"Cara, 'in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is King,'" Alex said, and I could hear the teasing in his voice.
I admit it, when I had first been blinded as the result of a horrible car accident two years ago, taunts like this used to hurt me, even make me cry. I hated any reminder of the sense that I had lost, the opportunities I had assumed were lost to me forever.
Alex was there with me from the beginning, my best friend in the before, when I had sight, and my best friend still. Through the dark times after the accident, he would use this as a mantra, to try and make me see reason. I didn't get it back then, hello, both my eyes are blind, but I understand where he was coming from now. He still says it from time to time, whenever I refer to something bad happening to me just because I can't see.
When the dark days retreated, this adage really did become a mantra for me, reminding me that I have so much to offer the world, and that being blind shouldn't stop me from following my dreams, or living life like a normal person. Alex was one of the first people to remind me after the accident happened that I used to see the good in people, used to be optimistic and look toward a bright future. He was the first person to tell me that he never wanted to see that part of me die alongside my ability to see.
Alex and I had been friends since our freshman year in high school, and as the years went by we grew closer and closer. After my accident I was heavily dependant on him for a few months, scared to go anywhere on my own. When I went away to a school for the blind, I was afraid we would lose contact. We called and he visited, and instead of growing apart, my newfound independence put us back on an even footing and when I came back to town I felt like we were closer than before.
Now as we were both preparing to go to college, the thoughts and feelings I had for him were becoming more insistent, trying to claw their way out of me in a desperate attempt to tell Alex before it was too late. Part of me hoped that Alex already knew, that the hints I had dropped would be enough to spur him into some sort of action; the other part of me was so scared that he already knew but didn't want me.
Times like this I began to wish I could see again. If I could see, I would know if he were returning my hints and clues, if he was giving me lustful stares, or if he was repulsed by the very idea of being intimate with me. Either way, I wouldn't be so in the dark; the not knowing was driving me absolutely mad.
Whichever way it went, if he reciprocated or shunned me, I'm sure I would be able to survive. However, as we spent more and more time together this past summer, Alex acted the same toward me as ever. Even after the accident the dynamic of our friendship hardly changed, though I was grateful for it then. Now I was yearning for something different from him.
When I had finally woken up in the hospital after the accident, he jumped up from his chair by my beside and half squeezed me to death, not being at all cautious of any possible broken bones. He didn't pity me, but was gentle with me when the situation necessitated it and stern with me when I was acting childishly. He was everything I needed, and so much more. When we were accepted to colleges in twin cities, we both jumped at the chance to be near to each other.
I am, in fact, still going to college. I wouldn't have it any other way. There's no reason for me not to continue my education and become a prosperous, intelligent woman. Alex was the one who originally brought up the option of continuing on to university, convincing me that it would help me test my limitations. I would get good practice at adjusting to new spaces, new surroundings, even a new home. Though I have to admit, when he told me that smart was sexy it melted my resolve quicker than anything else.
"Cara? You ok?" Alex laughed; he was waving his hand in front of my face, the breeze from his motion cool and refreshing. "You went kind of blank there," he told me. "Now is not a good time for an inner vacation to Figi."
"Why, Alex? Were you staring at me?" I had to tease. He flicked my nose in return.
"Of course I can't help but stare hopelessly at your stunning beauty- when you don't respond to me," he shot back.
"Alex, you are so mean to me. Why am I friends with you?" I asked sarcastically.
"Because you love me," he slung an arm around my shoulders. I rolled my eyes in response. Alex was very casual and flirty, a charisma that carried his joking manner well. It was this same charisma that made him the social butterfly he was. He made friends easily, and admirers even quicker. He wasn't "hot" or "sexy", but there was something in him that drew people in like a moth to a flame. It had pulled me into his web as well.
"Oh yes," I nodded solemnly, masking my smile, "there is that, isn't there?"
"There's what?" he asked, completely blanking out on me. In his mind, he had already moved on to new topics, new conversations and things to be explored, my jest completely forgotten.
"Never mind," at least Alex was good for a laugh. "What were you trying to tell me before with that favorite saying of yours?"
"You were complaining about something. I don't remember what…" he muttered under his breath. "Cara, 'in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is King,'" Alex repeated, hoping that the familiarity of it would remind him of what he was trying to tell me. I could tell from his silence that he was drawing a blank. He leaned his head against mine and decided to move forward with something else. "Now we just have to find you a one eyed man."
I couldn't help but laugh at the political incorrectness of his statement, hiding the pangs my heart felt with every word. I wanted nothing more than to bury myself into his side and confess that my feelings for him ran deeper than the friendship we had always shared, but I couldn't do it. Instead, I leaned toward his embrace and sighed.
"Alex, I swear you are even blinder than I am. That's never going to happen," I said, trying to joke. He must have heard something in my tone or read something in my facial expressions because he slipped his arm from my shoulder and raised his other hand to cup my chin, gently tugging me to look up at him.
This position was anything but foreign to us, as we were very comfortable with each other and our bodies. There had been several times throughout our high school career where we would kiss or make out in front of others, whether to chase away annoying admirers or to uphold some semblance of a reputation at parties. This, however, was slightly unusual because as his hand slid from my shoulders it had carelessly grazed along the side of my breast.
"I can't see you, you know," I complained. "This 'tilting my head up thing' does nothing."
"It does a whole lot more than you'd think," he muttered, not for my ears, but with my heightened hearing I heard him anyway. "I don't need you to look into my eyes and see the truth of what I want to say, but I want to look into yours and see that you understand it," his voice was so earnest.
"You are a wonderful person, Cara. You're smart, sweet, sexy, loving, forgiving, compassionate, generous, always helping other people, never holding grudges. You'd take a bullet for a complete stranger and never regret it, even if he turned out to be a bad guy. You're my best friend, a great friend, and being blind doesn't change any of that good that is inside you. You don't see the way that guys look at you, but I do. I'm not blind to that at all," Alex took a breath and ran his thumb over line of my jaw. My heart stuttered inside my chest before picking up a rapid pace.
"I never see who you're interested in, however," he confessed.
"Oh great, you're only half blind!" I muttered sarcastically.
"Does that mean I have only one eye?" he asked, amused.
I was more than frustrated with him. How could he possibly seem to pay so much attention to me and miss the fact that I've been half in love with him for years? "Your attention span measures out to .03 seconds," I grumbled.
"You'd be amazed at how long something can captivate me when I really care about it. Or her," he whispered and I could almost feel his breath on my skin.
"You…you like someone?" I swallowed. I had to close my eyes because I didn't want him to see the storm brewing inside them. His thumb rubbed circles on my skin, gently coaxing the tense muscles ticking in my jaw back to relaxation. I could feel his warm breath nearing my lips and my thoughts flashed back to the last time we kissed, six weeks ago.
We had both had a mixed drink or two and the fun buzz had kicked in. We were sitting on the couch, listening to the drunken conversations all around us. A girl perched on the arm rest on Alex's side, and a pretty, tinkling voice asked if we were dating. Alex leaned into me and answered that he was, in fact, unavailable. My fuzzy brain decided that kissing Alex was exactly what I needed to do to get her to go away, so I turned sideways and threw a leg over his lap, straddling him and claiming him for my own. My hands came to the back of his head, running long fingers into his short locks. His hands gripped my hips with a searing heat I had never felt before, and his mouth surged upwards to latch onto mine.
It was hot, fast, and delicious, but it lacked the gentility and comforting caress that I was receiving now. Even remembering it, I could feel where his handprints had burned onto my hips; sure there were bright red marks in the shape of his fingers across my skin.
"Yes, I like someone very much," he whispered as his lips brushed once, twice against mine, like the beating of a butterfly's wing. When he saw that I had no urge to push him away, his lips met mine again in that sweet caress, lingering longer each time as he became more confident in my feelings for him. It was nothing like the kisses we had shared for show; it was just us, just this private moment between two people where we really knew what the other was thinking and feeling because there were no pretenses.
His hand kneaded my hip as if releasing unknown tension within him, but he let out a small groan of frustration and moved against my mouth. His tongue probed my lips, and I granted him access immediately, enraptured by the flood of heat that teased every nerve in my body from his touch. He swept through my mouth with a rush of wants and needs that had been pushed down for so long, and I moaned in pleasure. His hands flexed against me in response, a sheer, primal instinct that rocked me to my core. My back arched and I pressed myself into his warmth, seeking contact with every part of his body that I could find.
Alex let out another husky groan and slowly pulled himself away from me, keeping his hand on my hip, but firmly putting space between us. "We can't let this go too far, too fast, Cara. If this is what you want, I need you to tell me."
"Of course I want this, Alex. I want you. I want to be with you." Alex leaned down to brush his lips with mine again, sliding his hand across my neck and teasing my nerves to life. I could feel him grin against my lips and felt heat pool below my bellybutton. I pushed away from him before I knew I couldn't.
"You remember that time you made me climb the administration building and I broke my leg jumping off?" I asked him, keeping a hand on his chest. He leaned toward me, but I tried to hold onto my train of thought. This was important.
"Yes," he laughed and kissed me again, and a frisson went down my spine at the touch. "Why are we remembering that at this particular moment in time?"
"I must have broken four bones of mine," I started, and Alex could see where my thoughts were headed. His hand cupped my chin and he kissed my temple, my cheek, the corner of my mouth.
"I will be much more careful with your heart, Cara. I promise." He spoke sincerely, and I knew that I could trust him. He had been my best friend for four years and had always protected me. Alex brought his lips back to mine and his hand slid around to my back to help me lay down on the bed. He brought himself half over me and I wrapped one leg around his waist, trying to get as close to him as humanly possible. His mouth left mine and I moaned in disappointment, but was pleasantly surprised to feel his lips trailing down my jaw and the side of my neck. My back arched as he suckled a sweet spot under my ear, and my moan was answered with a throaty chuckle of his own.
"In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King," I couldn't help but murmur. Alex laughed at my mantra, but never left my neck.
"King and Queen?" his voice had dropped an octave, and the husky sound made me shiver. "I like the sound of that: Alex, the one-eyed King of Cara-land. It has a nice ring to it."
"That sounds like the Care Bears land. Like, Care-a-lot, you know?" I asked him, reaching for his waist to take off his shirt. It felt so easy to be with him. Talking, kissing, this electric desire coursing through my veins but making so much sense.
I smoothly pushed the cotton fabric up his stomach and he sat up and reached for it to throw it over his head. He came back to the bed as quick as he left it, smothering my neck and chest with playful kisses. He paused for a moment and bent his head to mine, lightly kissing me and grazing my lower lip with his teeth. I groaned at the sensation and he laughed.
"Well then, you can just call me Love-a Lot Bear."