A hand on my shoulder told me someone was there.
I hoped it wasn’t the police, but since the early hours of this morning, I couldn’t quite shake off my worries about my husband, Graham. We had a blazing row. Yet another phone call in the middle of the night, where he just dropped everything for a story.
It was the reason I took my guide dog, Merlin out for yet another walk.
I couldn’t tell you why I was so worried. It’s not like he can’t look after himself. There was something about that call. I couldn’t tell you what it was, or why I got so angry, just that it was from a string of phone calls just like it.
‘My name is Police Constable Woods. Can we come inside?’
I wanted to say No. It wasn’t alright to come inside and tell me what my senses were already screaming at me. Instead, I gripped on to Merlin’s harness. As I jumped from one stupid scenario to the other, I fumbled around my pocket for my keys.
In truth, I was still furious with my husband. As a journalist, he sought out odd hours, but this wasn’t the first time he rushed out of the house because of his job. He had the nerve to tell me I was jealous. Work in a newspaper was never meant to be nine to five. As if I didn’t know. It was an article I was working on that caused me to have the car accident in the first place.
Not that I remember anything much from back then. It has never been clear in my mind. All I was vaguely aware of is being angry at someone, but I couldn’t tell you who. The rest is a blur. Even now, I couldn’t tell you who called, or where I was going.
I woke up and my heartbeat like someone was tapping out SOS. Graham’s hand was in mine. It trembled as I tried to open my eyes. Darkness surrounded me. It still does. Doctors did their best to explain what was happening, but I didn’t want to listen.
I was submerged me into a whirlwind of blame. Snippets of information, barely held together in a series of paper clips, didn’t hold on to anything. Every time I tried to piece together the events of that night, the finish line moved.
My story, about corruption in the police petered out in the end. Nobody could find any real evidence to prove my theory. I didn’t have the heart to carry on. All I could think about was the doctors telling me there was nothing they could do to repair the damage done to my retinas. A dark few months was putting it lightly.
Graham did his best to help me through it, but he didn’t understand my pain. To wake up, and the world turned upside down with such force dragged me into hell. It could never be righted or explained.
I was still alive. In his life, but I barely felt like I was living.
It didn’t help that I dreamt in colour, could see then. Even those memories were slowly fading. I couldn’t picture his face – not clearly anyway. What was the point in waking up, if I couldn’t lead a normal life.
I had gone from being a fiercely independent woman, to laying on my back surround by sounds. I couldn’t distinguish one from the other. I couldn’t even make myself a cup of coffee, or dress myself properly. Colours meant nothing to me now, so I spent most of the time in my pyjamas.
After months of persuasion, I gave in about guide dogs. I agreed, but only to shut him up. I made up my mind I wasn’t going to get one. What would be the point? I couldn’t see nothing. What could a guide dog give me, not my sight, that was for sure.
It was while I was waiting, I met this little girl. She talked like a flutter of flower petals. Blind from birth, it was all she ever knew. She talked non-stop. What type of guide dog she wanted, what name she was going to call it, and how they would train together. Her laughter was infectious, and they were the first sounds that made sense.
I sat on the floor, sawdust beneath my fingers and waited. The lady told me to wait until a guide dog found me. For the first time I concentrated on the sounds around me. A soft padding stopped, and I instinctively held out my hand. Soft strands of fur filtered through my fingers, and I felt around a long snout.
It didn’t feel like a Labrador, more like a German Shephard. ‘What’s his name?’ I asked.
Merlin, what a magical name. With him by my side, I could be Sarah again. Perhaps even get my old job back. Nobody would hurt me with him by my side.
Not that it did nothing to change his mind. He couldn’t risk me being hurt on the job and having to pay out on his insurance. Instead he offered me the chance to do a blog. At first I wanted to refuse his pittance of an offer, but something intrigued me about championing the disabled. I could show others, in my situation, that life carried on. You weren’t defined by a disability, but by the strength of your values.
It was then I embraced my blindness.
I learnt how you didn’t have to see colour to understand it. If I concentrated hard enough, black had a different feel to blue. I learnt how to braille from an audio book I borrowed from the RNIB. Raised dots, a bit like shorthand, were memorised.
I would be lying if I told you that it happened overnight, but as the months passed I found a strength I didn’t know I had. The first time I made a cup of coffee, using an indicator put on the outside of the cup, I could have cried.
It was my first step to independence.
My life was just getting back to something I could class as normal. Until Graham’s latest story overtook everything else in his life. He became like a neurotic first time mother. He monitored my movements. I swear he hid Merlin’s harness to stop me from going out. Yet he could do whatever he wanted, including leaving me alone in the middle of the night.
‘Shall we go inside?’ The policewoman repeated.
I can’t find the right key for the front door. Why can’t I find the bloody key? My fingers fumble against the different ridges. Normally I am inside in seconds, today I can’t even function to turn the key. Finally, it slots in the lock and I open the door. The shadows of my hallway drag me inside the warmth of the house.
‘Go into the front room, I’ll be with you in a minute,’ I said.
Why so formal Sarah? The bile rises in my stomach and I want to throw up. Merlin sensed it, and so do I. We argued, but he always apologised. Always. His last words before he slammed the door shut will not be silenced. ‘Your blindness is blocking your judgement Sarah! I’m just doing my job!’
‘Your job! Don’t expect me to be here when you get back!’ I shouted.
What if they were the last words I ever spoke to him?
Merlin, waiting for my command, sat in front of me. From what I can hear, the policewoman isn’t alone. Two officers, with one statement in mind. Not sure of what else to do, I removed Merlin’s harness and hung it up at the back of the door.
Everything was in slow motion. I couldn’t go back or move forward to my own front room. Merlin nudged me along the hallway. I imagined him walking beside me, his large ears tight against his face. His strong, black fur, raised to attention.
I took a tentative step, and could hardly feel the carpet beneath my feet. It was like I was dreaming, but I was awake. I stood in the entrance of the front room, my feed glued to the floor.
‘Mrs Masters, I am sitting on the sofa with my colleague Detective Stiles.’
Merlin steered me towards the leather recliner. I eventually collapsed. Why was my mind automatically drawn to the worst scenario? Graham would laugh at my overreaction. Before I slap him in the face that is.
I hear soft shoes across the carpet. ‘Mrs Masters, I regret to inform you . . .’