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Amanda's Eyes - Chapter 17 - "Boo"
Submitted by woody on Mon, 01/10/2011 - 16:06
Seventeen – “Boo”
The next day at school started out as pretty much the same old story. Amanda dressed in a sweater and jeans, brushed her hair, and got help from her mom with a little bit of makeup; couldn’t do much since she was unable to touch it up during the day. She concentrated a little more on her classes and walked a little more confidently between rooms with her guide... all little changes but they add up.
The in class changes started in English where, during the discussion of the book they were reading, Amanda raised her hand for the first time. When she was called on by a very surprised teacher, she joined the discussion. She and Ken had talked about this exact topic while reading a couple of days before, and she felt that their conclusions were better than the ones the class seemed to be heading toward. Surprisingly, the class picked up on her ideas and ran with them in an enthusiastic exchange. After class, the teacher complimented her on starting a great discussion. Amanda smiled.
At lunch time, her guide led her to the cafeteria, helped her choose food, and then started her out toward the tables to look for a place to sit. She was startled for a moment when she heard a voice in front of her, “Hi Amanda. Would you like to sit with my friends and me for lunch today?”
“Yeah, come on over to our table.”
“Are you sure? You didn’t sound like you wanted to talk to me last night.”
“Sorry about that; I was just surprised. After all, I hadn’t heard from you in a couple of years, and I just didn’t know what to say. I thought about it for a while after we hung up and I remembered that we used to have a lot of fun together. To tell the truth, I ended up feeling pretty shitty about the way I treated you on the phone. Please, come and have lunch with us.”
After helping her to a seat across from Karen, her guide told her she’d eat on her own and come for her when lunch was over.
Karen made introductions, “Amanda, This is my boyfriend, Ron. He’s with us today, but he usually sits with the guys.” Karen picked up Amanda’s hand and put it into a larger, rougher one. Ron said, “Hi,” and shook hands with her.
“You must remember Kris? We used to hang out with her a lot.” A smaller, warmer hand grasped Amanda’s and after a quiet “Hi” withdrew.
“Sure, I remember you, Kris. You’ve got such pretty, long blonde hair. I was always a little envious of you.”
A quiet giggle circled the table, and she must have had a puzzled look on her face. Kris let her in on the joke, “Sorry, my hair isn’t long anymore. It’s cut in kind of a short shaggy style. It isn’t blonde anymore either. It’s orange now.”
Amanda joined the laughter as she tried to patch short orange hair onto the mental image she held of Kris. She couldn’t help but wonder if any piercings went along with the “punk” picture she was building in her head.
Karen continued the introductions around the table. Amanda had known a few of the girls before the accident, but most she didn’t.
“And last and maybe least, this is Evan, Kris’ little brother. He’s only a junior, but we let him sit with us anyway.”
Amanda’s face must have shown the discomfort she was feeling inside because things around the table suddenly got very quiet.
She knew she had a choice, a choice that would decide whether she could be friends with this group or pull back into herself. She could withdraw. She could get angry. She could signal to her guide to help her leave. But before she said or did anything, she realized she didn’t want to lose the chance at these friends she was just starting to regain so taking a deep breath, she spoke up.
“I’m a junior too. I had to repeat sophomore year because I was out of school too long after the accident to be able to get caught up and stay with my class.”
The table was quiet again for a few seconds until a male voice that must have been Evan’s broke the ice, “Thank God, maybe they’ll stop teasing me about being the junior who sits with the seniors at lunch.”
“Oh, Evan, it isn’t just that. You’re a junior GUY who sits with the senior GIRLS at lunch most of the time.”
Evan laughed, “If that’s a problem, I don’t see it.”
Everyone, including Amanda had to laugh at that one. She could ‘see’ the grin that moust have decorated Evan’s face.
Evan addressed her, “You’re in my English class. Where did you come up with that idea about the book? You turned the whole discussion around and steered us toward a much better conclusion.”
“My reader and I talked about that part right after we read it. I just thought we’d come up with some better ideas than the way the class was heading.”
Everyone wanted to know about what she’d meant by her reader, so she explained the reading program and how she and Ken discussed interesting sections as they came to them. The reaction surprised her.
“That sounds like a great way to study books for English class. It’s kind of like a two-person study group.”
Everyone around the table vocalized their agreement. Amanda was surprised that this group, looking at what she’d viewed as torture only a few weeks ago, thought it a valid and valuable study technique.
As she ate her meal, she listened to the normal teenage chatter around her. Classes and teachers, music, the football team’s rotten record, a movie Karen and Ron had seen last weekend, costumes for Halloween, parties people were going to, a discussion of a cute guy one girl was interested in... most wouldn’t see it as anything important, but to her it was a revelation. She realized that she didn’t have to be the sullen, lonely, blind girl who ate by herself. Today, she was part of a group of kids her age discussing the day-to-day goings on in their lives. She belonged. Wow, she actually felt like she belonged.
Toward the end of the lunch period, Evan spoke up. Since he was in the same class as Amanda before lunch, he volunteered to walk to lunch with her and help her find the table the group sat at tomorrow. Everyone agreed, and once more Amanda felt included and welcomed.
That evening, Ken called to talk about plans for Halloween. He suggested that Amanda wear something warm since they would be sitting in his family’s garage for most of the night. When she asked why that would be fun, he just assured her that it would be. He sounded excited but still wouldn’t give her any hints about what he was planning. Ken hadn’t lead her wrong yet so she thought it best to go along with him on it.
The next day, on the walk from English class to lunch, Amanda introduced Evan to her school-sponsored guide. “This is Louise. She’s a school aid who knows how to make sure I get between classes okay. I don’t know what I’d do without her.”
Evan asked if he could try guiding Amanda, and after a few quick pointers from the guide and from Amanda herself, she took his arm and followed him. He did very well until they got to the entrance to the lunch line. It was a double door with a post in the center, he forgot that there was someone beside him and headed for the left doorway. Fortunately, Louise was watching and stopped them before he ran Amanda right into the center post of the door frame.
“I’m so sorry Amanda. I can’t believe I did that. If you give me another chance, I’m sure I’ll do better.”
“No harm done. Just shows you why guides get training. But I know you won’t make that mistake tomorrow.”
The biggest topic at lunch that day was Halloween costumes. One of the girls Amanda didn’t know well had held a costume party last Sunday evening, and several of the girls were talking about it.
While everyone was friendly and treated Amanda as if she’d always been sitting with the group, no one even hinted at inviting her to a future party or even to hang out with them after school. She realized that the fact that they discussed these things openly in front of her meant that it never occurred to them that they could or should let Amanda in on their activities. She found herself blocked out by that same wall of “different” she’d built to protect herself. They weren’t purposely being cruel or mean, just clueless. She might have wished for more, but for now, she felt good just being able to listen to and sometimes join the teenage female banter. Dare she even think it? It felt “normal.”
The reading session at Ken’s house that afternoon was an abbreviated one so they could get ready for the trick-or-treaters. She couldn’t help a lot with the setup, but he explained everything he was doing. The family had placed quite a few decorations in the front yard near the walk leading to the door, including a scarecrow, a miniature graveyard, and some serious spider webbing. This year he’d decorated the scarecrow with long hair so it looked kind of female. He ran wires to a few locations, including the scarecrow, and hid speakers there. He also hid a microphone where it would be able to pick up anything said in the front yard. He put a dim red light that slowly pulsed bright then dim every few seconds in the scarecrow at about heart level and set up another pair of red lights in the eyes, which were controlled through another set of wires. A dim spotlight highlighted the graveyard area. He described all of this in detail to Amanda and helped her feel it. He also led her on the route the trick-or-treaters would take from the street to the door and back, telling her what they were passing at the time.
“Wow, I don’t remember ever seeing anyone go this far on yard decorations for Halloween.”
“You haven’t seen it all yet. The rest is in the garage.”
In the garage, he connected the speaker wires to an amplifier with individual controls for the separate speakers. The outside microphone went to another amplifier with a headphone jack. The scarecrow’s eye wires were connected to power through a rheostat to control brightness.
He connected a computer and another microphone to the amplifier for the speakers so they could talk to the kids and play sounds.
“Listen, I’ve got some really cool Halloween sound effects on the computer.” And he played creaking doors, low moans, spooky organ music, thunder, and ghostly shrieks. “With this setup, we can play any sound-effect through any of the outside speakers whenever we want to. We can talk through them too, and with these headphones, we can hear what’s going on through the mike we left outside. How are you at doing an evil laugh or maybe a scream?”
She tried a few laughs and a scream that started loud before trailing off into silence. “I remember that one from a spook house my dad took me to when I was little. It really freaked me out.”
“That’s perfect. Here is the plan, I can see through the window when someone’s coming, but if we keep the garage dark, no one will be able to see us. As they come up the path, we can play sounds or talk to them through the speakers. I can play with the scarecrow’s eyes too. If they make it to the door, my mom will give them their treat. She should be home in a few minutes.”
“You haven’t told me anything about your parents.”
“My dad is a computer programmer. He does a lot of custom system stuff for a consulting company and goes on the road quite a bit. He’s in New York right now on a three week assignment for some company that does stock market stuff. My mom is an IT administrator, that’s information technology, more computer stuff. My dad is Ken Senior, my mom is Margaret, and please, don’t ever call me Ken Junior, I hate it.”
“I guess there isn’t much mystery about why you are so into computers.”
“Yeah, it must be heredity or something. I’ve been around computers and computer people since I was born, so there was almost no hope for me.”
“Same with me I suppose, I’ve been around art and artists all my life.”
Both jumped as the garage door suddenly started going up, and a green Toyota sedan turned into the driveway. After she’d parked the car in the other bay and gotten out, Ken introduced Amanda to his mom and told her the plans for the evening. She of course, knew about Amanda’s blindness and avoided commenting on it.
“Ken has been trying to outdo himself every year since he decided it was more fun to scare the poor kids than to go out collecting candy himself. I’ve heard that the neighbor families actually look forward to coming here to see what new tricks he comes up with each year, but I kind of worry a bit that he’ll scare the kids away, and we’ll end up with all this candy left over.”
“Well, I’ll help out tonight, and if we scare all the kids away, you’ll just have to send some of the leftovers home with me.”
It was approaching dusk, so Margaret went into the house after offering to bring out some snacks and drinks. Ken and Amanda practiced a little with the sound effects and lights. He promised to describe who was coming and where they were so she’d know when to start talking.
About fifteen minutes later, the first victims approached.
“We’ve got two kids coming, a boy and a girl. They’re neighbors, I think about six and nine, with their parents. The girl is wearing a Snow White outfit and the boy is dressed as a ninja.
“The parents are staying at the curb and the kids are coming up the walk…they’re about even with the scarecrow now.”
With a gravelly voice, Amanda greeted the kids, “Gooooood Eeeeevening”
Ken whispered, “They both jumped and looked at the scarecrow.”
They heard an uncertain voice through the headphones, “Mommy told me you might try to scare me. I’m not scared!”
Amanda let out her evil laugh, and the little boy almost turned back to the parents, but his sister grabbed his hand and led him up to the door. After they got their treats and were leaving, Ken turned on the graveyard sound effects and lit up the scarecrow’s eyes.
“You going to share those treats with me? Yaahhhaaaahhhhaaa…..”
Both kids lost their nerve and ran to the parents who were laughing, and after Ken described it to Amanda, both of them laughed too.
The next couple of hours continued that way. Little kids appreciated the display the most, although their parents seemed to like it too. Teens were braver and, of course, tried to pretend that they weren’t impressed, but Ken told Amanda that even they sometimes walked away a little faster than what seemed normal. One very small boy, four or five years old, heard the scarecrow talk and immediately turned around and ran to his mom. She took his hand and led him back up the walk, and Amanda talked to him in a more friendly voice. When asked what would happen to the scarecrow after Halloween, she explained that she would be very tired after staying up all night and need to take a nap until next year. He seemed relieved.
At nine o’clock, they decided to call it a night and shut down the electronics before going into the house for a bowl of soup, a few slices of cornbread, and a left-over candy bar. Ken, Amanda, and Margaret all laughed about the kids’ reactions to the display. Of course, his mom asked him how he was going to top it next year, and he reminded her that he’d be at college, so she might be on her own.
While Amanda didn’t say anything, the comment about college was troubling. She knew where she’d be next year and wasn’t looking forward to it. She hadn’t even thought about what might come after high school. Ken’s comment about being gone didn’t feel very good either. She tried to keep her spirits up and was mostly successful as they continued to rehash the night’s experiences.
Since it was a school night, he took her home, and after a few minutes of cuddling and kissing at the door, she went in and he drove back home.
Kelly stopped Ken in the hallway at school again the next day. This time, her look was almost desperate, and again he didn’t understand what was going on. She pleaded with him to talk to her and he reluctantly agreed to meet her at her house that evening.
After his reading session with Amanda, Ken drove to Kelly’s house with more than a little anxiety. When he knocked on the door, she invited him in. He refused, suggesting instead that they sit on the porch steps to talk.
Dusk was just turning to night as they seated themselves a comfortable distance apart. Kelly started, “Todd is nothing like I thought he was. I was so stupid to break up with you for him.”
“You told me you were really happy with him.”
“That was before I found out just how he treats his girlfriends. He thinks he owns me. I can’t even look at someone else -- guy or girl -- without him getting jealous and upset. He isn’t very nice to be around when he’s upset.”
“Is that why he shoved me around in the hall?”
“He warned me not to talk to you, but I didn’t think he’d do anything.”
“Well, he did. I guess you need to be more careful when you smile at someone.”
“That’s so unfair.”
“You chose him. You dumped me for him and not very nicely either.”
She started to cry, “I’m so sorry I did that; can’t you …” She sobbed as she slid closer and buried her face in his neck. He couldn’t help but lift his arms to comfort her, and her body felt so familiar as he held her. When she started kissing his neck and tried to move to his mouth, he pulled away.
“Kelly, we can’t do that. I’m with Amanda now. It wouldn’t be right, and after the things you said to me, I don’t even want to kiss you.”
“But it was only a couple of weeks ago that you told me you loved me.”
A light suddenly flicked on in his head. Was she coming onto him? Did she want him back? While somewhere in the depths of his emotions, that sounded good, his more rational mind played a quick slide show of Kelly breaking up with him, Kelly in the hall hanging all over Todd, Kelly at the dance as she attacked Amanda, an imagined scene of Kelly and Todd making love, and it all led to an overall reaction of near revulsion. He took a deep breath and looked directly into her eyes.
“A lot of bad has happened to me in those couple of weeks, and you were involved in most of it. All the good that has happened to me since we broke up is because of Amanda. I’m sorry if you aren’t happy with Todd, but it’s not my problem. You need to work this out with him, not with me. I did love you and you threw it away. You dumped me for a jock, and at the dance, you treated my date like shit. You purposely hurt her for no reason at all!
“I can forgive the way you treated me, and I’ll try to forgive the way you treated Amanda, but that’s more up to her. I’ll talk to you if I can do it without being attacked, and I’ll try to be your friend again, at least a little bit, but anything more between us is over. If you can dump me as easily as you did once, you can do it again when the next jock asks you out. Even if I was at all interested in getting back together, I wouldn’t take that chance.
He stood up, “I need to go to work now.”
He could hear tears in her voice when she said, “I’m sorry.” Leaving her sitting on the steps and walking to his truck felt a little familiar. Was the last time he walked away from this porch really only a few weeks ago? So much had changed that it might as well have been decades. He glanced back seeing her sitting with her knees clutched to her chest and a hopeless look in her eyes.