Title: Crossroads of Life
Disclaimer: I don't own anything that has to do with The X-Men or Daredevil, their characters, Marvel comics, or the anything else that's related.
Author Notes: My many thanks to BleuUnicorn for taking the time to give me all of the wonderful insight into the world of the visually impaired. Also, thanks to Adri, Kuria, and Ellidyay for beta reading, providing excellent comments, and giving me a ton of wonderful ideas. This fanfic takes place in the movieverse of both Daredevil and X-Men. However, the novelizations of the movies were not taken into consideration.
Summary: Two unique teenagers traveling on different paths meet at the crossroads of life and discover a common destiny.
Matt sat alone on the roof of his apartment building, staring with dead eyes at what used to be his favorite view of the towering city. He would give just about anything to see the lights of the tall structures illuminating the night sky, that splendor that lay beyond the run down buildings of Hell's Kitchen. He would give just about anything for a lot of things, namely one last word with his father. But that was never going to happen. He would never again hear his father's rough voice, or feel his coarse hands muss his hair, just as he would never see past the complete blackness that shrouded him.
The totally all-encompassing darkness of his world after the accident hadn't really bothered the twelve-year-old. Not that it had been easy to cope with his handicap, but he'd had his father in his corner, backing him up. Plus, there had been the thrill of his somewhat new, or more accurately, enhanced senses. They had replaced his sight, provided him with a new way to perceive the world. So, he'd used it. He'd used his new abilities and the renewed bond he'd formed with his father as his focus. He used it to keep from dwelling on what had been taken from him. But now, now he'd lost that as well. He'd lost his father, his focus. It was as if he were finally feeling the darkness surrounding him. And for the first time he felt truly blind.
His sensitive ears picked up the sounds of footsteps coming up the metal stairs that led to the roof, footsteps that belonged to Heather Donald, his social worker. Matt sighed as he listened to the approaching clip of her heels, wiping at his eyes because he didn't want her to know he'd been crying. He knew she was only trying to help him, but he still hated her, hated what her presence in his life meant.
"Hey," Heather said as she sat down beside him on the old wooden bench. "You kind of disappeared on me."
Matt shrugged. "I just wanted to come up here one last time, before being shipped off to live with a bunch of strangers."
"It will only be for a night or two," Heather assured him. "Then we'll find someplace more permanent."
He shook his head. "Great! Then it's off to live with more strangers," Matt snorted, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "Man, what I wouldn't give to be eighteen."
"Why?" Heather asked in a clipped tone. "So you could be on your own? Huh? Blind and unemployed, without a high school diploma or any job skills, and forced to fend for yourself? Trust me, that's not what you want." She paused for a moment before continuing more gently. "Look, I know this is difficult, Matthew. But you've got to make the most of what God's given you." She patted his knee. "Now, I've got all your stuff packed and ready to go. So, I'll meet you downstairs at the car in a few minutes. Ok?"
Matt nodded then waited until Heather left the roof before getting up off the bench and walking to the building's edge. He stepped up onto the ledge and closed his useless eyes as a slight breeze blew over him, drying his tears. He loved it up there, high above the city streets. It would always be his favorite place, a place were he could find comfort.
He let out a little laugh as he stepped down off the building's ledge and made his way back over to the bench, where he'd left his cane and glasses, wondering what his life would be like now. He'd heard the horror stories about abuse and neglect that occurred in foster homes. And now that he was faced with that reality, he had to wonder just how much of it was true. But there was one thing that he did know. He knew that no matter what he wouldn't give up. He'd made that promise to his father, and he intended on keeping it.
With that, Matt gathered up his stuff and made his way downstairs, ready to take on the next challenge life was going to throw his way. He had a new focus now, and because of that the world didn't seem so dark anymore.
Unfortunately, it hadn't been easy to place Matt in a more permanent foster home. His blindness greatly limited the number of homes that were willing and/or qualified to take him in. Plus, he had been very adamant about wanting to stay in or near Hell's Kitchen, and Heather had tried her best to accommodate that. So it was for these reasons, that it took almost two weeks and more than eight temporary homes before Matt finally met the Millers.
Matt sat in Heather's Cavalier, idly toying with the nylon strap at the top of his cane. According to Heather, this family was supposed to be perfect. The Millers were a middle-aged, middle class couple that lived in a two-bedroom apartment between 8th and 9th Avenues on West 51st Street. How that made them perfect, Matt didn't know. But he had been bounced around to the point that he really didn't care. All he wanted was for someone to take him in for more than a night or two, to give him a place to sleep, so he could go back to school.
He had had to miss the last two months of sixth grade due to the accident. Most of that time he'd spent in the hospital and then in rehabilitation. But even when he'd thought he was ready to return, East Side had felt that he should sit out the remainder of the year. They'd said that they only had his best interests in mind, but Matt couldn't help but think that they just didn't want the hassle of integrating a blind student into their classes so late in the year. However, based on the high grades he'd earned prior to the accident, Matt passed the sixth grade, despite the fact that he missed almost a quarter of the school year.
Now, because of his father's death and the foster care situation, he had already missed the first three weeks of the new school year. And he was really anxious to get back, to have something he was familiar with. Though, he wasn't sure how familiar school would be now that he was blind. But it was still something he looked forward to.
"Hey!" Heather called, startling Matt out of his thoughts. "You all right over there?"
"Yeah," he lied, as he tried to collect himself. "Why?"
"Because we arrived almost ten minutes ago and you've yet to notice the car's stopped," she teased lightly, before becoming serious. "Is there anything you want to talk about?"
"No," Matt practically muttered, not bothering to turn towards her. "I just want to get this over with."
"Ok. Then if you're ready, let's go on up."
Matt nodded, purposefully fumbling for the door handle before getting out of the car. He'd been doing that a lot lately, little things to hide his strange gifts. That was how he thought of them now, not as burdens but as gifts, ones that allowed him to perceive his surroundings better than any other blind person.
They had been unbearable during the first few weeks after he'd woken up in the hospital. He hadn't known what was happening, except that he could no longer see and that he was sensing things that no one else could. He'd told the doctors, but they'd just chalked it up to trauma from the accident. So eventually he'd quit complaining and focused on trying to contain it instead.
With practice Matt had been able to hone his new abilities, so that they no longer overwhelmed him. He'd found that he didn't need his eyes to function in this new dark world, because his other senses could make up for his loss of sight. For example, he could feel the smallest of imperfections in the smoothest of surfaces. He could taste a mere few grains of salt in a teaspoon of sugar. His sense of smell allowed him to pick up even the faintest of odors. But most importantly was his sense of sound. It was different than his other remaining three senses, because it was more than heightened. It was as if he could follow the path of the sound waves as they moved across and reverberated off of objects, allowing him to get a mental picture of the world around him.
Though despite the benefits of his gifts, Matt didn't know how to explain them. He was afraid that people wouldn't understand, or that they'd think he was crazy or a freak. So, he hid them, not even trusting his father with his secret.
"We'll bring your stuff up later," Heather announced, once again jerking Matt out of his thoughts. "I just think you should meet them and kind of get a feel for the place, before we have to worry about luggage."
"Whatever you think is best," Matt replied as he let her take his arm and lead him to the apartment building.
After they got buzzed in, the two of them wound their way up six flights of stairs to what Heather told him was apartment 6D. A knock on the door was readily answered with the creak of hinges and floorboards and then the deep voice of a middle-aged man. "Hello, Mrs. Donald. How're you doing?"
"I'm fine, thanks. How about yourself?" Heather asked.
"Good, good." There was a short awkward moment of silence, before the man said, "So…you must be Matt. I'm Frank Miller."
A sudden shift in the air and the slight rustle of clothes told Matt that Mr. Miller had offered him his hand. Matt considered not accepting the handshake, using the excuse that he technically shouldn't be aware of the proffered hand. However, he didn't want to be rude, especially if he was going to have to live with these people for an extended period of time. So instead, he gave the man a small smile and introduced himself. "Matt Murdock," he said. "I just want to thank you and your wife for offering your home to me."
"It's our pleasure, Matt," a light young female voice called from further in the apartment. "Now why don't you both come in instead of standing in the doorway?"
"Sorry," Frank chuckled, the hinges creaking as he opened the door wider. "Come on in."
"Thanks." Heather ushered Matt into the apartment.
"Not a problem," the woman replied, "I'm Suzan, by the way. Our son, Zachary, isn't here. He's at a friend's house." She paused for a minute, and then added, "We just thought it would be better for Matt to get settled in before Zack started bombarding him with questions."
"Right, well that said why don't we give you the grand tour," Frank offered, as he stepped up and took Matt's arm. "This is the living room. There's a couch up against the left wall, a love seat to your left, the computer desk directly to your right, and the TV's there up against the right wall. And um…that's about it for the living room."
Matt was patient as he submitted himself to the rest of Frank's tour, which consisted of a small kitchen, the room he was apparently going to share with the Miller's five-year-old son, the bathroom, and the Millers' room. It wasn't a big apartment, but it was larger than the one he'd shared with his father.
Shortly after the tour, Frank and Heather went down to the car to get Matt's things, leaving Matt alone with Suzan. The two were seated on the couch in the living room, a cushion between them.
"We were planning on enrolling you at La Salle. It's one of the better middle schools in the area. And it's only a few blocks away," she said.
"My father had enrolled me in East Side," Matt protested.
"I know, Heather told us. We just thought that since you hadn't started school yet you wouldn't mind. Plus, La Salle has such a better program."
Matt was momentarily struck speechless. There had been no unease in Suzan's voice, no rustling of fabric, no tell tale sounds of fidgeting. She'd spoken with complete confidence, as if she had no qualms about running things or making his decisions without him, even though they'd just met. And frankly, that pissed him off. "But I've spoken with the TVI and I already know most of the teachers at East Side…"
"TVI?" Suzan asked, her confusion evident in her voice.
"Teacher of the Visually Impaired," Matt snapped, his frustration showing as anger. "I thought you guys were supposed to have experience dealing with blind kids?"
"No, Matt," Suzan corrected, her voice shaking slightly. "But our other son, Jason, did have a disability."
He snorted at that. "Well, Mrs. Miller, let me enlighten you to the fact that all of us ‘special' children aren't the same. We all have different needs."
"I'm well aware of that fact, Matthew…" Suzan began only to be interrupted by the sound of the front door opening.
"Boy, Matt, these things weigh a ton," Frank said lightheartedly, banging at least one of Matt's gym bags loudly against the door as he came in. "What do you have in here? Bricks?"
"No," Matt replied, completely deadpan.
"Oh," Frank sounded a little deflated by Matt's response. "Well, I'll just go put these in your room then." His heavy footsteps faded down the hallway.
Heather must have sensed the tension in the room because she asked, "Is everything alright?"
"Nothing I'm sure we won't be able to work out. Right, Matt?" Suzan asked, her cheerfulness sounding forced to Matt's ears.
"I don't know. I guess that depends on whether or not I get any say in what's going on in my life," Matt shot back, not allowing Suzan to simply gloss over their argument. His schooling was too important to him, had been to his father. And he wasn't about to let some woman try to dictate his life, just because she was opening up her home to him. He wasn't going to be someone else's puppet, no matter how much he craved stability.
There was a brief moment, in which no one said anything. And the uncomfortable silence was the only sound that filled the room, until Heather spoke up. "Matt, why don't you go get Frank to help you unpack your things?"
Matt couldn't believe what he was hearing. "No," he said defiantly, challenging Heather not for the first time. He trusted and respected Heather; she'd been nothing but honest and straightforward with him since they'd met the day his father had been murdered. She'd never led him astray with her choice of foster care, except once. But he'd gone in to all the other placements knowing they were temporary, a short fix, that he only had to make it through a night or two. This was different, this situation was to be long term, and he wasn't about to leave the room while they discussed things behind his back. "I think I have a right to know what's being said."
"Matt, go help Frank unpack your things," Heather told him forcefully, her tone leaving no room for argument. "I would like to speak with Suzan alone for a minute."
Matt seethed, as he got up off the couch clenching his jaw, unable to believe that Heather had told him to go. She was supposed to be on his side, to stick up for him, not leave him in the dark. His knuckles white from gripping his cane, Matt turned and stormed out of the room.
Matt quickly found his way to what was going to be his bedroom, using the faint sounds his cane produced to get a mental image of the apartment, resisting the urge to slam the door. He felt his way around the room and sat on the small child's bed, the one that belonged to the Miller's five-year-old. He could sense Frank leaning against the other bed across from him, but ignored the man in favor of concentrating on the conversation going on in the other room.
His sensitive ears picked up the sound of Heather's confident voice. She always sounded that way to him, calm and collected, like she had a handle on the situation.
"What happened, Suzan?" Heather asked. "We left the room for five minutes and you two were already butting heads."
Suzan snorted in what sounded like disbelief. "I honestly don't know what happened. One minute we were talking, and the next he was lashing out at me…"
"What were you talking about?"
"I was telling him how Frank and I wanted to enroll him in La Salle Middle School, and he got very defensive."
"You have to understand, Suzan, that Matt is feeling very vulnerable right now. He's lost so much already. He's clinging to what he has left. And if you spring things on him, he's not going to react well. You have to take things slow."
"Maybe we're not cut of this," Suzan whispered. "What do we know about this kid, or what he needs?"
"I think you and your husband are just what Matt needs. You both have a steady income, and work consistent hours. And even though your son's condition wasn't the same as Matt's, you have experience with special needs children and the patience to work with them. You just need to let the initial wrinkles iron themselves out."
Matt tensed as he overhead Suzan's doubts about taking him in, unsure of whether he was more upset or relieved. He was angry: angry with Suzan for trying to force him into attending another school, angry because Heather made him seem weak, angry that his father was dead and that he needed foster care to begin with. In many ways, he wished that he could just stay with Heather, someone he knew and trusted. That wasn't possible, so they had to find another home. And the Millers seemed to be the only ones interested, and he couldn't quell the sick feeling he got in the pit of his stomach when Suzan thought about changing her mind. Yet, despite his concern, he did feel some relief, because on some level he was afraid of trying to fit in with a new family.
"You alright, Matt?" Frank asked, his voice filled with concern.
Matt shrugged, unsure of how he should answer. "It's all just a little inundating."
"I can understand that," Frank replied. "You've been through quite…"
"I'm not vulnerable!" Matt interjected, his anger swelling again. "I'm not weak or about to fall apart at the seams!"
"I'm not saying you are, Matt. I'm just saying that I can see how you might feel overwhelmed."
Matt sighed, as he shook his head. "I'm sorry."
"It's alright," Frank assured him, his voice remaining calm and understanding.
Matt dropped his head, as he fidgeted with his cane strap. He listened as Frank crossed the room then sat down beside him.
"You know, Matt, I'm not going to say I know exactly what you're going through. I'm not going to say that I have all the answers. But I can listen and sometimes I think that's the best thing a person can do."
Matt nodded, grateful for the older man's understanding, which was more than he received from most of the people he'd met since his father's death.
"Now, how about we try and find a place for all your stuff, huh?"
"Sure," Matt replied as he stood up. He had a feeling he was going to like Frank Miller.
It took quite a while for Matt and Frank to put away all of Matt's things, mostly because they had to find space in the small room. But neither of them really minded; it gave them a chance to get to know each other.
Frank rented out a small shop a couple blocks down the street, out of which he built and repaired watches. He'd helped his father get the business started, and the two of them had run it as father and son, before Frank took over when the older man had retired. Though since he did own the business, Frank was in the habit of taking Zachary to work with him. But now that Zack had started Kindergarten, Frank was the one who took him to school in the morning and picked him up at noon, while Suzan worked full time as a clerk at an uptown law firm.
Matt also found that Frank wasn't much of a boxing fan, but he loved hockey, or more accurately the New York Rangers. The man went to as many Rangers games as he could afford. And he swore that he would make a fan out of Matt before the winter was over, to that Matt could only laugh in response. Along with hockey, Frank admitted that he could spend all night sitting in front of the TV just as easily as he could spend it out on the town with Suzan or playing with Zack. The biggest problem he had was trying to find the time to do all the things he needed or wanted to do. But other than that, he couldn't complain much.
In return, Matt tried to share some of his own interests. But to be honest he didn't know what to say. His father had never let him do much in the way of sports. It was always study, study, study, until that seemed like the only thing he ever did. He'd always been a fan of boxing, because of his dad, but he'd never done much himself. In fact, it wasn't until after the accident that he started sneaking behind his father's back, defying him.
He used to go up to the roof of their apartment building, where his dad had a gym of sorts set up, and use his father's equipment. He'd throw a few punches at the punching bag or beat on the speed bag for a while. Sometimes he'd work on his balance, going so far as to do handstands on the building's ledge. He'd do anything to test his senses, to see how far they could go, to find their limits. However, his heightened senses weren't something he felt comfortable sharing with Frank or anyone else for that matter. So, much to his frustration, all he could offer was the fact that he loved boxing and liked to read.
"Come on, Matt," Frank encouraged. "There's got to be more than that."
Matt shrugged. "Not really."
"Well, what do you and you're friend's like to do?" Frank asked. "I know when I was your age, my friends and I used to go out all the time. We'd go to the movies, bowling, play stickball. We were never home."
Matt hesitated for a minute. "It was always just my dad and I."
Frank didn't reply, and for that Matt was grateful. He didn't want weak apologies or pity. The fact that he'd never been popular and was never going to be was something he'd come to accept. He'd had his father, now he just had himself, and he was convinced that he didn't need anyone else.
His small admission successfully killed their conversation, and an awkward silence once again filled the room, as the two of them finished unpacking Matt's things. When they were finished they made their way back into the living room, where Heather and Suzan were still talking.
"Well, are you all settled in?" Heather asked.
"Yeah, pretty much," Matt replied.
"Ok then. I'll be back in a few weeks to check and see how things are going. In the meantime you can reach me at my office," Heather told them, the chair groaning slightly as she got up. "That goes for you too, Matt."
"Ok," Matt replied somewhat weakly. He was afraid to see Heather leave, despite the fact that the Millers, or at least Frank, seemed to be good people. Her leaving seemed to make it all real, his father's death, him being orphaned. Before now it had almost seemed as if he was just in a bad dream. But this wasn't a dream. He wasn't going to wake up to some fight blaring on the TV and his father passed out in that ratty old recliner. No, tomorrow he was going to wake up in an apartment he wasn't familiar with filled with a bunch of people he didn't know. And he didn't want that reality.
"Thank you for all your help," Suzan said, over the creak of the front door's hinges.
"Just doing my job," Heather replied. "You all have a good evening." And with that she turned and left, the sound of her footsteps following her down the hallway.
Matt listened as they closed the door, before letting out a small sigh. "If it's alright with you, I'm going to go lie down," he told them, though he really just wanted to be alone for a while, to think.
"Sure, Matt," Frank said. "We're just going to get dinner started. We'll let you know when it's ready."
"Thanks," Matt replied before slipping off down the hall. He shut the door behind him once he entered what was now his bedroom, and sat down on his bed. He placed his cane between the nightstand and the bed then took off his glasses, before lying down. He thought about going up the roof, where he could be high above the streets, where he felt more comfortable. But he didn't think he should be skipping out on the Millers already.
So instead he closed his eyes and tried to clear his head and relax. But as he lay there, he couldn't stop thinking about the argument he'd had with Suzan. He knew she was right, that La Salle was the better school. But his father had insisted on East Side because of its location. And if he was honest with himself that was the reason he didn't want to change schools, because it had been his father's decision. It had nothing to do with not wanting the hassle of arranging things with different teachers and a new TVI. In fact, he would be willing to bet that Mrs. Patterson worked for La Salle as well, since it was in the same district as East Side.
But what school he attended really didn't have much do with his father's memory. And if anything, his dad would want him to go to the better school. So with that in mind, Matt sat up, prepared to go and make amends with Suzan. However, as he reached for his glasses, his sensitive ears picked up the conversation going on in the other room.
"What do you mean you don't think he likes you?" Frank was asking Suzan. "What gave you that idea?"
"Nothing really," Suzan replied. "It's just a feeling I have."
"Come on, now. Something had to put that idea in your head," Frank pressed.
There was a brief pause before Suzan said, "I mentioned enrolling him in La Salle and he wasn't happy about it."
"School?" Frank asked, his tone showing his surprise. "Geez, Honey, the kid hasn't been here for three hours and you're already pushing him about school?"
"Well, I didn't know what else to say, Frank!" Suzan exclaimed. "I thought he would want to start school! I mean, isn't that a big deal for kids his age?"
"Sure, it is," Frank assured her. "But Matt's been through a lot lately. He lost his father and his sight in the span of just a few short months. You need to give him some time to adjust to his new surroundings."
"You don't think I know that?" Suzan snapped. "Because I do. I understand he needs some time. But that doesn't excuse the fact that he practically bit my head off because I didn't know that he needs some special teacher called a TVI."
"TVI? " Frank asked. "What's that?"
"A Teacher of the Visually Impaired," Suzan told him. "The one Heather told us about; the liaison between the students and their teachers. They do things like make sure Matt can get papers and notes in Braille."
"I remember her talking about it."
"Well, I didn't pick up on the acronym. But he said something about having already met with the one from East Side and then informed me that not all handicapped people are the same. As if I didn't already know that."
"Come here," Frank told her. "I'm sure he didn't mean to upset you. But they did warn us that it's normal for these kids to strike out. So you can't take it personally."
"I don't know if I can do this," Suzan choked out between sobs. "I think we might have made a mistake. It's too soon…"
"Hey, hey, hey," Frank soothed. "It's going to be alright. But we talked about this before, that these kids couldn't replace Jason."
"I know," Suzan whispered. "I just don't think I can do this."
"Yes you can. You'll do just fine. Besides, we can't back out now. We can't do that to him. Just give it some time. Ok?"
Suzan let out a big sigh. "Ok."
It was a few minutes before anything else was said, and Frank's voice broke the silence. "I have to pick up Zack now. You'll be alright?"
"Yeah, I'll be fine."
"Alright, I'll be back in about half an hour." Frank said.
At that Matt shut out their conversation, focusing on blocking out any sounds that weren't within normal hearing range. He curled up on the bed, hugging his knees to his chest. He didn't know what to make of what he'd just overheard. He'd thought Heather had convinced Suzan to let him stay, but now she was iterating the same doubt. He found himself torn once again between anger, shame, and grief. But as before, there was also relief, relief that Frank had convinced her to let him stay, because he didn't know if he could have taken it if he was bounced to yet another home.
Matt didn't intend to fall asleep. But apparently he did, because the next thing he knew he was being jerked awake by the sound of the bedroom door bursting open and little feet running across the carpeted floor. Matt sat up quickly, momentarily startled by the unfamiliar surroundings. But he soon regained his bearings and began searching for the other person in the room with his heightened senses. He didn't have to search too hard however, because a little voice called to him from across the room.
"Hi. I'm Zack. Daddy said that you were here, and I wanted to come say hi," Zack babbled. "Do you like my room? Daddy helped me clean it real good. I had to put all my toys away. Do you like toys? Because; I have all kinds of toys. But my blue Hot Wheels car is my favorite. Do you want to see it?"
Matt didn't know what to say at first. He was literally overwhelmed with the young boy's enthusiasm. But eventually he just laughed and nodded his head.
His response was followed by a few grunts and the sounds of Zack rummaging through a box. "Here it is!" He exclaimed before climbing up on the bed with him. "See? Isn't it pretty blue? And it goes really fast too. It's the fastest of them all."
"Can I hold it?" Matt asked, as he held his hand out towards him.
"Yep." Zack placed the toy in Matt's palm.
Matt ran his fingers over the small car, trying to get a mental image of what it looked like. He could tell that it was a convertible of some sort, two door, without a backseat. His thumb brushed over the grill of the car and he smiled when he felt the insignia. "A Mustang?" He teased lightly.
"What's that?" Zack asked.
"It's a car type or brand," Matt explained. "And this little horse here on the front of your car means it's a Mustang."
"Oh," Zack replied, obviously not really interested in what Matt was saying. Instead his attention seemed to be elsewhere.
He could feel the weight of the little boy's intense gaze, and couldn't help but shift uneasily. "What?" He finally demanded perhaps a little to sharply.
"How come your eyes look funny?" Zack asked bluntly.
Surprisingly the question didn't bother Matt. It was something he'd been asked countless times at the other homes he'd stayed at. Everyone wanted to know what had happened to him, why he was blind, and what the scars were from. But there was something about Zack that made him relax a little, instead of tensing up at the question. "I was in an accident."
"Did it hurt?"
"Yeah, it did," Matt answered truthfully. "But it doesn't hurt anymore."
"Do they still work right? Because Julie poked her big brother in the eye with her Barbie doll leg and he had to wear an eye patch for a week," he told him, before giggling a little. "He looked like a pirate."
Matt wanted to laugh, but he just couldn't bring himself to. His heightened senses may have weakened the blow of losing his sight, but it was still a blow nonetheless. "Actually, my eyes don't work at all anymore," he said. "I'm blind."
"But if they don't work then how can you see?"
"I can't," Matt let out a small sigh when he didn't get a response. "Close your eyes…. Are they closed?"
"Good. Now, do you see how dark it is? How you can't see anything?"
"Well, that's what being blind is like. It's like having your eyes closed all the time."
"I hope that never happens to me," Zack told him. "I'm afraid of the dark. That's why I sleep with a nightlight on."
Matt shrugged, trying his best to act indifferent, not wanting to make the same mistake with Zack as he had with Suzan and take his anger out on the young boy. "You get used to it," he said, before being interrupted by a light knock on their door.
"Hey," Frank called. "I thought I told you to go get Matt and tell him supper was ready."
"I wanted to show him my Mustang," Zack replied, making sure to put strong emphasis on the car's brand.
"Well, dinner's getting cold. So, why don't you two wash up and come eat," Frank told them.
"Ok, Daddy," Zack said, as he jumped off the bed, landing with a soft thump. "Come on, Matt. I'll lead the way." He grabbed a hold of Matt's hand and pulled him down the hall towards the bathroom.
After they had both cleaned up, Zack led Matt to the kitchen. "You can sit here," he told Matt, as he pulled a chair away from the table, its legs dragging across the floor.
"Thanks," Matt practically mumbled as he took a seat. He could sense Suzan's presence in the room, and he couldn't help but feel embarrassed about his earlier behavior.
Nothing was said as everyone set about filling his or her plates and stomachs. But Matt had a feeling that this wasn't the normal routine. The Millers seemed like the kind of family that actually sat down during dinner and talked about their day, or something of that cliché. However, now there was a tension in the room, an unease that successfully killed any and all conversation. Not even Zack said anything.
Eventually, Matt couldn't take it anymore. So he swallowed his pride and then cleared his throat to try to get everyone's attention. "Mrs. Miller, I would like to apologize for how I acted earlier." He addressed her as such in an attempt to be respectful, something his father had taught him, something he'd apparently forgotten in his earlier frustrations. "You and your family were kind enough to offer your home to me, and I acted like an ass…jerk."
"Please, call me Suzan," she told him, before pausing for a moment. "And it's alright, Matt. I understand where you're coming from. But I would like you to think about going to La Salle, instead of East Side. By no means do I want you to feel forced, but I think you should consider it."
Matt shook his head. "Actually, I don't need to think about it. I'd like to enroll at La Salle."
"Hold up a second here, Matt," Frank interjected. "I don't want you to agree with us because you feel you have to."
"I'm not," Matt assured him.
"Well, then if it's alright with you, I'll call the school tomorrow and see about getting you registered. We can also head downtown to get you a couple of things as well. New school clothes and what not," Suzan told him.
"Can I go too?" Zack asked excitedly.
"I don't know, Honey," Suzan said. "We'll see."
Matt sat there quietly and listened as the conversation continued around him. He was glad that the mood had lightened. Though as he sat there at that table, he couldn't help but feel like an outsider, like he didn't belong. But what he hated was that it wasn't just a feeling, he really was a stranger to these people. And at that moment he was struck with the sudden urge to get out of there. So, he ate the rest of his food as quickly as possible then excused himself.
As Matt slipped out of the kitchen he could hear Frank telling Suzan not to follow him, and for that he was very grateful. He stumbled through the living room, down the hall, and into his bedroom, cursing as he hit the doorframe with his shoulder. He still hadn't mastered his ‘radar sense' to the point where he could move around easily in unfamiliar places. However, when he used his cane the sound of it's soft tapping was enough to allow him to get a sense of his surroundings. It was why he used it so much, as well as to keep up pretenses.
Matt closed the bedroom door before he lay down on the bed. He just lay there for a couple of minutes, trying to relax. But he couldn't. He was too restless and the room was too small and stuffy. So, he hoisted himself off the bed and reached out with his senses, until he was able to pick up a faint draft coming from the far wall. He made his way across the room and laid his hand on the cool glass of the window.
He slowly eased the window open and let the cool evening breeze flow into the room. The wind picked up, rattling the panes and painting the room with waves of sound. Matt sighed as he leaned out the window and let the cool air wash over him. He didn't rejoin the Millers that night, because he didn't think he'd be able to handle another awkward minute. He simply stayed in that small room, sitting on the windowsill, content as he listened to all the sounds of the city.