“You’re punctual. Two-thirty on the nose.” Henry dressed casually in light jeans, a faded blue college t-shirt with only half a Colonel emblem left, and bare feet. Very different from how I usually see him.
“I was afraid I wouldn’t find a place to park.”
“Tomorrow night, a car service will pick us up. We can leave your car locked in the garage.”
“Sounds good.” Henry opened the door wide, revealing the beautiful honey-colored hardwood floors and motioned for me to walk inside past him.
The sparsely decorated areas looked out of place with the gilded window hardware. A long cornflower blue couch sat in front of an ornate black and gold gilded fireplace taking up the lion’s share of the living room.
A brass wheeled clothes bar sat prominently in the entryway. A dark slate gray suit hung at one end, followed by several white shirts and a row of earth-toned dresses under plastic covers with matching shoes sitting beneath them.
“Holy crap, there’s a lot of dresses,” I said, breaking the silence and sending a tiny echo through the beautiful room.
“Sorry, I warned you this was going to be interesting. Whatever we don’t use will be picked up Monday. Can I get you something to drink?” Henry walked backward into the kitchen. I chuckled, thinking how I wouldn’t attempt walking backward with my eyes closed in my apartment.
Reading online about the home habits of the blind, one theme was constant. Don’t move anything, ever. I wondered if I could police my movements well enough to leave everything untouched.
“Sure, I’ll take a diet soda if you have one.” I opened the first dress bag and hung the peach pile of fabric from the rod.
Henry emerged from the far side of the house with a dark beer and a can of diet cherry Pepsi, dripping with condensation. “Oh, my favorite cherry.” I clapped appreciatively before I realized how childish my reaction must sound.
“Yep, I figured you for a cherry girl. What fresh hell did they send?” Henry sighed, twisting off the cap on his beer.
“A fancy pressed suit with three white shirts and a box of men’s dress shoes in size eleven and some ties. Then there are one, two, seven dresses for me to pick from.” I uncovered the suit letting the pants and jacket hang free.
“Yep, the woman has completely lost her damn mind.” Henry ran his hand through his hair and took off his glasses.
I’d never seen him without his dark glasses. I walked closer to get a look at his eyes. The whites were glossy and bright. His irises were a mix of dark greenish gold and gray. The skin around his eyes was unremarkable. Henry’s eyes looked perfectly healthy.
My first encounter with blindness was with a woman in the grocery store smelling bananas. She wasn’t hiding her appearance. The skin around her eyes appeared purplish, sunken, and unwell. Fascinated by her, I asked if she needed my help finding the right bunch. Of course, she said no, but I could tell she was struggling.
My mother whispered she was fine before you interrupted her. Leave the woman to her shopping. This was one of my mother’s many attempts to discourage me from helping people.
I put my hand on Henry’s beer, felt him release his grip and wiped the condensation on my jeans. “You’re dripping on the hardwood.”
“Great. Do you see a dress you like in the pile?” I put my hand in his and replaced it with the dry bottle.
“It’s sensory overload. They’re all great colors. The peach might be shocking. It’s practically my skin tone. I’ll look too naked.” I pushed the dresses aside one by one and contemplated the pros and cons.
“Your suit is dark gray. There’s a mossy green dress that would go nicely if we paired your suit with this tie.” I pulled the tie from its hanger and draped it over the dress. I stepped back so Henry could see. He stood in the same spot looking in the direction of my last comment holding his beer like a prop.
“I’m stuck on the naked colored dress. Too naked? Are there stages of acceptable nakedness? I have visions of old men falling to the ground clutching their chests in agony as you walk by.” I took the opportunity to laugh, mostly at myself, for trying to show a blind man a tie.
“Too much bad karma. The green dress is my first victim.” I inspected the chiffon garment, trying to find the best way to free it from its packaging. Matching ribbons and a notecard secured the gown to its hanger.
“Oh, good God, these dresses are named. This one’s The Hunter’s Dream.” I giggled like a schoolgirl until my eyes began to tear. The note went on to stipulate what box of accessories accompanied the gown. “Holy hell, it has its own shoes, fur wrap, and gemstone earrings.”
“Of course, it does, why wouldn’t it.” Henry walked over to a desk on the other side of the entry. He found a remote control and pointed it at the windows. “I’ll close the drapes, so you have privacy. I’m told a mirror was left on the right side of the living room.”
“These people think of everything.” I dragged the dress and all of its accessories to the end of the couch. I caught the arm of a desk chair, pulling it with me. “Oh shit, I moved the chair.”
Henry snickered, “did the hunter’s wet dream rip?”
“No,” I exhaled. “but don’t move. I’ll put everything right back.” I grabbed my purse and keys from the floor. “All my mess is on the right side of the couch.” I rearranged the chair and walked my steps, making sure I didn’t drop anything flipping on the lights as I went. “With the drapes closed, it’s a bit dark. Do you mind if I turn on some lights?”
“Go for it. Did you see any sizes on the shirts? They probably didn’t know to tag them in braille?”
“Yeah, they look hung by size sixteen in half, seventeen and seventeen in half.” I pulled my shirt over my head and dropped it on my folded jeans. Sliding into my spanks took some wriggling.
I looked back at Henry as he tried on his shirts. He pulled the first shirt off carefully and placed it on a nearby chair before feeling for the next shirt on the rack. I couldn’t help but notice bruises on his back and stomach.
“Jesus Henry, has someone been beating you?” I felt a deep, boiling rage fill my gut.
“No,” he laughed. “My defense class last night was interesting. It doesn’t hurt.” I found myself standing next to Henry, running my hands over the purple splotches on his back and sides. He stood perfectly still while I inspected his torso.
“So, doctor, will I live?”
Maybe it was the room’s sparse lighting or the lack of lunch, but I could see a cement sidewalk beneath my feet and smell spicy meat cooking. I was standing completely alone, breathing shallow and slow.
“Is it that bad?” Henry asked with a bit more concern. My vision returned to reality. I shook off the feeling of panic.
“No, but it looks like hell. You may need an undershirt. Some of these darker bruises will show through shirt fabric.”
“Easy fix. There’s a white compression shirt in the closet.” Henry walked toward the opposite end of the house. I assumed to his bedroom.
I returned to the mirror and slid the dress over my head. It fit well and included adjustment stitches inside the bodice to make it snug. The suggested shoes were a light caramel snakeskin. The earrings were tasteful emerald studs. I focused on the dress, but my days were getting strange. With a lucid daydream added to the mix, I began to seriously worry about my sanity.
“So, does this do the trick?” Henry walked out of the hallway with his two white shirt layers.
“Looks great. No one can tell you moonlight as a superhero.” I walked around the couch to get a feel for the shoes. The heals made a satisfying click sound on the hardwood floor.
“This extra shirt kinda helps suck in my stomach. Hmm, I can button my shirt. So, what do you think about the dress?”
“It’s kinda scary how well this thing fits. The jewelry is on loan, right. These are some big emeralds.”
“Can I see them?” Henry held his hand out into the room. I walked closer and met his hand with mine putting it over the earring.
“Hm, they are big. Maybe costume jewelry?” Henry sighed and shifted his weight. “This is going to sound odd, but would you mind if I touch your face. I can see by touching people.”
I put my hand on the back of Henry’s. “Sure, why not.”
Henry started at my earrings and moved his hands softly over my forehead and eyebrows before moving his thumbs across my cheekbones and down the curve of my mouth meeting at my chin.
“Wow, very soft skin,” he said, dropping his hands to his pockets.
“Thanks. Probably all the ice cream I eat. Do you want to see the dress?” I casually moved closer.
“Sure.” Henry rubbed his hands together roughly to warm them before putting them on my shoulders. “Little thin straps.” He ran the back of his hands down my arms to my waist. “Feels like crinkly silk and all the pleats and ruffles on this thing.” The heat from his hands reached my skin through the thin fabric. The sensation of his hands on my back cemented me in place.
“Did you button all these little suckers? There are at least fifty buttons back here?”
“No, I buttoned them all and then stepped into it,” I explained, laughing at my ridiculous situation.
“A ton of small details.” He couldn’t see how much I enjoyed the feel of his touch. If I wanted him to know, I would have to speak up.
“The beads feel tiny.” Henry rubbed a row of beads at the bodice between his fingers. “No wonder this thing was named—it’s somebody’s child. Probably took a hundred hours to assemble.”
“They sent a few ties, one of them is green tones and goes nicely with this dress. There are some gold cufflinks and a few different matching pocket squares too.”
“Great, put whatever you like in the box with the shoes. I hate to break it to you, but from what I can see, several old men are dropping dead.” Henry moved his hands to my arms.
“Shut up, they will not.” Henry laughed and walked back to the rack of clothes. He put on the suit coat and stretched his arms. The jacket fits him well.
We changed back into our regular clothes. I hung my dress loosely from the end of the rack. Everything back in its place, we called it a night. I couldn’t help but wonder if Henry could tell how much I enjoyed him looking at me.
“Thanks again. You showing up with me will keep my mother off my back for six months.”
“I totally understand. I lied to my parents about having a boyfriend. It’s just so they don’t think I’m alone.”
“I can’t imagine you stay single long.” Henry leaned against the door casement. I could see the definition of his biceps, and I wondered if he was flexing his arms on purpose.
“Circus freaks, we have high standards.” I leaned in to give Henry a kiss on the cheek. He turned, and my lips met his.
It was a brief, light kiss, but I couldn’t help noticing the deep pull I felt toward him. Chemical and emotional attraction is powerful. Henry’s lineage was a mystery to me, but something in his blood made him taste like a wolf.