Authors: Renee Carter
This is a work of fiction. The events and characters described herein are imaginary and are not intended to refer to specific places or living persons. The opinions expressed in this manuscript are solely the opinions of the author and do not represent the opinions or thoughts of the publisher. The author has represented and warranted full ownership and/or legal right to publish all the materials in this book.
All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © 2009 Renee Carter
This book may not be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in whole or in part by any means, including graphic, electronic, or mechanical without the express written consent of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Library of Congress Control Number: 2009928547
Thanks to God for giving me the ability to write and to my parents for their unending encouragement to pursue my dreams.
His eyes, mirroring the blue of the Arizona sky, focused ahead. His muscles tensed as he felt the powerful movement of the black horse beneath him. He sat straight in his saddle, his dark jacket smooth, his breathing shallow with anticipation. This competition was harder than he had expected and he
to win; desire pumped wildly through his veins. He knew his time was good and he had cleared eight fences without error. There were only two left.
“High over the center, high over the center,” he whispered and began to lean forward. He watched as the square oxer fence rapidly approached.
It happened in an instant.
Ever so slightly, he felt the gelding twitch. Then the horse’s ears, which had been cocked forward, snapped back. He caught a movement out of the corner of his eye—the sand shifted. No, it was just a twig. No—a tan-toned snake! By the time the realization hit him, the horse had already planted his hooves and shied. He spoke quickly, “Easy, easy,” but the gelding panicked when the snake darted past his legs.
The horse reared and flipped backwards before the rider could react.
Time slowed. He saw the bright sky arc above him and he felt the rush of the warm wind on his skin. He heard the far-off screams of the crowd and sound of a body crashing to the ground...then his world faded to black.
“I broke down and started looking for a job. I’m actually on my way to an interview. Don’t roll your eyes at me—I’m a girl, so I can multitask.” I stopped writing and glanced at the road, making certain it was as empty as before. Sure enough, there was nothing but a long line of pavement ahead. I looked back down at the piece of notebook paper I had pressed against the middle of my steering wheel. “Anyway, the ad said they needed a sitter for a boy to start ASAP. When I called, the mother sounded pretty desperate.
She said I can work weekends now and do full time once it’s summer.” As I drove over a bump in the road, my old car radio gave a hiss of protest and fell into static. I frowned, holding my pen in my teeth, and jiggled the knob. The static grew louder and finally broke, giving way to the awesome power of The Who. Classic. My little ’89 Toyota Camry continued to bounce its way down the road. I tossed my letter onto the passenger seat and sang along.
The sky overhead was bright blue and cloudless. I’d rolled down—
rolled down—my windows to let in the breeze. The wind was surprisingly gentle for May in Grayfield, Ill inois; I was used to driving in a gale force wind, which made me battle with my steering wheel.
I checked the note written on the back of my hand, confirming that I was supposed to find “100 Edmund Road.” But, where was it? I hadn’t seen any houses on this street, only trees. In fact, I hadn’t seen a single sign of—whoa. I let off of the gas and stared, open-mouthed. The street led right to an impressive rod iron gate. This was a private road, which explained the lack of mailboxes.
I pulled up to the gate opener and turned down my music in case guard dogs hated Roger Daltrey—not that I’d seen any guard dogs, but if I’d ever expected to see one, it was now. I hesitantly leaned out of my window and pressed a call button on the box. After a moment, the speaker on the gate opener crackled and emitted a female voice. “hello. Who is it?”
Balancing precariously out of my car to get my mouth close to the box, I shouted, “Hi! I’m Amy Turner!
I’m here for an interview!”
The gate gave a loud buzz and then swung open. I urged my car forward and onto the long driveway.
The cobblestone caused my little car to jive side-to-side, but I hardly noticed because the sight before me was amazing. The house was huge, insanely huge—it was easily ten times bigger than the hovel my parents and I called home. Made of tan brick and glass, it was the epitome of modern chic with sharp angles and vaulted ceilings.
I pulled up to the entrance, which consisted of a short staircase leading to a giant glass door, and winced as my car screeched to a halt. Stupid old brakes. Licking my dry lips, I left my car behind, taking the steps two at a time. Before I had a chance to ring the doorbell, the door swung open. I was disappointed when the person standing in the doorway wasn’t a suit-and-bowtie-wearing butler, but a middle-aged woman in khakis. I smiled, however, and held out my hand. “Hi! I’m Amy Turner.” The woman shook my hand. “hello, Amy. I’m Mrs. Edmund. I believe we spoke on the phone?”
“Yeah, that was me.”
Mrs. Edmund stepped back so I could enter. I followed her through a vast foyer and into a den the size of one of my high school’s classrooms. I felt guilty with every step my dirty red Chucks took on the pure white carpeting. She offered me a place on a stiff, flower pattern couch. As I sat, she took a seat across from me and curled her hands into a nervous ball on her lap.
“So, you’re in high school?” she began.
“Yep, I’m a senior.”
“And you like it?”
“Well, it’s school.” I laughed, but noting the worried look on her face, quickly added, “But I’m going to graduate soon. I’m going to college.”
Mrs. Edmund offered a tentative smile. “Oh, where?”
Less than two weeks from graduation, I should’ve known the answer to that question. The fact was, I was accepted to two colleges: Ill inois University—big, public, cheap—and Evanston college—small, private, ungodly expensive. The first, my parents knew about and were thrilled. The second, well...that was my secret. I knew my parents could never afford it, but I’d taken out my savings to reserve my spot just in case, somehow, I could go. Their journalism program was to die for.
I answered reluctantly, “Ill inois U.”
“So, you’re a serious person?” she asked, eying my shirt suspiciously. Maybe Led Zeppelin wasn’t the best choice for an interview, but it’s not like I’d
I would be babysitting in a place like this.
I sat up straight and smiled disarmingly. “Yes.”
“Good.” Mrs. Edmund seemed to come to the conclusion that I wasn’t a drug-addicted psychopath and nodded approvingly. She looked intently into my face. “How do you feel helping someone who’s blind?” My eyes widened in alarm and I choked, “What?”
“Oh dear,” she dropped her eyes to the carpeting, “you must have gotten Friday’s version of the ad.
There was a typo...the newspaper forgot the word ‘blind.’”
Right. No biggie.
“Amy, is that all right?” Mrs. Edmund prompted.
I blinked, realizing that I’d forgotten to say anything. I tried to sound convincing as I replied, “Oh, sure.
That’s just fine. How long has your son been blind?”
The woman again looked at the carpeting. She explained, “Just two months. It was a horse show-jumping accident... Tristan won’t talk to any of the specialists. Actually, he refuses to do much of anything.
I thought if he had someone his age, just to coax him out a bit, that it would be for the best.” I squeaked, “He’s eighteen?”
I heard the sound of two children giggling from down the hall. My throat tightened at the thought: exactly how much was left out of this ad?
Noting my expression, Mrs. Edmund quickly said, “Don’t worry; I take care of Marly and Chris.” Her voice rose slightly. “You’re to stay in the kitchen, dears!” After the giggling retreated, she sighed. “Amy, I can pay you $10 an hour.”
Watching a recently-blinded boy
?! I began to shake my head. “I don’t know—”
“$20 an hour!” Mrs. Edmund cried. “Please, you’re the only one who’s come.” I was probably the only one who hadn’t asked about the details ahead of time...but
! I quickly did the math: $20 x 40 hours = $800 a week! $3200 a month!
. This was my perfect chance! With that much money, I would be able to pay for my dorm at Evanston!
My eyes glittering, I said, “Yes, I’ll do it.”
Suddenly, I heard little feet pounding down the hallway. Mrs. Edmund jumped up and yelled, “Please don’t bother your brother!” but it was too late. By the time we made it to the hallway, the two kids had dashed up a winding flight of stairs and disappeared around a corner.
“Mom just got you a babysitter! She had to pay her a
to stay!” When we reached the second floor, the little boy already had jammed his mouth against the crack under a closed door and was doing just what his mother had told him not to—of course. Gotta love little boys. He looked about nine years old and had a puff of blond hair. The girl, who looked about five, knelt next to him.
She looked up at me from under light brown bangs and promptly began sucking her thumb. Sometimes I She looked up at me from under light brown bangs and promptly began sucking her thumb. Sometimes I have that effect on kids.
“Chris, come now,” their mother said sternly. “I told you to leave your brother alone.”
!” The boy looked up from the door, his face scrunching into a pout.
“And Marly, dear,” said Mrs. Edmund in soft tone, “please take your thumb out of your mouth.
Remember, we talked about how big girls don’t suck their thumbs?” Marly nodded and slowly pulled the offending digit from her mouth.
“Christopher John, please go to your room,” Mrs. Edmund again addressed her son, who was busy examining me with sharp blue eyes.
Chris dragged himself dramatically to his feet and, tossing a casual “Fine,” over his shoulder, and retreated down the hall. His sister scampered after him.
Mrs. Edmund smiled and then turned to go. “I’ll leave you two alone.” Who? Me and the door? Yes, we were bonding quite well. I frowned and, before she could make her escape, I asked, “Uh, where is Tristan?”
She laughed lightly, as if my question was silly. “Oh, he’s in there. It’s a walk-in closet. It has—” She stopped like the words had gotten stuck in her throat. After a moment, she managed, “Well, I’m sure Tristan will tell you. I’ll be back to check on you in a minute.” Why wasn’t that reassuring?
I watched while she fled and then I turned back to the door. I tucked a strand of hair behind my ear, a nervous habit of mine, and placed my hand on the door handle. Tightening my fingers, I tried to turn it.
Nothing happened. My mind sluggishly came to the obvious cause: he had locked the door. He had
the door! I was supposed to be babysitting an eighteen-year-old blind, rich kid and he had
himself in a closet
I remembered once having to coax a little girl I was sitting out from under her bed in order to give her a bath. It had taken an hour and an Oreo cookie. That wasn’t such a comforting memory, but I did exactly what I had done with her—well, minus the cookie—I sat on the floor and began to talk. “I guess you’ve heard about me. I’m Amy Turner. Listen, why don’t you come out so we can meet properly?” I paused, but there was no sound, not even a rustle, from inside. Apparently my power of persuasion hadn’t miraculously improved.
I shifted so my back was against the door and, with a dull thud, rested my head. I continued, “If you want, I can just sit here.”
Suddenly, something hit the door hard enough to make a loud
and scare me half to death. After my heart had fall en back into my chest, I yelled, “Hey, your choice! Your mom’s going to pay me either way!”
The shout sounded so close that I jumped again. I scrambled away from the door just in time, as it came swinging open. The figure of a teenage boy towered over me. Sandy blond hair brushed down over black designer sunglasses. With one hand he gripped the doorframe and, with the other, he reached out uncertainly into the air. Before I had a chance to do anything, he took a step forward and tripped on my beloved sneakers.
To my ears, his crash to the carpet was deafening. But, amazingly, no one came running. He lay still.
The thought flashed through my mind that I’d killed him. Killing a blind person; there’s a quick ticket to Hell.
I scooted forward and gasped, “Tristan, I am
sorry!” My brain slowly registered that I must have merely injured his pride because he was breathing steadily.
He didn’t speak, but his hand reached out and patted along the floor. Seeing that his glasses had fall en nearby, I picked them up and pushed them against his hand. He snatched them from me and, rising, turned his head away while he pushed them back on. He growled, “Get away from me.” I made a fumbling attempt to catch his hand and offered, “Let me help you to your room.” Feeling my movement, he leaned away from me and sneered, “Do you even know
my room is?” I stood, dumbfounded, while he walked slowly down the hall. He braced his hand tightly against the wall and paused at the corner, grasping onto the point. Then he was gone. A moment later, I heard a door slam shut. I continued to stand still, feeling completely humiliated. Why had I taken this job, again?
Sensing my thoughts, or perhaps because of the door-slam, Mrs. Edmund appeared. She tried to smile.
“Oh, Tristan will come around. I’ll talk to him tonight. Why don’t you come back in the morning?” My expression blank, I nodded in reply. Sure, everything would be better in the morning. This wouldn’t be such a bad job. The first day is always the worst. Of course, this wasn’t a day...it was barely even ten minutes. I pulled my fingers through my hair and sighed at the thought.
As I exited the home, a strong wind smacked me in the face. But who believes in omens, anyway?
* * *
“Amy! Is that you?”
Who else would know that our house would be unlocked in the middle of the afternoon? I laughed as my mom skipped from the kitchen, a paintbrush in one hand and drips of yellow down her arms. Her dashiki dress was coated in an array of colors already dried and flaking off of the cotton like rainbow snow. Her hair was in a loose braid that she’d tossed over one shoulder. Quickly stuffing my letter into my purse, I asked, “You redecorating?”
“Of course.” She kissed me and I could feel wet paint smearing onto my cheek. “Next Friday is the anniversary, so I’m adding a sun to the wall in the living room. The house has to look nice for your brother.
Charlie. My older brother who’d left home right before his high school graduation and had never settled down. Supposedly that was his big act of rebel ion. I knew from the letters he secretly sent me that he was okay, but he wasn’t ever coming back to Grayfield. No way. No matter how many times Mom set a place for him at dinner. But she didn’t want to believe it.
“Sure,” I said and offered her a smile.
“How’d your interview go?”
I winced and tried to slide past her, toward my bedroom. “Oh, good... Uh, I got the job and....” Every way I thought of describing what I’d agreed to sounded awkward, but I plowed ahead anyway. “He’s blind and my age.”
She cocked her head to the side. “The boy you’ll be sitting?”
“Tristan. Yeah.” I nodded. “I’ll be taking him places, hanging out with him, that kind of thing.” Without a moment of hesitation, my mom smiled. “Oh, a new boyfriend. How wonderful, Amy!” I clenched my teeth. “That’s not what I—”
“Do you think this yellow is too daffodil for a sun?” Mom was already distracted, frowning at the tip of her paintbrush.