Authors: Brant Williams
Threads That Bind
Copyright © 2012 by Brant Williams
First Kindle edition published 2012
All rights reserved.
Cover art by Tian Mulholland
For my father,
who could do this much better than I.
Table of Contents
Most people don’t consider a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles a life changing event – I certainly didn’t. But the day I went to the DMV to get my driver’s license was the day I discovered I wasn’t like most people.
I paced outside the building with my dad, waiting for my turn to take the driving test. I shouldn’t have been nervous. I had already passed my dad’s unofficial examination, which he assured me was much harder than the DMV’s. However, that didn’t stop me from sweating profusely from practically every pore in my body. My palms felt clammy, and the sweat on my face made my heavy glasses repeatedly slip down my nose.
A thin man with a prominent nose and a bushy beard walked out of the DMV. “Madison Montgomery?” he read from a clipboard in his hand.
This was my big moment. A chance for freedom and mobility. Once I passed this test, I would no longer have to depend upon the capricious whims of my parents to go where I wanted.
Clearly sensing my nervousness, Dad leaned in close. “You can do this, Madison,” he said. He put one arm around me and gave me a small squeeze. Well, small for him. For me it bordered on rib crushing, but I was used to that. My dad was a big man with piercing eyes, and plenty of muscles. He complained about the encroaching gray in his hair, but both my mom and I thought it made him look distinguished – like Harrison Ford on steroids.
I pushed up my glasses and stepped forward. The man with the clipboard glanced toward me, and I saw the familiar expression of appraisal and judgment. It only lasted an instant, but that was all it took for people to see my physical appearance and dismiss me as something less than a person. After sixteen years, I had gotten used to it, but that didn’t make it hurt any less.
I was very aware of what I looked like. For most of my life I had worn glasses. Not the cute, stylish glasses that some of my friends had. I would have been fine with those. No, my glasses had thick, magnify-my-eyes-to-the-size-of-Frisbees lenses.
I couldn’t wear contacts - I have this touching my eye thing - and my ophthalmologist informed me that eye surgery was more likely to leave me blind than fix my vision.
To that beautiful image, add in braces, a propensity to sprout zits under stress, and the compulsive consumption of anything with sugar in it.
So yeah, I wasn’t going to win any beauty contests - or be nominated Prom Queen. But I was smart, clever, and quite a good actress. All of which were characteristics that had little value in high school unless you had good looks or a six figure allowance. I had neither, and it would be two more years before I could escape.
I gave the man with the clipboard a flat stare, showing him that I knew exactly what he was thinking. He at least had the good grace to look away.
“Is this your car?” he asked, pointing at my mom’s Jetta.
I was about to climb in when a second car pulled up behind clipboard-man, catching my attention. Another man with a clipboard, this one shorter with a large forehead, slipped out of the passenger side door. I froze when I caught a glimpse of the driver.
My sweating increased from profuse to drenching. I’d pretty much given up on any guy at Woodbridge High being man enough to date someone for intelligence and inner beauty, but that didn’t stop me from having a couple of fantasy crushes. And Josh Lancaster was the pinnacle of that list.
He stepped out of the car and ran a hand through his sandy hair. The DMV examiner ripped a piece of paper off his clipboard and handed it to Josh, who accepted it with a grin. His smile was so beautiful it almost hurt to watch him.
I sighed. What was it about this boy that gave him such power over me? I didn’t like it, but I had no idea how to change it either. I had been in love with Josh since at least the third grade.
Josh looked up from the paper and began walking towards me. I stared like an animal caught in the headlights of a semi truck barreling down the freeway. I couldn’t move; I couldn’t even breathe.
A few steps before he reached me, Josh noticed I was there. “I did it, Madison!” he said, waving his paper excitedly. “I’m official!”
I opened my mouth to say something, but he had already walked past on his way to get his license. I stood there, a giddy feeling washing over me as I watched him walk into the DMV.
“Madison?” said Clipboard Man.
“Huh?” I turned back to face him, startled out of my obsessing.
He rolled his eyes and gestured toward the car. “Are you ready?”
I took a breath, deeply annoyed at myself. Of all the times to be distracted by a boy. I tried without success to push Josh out of my thoughts and climbed into the car.
Clipboard Man first had me test all the lights and turn signals. Then he asked me to drive through a series of cones. I’d practiced this with my dad and had it down - piece of cake.
When he directed me out of the parking lot and onto the roads, I made sure I did everything with textbook precision; it would be too embarrassing to fail my driver’s test.
By the time we reached the Dairy Queen on Fifth Street, I began to relax. So far, I hadn’t made any mistakes. Clipboard Man had me turn back toward the DMV, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Freedom was only a few minutes away.
That’s when my vision blurred.
I’d never experienced anything like it. One moment I could see just fine, and the next everything looked like I had opened my eyes at the bottom of a swimming pool. I was so surprised that I accidentally pressed harder on the accelerator.
Admittedly, not my brightest move.
Once I realized my mistake I slammed on the breaks, causing the car to skid with a surprisingly loud squeal of tires. Under normal circumstances I might have been able to stay on the road. This was anything but normal. I tried to turn into the skid, but I panicked and did the exact opposite, causing the car to continue its out of control rampage. I did manage to avoid a tall brown blob – telephone pole? – and a blue blob – mailbox? – before hitting the curb and jumping the car onto the sidewalk. Several multicolored blobs that must have been people scattered as the car jerked to a stop.
My seatbelt locked up, keeping me from hitting the windshield, but my head jerked forward. The abrupt stop was too much for my heavy glasses on my sweat-soaked face and they flew against the dashboard. With a crack, one of the lenses popped out of the frames.
Once it was over, I sat up and looked around at a crystal clear world.
My vision was perfect.
“Are you all right?” Clipboard Man asked.
I turned to face him, every detail sharp and crisp. I could see each hair of his beard, the individual threads making up the weave of fabric in his shirt, and the drops of perspiration forming on his brow.
Looking out of the car, I saw the pedestrians I had almost hit glare at me as they walked away. One lady had on a large hat with fake flowers attached to it and the colors - bright reds, yellows, and greens - were so vivid that they seemed to wash out the color of everything else around them.
I was so distracted by the details around me that it took me a minute to remember to nod my head in answer to Clipboard Man’s question.
“What just happened?” Clipboard Man asked. He bent over to pick up his clipboard from the floor where it had landed.
“An accident?” I said, still distracted by my suddenly clear vision. I picked up the glasses and held them near my eyes. Through the remaining lens, the world still looked blurry. I lowered the glasses, and everything was clear. How could this be?
“I figured that out,” said Clipboard Man. “You were doing so well.” He sighed and began writing on the clipboard.
Not a good sign.
Fortunately, the car appeared to have avoided any serious damage, and I was able to drive it off of the sidewalk and back to the DMV.
My mind raced during the drive back. What could have caused this? Part of me – ok, the majority of me – was ecstatic. I had been wearing glasses since I was two. This shouldn’t be possible, but it somehow was.
Back at the DMV we got out of the car, and Clipboard Man handed me a ripped-off sheet of paper. A quick glance confirmed my fears: I had failed. That meant I would have to come back and take the test again. I groaned.
Dad saw me pull in and walked up to the car. He looked at me and cocked his head to the side. “Where are your glasses?” he asked.
I held up the broken pieces.
“I didn’t pass my test,” I said matter-of-factly. I should have been more upset. This was something that I’d been looking forward to for years, and I was denied it at the last second. But looking at a world in perfect focus without glasses was so unexpected that I was still in shock, and my driving test didn’t seem to matter so much at that moment.
Dad guided me into the passenger side of the car, clearly thinking I couldn’t see without my glasses. I got in without protest, wondering how I was going to explain this to him.
Dad pulled out of the DMV and onto the road without a word. After a moment he spoke.
“So, what happened?” he asked.
I didn’t say anything. How could I explain when I didn’t understand what had happened myself?
When I didn’t answer Dad continued. “Here’s what I know: you left the DMV to take your test. When you came back, your glasses were broken, and the alignment on the car is shot.” To demonstrate, he loosened his grip on the wheel, and the car veered to the right. He straightened the car and glanced over at me. “Well?”
“It wasn’t my fault,” I said, the words tumbling out in a rush. “One minute I could see perfectly, the next minute everything went blurry.” I fiddled with the broken glasses in my hands as I told him what happened. “I know this sounds impossible, but I think my eyes healed themselves.”
Dad looked at me and raised his eyebrows, clearly skeptical. Could I blame him?
“Honestly,” I said. “I can see perfectly fine. The reason my vision went blurry is because I had on these thick glasses when my vision fixed itself.” I held up the glasses. “You try to see out of these.”
Dad didn’t say anything immediately. I tried to read what he was thinking, but I didn’t see any of the emotions I’d been expecting. He didn’t look mad, or upset, he looked... thoughtful.
“Are you telling me the truth?” he asked.
He pointed at a billboard down the road. “Can you read me what that says?”
My miraculously healed vision had no problem reading the words. “Accident? Injury? I can help. Call Richard Clayton, attorney at law.” I frowned at my dad. “Not funny.”
But Dad wasn’t smiling.
That night at dinner, I discovered that it wasn’t just my eyes that had changed.
Mom had made a big salad as part of her ongoing effort to help me eat healthy food. She didn’t like what she called my “sugar addiction.” Which, translated from Mother-ese to English, meant she thought I was fat.
She wasn’t actually my biological mother. My biological mother had died shortly after I had been born, and Dad had remarried when I was five – I had a few fuzzy memories of the wedding. I knew some kids called their step-mom by her first name, but since she was the only mom I’d ever really known, I just called her Mom.
Usually, I choked salad down when forced to simply because I knew it was good for me. Unless I drowned it in ranch dressing I couldn’t stand the taste of it, and Mom would only let me have a little on the side because she said that too much ranch dressing defeated the purpose of eating a salad.