Another day. Another Monday. I stared out into the far distance as the world began to paint herself with cloud strokes of deep copper and burnt umber. But it wasn’t another day. Or another Monday.
A blind girl called Heather McCallister had made everything different.
The room quietly echoed to the sounds of city life as I lay there staring up into the fading dark as the world turned and night slipped into the beginnings of the new day.
Sleep had been fitful. The constant turning of my mind as random thoughts flared, flickered and faded keeping me awake until the early hours. Night visions dancing in the darkness always bringing me back to the way she looked at me and the dawning realization that nothing would be the same again.
I got up and sat on the edge of the bed for a moment. I closed my eyes and hung my head as my body began to wake from its slumbers as I stretched and ran both hands through my thick dark hair. I got to my feet and walked naked to the window of my fifth-floor apartment and watched as the first signs of a red dawn began to appear from behind the concrete horizon.
Another day. Another Monday. I stared out into the far distance as the world began to paint herself with cloud strokes of deep copper and burnt umber. But it wasn’t another day. Or another Monday.
A blind girl called Heather McCallister had made everything different.
Monday was a seriously cold day.
I had already parked the Lambo and was making my way up from the underground car park towards the main entrance of the building when I saw a cab pull up to the curb and the driver gets out to open the rear door on the left-hand side.
Suddenly a white stick appeared and I watched as the girl eased herself out onto the sidewalk as the cabbie fussed around her. So that was how she was getting around in this weather. It was then I realized this was my opportunity and quickly made my way to where she was standing.
The nearer I got to her the more my heart began to quicken. She was dressed in a dark grey overcoat with a bright yellow scarf wrapped around her neck, a black woven skirt, and what looked like thick woolen black stockings and knee-high black leather boots. Her hair was tied in a ponytail hanging down her back.
She waited until the taxi had moved off then reached forward with her stick and began to tap it back and forth. She had that thing in her ear and I could tell she was listening to whatever the device was telling her. I stopped a few feet from her and watched as she moved carefully forward and into the flow of pedestrians. Even from where I was I could see that she was nervous and flinched every now and again as she felt someone get too close as they walked past.
She walked a few meters then stopped. Her head was tilted to one side as she listened to the city moving around her. She was practically at the entrance to the courtyard in front of the company tower and tapped the end of her stick along the low wall in front of it. After a moments pause, she carefully set off again and I could see her mumbling to herself and it suddenly occurred to me that she was counting her steps as she went.
I stepped to the side as she came right past me and the faint smell of an Autumn perfume filled the crisp still air. She was so close I could see the flush of her cold cheeks and the soft billowing of her breath as she concentrated on where she was walking. The more I saw of her the more amazing and impressive she became.
It was now or never to set things in motion.
“Hey, hello,” I said to her. Not too loud as I didn’t want to startle her. But loud enough for her to hear over the din of traffic, “Miss. McCallister, right?”
She gave a slight start of surprise and she turned to the side trying to figure out where I was standing in relation to her. “Oh, uh, yes, hello!” she replied breathlessly with a smile that was completely endearing.
I stared at her. She was wearing her spectacles again and I noticed they had a slight tint to them and I suddenly felt a deep empathy for her. “Mike. Mike Sloane. We sort of met briefly last week before everything got a little mad in the asylum.”
“OOooooooooh, I remember you,” she exclaimed. A soft flush crossed her face as she pulled her stick to her chest and stuck out her hand, “Tenth floor, right?”
I laughed as I took her hand – again. “Yep, tenth floor,” Then it hit me; she was shaking hands so she could get some sense for where people were standing in relation to her. That made me smile wider. Smart is as smart does. I looked around, “Are you waiting for anyone?”
She let go of my hand. “Well, usually,” she explained, “A couple of the new girls wait at the main entrance for me. I still need a little help to figure out where everything is in this place, to be honest. But every day I’m getting better at it,” She raised her arm and looked at her watch, “Um, I think I’m a little early this morning because of the snow,” She pressed a button on it and held it to her ear, “Uh huh, they’re not due here for another half hour.”
The cold was beginning to bite and I saw that she was shivering slightly as she fiddled with her stick. “Well, I’m heading to the canteen for something to warm me up,” I said as she turned her face towards me, “You’re more than welcome to join me for a cup of coffee or something. My shout.”
She frowned slightly and licked her lips as she contemplated my offer. “It really is cold isn’t it,” she sniffed, “Alright, you have a deal. Coffee sounds awesome right now,” She moved around to face me and blushed, “Uh, can I take your arm?”
“Sure,” I nodded as I came to her right side watching as she slowly raised her hand and slipped it through my proffered arm, “Okay?”
She gave me a wide smile and stepped beside me. “Great!” she grinned, “Good to go. Don’t worry, if you hear me mumbling to myself it’s because I’m just counting out steps and how far things are for me. I haven’t gone nuts or anything.”
“Well, I did call this place the asylum, didn’t I.”
She laughed and nudged herself against me, “Coffee.”
So that was it. The start. The beginning. God only knows where it would lead us both as we headed into the building.
We sat in a quiet corner of the canteen away from the groups of people who had arrived to work early in order to beat the rush hour made worse because of the weather. It was a window seat which looked out onto a lawn covered in deep snow.
She had removed her spectacles and sat on the other side of the table taking careful sips of her coffee and nibbling on a bacon sandwich. It was such a strange feeling to know that I could be this close to her and look at her without feeling brazen or awkward. Every now and then she’d glance up at me and we’d make eye contact before her sightless gaze would slip away from mine. I wondered what she was thinking in those moments. No doubt imagining what I looked like and knowing that I was probably staring at her openly.
Taking advantage of her disability didn’t bother me as much as it should have done because being able to look at her properly was just such an absolute pleasure.
She looked about eighteen and wore her youth with an easy grace. Her face bore the purity of innocence and her natural charm and character shone through for all to see. Her skin was clear and unblemished and it was only a faint sprinkling of freckles across the bridge of her nose that marked it. I smiled at her over the rim of my cup as I watched her carefully put her cup in the plastic tray and run her fingers around the sides before sitting back in her chair. Her eyes once again met mine and I just stared at their simple clear beauty as she blinked and dabbed her lips with a tissue.
My eyes dropped to her open coat and unwound scarf. She was wearing a pale white blouse under a sky blue cardigan that revealed the hint of a shadow between her breasts that were softly rising and falling as she breathed.
Our conversation had been easy and the basics flowed back and forth between us as we sat doing breakfast. We talked about simple things. Life things. Work was good. Work was different. Work was interesting now that those first awkward days had passed. New friends had been made and there was always someone to help her when she needed it. She lived in the suburbs with a friend called Melissa who worked from home. The daily commute into the city was a pain made more so because of the sudden change in the weather. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what doing something like that would be for her. The sheer willpower and fortitude to take that first step out into the world each morning made me appreciated her inner strength more with each passing second I was in her presence.
Like I said, the conversation was natural and the warmth of her personality was plain to see, feel and enjoy.
“Can I call you Heather?” I asked.
She looked at me for a second and nodded. “Sure,” she replied as a faint blush kissed her cheeks before fading away, “Of course,” She frowned slightly, “Um, what do I call you?” Clasping her hands in front of her, she sat forward in her chair, “I mean, you’re my potential Boss, right?”
I sat forward conspiratorially and whispered “When it’s like this you can call me Mike. If we have to pretend to be serious then it’s Mr. Sloane. Alright?” We were so close I could see the pores and fine hairs on her smooth skin. She was also leaning forward and my gaze dropped to the suggested hidden charms under her blouse before she bounced back in her seat and gave me a knowing look of amusement. I slowly raised my eyes back to her face.
“Ahhhhh,” she laughed as she dug her hands into the deep pockets of her coat, “You’ll get me into trouble!” She bit her lower lip and tilted her head to the right, “But who would know?” She looked around and sat forward again, “There’s only me and you here, right?”
I stared at her hard. Yeah. Only me. And you.
Janet stared out of my office window watching as the next Winter storm rolled in from across the Atlantic and the snow began to fall again. “This thing keeps up, we’re going to be snowed in here until December!”
I was sat at my desk going over that morning’s paper data making sure all the indicators checked out and that all the relevant info was sent to the various floors that handled the backend garbage. I grunted as Janet grabbed my shoulders and massaged away the tension that had built up in me. “Mmmmm,” I murmured, closing my eyes, “Feels good.”
She pressed her thumbs between my shoulder blades and gently rotated them. “How was breakfast?” she asked.
I smiled at her question. How long had that one been stewing? A good few hours I’d imagine. That breakfast seemed an age ago. Breakfast had been good. Breakfast had got my foot in the door. “She was fine.” I replied as the older woman continued to ease my aches, “Why’d you ask?”
“Oh, you know. Just wondering that’s all.”
“Is there a problem?”
She stopped and came around to the side of my desk. I opened my eyes and looked up at her. She was staring at me intently as if trying to read my mind. “I’d like to think not, Mr. Sloane.”
There was a sudden knock on the door and Jimmy came in and glanced at the two of us. “Uh, Boss,” he said as he jabbed his right hand over his shoulder, “The guys are good to go. We’re just waiting for the girls from the pool.”
I got to my feet and picked up the data folder. “Girls?”
Jimmy looked at Janet. “Uh, yeah. I thought you knew. We’re on training schedule today and tomorrow,” He tapped the screen of his Ipad, “Lemme see. Here we go. The new intake. Andrews and McCallister are up first.”
I stared over his shoulder as Janet picked up her things. Our eyes met and she gave me a brief smile as she walked towards the door. She stopped suddenly and turned to look at the top of the whiteboard and the faint red outline of crossed out numbers one to four. I watched as she picked up the cloth and reached up to wipe them away completely. Then she put the rag down and walked out of the room.
The idea of “training” week was to give the new intake first-hand experience of how the whole show works with each individual section or floor allowing them to see the way they fit into the machine so that everything runs smoothly.
As head of the pool, Janet would sit with them and explain what was going on in a “live” situation and the way information and data were handled. Thankfully, today was fairly quiet and the two younger women sat to one side watching – or listening – to the general buzz of the room.
Normally, I would just stay in my office and let Jimmy or one of the other clerks take the session. But not today. Today was different. Today she was here. In my lair.
The floor consisted of three rows of terminals. Twenty to each row with six small cubicles at each end with standard computers connected to the company network. Each terminal had a user and each user was assigned to a specific client or an individual task. Each row of terminals had various support staff who made sure everything was ticking along like clockwork and that any issues were dealt with promptly. As one of the banners on the far wall said “ASAP is an order, not a suggestion.” My job was to make sure that the floor ran as slick and smooth as a well-licked pussy.
I stood just off to the side where the three women sat.
Most of the crew usually ignored the newbies and got on with their duties as training week was something they’d seen numerous times. But when she had walked into the room, there had been a palpable change in the atmosphere as the girl had made her way between the rows with her arm slipped through Janet’s for support. Open stares and glances followed in her wake and the soft murmur of curiosity filled the room.
Heather was sat in the middle of the three and was listening intently as Janet to her left explained what was going on to her and her friend. It was then I noticed she was holding a small recorder in her lap and nodded every now and again. I was finding it impossible not to look at her. She was like some sort of magnet to me and the only way I could satisfy the urge was to just stare at her like some lovesick teenager which unnerved the hell out of me.
There was just something about her that made my world seem more worthwhile somehow. If I wasn’t so shallow I’d say I had a crush on her. I reached up and straightened my tie and rubbed the stubble on my chin. Listen to you. Can you hear yourself? You’re nearly twice her age. Her head was down and I let my eyes take in the soft curling waves of her rich chestnut hair that she had swept back so that it lay just over her shoulders. She had her legs tucked and crossed under her chair with her knee-length boots gently tapping against each other.
I could feel that languid sense of sexual awakening begin to rise within me as I continued to stare at her. The desire for her was taking shape and becoming intimately defined the more I was near her. What would it be like to lay her back on a bed, take each ankle in hand, and slowly part those woolen stockinged legs and thighs to reveal her…
I jerked my head up to see Janet staring at me. “What?” I blinked and tried to focus on her and clear my mind. Our eyes met and held for a moment. She really did know.
She turned and indicated the two women sat beside her. “I think we’re finished here. Heather,” she said as she laid her hand on the girl’s shoulder, “You get everything you need?”
The younger woman got carefully to her feet. “Um, I think so,” she smiled, holding her recorder up, “I’ll type it out when I get downstairs. Shouldn’t take long. Is that it?”
“For now,” Janet nodded and took her hand. Several of the techs had stepped forward to help as Heather got to her feet and then stood back to let the small group through.
I stood watching as Heather stopped suddenly and turned to face the room. “Um,” she said out loud, “That was very interesting. Thank you very much.” She whispered something to Janet who laughed and the three of them took their leave. There was an awkward silence for a moment with everyone standing around looking at each other.
“Alright, meatheads,” I said, “Back to work.”
I glanced at the closed door and knew for absolutely certain what I had to do.
The opportunity came a lot sooner than I thought it would and in the most unexpected circumstances.
It had gone five. Work was pretty much done for the day as I stepped up to the elevator and pressed the button watching the number above the door flicked over from fifteen to fourteen. The doors opened to reveal Heather standing there – alone – holding her extended white stick against her chest.
What the hell? I saw her eyebrows pop up and a quick smile cross her face. “Going down,” she said brightly, “I hope.”
I stepped into the elevator beside her but didn’t say anything. The doors closed automatically and the lift gave a short jolt before heading down to the next floor. The girl turned her head slightly and gave me a quick smile before facing front again and sort of sucked on her lower lip. I was waiting to see what she would do. She started to hum softly and I could see her mouth saying the number of each floor as the counter pinged in the background.
She lifted her head suddenly. She wasn’t wearing her spectacles so I could see her eyes widen and her nostrils flare.
“Mr. Sloane?” she said surprised.
I grinned and tried not to laugh. “Hello, Heather.”
Her mouth dropped open and she tapped me on the shoulder with the end of her stick. “What are you,” she spluttered as her face flushed red, “Why didn’t you say something?”
I stared down at her as she stood there all wrapped up to head out into the cold. “Sorry,” I replied with amusement as she scolded me. Her eyes were wide and bright, “I was just admiring the view.”
She gave a start. “What?”
Tread carefully, my friend. Small steps. One at a time. “Sorry. Just daydreaming that’s all.”
“Oh. Oh, okay.” She gave me a suspicious look before turning to face front as the counter pinged above us and the doors opened to let people in. We stood at the back not saying anything but I knew I had gently nudged her in the right direction.
Ground floor arrived and we both waited as everyone got out and made their way through the hall to the main entrance. Heather held her stick out in front of her and tapped the sides of the elevator and deliberately made her way out.
She stopped and I could tell she knew I was still standing near her. I looked up and saw a taxi parked in the courtyard waiting.
“Can I give you a lift?” I said to her, “I can drop you off home if you like.”
Heather clasped her hands together and made a face. “Oh, well, actually,” she explained, “I’m not exactly heading for home just yet. I have to go somewhere. A place. Uh, I’m a sort of volunteer there a couple of times during the week. So..” Her voice trailed off.
“That’s not a problem.”
She stuck out her lower lip considering her options. “Okay. Okay, that sounds a plan.
The taxi driver was staring at us through the main doors. I raised my hand and shook my head. Not this time, pal. Not this time.
“Do you know Huntersvaller?”
Heather was sat in the passenger seat as I keyed in the details for the nav. “Just off the Interstate?” I asked.
“Uh huh, number one eighty-three. It’s the old fire station on the corner.”
The computer beeped and laid out the route on the screen. It wasn’t that far. A ten-minute drive at most. I glanced at her as she shuffled in the seat. It had been an adventure to get her in the thing in the first place.
“Here, give me your hand,” I told her, “Now ease yourself down and watch your head. It’s a sports so the seat is pretty low to the ground.”
She gripped my hand with her left and felt around with her right as she placed her foot into the car. Once she got her ass onto the side of the seat, she sort of slid into position with a squeak. “Oh, my gosh,” she laughed, “This feels so weird. It’s like I’m falling!”
Outside, the world was lit with neon and the constant moving lights of rush hour traffic as we made our way to her destination. Heather sat muffled up in her seat as I kept my eyes on the road. The sky was a deep purplish black as night rolled in and the soft hum of the engine was the only sound to hear.
“Radio?” I asked her, “Music?”
She shook her head. “No. This is nice. I like this,” She reached across and touched her passenger side window, “Sometimes there is too much noise.”
That I could understand. Though not in the same way she did. I would never in a million years be able to understand sound the way she understood it. I glanced at her and could sense she was in a place all of her own.
“What’s it like?” I asked her.
She turned to look at me as I concentrated on the road.
The Berkley Institute for the Blind had been many things over its eighty-year history. Previously a fire-station, it was now home to a drop -in and resource center for the visually impaired as well as offering a volunteer service for those living with or coming to terms with the condition. Apparently, Heather had worked there ever since she was fifteen.
Holding onto my arm, she led us both into the reception area where an older lady with a grey poodle perm flecked with white sat behind the counter doing various bits of paperwork.
She smiled as we approached her. “Heather, honey!”
Heather grabbed me tighter and pushed me forward. “Hey, Molly, how goes it?”
“Fine, fine,” she said, “Ernie is out back messing with the boiler. Damned thing is getting cranky again. Rattling like a bag of bones but at least the pipes are hot,” She turned to me and raised her eyebrows, “And this fine gentleman is..”
“Oh, this is,” Heather suddenly stuttered, “This is um..”
I reached out my hand and Molly took it. “Just call me Mike. I work with Heather.”
Molly was about to say something when all hell broke loose.
SQUEAK “Ouch!” SQUEAK “Ouch!”
All three of us turned towards the noise as a little round inflatable plastic bubble with a head, arms and legs skidded into view at the bottom of the corridor and barrelled towards us bouncing off the walls like it was in some sort of glorified pinball machine. Every time it bounced off something the ball let out a loud electronic SQUEAK followed by a pained “Ouch!”
The little plastic inflatable ball turned out to be a frizzy blonde haired girl of about six who screeched to a stop in front of us. “Is anybody there?!” she called out, “Because if you are you’d better not pretend you’re not!”
Molly stood with her hands on her hips. “Gracey Turner. Just what are you up to?”
The child lifted her face to the sound of her voice and it was then I realized she couldn’t see us. She was blind too. I glanced at Heather who stood there laughing.
“Nothing. I swear,” said the girl. She gave a grunt of frustration and did a little-annoyed dance on the spot with the plastic ball bobbing up and down around her, “Do I HAVE to wear this thing, Aunt Molly?”
“Yes you do, sweetie,” said the woman, “Or else you’d end up black and blue the way you run around this place. This way you can’t get hurt and we know where you are!”
Gracey sighed and turned away to walk back where she came from. “Bummer,” she muttered as an older boy approached us from the same direction using a stick.
“Hey, hey, hey!” he said brightly as he came into reception, “Is that Heather?”
“Hello Billy,” she said as she raised her arms wide. The boy, who looked roughly the same age as her, came up and gave her a big hug, “Billy, this is Mike. He works in the same place as me.”
Once he let her go he turned to me. “Pleased to meet you, Mike.” He raised a finger to his right eye, “It’s okay. You’re a smudge. I’m ninety percent dark and ten percent fuzzy. Hence the smudge. You look good though. Seriously. I’m Billy,” He paused for dramatic effect, “Heather’s boyfriend.”
Huh? What? Really?
Beside me, Heather gave a gasp, reached out, and slapped his shoulder. “No, you are not!” she hissed with a laugh as she turned a deep shade of red. She grabbed on to him and gave him a shake.
“EX then,” he sighed as he held his hands up, “It only lasted one night,” he whispered as he leaned towards me, “But it was one helluva night!” With that, he turned tail and ran back down the corridor to where SQUEAK “Ouch!” was doing her thing.
I looked over at Molly who came around the counter chuckling. “Is it always like this?” I asked smiling.
“Oh, you have no idea,” she teased, “Come on, let me show you the common room and meet some of the others. They’re sorting out the Christmas decorations and we can have a nice chat over a cup of coffee.”
I started to follow the other woman but stopped when I realized Heather was still standing there gently fuming and fiddling with her stick.
“You alright?” I asked her.
She looked up at me. “Welcome to my world,” she muttered as she walked past me grumbling.
“And he isn’t my boyfriend!!”
The week that followed was pretty much routine bread and butter.
At various times during that week meetings were held and decisions were made with each floor and department putting their best foot forward. I had six meetings all told with my team and support staff where Heather sat in taking care of the audio record which she would transcribe onto disk and log into the database where the information could be easily accessed.
With more experience came more confidence which made her particular skill set important to the overall running of the departments. Suffice to say, Heather became to be regarded as an important member of the pool and once she had done her six-month apprenticeship she would be assigned to a particular team leader. That she had earned the respect and admiration of everyone was something special to see.
And all this had happened in less than three weeks.
Heather looked slightly stunned.
“Are you asking me out on a date?”
We were in my office with her standing in front of my desk and me sat behind it watching her. It was a Friday and time to take another small step.
“No,” I replied, “I’m asking if you want a burger and fries. There’ll be a few others there too including Jimmy and Janet. It’s a kind of a works ritual. It’s the first of December and a group of us always head off to Bennies Bar and Grill on the first of every month. If you’re interested be down in the lobby for about five.” I got up from behind my desk and went to open the door for her.
“Oh,” she said quietly as she turned to the sound of the door opening and walked carefully over to where I was standing, “Well, I mean, I thought the way you said it,” She began to say before she stopped and shook her head, “Never mind. That’s okay. Yes, I’d love to go. It sounds fun.”
I held the door open for her and as she came close I simply asked her “If I did, would you have a problem with that?”
She froze but didn’t look up at me. I could see the tiny pulse at the base of her throat and the way her lips opened slightly as if caught in a surprise. She reached up and took off her spectacles before lifting her face to mine as I stared down at her.
“No, Mr. Sloane,” she said carefully, “I don’t think I would but I think others may.”
The Big Bopper was bop bop bopping from the jukebox as Bennies Bar and Grill bounced to the sound of Friday night as we all made our way to the reserved area where we had booked tables and sofas to sit on after we’d eaten.
There were about twenty of us with about fifteen girls from the pool, myself, Jimmy, and three guys from support. The place was packed as it was just off Fifth Avenue and where the hive mind began to unwind at the end of another working week. The sights and sounds of Christmas were all around us as the festive season cranked into commercial gear. A good foot of snow still lay all around adding to the seasonal mood.
Janet, as usual, was directing traffic. She was also Mother Hen and kept her special charge close as she guided Heather over to a window table and helped her get comfortable by removing her coat and hanging it on a nearby rack for her. I unwound my red scarf and watched her as she did her little “find where everything is” routine by running her fingers around the edges of the table.
It was then I felt someone nudge me from behind and I turned to see Hallie, Suzie, and Donna giving me the eye. Oh shit. I gave them a quick smile. “Hey ladies.”
Long legged and lithe Suzie reached around me and squeezed my butt. “Hey, Mr. Sloane,” she breathed as she came in real close, “Where’ve you been hiding? Some of us girls have been wondering what the name of the game is. We’re starting to pine and miss the good times we had together. Those times when you showed us just how deep you would go to put a smile on our faces,” She moved in closer,”You do still have our numbers don’t you, Mr. Sloane?”
The two other women were staring intently at me and a couple of others were glancing in our direction watching the little show being played out. All three of them looked hot to trot and I had no doubt I could bang the lot of them before the sun came up.
But not this night.
As ever, it was Janet to the rescue.
She came up to the four of us and slipped her arm through mine. “Ladies, if you’ll excuse us, table number one is served.” With that, she pulled me through the crowd to where the tables were and sat me down opposite Heather who looked up at the commotion. I could tell she was trying to work out who was where and doing what.
“Hey, you,” I said, sitting forward with relief. I glanced over her shoulder and watched as the three other women made their way to their own table as they looked over to where I sat. Thank fuck for Janet. The woman was a Saint.
“Hey,” said Heather looking at me. She wasn’t wearing her spectacles and her eyes sparkled in the festive glow. She didn’t look away but kept still and silent. It never occurred to me she could hear everything that was said a moment ago.
Burgers and fries were really good to go. Everyone tucked in and it was an education watching Heather eat her meal. I had forgotten anyone else at the table and sat there with elbows propped up, double cheeseburger between two hands, and munched away looking at her do the same – but more diligently. Nibbling around the edges before taking a big bite that had me laughing to myself as she chased loose fries around her tray and slurped on an XXL coke. I shook my head. How the hell had I ended up here becoming rapt and obsessed with someone who was completely out of my social and physical circle.
I honestly felt like I was slowly turning an important page in my book of life.
But the old days and old ways still gave me pause. Hallie, Donna, and long-legged Suzie were like ghosts from my Christmas past and they would always be there until I turned that page forever.
Merry Christmas, Mr. Scrooge. Compliments of the season to ye.
The meal was over.
The whole group sat on various sofa’s or lounged on cushions spread across the floor at the rear of the restaurant next to a traditional log fire that snapped and crackled as the conversation and beers flowed. Everyone was in a good mood as the stresses of the day and week slowly faded away. People were sat in groups chatting about this and that.
I was sat on the floor with my back to the oak-paneled wall next to the fire watching as Janet, Heather, and a couple of the other older women talked about whatever it was they were talking about. I took a sip of beer and continued to look at her as she laughed and listened to her companions. It’s funny how attraction creeps up on you. Discovering that someone who is normally your physical negative becomes, over time, your absolute emotional positive as you get to know them and their true nature. I swirled what was left of my beer and continued to watch the three women talking. Janet glanced at me and whispered something to the other two. Heather shook her head and put her hand over her mouth to hide a laugh as she glanced over to where I was sitting.
Janet gave me another look and I frowned at her. What were they up to?
The older woman nodded towards me and Heather shook her head again. Janet knelt forward and crooked a finger at me as Heather put her hands over her face trying to hide.
“Come closer, Mike,” said Janet, “Kneel on this cushion.” She turned to Heather who was blushing beetroot and biting her lip, “Show him, Heather.”
Bemused, I looked between the three of them. Show me? Show me what?
The other woman, Marge, knelt to my right-hand side. “We were just talking with Heather about the way she experiences and interprets the world around her. How things appear to her. When someone speaks to her directly, the sound of their voice appears to her as flashes of different colors in front of her. She can also see someone through touch. Isn’t that right, Heather?”
Heather was sat there quietly listening and nodded at the question. “I can see people through touching their faces. Um, you know, the way they feel and their shape. I sort of paint a picture in my head when I imagine what they look like. It makes them all different. Which is important to me. I was taught how to do it when I was very young but it’s not something I do often these days.”
Janet knelt to my left. “We thought it’d be fun for her to do you, Mike.”
Really? I looked at Heather who had inched forward and was carefully settling herself on her cushion in front of me. Uh. Okay. That sounds a bit weird. But what harm could it do? It was a game which was no doubt helped by the soothing effect of the beer I was drinking.
“Are you okay with this?” I asked her.
Heather nodded. “Um, yes. I just get a little nervous when I do it.”
“Are you ready?” asked Janet.
Heather raised her face and I found myself looking into her eyes and the clear green ocean within them. We were facing each other and I watched as the blind girl slowly lifted her slim hands to my face.
Her first touch was tentative and gentle.
The light tracing of my features as her fingers came into contact with the bone structure of my face felt strange yet soothing. They traced my forehead, brow, the bridge of my nose, the breadth of my cheeks and the firmness of my jaw. All the while, I stared at her and as each second passed the world around us faded away into nothing. Heather was smiling as she painted me inside her mind. I understood that I was becoming more defined to her and her head tilted this way and that as her fingers caressed my face.
I was staring intently at her now. I could feel the blood beginning to fire through my veins and I sub-consciously found myself moving closer to her as her hands moved to each side of my face and she spread her fingers wide apart. Her lips were slightly open and I suddenly realized that she was moving closer too.
Her eyes were shining and I could see tears shimmering as we stopped mere inches apart and I could feel the soft caress of her breath against my lips. My heart was hammering in my chest as I slowly raised my own hands and took her face in mine as she gasped at my sudden touch.
I leaned forward and pressed my lips against hers and felt her groan and sigh against me as I pressed forward with my right arm slipping down her back to draw her to me so I could hold her close. I knew now it was something I had wanted to do from the moment I had set eyes on her as she had laid on the ground in the pouring rain all those days ago.
There is no greater expression of want and desire than the first kiss. Ours felt like it lasted forever as I held Heather to my chest and felt her arms wrap themselves around my neck as her lips parted and I felt the first touch of her tongue against mine. The kiss deepened and I could feel her trembling against me as I drew her up so that we were standing together before the log fire.
I felt her right hand come down and rest on my chest as she murmured my name. I slowly lifted my lips from hers and opened my eyes to see hers wide with surprise, shock, wonder, and desire. Once I’d let her lips go, she dropped her forehead against my chest and took great lungfuls of air as she tried to control her breathing and heart.
I was shaken to my marrow. I blinked as the world came back into focus to see everyone staring at us in silence. I took Heather by her shoulders and held her at arm’s length to make sure she was alright. But she shook her head.
“I,” she whispered as she put her fingers to her lips, “I’m fine. But I think I need to go.”
It was then Janet and Marge came to her side to support her. They both hugged the shaking girl as Janet stared at me over Heather’s shoulder with a satisfied look on her face. “We’ll help her get home,” she said as they took Heather to get her coat and order a taxi.
I still stood there in disbelief. I didn’t even give a damn that everyone was still staring at me with stunned surprise. God knows what the girls from the pool were thinking.
It was Brad who set me straight.
He came over and handed me a beer. “Fuck me, dude,” he muttered, “You sure have a way with the ladies. That was pretty fucking spectacular I have to say.”
Life had suddenly got really complicated.
End of Part 3.
Story concludes in Part 4.