Double Blind(8)
Author:Brandilyn Collins


    Footsteps sounded in the hall—that bouncy walk that could only belong to Sherry. She stopped at the threshold of the room and stuck her tousled blonde head inside. “Hi!”

    “Hey!” I hurried out of the bathroom as fast as I could. Sherry looked wonderful in jeans and a long-sleeved cotton top, with her Sunday-go-to-church makeup. And look how blue her eyes were. I’d forgotten that.

    She hustled over to me. I hugged her hard, unable to let go. Finally I pulled back, tears in my eyes.

    She gaped at me. “Wow. I just . . . You really look different.”

    “So do you.”

    “But you’re . . .”

    “I am different. From the inside out. I have energy even though I’m recovering from surgery.”

    Her eyes glistened. “It’s so amazing what I see in your face.”

    It’s called life.

    Love for her simmered in me. What a terrific friend she’d been, especially all those months I’d had nothing to give back. Somehow I’d make it up to her. “I don’t know how to say this, Sherry. It sounds so crazy, but . . . I can feel you again. I’ve been so disconnected. It’s like you were in the dark, and now someone’s turned a spotlight on you.”

    She laid her hands against her cheeks. “I just can’t believe this. It’s more than I hoped for.”

    Me too. Way more. I smiled. “Let’s get out of here.” I walked to the nurse call button and leaned down to push it. “Silly nurses insist on taking me out in a wheelchair—”

    The woman lay on the kitchen floor, eyes fixed open. Blood bubbled from her mouth. Her blouse was stained red.

    I halted, stunned. My hand hung in the air.

    “Lisa?” Sherry’s voice sounded muffled.

    The woman’s face filled my head. No, please. Go away. But still—there she was. Those eyes. The blood . . .

    Somehow I shook off the horrible sight. Pushed the call button. “Yeah.”

    Sherry moved closer. “What just happened? For a second you looked petrified.”

    That woman. So very dead. “I-I’m fine. Really. Sometimes I just . . . get dizzy.”

    Sherry folded her arms. “So much for those silly nurses.”

    “Yeah, sure.” Those dead eyes still vibrated in my head. “You’re right.”

    I sat down hard on the bed. We waited for the nurse, Sherry watching me with concern. Twice I opened my mouth to tell her what was wrong. But I just couldn’t. She was so glad to see me well. I didn’t want to trample on that.

    Besides, these . . . whatever they were would go away.

    Sherry cocked her head at me. “You’re starting to look tired.”

    “Yeah. Guess my mind has more energy than my body. I just need to rest a few days, the doctor said.”

    “Well, you have just had brain surgery.”

    The nurse finally appeared with the wheelchair. I rode out of the hospital like a good patient. Sherry got her car and brought it up to the entrance. The nurse helped me inside. I nodded at my friend. “Home, James.”

    She grinned and started driving. “Listen, once I get you back I’ll see what food you need and go to the store for you.”

    How well she knew me. Before the operation I’d been too worn to think about stocking the kitchen. “That would be great. I take it Jay’s on kid duty.”

    “For the whole blessed afternoon. Maybe we oughtta make a run for the border. We could be in Mexico before he even knows I’m gone.”

    “Uh-huh. You wouldn’t last a night without your kids. Or your husband.”

    I winced at my own words. But it wasn’t like before. Nothing was like before.

    Surprisingly we were quiet the rest of the way home. I was busy just taking it all in. The blood in my veins now coursed instead of clogged. And I would have sworn the world looked brighter. The trees and grass were greener, the flowers more vibrant. Best of all, the thought of being in my apartment alone no longer terrified me.

    Know what—I should start exercising again. Go running. Do Pilates. Maybe I’d buy some new furniture and clothes.

    The hand raised the knife, dragon ring glinting.

    No, no. No.

    I stared straight ahead, willing the scene to dim. It only grew brighter. My breathing turned shaky. I fought to keep it quiet enough that Sherry wouldn’t notice.

    Where were these pictures coming from? Had I seen the ring in some movie? Maybe the whole thing was from an old film.

    But if that’s all this was, why did the scenes shake me to the core?

    Sherry parked on the street in front of my apartment building. She carried my suitcase to the second floor for me. My legs wobbled, but I made it up the stairs.

    In my apartment, I did a slow pan of the living room, flowing into the kitchen. A long counter served as a separator between the two areas. I’d lived here for almost three years. Now it felt like I was seeing the apartment for the first time. The couch and chairs were brown and beige, with a plain wooden coffee table. Basic colors Ryan had liked. How dull it seemed now. Wouldn’t the place look better with more blue? Maybe some snappy yellow pillows for contrast. And new lamps.

    “Remember all my plants, Sherry? I had flowers everywhere.” It had been my one hobby, and I was forever buying more. I’d loved every one of those plants. I had tulips in the spring. A Christmas cactus. Incredible orchids and bromeliads. Gardenias, and hydrangea, and calla lilies. I’d potted, and fertilized, and nurtured them. But after Ryan was gone, I didn’t care anymore.

    “Sure do. I miss them.”

    “Yeah. They all died.”

    “Watering helps.”

    I elbowed her in the ribs.

    She raised her eyebrows. “So you gonna get some new ones now?”

    “Lots. I’m going to put them all over the place.”

    Sherry’s eyes glistened. “Lisa. That will be fabulous.”

    We smiled at each other.

    She and I walked down the hall to my room. Sherry placed the suitcase on my bed. “There you go.”

    I stood in the bedroom, seeing its decor with new eyes. Same blah colors. Everything needed brightening. And plants should be in here, too, of course. When I looked in the second bedroom—the one that would have been a nursery—it needed work as well. So did the bathroom.

    “Know what I’m going to do, besides getting plants? I’m going to redecorate this place. It looks really boring.”

    “Think so?”

    “Absolutely.”

    She dipped her chin. “Me too. Go for it.”

    Maybe once I was working again, I’d buy a house, like Ryan and I had dreamed of doing. If I could ever manage that by myself in the Bay Area. Prices here were astronomical. But I so longed for my own place, where I could plant flowers and pretty bushes in the ground. In the front yard and in back. All around the house. I wanted to get down on my knees and work in the soil and make things grow. I wanted to enjoy the colors and the beauty.

    The thought made me cry.

    Sherri watched me in wonder. “More happy tears, right? I never thought I’d see that.”

    My throat tightened. She held out her arms and we hugged each other. I pressed my fingers into her shirt. “I just can’t tell you what it feels like to have the pain gone.”

    She patted my back. “Yeah, baby. No pain, whoa, gain.”

    The man’s hand raised the knife.

    I clamped down my jaw. Stop! My arms tightened around Sherry so hard she grunted.

    “S-sorry.” I pulled out of the hug and turned away, busying myself with the suitcase. Not wanting her to see my face.

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