Coty shuddered, feeling the cool press of Lina’s powered gloves against the sides of her face. Her lush bottom lips were stuck between her teeth, she gnawed on them anxiously, squeezing her eyes shut in panic.
The night had been the shortest one of her life. Originally, Coty never planned to fall asleep, she had been too nervous, too excited, filled with so many random emotions. Of everything, she expected to happen, falling asleep at eleven in the night was never the plan but that was exactly what happened. Drained from both excitement and terror, she had fallen asleep on the bed with her phone in her hands. Ava woke her with a chirpy reminder ringing out to wake up and prepare for Dr. Lina’s arrival.
Maggie had arrived five minutes before the doctor walked in and she had stayed by the bedside filling Coty with as much pep talk as she could. None of which proved fruitful the moment the mask slipped off her face. Coty kept her eyes closed and she felt her heart racing, banging against the cage of her chest. All her confidence and excitement suddenly became a rising spiral of doubt curling around the fringes of her dishevelled thoughts. Was she ready? Why did she agree to do this? Could she turn back now?
“I hate to be formal at this moment but Miss Adesina, you can open your eyes now. Just take a deep breath. In through your nose and slowly out through your lips. You’d be fine.”
Coty followed her direction. Sucking in a low but long breath, she puckered her lips and exhaled. Her lashes brushed against her cheek as she deftly drew her eyes open. A little light skirted through the paper-thin opening of her eyelids and Coty pinched her eyes shut again. She reclined against the bed, shaking her head in disbelief and palming her face with a muttered apology.
“Coty?” Maggie began cautiously. “What’s wrong?”
“MmMm, I can’t do this,” She shook her head definitely, feeling Maggie step closer to her side and pouting at Lina’s exaggerated sigh. They surely thought she was being silly and probably she was but she was not ready. She had seen it; the speck of light when she had barely opened her eyes, disbelief swallowed all her courage. “I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do this.”
Lina touched her arm gently. “Miss Adesina, there is nothing to be afraid of and absolutely nothing to fear. The contacts are ready, you open your eyes and you’ll just see.”
Coty rolled her eyes. “No offence but it is like me telling you that would just be blind.”
“Oh my God. Coty, do you remember what I told you a few months ago. What comes after the words ‘with all due respect’?”
Coty mused over the question, trying to remember the conversation. “Um, disrespect?”
“Exactly.” Maggie agreed. “With all due respect, if blindness is what you said it was then even with your closed eyes I am sure you are already seeing the difference? When I am asleep and the sun comes up, even with my eyes closed I can see the day brightening. A strange reddish sight behind my eyelids. You see it now, so you are already seeing. Now, wake your confident ass up and open your eyes. It is going to be a big deal, no doubt, but it’s okay to get emotional. It’s okay.”
Another shaky breath shuddered out of her mouth and Coty bit the bullet, blinking her eyes open. Tears formed immediately, bright light flooding her eyes as she took in the room.
Coty shook her head in disbelief, she could see. She could see.
Her bottom lips quivered but no words fell from her mouth. Coty looked down at her hands, turning her palms to inspect every inch of her skin. Tears slipped out of her eyes, kissing a wet path down her face before trickling down to stain the light sheets that laid over her legs. Coty looked down at it, watching the tears change the colour of the sheets at that particular spot. Her hair fell over the front of her face and she looked at the light strands, curling a rich length around her fingers in wonder.
Maggie reached forward, pushing the strands of hair off Coty’s face and lifting her chin. “Hey!”
Coty turned her gaze upwards, squinting to focus her eyes in the frustrating brightness. Maggie was beautiful, with thick curly hair that settled over her shoulders and blanketed the top of her shirt. Her eyes were gentle and kind glistening with unshed tears but still as sharp as her smile. Maggie was dressed in a loose shirt and cut off shorts, probably because of the hot and simmering season they were experiencing. She was taller than Coty had expected but one thing Coty nailed was the poise with which she carried herself. Her skin was a different set to Coty’s but it seemed to glisten under the attentions of the sun.
Coty flinched at the brightness, the discomfort growing past her control. Maggie gasped apologetically, rushing over to the curtains to draw them shut and Coty noticed the stunning heels Maggie had on. Surely, they accounted for all the extra height because they were frightfully high. Maggie did not seem daunted by their length as she graciously strutted back.
Coty reached up, resting a shaking hand against the side of Maggie’s face before recoiling her fingers, curling them into her palm. “Maggie? Oh, it’s so nice to see you.”
Maggie laughed again, nodding gleefully as she took Coty’s hands in hers. “It is nice to see you too.”
“Well, here comes the slightly uncomfortable part.” Coty turned to the doctor, the smile and the tears prominent on her face. She was even beginning to taste some of the tears that slipped across her mouth. “This is going to be a bit uncomfortable but I have to do this. I am going to pass this penlight across your eyes just to see if they are working at their best.”
Coty looked down at the object Lina waved and nodded thoughtfully, following the doctor’s movement with interest. When the light flickered across her eyes, she winced and squinted in discomfort. Blinking to regain some equilibrium.
Lina laughed but waited for Coty to recover before doing the same to her right eye. “Perfect. Okay, I would be right back, I have to go check up on the tests that you need to run for the day, and then I would be back to take you to them. It won’t take long.”
Coty nodded, waiting for the doctor to leave before crumbling into an emotional mess. She folded her legs to her chest and buried her face back into her hands as tears racked out of her. Her shoulders trembled fiercely, her lungs burned as she tried to breathe through her rapidly clogging nose.
She could see. Twenty-four years and now she could see.
Maggie sighed, sitting up on the bed to draw Coty into her arms, whispering into her hair. Coty shivered, her nails digging into Maggie’s arm, she took a deep breath and a few more before pulling away.
Coty reached out shyly, picking a strand of curly hair off Maggie’s shoulder. “Your hair is lovely.”
“Oh, this ol’ thing.” Maggie bristled, her lips stretching in a full smile. “Thanks.”
Coty looked over her shoulder, towards the bathroom, before throwing her legs down from the bed. “I just... I want to get myself clean. Take a bath and fix my face before the doctor get’s back.”
Coty smiled, rushing away to slide into the bathroom before throwing her body back against the door and slamming it shut. Her heart was in overdrive, beating, and ramming so vigorously against her lungs that she barely squeeze out her next breath. Her eyes raced over every surface, putting together what was what; the toilet, the sink, the showerhead. She slipped down the door, her legs giving out but she held on to the doorknob before she could fall.
Her legs moved, drawing her forward and towards the mirror. A smile flirted at the tips of her lips, curious fingers running through the contour of her jaw. She wished, picking a strand of hair in front of her face, that she knew what colour her hair was. It was a warmer colour than she expected, straight and rippling close to her hips. Her lips were thin at the top and plump at the bottom, something her mom had explained when she was younger but she never really paid attention until that moment.
This was her face. Coty Adesina.
“What colour is this?” Coty asked, rolling the tips of her laces around her fingers while she waited for Maggie to finish packing.
Maggie glanced up at the question, looking down at Coty’s sneakers. “Crimson or most people just lump it under the colour red. And the camisole you are wearing is white while the shorts are blue.”
Maggie stood up, eyeing her shorts with a smile and a nod. “Yeah. If you are interested, you can look it up on google because there are so many shades under one colour. For example, my shorts are royal blue while yours are ocean blue. The heels I have on are emerald green or just green. Don’t worry. Once we get you out of here and rested from the excitement, I am sure you would start recognizing things like this little by little.”
“I can see my feet,” Coty mumbled in wonder, tweaking her toes in childlike fascination.
“And soon, you’d be seeing your apartment. Ready to get out of here?”
Coty peered up from her shoes, taking in the room before nodding. Lina had finally discharged her and she was more than ready to return home and… well she did not quite know what she was going to do. Maybe she would watch all the movies Maggie had recommended to her years ago again. This time she would watch with her eyes and ears instead of her ears only.
Maggie lifted the small hospital bag they had packed the day they admitted her. She reached out a finely manicured hand and Coty took it with glee, intertwining their fingers as they walked out of the room. The world was the same but it certainly felt different to see it with her own eyes. To notice the people fluttering around the hospital, nurses, and patients, seeing the stretcher roll across the floor. She used to listen to the sounds when her parents trudged her into the doctor’s office. They would seat at the reception waiting for their number to be called and she would listen raptly to every sound, every patter that fluttered around her.
Maggie said nothing throughout the ride back to her apartment. Coty appreciated her comprehensive nature. They sat together in silence and Coty took in the city she had lived in for years. Four years to be exact.
The buildings were smouldering, tall, and looming towards the skies with menacing sizes and energetic colours. The sun bounced off the many glass windows that ran the length of almost every building she saw. So many glasses on such a bright day. By the time Maggie rolled into the shade of the parking lot of Coty’s apartment, her eyes were hurting a bit.
“Here we are.” Maggie beamed, throwing her door open and stepping out to pick Coty’s duffel bag from the trunk of the car. “I would leave you to enjoy the rest of your day.”
Coty’s heart nearly skipped out of her chest. She reached forward, catching Maggie’s fingers in hers as she looked up at her with weary eyes. “You can come up. I know we have not been so close outside of work but it is okay for you to come up. We are friends now, right?”
Maggie smiled and agreed, “of course. We are friends but trust me you need at least a few hours to yourself. To call your parents, to recuperate and understand the choice you have made. Trust me, the tears you shed in the hospital, whether in joy or disbelief, is just a minute amount of what is in you. I’ll be back tomorrow to check up on you, then maybe take you out some more but for today, go enjoy your new life. Get comfortable.”
Maybe that was what she did not want to do. Be alone.
Coty took her duffel bag from Maggie and kissed her goodbye before she turned to the stairs. The key turned underneath her fingers, and she pushed the door back, reaching forward to switch on the lights when they flickered on by themselves and she jumped back in panic.
“Good afternoon Coty. Welcome home.”
She laughed heartily, her fingers fluttering over to her ears, tugging gently on her earring as she entered. “Thanks, Ava. Curtains open and soundproofing off please.”
Natural light flooded into the apartment and the noise of the street followed right behind it. Coty shook her head in disbelief, walking over to her room, fresh tears pricking behind her eyes. It was more impressive than she thought it would be, picturesque and warm. She was not sure exactly what colour her sheets were but they were a lighter set to the reddish colour of her shoes. Maybe one of the many shades she would have to learn.
Her walls were white but a specific spot, above her headboard, she decorated with many pictures of her family and herself. Her mother was a photographer; she loved to capture little moments to keep because, to her, every moment mattered.
Coty reached down to tug her shoes off before mounting up on her bed. It dipped with each step she took but she too until she fell to her knees in front of the headboard. A sad smile crossed her lips as she looked up at the pictures, remembering each moment but with different eyes.
“Oh!” she gasped frailly, picking one of the photographs from the wall and falling back on the bed. Leaning against the headboard, she propped the frame on her lap and looked down at the glassed photograph. “Peter.”
He was so handsome, smiling against her face as he had her earlobe between his teeth. His eyes were dark green, like the heels Maggie wore to the hospital but he had the same light…pale ivory tone—as Maggie described—that she had. His hair was dark, wet with water, and plastered over his forehead and shoulders.
More tears fell and her fingers resumed the responsibility of wiping them off. She sniffled, rolling over to mount the picture back. Tracing her hands over the others. She stood on the bed again, trying to get a closer look at each picture, each memory. Photos of her parents, her siblings, cousins, her whole family.
“Ah!” she hissed, reaching up to cradle her head in her hands when a sharp pain flashed through the back of her eyes. Her legs shook; she lost her balance and fell back towards the bed. There was a growing ache behind her eyes, so prominent like her mind was splitting in half. “Uh, the light. The light. Ava shut the windows and dim the lights.”
She pinched her eyes, lying back against the comfort of her fluffy pillows, her lips trembling as the pain multiplied. It must be a migraine. She turned around, intending to lay down for a while until it passed before returning to looking at her photos. Just for a few minutes.