Monday, September 10, 2012
Genre: Young Adult science fiction
I don’t know why I still put my makeup on in front of a mirror. I don’t need it anymore, and it’s not like I can see myself, anyway. After the accident, my occupational therapist taught me how to apply the right amount of mascara by counting each time I move the brush over my eyelid. She helped me for hours with the foundation and the lipstick until I could put it on evenly without getting it too heavy.
I don’t even have to check with someone to make sure I’m presentable, before I face the world with my guide-dog and my cane.
But today I keep messing up. 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.
As I start another attempt, there’s a sharp rap on the bathroom door. “I’m not ready yet!” I yell. “Go away.”
David pushes the door open anyway. “Mom wants to know what’s taking so long. Everyone’s waiting for you.”
“If you’d stop interrupting me, I’d be ready sooner.”
He doesn’t take the hint. “Why do you bother standing in front of the mirror?”
“Go away, David.” He’s not a little brother. He’s a video-game villain that no matter how many times you shoot it, it just keeps coming back.
“At least you don’t have to see yourself anymore. We still have to look at you.”
“Out!” I reach for the door and slam it, hoping it hits him but he’s too quick. In the process I manage to drop the mascara brush and I hear it hit the floor. Great, now it’s going to take me even longer, feeling around trying to find it. I don’t dare ask David for help – he’s had way too much fun switching my makeup around and mixing up the colors.
There’s a knock on the door again but this time it’s softer, and it’s my mother. “Hey. Need any help?” She’s using her calm, dealing-with-my-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 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.
“Do you need this mascara?”
“Um, yeah, I must have dropped it.” I hold out my hand and she gives it to me.
“Camria, I know you’re not happy about us planning this party,” she says. “But your Dad and I – we thought it was the right thing to do. Your sister… she loved these parties.”
No kidding. Liz went all-out planning our birthday parties every year. Last year we had underwater fireworks in the pool, and everyone at school talked about it for days.
But this year, a party just feels wrong. If losing my sight in a freak accident three months ago wasn’t bad enough, I also lost my twin sister in that same accident. Today is my seventeenth birthday. It should have been hers, too.
“And anyway,” Mom continues in a lighter voice, “if you skip out, you’ll miss meeting the party crasher.”
“Yeah, that’s what he called himself. He 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 National Security Agency Suits always find new ways to bother us, asking me the same pointless questions about the accident. Sometimes they even pretend to be civilians, but I always recognize them by their voices. 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,” 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 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 her professorish white-board-marker smell.
After she’s gone, I manage to get my mascara and lipstick on without any more setbacks. Just before I leave bathroom, I slide my fingers across the mirror’s smooth surface. I imagine Liz’s hand reaching out to touch my fingers from the other side, from wherever she’s gone, reaching out to tell me she’s still there. “Time for our party,” I whisper.
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 figure out who the people are. But there’s something different this time, too. In the din of a more than a dozen 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 parents start 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. The other voices are familiar, a few of my friends from theater and lots of Liz’s friends, the popular crowd. I’m glad they showed up to remember Liz, though they make me feel uneasy – I’ve never fit in with them.
But there’s another voice that distracts me, a person I don’t know. I’ve heard his voice before, somewhere, but I can’t place it. He’s the one that set off the bell in my senses. The party crasher.
“Make a wish, Cam,” Bei tells me. She’s a friend from theater club, and one of the few instances of the human species who is still comfortable around me in my altered state. “I’ll blow out the candles for you.”
A wish escapes before I have a chance to censor it. I wish for my sister and my sight back. A waste. Not that I really believe the birthday wish thing anyway; I’m still waiting on that pony I asked for three years in a row.
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