The idea for this story came when I watched an old "The Outer Limits" rerun on SciFi. It was the story of a college professor who had lost his sight in a plane accident that killed his parents when he was a child. This, of course, made me wonder what would have happened to Daniel if he had lost his eyesight. So…
Mavis Henderson sighed as she flipped through the file on her desk. How in the world would she be able to place this eight-year-old boy with a permanent family? Especially one who was legally blind. No small wonder that his grandfather hadn't wanted to take on the responsibility of a handicapped child.
Daniel sat in the hallway, waiting. The last thing he had seen was the death of his parents in the accident that had also left him legally blind. That scene played over and over again in his head. After all, it wasn't as though he would ever see anything again to replace that image.
He saw his parents under the cover stone, directing the crane operator. He heard the squeal of metal against metal, the groan of an expanding link, and the snap as it failed. He remembered the smell and taste of the limestone dust wafting through the air. And the last thing he would ever see clearly was the sight of the cover stone tilting when the chain snapped, the pillars tumbling down and he knew he was running toward them, screaming in terror. Then – nothing until he awoke in the hospital, blind and orphaned.
Then came the weeks, months of hospitalization, of being alone and being afraid. Nick had been by briefly for the funeral and then off again to the dense jungles of South America, always searching for new discoveries in old places. He'd come back once more when Daniel was well enough to leave the hospital. Daniel had thought that Nick had come to take him and he could be part of a family again. But Nick had taken him out for breakfast and explained that he couldn't take Daniel. Nick kept on talking, but Daniel blocked him out after his grandfather had refused to take him home. He hated the smell of waffles.
Daniel turned his head toward the sound of the door grinding open on creaky hinges. He listened carefully to the click of Mrs. Henderson's heals on the linoleum tiles. He could see when her shadow passed over his face as she blocked the flickering florescent lights. He didn't raise his face to her. He knew he would not be able to see the sympathy in her eyes or her hand raised when she brushed the hair off his forehead.
Mrs. Henderson dropped down onto the wooden bench next to the child, still too thin from his time in the hospital, draping her arm across his shoulders. Daniel tensed under the unexpected touch and tried to make himself smaller.
A glint of sorrow passed quickly over her face as she turned to face the child. "Daniel, I haven't been able to find a permanent home for you, but I did find a young couple who is willing to take you for awhile. He's in the Air Force and will probably be reassigned in about a year or so. His name is Captain George Hammond and his wife's name is Ruby. The have two daughters a little younger than you. They'll be here to pick you up in a few minutes."
Mrs. Henderson picked up Daniel's suitcase containing all that was left from his real life. So much had been lost while he had been in the hospital for several months. He still had his father's last journal, but nothing of his mother's, save for a few photographs - that he'd never be able see again. His entire life was in that pathetic plastic suitcase.
"The Forth of July and your birthday are coming up in a couple of weeks. I'll bet Captain and Mrs. Hammond plan something special for those days," she said as she opened the front door of the facility.
Daniel followed her out the door into the hot, heavy air of the New York afternoon. He counted the 12 steps down onto the sidewalk and settled himself on the bottom one. He sat and listened to the traffic whooshing past. He saw shadows zipping by and could even feel the breeze that was stirred up by the speeding cars on the airless day.
He hoped the family he was going to would have a dog. His parents had always promised him a dog. He vaguely wondered how old he had to be to get a seeing-eye dog. The only experience he'd had with blind people were the beggars on the streets in Egypt and he gave an inward shudder at the thought that he might become like one of them; dirty, bedraggled and sore ridden.
Mrs. Henderson watched him closely and saw Daniel withdraw further into himself. She saw him close his eyes behind the dark sunglasses and quiver gently. Her heart broke beneath her civil servant suit and she had to stop herself from gathering up the child and sheltering him in her apartment. She glanced up just in time to see a battered, old station wagon pull up to the curb with a young couple and two girls in the back seat. The Hammonds were here.
Newly promoted Captain George Hammond bounded out of the car and zipped around to the passenger's side to open the door for his wife. He gave her his hand to help her out and then opened the back door for his daughters. The two strawberry blond girls slid out shyly and waited by the car while their parents moved toward the woman and boy waiting on the steps.
George held out his right hand in greeting to Mrs. Henderson while his left held his wife's elbow. After the adults completed their introductions, Ruby Hammond moved toward the young blond boy.
"Daniel, I'm Ruby Hammond. You may call me Ruby." She sat on the step next to him, careful not to move too quickly into his space.
Mrs. Henderson sighed and pulled George to the side. "He still hasn't spoken a word since the accident. I'm really hoping that being back with a family will help him. You don't know how grateful I am that you and your wife are willing to take on a disabled child."
George stiffened slightly at the term "disabled." He and Ruby had read Daniel's file and knew exactly what they were letting themselves in for. His sister-in-law, Ruby's younger sister, had also been blinded in an accident and they knew how tough a road Daniel had ahead of him.
"There are no school records, as Daniel was taught by his mother on dig sites, so we have no idea how far behind he is compared to other children his age. The New York Institute of Special Education will take him from September through June for a five-day program, so he'll only be with you on week-ends and holidays."
George nodded tersely, covering his annoyance with the professional woman's apparent callous attitude toward Daniel. He faced his wife and Daniel, watching the boy's face for any sign of emotion. He gestured to his daughters for them to come over to the group.
When they reach him, he brought them over to Daniel and squatted down in front of the boy. "Daniel, I'm George Hammond, Ruby's husband, and this is our oldest daughter, Rachel, and our youngest, Julie." Each girl reached out and touched Daniel on the forearm as they were introduced. Having a blind aunt had familiarized them with Daniel's needs.
"Well, shall we pack up and head back home?" George's southern drawl softened the crisp words as he reached down for the suitcase next to Daniel. "Is this everything?"
Mrs. Henderson nodded and moved to Daniel. She grasped his hand in hers and leaned down. "Good-bye, Daniel. I'll be coming to visit you next week to see how things are going for you, okay?"
Daniel nodded and took a step toward the car, but his foot caught on a crack in the sidewalk and he tumbled forward. Ruby's hand darted forward at the last second and grasped his shoulder, keeping him from landing face-first on the hot sidewalk. She helped him stand, gave him her arm to hold on to and led him to the back seat of the car. He scooted over to the far side and waited while the rest of the Hammond family entered the car.
"Daniel, we live here in New York City even though George is stationed in New Jersey. We're here because my family lives here in Brooklyn." Ruby searched his face for a sign of any response. "When school starts you'll be staying at the school Monday through Thursday nights and be home with us on the weekends."
She and George glanced at each other and she turned back to Daniel. He shrugged and turned his attention back to the city traffic. "My younger sister was blinded in an accident when she was fourteen. When we heard about you, we hoped our family would be a good fit for you."
Daniel sat with his face turned toward the window, toward the light that he could faintly see. He nodded to show that he had heard, but he didn't respond.
Ruby sighed and acknowledged to herself that this would be as difficult as she feared. Her sister hadn't lost her family when she flew off the trampoline and hit her head. Daniel had lost everything he'd ever known.
A/N: I couldn't find a reference to General Hammond's wife's name on either Gateworld or Wikipedia. Ruby is the name of Don S. Davis's wife in real life, so I used that.