My eyes still hurt when I awoke. I reached for them, but just as my fingers touched the gauze a pair of hands took hold of mine gently yet firmly. They were soft hands, and slight. A woman’s?
A soothing voice confirmed my thought: “You shouldn’t touch them, it slows the healing.”
Healing? I brought my hands slowly back to my sides. The bedding was the finest I had ever felt. It was daytime, I could tell by the warmth of the sun shining on me. A warm breeze floated in from…gardens? Then I remembered.
“How long have I been here?”
“Just since last night. I’m sure you must be hungry. If you like, I can guide you to the toilet and then to breakfast.”
“Thank you. And, please, you are…?”
“Today I am your nurse.”
“Tomorrow too, if you need one.”
“And if not?”
“I will still be here, for I am also a resident.”
“No! You’re blind as well?”
“Yes, of course.”
“I’m sorry. How long?”
“He had me blinded in the year 1357. So, what now…fifteen years?”
“Ah, so you must be Deidra. I’m honored to meet you…I suppose.”
“As am I to meet you,” she said, laughing as she added: “I suppose!”
“I’m sorry, that was ungentlemanly of me. I’m not quite used to having been blinded yet. I am honored, though, to meet the woman who wove the tapestries that hang in the prince’s great hall. People say they are the most magnificent tapestries ever made. And having seen them myself, I agree. Oh, I’m so sorry,” I add quickly. “There I go again.”
“Not to worry,” Deidra said, and somehow I could tell she was smiling. “But do tell me about your painting. The prince only blinds those of us who create something that is truly great – so great that he does not want the artist to make something even greater for somebody else. Since he had you blinded yesterday, I’m to suppose that you created something worthy of having your own sight taken. Please describe it for me, will you?”
“It would be a pleasure, but it may take some time. You mentioned something about the toilet and then breakfast?”
“Oh, of course! Please forgive me, you must be starving. Here, let’s untie that thread from around your wrist and mine. Now that you’re awake I no longer need it to let me know when you’re moving. Here, take my hand and I’ll lead you. You’ll get to know your way around soon enough, and eventually you’ll learn to cook and take care of the grounds like the rest of us.”
“Oh, yes. The prince has given us this estate to have for ourselves, but only we who have been blinded are allowed on its grounds. He’s afraid that some of us still create art, even if we can’t see it.”
She didn’t answer, but as she squeezed my hand I could tell that she was smiling.
The prompt that inspired this piece of flash fiction can be found here.