Through Different Eyes - Short Story

It's amazing where ideas find me. It was a chilly morning, and I had gone for a walk to check the mail. The mailbox was empty, so I came back up our long driveway, and sat on the warm gravel, soaking up the sun. It was as I looked at a tiny leaf that happened to have caught a single drop of dew, this totally unrelated story idea popped into my head. So I wrote it down. I'd really appreciate any comments on how I can improve it.

Through Different Eyes
By BushMaid

In the middle of the bustling mall, I slumped into a chair at the cafĂ© and let my heavy bags of groceries hit the floor. I was flustered, and for good reason. The mechanic had not fixed my car yet, so I had to walk everywhere carrying my groceries. The assistant at the computer store did not have the part that would fix my computer and couldn’t order one in, so I now have to use the Library’s. The checkout girl was surly and slow, and dropped a handful of change on the ground instead of into my hand and left me to pick it up. It had been a horrible morning full of uncaring, self-serving people.

I ran my hand through my hair in agitation, waiting for the waitress to arrive at the table. Pulling a newspaper from the closest grocery bag, I began rifling through my handbag for my reading glasses. Eventually my hand laid hold of them, and I polished them briefly with the edge of my shirt before putting them on. My eyesight blurred hideously, creating a fog I could not see through. I frowned, and pulled them from my face, inspecting them. That was odd. The glass was clear. I brushed a nonexistent speck from them and tried again. I could barely see a thing past the cloudy glass.

“Why don’t you try mine?”

I almost jumped out of my skin at the nearness of the voice. I clawed the useless glasses from my eyes and quickly turned to view the speaker. An elderly lady had joined me at my table, and was looking at me across the pepper and salt. She was dressed in an elegant white dress, with matching jacket. A string of delicate pearls wound around her neck attractively. Her white-grey hair was swept up into a stylish bun, and her blue eyes sparkled with a life that denied her aging appearance. She was holding out a wrinkled hand to me, and it was then I noticed the gold wireframe spectacles she was offering.

“Uh...” I began, somewhat unsettled, “mine are prescription glasses, those won’t help.”

“Ah, but they might.” She responded brightly. “Sometimes a new set of eyes can put a whole different view on things, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Depends on whether you can see through them or not,” I muttered to myself, wondering what was wrong with mine as I shoved them back into my purse.

“Then you admit it wouldn’t hurt to try them.” The old lady said it like a statement, not a question.

I can’t imagine what persuaded me to take the delicate glasses from the mysterious old woman. I knew they wouldn’t work. They looked practically antique, as though they should have been in a museum, not passed to a flustered woman who wanted to read the newspaper over a cup of coffee. So I can’t tell you why, but I reached out and took the glasses from her hand.

Looking out over the bustling shopping centre, I gently placed the spectacles on my nose and dragged the wire frames up past my face, looping the ends around my ears. A knowing smile crept across the old woman’s face, but I didn’t see it. I had raised my eyes and as I took my first look out through the ancient glass, what I saw took my breath away.

The mall hadn’t changed, but its occupants had, and drastically at that.  It was though some invisible hand had thrown the clock out of whack on everyone’s life, causing their ages to change bizarrely. Everyone in the store had suddenly vanished; the lively shopping court abruptly filling with a variety of new faces that belonged to the exact same owners as before.

I turned my shocked gaze to where I knew two teenage girls were squealing over a new dress on sale moments before. They were now no more than five years old, looking afraid and fragile standing by the oversized rack of clothing. I could see their thoughts; I could see everything about them; their worries and fears hitting me like a hot blast from an oven. They were sisters, their parents were constantly fighting, and they were confused and afraid, drowning their fear and worry in shopping for new things. Suddenly the two giggly teenagers gushing over the new items didn’t seem so ridiculous and frivolous.

A fragile old man suddenly caught my attention. With a start that nearly threw me out of my chair, I saw he was the mechanic. What had happened to him? He looked at least 130 years old, his shaking legs barely keeping him upright despite the help of his cane. His life filled my mind: He was battling with a huge mortgage that was threatening to take his home; he worked night and day without thought of his health, his family were not well fed, and he was running out of options. Suddenly my heart filled with a heavy sense of guilt as I recalled the hard time I gave him about not fixing my car.

A young teenager passed nearby. She had dark circles under her eyes, and a terrible hunch as she shuffled along. Something about her was familiar and I leaned forward to get a better look. It was the woman from the computer store! Only she was much younger than before. As I watched her, her circumstances became clear to me. She had grown up as an orphan, scared and alone in the world. The world frightened her even though she was a grown woman. This was her first job, and she feared she may be losing it, wondering what she would do for money if she did. Tears came to my eyes as I recalled the irritated way I treated her. I should not have been so harsh.

Someone moved out of the corner of my eye, and I turned to see an old woman sit down at the table next to me. She looked haggard, and old, with dark eyes that revealed a deep sadness. I noted her uniform and her name tag. My eyes widened. It was the clumsy checkout girl! Why did she look so? My eyes took in her memories, they played across my vision like a television. She worked two jobs during the week and another on weekends to provide for her crippled mother and three young brothers. She didn’t have time to grieve over the pain and loss of her father’s death, and other then working herself to the bone she didn’t know what to do. I was shocked. No wonder the girl had been distracted!

It was then I turned back to the lady who had handed me these astonishing glasses. She was no longer there. I slowly reached up and took the simple frames from my face. I looked around. The people in the mall returned to their normal selves. Extraordinary... the simple, gold wire spectacles gave the wearer a whole new view of the lives of others. What a vision!

My eyes moved back to the chair where I last saw the mysterious old lady. Her chair was empty. No- I saw there was something left there. Bending around the table, I reached over and picked up a single sheet of paper that was placed on her chair. In clear, elegant handwriting, the note read:

“Do something with what you have seen, for you will never see it again.”

As I took in the meaning of the note, I felt the glasses in my other hand. I brought them into view- and my hand was clutching thin air. They had disappeared, leaving not a trace. Reeling from this experience, I read the note a second time. As I did, my focus slowly shifted outside the square of paper and I noticed the checkout girl still sitting at the table. Do something with what you have seen... the words ran through my mind as the girl’s eyes met mine. I suddenly knew what I had to do. I smiled and left my table, moving towards her.

I could get my coffee another time, I told myself. Right now, I had some things that were much more important to do.


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