She met them on her first night out alone. Mother fretted over driving the car, but college loomed and so did adulthood. Father brushed her rosy cheek and pressed the keys into her hand.
“House is a home, not a cage,” he told her. And away Lucy went, not quite happy, but happier than being at home under Mother’s watchful eye.
Perhaps she drew him to her with her own strangeness: head always down as if searching for a lost bit of change. She wore her dresses too long for someone so young. Lucy was not ugly, not pretty. She was not much of anything to speak of, except trapped by a mother afraid of the world both day and night.
The Vorhang stayed tucked in the shadows of buildings. They thrived in alleyways that smelt of corruption and piss and hopelessness. He called to her in whispers as dry as leaves in autumn as she trudged passed, an armload of library books. She was singing a Partridge Family song under her breath, almost happy as she wound her way to her father’s car.
Like a sightless salamander she saw once on Discovery Channel, his face was smooth as his cheeks, where his eyes should have been. Bone-white and hairless. Pretty mouth, but his expression was so downcast in the moonshadow. Maybe she should have been afraid, but that glumness was very much like her own.
He sniffed the air—his way of taking in the sight of the girl. Lucy became acutely aware of the sweat smell of the pits of her arms and the trickle of wetness between her almost nonexistent breasts and her thighs.
The boy-thing, made for sex and not much else, moved from the dark. He took her hand—hot skin against cool.
“What’s your name?” he whispered.
She told him and he frowned even deeper.
“You are a gift from the sun. She should be named Heliodoros.”
Lucy liked that. She had never felt like a gift to anyone before.
He was Dallan and he told her, “I like the smell of your books. Especially the old ones.” She liked the smell, too, she answered.
Almost happy, she returned home to Mother’s complaints and Father’s silence.
“Where were you, so late, Lucy?”
She did not answer. She was Heliodoros now.
Lucy returned night after night to the shadow of the alleys, loving Dallan’s pretty blindness and his smooth body that had never been kissed by daylight. They sat on someone’s cardboard house beneath the glow of a haughty pink neon sign that screamed “topless” all day and all night.
Heliodoros read to him, squinting hard in shadow, and Dallan cried every night when she told him, “It’s time for me to go.”
Dry and choking and somehow more tragic that tears were not shed. She kissed his forehead and his cheeks and the smooth places where his eyes should have been.
At home and Mother’s shouts. “Who is the boy? Why would anyone love the likes of you?”
“Why do smell of darkness and garbage? Why is your dress stained?”
why, why, whywhywhy
One night Father followed Lucy to the alley. He watched, silent as always, from shadows even deeper than those in which the Vorhang dwelled. He returned home brokenhearted, for he knew he had lost his daughter to the shadows. Yet he was also happy. He had never seen the girl smile in the sunlight. In shadows, her smile glowed.
When Lucy came home, her father met her with a book of Saint Lucy of Syracuse. He brushed her pale cheek with a kiss and pressed a silver spoon into her hand. “Saint Lucy was blessed in light, my dear. In blindness she saw and became free.”
“Time for you to become free.”
In the shadows of her bedroom, Lucy worked the spoon around the pretty valleys of her eyes until she wept blood. In the end, she was not sad when the world became very dark. It was what she wanted, after all. She placed the smooth orbs of her vision into a satin box that smelled of rose petals. Tomorrow, she would offer it to Dallan.
Face a sticky mask of red and eyelids only empty silk pillowcases, she fell asleep. She dreamt of eyeless salamanders swimming in her womb.
Donna Burgess is a realtor who enjoys surfing and all facets of art, from painting to photography. She has been married for eighteen years and has two children. She is currently pursuing her MFA in creative writing, in the hope of leaving the world of real estate behind to focus on writing and teaching. Find out more at: www.donnataylorburgess.com