Behind These Eyes - Part Two

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Belle heard the car first. She always did. "Mum's back!" she called to her sister. As the words left her mouth she was already on her way out the front door. By the time Mandy had turned the ignition off, both Belle and Alyssa were standing in the open doorway. She stepped out of the car, sunglasses covering the worst of the damage to her face, but by no means all, and went to the girls with a grin. She hugged them both and it was only when they pulled away that Alyssa noticed, and frowned. Then Belle frowned as well, "What's wrong?" she asked. Often Alyssa tried to get things past her sister by not making any noise, but Belle had an uncanny sense of what was going on. Like many with a vision-impairment, she was able to pick up on subtle changes in tone or unusual sileces. It was as though the smelled tension in the air, could hear a smile or a rolling tear.
"Liss? Mum? What's wrong? Something is wrong." she said when no one responded immediately, and the silence continued.
Mandy shook herself slightly, smiled a tight, nervous smile at Alyssa, and then said to both of them, "How about we go and get ice cream?"


Neither of the girls had ever seen their father hit their mother, but both had seen what he did to her. Normally, the bruises were in places easy for Mandy to hide - high on her arms or legs, or on her belly and breasts. It was only when he totally lost control that he ever hit her on her face.

Although it was difficult to leave their father - and Mandy to leave her husband of twelve years - it was an unspoken relief not to have to live with the fear of his wrath anymore. Eventually, with a great amount of help from Mandy's sister and brother, they found a three bedroom flat in an older suburb, filled it with second hand furniture and clothes, and moved in.

They never heard from Peter again. Although some financial help would have been welcome, and both Allysa and Belle often wondered if he thought about them any more, the three were perfectly happy not to have to worry about him anymore.

Eventually, their lives began to settle into new routines. Alyssa started high school, made friends, got good grades, and agonised over who was going with who to the end of year twelve formal dinner. Belle learned to read braille, and entered the school system, helped along by a tutor and afternoon sessions at the school for the blind. Mandy took on a string of part-time jobs, eventually securing a full-time position as a receptionist at the local medical centre. She rediscovered her self-confidence, and when she asked out to dinner and a movie by one of the doctors, she gladly accepted.

Their lives hadn't changed dramatically when Jamie entered their lives, but it had very gradually gotten easier. Jamie started coming around for dinner once a week or so, then more often. Eventually he was staying for breakfast too, and about a year after that first movie, Jamie and Mandy decided to move in together. Alyssa and Belle were consulted, and both seemed pleased with the arrangement. Alyssa was due to finish school soon, and was wrapped up in final exams, university applications and the all-important dress and makeup planning for the formal. Belle, now in year ten and trying to work out what her future held, was just happy to have Jamie around on a more regular basis so that she could beat him at Monopoly. Jamie had helped her convert a regular Monopoly game with braille labels on the properties, and she had become a skilled and ruthless player in short order.

Mandy was desperate to leave behind the poky apartment, and the memories of struggle and poverty that it held. When Alyssa announced that she had been accepted into the university course she wanted, but at a university that was four hours away in a beachside suburb, they decided to start looking farther afield. General practise doctors were always in demand, and on Jamie's income there was no rush for Mandy to find work. Eventually, they found a house two blocks away from the beach, with a self-contained granny flat for Alyssa and enough room for an office and a backyard. When moving day arrived, most of the second hand furniture was donated back to the charity shops they had come from, although Mandy held on to a few of the more serviceable pieces. They left the flat and the dingy old suburb shrouded in drizzle, with dark foreboding clouds overhead, and eventually arrived into sunshine, the smell of salt in the air and the sound of waves on the breeze. The weather perhaps a better indicator of Mandy's mood than it had ever been before.


I never wanted to be anything special. Although others thought I should have been. Consciously, I always just wanted to show others that I could do ... stuff. It didn't matter what the stuff was, I just wanted to prove that I could do it. Of course, I'll never be able to see, but there's plenty of things that I can do without that. I can ride a bike, I can swim, I can read, I can turn cartwheels, and I can think. Yes, most of all, I can use my mind. Why do so many amongst the sighted imagine that because I am blind I am also without thought, imagination, dreams, without intelligence? Perhaps it is because, in the case of so many, sight allows them to suspend rational thought. Because they can see something, they don't have to think about it. They see something, and then immediately cease to think any further about it. They don't ever say "why did that happen like that?", "how did that situation arise?", "what will happen now?". These things, to me, are more important than what was seen. They are what gives humanity and society its depth of colour, it's richness.

Sometimes, if I am walking through a park or a train station, I hear a little piece of conversation, like a torn bit of ribbon - no beginning, no end, just a little piece from the middle. I wonder what brings two people together at that moment, to that place, that conversation, that instant in time. Like candid photographs, capturing a fleeting moment and holding it still in time forever more, I collect these fragments and put them in a photo album I keep in my mind. Little insights into a another world, another dimension.


Christmas was spent in the new house, with the four of them going down to the beach in the afternoon. Mandy sat on the sand, reading, while Jamie and Belle swam in the surf and Alyssa dozed on a towel in the sun. Mandy looked up over her paperback every so often, and smiled as she watched the two halves of her life - the old one, that her daughters been part of for so long, and the new one, that she was going to share with Jamie - come together as one.


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