The Walking Stick

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Chapter 14: The Visit

Dr. Holt took Pearl home so she could get acquainted with the new four-legged member of the family. Much to Pearl and Dr. Holt’s surprise, Susan and Grandma were very receptive to Hope. They couldn’t take their hands off the kitten, and immediately started discussing all the things they needed and wanted to buy for her.

“Well, let’s all get in the car and head up to the pet store. We can take turns picking out things for Hope. Afterward, we can grab some lunch,” Dr. Holt chimed in.

“Great! Let me get my purse!” Grandma said excitedly.

“I’m in. Give me one second to freshen up!” Susan shouted as she made her way to the bathroom.

“Pearl, how about you? Interested in coming?” Dr. Holt asked.

“I think I’ve had enough of the outside world for one day. Besides, I should stay here in case that girl shows up.” Pearl was hesitant to mention Katherine’s name. She was not 100% sure Katherine would show up, and Pearl did not want to get her hopes up.

“Katherine, right? Your mom told me about her this morning. That was nice of her to return your walking stick. Okay, have fun. Enjoy the kitten. I’m sure when we come back that little fur ball will be overloaded with new toys and all sorts of junk. I can already tell your mom is going to spoil her rotten!” Dr. Holt kissed Pearl on the forehead and headed out the door with her mom and Grandma.

After everyone left, Pearl sat down on the floor in her bedroom and gently took Hope onto her lap. Within minutes, Hope’s belly was rising up and down like a seesaw. The kitten was fast asleep, and the sound of her slumber made Pearl sleepy. Pearl reached and pulled down her pink quilt from off the bed. She wrapped herself and Hope snugly in the quilt. They both rested contently until the doorbell rang.

“Oh my gosh! It’s her!” Pearl said to Hope. Pearl quickly shot up, placed Hope in one hand, and grabbed her walking stick with the other. Pearl still had the pink quilt draped around her shoulders, and it dragged on the ground like a train of a wedding dress as she made her way to the front door.

“Hi,” Pearl said casually as she opened the front door.

“Hi. Are you sick?” Katherine asked. Katherine stood on the front porch with her car keys dangling from her right hand, and a large red leather hobo bag slung over her left shoulder. She wore white cheerleader shoes, red mesh practice shorts, and a white sports tank. Her hair was in a simple braid, pinned in a messy bun at the base of her neck. She wore small gold hoop earrings and a gold heart link bracelet around her left wrist. Her nails were done in a French manicure, and the ring on her finger was a gold .50 carat weight diamond band (a gift from her parents on her sixteenth birthday). Katherine was put together from top to bottom and looked like a doll that every little girl would love to purchase.

Pearl was relieved that it was actually Katherine at the door. She recognized her voice and the silhouette of her frame. Pearl thought about what she must look like with the blanket wrapped around her - not to mention, her lifeless face and hair giving away the fact that she had just awakened. “I know I look pretty rotten, but I am not sick. I was just dozing off,” Pearl managed to say embarrassingly.

“Oh, I am sorry. Would you like for me to leave?” Katherine asked as she stepped back a few steps.

Pearl heard Katherine’s feet shuffle away from the door. “No! I mean, I am sorry. Please come on in. What horrible manners I have. I must still be in a fog: I fell asleep with my new kitten.” Pearl knew she was babbling, and she wished she had a big roll of tape to shut her mouth. “No way will this girl ever want to become friends with me – I am such a disaster,” Pearl thought to herself as she moved out of the way so Katherine could come inside.

“A new kitten!” Katherine exclaimed. “May I hold her?” Katherine made her way into the front corridor of Pearl’s house, dropped her purse and keys on the entry chair, and waited for Pearl to delicately place the kitten into her outstretched hands. “Ahh, I love her! She is so tiny and adorable!”

“Thanks,” Pearl said a little surprised that Katherine was so comfortable and cool about everything. Katherine seemed to be completely relaxed, and Pearl wished she could mirror Katherine’s level of ease. “My room is down the hall to your left – the door with the big pink frame on the outside.”

“Okay. Why do you have an empty frame on the outside of your door?” Katherine asked as she walked down the hall.

“It is just a silly reminder to me to keep creating. I’m still becoming who I’m meant to be – I’m an unfinished piece of art,” Pearl said humbly. Again, Pearl was uncomfortable that she unabashedly was so open; yet, she was entirely out of practice when it came to talking to anyone outside her family. “Just keep your answers simple!” Pearl scolded herself.

“That’s not silly. Actually, that is really cool, Pearl.” Katherine was beginning to think Pearl was smarter than she, definitely deeper. Katherine was starting to feel insecure around Pearl; still, Katherine was intrigued by her. To Katherine, Pearl was like a diamond found in the mud: an undiscovered jewel of immeasurable worth that had been discarded because it was thought to be just mud. Pearl was much, much more, and Katherine wanted to find out what made her so unique.

“Thanks. Go ahead; you can go inside.” Pearl’s heart was beating so loudly that she tightened her quilt around her heart to muffle the sound. Once inside her room, Pearl instinctively looped her walking stick on the doorknob.

“You have a great room. Wow! That is an awesome picture above your bed with all the descriptions of the colors. Did you do that?” Katherine was impressed by Pearl’s artistic soulfulness.

“Yes, I did, kind of,” Pearl said happily. She was glad Katherine seemed to be taking a genuine interest in her. At the same time, Pearl felt a little overwhelmed at having a stranger look at into her private world, but at the same time, she felt joyful and vulnerable.

Pearl heard Katherine take a seat on her squeaky bed. Also, she could hear Hope purring as Katherine petted her softly. “Her name is Hope,” Pearl said.

“Hope. A perfect name,” Katherine replied slowly.

Pearl thought she heard a hint of sadness in Katherine’s reply. Pearl folded the pink quilt and took a seat next to Katherine. “My doctor gave her to me this morning. Actually, he is also my mom’s boyfriend. They are pretty serious.”

“Your doctor? Are you for sure you are not sick?” Katherine knew Pearl had vision problems, but she did not know how to approach the subject or if there was something more.

“No, I am not sick. He is not that kind of doctor. He is an eye doctor, a retinal specialist to be exact.” Pearl sat with her back leaning against the wall and her legs dangling off her bed. She waited for Katherine’s next question, anticipating a round of questions to follow about her blindness.

Instead, Katherine continued, not pushing Pearl on the subject of her eyes. “You know, Pearl. I remember you. You went to my school two years ago. After I dropped off your stick yesterday, I went home and looked you up in my yearbook. We were in the ninth grade together. We didn’t know one another well, but I do remember that you were very smart.” Katherine sat quietly waiting to see if Pearl remembered her too.

Pearl immediately felt her body tense. She did not want to meet anyone that remembered her when she was “normal.” Pearl felt she had become a freak of nature, and the thought of Katherine knowing who she was before her vision loss made Pearl feel defensive and ugly. Pearl racked her brain trying to remember Katherine. “Katherine? Katherine Sparks?” Pearl repeated to herself. The name slowly inched its way into Pearl’s memory, and within seconds Katherine’s image appeared in front of Pearl like a movie clip.

“I do remember you! You were a cheerleader, very popular. And yes, we did not know one another,” Pearl said more sharply than she would have liked. Pearl recalled Katherine as being very outgoing, having guys tripping over themselves to get her attention, and extraordinarily good-looking. Back in ninth grade, Pearl had grouped Katherine in with a bunch of stuck-up girls: they all looked the same, acted the same, and ignored her just the same. Never in a million years would Pearl have predicted someone like Katherine Sparks would be hanging out in her bedroom.

“Yeah, well, I am still a cheerleader, and I guess I am still popular too. But it isn’t always so great.” The last words Katherine spoke trailed off quietly. Katherine felt a little guilty being in Pearl’s house. After all, she never befriended her previously, and she probably wouldn’t even now if she were still attending Northrich Hills High School. But since Pearl was not known to any of her friends, Katherine considered Pearl to be safe – an open set of ears that could listen without backstabbing her or damaging her reputation. Oddly, Katherine didn’t feel judged in Pearl’s presence, and a small part of Katherine liked that Pearl couldn’t see well. It was another level of comfort to Katherine - one less person to notice or scrutinize her looks.

“So, are you still going to Northrich Hills?” Pearl asked. “Dumb question,” Pearl said to herself. Pearl was the one that left public school, not Katherine: everyone else continued on course, as expected. To Pearl, Katherine optimized the teenage girl’s wish-life. “She must think I am pathetic,” Pearl thought.

“Yeah, still go. Hard to believe our senior year starts in less than two months! Why did you drop out?” Katherine knew the second she spoke that she had asked in the wrong way. “She must think I am pathetic,” Katherine thought.

“I didn’t really drop out. My grandmother is homeschooling me. I decided that was the best thing for me after I got diagnosed with an eye disease. Mr. Wyatt was actually the teacher that discovered I had a problem with my eyes.” Pearl crossed her legs and twisted her fingers around the bottom of the right leg of her jeans. She was waiting for Katherine to get up and leave. Pearl knew Katherine probably had lots of friends, and she doubted Katherine would want to add a blind girl to her list of best buds.

“You know, some strange stories were circulating about why you dropped off the face of the planet. I remember some said you got cancer and were near death - some even said you had died. I even heard you moved out-of-town because you got pregnant!” Katherine laughed.

“Pregnant? Now that is funny! I haven’t even kissed a boy!” Pearl really wished she had not said that aloud. “Well, thankfully, I don’t have cancer, and I am not dead!” Pearl and Katherine both laughed. As their laughter warmed the room, their rigid social differences began to melt like an ice sculpture in the sun. Here in Pearl’s room, no one would have ever conceived this unique relationship would bloom into a remarkable friendship.

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