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The silence was ringing. I couldn't be sure what to expect. But none of it would surprise me. I never can expect someone to be there who hasn't been from the beginning. And even my own father couldn't stay for me. It takes a lot for my mother and grandparents to stay for me. They wouldn't do it any other way, but it's a lot of sacrifice. Sacrifice that only they would make.
"You… You're… You're blind?"
I give a huge sigh. "I have been since I was three." I sit there silently as I wait for this to sink in with Carrie. Then, I decide to ask her one thing. "Just… Don't punish me more than I have been already."
I expect her to laugh or to even get angry with me. But that's not what happens. "What? Why would I punish you? Why should I?"
I frown. "Because I'm me."
Carrie gives out a nervous laugh. "I don't know what you're talking about, Lucas."
I'm a little frustrated that she's playing me. "Look, I'm blind. I get it. I don't need jokes or pranks to remind me. Just… Don't punish me. I have a whole other old school to go to if I want that. I have the reminder that my father left because I am the way I am. I'm just asking you not to be that person who… who…treats me like the others did. You don't have to do anything but I'd just appreciate it that if you do, you wouldn't do it in front of me."
It's quiet for a long time. But when Carrie speaks next, I hear tears in her voice. "You're dad left because you were blind?"
I nod. "I wasn't ever going to be perfect, so what use was I? He told my mother that she had to let him "fix the kid" so that I could see again, but there was no cure. And my mother was so distraught that my father couldn't see me as his son anymore. So a month after I lost my sight, he was packed up and gone."
I hear Carrie sniffle and wipe away tears, which startles me. But not as much as what she says next. "I'm s-so sorry, Lucas. No one deserves that. Especially someone who has to struggle so much. Why do people have to be so horrible?" She sniffles again and wipes away more tears. "You said the kids at your old school punished you. What do you mean?"
I hesitate to answer. Carrie was crying. It didn't make sense to me why. I was about to question it, but decided to wait. "They always bullied me. Tripped me. Beat me up. Tell blind jokes. Stuff like that."
Carrie is quiet for a long time. Then she whispers, "That's horrible."
I'm suddenly frustrated. "Why do you even care?"
The words come out much more harsh than I intend them to. And now I'm sure she's going to be angry with me and stalk off after throwing an insult at me. But again, she surprises me. At first, she doesn't respond at all. I wait for a long time for her to say anything. And when she does find her voice, I hear the words that I've always, secretly, wanted to hear. "I care because I think I understand."
I usually would be mad when people say they understand me and what it's like to me. But I'm suddenly reminded of the few moments where I was curious as to why she said the things she did, why she did the things she did. Though this was only the second time we had even spoken to each other, I felt like maybe Carrie and I weren't all that different. Why? I had no idea. But I could hear her unspoken words. I knew that, somehow, someone else in this world was pushing for a perfect that wasn't meant to be for that person. And maybe, just maybe, that was what Carrie could understand.
"How do you understand?" This time, my words are kind and curious. I make sure she doesn't think I'm biting back at her.
She sighs. "Let's just say I'm not everything people see me as." She hesitates before adding, "It's just, I've never been able to talk to anyone who has no option but to see me as me. People never get to know me because they think they know me by what I look like, and by who my family is and my skills. They jump to conclusions because they let what they see dictate me."
I'm completely startled by this. The idea had never occurred to me that even normal people could be misjudged by the obvious. "What do people see when they look at you?"
At first, it's so quiet that I think she must have disappeared. But then she sighs so softly, but loud enough for me to know she is still there. "I don't know how to explain it to you."
"Don't worry, just do your best," I say.
I can tell she's frowning, thinking I must be crazy. But she decides to tell me anyway, no matter how crazy it must sound. "All people see me for are my looks and my talent with the violin. Because I'm first chair, that gives me some status. The fact that my family is rich gives me even more. But it's… It's my looks that put me at the top of the social ladder. And no matter how hard I try to get away from the mold of a popular girl, no one will let me go. All the guys want is me for my body. They want me as their accessory. But I'm not that kind of girl. I'd rather spend my time reading or doing things I like.
"All the people at that level of the social status aren't on the same internal level as I am. I am modest to extremes. I don't want to give up my body to anyone until I feel like it's the right time. And all the people who want it just want it to say they had me. Because I'm some sex image or something. But I'm not. I've never even dated, because no one likes me for me. They just like what they see. No one knows who I am. They know my name and my face, but they don't know me."
She sighs, clearly frustrated. "And it's not like I'm even the prettiest girl at the school. But I'm smart and I'm talented and I'm rich. The combination makes me one of those desired few. Some of the prettiest girls only have their looks, and maybe some money. But I have it all, in their eyes. But what I have is nothing to me."
This is what hits me most. "What do you mean?"
"I'm not happy. And that means I have nothing."
I frown. This stings a little, like rubbing alcohol on a fresh wound. "Why aren't you happy?"
Again, she doesn't answer for a long time. When she does, her voice is small and hurt, but by something unspoken, playing inside her head. "Because I have no friends. No real ones. And because… Just because my family is rich doesn't mean we're perfect. My dad…" She doesn't finish her sentence, which makes me so uneasy.
"What about your dad."
She gives a giant sigh, and I can tell she's crying again. "When you were talking about why your dad that left, I couldn't help but think of mine. But mine didn't leave. He wants so bad to make me perfect that he insisted I start taking violin lessons before I was even in school. I was put in dance and piano and all these other things, so that I could be the perfect little girl he always wanted. I guess I'm good at them. I win a bunch but none of it matters. None of it makes me happy. Well, except music. But I never get to do it to enjoy it unless I leave home. Otherwise, I'm coached on how to be perfect. To be number one.
"He is holding on so tightly, demanding me to be perfect. But I'm not. He wants me to stay popular, but I can't if I keep pushing away all the things that come with social status. If I give in, I'm going to be giving up all of the things that make me happy. I don't want to drink or smoke or have sex. Not like that. Not with them. They don't even know me. They'd never be there for me. I don't want to be that girl who gets left behind because no one has her back when she needs them most."
I had never had a friend before, so having a conversation like this was very foreign to me. But at the same time, talking to Carrie didn't feel weird or new. In fact, I was starting to feel like I knew her very well.
I sigh. "What's with people and their high expectations?"
"I don't know."
I frown. "Well, believe me. You're right in staying away from the things you don't want. No one should have to make you do anything or be anything you don't want to be. My grandfather used to tell me all the time not to let anything get me down. To do and be anything and everything I want to. And the same should go for you. It's your life anyway. Why let others make the calls for you? How many of these people are going to be there forever? Not many. Only the ones that matter will stay no matter what. If your dad loves you, he'll stick by you through whatever you decide to do."
Carrie is quiet for a long time. So long that I almost feel like she's disappeared again. But then she asks, "What if he doesn't?"
I frown. "Then he shouldn't be the man you call father."
I can tell that these words shock her, that she wasn't expecting this answer. "What do you mean?"
"What I mean is that if your own father won't support you in what you want to do, then he doesn't deserve to be your father."
Carrie sighs heavily. "I wish it were that simple."
I shrug. "Anything is possible."
"Most things are possible," Carrie corrects me.
I shake my head. "No. Anything is possible. Sometimes it may seem impossible, but miracles happen. The extraordinary happens. Every day."
I can feel Carrie frowning at me. "You're very strange, Lucas Anderson."
I smile. "I take that as a compliment. I don't want to be ordinary. Would defeat the whole purpose of me being here."
"What do you mean?"
I laugh. "You ask a lot of questions."
She gets shy again. I can hear it in her voice when she says, "Sorry."
I laugh again, truly amused. "No need to be sorry. It's just an observation."
"I just… I don't have friends, so this whole getting to know you thing is a new process for me and it's interesting, getting know what a different person is like."
"But you didn't answer my question."
"Originally, you said you only had one."
We both burst out laughing, and it's the first time I've laughed like this in a long, long time. When we pull ourselves back together, Carrie says, "You never said I had a limit."
I shrug. "Fair enough. What was your question again?"
"I wanted to know why you said that being ordinary would defeat the purpose of you being here. I wanted to know what you mean by that."
I don't really like this question very much. Or maybe the answer? But I didn't think I knew the answer. Did I? "I guess I just hope that I am more than just the blind boy in this world. I just hope my purpose here is more than that. More than just being here."
Again, she takes a long time to answer. When she does, all she says is, "Me too."