FANFIC: House of Light – Prologue

LIFE UNEXPECTED

Summary: Three years ago, Lux Cassidy suffered a stroke that left her permanently blind in both eyes.  This is the story of how she eventually finds her way home.  AU.

A/N: The premise of this story is 100% inspired by the film Mother and Child.  If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.  Britt Robertson has a small role as a blind girl named Violet, who befriends Naomi Watts’ character.  I first watched it a few days after the LUX finale aired and I was struck by the similarities between the film and the show.  Of course there are the obvious themes of adoption and parent/child reunions running through both, but there were minor things as well, such as Britt’s character saying that her mother worried she would never “find her way” and wanted her to work in radio someday.  Anyway, the last thing I should be doing right now is starting a new story, but the film was so beautifully written and beautifully acted, and I haven’t been able to get it or this idea out of my mind since.

Disclaimer: LUX is Liz Tigelaar’s baby, the same way that Mother and Child is Rodrigo Garcia’s baby.  I’m just babysitting these characters that I have grown to love almost as much as my own.

House of Light

1. Prologue

For my thirteenth birthday, Valerie gives me a lamp shaped like a miniature house.  It looks hand-painted and expensive, and up close the detail of each individual brick is enough to bring tears to my eyes.  I’ve never owned anything so nice.

When she turns the lamp on, light comes shining out every little window, like magic.  “So you can always look at it and remember that you have a place to call home now,” she says, smiling at me.  “Happy birthday, Lux.”

Hours later, after getting ready for bed, I take one last look at the house on my nightstand before flipping the switch and blanketing the room in darkness.

A thin strip of light stays visible in the space where the door and wooden floor don’t quite meet.  I stare at it sometimes when I can’t sleep.  I stare at it and listen to the sounds of Valerie pacing around the kitchen in her slippers.

He usually comes home late.  I squeeze my eyes shut when I hear the front door open and slam behind him.  I’ve learned to fear that sound.  There is no pattern to his actions, no warning signs I can trust.  Every night when I hear his footsteps approaching on the stairs, I don’t know whether the sound will fade as he turns left towards the bathroom or whether they will continue on towards me.

Not tonight, I think. Please.  But I know it doesn’t matter what I think.  The sliver of light under my door changes form.  I watch it distort and grow across the floor as the door slowly opens.  Quickly, I close my eyes again and try not to move.  After all these months, after everything, I still make believe that he’ll leave me alone if he thinks I’m sleeping.  I should know better by now.

He says nothing after he comes in, only closes the door behind him, gently so it doesn’t make a sound.  My hands are clenched in fists by my side.  It’s easy to play dead.  I pretend that I’m not there.  I don’t move until I feel his hot breath on my cheek, filled with the smell of cigarettes and cheap beer, and I sit up involuntarily.  My fists open in protest as I try and push him away.

“Don’t,” he says, softly, and grabs me by both wrists.  Just like that, just don’t, like that’s all I’m worth, that one word.

I choke down my fear.  “I’m going to tell her.  Right now.  You better let go of me.”

A short laugh escapes his throat.  “No you won’t.  You know why?”

I don’t say anything.

“You know why?” he repeats.  “I know you know why.  Say it.”  He tightens his grip on my wrists until I can feel them start to bruise.

“Sunnyvale.  Let go of me!”

“Shh.”  His fingers relax ever so slightly.  “That’s right, Sunnyvale.  If you say anything, your ‘mom’ will send your scrawny ass back there, is that what you want?”

Silence.  I won’t give him the satisfaction of an answer, I won’t.

“This is our secret,” he says.  The words make bumps rise all over my skin, the way they do in the rare times that he actually comes home for dinner, when he will inevitably say something innocent to me, something like, “Pass the mashed potatoes,” pairing it with a wink so subtle that I almost wonder if it didn’t happen.  It makes me feel dirty like a used tissue someone forgot to throw away.

Those are the nights I lock myself in the bathroom and search the mirror for whatever it is about me—I imagine a mark on my skin that only I can’t see—whatever it is that keeps him coming back.  Maybe I can wash it off of me.

He lets go of one of my arms, slowly, bringing his own hand to rest on his belt buckle.  “You’re not a kid anymore,” he states, without any emotion.  “Happy birthday, right?”  And I know immediately that tonight won’t be like those other nights, but I also know it won’t be different in the way I hoped.

“No,” I try to say, shaking my head.  “No,” but the word comes out as more of a strangled cry.  In the darkness, I can just make out the outline of Valerie’s miniature house on the table behind him.  I wish more than ever that I could leave my body.

“I saw the cake in the kitchen.”  He doesn’t see my right hand reaching over to the table, inch my inch.  “Did you blow out all your candles?”  I feel the lamp in the dark with my fingertips and my hand closes around the neck.  “I hope you made a—” He doesn’t finish sentence because he doesn’t expect a pretend house to come smashing into his skull, pointed roof, chimney, and all.  I break free from him as he clutches his head with both hands, cursing under his breath.

“Mom!” I yell as loud as I can.  “MOM!”  I don’t make it very far out into the hallway before he reaches me and clamps his sweaty hand over my mouth from behind.

And I swear I see what happens next before it actually does.  I see the intricate whorls in the varnished wooden steps as they appear to fly up at me.  I see all those little details I never noticed in the past two years I’ve lived inside this house: the patterns on the floor tangling like spiderwebs around my feet.

I see it happening, and then it actually happens and the last thing I remember is the numbness in my chest as I pitch forward down the stairs.  I feel a sharp pain at the back of my head and everything turns black.

* * *

I hear someone calling my name: “Lux.  Lux.” Light.  Light. “Come back to me, Lux.”

The voice pushes through the cloud that has wrapped itself around my brain.  “Mom?” I say it with some uncertainty.

“You had an accident,” Valerie’s voice says, and I can hear genuine concern filling it.  “You tripped and you fell down the stairs.”

I struggle to understand what she’s saying.  Something about her version of events doesn’t sound quite right, but at the moment I don’t care.  I just want to wake up.  I want to open my eyes, to see her face looking down at me as it always does when she wakes me each morning, the sunlight streaming in through the window behind her.

But when I open my eyes, I don’t see any of that.  I don’t see anything at all.

“Mom?”  There is panic in my voice this time, I can hear it.  My hands reach blindly out and grab at fistfuls of air.

“Lux, what’s wrong?”

Something breaks inside me suddenly, the past comes rushing back to me in a giant wave of understanding that would knock me backward if I weren’t already lying crumpled on the floor.  And my mouth opens to tell her.  I want to tell her everything, but I don’t even know where to begin.

Hot tears are running down my face, but I don’t bother wiping them away.  “I can’t see the window,” I finally manage to say.  “Is it morning?”  It’s all I have the heart to say right now.

2. Morning Madness

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