The Walking Stick

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Chapter 19: 60th Anniversary Card

The next day Pearl sat up in bed and counted, “Nine more days until my senior year starts,” she said aloud. “What in the world am I going to do with my life after this year?” she wondered. Her thoughts skipped to Landon. Dinner last night was wonderful: the food, the company, everything. Landon told her at the end of the evening that she looked beautiful. Pearl felt beautiful, but when he told her so butterflies soared in her belly for hours afterward.

“Pearl Livingston,” Pearl giggled, “definitely has a good ring to it. Crazy thought. Don’t get carried away, Pearl!” she scolded herself. Pearl got out of bed and hopped into the shower. Katherine had left all the makeup from the night before on her desk, so Pearl carefully determined by feel which shape represented what makeup piece. She practiced putting the makeup on, skipping the steps she was unsure of or the pieces she couldn’t distinguish. All in all, Pearl thought the finished product felt pretty good. She slipped on her puffy pink house shoes, flipped her hair in a messy ponytail, and tied her pink chenille robe snugly around her waist. Pearl grabbed her walking stick and quietly made her way to the kitchen, not wanting to wake up Grandma. As she was pouring herself a cup of orange juice, the doorbell rang.

“Who in their right mind would be ringing the doorbell at this time in the morning?” Pearl said aloud. “Probably some kid is selling magazines or trash bags,” she guessed as she quickly made her way to the front door.

“Yeesss,” Pearl said in a disgusted, theatrical manner as she swung open the door.

“Uh, Hi, Pearl. It’s me, Landon,” a deep voice said. Landon stood in front of Pearl wearing light tan cargo shorts and a wide-striped green and navy polo with worn brown sandals. Pearl could hear his sandals shifting back and forth in a nervous pattern.

“Oh, God, you are not serious, are you?” Pearl thought as she looked up at the sky and turned her back away from Landon. Pearl slowly turned back and faced Landon. “Had she gotten her makeup right?” she thought. “How bad does my hair look?” she asked herself, “and my breath must be horrendous!” Pearl cringed at the thought of a purple haze coming from her mouth as she spoke.

“Landon? I’m sorry, I thought you were a kid selling something. What time is it?” she asked too quickly.

“It’s kind of early, I know. Almost 8:30 a.m. to be exact. I thought you would be up getting ready to go on your walk. Katherine told me you walk every morning at this time. I am guessing from the pink slippers that you are not planning on walking today, huh?” Landon said in a cute deep voice.

“No. I was taking this morning off. I sort of had a late night last night,” she said smiling. “But, a walk sounds good. Give me five minutes. You can sit out on the porch. I’ll be right back,” she said, not waiting for a response.

Pearl quickly brushed her teeth and changed into a gray pair of cutoff sweatpants and a light blue t-shirt. She was just about to take off her house shoes when, in a moment of spontaneity, she decided to keep them on. “Why not,” Pearl thought, “he noticed them, something different and fun.”

“Ready!” Pearl said as she made her way out the front door with her walking stick.

“Real attractive slippers,” Landon laughed. “Next time I’ll have to wear mine. My grandmother got me a pair of brown corduroy slippers last Christmas. They are hideous!”

“Hey, don’t knock my slippers. I happen to love them,” Pearl said light-heartedly. “Come on, let’s get going. You wanted to go for a walk, right?”

“Yes, I want to go for a walk. Hey, just asking, do you use that stick everywhere you go?” Landon knew Pearl was now legally blind, and he assumed the stick she held was equal to the traditional “white cane” that he had seen blind people use in the movies. But unlike many of the movies, Landon was impressed with how gracefully Pearl made her way down the sidewalk of Maple Lane. To Landon, Pearl’s movements with her walking stick were fluent, familiar, and instinctive, like an old married couple’s relationship. Landon found himself fixated on Pearl’s effortless stride, her lines, her scent, and her natural beauty.

“Yes, this old thing takes me anywhere I want to go. You know, I found this at Blue Eagle Park that summer I met you. I don’t know if you remember, but you recommended that I take a walk on a cutout path down from your cabin. I got a little lost on that path, and, anyway, let’s just say I was led to the most incredible tree I’d ever seen. This stick is actually a root of that tree. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I swear it’s true. When I got home, I painted it. It’s been my eyes for a long time now.” Pearl could feel Landon looking at her, and instead of being nervous she surprisingly was at ease and confident. Pearl liked Landon looking at her, and it felt natural to have him at her side.

“That’s awesome, Pearl. I had just walked on that path the day before we met. I didn’t get lost, but I thought the path itself was magnificent. I love nature. Nothing beats natural beauty,” Landon said as he reached out for Pearl’s hand.

Pearl stopped walking. She had never held hands with a guy her age before, and she was secretly afraid her palms were sweaty. “Focus on something else,” she told herself. “Thank you, I think,” Pearl managed to say.

“You’re welcome. And, yes, that was a compliment,” Landon chuckled. “I did something last night after dinner. You might think it is brainless, but I thought I would give it a try. Just tell me if I am making a complete blockhead out of myself,” Landon said shyly.

“I’ll let you know as soon as I know what you did,” Pearl smiled. “Go on….”

“Well, here….” Landon handed Pearl a card. While Pearl opened the card, Landon started explaining, “I know you can’t read a regular card, so I picked one out that was made from the thickest paper. It is really a 60th-anniversary card. Anyway, on-line there is this site where you can type in what you want to write and it will translate it into Braille. You are supposed to be able to print out the Braille message and put small drops of glue on each of the black dots so you can read it. I glued my message inside your card. At least, that’s what I hope I did. You let me know,” Landon said nervously.

Pearl pulled the card out from the envelope. Her hands were shaking. “So much for feeling calm and confident,” she said to herself. Pearl couldn’t believe the effort Landon had taken in making this card in such a short time since dinner last night. Pearl began to lightly move her fingertips across the raised glue bumps:

(Braille image unavailable for this electronic upload.)

Pearl remained silent. Her emotions were tugging at her heart, and she couldn’t help but let out a single tear of gratitude for Landon’s sincerity and kindness. “Yes,” Pearl said gently. “Yes, Landon, I will.”

“Great,” Landon said as he let out a big sigh. “But, wait, just to make sure I did the whole Braille thing correctly, what is it that you are saying yes to?” he smiled.

“Yes, Landon Livingston, I will go out with tonight,” Pearl said as she squeezed his hand.

Landon agreed to pick Pearl up at seven o’clock that evening. Pearl was unsure about going out and eventually expressed to Landon her concerns. “Landon, you need to know that I don’t go out much. I am a creature of habit, and I can’t move around quickly in a crowd. It is different taking me out than it would be if you took out another girl. I do want to go out with you, but I just need you to know that I am a little scared.” Pearl was relieved that she told Landon how she felt. She would rather him know now than for her to try to pretend to be something she wasn’t, or couldn’t be.

“I hear you, and I’ve got it covered. Don’t worry about a thing. And don’t dress up. Jeans and t-shirt will be perfect,” Landon said as he told Pearl good-bye.

Pearl walked back into her house, giddy and full of energy. Grandma was up fixing her a plate of bacon and eggs. “Whatcha got there, Pearl?” Grandma asked, eyeing the card in Pearl’s hands.

“A 60th-anniversary card,” Pearl said with a wide grin. She sat down with Grandma at the kitchen table and told her all about her walk, how she had met Landon at Blue Eagle Park, and about how he had asked her out on a date tonight. “It’s my first date, Grandma!” Pearl exclaimed.

Grandma was tickled pink for Pearl. She, of course, immediately got on the phone with Susan and told her all about it. In turn, Susan got on the phone with Dr. Holt and he too was thrilled. Tonight being Friday, Pearl knew Dr. Holt would be coming for dinner at their house. “Great! Everyone will be here for my send-off,” she said to herself, completely embarrassed at the thought.

The day went by like molasses, and Pearl was about to go out of her mind waiting for the clock to be near enough to the hour she could justify getting dressed. Pearl took an extra long shower, shaved her legs, and set out the facial cleaning products that Katherine had used on her the night before. Grandma helped Pearl clean her face and even helped her apply the makeup. Pearl picked out a pair of vintage low-rise jeans, a black boatneck tee, and a pair of raffia flip-flops to wear. She clipped on a chunky turquoise necklace for a little flare.

“Cute as a button!” Grandma called out when Pearl stepped out from her room.

“Thanks,” Pearl said as she rolled her eyes.

“Saw that!” Grandma chuckled. “You might think I’m a silly old lady, but I know you want my opinion. And I want to tell you, Pearl, you are shining brightly. I don’t think your feet have touched the ground since dinner last night.”

Pearl’s mom and Dr. Holt were sitting on the couch. They both looked up and agreed with Grandma. “You look great! I hope you two have a wonderful time tonight,” Susan said.

“Oh, that reminds me,” Dr. Holt said as he quickly stood up. “I have something I need to be doing.” Susan and Dr. Holt exchanged smiles as Dr. Holt escaped into the garage.

“What? What’s going on?” Pearl said impatiently.

“Nothing, Todd just promised he would help move a few things around for me in the garage while he was here. No big deal,” Susan said as she winked at Grandma.

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