Blind Man’s Bluff.
Ellie was blind, had been since she was born. All she knew of the world was the way it felt to her hands and skin. She knew the taste and smell of things and her ears picked up sounds that were lost on those that watched her. At the age of 33 Ellie was an attractive woman living by herself in a one bed apartment just down the road. The neighbours liked the blind woman and many called on her when they felt in need of an ear to listen. By a few words she was able to judge a mood.
Her voice was a little deeper than you would expect from a person her size. Ellie was a small slender woman, had thick deep dark brown hair, brown eyes a wonderfully rounded nose and full lips, that often wore a smile. Her voice had a somewhat calming effect when she talked back at you from whatever it was you brought to her. It worked its magic on the world around, made it feel brighter more colourful more liveable, it took burdens of shoulders and accounted for her popularity. But people not only went to see her when they were troubled, they came to tell stories and listen to hers, sat in the small garden out front in the summer sun sipping strong hot cups of coffee and you could hear their laughs carry. Young girls only just into their teens would come to talk of boys they fancied, brought broken hearts to be mended and the boys would knock on her door just after to tell their side of the story. More than just one wedding in the neighbourhood had her as a guest of honour and couples returned with new born babies for her to adore. Ellie loved babies and was planning on having at least two herself, but for now she remained on her own, even though suitors came by, spent many hours in conversation sometimes stole a kiss. But because of her disability she felt she would be a burden to most, and said so and no matter how much they protested she always made them leave. Her closest friend was a woman called Louise who had lived there all her life and although seven years younger then Ellie had known her for almost twelve years, when Ellie first moved to the area.
At first Louise had made fun of the blind woman, sneaked around her trying to give her a scare just like a fourteen year old with little to do and a mischievous streak might. Often Ellie could tell by the sound of her footsteps who it was that was sneaking about and addressed the girl whose name she never knew at the time. But on a certain day that had become a date unforgotten by both, Louise managed to scare her just about as good as anyone ever could.
It was after the funeral of Ellie’s parents, who had died in a car crash. Ellie was sat alone on the front steps of her apartment when Louise played one of her pranks. Unprepared Ellie not only got a fright, but also burst into tears. That’s when a remorseful Louise sat down next to the young blind woman and talked to her, first apologising while biting her lips and finding it hard not to burst into tears herself, then after their tears had dried they just sat and Louise listened to Ellie.
From that moment on, Louise looked up to Ellie, admired the strength with which the older woman had mastered her life, and the empathy that she had to share with others. Over the years they grew closer, shared their deepest fears and most joyous moments, became like sisters.
Louise looked out for Ellie, would always make sure that her hair was done properly and she was dressed well, were it not for her stick and eyes raised to look at the sky rather than the street no one would have been able to tell the woman was blind.
Ellie worked at the Society for the Blind where she taught English and History. She was liked and respected within the faculty, which she herself had been a student of when she was younger. Every morning she would take the bus, which left two blocks from her house and would drop her a short walk from the Society. On her way she would stop once for coffee and a doughnut, which she would eat in the room reserved for the teachers. On a typical morning she would sit with Glen, they would take their coffees and exchange the latest news and gossip. She enjoyed her work as much as anyone could enjoy a job, found it rewarding and challenging all the same and regularly contributed articles to the societies internal paper, some of which went from local to national.
Summer was almost over, the first leaves started turning brown and fell to the ground. The weather was taking on the somewhat sharper edge of autumn, unpredictable bursts of rain followed by streaks of warm sunshine, the days got shorter and in the morning the cold would creep around the house and became hard to shake till the heaters were no longer ignored but turned on.
The gutters started to fill with dead leaves and in the damp afternoons moisture was rising from their piles, turning into cold mist that would creep into her bones the moment the sun vanished. A thin film of dew settled on the streets, would reflect the light from the bulbs illuminating the early nights. It was dark when Ellie left work, and although in her world it was always dark she felt the chill that blew down the roads with the sun gone and another winter impending.
One Thursday evening after work most of the Society’s staff went for a meal at a small Italian restaurant to celebrate Glens thirty-seventh birthday. The restaurant had more than once served as location for birthdays and Christmas parties and the proprietor and waiters were familiar with the group of blind people who settled quietly, but would liven up after a few glasses of wine. Ellie never had more than two, aware of her limitations and the fact that she still had the journey home ahead. It never dampened her spirits though and often she would be the first to start singing along to the Italian songs streaming from the speakers.
The others were quick to join and soon the table was rocking with laughter and the inevitable spill of wine. That night Ellie left just after ten, while the others stayed on. Once more she walked past the building of the Society, crossed the street at the second set of traffic lights then walked on for another five minutes till reaching her stop. Buses were frequent and she didn’t have to wait for more than a few minutes till the number 363 stopped and the driver greeted her as he had done many times before. The ride took almost half an hour, she listened to the announcement of stops, but followed the route in her head knowing every turn by heart. A light drizzle had started when she exited and a shudder ran down her spine when a gust of wind blew the rain in her face. She heard the bus switch gears and move away, then she turned to walk home. A group of giggling girls walking the other direction passed then it went quiet again. Just the noise of distant traffic, the rustle of leaves, and the knocking of her stick on the ground in front. She had had fun tonight, she thought and straightened when she heard laughter ahead, a shuffle of feet, voices and the rain and wind that had gotten heavier beating onto the street, when her stick hit an obstacle.
‘Why is it you are beating me with your stick little lady, has no one taught you any manners’, it was the deep voice of a man followed by laughter from two perhaps three others. She was in the process of uttering an apology when she stumbled forward as someone had grabbed the stick, pulling it from her hand. Suddenly she felt fearful, not like the time when Louise had scared her many years ago, but a paralysing fear that crept into bones and made them feel like glass. She turned to retreat but was pushed again as the laughter around her continued, she felt a hand grabbing her bottom, spun around both arms lashing out, but never hitting anything, just to be pushed in the chest, sending her to the ground, landing on her behind. She felt her heart race, felt the coarse wet pavement that her hands had dug into to break the fall. She was panting, as she sat there listening to the sorry voices of her attackers wondering what was to happen next.
The same voice spoke up again as much to her as to the others certainly more to their amusement than to hers. ‘What are you doing on the ground little lady, isn’t it rather cold down there?’
She was being pulled up by her arms from behind and held like that as she felt her coat being torn open and hands touch her breasts through the thin fabric of her blouse. The foul stench of too many drinks insulted her nose and made her feel sick and weak.
‘Please’, she whimpered, ‘just let me go, I never know who you are.’
‘Oh, but we want you to remember, we want to be a memory for you to keep, something to treasure and protect like a lover.’ The last words he spoke close into her ear and she felt his breath touch her cheeks before he ripped her blouse open and she clutched her arms in front of her chest, in a protective manner, now sobbing.
‘Shut up bitch,’ someone else shouted and she was slapped around her face, till she tasted not only the saltiness of tears, but also the taste of blood. She was twirled and pushed, her arms no longer protecting her breasts, but outstretched like a child at play. Pushed again she landed in the gutter spewing leaves and blood, many hands seemed to be touching her now, squeezed and pinched with no regards for her person. And as her hysterics grew to panic, those around her lost perhaps their last inhibitions kicking the helpless woman who started to scream in terror till a heavy boot was placed on her face and she wet herself while listening to their wild laughter.
The boot pushed down on her, possibly even cracked her skull when she passed out.