Life is easy.
Yeah. Whoever wrote that line clearly lives in a cave.
He was late. Again.
I passed the time – time I should be spending on a subway home – by picking at my jeans, discovering new flaws and holes the farther my fingers traveled.
Note to self. Buy new jeans.
“Rose!” Ignore him. He deserves this remember?
“Rosie! Rose, come on, don’t be like that.” He grunted, panting breathlessly behind me. Even though I didn’t see him, I could tell he ran here by his deafening huffs.
“This is the third time, Jed. Apologies simply aren’t gonna cut it anymore.” There was a moment of silence.
“Look. Blame Cora! She was holding me back, I swear! She would’ve locked the classroom doors if I hadn’t gotten out of there when I could.”
“Whatever.” I muttered relentlessly. I’ve had it. Jedidiah knew just how important he was for me to live my life. He knows that.
“Rosie…” He groaned, each tap of his foot grating against my nerves. “OK. How ‘bout this; I’ll treat you to Ike’s? Come on, you know I know how much you love ice cream.” The offer stood. Tempting… but not enough, “…and fries?” He threw in after I said nothing.
“Deal.” Then I shamelessly stuck out my hand and awaited his next move.
“Rose.” He stated, almost with a laugh. With that, he grabbed my hand and led me down the path I had taken every single day after school was over. Jedidiah was… my guide you could say. This had become a daily ritual since… well since ever.
I guess that’s what comes with the package when you have a twin.
Whilst climbing into the overly crowded – as usual – subway, he murmured a light, “Watch your step.”
“Jus’ saying.” He moaned, like my usual rebellion was nothing new. It was a snug fit, I could even hear the music from the headphones of a stranger next to me, but the ride sufficed. Atlanta’s metro station never failed to impress me with its over abundance of life. Every time, I had to squeeze awkwardly in-between strangers with only Jedidiah’s grasp to pull me through. I always ended up stepping on something or someone.
“You know, Rosie, one day I’m not going to be here. You’re gonna have to survive by yourself, and you’re definitely not gonna have anyone to warn you if you stop at the wrong city. ” I had a snide remark thought up in my mind when the possibilities of Jedidiah not being around infiltrated my thoughts.
He was right. What would it be like without him? My hands clasped and unclasped together in my lap as fear draped over my expression.
“You’re not… leaving, Jed… right?”
Nothing but the sound of the rickety subway filled my ears until I felt his arm around my shoulder.
“Now, how could I leave my favorite sister?” Ah…. Reassurance. “Oh! Our stop!” He slipped his fingers through mine once more and we darted off the subway the moment it stopped. “Watch your step!” He commanded again.
Some people wonder if I get tired of it.
They ask me if I ever just want to give up.
I tell them the same thing.
“And give up Jedidiah? Never.”
“What’re you in the mood for, Rosie? Chocolate? Strawberry?
“What?” He questioned at my unusual suggestion.
“Come on, Jed. You’ve never been this happy in centuries. I’m warning you. It’s Cora or me.” He chuckled lowly while dragging me down the street.
“Not gonna happen. She’s just my math tutor. We’re not doing this again.” I snickered, obviously not believing his lies.
“Really? Jed. I heard you singing in the shower last night. You wrote the girl a song? Face it - you’re in love.” I stated as a-matter-of-factly. He moaned at my merciless taunting, but he knew I was right. It was only a matter time before I would be seeing less and less of him. 16 years was already pushing it.
“Stay with me, Rose. Ice cream flavors.” He snapped annoyingly in my face. I never liked the sound of snapping. You could imagine what a joy I was on Independence Day.
“Right.” I refocused the moment we stepped into the air-conditioned wonderland. Scents overwhelmed my brain and my skin immediately tensed at the cold. This was my type of hangout spot. Air con? Comfortable chairs? Ice cream? This is as good as it gets! Many wonder if I’m insane, but it’s not everyday I get this treat. It’s back to the one-bedroom apartment after this.
“Ah, what’s this? My usual customers, I see?”
“Rose! Oh you get more and more beautiful each day. Two usuals?”
“Wouldn’t have it any other way!”
Ike was a curt old man. He started Ike’s Ice Cream Parlor way before Jed and I were born. We became family friends, and I could never stay away. I loved it here. You know that feeling of stepping into a place where you just belonged? There was no one to tell me otherwise here. No one told me I couldn’t or can’t. I know. It’s a lot for an ice cream joint, but it’s home.
“One Rocky Road for the gentleman, and one triple chocolate banana split for the lovely lady. Oh! Let’s not forget the fries. Nice to see you kids around.” Once the bowl was securely locked within my grasp, I was headed out the door to enjoy my sundae in the warm spring air.
“Thanks Ike!” I chimed.
Jed paid and soon he accompanied me, and we headed down to our shabby little apartment on main.
“Am I forgiven?” It took me a moment to regain my memory of what the heck he was on about since I was so lost in my chocolaty dessert.
“Um… One condition.” He remained quiet, so I assumed he was giving me room to speak. “There’s this thing…” I balanced the bowl of melting ice cream in one hand and used the other to dig through my front pocket for the feeling of paper. I slipped it out and handed it to him. I held my breath as he read.
“Saturday morning, nine o’clock, swim team try-outs?” He gawked.
“No. No. Just- ugh! Rose! Please, we’ve been through this! You’re not doing it! It’s not safe!” I should’ve expected that.
“Just... Just trust me! They have trainers, everything’s legit, I could even compete!” I prayed the look on my face would move him but no – he was acting like the almighty Jedidiah again whenever I wanted to do something, or anything for that matter.
“I said no! Why don’t you trust me? Mom left me in charge of you. I know you can’t do this, and it’s not worth the risk!”
“Mom said that 12 years ago, Jed. I can handle myself.”
“You know what? Go ahead then, if you’re so capable. Prove it. Go home by yourself.” The second I felt his arm away from mine was the moment I felt vulnerability. The air was empty around me, and the streets were silent.
“Jed!” I gasped, stepping violently backwards with no sense of direction.
“Rose!” He never saw it coming. There was an obvious change in atmosphere when I stepped off the sidewalk and onto the pavement. The honking trapped me in a sea of sound and confusion. It was growing in volume, and the horror in the air was only a small indicator that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The calamity, the panic, and my panging heartbeat were what? They were the sure signs of my death. What a way to die; at least, until Jedidiah grabbed my wrist.
The breeze of the passing car whipped my hair in all directions and I could feel it slapping against my skin. My brother yanked me to his chest, right next to his overactive heartbeat. It all happened in seconds. But it would’ve been a second longer for me to have died. Then things were quiet.
“We’re going home.” Jedidiah whispered. “Now.”
I woke up especially early the next morning. I grabbed the flyer for the swim try-outs as well as… well… what do need to try out for a swim team? I guess I’ll find out. I counted the steps from my bedroom, hands tracing against the wall, down the steps, and next to the doorway. In moments, I had my cane as well as a new sense of reality. If I didn’t go for it now, I’d regret it for the rest of my life, and even that might not last long. Some might think I’m crazy. Some might ask why. Why?
Because I am Rose Crawford, and I am blind.
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