I could probably get my mom to drop me off if that would be easier.”
“I’m definitely picking you up. The game starts at seven, so how about if I pick you up at six fifteen? That will give us plenty of time to get to the stadium and find good seats in the bleachers. Can you eat something before the game? We can go out for a snack afterward, but I’d hate to try to make a meal out of the stuff they serve in the stadium snack bar, and we probably don’t have time to stop on the way to the game.”
“What, you’re too cheap to take me out for food?” She actually smiled with that comment, showing she was teasing him, but then her mood turned. “Or are you ashamed to be seen in public with me?”
He reached out to pick up her hand, and after a slight resistance, she let him lift it a little off her lap. “I’m not ashamed in any way to be seen with you. My whole school will see you and me together at the game, and we can’t be much more public than that.”
Tears began forming in Amanda’s eyes, “Why are you doing this? I’m sure you could find a prettier girl who isn’t crippled to go out with. Why do you want to be with me? What do you want from me?”
“I don’t want anything different from you than any other girl. Really, the only thing I want from you tonight is for you to have a good time.” He paused for a second. “Guess I want to have a good time too, but if you do, I’m sure I will. And please stop talking about yourself as crippled, you’re a cute girl who can’t see, but I can’t think of you as crippled, and I hate hearing you run yourself down that way.”
He reached out with his other hand and wiped away her tears. “Now, let’s concentrate on getting further through this book and getting ready for tonight.
At the end of the reading session, Ken guided Amanda out to the desk where her mother was waiting. “Remember, I’ll be there to get you at six fifteen. I’ll see you then.”
On the ride home, she asked, “Mom, after what happened the last time I went out with a guy, why are you being so easy about letting me do this? I’ve only known Ken for two weeks, and even that has only been in the reading sessions.”
“Honey, you’ve been hiding in the house for two years, just letting your life go by. I’ll admit that both your father and I are a little worried about you going out with another boy, but if you are willing to take that chance, we’ll take it too. This is a rite of passage for all of us; we can’t deny you the chance to grow and learn and enjoy life like everyone else.” She laughed a little. “But you’d better believe that your father and I will have a talk about alcohol with that young man before you two leave the house.”
“Mommmmm……… don’t scare him away.”
They both laughed before lapsing into their own thoughts the rest of the ride home.
When he got home, Ken quickly gathered a few things together and changed into a nice sweater in the school colors. He also put on his letter jacket for the first time in quite a few months, having just gotten it back from Kelly. He knew approximately where Amanda lived, but just to be sure, he went online and printed a map of the area. Just before six he set out for her house, figuring it was about a fifteen-minute trip. He didn’t want to arrive late, and he needed to put some gas in the truck on the way.
He pulled up in front of the house almost exactly on time. It was a nice, one-story ranch-type house in an equally nice, clean neighborhood. From the look of the house and area, he figured that her family was the same as his, solidly in the middle of the middle class. He walked up to the front door and rang the bell. Through the glass he could see Mrs. Jennings approach and open the door.
“Hi, Ken, please come in. Amanda will be ready in a couple of minutes.”
It was exactly the stereotypical greeting a girl’s parent will give any guy who’s shown up to take their daughter on a date. Ken composed himself for the ‘meet the parents’ ritual he knew would be coming.
She called toward the back of the house, “Amanda, Ken is here.”
As they entered the cozy living room, the evening news was on the TV, and Amanda’s father stood up from his chair and offered Ken his hand. He was tall, well over six feet, and towered above Ken. As they shook hands, he said, “Good to meet you Mr. Jennings, I’m Ken Webber.”
“Nice to meet you too, Ken, I’m Dave Jennings.”
Mr. Jennings motioned Ken to a seat on the couch, and Mrs. Jennings took a seat in another chair. They may have meant it to look welcoming, but to a teenage guy in a girl’s home, it looked like the typical setup for an inquisition. Obviously trying to make a little pleasant conversation, Amanda's father asked, “Ken, what sport did you letter in?”
“I don’t play any sports. I’m on the school’s computer applications competitive team, and last year we got all the way to the state semi-finals before we lost. This year we’re doing great again, and we’re really blowing away the other schools. We want to be state champs.”
“I played basketball for Lincoln High, and we were state champs in my senior year. I’m surprised to see that they give you a school letter for doing computer stuff.”
“There was a lawsuit a couple of years ago that forced the schools to give the same treatment to anyone who represented the school. It makes sense to me; I represent the school in a competitive event that takes work and practice and skill. Why shouldn’t the school treat me as well as it treats the jocks?” Ken had seen this reaction in people before and was a little sensitive about it, but he caught himself before he went too far. He didn’t want to start out by making Mr. Jennings angry.
“I suppose… It just seems a little strange.”
Since this line of conversation didn’t seem to be going anywhere good, Ken decided to change the topic.
“What do you do Mr. Jennings?”
“Kate and I own the art supply store downtown. My father started the business, and I took it over when he decided to retire. It doesn’t make us rich, but it’s a dependable income, and we meet some really unique customers.” All three laughed at that, thinking of some of the stereotypical ‘artist’ types.
“Do you think you’ll make a career of computers, Ken?”
“I’m considering taking Computer Science or Computer Engineering in college. I’m interested in both, and they seem like good careers. I’ve started applying to…”
At that point he paused as Amanda entered the room. She was dressed in jeans and an off-white sweater that looked soft and fuzzy. Like the clothes she’d worn to school today, what she wore now fit her well and showed off her figure. She’d brushed her dark hair, and it looked great flowing over her shoulders with just a slight curl to it. She even seemed to have a little makeup on, and it drew attention to her magical eyes. Her mom called her over to sit on the other end of the couch, and both of her parents turned to Ken, who suddenly felt like a prisoner about to undergo an interrogation.
“Ken, can you tell us what your plans are for tonight?”
He looked at Mr. Jennings then at Mrs. Jennings. Both had very serious looks on their faces and he suddenly found them a little intimidating. “Ahhh… we’re going to the football game, then probably out for ice cream or something afterward.”
“When do you expect to be back?”
This was easier. “The game lasts a couple of hours, so it will probably be done by nine or nine thirty. Depending on how long we hang out at the drive-in, I suppose we can be back between ten and eleven. Will that be okay?”
Amanda jumped in, “Mom, Dad, I’m seventeen years old, do we need to give you a minute by minute plan?”
“We want to know you’re safe Amanda.”
They both looked at him again, “Ken, will there be any alcohol tonight?”
“No way; I care too much about my truck, and I’m not going to risk it or my license. I’m really careful and I normally stay away from the stuff anyway.”
Mr. Jennings stared directly into Ken’s eyes, “We’re trusting you with our daughter tonight, and we want to be sure you are taking care of yourself and her.” Turning toward Amanda, he placed his cell phone in her hand. “Call us if there is anything wrong, and we’ll come and get you. Now, you’d better get going so you aren’t late for the game.”
Amanda and Ken stood up, and she went to the closet for her jacket. He was surprised at how well she maneuvered around the living room unassisted. He’d only seen her at school, where she seemed lost and needed help for everything. When they got to the front door he asked, “Are you supposed to take my elbow or something like that?”
“Yeah, that way I can feel you walking a little ahead of me, and you can tell what’s coming before I reach it. You’re supposed to tell me about doors and steps and things too. Can you give me your hand?”
He touched his hand to her arm, and she slid up his arm and held her hand loosely around his upper arm. With her this close, he could smell a flowery perfume. “My truck is on the street, right in front of your house.” When they reached the curb and the truck parked there, he said, “We’re at the truck -- let me open the door so you can get in. She released his arm as he reached into his pocket for his keys. He unlocked the door and started to swing it open but realized that it would hit Amanda, and he stopped it. “Can you step back a little so I can swing the door open?” She must have felt the door go by, because she lifted her hand to touch it, and using the door, then the top of the opening as a guide, climbed up onto the seat. She felt for her seatbelt, pulled it across her, and buckled it.
Ken walked around to the driver’s door and got in, also fastening his seatbelt.
“What kind of truck is this?”
“It’s a green ’91 Chevy pickup. My father bought himself a new one and gave me this one when I got my drivers license. Its a few years old, but it is in great shape, and I take really good care of it.
“So I don’t have to be embarrassed going on a date in an old pickup?”
“No way, lots of girls have tried to get into this pickup, but only a select few have succeeded.”
“Suuuurrrrre.” Amanda actually laughed a little as she said it. Ken hadn’t heard her laugh very often; it sounded and felt wonderful.
Trying to make conversation as they drove to the football field, Ken asked, “What kinds of stuff do you like in school?”
She visibly tensed up for a moment, then took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Lately, I haven’t cared much for anything. It just doesn’t seem like there’s much point to studying, and I’ve let things go. I used to enjoy literature and art and science, but it’s hard for me to get into the story when I have to use audio-books. I can’t just glance back and read a passage again or skim forward when I don’t feel like really paying attention to part of it. I guess I still enjoy a good story, but it seems so hopeless that I might ever really be able do stuff on my own. I can’t even find the right CD or tape for a book I want to listen to, so it’s either ask for help or just forget it. Most of the time, I just forget it. Asking for help for everything gets pretty old. Art is just gone. How can I enjoy art when I can’t see it?”
Ken wasn’t sure how to respond to Amanda’s feelings. He could tell that she was trying hard not to get angry and could now easily see that her anger was a response to hurt and frustration more than anything directed at him. He was just a convenient target. He thought about what Miss Harris had said about Amanda learning Braille, but he knew that now was not the time to bring up that subject.
“What do you think of the book we’ve been reading?”
“To be honest, it’s really pretty good. I can see why it won an award. I feel a lot like the girl in the story. She’s watching life go by and seeing others have experiences she’ll never have. I want to find out how it ends. I suppose they’ll assign me another reader.”
“I want to see how it ends too. Guess I’ll have to check the book out from the library… or I could, you know, keep reading it to you. That way we could find out how it ends together. I mean, we started this together and all.”
There was a silence in the truck for a few moments, then a tiny smile formed on Amanda’s face.
“Let’s see if we can get through the game tonight and the dance tomorrow without me wanting to chop off your head or you wanting to dump me off a pier before we start making any serious commitments like finishing books together, okay?”
Ken laughed, “Okay, no serious commitments to book finishing until after the dance.” With that statement, he pulled the truck into the parking lot at the school, found a space, and got out. He ran around to the other side and opened the door saying, “Let me help you out.”
She frowned and with a hint of acid in her voice said, “You don’t have to help me with everything; I’m perfectly capable of getting out of a car myself.”
“You’re my date tonight, and I believe in opening doors and helping a lady who’s with me. I’d do the same for any girl I’m out with.”
She blushed a little, smiled, and playfully held out her hand for Ken. “In that case, you’d better assist this poor helpless maiden descend from your carriage.”
Amanda took Ken’s arm and they walked to the stadium entrance. He’d bought her ticket during school, so they just headed for the gate. He showed his activity card and handed in her ticket. He warned her about the entry area, but it was about ten feet wide and wouldn’t be an issue at all. They were early enough that they didn’t have to dodge a crowd of other people, but as they entered the stadium, she clutched Ken’s arm with her other hand, too, and moved closer to him.
He felt a warmth spread through his whole body when she added the second hand to his arm. He could even feel the tip of a breast brush him as they walked, but she was holding on so tightly that he became concerned. “Are you okay?”
“I’ll be fine, I just realized that I don’t know anyone here, and I’m not really sure where I am… it’s a little scary.” She paused and thought for a moment. “Ken, you remember what it was like before you learned how to swim? I used to go bouncing down the shallow end on my tippytoes, and then all of a sudden, I couldn’t feel the bottom without my head going under, and I couldn’t swim, so I’d struggle to get back to where I could breathe again. You ever do that?”
“All the time… my mom called it ‘Ken trying to drown himself.’”
“That’s what this feels like… I can just barely touch the bottom. So if I grab on and hold you a little too hard…”
“It’s because you’re afraid of drowning?”
“Something like that, yeah.”
“Well, let me tell you about the pool. We’re at the end of the field. My school’s side is to our right and the other team’s side is on our left. The ground is pretty smooth, you shouldn’t have any problems until we get to the stairs, and I’ll help you there. My friends and I normally sit at about midfield. You okay with that?”
“I guess. Do your friends know you’re bringing me?”
“Yeah, I told them I’m bringing someone new to the game.”
“Do they know ‘about’ me?”
“Well………I told them you are a cute girl who I met in the reading program. They know you go to Lincoln and that we haven’t known each other very long, but I asked you to the game and dance and you accepted, and we’re coming here tonight.”
She stopped walking and with a quavering voice asked, “Do they know what’s wrong with me?”
"What! There's something wrong with you? Something you haven't told me? I see two arms, two legs, and one head." But as her mood immediately began to darken at the attempt at humor, he turned toward her and took her other arm in his hand, “Amanda, if you’re talking about being blind, then I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you at all, but yes, they know about your blindness.”
“Ken, I know you’re trying to be sweet, but let me put this simply.” There was a touch of the familiar venom in her voice. “My eyes are broken. They don’t work. That’s wrong.”
“Amanda, I can’t argue with you about that. You have every right to feel that way.”
“Thanks for the permission!”
“But to me, there’s nothing wrong with you… other than the fact that you’ve developed a taste for beating me up over almost everything I say.” He hoped she could hear the smile in his voice. “You’re pretty, you’re intelligent, and I suspect you can be a wonderful person to sit and talk with. I like the way you feel holding me like you are, your perfume smells great tonight, and those eyes you call ‘broken’ are the most beautiful ones I’ve ever looked into. That’s the Amanda I’ve come to know. I didn’t know the Amanda who existed before the accident. But I like this Amanda, and I think that anyone you give half a chance to will like her too, my friends included.”
The angry tension left her face. “Well, let’s go sit down then. It’ll take a little longer for me to get there than you’re used to.” She gripped his arm. “You really think I smell good?”
As they approached the center-field section of the bleachers, Ken saw his friends Jon and Sandy about six rows up and waved at them.
“My friends are sitting a few rows up. Are you okay with climbing the stairs?”
“I know how to use stairs. As long as you tell me where they start and end, I’ll be fine.”
Amanda held Ken’s arm as they started up the stairs. After she had gauged the height and length of the first step, she handled them with no problems at all, and they then moved along the row toward his friends.
When they got to their seats, he introduced Amanda, “Jon, Sandy, this is Amanda, I met her in the reading program at Lincoln High.” He turned toward Amanda, “I’ve known Jon since about sixth grade, and he and Sandy have been together almost that long. I have no idea what she sees in him, but she sticks with him.”
Jon returned the taunt with a laugh, “And just what does anyone see in you, Ken? What about it Amanda?”
Ken tensed at the word “see” and prepared for either an angry reply or tears, but Amanda dissolved the tension with a grin, “Well … I can’t really see him, but this arm feels pretty good, and tonight at least he smells nice.”
All four laughed, and each knew that the evening was off to a good start.