Friday, October 31, 2014

100 Themes Challenge: Eyes

A/N: I've been saving this one up for Halloween. Seems appropriate.

    Mrs. Tacy was 95 years old and blind. That’s what Jan’s mom told her, anyways. Every day, when she and her friends walked home after school, they’d see the old woman sitting out on her porch, rocking in her chair, the rhythmic creaking causing the children to fall silent as they approached. Jan didn’t know what it was about her that was so scary, though. She had never snapped at them as some old people did, or live in a rundown house, or own dozens of cats. She was, by all appearances, a harmless old lady that liked to sit on her porch in the afternoon. But Jan was still frightened of her.
     Her mom said it was loneliness.
     “Sometimes we can tell things about people without really thinking about it. Mrs. Tacy has been alone for a long time, and sometimes that can do strange things to a person. Maybe you should say hi to her.”
     So far, Jan had not. But her friends kept daring her. It was a big thing, being dared. If you didn’t take the dare, you were a coward. And Jan didn’t want to be a target for bullies.

     One afternoon, after a particular long bout of teasing about it, Jan finally worked up the courage to approach the old woman. As the three girls drew closer to the house, Jan could feel her heart speed up. Her legs moved stiffly, as though unwilling to go near. When she tried to speak to her friends as though nothing was wrong, her voice sounded very far away. But she held her head high, and when they were right across from the porch, Jan turned and walked partway to the stairs.
     “Hi, Mrs. Tacy!” she said, hoping she sounded cheery. The rocking chair stopped creaking. But the old woman made no sound. Her dark glasses continued staring off into space, and the old woman was still. The girls on the sidewalk huddled together, and Jan, fighting the urge to run, tried again.
     “I hope you’re having a nice day!”
     The old woman reached up to her glasses, and suddenly, Jan felt a burst of panic. She ran back to her friends, who promptly fled down the road with her.
     “That was weird!” Liz said after they slowed down. “What was that about?”
     “Maybe she’s hard of hearing too?” Jan looked back at the distant house, where she imagined the rocking chair had begun once more.
     Mel giggled. “Why don’t you run up and take her glasses off tomorrow?”
     Jan was horrified. “No! Besides, that would be kind of mean. She’s blind.”
    “She’s creepy,” Liz said quietly.
     “So? Let’s just…leave her alone. She’s really old. She’ll probably die in, like, a month or something.”
     “My grandparents said she was old when they were kids.” The other two girls looked at Liz, who shrugged defensively. “That’s what they said!”
     “Your grandparents like telling scary stories.”
     “Yeah, but some of them are true! Remember the creepy doll Granny said moved on its own? And we found it on the floor after we put it on the table?”
     “I bet your granny did that herself!” Mel said. “She likes freaking us out. Anyways, Jan is gonna take the old lady’s glasses tomorrow.”
     “I am not!”
     “I’ll tell everyone you were too scared.”
     This was an effective threat. Jan sighed, and adjusted her backpack.
     “Fine, but I’m giving them right back.”

     All day, Jan fretted over the approaching ordeal. She could barely pay attention in class, got snapped at several times by frustrated teachers, and finally given lunch detention. She sat alone in the office, munching on her sandwich and trying to convince herself she was just going to play a harmless prank. She’d give the glasses right back. Maybe Mrs. Tacy would laugh! Then they would find out there was nothing to be afraid of, and she’d invite them in and give them cookies, like old people do on TV. Although Jan wasn’t sure how you could make cookies when you were blind. Practice?
     After school, Mel and Liz seemed to walk far too fast for Jan’s comfort. She didn’t want to go near Mrs. Tacy again, and part of her hoped something would happen to prevent it. Maybe she died overnight! But that was a terrible thought, and Jan mentally kicked herself for it. It wouldn’t take long. She’d just take the glasses off, then put them back on, and tell her it was a dare from her friends. Surely Mrs. Tacy had been a girl before. Didn’t they have dares back in…what, the 20’s, or something? Girls back then couldn’t have been that different.
     Then her friends stopped, and Jan realized they were at Mrs. Tacy’s house. The old woman was there, as usual, and Jan turned to her friends.
     “This will be really mean. We shouldn’t do it.”
     “I already told everyone at school you were gonna,” Mel said.
     “Just…do it really fast.” Liz looked over at the porch and hugged herself. “Then we can get out of here.” At least Liz understood Jan’s nervousness.
     Jan took slow steps toward the porch, heart pounding once more. She paused at the stairs, and looked back at her friends. Mel made a shooing motion, but Liz was half hidden behind the other girl.
     The stairs were thankfully silent as Jan climbed them one by one. She crossed the two feet to Mrs. Tacy, who stopped rocking. Then, taking a deep breath, Jan reached out and grabbed the glasses off.

     Her friends could not see what was going on, but they were confused to find Jan standing there for so long, apparently staring at the old woman's blind eyes. It was supposed to be quick! What if Mrs. Tacy called out for help, and some neighbor came to tell their parents? But then, Jan replaced the glasses and walked back down the stairs. Her step was quick, and she held her head a bit high, looking down at the other two smugly.
     “Well, that was not so bad, was it?” she said. “Shall we go?” Liz and Mel looked at each other.
     “Shall?” Liz said.
     “She thought it was a childish thing for us to do. We oughtn’t do it again.”
     “Oughtn’t?” Mel added.
     A thin, high sound reached their ears. When they turned back, they saw it came from Mrs. Tacy. She was clutching at her head and wailing.
     “Oh, dear, she must be having some sort of fit. We ought to get help. Come on girls!” Jan gestured for them to follow, and started down the sidewalk. Liz and Mel looked at each other for a long time as Mrs. Tacy continued to wail.

     Later that night, both girls got the news that Mrs. Tacy’s heart had simply given out, as though from a great shock.
     “That’s rather dreadful,” Jan had said when Liz called her with the news. “It must be terrible, growing old.”

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