Prof. Sky Alton
Rachel gripped Tanya’s arm lightly as they made their way through the car park, holding her cane loosely in her other hand. They wove their way through some abysmal parking before Tanya paused, letting Rachel tap the kerb with her cane and step up onto it before strolling off again. The restaurant door opened as someone else came out, the delicious smell of frying onions gusting out with them.
“This place is meant to be amazing,” Tanya said.
Rachel could feel her practically vibrating with excitement. Tanya absolutely loved food, particularly trying new things. It had led them to some very odd places over the years (the popcorn café serving seafood flavoured popcorn was a particularly vivid memory). This grill was actually quite safe sounding by Tanya standards.
The restaurant was noisy: full of chatter and jazzy music that had been turned up just a little too loud. They were seated at a table by the window. Rachel propped her cane in a corner.
“Can I get you some drinks to start off?” the waiter asked.
“That would be great,” Tanya said, “I’ll have an orange juice.”
“Certainly. And what would she like…?”
Rachel’s heart sank slightly. She could practically sense Tanya’s blood pressure start to inch upwards. All the same, she forced a smile and pointedly turned in his direction.
“Just a sparkling water, please,” she said firmly.
“I’ll bring those right over,” the waiter promised, hurrying off.
“Not a word,” Rachel said, before Tanya could explode.
“We came to relax. Not bust a blood vessel.”
“Fine,” Tanya grumbled.
Rachel nudged her with her foot. She was sure Tanya was already planning a scathing online review and wanted to derail her if she possibly could.
Tanya obligingly began to read out the options. After six months of dating, she knew which pages to go to first. She’d even stopped doing funny voices to try to be cute… for the most part.
The waiter returned after a while with the drinks.
“Have you decided?” he asked.
“I’ll take the veggie taco plank,” Tanya said.
“And what would she –.”
“You’ll need to ask her yourself,” Tanya snapped.
There was an awkward silence.
“A chicken burrito, please,” Rachel said, as though nothing had happened.
The waiter mumbled his polite platitudes and raced off even quicker this time.
“I just don’t get it,” Tanya said and Rachel could tell she was grimacing. “How can you live with it?”
“It bothering me isn’t going to change the fact that it happens all the time, is it? If I get aerated about every little thing, I’ll spend my life angry.”
“So it… doesn’t bother you?” Tanya asked quietly.
“Of course it bothers me,” Rachel sighed, swirling her straw in her drink. “I would just rather not focus on it when we’re meant to be having fun.”
It was hard to explain. That it made her die a little inside every time someone spoke to whoever she was with rather than to her. That people seemed to think being blind made you incapable of interacting with them. But to make a big deal out of it took energy and guts, two things she only had a limited supply of. An extremely limited supply after a hard week at work. It also meant she had to live with the embarrassment, discomfort and guilt of whoever she was taking to task. Maybe she shouldn’t feel bad for the people who had treated her poorly… But 9 times out of 10 she did. Because 9 times out of 10 they hadn’t meant to do it. Maybe not correcting people every time it happened made her a coward. But sometimes she just wanted a burrito and to eat it in peace… Well, as close to peace as you could get in a crowded restaurant with terrible music.
Their food arrived.
“She should -,” the waiter caught himself. “Sorry, madam. You should know that the plate is very hot, so please, please don’t touch it,” he said in a rush.
Rachel smiled and nodded at him. She could feel the eruption building across the table. Showing uncharacteristic restraint, Tanya managed to wait until he’d moved off again before exploding.
“Who’s she, the cat’s mother?”
Rachel had to laugh.
“At least he’s starting to learn…”
“He’s still speaking to you like you’re a 5-year-old,” Tanya said.
Rachel just reached for her food. Maybe it wasn’t the instant attitude change and grovelling apology that Tanya wanted. For her though, it was a start. She’d treat it as a win for now.
Prof. Sky Alton
A rain drop the size of a marble bounced off her nose. She simply stared at her handlebars and the road beyond them. she’d left frustration behind twenty kilometers ago and misery had slipped away at least five back. Now she was just feeling a detached kind of bemusement: how could one day have gone so, so wrong?
She’d woken up to find everything from her kit to her breakfast sodden. She’d gotten herself onto the road with an extreme effort of will… and immediately taken a wrong turning. What was worse, it had taken her three kilometers and a formidable hill to realise the mistake. Around mid-morning, she’d tried to gain a little time back by risking a shortcut. She’d ended up having to wheel the bike through potholes deep enough to swallow a moderately sized hippo.
Lunch had been as soggy as breakfast and a passing car had drenched her in muddy water thrown up by its wheels. And now? Now she was struggling up the steepest hill she had ever, ever encountered. It was so steep that the water slick road in front was practically at her eyeline.
She willed her numb legs to keep going, then spluttered as something flew into her face. Whether it was a rain addled insect or a hailstone, she wasn’t quite sure. Muscles burning, she crawled a few more feet up the hill. She fought the temptation just to let herself veer off into the nice soft ditch to her left. It wasn’t like she could get any wetter or filthier…
At last, she crested the hill. She leaned on her handlebars for a second, blinking water out of her eyes. The land stretched out beneath her, a patchwork of fields and woods in hazy browns and greens. There, tucked neatly at the bottom of the hill, was a collection of buildings, looking like nothing more than discarded toy blocks from up here. Looking to the horizon, she saw a patch of blue that was steadily growing larger. She was almost there. With a whoop, she plunged down the hill.