She had always worn glasses.
From her formative years in primary school through to now at college, Adriana had hid behind her specs. Those early years meant that the stereotype attached to quiet kids who wear furniture on their face also stuck to her.
So, why not find solace in the one place everyone expected her to be – the library.
From there, she lived vicariously through the pages she greedily consumed. She wasn’t ugly, she didn’t smell funny, yet thanks to the unspoken hierarchy of school, she was immediately consigned to the waste bin zone of popularity.
Some would fight the power and try to bust through the glass ceiling, but Adriana found that if she had a book, she could care less. The idiotic and puerile antics of those who sat atop the throne of school meant that she never chased what they had and what they never allowed her to have.
Adriana and her specs did have someone to talk to though.
She and her Optician went way back. From her first pair of spectacles at the tender age of four years old, her eyes had been under the guidance of Tim Wiese, a warm 60-something man with a penchant for Hawaiian shirts and a real talent at conversation. It helped he was a real bookworm himself, and so every appointment she attended,
Tim and Adriana would discuss the tomes they had been reading. It was a book club, but whilst Adriana wore ridiculous frames and looked into a bright light.
It didn’t matter to Adriana though. She came to look forward to her appointments with Tim, and it was truly the only time the quiet facade of this girl slipped, and her inquisitive and insightful nature shined through. Tim would often wonder, when Adriana discussed her school life, why she wasn’t more popular, but his age meant he was detached from school popularity stakes. He thought that a bright mind and a keenness to learn would be enough to garner friends.
Now, Adriana was going through college and had undertaken a huge workload. She couldn’t bear to drop her favourite subjects, and so it meant she had more work and classes than anyone at her college. She took to it not like other adolescents – with a grimace – but with real gusto. the work presented to her during her classes, and then when she finished, just meant she had more time with books. She didn’t see it as work.
Her appointments with Tim Wiese didn’t change either. The same book club discussions took place, and the bond only grew stronger.
Until her latest appointment.
She had brought in her latest conquest to share with Tim, she would go into great detail why he simply MUST read it.
She sat in the waiting room and flicked through the pages of the book, reading the final chapter again. The ending really was unexpected, and she would find it hard not to spoil it, but she wouldn’t ruin it for Tim. She wanted him to experience the shock that she felt.
The door to Tim’s office opened and a large woman wearing an ill-fitting power suit came into view. Brown hair pulled tightly into a bun, Slate grey suit, and flat shoes that melded into the rest of her sombre appearance. The only thing that broke the dour theme was the silver locket that was wedged under one of her chins, like a pearl in a fat oyster. Upon seeing Adriana for the first time, she clasped her locket tightly but quickly, and just as sudden was her doing this, was her composure returning.
Her voice was reedy and never quite sustaining the same note from one syllable to the next. It sounded like when a cassette had been overplayed.
“Adriana McLintock?” She raised the octave a little in an enquiring tone, but her eyes never left Adriana. She knew who she was.
“Where is Mr Wiese?” was Adriana’s reply.
“Mr Wiese has had a bad accident I’m afraid, so I’ll be taking his appointments until he returns.”
The reply was curt and the wavering in her voice minimal. She turned around and walked into Mr Wiese’s office, obviously expectant of Adriana to walk in behind.
The shock of hearing such bad news was allied with her need for information. What had happened? Would he be OK? She needed to know.
Adriana walked into the Optician’s office, and the new lady was already sitting at her chair wielding the ugly spectacles that are designed to test vision – the ones where you slide a myriad of lenses in.
She wanted to get straight to business.
Adriana, as she was sitting into the big chair she was being ushered into, said lightly,
“So, will Mr Wiese be…”
“Mr Wiese will be back in due course, but work waits for no-one, and I’m sure he wouldn’t want your eyes to suffer in his absence, now would he?”
The last part of the sentence was meant to offer a little cushion to the brutal assertion before it, but it was as warm as an Eskimo threat.
Adriana would go to the Hospital and visit Mr Wiese. She just needed to get this appointment out of the way, and she would head straight there.
“My name is Henrietta, and I’ve been an Optician for many years. I started in my family’s business, and if there is one thing I know, it is eyes. So don’t worry and relax.”
Again with the attempt to put Adriana at ease, but again it was like wrapping a knife with candy floss.
There was just something off with this Henrietta.
Was it just her voice and the fact that Mr Wiese – probably the one person in the world she wanted to speak to – may be in pain?
Could be, but Adriana couldn’t put her mind at ease just as much as this Henrietta could never be a Counsellor.
The ugly multi-lens glasses were strapped unceremoniously onto Adriana’s face, and the lenses that were inserted immediately rendered her vision a watery nightmare. She couldn’t make out even the most basic of shapes.
Before she could object, her mouth was covered by a rubber contraption, and Henrietta placed her not so inconsiderable weight onto it. It was impossible to wrestle her off, her fingers grasping for meaningful purchase, but it was useless. She immediately raised her targets, and tried to find Henrietta’s face, but there had been something funnelling through the rubber, something silent but with a slight odour. Adriana’s fight ghosted from her arms, which now flopped lifelessly down the side of the leather Optician chair.
She awoke to pink, lots of it. She felt as if her muscles had been filled with cement, but she knew she wasn’t in the opticians anymore. She was on a bed, resplendent with a close up of New Kids On The Block. Her eyes, minus her glasses, could make out nothing but pink on the walls.
She couldn’t move freely, ropes wrapped round her wrists and ankles put paid to that hope.
There was no sunlight as the one window in the room had a blind covering it that did a slap-up job of blocking any chink of light. Instead, the light source wa provided by a fluorescent strip on the ceiling.
The door, covered with posters, burst open.
Henrietta bustled in, and with the back of her unremarkable shoe, kicked the door shut. Not before Adriana could make out a staircase in the hallway, decorated on the walls by many, MANY framed photo’s.
Adriana flinched, and Henrietta saw her do so.
“Oh, please, don’t be frightened dear. We are going to have such fun, you and I! We will rent some movies, cook some popcorn, and we can talk boys! Oh, it’ll be a blast!”
Henrietta’s voice had returned its wavery eye-wateringness. Her eyes though, they were bulging. Even with Adriana’s compromised vision, those eyes dominated her field of sight. They were scary as hell.
Henrietta had a tray in her hand.
“I’ve brought you your favourite, tuna and mayonnaise sandwiches, with salt and vinegar crisps and some Sunny Delight. Eat up, you’ve got those big exams tomorrow and you need to study, but afterwards, we will have that movie night!”
Henrietta came closer, and leaned in for what looked like the beginning of a hug. Adriana wrenched her ropes and moved every sinew in her body to avoid the contact. Henrietta noticed this, and froze.
Her face was inches away from Adriana’s.
“You’re going to be happy here Michelle. You’ll be happy again.” No multi-noted tones from Henrietta this time, just a stone-cold sound like the clanging of a metal door in a morgue.
She felt like she was on the metal bed in the morgue, watching the last sliver of light flee as the door was clammed closed.
Henrietta stood up, smiled, and left the room.
Adriana didn’t know who Michelle was, but she knew she had to get out of here.
She immediately got to work on the ropes around her wrists, but with limited success. Henrietta must’ve been a sailor in the past, because these knots were brilliantly binding.
The bed that the rope was tied to though, was made of less sturdy stuff. It must have been old, as every yank meant that the bedpost slanted toward her ever so slightly. It would depend on what Henrietta was doing, but if Adriana managed to break the bedpost, it would make a noise that would likely alert her. She would have to work quickly.
That she did. The desperation she felt gave her muscles extra fuel. The last yank pulled the post out from its moorings, and so wired was Adriana, that she managed to pull the rope and the post taut before it hit the ground.
She quickly got to work on the rest, and within minutes she was free. This was the first moment that she noticed she had been dressed in different clothes. Dungarees, a pink t-shirt and pink pumps were on her, and this made Adriana shudder inside and out.
She padded across the wooden floor, every step a painstaking one to avoid any potential creaks or noise that could alert her captor.
She was alongside a dresser cabinet and she looked to it, and it was filled with trinkets and more framed photo’s. She picked one up, raising it closely to her malfunctioning eyes so as to get a view.
It was a girl, around 15 – 16 years old, who looked just like Adriana.
The photoframe was caked in dust, and the close proximity to Adriana’s face resulted in a sneeze.
She immediately concentrated on ensuring no other part of her moved. Panic helped her, freezing her limbs, her toes, her lungs.
She allowed herself one deep but slow breath.
Even keeping her exhaling down to a ninja-like level.
She put the photo back in its place and went to the door.
The only other way out was the window.
She softly padded to the window frame, and lifted the blind, careful so as not to sneeze again as this too was smothered in dust.
She could see a regular neighbourhood. Houses lined up parallel to her current prison, driveways, cars. She didn’t recognise the area, but the merest hint of civilisation drowned her in relief.
The only problem was that she was three floors up. She couldn’t jump.
She quickly threw her gaze around for another step, ledge or platform. The garage that was attached was just to her right, but she would have to descend two floors to land on the roof.
She was more than willing to take the risk of damaging her ankles for freedom once more.
She turned the latch and wrapped her fingers around the frame, but there was no budging the window. Panic, her old friend, washed over her like an icy blanket.
She abandoned her concentration on keeping things quiet, being this close to escape meant that she could take a risk.
This risk was a big one though.
She grunted with effort, using the heels of her palms to bang upwards on the stuck window.
This noise was met by another, a hurried stomping which ascended with every clomp.
Adriana put more effort into her battle with the window, and at last, it thunked open. As she lifted her leg, the bedroom door swung open and banged on the wall.
Those eyes were back, but now flecked with red. Henrietta was positively humming with rage.
She barrelled toward the window, making guttural noises as she came closer.
Adriana didn’t hesitate and her leg swung over the frame. She swung the other over, but her foot boomeranged back inside. Her shoelace on this strange trainer had been hooked by a meaty and frenzied finger of Henrietta.
Her face hung over the windowframe, bristling whilst she lumbered over the wooden frame. It was terrifying.
Worse still was Adriana’s current position, upside down and prone. She needed to get away from Henrietta, but she needed her to pull her up.
Henrietta’s fingers grabbed at Adriana’s leg of her dungarees, and as soon as purchase was obtained, her brute strength hoisted her toward the window.
Adriana used her free leg, and jammed her foot straight into the jaw of Henrietta, which blasted her back. Her finger, still hooked into the shoelace of Adriana’s shoe, wheeled around, which caused Adriana to lurch to the right.
She fell and landed on her back, her spine landing on a raised vent. No air was in her lungs, and she couldn’t move a single part of her body. Her face was to the side, and in her view, an inch or two in front of her, was Henrietta’s open locket.
Inside was a photo. It was the girl that Adriana had seen in the dust-covered photo in the room on top of the dresser. It was one of those professional photo numbers, and in front of the bluish background alongside the girl, was a much slimmer Henrietta. The other figure in the photo was a man in a Hawaiian shirt.
As her eyes fluttered, her last thought went to the kind old man who she had known for so long. Her book companion and her only friend. Mr Wiese and Henrietta must have lost their daughter, and it had taken its toll on them both, but Henrietta was changed permanently. She must have listened to the stories Mr Wiese had told about Adriana, and Henrietta could take no more.
Her eyes closed.
Was this hell?
Her eyes, now with her glasses on the bridge of her nose, gazed upon those pink walls which had been the start of her nightmare. No ropes on her wrists nor ankles this time though.
She couldn’t move.
The fall must have broken something, because the only thing she could move was her head. Tears started to flow freely down her cheeks.
The door opened and Henrietta once again stood in front of her. Her locket was once more around her ample neck, and her voice had returned to the mess of lilting notes it was before.
“Oh, Michelle, we are going to have such FUN!”