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Amanda's Eyes - Chapter 13 - There’s Enough Blame for Everyone
Submitted by woody on Tue, 02/02/2010 - 15:35
Thirteen - There’s Enough Blame for Everyone
Waking up early Sunday morning, Ken tried to convince himself that the end of the previous evening was nothing but a horrible nightmare. Unfortunately the evidence surrounding him told him that it was all too real. His suit was draped over the desk chair, and his pillow was still a little moist. He wasn’t sure whether he’d blown it with Amanda or whether she’d been unfair to him, but either way, things didn’t look good and that left him feeling miserable. There had to be something he could do to distract himself … to stop thinking about it. He tried reading a science fiction novel he was half way through but the words were just a meaningless jumble to him and he had no memory of what he’d read. He turned on his computer and scanned the news, but nothing held his interest. Thoughts of the disastrous end to what had been a wonderful date kept creeping back into his head and overwhelming his attempts to focus on anything else.
At breakfast, his mom and dad asked about the date with the new girl, and Ken blew them off with a non-committal answer. He just couldn’t talk about it yet. His dad asked him to rake the leaves on the front lawn, which seemed to be as good as anything else to do. Unfortunately, it was also a completely mindless task, and Saturday night’s events kept popping up again and again. He kept replaying that last half hour, trying to figure out if there was some other way he could have handled it, but couldn’t see where he’d done anything that was really wrong. While he understood that he might have been able to support her more or maybe protect her better, he wasn’t sure exactly how he could have done it. He was sure the end of the date wasn’t his fault but that didn’t change the way it had happened. Talking to his parents or his friends wasn’t going to help. There was really only one solution. He had to talk to Amanda and sort this mess out.
When he’d finished raking and bagging the leaves, he went back inside, poured a drink of juice, and ate a small lunch. Then he sat by the phone for a while, thinking, or perhaps procrastinating, or maybe it was just wasting time. After the way they’d parted last night, calling her took some courage. Finally, with a sigh, he realized that there just wasn’t anything else to do but pick up the phone and dial. After three rings, Amanda’s mother, Kate, answered the phone.
“Hello Mrs. Jennings, this is Ken. May I please talk to Amanda?”
The chill in her voice almost froze his ear, "I don't think you should be calling here any longer. My daughter is more upset today than I've seen her in months. I’d thought you were a nice, polite young man; now I don’t know what to think. Amanda seemed really happy to be with you this week, but whatever happened between you two last night simply destroyed her."
“I know, but let me …”
“There is no reason for you to call here again so please leave my daughter and my family alone.”
Ken heard the click as the call was disconnected. He was stunned; he didn’t think he’d been that bad, and she hadn’t given him a chance to say anything in his own defense. Just what had Amanda said to her mother?
There had to be a way to fix this. While he didn’t feel completely innocent, the major fault for last night wasn’t his. Of course it wasn’t Amanda’s either. In a way they were both victims. Was Amanda so bitter toward him that she wouldn’t even consider speaking to him again? He’d certainly experienced her volatile nature, but he’d also discovered a sweet, pleasant, funny, and affectionate girl, and he didn’t believe that the first could have completely banished the second.
Later in the afternoon, Jon called to ask how the evening had ended. He expressed his and Sandy’s sympathies and told Ken how Kelly had spent the rest of the evening prancing around the dance floor grinning, looking like she’d won the lottery. She was all over Todd to the point where one of the teachers told them to cool off on the public displays of affection. Sandy and he were so disgusted that they left before the end; they just couldn’t regain any kind of festive mood. The two friends discussed how much of a bitch Kelly had been and what a shame it was that she’d ruined the dance for both couples. Neither understood where her behavior came from. She’d never been shy, but as far as they knew, she’d never been this cruel before. After a little more conversation about homework, the computer club, and the mysteries of women, they ended the call.
He drifted through the rest of the day finishing his homework, helping his father replace the screens with storm windows, straightening up his room, and taking a long bicycle ride. He kept pondering what had gone so wrong last night, why the date had turned into a nightmare, and trying to figure out a way to make up. No easy solution came to him so he showered and headed for work in the same somber mood he’d had the entire day. At the theater, he walked around like the living dead, quiet, staring, and not really interacting with anyone.
During the lull between rushes at the concession stand, Patty asked, “All right Zombie-boy, what gives?”
“Don’t ‘huh’ me like you’ve got no clue what I’m talking about. I’ve seen tree stumps livelier than you are tonight… what’s wrong?”
“I guess I’m not doing very well with dates and girls right now.”
“Why? Did something bad happen last night? I can’t believe Amanda would dump you on the second date. While you aren’t my type, you’re one of the genuine nice guys.”
“Thanks, I wish you could tell that to Amanda and her mom. The evening started out like a fairytale. She looked beautiful and dancing with her was like a dream come true. She was free and uninhibited during the fast dances; I’d swear she danced so well, she even made ME look good. In the slow dances holding her was like holding an angel. We fit together perfectly, and when she rested her head on my shoulder … ooohh … it was so good!
It all blew up about half way through, though when she accidentally bumped into Kelly, you know, my former girlfriend. It was just a bump. They happen all the time when people are dancing but I’ve never seen anything like what came next. Kelly lashed out at Amanda as if she thought she’d hit her on purpose or something. She called her a ‘pathetic blind girl’ and a menace to ‘normal’ people. It was really cruel and Amanda just fell apart and ended up shaking and crying in a corner. I tried to convince her to ignore Kelly and stay at the dance, but she told me, very bluntly, to shut up and take her home. If she hadn’t had to hold my arm to get back to the truck I’m sure she wouldn’t have let me touch her.
“We argued in the truck on the way home. I told her that Kelly’s insults didn’t mean anything, and she told me that I didn’t understand what it meant to be insulted. I know she’s been hurt, and that she’s really sensitive about anything concerning her blindness, but she didn’t have to take it out on me and ruin our date. It was just a stupid comment by someone who doesn’t matter, but Amanda blew it all out of proportion. When we got to her house, she rushed inside and slammed the door on me.
“I don’t know what she told her parents, but when I called to try to talk to her this afternoon, her mom told me how I’d hurt her and wouldn’t even tell her I was calling. She told me to leave Amanda alone and never bother her family again.
“It’s frustrating that I’m not even allowed to talk to her to try to fix things. I really enjoyed Friday night and most of the time we had at the dance.
“Oh well, maybe it’s for the best, if she’s going to be so explosive, I’m not sure it’s worth the effort to try to date her.”
Patty, leaning on the candy counter, cocked her head and thought for a moment, “Just what did you say to her in the truck?”
“I don’t remember exactly. I know I told her she was over-reacting, but it wasn’t like I was mad at her. I didn’t yell at her or anything.”
Patty paused for a few more seconds then grinned.
“You know Ken … I really think your school is cheapening the meaning of a school letter by giving them to people who aren’t on a sports team.”
He looked at her as if she’d just sprouted a second head, and getting red in the face, he hissed angrily at her, “What the hell does that have to do with what we’re talking about? Besides, you know it’s just not fair! I represent the school just as much as any stupid jock. I work just as hard to prepare, and my team is up for a state title this year. If they’ll give a letter to a varsity football player for warming the bench for two years, they should give one to someone who studies and practices for hours to do well for the school in a computer contest. What’s wrong with you? I can’t believe you said that. I thought you knew better.”
Patty just smiled at him and asked quietly, “Ken, what just happened? What did you do?”
“Ummm …” He thought for a bit, “I guess I over-reacted didn’t I?”
“You sure did. What made you act like that?”
“You know how I feel about that topic. It seems like everyone who sees my jacket asks what sport I’m in. I hate having to explain things over and over and over.”
“Would you say that’s a sore-point with you?”
“Yeah, it sure is.”
“Do you think Amanda has any sore-points?”
Ken felt his whole body shrink into itself as he realized the point Patty was making. “Oh shit … she’s always talking about how she isn’t normal and shouldn’t be trying to do normal teenager things, and then Kelly put her down for pretending to be normal in pretty much those same exact words. No wonder she went off the deep end. I didn’t help when I told her she was over-reacting, did I.”
“Nope, you told her that her feelings weren’t valid. Of course, she was going to get angry. She was hurt, and instead of supporting her, or at least comforting her, you were complaining and telling her she was wrong to feel the way she did. Sounds like you were thinking more about yourself than about Amanda.”
“God, I’m such a stupid jerk; I was having such a good time getting to know her, and I guess I was already starting to think of her as a potential girlfriend. Now it’s all screwed up.”
“You had help. Don’t take all the blame yourself.”
“Yeah, but I was the one with her. I should have been more sensitive.”
Patty laughed, “You ARE a teenage boy. Sensitivity isn’t a well developed skill in that species.” She chuckled, then continued, “Have you enjoyed your dates with Amanda?”
“Definitely, except for the last half hour.”
“What do you like best about her?”
“She’s really pretty when she doesn’t try to hide it. She has the most beautiful eyes and a delightful laugh. I really enjoyed talking and joking with her at the football game. She’s a great dancer -- fun in the fast dances, and I was in heaven when I held her close for the slow dances. She even smelled good. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a school dance as much as I did for most of Saturday night. We kissed a couple of times Friday night, and the kisses were some of the best I’ve ever been a part of. For a first date, we connected better than I’d ever dreamed I could with someone.”
“Do you think she’s worth another try?”
“Yeah, I’d like to see her again, but she won’t even talk to me.”
“Do you think she had as good a time with you as you did with her?”
“As far as I could tell, she sure seemed to. On Friday night, we had trouble letting go of each others’ hands when I had to leave, and for most of Saturday night, she couldn’t stop smiling.”
“Don’t you think you should try again?”
“How? Her parents answer the phone, and they won’t even listen to me. I doubt that going over there would be any better. They’d probably bring out a shotgun or call the cops if I knocked on the door.”
“You know that a little time can change things. Think about it. You’re a smart guy. You can figure something out but if she’s worth it, don’t give up so easily.”
Later, while waiting for the last movie to end so he could close up the theatre, he did some more thinking. He’d always known how smart and perceptive Patty was, but he couldn't believe how quickly and easily she'd seen the real problem. Must be a “girl-thing.”
There had to be a way he could talk to Amanda again and convince her that he wasn’t the asshole she seemed to think he was. Patty was right. She WAS worth it, and he didn’t want to let her get away without at least another attempt to make things right.
The problem was still on his mind when his head hit the pillow that night.
No solution had come to him Monday morning, but he did have a firm resolve to find a way to fix things with Amanda. The whole time, as he dressed, ate, drove to school, and even in classes, the problem was simmering in the back of his mind. There had to be an answer.
Just before lunch, he saw Kelly and Todd sauntering down the hall and couldn’t help himself.
“Kelly, you are a first class bitch, what the hell got into you Saturday night? You had no reason to treat my date like you did. I never dreamed you were the kind of girl who could even think the things you said.”
Todd shoved him toward the wall and growled, “Don’t talk to my woman that way, geek.”
Kelly just gave him a smirk, then wrapped her arms around Todd and gave him a really hot kiss.
Clearly, complaints weren’t going to get anywhere with this pair, so he continued on to meet his friends for lunch. Jon and Sandy again commiserated with him about the events of Saturday night and how despicable Kelly and Todd were acting. They all joked about the possible effects of a liniment-soaked jockstrap, sawdust in a bra, or a laxative laced milkshake. Having laughed at the issue, Ken went to his afternoon classes feeling a little better, but thoughts on the Amanda problem still invaded everything else he did. There had to be something he could try.
When Amanda didn’t come out for breakfast on Sunday morning, Kate opened the door of her daughter’s room to find her sleeping, curled up on top of her bedspread, still in her dress, and hugging a pillow stained with makeup and tears. She gently shook her shoulder.
“Amanda, honey, you’ve got to get out of those clothes.”
Amanda didn’t even open her eyes, “Just get out and leave me alone.”
“Honey, please tell me what’s wrong.”
“Oh fuck, I might as well give up trying to do anything. No one understands how much shit you take when you’re different. I’m not normal -- not whole -- and I need to remember that before I screw up again and someone reminds me. Fucking leave me alone; I don’t want to talk about it.” She said with a sob before pulling the pillow back to her face.
Eventually there was some activity in Amanda’s room. Muffled sounds of movement could be heard, and the shower hissed for a while. She emerged just before lunchtime with her hair still wet and her eyes red and puffy looking. She shuffled into the kitchen barefoot, wearing one of her old baggy sweatshirts and a pair of pajama pants. She got herself a bowl of Cheerios, not bothering with the milk or sugar. Eating her breakfast -- brunch really -- she leaned her head on one arm and picked at the cereal with her fingers. She certainly didn’t look happy, but she didn’t look particularly sad either. In reality, she just looked tired; resigned to whatever hand fate had dealt her.
The phone rang and Kate picked up the call. She could hear her mom speaking tersely into the phone, but she just continued her slow munching, not paying much attention to it. After hanging up, Kate walked over to the table to tell her that Ken had called, but since she could see how much he’d hurt her, she’d told him to leave them alone and not contact Amanda again. Amanda’s response was surprising to say the least. She lifted her head from her hand and turned her face toward her mom, seeming to stare at her for a moment the pain in her expression looking like she’d just cut off an arm. Then she broke out in sobs and ran for her room taking one noisy bounce off the hallway wall.
As she drenched her pillow with a new round of tears, she kept thinking to herself, “Why did I act like that last night? Why can’t I just let that stupid shit slide off? I was having the time of my life with Ken. I’ve never enjoyed a dance more -- even before the accident -- and I ruined it. After what I said to him and the way Mom treated him on the phone, Ken’s never going to call me again. Oh, God, it felt so good to hold him; I fucked up my chance to ever have a boyfriend before it even got off to a good start. Why can’t I learn to keep my damn mouth shut or at least think before I open it?”
She didn’t even have a way to contact him. He’d given her mom his phone number in a note, but Amanda, of course, wouldn’t be able to read it even if she could find it. Her mom didn’t sound likely to help her talk to him. What the hell was she going to do? She needed to apologize to Ken. She needed to try to find a way to fix things with him. Would he even be willing to give her the time of day after the way she’d acted? Why would he want to hang around with a stupid, vulgar blind girl who’d lost her temper at him because of something someone else did? Shit, she really WAS pathetic.
She listened to a chapter from her history book, not really absorbing much, and later joined her parents in the living room for some TV, but again, she couldn’t pay attention. All she could think of was the way she’d screwed up a promising almost-relationship with Ken.
Monday, dressed in her signature baggy sweatshirt and jeans, she moped through her classes, barely acknowledging her guide or the people around her. A few remembered the Amanda of last Friday and wondered what had happened. Most just saw the same quiet, sad blind girl they’d always seen, if they noticed her at all.
At the reading program that afternoon, Miss Harris introduced her to a new girl who was to be her reader for the next two weeks. The book dropping trick worked just right with the girl, and after Amanda berated her for her clumsiness, using every four letter word in her vocabulary, her new reader ran out of the room. For some reason, instead of gloating in her victory, Amanda just sat there sobbing. Miss Harris came in a few minutes later to say how disappointed she was in her behavior; furthermore, she’d had more than enough of this, and Amanda would get detention, or worse, if it was ever repeated. Being blind was not an excuse for this kind of rudeness, and it would no longer be overlooked. She brought her out into the office area to wait for her mom.
After Miss Harris had told her mom about her behavior in the reading room and a chewing out from her mom, Amanda finally broke down In the car and told Kate what had happened at the dance and on the way home. The first comment from her mom was the same as Ken’s. Things just didn’t sound quite as bad as Amanda’s reaction made them out to be. Wrong thing to say, and it only started the poor girl crying again.
“So Ken really didn’t do anything to hurt you?”
“No! He was never anything but nice to me, even after I dumped on him in the car. I can’t believe how I ruined everything.”
“Baby, do you want to see Ken again?”
“Yeah. I’d like to see if I can find a way to fix things and get him to give me another chance.”
“You know he tried calling you. I wish I’d understood what had happened before I chewed him out over phone. I’m not sure if he’ll try calling again, but you could call him.”
“I feel so stupid. How can I call him, what could I say to him, and why would he ever be willing to listen to me?”
“Honey, do you think he enjoyed himself with you?”
“I’m sure he did, at least most of the time.”
“Then I’m sure he’d at least be willing to talk to you. After all, he did try calling.”
“Maybe.” And she just leaned back, closed her eyes, and was quiet the rest of the ride home.
Could she talk to Ken? Would he be willing to talk to her? What would she say? She understood that she’d made too much of the insult at the dance, but it really HAD hurt more than anyone could know. She’d been so high on the moment, feeling happy, free and not even noticing her handicap, and then everything had crashed down on top of her. From the mountain top to the sewer in the blink of an eye; anyone would react the way she did, wouldn’t they? But, and here was the big ‘but’, that didn’t give her an excuse to dump on Ken who had never been anything but considerate.
It took a lot of courage and mental preparation, but later that evening, she decided that she had everything to gain and nothing more to lose by trying to talk to Ken. Her stomach felt full of squirming toads, and her heart was pounding double time when she asked her mom to dial his number and leave the room.
As the phone started to ring, she broke out in a sweat. “Ring…Ring…Ring…” A woman answered, “Hello?”
Her heart jumped into her throat, “Hi, may I please speak to Ken?”
“I’m sorry, he’s at work tonight. Can I take a message?”
The toads all died and turned into freezing rocks in her belly.
“Umm … Thank you, but no, I’ll try again another time.”
And crossing her arms on the table, she rested her head on them and just breathed … just focused on breathing. And on failure. And on how she always fucked up everything important in her life. Feeling discouraged and lost, Amanda closed her eyes.