35 comments

Coming of Age Romance Drama

Emma felt the warmth of the sun on her face. She stood on the soft grass at Bear Grove Park, and took a deep breath of the crisp spring air. Being matched with a running guide that day was her first step on the road to running the Springfield marathon.


A sound of footsteps drew nearer. She was prepared for the fact that sighted people could be awkward in these situations. The Run Together foundation had given her his basic info, at least that was something to work with.


“Hello Andy,” she said, with a joyous optimism, as if she had heard fabulous things about him.


“Uh, hi!” He sounded more tentative than she hoped. 


“Have you ever been a visually impaired running guide?”


“This is the first time.”


“Well, you’re in good hands.” Emma giggled. Not taking things seriously helped others relax around her. “We’re going to be spending quite some time together. We’re going to get to know each other well.”


“That sounds good.”


“Good? Not amazing, or fabulous?” Emma challenged him.


“Those too.” He had a deep voice. She liked that. She wondered if he had blue or brown eyes. As for her own, retinitis pigmentosa had taken her vision at age 15. But she still spent a lot of time thinking about what other people looked like.


“You got any hobbies, Andy?” All she knew from his info was that he was a senior at Jacksonville High School


“Not really. Music?” he said. “Sorry, this wasn’t my idea. I didn’t want to come here.”


“So, why are you here?”


“It’s complicated.”


This wasn’t going anywhere. Emma thought it was time for a reset.


“I smell donuts in the lounge. Let’s go in and get something to eat before we start.”


Emma had memorized the path, the number of steps, the texture underneath her feet, every turn, from where she was standing to the lounge. She carefully made her way while Andy followed. 


Once they were inside, and he smelled donuts and coffee, Andy scurried off, leaving her alone in the dark. It happens. She stood there not moving


He soon returned. “Great donuts!” She could hear the food in his mouth.


“Can you get me one, Andy?”


“Which kind?”


“Chocolate old-fashioned.” 


She felt a whirl of air brush against her as he moved away.


“Now, slowly place it into my hands.” This is what she said when he was back again..


She felt the paper plate and delicately began to eat without dropping anything. The donut melted in her mouth; it tasted amazing. At least she still had taste, and touch, and hearing. Smell, that too.


When they were back outside, Emma began her carefully prepared introduction on how to be a visually impaired running guide. “Let’s try running together.” She grabbed his reluctant arm and pulled it in toward her. He resisted. “If you have to be here, you might as well cooperate. Now, I’ll hold on to your forearm and run behind you. You protect me.”


He did as he was told. “Is this right?” he asked, jutting his elbow out behind him.


“Perfect,” she said, holding on. “Let’s try moving very slowly, while you call out what you see coming, and count down how many steps it is.”


She felt him lurch to one side, and then another, and she followed. Soon they had found their rhythm, two people awkwardly jogging as one. Most people have a hard time trusting others, but over the last two years, Emma had learned to rely on strangers she couldn’t see. They almost never let her down, except for a few times that she didn’t want to think about. She didn't want to think every sighted person could be so cruel. But, thankfully, when she had been abandoned and lost, the AI on her mobile phone could help. It could slowly explain her surroundings to her until she got her bearing. How the visually impaired dealt with the outside world before mobile phones she couldn't imagine.


The paths in the park were smooth, and Andy directed her through a few gentle turns. She struggled to not speak her thoughts outloud about AI and everything else, but she had to stay quiet. You see, blind people talk all the time when they are together. This would take some getting used to.


“Curb coming up in 3, 2, 1,” Andy said. 


Emma braced herself and felt her foot hang in the air before hitting the pavement underneath.


“Good job, Andy. When in doubt, call it out.”


Next, Emma introduced Andy to running with a tether, a foot long elastic band they both held onto. She could feel from its pull where he was. They could run faster than when she was holding his arm. 


“Don’t be surprised If I bump into you once in a while.”


They picked up the pace, and soon Andy was gasping for breath as he called out turns and changes in the pavement.


“Out of breath over there?” she asked.


“A little.”


“Let’s take a rest.” They stood in the soft grass. She took off her shoes and felt the grass and the pebbles and the twigs between her toes. “You might get something out of this too. And, this is going much better than I expected.”


"It's going ok."


"You don't share much. You're like a building without windows."


"That's a funny thing for you to say," Andy chuckled, the first reaction she's gotten out of him so far. “It’s actually not as bad as I thought it would be.”


“So why did you need to come here to run with someone like me?”


“At school, someone called me weird, and I punched him. So, community service. You can't see my T-shirt but I'm kind of a manga fanatic.”


“Well, it sounds like he deserved to get punched. And I don’t think you’re weird at all,” Emma said. “Especially not compared to me. Sorry to hear about the community service.“


“Thanks, and I think the same about you,” Andy said. “Why do you want to run a marathon?”


“I love running. The sense of freedom,” Emma said, an also carefully prepared reply. Nothing could be further from the truth. She hated running. But, after Bethany in her class at the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired ran the marathon, and wouldn’t shut up about it, she needed to catch up.


Emma had an idea. Running guide training was to be held once a week on Wednesday, but if you don’t ask, you don’t receive. Her motto recently.


“What are you doing Saturday?” She could use Andy to see a few sights she normally doesn't get the chance to. And, there was a place she had in mind. One she hadn’t been to since she was 12 years old.


The next Saturday morning, Andy found himself at the Henson Robinson zoo. Emma held onto his elbow while he guided her around the different categories of fauna. She breathed in the musky smells of the animal enclosures-they were wonderfully exotic to her-as Andy described what the animals were doing.


“The lizards have red tails, and are clinging onto tree branches, ”


"What shade of red? Like in the crayon box."


"Brick Red," he said. "and on the gravel, some yellowish green snakes are just lying there."


“Lying in wait, for some blind animal to appear!” Emma laughed.


They moved to the primate area to see some more action. The chimpanzees’ piercing screeches echoed through the cement enclosure.


“Oh no, the monkeys are…” Andy gasped.


“Doing it?!”


“Yeah.”


Emma burst out in uncontrollable laughter. It reminded her of how awkward her first experience was. Elbows and knees poking everywhere. Running was actually a lot simpler.


She had noticed an unusual smell on Andy, something industrial.


"You smell like you came from a factory today."


"Oh? That must be motor oil. I was working on my motorcycle this morning."


"Take me for a ride sometime?"


"I don't think that's a good idea. But I'll think about it?"


Next Wednesday, when they met at the Bear Grove community center, Andy was a lot friendlier than the week before. About halfway into their training run, Emma tripped on an obstacle. She would say an unseen obstacle but that was every obstacle for her. When she stood up, she touched her cheek. Rough grit covered one side of her face. A stinging pain soon made itself felt.


“Are you ok, Emma?” his voice sounded worried. She wondered how bad her face was.


“I’m fine.” Emma said tersely. She couldn’t pretend to be happy after falling on her face.


“I’ll be more careful.”


After the fall, he was then overly careful about calling out each change in the pavement to the point of becoming annoying. And the fall had killed their vibe. They didn’t seem to have anything left to talk about. Andy robotically called out obstacles for the next 20 minutes, and the rest of the session was uneventful.


The idea of running a marathon blind was dumb. This was the idea going round and round in her mind. When they stopped, she felt the pull on the tether as he stood far away from her.


“From your silence, Andy. it feels like you’re not really into this?”


“I am,” Andy said. His voice was in the least enthusiastic tone she could imagine.


“If you’re just doing this for charity work, and, you let me fall down,” Emma said. “Why don’t you just leave me alone and find someone else?”


She could hear his feet scuffling. He didn’t say anything for a long time. The silence, and blackness, just went on and on. Emma was tired of leading every conversation.


One of the worst things about being blind was not being able to see people’s faces during an argument. You don't know if they are holding their head down in defeat, or sneering in contempt. It was depressing. Emma just wanted to go home.


“Take me back to the changing room.”


“Ok,” Andy said. “Turn 90 degrees to the left.” She felt a tug on the tether. “Now, 50 steps ahead.” 


“Thanks, Andy," she said, as she let go of the tether and felt her way into the changing room.


She texted Andy the next day and apologized.


The weeks went on like this, running together on Wednesdays and going to new places on Saturday mornings: shopping malls, amusement parks, the beach, a movie (Andy whispered in her ear what the actors were doing the entire film).


On a Wednesday morning in late June, the weather much warmer by then, in addition to his faint odor of masculine sweat, there lingered a new aroma. A cologne, she couldn’t quite identify which one.


“Good morning, Emma. You look great today,” Andy said. “Um, sorry, you know what I mean.”


“Thanks and aren’t you in a good mood today?”


“We are running so much better. Last week, we managed to do five miles in 45 minutes.”


After their successfully uneventful run with no collisions, they stood in the shade under a tree. She could hear the rustling of the branches above her. Andy said, “I couldn’t stop thinking about you all week.”


“I think about you too, Andy. Our runs and adventures have been so fun.”


The was a long silence, she could hear him breathing.


He whispered. “I think I love you, Emma.” 


She wasn’t expecting this at all. “I like you too, Andy.” She admitted to herself she had thought about him. His scent and his voice were attractive. But he lived in a different world from hers, one that she couldn’t experience. She recalled what her first ISVI counsellor, Joan, had taught her: to embrace being blind, and to embrace the blind community. Her long pause had certainly given Andy the answer, not the one he was looking for.


Emma reached out and touched his face. There was a tear dripping down his cheek. She pretended not to notice.


“I like you a lot, Andy. But I think we are very different. And I already have a community of people like me," she said. “Maybe you’re feeling this way, because you’ve never been needed in the way I need you.”


“Maybe…”


“What you’ve been doing for me has been so great. I do need you. And appreciate you.”


“But…” Andy seemed lost for words.


“And women love to hear about guys doing charity work. Text me when you have a date and I’ll give you some pointers.” She embraced him, rubbing his shoulders and then letting go. 


“But…”


“See you next week!” She knew additional explanations wouldn’t make this any easier. Turning around, she headed toward the women’s changing room, a path she had memorized long ago. She felt a tear dripping down her cheek now too. She hoped no one would see it, especially not Andy.


That Saturday, Emma cancelled their trip to the botanical garden and made plans with her friend from ISVI.


In the following weeks, Emma and Andy continued to run together, but things had changed between them. There was a new sort of tension that hadn’t been there before. On the other hand, Andy was slowly opening up about himself and even learned how to tell a joke now and then. Maybe a woman has to be unattainable for a boy to relax? Emma didn't have the answer, this was all new to her too.


Over the next few months, she came to know Andy better than anyone else in her life. She could tell him things she wouldn't dare to tell even her closest blind friends. With this new understanding between them, she found herself texting him about things like the gossip at school, funny jokes she had, people she was angry at.


Every month at ISVI, Emma had a catchup with the school's counsellor Joan. The one who talked to her for hours two years ago when she had just lost her sight. She had sunk into a despair so deep, that carrying on didn't feel possible at the time. But as Joan promised , everything became easier over time. She remembered the first time she laughed. It was about four months later, and thought: I think I can make it.


"Joan, is it ok to spend a lot of time talking to and texting someone who can see?"


"You've been doing so well at ISVI and I've been happy to see your progress Emma. When I told you to embrace the blind community, that didn't mean to not also embrace the sighted community," Joan said. "People like me. And, your new friend, is it a boy?"


Emma smiled tightly. She didn't want to lie, but realized not answering also said something.


"If he treats you well, and doesn't disrespect your disability, there's nothing to stop you from being the same type of friends as anyone else."


"Thank you, Joan." Emma's mind buzzed with excitement. The journey to the Springfield promised to be an adventure. Running 10km would push her limits, but she was determined to finish. And Andy would be there to guide her on every step along the way. As she stepped outside, the wind rippled through her hair and the world felt newly alive and full of potential.

September 30, 2023 04:54

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

35 comments

AnneMarie Miles
15:33 Sep 30, 2023

Hey Scott! This was a great premise for a story that really addresses this prompt. Visually impaired individuals rely on all their other senses to navigate the world. I never considered how they would approach the goal of running, so this was a cool idea. I liked the way you noted the feel of the paper plate, and how Emma knew Andy left her side by the movement of the air. Those were good touches. I'm curious about Andy's love confession. Is there more there or is Emma right? Does he just like being needed? Either way it was a great story th...

Reply

15:39 Sep 30, 2023

Thanks for reading! Good to hear the premise work, and I really appreciate you pointing that out. I also feel the story needs a bit more to build up Andy's character and to build up to the love confession. I'm working on some ideas.

Reply

AnneMarie Miles
15:53 Sep 30, 2023

I'm sure you will find a way to build up Andy's character. You have some good scenes with the zoo and Emma's fall. Just a few more pointed sentences will help.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Audrey Knox
19:17 Oct 01, 2023

Two things can be true! Andy does need to feel needed (who knows how unfamiliar this feeling might be to him in his daily life). But does that mean the love isn't real? Scott, perhaps a conversation in which they really connect on a deep level (even accidentally) might make his confession feel more organic. Or maybe if there's a feeling that he might lose her if he doesn't speak up (sometimes I feel like that's the only thing that ever motivates men).

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 2 replies
Hazel Ide
14:34 Sep 30, 2023

I really liked your story this week! I thought there'd be more tension, especially after the fall incident, but it evened out, and I was okay that there wasn't- it felt like a small glimpse into the unique lives of two young people (like, why was Andy called 'weird' by his classmates?), and I enjoyed the simplicity in that. Thank you for sharing!

Reply

15:42 Sep 30, 2023

Thanks for reading and commenting. I might add a little bit more. Andy's story needs a bit more. I think he needs to be a bit more proactive and have a few surprises. But like you said I also want to keep something things simple and leave it to the readers imagination.

Reply

Hazel Ide
16:06 Sep 30, 2023

Yes! Like if Andy had a certain smell about him or something that she noticed, and it gave him a chance to elaborate on. Like something his family cooks or something curious enough to give him more depth. Sorry, rambling with the ideas, but I agree if there was more depth to him it could boost the energy. Still great though!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Amanda Lieser
03:31 Oct 20, 2023

Hi Scott! What a wonderful, love story! I adored that you decided to write it. I am a sucker for happy ending, and this one certainly delivered. It was exceptionally admirable that you manage to balance, the love story with a journey of self discovery for our narrators. They were both changed for the better because of one another. I also loved that you chose the running metaphor, because so much of life can be focusing on simply keeping up with each other but sometimes the simple active going about one’s can be a success in itself. Nice work...

Reply

03:55 Oct 20, 2023

Thanks! haven't written one like this before, didn't know ya romance was in my wheelhouse to be honest;) I know someone over here who is doing guiding for blind runners so tried to imagine what that might be like. Been busy finishing a story for globe soup this week, but will see what the reedsy prompts deliver for next week soon.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Laurie Roy
15:44 Oct 10, 2023

The relationship part seemed disjointed and not meaty enough. It's a short so it's hard to get all that emotion into 3000 words but the visual ques, the sense of feeling, the lostness of what is for most of us the most used sense is always profound and leaves one wondering how we'd cope. Descriptors were great, story was a bit choppy.

Reply

16:24 Oct 10, 2023

Thanks for reading and commenting! I agree about choppiness. After watching quite a few youtube videos about people living with visual impairments, I had the scene in mind, but didn't quite fill out the story as much as I would have liked. One week is a rush. This story probably needed a really good conversation between the two characters, one with some info that would surprise the reader.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Patricia Casey
17:47 Oct 07, 2023

Hi Scott. Emma's POV was perfect to show how a blind girl might relate to someone new in her life. What she doesn't see is offset well with what she perceives with her other senses. I read your version after you changed to a happy ending, and I agree it makes for a more heart-warming story. Excellent pacing, buildup and character arc with both Emma and Andy.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Kevin Logue
12:53 Oct 06, 2023

A very wholesome story Scott, you always come up with great premises and real characters. I felt for both of them and could tell from the get go that Andy was attracted to her even though you didn't mention it, that's just good storytelling! I'm glad to see Emma come round in the end and realise she doesn't need to alienate herself from the sighted community. Nice story, well executed. I spotted a few minor typos: "but If you don’t ask, you don’t receive." Capital i in there. "Rough grit cover one side of her face." Covered? "But as Joa...

Reply

13:34 Oct 06, 2023

Thanks for reading Kevin, super useful to get those edits.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Michał Przywara
20:48 Oct 04, 2023

Very nice! As others have said, blind running is a neat premise for a story. And, not to pile on Emma, but by the end it's sounding like her rejection of Andy was short-sighted. But maybe, just like he needed to be needed, she needed to fully embrace the blind community (even dogmatically) to move past her own loss. And now, when it sounds like she's not only adapted to her new life but also found ways to thrive, perhaps she's in a place to explore further. "It’s is actually not as bad as I thought it would be" - typo "it's is" Critique-...

Reply

01:57 Oct 05, 2023

Thanks for reading and commenting. Emma has only been blind for two years, so I think she's still trying to work a lot of things out. Yes, I had originally imagined Emma to be slightly older, maybe early 20s, but felt she also needed to be in some sort of community so she feels a pull toward that. I'll make it a bit more clear she's a senior in high school earlier in the story, and the marathon is maybe a 10km or half marathon.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Wendy M
11:02 Oct 04, 2023

This is a cute story, that also has depth of character. It's good to read a non-stereotypical MC but I did wonder if she would refer to non blind people as normal, she's not abnormal, does she feel that way? Interesting point to explore. I picked up that ISVI became ISIV at one point and promised is misspelled. "That is, meeting a blind person for the first time." Could you have shown this rather than telling it? I'm guessing you're quite high on word count so possibly not, but well done on an engaging story.

Reply

11:43 Oct 04, 2023

Thanks! Those are all good edits. I just deleted the "meeting a..." sentence, It was a bit "telling" and the meaning was already there. When I was writing this I was trying to keep in mind she wouldn't refer to sighted people as 'normal' so deleted that word as well. Thanks for reading!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Michelle Oliver
07:35 Oct 02, 2023

I like the premise of this story. I would like some more information or insight into Andy, a bit hard in a short story with limited pov, though. You did a great job of expressing how a blind person would navigate their life and some of the feelings of limitations that she experiences. I was disappointed that they didn’t get together in the end, I have a feeling they might have been good for one another, you know each helping the other to get out of their own internal spaces and try something different.

Reply

09:31 Oct 02, 2023

Thanks so much for reading. I'm considering some changes at the end. Right after I read this, this video popped up on my youtube "How to Find Your Character's MISBELIEF (or Fatal Flaw)" having a watch today;) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ij39HSbLCXo

Reply

Show 0 replies
10:02 Oct 02, 2023

Revised rough cut of a happier ending in the last few paragraphs...

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 2 replies
Mary Bendickson
22:59 Oct 01, 2023

Good draft and promise of great finish Keep running with it.😉 Thanks for liking my Where the Wild Things Aren't

Reply

02:45 Oct 02, 2023

Thanks Mary! Still working on a few ideas;)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Audrey Knox
19:16 Oct 01, 2023

This was so frustrating!!! Emma needs to open up herself to the possibility of love with Andy. I can totally see the teen rom-com version of this. I've never thought about how hard it would be to not see someone's face during an argument. Also, I noticed a few typos in case you're interesting in fixing them: - "Your smell like you came from a factory today." - This was the idea going round and roung in her mind. - you’ve never been needed in this way, in theway I need you.” Thank you for the very different but compelling love story!

Reply

02:44 Oct 02, 2023

Thanks for reading and commenting! I've fixed the typos. This was started for the previous week's prompt "Write a story about two characters who like each other but don’t get a happily-ever-after." I have been actually been thinking about making the ending more open-ended if I think of the right twist by Friday. Maybe a reveal by Andy, or Emma having some experience or gaining some new info from a friend or teacher that changes her view.

Reply

Show 0 replies
10:09 Oct 02, 2023

Revised to a happy ending, I'll probably work in her reasons to believe Andy undatable earlier in the story. work in progress..good to hear readers are really wanting this to have a happy ending.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 2 replies
Danie Holland
22:10 Sep 30, 2023

I loved emma’s mostly optimistic personality especially at the start. I loved how open she is, and how closed off Andy is and then how he slowly starts to open up. I got the sense Emma was a helium balloon at the start of the story and she slowly deflated toward the end, settling into the realization that this is her life and she can’t do anything to change it. She felt very real, human. You can feel how different her world is from the ones around her and how it’s shaped her perspective. Thanks for this story!

Reply

05:44 Oct 01, 2023

Thanks for reading and commenting! I saw a visually impaired presenter on a travel program on the BBC, who approached the world with such a positive optimism, I was inspired how she broke down barriers and wanted some of that in my main character.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
04:57 Sep 30, 2023

A rough draft for last week', that I felt fit better into this week's sensory prompt. I've never written a YA story before, or anything about the visually impaired, and am still learning. Any suggestions or edits would be greatly appreciated.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Charles Haynes
01:08 Oct 13, 2023

Excellent! Found myself wanting to hear more of the story.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Daniel Allen
16:46 Oct 12, 2023

Really nice story, Scott. Loved the twists and turns. I thought I knew where it was going, but you hit us with a sideswipe near the end, only to hint at a hopeful future after all in the final paragraphs. Awesome character-building, too. You really nailed Emma's voice.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Jessie Laverton
15:58 Oct 12, 2023

This is a really sweet and simple story, and yet I feel like I have been completely immersed in Emma's reality, thinking about difficulties I never really considered. Very touching read.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Robert Egan
23:56 Oct 10, 2023

Nice choice for this prompt, Scott. Unlike Emma, I love running but hadn't taken the time to imagine it from a blind person's perspective before reading this story.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Philip Ebuluofor
17:40 Oct 08, 2023

Fine work. Hooking tale here. Sounds to me like what you watch in movies not read. Do I say congrats in advance?

Reply

Show 0 replies
Rama Shaar
14:40 Oct 07, 2023

Awww, what a lovely read that was. What I like about your stories in general is how they flow so naturally, which makes them easy to read. This one is a reminder that life can be good and easy sometimes!

Reply

Show 0 replies