After a while, Raina felt herself being covered with a thick blanket that smelled of decades old dust and sour stains. Her head was placed in a small, crocheted pillow, making her head feel weary and sore, while she could feel the hard, slightly torn sofa where she was lying down. Cordelia always said that if it wasn't considered wasteful, she would have thrown that old sofa down the window the first chance she got.
But of course, sometimes the oldest and most unwanted possessions were often the most useful. Raina knew that if this sofa hadn't been in the dark room, Cordelia would have had to place her in one of the other more suitable room in the Governor's Estate, and run the risk of having employees, if not the Powells themselves, be aware that Raina had gotten into a serious accident.
"Cordelia?" Raina called out. "Are you still there?"
"I'm right here, sweetheart," Cordelia answered back, the noisy tapping of her heels indicating that she was coming over to check on her.
Once she was there, she placed her smooth hands into Raina's shoulders and asked, "Are you feeling better, Raina? I had no idea what was happening to you just a while ago, and you can just imagine how scared I was."
"I think I knew perfectly well how you were feeling," Raina admitted.
"You did? So you're saying you can remember everything that happened to you?" Cordelia asked.
"I remember every single detail up to the point where I must have fallen asleep a while afterwards."
"If that's the case, Raina, then you probably understand how awful and confusing it was for me. Still, I probably should tell you everything I observed for myself. It would be unfair to keep it all to myself when I know how drastically this could affect you if it happens again."
"Go ahead, then. I'm prepared for anything you'll tell me," Raina said.
"All right. So, the first thing I noticed was that the usual blank expression you have in your eyes was gone. It's not that hard to see your eyes through your sunglasses, given how light the lenses tend to be when you're indoors. You looked as if you were trying to take notice of something, as if you'd suddenly… Oh, it's ridiculous that I'm even considering it, but it's…"
"Say it, Cordelia," Raina said impatiently. "It looked as if I'd suddenly started seeing something for the first time, wasn't it?"
Cordelia gasped, then was left dumbstruck for a while. Once she'd gathered her thoughts together, she asked, "Is that what happened to you, Raina? Did you somehow gain vision if just for a limited time?"
"Yes, Cordelia. Yes, I did," Raina said. She then gave a vivid description of Cordelia's appearance, from the way her hair was to how frightened she looked upon seeing how awful things had gotten for her.
"And was that the first time it's happened to you?" Cordelia asked once she was done. She gave no exclamations of either joy or shock upon learning this, as Raina was expecting. It was her bad state, from how she couldn't speak properly to the shock she experienced when gaining her sight, that concerned Cordelia the most.
"It's the first time it's happened while I'm conscious," Raina said.
Silence once again. Raina knew Cordelia was trying to take all this in, probably wondering if it could all be true. Perhaps she believed Raina had just imagined she was seeing things, or that it may have been part a dream she had. But given what Cordelia had just admitted, Raina could no longer believe this was all in her head. There was something bigger going on with her, and sooner or later, she'd have to know what it was.
The man in the wheel chair had said in her vision that the incidents from yesterday were just the beginning of what was to come. She now understood how major it would all be.
When Cordelia finally spoke up again, she said, "When you saw things before, were they only in dreams, or through some sort of visions or hallucinations?"
"When I was little, I would usually see things in my dreams. Later on, however, I'd start seeing whenever I was practicing my music. But I would never see my actual surroundings, like the room. Instead, it always started small, like seeing bits of color in the form of rays or clouds, or as if it was just splattered around randomly, like…like…"
"Like paint?" Cordelia asked.
"Yes; I suppose that's how I'd describe it."
"Also, from what you're telling me so far, those with sight sometimes have similar sensations when we close our eyes. We could see flickers of some random color taking up our field of vision, making it so that we never see complete darkness. What was happening to you then was probably something like this, probably being the most basic form of sight."
This information surprised Raina, since no one, not even Dr. Garner, had ever shared information about this sensation before. She'd always assumed that if a sighted person closed their eyes, they'd see nothing but darkness, as this was what everyone emphasized, including Melanie, who claimed that a pool of blackness swallowed you up if you shut your eyes for even a second. "That's one way in which you're lucky to be blind, Raina; since you don't see anything at all, you'll never have to know how scary the dark is," she'd once said when Raina was six.
"I never thought of that before," was what she said aloud to Cordelia. No need to bother her too much over how everyone kept hiding things from her, she assumed.
"Well, vision is a lot more complex than any sighted person could ever explain to you," Cordelia said. "So now, go on. Were these fragments of color all you ever saw, or was there more to it than that?"
"The bits of color were always building up to form actual images, and how fast they moved often went along with the beat of whatever music I played, which I always continued hearing throughout my visions. When I could see the images, some would be random, while others went along with the music, like seeing a party in a ballroom during an upbeat song, or a forest if the song title was about nature," Raina explained.
"All right. So, this was always in a vision. Do you know what would physically happen to you during these visions? Would you continue practicing your instrument, or would you be asleep."
"When these visions end, I'm usually still playing. But yesterday, Kevin caught me around the end of one, and he appears to have thought I was close to dosing off."
"In other words, you're not sure?"
"I guess not," Raina said. She was now starting to get nervous.
"And you've never told anyone about this before?"
"No. I wasn't sure how the others would react to it."
"Well, I can see both the advantages and disadvantages if that," Cordelia said. "On the one hand, they may have started believing that you were losing your mind or even going through those mental shutdowns psychiatrists once claimed the incompetent went though. Or they could have at least just dismissed them as dreams. Also, the gaining of senses isn't something many competent people would smile upon. It would be deemed unnatural, and many would question how someone could do something so impossible."
Raina could understand why this was. According to Melanie, children who were labeled average in school were sometimes scolded if they read a book above their reading level or tried one of the activities in the science lab meant for the exceptional students. Teachers claimed that going above expectations could do irreparable damage to an individual's emotional stability. Read a hard book, and soon you want to try more challenging material. And if you struggle with the other material, you'll look down on yourself for your inability to accomplish something. No doubt that a blind person gaining sight would be looked upon suspiciously as well.
"On the other hand," Cordelia continued, "if something like this had happened to you before, no one would have known what was going on or how to help you. Speaking of which, have you ever had this bad of a reaction to a vision before?"
"No," Raina said.
"Perhaps this isn't as bad as it looks though. Maybe the pain and discomfort you experienced was just a natural reaction to your first time gaining vision. No one ever claimed recovering senses would be a piece of cake."
"Maybe you're right," Raina said. But once again, she heard the hidden uneasiness in Cordelia's voice. It was all scaring her without a doubt, even as she did her best to convince Raina that it might be okay.
"However, don't think I'm done with you because of this. If you managed to get this far even as you were experiencing these episodes, then I have a feeling it'll take more than this to leave you incapable of performing. Our lessons will go on as always, but if you ever feel like you need a break, don't hesitate to ask. You know I'm not as uptight as I seem."
"But what if this keeps happening again, Cordelia? What if it occurs when I'm performing live?" Raina asked.
Upon hearing this, Cordelia was once again dumbstruck. Raina could hear her shuffling through the papers that contained her lesson plans, which was her habit whenever she was thinking deeply on something. After a while, she said, "I don't know, Raina. Given how awful I feel over this incident, I feel like I'm in no state to prepare for the worse. For now, all I can do is hope for the best and go forward with what we've already planned. If these incidents are as common as you claim, perhaps you can make it through without much issue. Perhaps you'll even gain sight for longer periods of time, without any of the bad side effects. If not, we'll have to see. I just can't consider it right now."
Raina wasn't too satisfied in hearing this, but at the same time, she couldn't bear the thought of succumbing to this strange condition once again. And so, she said, "Let's hope you're right."
Cordelia gave Raina a small hug. "If I've always been right in the past, why should we be in doubt now, sweetheart?" she said. Then, letting her go to look over her watch, she said, "Well, it's past ten o'clock. Around now, we should have been concluding your flute lessons and starting in on the piano. In keeping up with our schedule, you'll probably be pleased to know that we won't go on with the flute today and instead move on with the piano. I think we've both had enough of it for today."
Raina smiled. "Business as usual, right, Cordelia?"
"We can only get better if we move on, Raina," Cordelia said. "Now, move out of that sofa and get seated behind the piano. We can't waste another minute now that you're well again."
Three hours later, Cordelia Jefferson slipped into her cream-colored jacket and started walking down the long hallway of the Governor's Estate Entrance, overwhelmed by what was probably her most stressful teaching day ever.
Kevin Powell gave her his usual semi-flirtatious greeting as she prepared to go. "So, another long day done with, right, Cordelia? You're probably relieved to be returning to your lovely studio apartment and your gracious, smooth-talking lover," he said with a mischievous smile.
Cordelia rolled her eyes. "What makes you so sure I have a lover, Kevin? Perhaps I'm single and perfectly happy with it. After all, I'm only a government-sponsored music teacher, so I don't usually have a dozen men getting down on their knees for my attention."
"You'd be surprised how many men would still be interested in you. Back in my days at the Academy, sons of professionals would occasionally get together with girls whose parents were in the lower professions, even though dating and sex is usually forbidden at that age. Attraction is such a mysterious thing, after all. You never know who you may fall for."
"I'm sure Isabella would love to hear you speak so positively of teenaged boys who engage in romantic relationships. Nothing to spark the wife's attraction like bringing up the violations of proper competent citizen conduct, right?" Cordelia said.
Kevin shook his head at her. "I don't think I'll ever understand you, Cordelia. No wonder you work so well with Raina: you're about as strange as she is."
"You're not that normal yourself, if you think about it," Cordelia said as she walked away from him. Whether Kevin was sleeping with a dozen women himself or just liked teasing attractive women was something she tried not giving much thought to but which tended to spring up more often in her mind than she wanted it to.
But Kevin's snarky comments weren't the only unexpected thing Cordelia approached as she was trying to get back home. Just as she stepped through the marble stairs leading her towards the Governor's Estate's exit, she noticed someone kneeling around the bushes of the garden. A closer glance revealed it to be a young woman based on the shoulder-length hair that was tied up into a sloppy ponytail. She had on a dark leather jacket and baggy jeans. And when she shuffled around, Cordelia noticed that she was wearing sunglasses not so different from Raina's.
Could it be that she's blind? Cordelia wondered. Based on how the woman kept touching the grass and bushes as if to help navigate herself around, and how she'd taken no notice of Cordelia despite how close by she was, it wasn't that unreasonable an assumption. But then again, perhaps she was just another young rebel trying to get around the Governor's Estate unnoticed.
The woman then craned her head up towards Cordelia's direction, and perhaps taking notice of the snapping of her heels, she gasped and stepped up, picking up a grey-colored cane as she did so.
I was right, Cordelia thought. Aloud, she said, "Hold on, dear. Don't worry. I'm just a worker for the governor's young ward. I'm not going to report if you just stepped in here on accident."
The woman paused for a moment, turning towards Cordelia with her eyebrows creased with worry. "Are you really going to let me off that easily?" she asked in a small voice.
"If you're not off to any mischief, then I don't see why I shouldn't," Cordelia said. "In fact, I'd be happy to escort you out of here if you'd like."
The woman smiled. "I'd appreciate that," she said.
Cordelia then led her by the hand towards the iron gate that guarded the Governor's Estate. To her surprise, she noticed the fat old security guard who was supposed to be watching over the place sleeping on the grass. "Well, it's no surprise you managed to get through so easily. The security guard's dosing off as if he were in his own bed instead of working."
The woman nodded and chuckled. "Perhaps it's more than just fatigue that knocked that guy out," she said in what came off as a sneaky tone to Cordelia.
"Yeah. Maybe it's his own laziness that caused it," Cordelia said. "But we managed to make it through now. Would you like me to walk you home?"
"Oh, no, thank you," the woman said. "I know my way around pretty well for a half-blind girl."
"I see," Cordelia said.
"But before I go, would I mind if I asked how things are going for Raina? Word gets around fast in this city, so I know she's got a concert coming up soon and that you're the one who's been training her all these years."
"Well, you sure seem to know a lot about us. Truth be told, Raina's been going through rough times right now, given all the pressure she's under. But I'm doing my best to help guide her along, and from what it looks like, her musical performance appears to get better every day," Cordelia said.
"You should tell Raina to keep up with it. Things may continue getting harder for her, but she might soon find support from the most unexpected of places," the woman said.
The most unexpected of places? Cordelia wondered. This woman was probably a little too optimistic. Most of Raina's support came from the Powells and those who worked for them, and even that fell more within giving obligatory assistance than genuine support.
However, all she told the woman was, "You never know who's going to offer support, I suppose."
The woman nodded. Then, tilting her cane around the open space, she said, "I should get going right now. I have some friends waiting for me."
"Who are these friends, if you don't me asking?" Cordelia asked, keeping her hand close to the woman's own.
"Two guys. They're very supportive of me, even though they face difficulties of their own. I would probably be in terrible shape right now if they hadn't come along all those years ago," the woman said.
"I think everyone would be a little lost without friends. It's not just the incompetent who need help, after all," Cordelia said.
"Couldn't have said it better myself," the woman said. "So, thank you for helping me get out of there safely. It always pleases me to find competent citizens who aren't such jerks."
"You're welcome, my dear," Cordelia replied. "Goodbye now, and I'm glad to know that you don't see me as being that terrible of a person."
The woman smiled, gave Cordelia a wave, and started walking off in what seemed like too quick a manner. Cordelia was about to tell her to slow down, but once she saw how easily the woman seemed to be navigating herself, she decided to let her be. She thought it was too bad this woman couldn't meet Raina in person. Perhaps contact with another blind person could make a difference for her, maybe even making this strange condition of hers go away.