The Bleeding Rose
If Love Could be Blind
Charlotte Moore didn't drink. Maybe she should have? It would have certainly been a way to drown out the long, empty, suffocating hours of darkness. Maybe it wouldn't have mattered if she were awake or asleep? Maybe she wouldn't have to wonder? Maybe she wouldn't have cared? Her groceries were delivered, how hard would it be to order a bottle of jack? Or, maybe something more festive? Peppermint schnapps? Hadn't she had it mixed with hot cocoa once? Ah, but then, hot drinks were out of the question as well. Was it even near Christmas? Alcohol. Yes, Charlie had spent many long afternoons consider the good alcohol could have had on her life. After all, wasn't that what Carson had turned to? Obviously, he'd loved it. He loved it more than air, more than food, more than her. And yet, somehow, she just couldn't bring herself to do it.
Maybe it was because of the last thing she'd ever seen? A half empty bottle of whiskey that hit so hard she didn't even feel the pain.
At least, not at first. It was like that, when you weren't expecting to be hit. The impact, the shock, the involuntary tears that started in shame and transitioned into agony. Oh, and it had been agony. She could remember holding her hands up to her face, feeling the glass poking out of the delicate skin around her eyes. She remembered wondering whether the warm liquid on her hands was blood or whiskey, and the scream that ripped out of her throat as the burning began. It was animalistic, desperate, the scream of a desperate girl who had been shoved into the depths of hell. She remembered praying to die, or at least pass out so the pain would end. But it was hours before they finally put her under, long enough for her to realize that her eyes were wide open and she could not see. Had sight left in pieces? In shards, like the glass? She couldn't quite remember, but one thing was for certain. It was gone.
He was gone too, a blessing and a curse. Her parents had died when she was nineteen, and he had been her family. He wasn't perfect, no one was, but they loved each other. Unfortunately, he loved the alcohol more. It wasn't any sort of 'new tragedy', the world was hard and men often came undone. She'd been stupid enough to get a degree in literature without any real plan for the future, and substitute teaching didn't pay hardly anything at all. He was a cars salesman who had taken over his father's business just as the economy went downhill, and it was enough to drive him right over the edge. She wasn't entirely innocent, no one ever was. When they fought she fought back hard, saying her own share of cruel things and threatening to leave him. It was during such a fight that the first hit was thrown, just enough to get her to shut up. Yes, she was furious, but she was also shocked. So shocked, in fact, that they didn't speak of it again. There was no groveling on his part, no apology. Every time she convinced herself that it was the alcohol, that she had been stupid to provoke him. Every time she watched him stagger away, cursing under his breath, wondering where the man who had once looked at her with such love had gone. Well, every time but the last. She hadn't watched him walk away then.
It was the neighbors, who had called the police. The apartment had thin walls, and screaming was usually a sign of distress. Afterwards she'd been in shock, aware but not entirely there. She wouldn't testify, but a divorce wasn't hard to get. There was no health insurance, but the medical bills were passed onto him and she was sent home as soon as they could legally be rid of her. It was all disturbingly simple. Papers signed, stitches removed, clothes returned. They arranged for transportation back to her apartment, gave her the number of a grocery delivery service and therapists she couldn't afford. They told her that her eyes were now a milky blue, scarred, that she had no chance of ever seeing again. They told her that she'd healed well, considering. They told her the scars around her eyes and brow were, while jagged, generally thin and white. They said they might fade with time...but did it matter? If she couldn't see them, were they still there? If they did fade, would she know? They told her she was lucky, to keep her eyes. Lucky. Lucky, even though they were useless. The nurses applauded her for the divorce, as though she'd helped women earn the right to vote.
All Charlie had done was let him blind her.
Panic ensued soon after. She had never been weak before, not like this. You couldn't be weak when you lost your parents, when you were struggling to make ends meet, when you had to grow up. It wasn't her nature to shrivel into a ball at the first sight of danger, or cry whenever someone hurt her feelings. She was a strawberry blonde, with just enough red to light a fire. In high school she'd been well liked, in college she'd had plenty of friends. She wasn't someone who whined, who could lay on the floor all day long and wallow in self pity. But then, that was back when her skin had been clear and flawless...when her eyes had been a silver blue, clear, seeing. It was funny how a bottle could change all of that. A bottle, a fight, and a well aimed blow to the face. The cab driver helped her up to her apartment, left her suitcase by the door, and shut it behind him. Suddenly, she was alone.
She'd seen plenty of blind people before, walking around with their dogs and their canes. They were always determined, always confident, always friendly and outgoing. Wasn't she supposed to become one of them? Wasn't she supposed to cross the street, and read braille, and have some specially equipped cell phone? Did confidence come with the money you had to have to buy all of those things? Because she didn't have it, she didn't have a clue. The first thing she did was breathe, heart pounding, hysterics setting in. Her senses had been on edge since they'd taken her off the pain meds, adjusting to the darkness. This was her apartment. She could feel the empty air before her outstretched hand, she could remember that eventually she would find the couch...but how could she know? There could have been a black pit in front of her. There could have been a pile of broken glass. There could have been a dead body, rotting away on the carpet...and she wouldn't know.
The thought nearly drove her insane, as she backed up and screamed in surprise as her shoulders slammed against the door. There could be a body. There could be anything, and she wouldn't know. Her hands flew to her face, feeling for the blindfold that was surely in place. Nothing. There was nothing. Her eyes were open, searching, straining, but there was only blackness. It was torture, sheer torture, and she felt hot tears begin to pour down her cheeks. There was no telling how long she stayed like that, whether days or a half hour. Eventually she would learn to listen to her neighbors, their showers and muffled dinner conversations that told her the days were progressing. Eventually she got one of those special phones, eventually she learned to swallow her fear of dead bodies or hidden burglars that she couldn't see. It wasn't gone, but she pushed it back into the deep recesses of her mind so that she could make it through the day. Of course, that wasn't to say she was really functioning.
She didn't leave the apartment. It really didn't even seem like an option, and so, people were cut out of the equation. Besides, who would she want to see? Old friends who were 'so terribly sorry' about the 'accident', as they liked to call it. People who would stare at her scars because she couldn't see them staring? Her landlord stopped by occasionally, but only because she concerned him. Her rent was always on time, but she never left, never made a sound. He didn't like it, she could tell. After all, he'd taken in a nice, happy married couple and somehow come out with a blind divorcee. But Charlie couldn't move, she couldn't even consider it. At least she had a mental picture of her apartment, an idea of where everything was. If she moved...it would be like stepping off the face of the earth. Moving would require embracing a new level of blind that her tired mind didn't dare to dwell on. She was eating, showering, dressing, and listening to the TV. Yes, she was angry and terrified and about as screwed up as a person could get...but she was keeping herself alive. Was that really such a bad thing, considering the circumstances?
The days were long and challenging. She stuck with foods that didn't have to be cooked, terrified of burning herself or the apartment. There was little to do but eat, and yet, her apatite was nearly nonexistent. More than once she'd considered suicide, and then scolded herself for being so pathetic. Sometimes she got lost flipping through the channels and cried like a small child in sheer frustration. Sometimes she lay in the silence, wishing for change and praying it would all stay the same. The world was terrifying and dark, and the apartment was full of ghosts. Not the literal kind, but the kind that sneak into your dreams and remind you of your mistakes. She was learning to live, slowly...and yet, it seemed as though her very soul might be dying.
It was afternoon, or, so it seemed. The neighbors were quiet, all out at their respective jobs. She'd just finished showering, an exhausting effort that wasn't nearly as confusing as getting dressed. She was fairly certain she was in a pair of yoga pants, and a long sleeved cotton shirt. From what she remembered, it was green. But then, sometimes she couldn't quite remember what shade, or how it hung on her body. Either way, she wasn't dressed for anything more than a long day on the safety of the couch. That was where she curled up, hair still damp, remote in it's reliable place. Her fingers trailed over it, comforted by it's presence, but she didn't turn on the TV. Instead she sat in silence, eyes wide open, staring into the dark oblivion that had become her apartment. The neighbors were relatively quiet, but sometimes she jumped when she heard them. She couldn't help it, for her ears were constantly straining to pick up any clues about the world around her. That was why she nearly jumped out of her skin when there was a knock at the door.
It wasn't grocery day. It wasn't anything day. Burt, her landlord, always called out when he knocked. This...this wasn't his knock. Too solid, too firm, too slow. It rang out again, and this time she gasped loudly, standing as though she had the option to run. Where? Out the door? Was it someone coming to mug her? No, that was ridiculous. These apartments were safe. Right? "Just...just a minute." she called out, her own voice betraying just how terrified she was at the prospect of a stranger. Slowly, cautiously, she made her way down the hall. The smooth wall paper was a comfort beneath her fingers, the tiny indent a tell tale sign that the door was exactly three steps away. Her other hand, outstretched, found the cool wood and eventually the handle. Eyes closed? Eyes opened? Either way they would know, wouldn't they? Out of habit, they were open when she pulled the door towards her slowly. It was as vulnerable as she could been, opening the door to her home, knowing that there was a stranger outside of it. There was no judging, no sign if it was male or female. No...wait, male. There was the distinct scent of men's deodorant. But age? Appearance? Whether or not he was holding an axe? Charlie swallowed nervously. "Can I help you?"
The Pulverised Flower
Braxton Evenings was a tall man, or boy, as most would guess of him. His innocent, naïve smile gave everyone the impression that he was just the average senior in high school. His shoulders hadn’t quite caught up with his age and were still narrow, lacking the masculine broadness all others had by the time they were his age. He wasn’t scraggly, though, and most would consider him well put together. He had wet sand colored hair, and it was complete with the heavenly scent of musk. There was always that female, walking by, that giggled as he gave her his infamous boyish half smile. Only then, when they looked him over in lust would they see the empty left sleeve. It was heartbreaking for Braxton to see a perfectly pretty girl to lose interest after noticing his ‘disability’. He did everything other males did. He played soccer, and used to be the star of his high school team. Every once in a while, his buddies would take him out to play. But their conversations weren’t allowed to be in the norm. They’d bring beers, and they would pretend not to be staring as he pinned it between his legs opening it with his bare hand. They’d talk about girls, but never dared ask Braxton when the last time he got laid was. If he were to be asked, the man might chuckle very awkwardly. Ahem, never. There were a few times in high school that girls threw themselves at him, but he wouldn’t let them go all the way. The X chromosome of him was hanging onto the thought that there might be someone special that he was waiting for. Someone who he’d be with for the rest of his life. Even though his friends didn’t know this, they wouldn’t pry into his sex life. They’d talk about such shallow matters that Braxton dreaded the days they’d come. He could do everything a man with two arms could do. He could hug, he could kiss, he could drive, he could grocery shop, he could shower, he could dress, there wasn’t a thing he couldn’t do without provisions. Yet, no one would relent, and allow him to be treated fairly.
Braxton was living in a small, studio apartment downtown. Every weekend, instead of waiting for the friends he didn’t have to come by, he’d go down to the Community for the Disabled and offer any assistance. This didn’t change very drastically when he was laid off from his job at a fast food restaurant. Along with losing the only income he had, he had no way to keep the tuition inflowing for school. Worried he might have to drop out, he was frantically searching for some kind of work. The center offered him a part time job as an odd job worker, but that was all they had available. Swallowing the little pride he had left, he took it. It was now a Monday morning, and Braxton was given the studious task of taking a visit to Miss Charlotte Moore. He’d heard many an employee talking about how she scared off the last visitor, and how angry she was that they continued to send people to doddle on her. Braxton was fearless, in a sense of what his reputation consisted of. He wasn’t pushy, but he never really budged when it came to something he wanted. That was why he was in the middle of med school, barely scraping by financially, but academically he was excelling tremendously. There wasn’t any way that a bratty, lonely blind girl might take his hard earned life away from him.
Braxton gave a few knocks at the door, hearing a frantic female voice from within. He was truly surprised when she opened the door, but she was probably desperate for human contact. Her long blonde hair reached just below her shoulders, and it was still wet from what he hoped was a successful shower. Her yoga pants were obviously getting too small, and he imagined she’d been gaining weight from not being able to go anywhere or do anything. The woman wasn’t fat, not at all, but she obviously used to be tinier. Braxton wasn’t much for tiny girls, though. He enjoyed females with meat on their bones. Not that it mattered. He wasn’t getting any, and he never would. “Hi there, Miss Charlotte,” he gave her a warm, bold grin, and it was evident in his voice. “I’m here from the Community for the Disabled. I was hoping we might be able to talk for a while,” he shrugged, making sure not to push any closer to her. Seeing her hesitance, he pulled a card from his jean’s pocket and brought it to her hand. “I don’t suppose you can read braille?” he raised a brow, leading her fingers to the small dots on the bottom of the card. “I’m just here to help,” Braxton promised her, gently moving inside and lightly resting his hand on her forearm, pushing the door shut behind them. “You’re comfortable with this, right?” he asked softly, not wanting to frighten her. He never once felt sorry for himself, and seeing her only enforced his belief that someone always has it worse. The poor thing must be terrified, unable to tell whether or not he planned to hurt her. He’d read the file, a doctor always does his research. Something about an abusive boyfriend, and that was the reason he had been worried she might prefer a female visitor. Still, she had to learn to accommodate to the male population. He took her hand in his, giving it a gentle shake now that they were standing in her tiny kitchen. “I’m Braxton,” his smile was evident again. Braxton was no psychopath, but he could feel the frustration and fear emitting through her body and into his own, forcing a smile out of him. The helplessness of her situation made her all the more vulnerable, and Braxton was known for trying to be the hero, at least, according to his missing arm. He would do his best to make her feel more comfortable. “Braxton Evenings,” he confirmed, letting her hand drop, but staying close by. Hearing his footsteps move away might concern her with what he was doing. “Don’t let me interrupt you, feel free to return to whatever it was you were doing,” he murmured quietly, resisting the urge to look her up and down. Just because she couldn’t see him, didn’t mean he was allowed to blatantly take advantage of her. She was pretty, though the urge to touch her scars, and try to smooth them away was almost uncomfortable to Braxton. He wanted to be the healing hero.
The Bleeding Rose
Oh. It wasn't a burglar, or even her landlord. The voice was hardly intimidating, soft spoken and kind. She recognized the tone immediately, pegging him as some page boy from the disabled home before the words were even out of his mouth. Of course, that didn't mean she had the nerve to slam the door in his face. The truth was, Charlie was shocked. She had made it clear that she had no desire to leave her home and move in with a bunch of other 'cripples'. More so, she could never afford to. Money would run out, she knew that. She was living on borrowed time, and she wouldn't always be able to take care of herself. Unfortunately, they were well aware of that. She had mixed feelings about the home. Part of her wondered if they were after her money. But then, didn't they know she didn't have much? Another part of her felt as though they were like an animal rescue, and she was a vicious stray dog that they couldn't stand to leave on the streets. Maybe if she bit him? No, that was ridiculous. She couldn't have found his arm if she tried.
Lucky for her, she didn't have to. He put a card in her hand, calling her out on the fact that she couldn't read braille. It was hurtful, more hurtful than he ever could have imagined. She was a literature major, reading was her life. Books were her safe haven, and they might have been her escape...had she not lost the one thing she needed to read them. It was a painful reminder of the happiness she had lost, the consequences of her stupidity. His hand touched her arm as though they were old friends, but it wasn't for her comfort. No, he was shutting the door, pulling her into the oblivion that her apartment had become. Charlie gasped, unable to speak, lost and queasy as he pulled her through her apartment. Didn't he know how dizzy she was? How utterly lost? They stopped moving and he shook her hand, introducing himself as her free hand searched blindly for something to hold onto. It banged against a hard surface, the smoothness of the counter. Right? Yes, the kitchen. They were in the kitchen. Near the sink?
Her mental map returned, the abyss turning piece by piece into the very room in which she had lost her sight. It was comforting to know, despite all that had happened there. Anything was better that being lost, blindfolded, a stranger in your own home. Her breathing was somewhat labored, as though her lungs were closing in. She'd had asthma since she was a child, though she hadn't had nearly as many attacks back when she could still see. The panic was what brought them on, and there was plenty of panic running red hot in her veins. His footsteps were moving away, but to where? Was he a burglar after all? Was he going to steal her TV?
"What are you doing?" she demanded, feeling along the counter as she spoke. She couldn't keep her inhaler on her all the time, it just wasn't realistic. She'd tucked it away in a relatively easy to find drawer for safe keeping, and despite her panic she could usually find it without trouble. However, she was incredibly disoriented. Trying to listen to him, trying to make sense of the situation, trying to breath, trying to find it....it was all just a little too much. "You can't just...walk around and...this is my home! I didn't even invite you...I told them...I'm not interested!" she was obviously fumbling, gasps growing louder and louder as she searched blindly for the drawer. It was humiliating. He was probably looking on with pity, or staring at the crazy, pissed off blind girl. "Get out! Get..." no, there wasn't air for any more. When she found the drawer relief flooded through her, but she pulled on it so violently that it slid straight out and spilled all over the floor. "Shit!" She dropped to her knees carefully, one hand on the counter, the other hand searching around for the red inhaler that she craved so desperately. It was painful, as though someone was sitting on her chest. Her throat burned, her eyes watered, her head grew light.
The Pulverised Flower
Braxton frowned. It was more than a frown. A deep scowl that went all the way to his heart. She was terrified, and it was evident in her shaking and her gasping. Suddenly his missing appendage didn't seem like such a misfortune at all. He never thought about his own disability much. He didn’t even like calling it a disability. He was too strong for that. What he recognized in Miss Charlotte was something he’d seen before, in himself. She was trying to lock herself away and misplace the key. Medical professionals could testify that it wasn’t healthy, and quite self-destructive, but it seemed like everyone with similar problems to Braxton and Charlotte went through it. Throughout her yelling at him, he was frozen in place, unable to do what he knew she needed. "Get out! Get..." Miss Charlotte couldn't breathe, couldn't do anything but fumble for an inhaler that had flown across the floor to his feet. But still, she was looking for it as if it were within her grasp. How was she to know differently? Her hands were so unsure. She picked things up and felt them by turning them round and round in her hands before moving onto the next fallen item. It was probably more painful to see than it was to be the one having a panic attack.
The boy finally began to take action, slowly moving to kneel down beside her after picking up her inhaler from the tile. "Miss Charlotte, I'm not here to hurt you, can you please relax, love?" The woman tried to scramble away from him, but he gripped her firmly yet gently around the waist. "Don't be scared, beautiful," he pressed soft lips into her temple, doing his best to relax her without making her think he was going to sexually assault her. Sure it was odd and probably unnerving to have a stranger waltz into your house and kiss you, but he was doing his best to calm her. "I'm going to take your hand and lead you to the kitchen table. Alright?" he used his one arm to help her up, and guided her a few feet to the wooden chair where he helped her sit down. "Here's your inhaler, okay?" he put the savior in her hand, moving away from the woman to give her a moment alone. Braxton walked back to the mess, putting things back neatly so that she could find them again without worry. As easily as he dressed in the morning, he gathered up all that had been in her drawer and with a bit of effort he got the drawer back into its moving cradle inside the counter.
Braxton moved back over to Charlotte, kneeling down beside her. He knew she could tell he was taller than her, and he didn't want to frighten her any more than he already had. "I am sorry for scaring you. I'm not here to harm you, I just wanted to talk. Do you think you could give me a moment of your time? I know you're busy around here, but I'm pretty lonely and I don't have much else to do." He gave her a small smirk, wishing she could see the apology on his face and worry in his eyes. “They’ve told me how hesitant you were to join the home. And I wanted to talk to you about that, I mean, I think it’s wrong of them to push themselves onto you like that,” Braxton shrugged, using the edge of the table to balance himself. He glanced around the kitchen and dining room. “You’re obviously very self-sufficient in your home.” The boy wasn’t talking shit; he really knew how difficult it must be to be so lonely and unsure. But she was doing a hell of a good job and no one with a heart could blame her for wanting to be free.