A/N: And the wrap-up. Originally this chapter was as long as the first one, but after rereading, a lot of it was just repetition of the same thoughts. So I cut it down to the core. Enjoy!
Dust. The eternal enemy of a person inclined to keeping things spotless. Dust is everywhere, in our clothes, on our beds, in the very air we breathe. It's amazing how much dust can be collected in a house, and how much coughing fits it can cause when you stir it up. And stirring it up, I did.
When you're blind, you're aware of the existence of dust, but it's not much of an issue. I trusted the people helping an old lady keeping her house clean to take care of the worst of the dust. Other than that, it didn't bother me at all.
But when your vision is returned through a successful closed angle glaucoma surgery, suddenly there is dust everywhere. The doctors advised me to take it slow, but the dust bunnies were mocking me. So I took my trusty rag and dusted and vacuumed like never before. Every corner of my house was getting the royal treatment with various chemicals, mops, brooms, rags, vacuums and even floor wax.
It was a spring cleaning in fall, and since I had missed the last yellowing of the leaves, I made up for it by taking long walks in Central Park and simply enjoying the bustle of city life. I no longer had to take a walking stick or rely on sounds and muscle memory to navigate, for I could once again use these old eyes to guide me.
It was so much freedom at once I had melted like sugar in the rain the first time I took a walk. I had to sit at a bench for hours, just taking in the sights. I was afraid to blink, for I feared the darkness would return. The world is beautiful through new eyes, and I spent so much time outside I was actually getting a tan this late in the year.
But on this particular day I was stuck inside, busy dusting my bookcase. For a full year and a half I had no way of reading the books I had collected over a lifetime, but I couldn't find the heart to sell them, not even when I was being evicted. They held too many memories. The shadows were lengthening outside when I engaged in a long sneeze- and cough fest courtesy of book dust, and at the same time there were two taps on the door.
I managed to wheeze out between coughs. I opened the door, but the light outside set off another series of sneezes, and I had trouble focusing on who was gracing me with a visit.
"Geez, Mrs. M, you alright?"
That voice. One last sneeze forced its way out and I could finally focus on the being standing in the doorway. He was green. Dear Lord, he was so green and short and utterly alien it took me seven seconds to connect his voice with what he showed me he looked like.
I breathed almost soundlessly. He used his thick fingers to make a sweeping outwards gesture.
"In the flesh."
When the silence stretched on too long and I was busy gawking at the turtle-man, he arched his eyebrow-ridges.
"Like I said before, you can scream."
This snapped me out of my terribly rude staring and I felt my face flush with embarrassment. I stepped aside and made my own sweeping gesture, inviting him in.
"I'm sorry, Raphael, please come in. Tea?"
"As always, Mrs. M."
And like clockwork, Lucy appeared, meowing like crazy to demand attention and pettings from this visitor. Raphael crouched to pet the cat and I spun around to make my way to the kitchen. In order to compose myself I threw myself in the tea-making and listened as the strange creature talked to Lucy. His voice was so recognizable, but the moment I turned around all I'd see was this turtle-man petting the cat. And I didn't want that. Raphael didn't deserve that kind of treatment. But Dear Lord, it was hard.
I vowed that I would continue treating this young man like any other human I let into my house. He had earned my trust like I had earned his. The fact that I could now see his brown eyes and red mask instead of just hearing his voice should not ruin what we had.
I breathed in as deep as I could and turned around.
Raphael was still as alien-looking as when I first laid eyes on him, but this time I didn't gawk. I didn't stare, I tried looking at him like I would at any human. Raphael got up from his crouch and Lucy mewed in annoyance at the loss of pettings.
"So, what d'you think?"
His too-large mouth had no trouble forming the English words, and I wondered if he had any lips. Probably not, considering he evidently was a member of the reptiles. For a moment I had trouble collecting my thoughts, but mentally I squared my shoulders and composed a response.
"You look like a turtle. But like I said before, I also see a nice young man. I may need some time to get used to your… unique looks, but you're always welcome here."
The sound of boiling water made me turn around to silence it, but I'm sure I saw a small smile around those not-lips.
As I made tea we entered the familiar turf of telling the highlights of life since the last time we saw each other, and very soon it felt like I was once again blind and the turtle at my kitchen table was a buzz-cut young human. I placed the chipped blue cup in front of Raphael and sat down with my own cup of tea. I had finished telling him about the surgery and there were only quiet drinking sounds, until Raphael smirked.
"Did I ever tell you about how I was blinded for an evening while helping a kid save his mom from some gangsters?"
I shook my head and as Raphael told his tale it all slid into place. Though this young turtle may look alien and live a lifestyle unlike anything I had heard of, in my mind's eye he would always remain Raphael, the young man who helped an old lady in her time of need. My green guardian angel.