Author: Margo Berendsen
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
I don’t know why I still put my makeup on in front of a mirror. It’s not like I can see myself.
As I pick up my mascara, I try to ignore the mirror. I know I don’t need it. I even feel like a fool standing in front of it, counting the strokes as I apply my makeup. Once I took the mirror down off the wall and slid it under my bed. But a few days later I hung it back up, even though it took forever for me to find the nail and my little brother made a snide comment about it hanging crooked because it’s the only way it can stand my reflection.
I like to stand in front of it and slide my fingers across its smooth surface, imagining a hand reaching out to touch my fingers from the other side, almost like Liz reaching out from wherever she’s gone, reaching out to tell me she’s still there.
My mom has already knocked on my door twice, reminding me there are guests waiting for me. She and Dad planned a birthday party for me, like I’m in grade school or something. Liz was the one who loved parties: she did one for us every year. Last year we had underwater fireworks in the pool, and everyone at school talked about it for days.
I told my parents, no party this year. Please. They said they had to do something – they couldn’t just let it go.
Losing my sight in a freak accident three months ago was bad enough. But I also lost my twin sister in that same accident. Today is my seventeenth birthday – our seventeenth birthday. I’m having a hard time celebrating.
I need to put my makeup on go out and greet my guests, but every time I touch my eyelid my hand jerks and the brush hits the wrong spot. I’ve had to wash my face off and start over again so many times that I just leave the water running in the sink. My face feels raw. This party is going to be hellish. Alicia stopped returning my calls weeks ago, I doubt she’ll show up. I wonder who Mom bribed to come. Probably some old friends from theater who feel sorry for me. Maybe some of Liz’s friends, as a kind of birthday memorial.
Just as I give another attempt at my mascara, Mom raps on the bathroom door, even louder this time, and makes me mess up again. “I’m not ready yet!” I yell. “Go away.”
“Can I help you?” My mom has her dealing-with-her-disabled daughter voice.
“No. I think I’ll just the skip the party and go out for a drive,” I say, with my best let’s-piss-mom-off-with-sarcasm voice. The accident happened just a week after I got my driver’s license. I’ve only ever officially driven by myself two times. What a gip.
“Okay,” she says. I can hear the shrug in her voice, pretending not to care. “You’ll miss meeting the party crasher.”
“Yeah, that’s what he called himself. He’s says you’ve never met him before and he’s really embarrassed to be here.”
“Huh.” I don’t know what to think about this. “And you let him in? What if he’s one of the Black Suits?”
“He isn’t wearing a black suit.”
“You know what I mean.” How can she be an ex-NASA astronaut and astrophysicist and be so clueless? The Suits come in many different disguises, though they don’t realize their voices give them away. At least to me. Sharpened hearing and other senses are my compensation for blindness. Not nearly enough compensation, if you ask me.
“He’s just a high school junior,” my mom reassures me. “A transfer student. Says your friend from theater dragged him along; he apologized for crashing. But I think you’ll want to meet him.”
“Why?” My mom-is-meddling radar starts beeping in my head. He’s probably got a disability of some sort, too, and she’s thinks we’d make a good match. Kill me now.
Oh great. A vague disability. “You’re scaring me.”
Actually, I’m scaring myself – the fact that I have a party crasher intrigues me.
“Let me help you with your make-up before all your guests leave.” Mom brushes the side of my face with her hand.
“Scram. I don’t need your help.” I conjure up one of my brave-face smiles to reassure her. It works. She turns to leave, but then she turns back and gives me a hug, enveloping me in sugary birthday cake smell. Quite the departure from her usual professorish white-board-marker smell.
I really don’t need help with makeup, as long as I don’t have any distractions. My occupational therapist taught me how to do it, along with a million other things I had to learn to do without sight. We counted together how many times to move the brush over my eyelids to get the right amount of mascara, and the same thing for the blush. She helped me for hours with the foundation and the lipstick until I could put it on evenly without getting it too heavy.
In the end, I could fix myself up and feel confident I looked okay without having to check with anyone. Mom has to leave early for work, and Dad doesn’t notice make-up anomalies. David notices, but he doesn’t care. Or he thinks it’s funny – he lets me go to school messed-up just for laughs. One time he even snuck into my room and rearranged all the tubes to sabotage me.
He’s not a little brother, he’s a video-game villain who no matter how many times you shoot it, it just keeps coming back.
I used to think Liz was a pain, too. I hated sharing a room with her. Sharing a birthday with her. Sharing genes with her. But now I wouldn’t mind if she left her clothes strewn around the room and her music blaring. The songs she played over and over again until I wanted to scream, sometimes I play them now, to make it feel like she’s still around. But it doesn’t work.
I’m done with my make-up. Time to face the pity party.
As I walk out into the living room, my head buzzes like it always does when I’m in a crowd, my other senses trying to compensate to help me figure out how many people and who they are. But there’s something different this time, too. In the din of a dozen or so people, there is a single person who sets off a clear bell in my senses.
That’s never happened before.
Before I have a chance to figure out who is in the room, my mom starts singing Happy Birthday and the voices join in. Heat rises up my cheeks. I’m not used to being the center of attention; that was Liz’s place.
There’s the smell of sulfur and sweetness in the room, and a flicker my damaged eyes can almost catch –candles burning on a cake. I hope they don’t expect me to blow them out.
“Happy birthday, dear Cam….” I’ve never heard this song on my birthday before without my sister’s name in it, too.
At least the song helps me pick out everyone’s voices, so now I know who is in the room with me. Alicia’s voice is missing, no surprise. My ex-best friend. Couldn’t handle being associated with a blind girl with a guide-dog and a cane.