One in the Dark, Another in the Quiet

Submitted into Contest #58 in response to: Write about a family who decides to camp out in the back yard during a power outage.... view prompt

18 comments

Adventure Romance

June







She rushed around the house, feet pattering on the carpeted floor while I sat on the living room couch with Bambi. She was a seeing-eye Labrador and faultless when it came to her job of guiding me but she loved lolling with us when she was off-duty – rare as I needed a working pair of eyes to go practically anywhere. She was a lasting member of our three-person family. The other was Audrey, who was now standing in front of us. I knew from a whiff of her signature strawberry vanilla perfume she wore every day.







She tapped my shoulder. I moved my hand in a thumbs up or thumbs down motion and she gripped my thumb when it pointed upwards. So we were ready. I stood and Bambi shot up from the chair and stood a few feet ahead of me, helping me walk out the door to the backyard. My fingers curled upon being hit by the bleak chilly air and I mentally thanked myself for remembering to bring chapstick. Once we were outside, shuffling and crinkles sounded as Audrey set up everything. About half an hour ago, she had told me there was a power outage in the entire city and that it'd be nice to spend the night in the backyard until electricity came back on. I wrote to her I lived through a power outage every day, but it wasn't all bad now. What they said about your senses becoming stronger when one was down was the truest thing; I picked up sounds people couldn't hear and smelled things people couldn't.







I sat down on the small tree stump and waited. Her ragged breath sounded like she'd just finished sprinting a marathon. I picked up my whiteboard.







Wish I could help but I’m blind.







I held it up until I heard a laugh escape from her mouth. She was the opposite of me – deaf. She could talk but according to her, she didn’t want it to “sound funny” so she didn’t. Not much.







“Done,” she finally said.







I wrote on the whiteboard, a practice that had become our form of communication. I knew it was messy, either because I didn't care about proper penmanship or because I hadn't seen the words I was writing in years. Audrey could always read it, though. When I became blind nineteen years ago, working with my new disability was like being born into an entirely different universe. I was lost and stranded in a sea of people who weren't like me. Kids laughed and ran around together, telling each other to look at something cool while I sat by myself against the building on the red bench that held many of my tears within all its cracks and crevices, listening and wondering why it had to be me who lost their eyesight and be different from the others. Like a gift bestowed upon me, I’d met Audrey at the blind and deaf school that I transferred to all those years ago where she sat with me on the bench every single day. Now at 23, we had a small home together as…friends.







“Inside or outside?” she asked when she had settled down next to me on the stump.







Will it make a difference?







“Guess not.”







Audrey







I dug around in the bag and pulled out two hot chocolate packets. The chilly 10:00 p.m. breeze bit at my ears and cheeks while I made our drinks with the thermos I'd remembered to fill. I handed the hot Styrofoam cup to June and held mine close to my body, the heat traveling and creating prickly sensations from my head down to my numb toes. Now was the perfect time to remove the damp and slightly dirty house shoes I had slipped my feet into upon the electricity going down, to the sneakers I’d brought.







Changed and comfortable, I lied down and exhaled. My breath puffed out in light gray swirls in the air, floating in front of me until it disappeared into the night. I looked at my phone’s weather app. 52 degrees.







Bambi walked over to me from her space, a crumb of dog food falling from her mouth to the dewy grass. I ran a hand down her yellow coat and scratched behind her ear until she was satisfied and lying back down in the fluffy tent I had assembled next to ours.







Looking at June, I saw her knocking the ground with her feet and rubbing her hands together. She picked up her cup and took slow sips of her hot chocolate, her breath steaming the air. She might've sensed me because she my direction for a few seconds before she picked up the whiteboard and scrawled down something.







How you holding up?







She switched between a thumbs up and a thumbs down before I landed on the thumbs up. She smiled and nodded. “Me too,” she said. I read her lips on that one, a thing I learned to do when people on the street mistook me for someone who could hear. It was awful staring at peoples' lips while they were speaking to me and only making out a few words, but it got me out of a lot of situations where conversations were the last thing I wanted to have.







“It’s dark,” I told her, or tried to. Who knew what I sounded like? When you don't practice a skill for a certain amount of time, doesn't it wither away like a wilting rose? Isn't that what was happening to my voice from the lack of use? And then when I did use it, it fluctuated from low to high and cracked often? I didn't have to hear it to know. It was the main reason I stuck to sign language for everyone except June and other blind people.







Yeah, imagine what it would be like every day.







“I couldn’t.”







She nodded and chugged the remaining of her drink, throwing the cup down and wincing after she finished. Her hand flew to her throat and rubbed it.







It's super hot.







“You’re crazy,” I said, laughing at her attempt to swat at me; her aim was nowhere close. I guess that's what happened when all you woke up to and slept on was darkness. Like her, something was missing from me. Carrying on life and looking at things that would make noise that were just...quiet. When I washed my hands expecting the sound of rushing water against the porcelain sink and there was nothing, when Bambi placed her paws on the windowsill and barked at the UPS guy, and there was no noise, only me staring at her, wishing I could hear what she or anyone sounded like.







We sat in the quiet and I drank the rest of my hot chocolate, remembering not to make the same mistake as June.







June







We were basking in front of the fire's irresistible heat, watching the flames distort the view in front of us, and roasting the sticky white marshmallows that were poking out at the end of our sticks. It was almost 11:00 p.m. and despite the warmth, my fingers tingled and Bambi's trembling body snuggled closer to mine. It was the number one reason Audrey had started the fire. Smores were an impromptu decision she'd made when she rushed to the house to use the restroom.







"It’s nicer than I expected," I wrote.







“Mhm,” Audrey said.







The night was quiet save for the synchronized chirping of the crickets and the distant sound of kids splashing around in the pool, though it was nowhere near bathing suit weather. Oh, what it felt like to be in a pool. Did I even remember? Truth be told, I never bothered to try swimming again. During summer, where the heat was unbearable and where, no doubt, sweaty people sprawled on the pool chaise lounges, I could always be found at the small hole-in-the-wall ice cream shop a few blocks near our place. Every time they saw Bambi's head coming around the corner, they made my ice cream and had it ready. Unless a bath counted, I hadn't been in one for almost twenty years.







What does it feel like to swim?







“Ooh.”







I heard Audrey moving around before she got up and lifted my arm from the ground. Bambi hopped to her feet and I clung to her leash, my whiteboard and marker in my other. “Audrey, what are you doing?” I asked her, knowing she couldn't even hear me.







“Nice and cool. Only your feet. C'mon.”







She led the way and Bambi followed along with me, trotting ahead with my hand clasping her leash. The air instantly got colder and nipped my uncovered skin, goosebumps appearing within seconds. I scrunched up my eyebrows. We had a fire going behind us and she wanted to go somewhere cold?







The laughter of the kids got louder, and I heard wet footsteps coming over before we walked further inside the enclosure and the gate slammed shut behind us.







“Come.”







Bambi led me to wherever Audrey was.







“Remove your shoes,” she told me.







I bent down without a clue as to where I was standing before I got splashed with freezing cold water from one of the kids, who cackled and ran off.







“I’d so chase you if I could see!” I shouted out. Once my shoes were removed and my pant cuffs rolled up to my knees, I led Audrey guide me into the water. It was like I was dunked in ice. I shuddered and allowed myself to get pulled deeper into the almost hypothermia-inducing pool, letting go of everything and floating on my back. Audrey had said only my feet but the pool invited me with open arms as a whole, not just one part of my body. A little of the chlorinated water got in my mouth and the salty taste melted into my tongue like cotton candy. I smiled.







“Yay or nay?” Audrey asked me, her body close to mine and giving off heat, though not much.







Shivering and clutching my torso, I mouthed “yay.”







I heard the kids coo over Bambi who stayed at the edge of the pool where she was left. Normally, I’d only let people pet her when she was completely off duty – no vest – but they weren't harming anyone and the last time Bambi got to spend time with anyone except us was two years ago when my mother visited.







We waded around the steps of the shallow end for a short while, Audrey splashing me and using my blindness as an escape for not getting splashed back. “Be glad I can’t perceive light,” I mumbled. I wondered what it was like - being able to see. You didn't have to stumble around the house, feeling the walls and counters, until you got to where you needed to be? You didn't have to face the humiliation of being a klutz and knocking shelves over at the store and then standing there as people knelt down and helped pick up your mess? Best not to take it for granted then.






“Too cold,” she said, after we’d spent some more time and were covered in goosebumps and had teeth that chattered at the speed of sound. She helped me out of the freezing pool and into my shoes which were wet and sloshing against the ground with each step. I bent down and found Bambi's leash.







“Aww,” the children said, voices laced with sadness. We said goodbye to them and headed back the way of our backyard, shivering and without towels. We sat back down in the grass, in front of the fire that we carelessly left while we went to the pool. The temperature change was intense; my skin felt like it was burning. It was a bit painful but I leaned against Bambi and it became serene as we hushed and let the water dry off the drenched clothes that stuck to our skins like glue.








“Yay for me, too,” I heard Audrey say.







Audrey







I watched her battle against her drooping eyelids and lose. She drifted off into a soft slumber in front of the fire that was our light and heat. My goodness, she was adorable. The way her lips quivered with each soft exhale and her nostrils slightly flaring in rhythm with her breaths. With the way she looked at life, you wouldn't even be able to tell that she'd gone through so many hardships and still came out like it was nothing.







I was too busy watching her that I didn’t realize I was fighting my own fight with my eyelids. I covered us with the blanket I’d packed in the bag before I, too, let them win.







June







I was awoken by Bambi stepping on my calves and an irritating noise that interrupted the peace that came with the crickets and swaying of the leaves. Movement happened from next to me and I shifted my hands around until I felt Audrey’s raised head. “You’re awake?” I asked, hoping she could read my lips.







“Yes.” Her voice sounded thick and raspy, like she had come down with a bad sore throat in the time that we'd been asleep.







I pointed to my wrist and she knew I was asking for the time.







“4:08.”







It wasn’t even sunrise yet. “What is that?” I mouthed. Distant honking noises were blasting in the icy air. I felt her get up and a slight gasp squeal mixture came from her mouth.







“Cars.”







“Huh?”







I picked up my whiteboard and uncapped my marker.







What’s so great about cars?







The heat had died down which meant that the fire was out. Yet, there was still light and it wasn’t sunrise. Wait.







Is the power back on?







I moved my hand in a thumbs up or thumbs down motion back and forth before she landed on one.







Thumbs up.

September 05, 2020 02:51

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18 comments

Doubra Akika
02:01 Sep 13, 2020

I loved this! It’s great that you were able to switch from different perspectives! The dynamic of their friendship is so cool. The dialogue is as well. Things like this make me remember it’s good to be grateful. Really well-written! Hope you’re staying safe! (P.S. if you get the chance, I’d love if you could check out my recent story! Feedback is always welcome!)

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Aveena Bordeaux
04:40 Sep 13, 2020

Thanks so much for taking the time to read! And definitely, I’ll check out your story :)

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Doubra Akika
09:10 Sep 13, 2020

Thanks so much! And it was my pleasure!

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00:44 Sep 10, 2020

Wow you did this wonderfully telling two sides of a story. Which can be complicated. Great dialogue

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Aveena Bordeaux
03:14 Sep 10, 2020

Thanks for taking the time to read, Sarah!

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P. Jean
20:16 Sep 07, 2020

Wow wow wow....you stepped into two characters so well and you took me with you. I can’t comment much about grammar but I know when a story is more than words on a page. Super good! I was never sure what those two would get up to next! Very enjoyable!

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Aveena Bordeaux
20:39 Sep 07, 2020

Thank you for reading and the sweet comment!

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P. Jean
21:09 Sep 07, 2020

Very welcome

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Zea Bowman
21:17 Sep 19, 2020

Wow! I really enjoyed reading this story; it was so full of great descriptions, and I loved the way you ended it! I know that right now I'm going to be one of the annoying people that asks you to read my story (or stories), but it would be a big help. Don't feel like you have to :)

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Aveena Bordeaux
22:05 Sep 19, 2020

Thanks so much, Zea! And I love checking people's stories out so I'll head on over to your page :)

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Zea Bowman
22:16 Sep 19, 2020

Thank you :)

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Jade Young
10:34 Sep 12, 2020

This was such an enjoyable read. I love your use of alternating POVs. It worked so well with the story :) Keep up the great writing ;p

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Aveena Bordeaux
20:02 Sep 12, 2020

Thanks for the feedback, Jade! :)

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Anshika Goyal
20:11 Sep 11, 2020

I loved this story!! This is the first time I read a story with two sides to it, and this turned out to be really great. I like how you kept it simple and clearly stated which side of the story we were in, otherwise it would have been a cumbersome. P.s. would you mind checking out two of my recent stories?

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Aveena Bordeaux
01:07 Sep 12, 2020

Thanks so much for reading and your feedback! And yes, I'll check out your stories :)

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Anshika Goyal
08:45 Sep 12, 2020

No problem Joy!!

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Yolanda Wu
06:57 Sep 10, 2020

This was such an interesting story. You blended the different perspectives really well which really gave the story more depth. Your descriptions were so well-written and you had my attention the whole time. Amazing work!

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Aveena Bordeaux
19:18 Sep 10, 2020

This was so kind. Thank you for reading and the feedback, Yolanda!

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