❯ Hope with Blind Eyes – Chapter 3
Precious days slipped blurrily by – perhaps a week in all? My sleeping patterns had been becoming more regular, but I still hadn’t been bothering to keep track. I didn’t even know what day of the week it was – I didn’t even know what month it was… I really didn’t care to know, for one thing – no doubt part of Zaphikel’s contagious behavior – but also, I was secretly afraid that once I started worrying about things like that again, it would mean that I would have to start worrying about the future as well…
One day, after a brief-as-humanly-possible stint at work, he found me out in the gardens attempting to enjoy the late afternoon breeze. I say `attempting’ because, while that had been my purpose, I barely noticed it – I barely notice anything, it seemed, as I didn’t become aware of Zaphikel until he cleared his throat in a way that let me know he’d been standing there for at least a few moments already. I jerked in surprise, but then I couldn’t help but grin – out of the two of us, the blind man was clearly more aware of his surroundings.
“Welcome home,” I said, a by-now familiar greeting. He grinned winningly at me, and pulled up a seat beside me at my little wire-mesh table.
“Good evening, little Raziel,” he returned. “How are you feeling today?”
I shrugged. “I explored all around these gardens today – they’re really amazing, by the way…” I touched the top of my head self-consciously, and chuckled, trying to sound cheerful. “The only thing keeping me here is my hair,” I informed him.
“That’s good to hear,” he said gravely, and I was suddenly very much aware of the possible double meaning of that statement – and mine, come to think of it; could that be the cause of the ever-so-faint way that he wrinkled his brows? – but then he added, “If there were to be any complications, I guess they probably would have shown themselves by now…”
For some reason, that made me feel much better, and I grinned awkwardly, conscious of how strangely hyper-sensitive I was being. I struck out for a change of subject – “How was your day?”
His expression darkened, and he sighed. “Oh – not too good. Bill HR-240 – the bill to make slandering our Prime Minister treason – passed the House of Representatives today. It is apparently to move to the House of Lords with all haste – three guesses who ordered that but, heh, you daren’t say them aloud, of course…”
I shuddered in disgust. “I can’t believe it! The Lower House is supposed to represent the people-”
Zaphikel waved a hand carelessly. “Oh, everyone knows they’re all string-puppets. Everyone pretty much knew this would be the outcome.”
I shook my head. “I can’t believe it,” I reiterated. “Isn’t there anything that can be done?”
He frowned at me oddly for a moment – calculating, I thought, but what? – but then he shrugged, and smiled blandly. “Don’t slander the Prime Minister?” he suggested.
I scowled at him, unable to accept that. “You’re the Great Thrones, and you mean to tell me that you have no influence in something like this?”
His weak smile faded utterly away, and he spread his hands in a helpless gesture. “Would I shirk my duties if they were of any real importance?”
“Ah-” I hesitated, considering this seriously, and he glowered good-naturedly at me. “Probably not,” I said hastily, and frowned in thought. “I wish… that there was something I could do, I-” I shook my head again, and took to staring moodily at the wire mesh. If I didn’t even know exactly what I was feeling, there was certainly no way that I could voice it, but it nagged away at me inside…
Zaphikel arched an eyebrow over his wire rims. “But why? Obviously you’ve had terrible experiences at the hands of the government in the past, but you seem to be doing rather well now. Wouldn’t it be better to just stay quiet, and be thankful for what you have?”
My head shot up, and I gawked at him. That didn’t sound like the Zaphikel I knew at all, I thought, though I wondered why it repelled me as much as it did… “Safer, yeah, but better?” I blurted, and shook my head vehemently, too incensed to even remember that the effect was partially wasted on him.
Somewhat to my surprise, he looked properly abashed. “Well, that might be true…” His blind eyes stared unblinkingly towards the sinking sun. “But don’t you think you’ve already suffered enough?” he murmured.
“I…” I wondered why he looked so sad… I shook it off, however, resolved. “Maybe that’s not for me to decide,” I said boldly. “Anyway, everything I’ve been through – no matter how terrible it was – it hasn’t accomplished anything.” I eyed him disapprovingly. “With an attitude like that, it’s no wonder that you haven’t got any influence even though you’re in a position where you could easily gain some, if you would only work at it a bit.”
He slapped his palm down on the table, making me jump. “Don’t assume that I’m just going to lie down and take this-” His eyes widened fractionally, and he turned his face away, lips thin. “Never mind,” he said firmly. “I just meant that… if there’s anything that I can do, I will certainly do it. I just wouldn’t recommend a similar course of action for you…”
I stared at him for a long time, until he looked my direction again with an inquisitive expression. Sometime seemed wrong… something had been out-of-place since the beginning… “No,” I said softly. “You were going to say something – else. You – are planning something, aren’t you?”
He gasped. “Raziel – don’t say that! Conspiring against the government is already treason-”
I scoffed. “Then what is providing me with a false identity?” He seemed to deflate a bit at that; I smirked triumphantly. “Maybe you work by yourself, or maybe you’re part of some kind of organization – but I’ll bet there’s an organization, isn’t there? If it was just the government behind your project to evaluate the Labs, they probably would’ve had me quietly disposed of after I miraculously managed to pass your test – and, no offense, but I don’t think you would’ve been able to handle something like that all by yourself-”
“Stop! Quiet!” He waggled his eyebrows at me, and I understood that he wasn’t angry with me. “Walls have ears, or hedges in this case I suppose…” In fact, he was grinning, if shakily. “You know, you – oh, Lord, what a mess… You absolutely weren’t supposed to know about any of this.” He took his glasses off to pinch the bridge of his nose, sighing tiredly. “I thought it was a good quality – silly me – you’re too clever…”
My eyes were as wide as they would go. “You mean there really is an organization?” He groaned, but I hardly noticed. I leaned closer, hesitated just short of grabbing his coat sleeve. “Oh – can I join? Please, you’ve got to let me!”
He stiffened visibly, and then laughed. “Ah – no. No, you – no. I definitely could not allow that…”
An indignant glare formed on my face as he spoke. “Oh, why – because I’m a freak? Because I never got to finish school, because they found out I was a freak…?”
“No!” He turned his face towards me again, and I was so certain that he was staring into my eyes that I couldn’t look away. “My dear Raziel, this society was formed for `freaks’. However, for you to volunteer so easily, you obviously have no idea how dangerous it would be. I won’t allow you to be hurt-”
“Oh.” I bowed my head. “Then it’s because I’m a child.”
This silenced him for rather longer than I’d been expecting it to. I stared at my lap, gazed miserably at my chewed-down fingernails – a nervous habit that I didn’t remember developing… When his fingertips brushed my cheek, my eyes flew wide again, but I didn’t move; I didn’t want to scare him off. I had to be sure that this was for real… “I don’t think of you as a child,” he said quietly.
“Then let me serve you,” I whispered. I looked up, and the fingers slipped away; I wanted desperately to pull them back again. “I want to serve you,” I repeated more firmly. “This cause of yours – it’s certainly more worthwhile than going back to school. And you…” You’re the most wonderful person I’ve ever met… “You’ve done so much for me; you saved me…”
His mouth twisted into an ironic smile. “Funny – I saved you, so that you can ask me to help you throw it all away…?”
I stared hopelessly at his unswayable expression. “Oh… don’t…” I was babbling, I knew, and I couldn’t help it; I was also trembling. “I don’t want to go back to school, or anything else – I don’t want to leave your side, please…”
He frowned in a stern and somewhat worried fashion. “Now, Raziel-” He reached out to touch my face again, and his eyes widened slightly on finding the tears that I myself hadn’t noticed until now. “Raziel – sweet Raziel – don’t…” He only hesitated for a moment, before wrapping his arms around me. “This is something you really want, huh?” he said, rather glumly I thought.
I was frozen for the first second or two, but now I clutched at his coat, hugging him tightly. “Yes!” I choked, sniffling miserably.
He sighed into my shoulder, clearly defeated, and I noticed that his hair smelled like some exotic tea… “Ugh,” he grumbled, and held me out again at arm’s length. “This had better not be some kind of immature whim,” he said severely.
I managed to glower through blurry eyes. “Who are you to use a word like `immature’? Look at what you read.”
He smirked, and wiped away my tears with uncannily nimble fingers. “Fine. You understand, of course, that you will be given the lowest entry level position, privy to virtually none of the society’s secrets, in case you still decide to back out…”
My eyes lit up, as did something deep down inside me. “Thank you!” All propriety forgotten, I flung my arms back around him; he laughed like bells, and hugged me back.
“You… never cease to amaze me,” he admitted. “You really do understand how risky this all is, don’t you?”
I shrugged in his comfortable embrace. “I’ll be lucky if I live to see thirty,” I said calmly. “With my temper, in a world where you can’t speak your mind, I probably wouldn’t anyway. At least I can live with pride.”
He chuckled. “Ah – can you kill with pride?”
I smiled sadly. “Yes. Because…” What was this feeling? Some exotic spiced tea…
“Do I really mean that much to you?” he asked slyly – or shyly? I couldn’t help but grin.
“Yeah, I guess you do…” He pulled away, enough to touch my face again, and he explored my expression solemnly. My eyes grew half-lidded, and I waited – blushing – wondering – daring… I didn’t realize that he’d leaned closer until a split second before his lips touched mine.
The scent of that sweet warm spice enveloped me, defying gravity, and I wondered if one of his books would’ve warned me that kisses were so soft, because I’d had no idea…
He abruptly sat bolt upright, and seemed to take note of the fact that I wasn’t breathing at the moment. “Oh, dear – was that wrong?” He grinned, looking pained. “Well, of course it was wrong, I mean – oh-”
A grin was forming on my face that threatened to split it in two, which I couldn’t seem to repress… “I didn’t think it was wrong at all,” I suggested bashfully. “In fact, I – I – could get used to it…”
We sat in the garden all through the glorious sunset and into the starlit hours beyond, making plans for the future.