"Stop it!" yelled Terri. Her daughter lobbed a feather pillow in her general direction. It hit the door jamb and bounced down. Whitney was huddled in the corner of her room screaming. She was tearing at the carpet with her feet. Her mattress and dresser were overturned, and all her clothes were strewn about, some in shreds.
Mark, her father pushed past Terri and crossed the room to the corner in two strides. He picked up Whitney by the shoulders and shook her.
"Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!" he screamed.
"She can't hear you!" yelled Terri. "You're hurting her!"
Mark let go of Whitney. She slunk down and tried to wedge herself into the corner even more. She stopped screaming, but was sobbing in great quiet gulps, her hands over her head.
"This isn't right!" screamed Mark, his face coiled up in rage.
"She was sick, she can't help it!"
"She can damn well help it! You suck it up and take your hard knocks, you don't tear rooms apart and scream all day! Did she lose all common sense as well?"
"How would you feel if you suddenly couldn't see or hear? How the fuck would you like it Mark!"
Mark slapped Terri across the face and pushed himself out into the hall. Terri held her face.
"I'm going out," said Mark, calmly.
"Fine!" hissed Terri. She watched him stomp down the hall, and listened to him stomp down the steps and then slam the door. She waited until she heard the car squeal out of the driveway before she dared move. She ran to her daughter and put her arms around her. Whitney immediately started screaming.
"Go away! Go away! Leave me alone!" yelled Whitney, pushing her mother away.
"I just want you to know its going to be okay, sweetie," said Terri quietly, herself starting to sob. She tried to take Whitney's hand to write letters in her hand, but Whitney screamed and flailed.
Terri knelt in a pile of clothes next to the bed. She looked at Whitney, her eighteen year-old baby. The scar was still visible underneath the hair growing in on her head. They only had her home a few days from the hospital, when they prescription painkillers ran out and she was finally totally lucid. Terri looked up at the walls at the skewed paintings--Whitney's own. They were school assignments but they were filled with beautiful colors and interesting compositions. She had had such promise.
Terri got up and righted the mattress and straightened the sheets. She turned out the light and left the room.
Whitney relaxed against the walls. She shifted her position so she could touch a colder patch of wall. Eventually she stopped crying; the pressure on her sinuses grew too uncomfortable to continue, and she stared into void.
After a few hours she pushed herself away from the wall and crawled on hands and knees to the pile of clothes and rummaged through the items until she found a pair of bike shorts and a t-shirt and changed from her pajamas into those. She stood up and walked to the window. She bumped the bed and noticed that the mattress was righted. She stood still for a moment, thinking about her mother. Then she opened the window, and kicked out the screen which clattered to the ground. She climbed out, lowered herself, then when her arms were shaking she jumped and fell to the ground, rolling across the wet grass.
She stood up, barefoot, feeling the cool grass. She walked around the side of the house to the front yard and towards the sidewalk. When she reached it, she stood, feeling its hardness, the rough texture, the wetness of the collected pools of rain, and the cold night air. A dog barked in the distance. Another dog, farther away, returned the same bark in pitch and length. The first dog tried a new sequence, and that too was repeated back. Then there was silence. But Whitney didn't hear this. Instead she started to run down the sidewalk.
She jogged at first, feeling the pain of running barefoot on cement. She slowed down, trying to remember where the curb was before the first cross street. She slowed to a walk, then just to inching, feeling ahead with her toes. She found the curb, then stepped down. There were little bits of gravel and and leaf litter that stuck to the bottom of her feet.
She sat down on the curb like she did when she was a little girl with the neighbor kids. She extended her feet towards the asphalt. It was a little warmer than the sidewalk. She stood up, and breathed hard. Then she walked across the street, trying to remember how wide it was. Overestimated and bumped her foot against the curb, and went sprawling across the opposite sidewalk.
She laid there on the sidewalk, unmoving for a few minutes. The pain was euphoric. Finally she stood up, then turned and ran back across the street, and leapt up to the opposite curb, timing it exactly. When she landed safely on the sidewalk, she whooped and jumped up. Then she wondered if anyone was watching.
She ran back down the sidewalk, holding her hand out to graze the mailboxes of the neighbors. She counted until she arrived back at her own house. Then she turned around, and ran down the sidewalk and out into the road to the other sidewalk, and all the way back again. She smiled. She went back around the house. She found the screen and tossed it into the neighbor's backyard (which she knew was chock-a-block with junk). She walked around to the front door and felt across the lintel for the emergency key. She opened the door and quietly crept upstairs to her room where she curled up on the bed.
When her father returned he saw her muddy footprints and cleaned up them up before retiring to the sofa.
The next morning, Terri screamed when she discovered her daughter sleeping in a twist of sheets with dirty feet and bloodied knees. She woke her daughter, and tried to question her by writing on her hands, but Whitney just smiled. The day that followed was calmer. Whitney rambled about the house, feeling various objects, and saying very little.
The next night, Mark stormed out again. Whitney later crept downstairs and left by the door. She repeated the exercise of the previous night, then went a littler farther, running and falling and running. She did this every night for two months, until she had explored her way to the little block of town. She felt the glass windows of the furniture store, and the ticket kiosks for the movie theatre. She felt metal ribs of the compressed parked shopping carts of the discount grocery store. Finally she stopped at the bags of soil in front of the hardware store, and breathed in their stale earthiness. Beyond was miles of farmland and bad road. She faced the darkness down the road and thought this is it.
She felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned. The hand slid down her arm and towards her own hand. It was warm and large. It turned over her hand and a finger touched her palm and wrote "It's dad."
"I know," she said. "You've been watching me this whole time, haven't you?"
"Yes," said the finger.
"Are you mad at me?"
"Take me home?"