A yellow striped spider climbed down from a sparking web amid rainbow-colored dewdrops and a faint breeze. Settling into a shadowed corner, it snuggled down to await its fortune. Two robins fluttered onto pine boughs and squabbled until a Blue Jay sprang between them and ended the conflict with a raucous call. A pink horizon brightened into a burnished red and gold spectrum as the sun crested the horizon, sending rays of light up the porch steps right into Betty’s blind eyes.
The tears washing down her cheeks did little to appease the anguish rising in her heart. Wiping them away with the back of her hand, she sniffed and shuddered. The air, tinged with spring’s warmth, wafted over her, yet her bones, chilled to the marrow, could not accept even a hint of hope.
“You’re up early.” Her mother, Kim, dressed in a pair of rugged jeans, a light sweatshirt, and slip-on shoes strolled onto the back porch. Laying a gentle hand on her daughter’s shoulder, she stared upon the same scene and reveled in the beauty. “It’s a gorgeous morning.”
Betty swallowed back a relentless sob. “I wouldn’t know.”
Pulling Betty into an embrace, Kim laid her head against her daughter’s. “Just be glad you’re alive. Those tumors would’ve killed you.”
Reflexively, Betty touched the healing wounds near her temples. She dropped her face into shadow. “They did—in a way. My old life is quite dead.”
Kim took a step away and peered at her daughter’s slumped figure. “You’ve got plenty of life ahead of you. And your sight might return. Doc Mallory said—”
“Doc Mallory is a know-it-all and a snob. Just because she’s had bazillion patients, she thinks she understands me. She doesn’t!”
Folding her arms over her chest and with a slight shake of the head, Kim turned and faced the rising sun. “Nevertheless, you have an appointment today, and she’s the best hope we’ve got.” After glancing at her watch, Kim started down the steps. “I’m going to check the cabbages I planted yesterday. Get ready, and we’ll leave in an hour.”
As Betty pounded out the clinic door, her mom grabbed her arm. “Stop and listen to me! I know you’re upset, but I’ve got to pick up the prescriptions. The door to the Arboretum is right here—” Kim pulled Betty forward and led her fingers to a metal handle on a wide industrial-sized door with a fancy steel plate entitled Garden Center. “Just go inside and wander around a bit. There’s staff nearby. I’ll be back in half an hour.”
With an angry grunt, Betty jerked open the door and stumbled inside. The humidity hit her like a slap in the face. Blinking, she stepped forward with her arms out, searching for obstacles.
Footsteps jogged forward. “Hi! Can I help you?”
Betty froze. The voice sounded like a young man. She cringed. Blindness humiliated her. For all she knew, her hair was a disheveled wreck, and her shirt was inside out. Squeezing her eyes, she reminded herself that her mom wouldn’t let her out of the house without checking her over. Lifting her head, she faced the voice. “I’d like to sit down.”
“Sure thing.” A gentle hand gripped her shoulder and led her to a bench.
Feeling her way, Betty sat with a relieved sigh. The sunshine warmed her face. Birds twittered and a fragrant scent wafted to her nose.
“You’ve been to the doctor—or waiting to get in?”
Betty grimaced. “Been there. Old crow.”
A snorted laugh made her tilt her head. She grinned against her will. “What’s so funny?”
The man sat down at her side. “Let me guess—Doc Mallory?”
Turning as if to stare into the stranger’s face, Betty blinked in surprise. “How’d you know?” She could practically hear his grin as he slapped his thighs.
“Ol’ Doc Mallory is famous—or infamous—around here. Knows everything, boss of the universe, can tell what a patient’s thinking and feeling miles away. Most patients hate her guts.”
Betty sniffed. “She’s not worth hating. Blindness—now that’s—”
A bird flew by and fluttered around the two figures. Betty jerked away, bumping the stranger.
“Don’t be afraid. Just a parakeet.”
She could sense the stranger lift his arm. The bird flew closer, the fluttering stopped. The voice crooned in a soft undertone.
Shivers ran down Betty’s spine.
The man shifted. “Despite her reputation, Doc Mallory’s not so bad. She helped to build this place—got the funding for the whole wing—glass ceiling and all. And she brought in these birds as an extra surprise. This one’s probably Bather—loves the birdbath and never a bit shy about asking for a little treat.”
Betty cocked her head and listened to the various chirping and warbling interplay all around her. “You know all the birds here?”
“Pretty much. I volunteer twice a week. Nice way to meet people and get away from stuff—all the antics of our wild world. You know.”
With a shrug, Betty dismissed the notion. “I’m never in the wild world these days—always stuck inside or holding someone’s hand.”
The man nudged her arm. “That’ll change. You’ll get more independent with time.” He stood. “Well, I better feed the fish—amazing how anxious they get if you’re late.”
A frown puckered over Betty’s brow. “You’re kidding—right?”
Though his shadow blocked the sunshine, he seemed to exude his own warmth. “Caught me.” He patted her shoulder. “Maybe you see better than you think.”
Slouching in sudden loneliness, Betty listened as his footsteps retreated across the garden. Something landed on her shoulder, chirping in her ear. Lifting her arm, she held out a finger and a tiny, feathery body fluttered onto her hand. She could practically feel it’s heart pounding. “You aren’t a bit shy—are you?” Lifting her chin, she listened. The sound of water trickling on her left pulled her to her feet.
Stepping carefully with one hand out and the other aloft with the bird, she finally bumped into the wide-brimmed birdbath. After laying her finger on the edge, the parakeet hopped off. Suddenly, drops of water splashed her face. A gasped laugh erupted from deep within her being.
Footsteps clicked up behind her. “You’ve been enjoying yourself?”
Betty turned and faced her mother. “It’s beautiful here.”
Kim sighed, her voice dropped low and soft. “Yes—it is.” She took her daughter’s arm and led her forward. “Did you meet Melvin?”
“You mean the guy who volunteers here?”
“Yeah. He was here on the day you went into surgery. I thought I’d go crazy with worry. But he set my mind at ease.”
“Seems nice enough. Is he still here?”
“I don’t see him now. But we better go—dad’s waiting to meet us for lunch. Besides, you can see Melvin next time. He’s practically a permanent fixture around here. He’s Doc Mallory’s son.”
Betty froze in her tracks. “What? That can’t be—not the way he talked about her. He seemed—to really understand!”
Kim pulled open the door and stepped aside. “Oh, I’m sure he does.” With a firm grip, she directed her daughter through the doorway. “He’s been blind since birth. It’s why Doc Mallory built this place—and works so hard.” The door swished shut behind them.
Betty choked. “He can’t see?”
Kim took her daughter’s arm. “Not with his eyes.”
Betty stumped along beside her mother. “Oh, Lord, Mom! He identified the bird, and I thought—”
Kim patted her daughter’s hand. “There are many ways to see, honey.”
Betty exhaled. “And many ways to go blind.”
A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.
Make the most of life’s journey.
For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page
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