When Jill loses her sight she thinks she'll never be happy again. Then she meets Gran, who can't get along without her computer; Ben, a frightened child; Jasper, a courageous dog; and Kevin, who lights her way, and makes her smile again.
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After her father's death, when she was eight, Jill and her mother moved from town to town as her mother moved from job to job, each taking her higher on the ladder of success. When her mother marries the owner of a prestigious line of dress shops, six-teen-year-old Jill thinks her life is perfect—a beautiful home, a private school, and she's dating the most popular boy in school. Then disaster strikes when she loses her sight due to a brain tumor.
The day before she leaves the hospital her mother tells her that she'll be going for an extended visit with her father's mother, someone she's seen only once, while her mother and stepfather go to Europe on business
As she travels to rural Virginia, she feels totally abandoned. She knows that her stepfather is paying her grandmother for her keep, and she can't shake the feeling that her mother simply doesn't want to be bothered with a daughter, and especially with one who is blind. Too, there is the matter of why her grandparents and parents never had anything to do with each other.
Travel with Jill as she masters her new world of darkness, learns to love family and friends, faces the thing that forced her father away from her grandparents, and finds the true secret of belonging.
This is a story of courage and love, and a must read for anyone facing blindness, as well as for anyone who has an interest in learning more about the world of the blind, especially that of a young blind person. Besides that, it's just a good story for anybody young or old who likes to read.
Jill thought that she had never seen a more beautiful night. A full moon seemed to sail through the blue ocean of the sky, a majestic flag ship for hundreds of stars.
It was mid-August and the crickets were beginning to make their final good-bye to the summer, and to their short lives, as fall approached.
She supposed it sounded silly, but she felt a kinship with those little voices of the night, a sadness for their one joyous summer, soon to come to an end. She, too, had had one wonderful joyous summer of a secure home life and friends. After tomorrow, though, her life as she had always known it would be over.
She would never again stand marveling at the perfect beauty of the night sky. With one sure stroke of the surgeon's knife her world would be forever without light, without color, without joy.
From the lake pavilion came the distant sound of a forties dance tune. She couldn't remember who had introduced the crowd to the forties sound, but it had caught on almost immediately, and every dance that summer had moved to the sounds of a time long gone. The dance steps of the era had caught on, too, and she had thrilled to the romantic slow music, wrapped close in Roger's arms.
"Sure you don't want to come?" he had asked that afternoon. "I know you have to be at the hospital first thing in the morning, but we can leave the dance early."
"Thanks, but I don't think so," she had said settling the receiver in a more comfortable position, and tucking her feet under her as she sat on the edge of her bed.
"I wish you would," and she could hear the rattle of ice in a cup. Roger was always eating ice. "Everybody wants to see you. How long will you be in the hospital?"
"They haven't said," she said around the familiar lump of fear in her throat.
"Well, when you get back we'll all do something special."
"Hey, Babe. It won't make any difference. You'll still be you. Remember that movie, Scent Of A Woman about that crazy blind guy? I saw it when Dad got it on video. That was cool! We’ll have a blast. From the looks of that, being blind isn’t all that bad bad."
She vaguely remembered seeing a preview of the movie. She had thought it looked kind of silly, but she didn’t tell Roger.
She knew he had been trying to cheer her up, but as she sat looking at the night sky she felt annoyed. Couldn't anybody understand? And the answer to that seemed to be no.
"Stop worrying, darling," her mother had said earlier in the evening when she had come in to say good-bye as she and Harold, Jill’s stepfather were ready to leave for dinner at the club. "It will work out, you'll see. Now, are you sure you don't want us to stay home? We will if you want us to, but really Harold should attend this function."
"No, mother, go ahead. I'm fine."
And she was fine, she told herself as she looked out at the sky.
She had always loved the night sky, deep and soft and mysterious. When she was a little girl she had thought it must be the entrance to Heaven, its twinkling stars angel lights beckoning to the people on earth.
"Your father has gone to Heaven," Miss Lucas her second grade teacher had told her when she had returned to school after the funeral.
For weeks she had looked at the sky as it grew dark, straining to see a loved face. Could one of those beckoning lights be a message from him? She had looked, and she had hoped, but in her heart she had known that it couldn't be. Still even now she found a comfort in thinking about it. No, she couldn't spend this last night anywhere except alone with the moon and the stars.
It had all happened so fast, she thought as she sat listening to the far-off music, and watching the moon seem to race with the clouds.
She had started having the headaches just before final exams, and it had been easy to persuade herself that it was just tension. She had never had to study hard for anything except trig, but this year it had been different.
They had moved to Ridge View at the beginning of the second semester. They had moved a lot since her father's death as her mother made her way through two unsuccessful marriages, and a succession of successful jobs, each job leading her to another rung on her private ladder to success. Then she had gotten the coveted position as head buyer for the line of exclusive Trent dress shops, and shocked the world of fashion by marrying Harold Trent the owner. Yes, her mother's climb to success had meant a lot of moves, and a lot of different schools, but this was different. This time she had found that she was behind in the fancy private school.
"It's never easy to change schools in the middle of the year," Mrs. Hall, the guidance counselor had told her in March. "This school is much smaller than the one you were attending before, and the classes move faster."
Well, she could say that again, Jill had thought later that day as she closed her locker. She felt like she was running as fast as she could, and still could barely catch up.
"Hi, I'm Roger Armstrong," a voice said behind her.
She turned to see the most handsome boy she'd ever seen in her life, a real hunk. She had seen him before, of course, as he raced across campus on his way to the gym, but she had never seen him close up. He was a couple of years older than she was, so they didn’t have any classes together. She couldn’t believe that he had stopped to say hello.
He was even more handsome smiling into her eyes than she had thought he was. Dark wavy hair framed a deeply tanned face with big brown eyes to kill for. The only imperfection was a slightly crooked nose which just seemed to complete the whole picture.
"A football game last year," he said, and she blushed realizing that she had been staring at his nose.
"I'm sorry," she stammered.
"Hey, no problem," he said, falling in beside her, and holding out his hand for her books.
"You're Harold Trent's step-daughter, aren't you," he said as they started toward the front door. "I saw you with him and your mother at the club last week. Everybody's still talking about their wedding. His wife has been dead for centuries and everybody thought he would never get married again, and all of a sudden he shows up with a beauty and her beautiful daughter. Is it true she was the head buyer for his chain of dress shops, and they fell in love at first sight or something?"
"Sort of," she said. "I mean they dated for like about six weeks, and yes she was his head buyer, although they hadn't actually met until a couple of months ago."
And after that day she and Roger had been a thing on the campus of the exclusive school, and she had found herself struggling even harder to catch up with the rest of her classmates. They had never stayed in one place long enough for her to really make friends. She had never seriously dated before, and couldn't believe how much time it took, or how much fun it was.
So she had convinced herself that the headaches were tension, but when she fainted a week ago she had become frightened.
Her mother had been out of town on a buying trip with Harold when she'd gone to Doctor Spencer's office to hear the results of the tests.
"Your mother or father isn't with you?" he had asked as he had settled behind his desk, and she had taken the big leather chair facing him.
He was probably about her mother's age, short and kind of fat, with hair thinning on top, but his blue eyes were nice, and made her feel comfortable with him.
"No," she said in answer to his question. "They're in New York."
"When do you expect them back, Jill?" he asked, and something in his expression sounded a little bell of warning in her mind.
"Not for a couple of weeks," she said. "They plan to go on to London to see a new designer Harold is trying to hire. Is something wrong?"
She hadn't wanted to ask, but a lump of sticky fear had come into her chest somehow making it hard to breathe, like when she was waiting for the exam papers to be returned. On one hand she didn't want to hear, but something made her have to know no matter how bad it was.
"I just feel that we should talk about this with your parents," he said, looking away toward his diplomas which filled almost one whole wall of his office.
"I usually take care of myself," she said. "I mean if there's medicine I need or something I have an account at the drug store and an emergency bank account in addition to my allowance."
She knew she was talking too much, and too fast, but she couldn't stop herself. She was afraid.
"No, Jill. It's a bit more than that. I'm afraid you need surgery. I'd like to put you in the hospital as soon as possible."
"Surgery," she almost whispered the word. Her father had gone into the hospital for surgery, and she had never seen him again except at the funeral home, and that hadn't been her father, but a stranger with a stiff unnatural expression.
"No, no," he said as though he had read her mind. "It isn't life threatening, especially if we don't waste time."
"But what's the matter with me?" and she was surprised to hear that her voice sounded normal, as though she were asking a simple question such as why the toilette didn't stop running.
"You have a brain tumor."
"A brain tumor! Do you mean a cancer?"
Her father had had a cancer!
"No," he said reaching across the desk to take her hand in what he probably thought was a reassuring gesture, which just scared her even more.
"No, Jill, it's a benign tumor, but it will grow, and we have to operate."
"All right," she said. "When do you want me in the hospital?"
Again she sounded calm, but inside she was screaming.
"I need to talk to your mother. Do you have a number where I can reach her? Meanwhile I'll arrange for your admission."
Her mother and Harold had flown back the next day, and it had been Harold who had told her.
"Jill," he had said sitting in her room in the Ridge View Memorial hospital, "we have something to tell you," and he had reached for her mother's hand.
Her mother had looked beautiful in a soft green summer suit that had brought out the blue of her eyes, making Jill think of the deep blue of the ocean on a cloudy day.
"Oh, darling, I'm so sorry," her mother had almost whispered, and the fear Jill had been pushing aside all day had come rushing back.
"What is it?" she had managed to say through the lump.
"All of the doctors agree," Harold had said covering her hand with his surprisingly large one, "that your life isn't in any danger, but when they operate you will be blind."
Was that all, she had thought in relief.
"Well, I can live with that for a few days," she had said smiling. "I thought it was something earth shaking."
And with that her mother had burst into tears.
"Grace," Harold had said, speaking quietly but firmly, "maybe you should wait in the lounge," and taking her arm, he had propelled her firmly to the door.
Then reality struck Jill.
"You don't mean just for a few days until I recover from the surgery, do you? You mean for always. I'm going to be blind for the rest of my life. After Friday I'll be blind! This is Wednesday, and after Friday I will be blind!"
"I'm so sorry, Jill," he had said putting his arm around her. "Your mother is devastated. She cried all night."
But what about me! she had screamed inside, but aloud she had said, "I want to go home. I want to see things. I want to play my piano! Oh, Harold, I don't want to be blind!"
"All right. I don't see why you shouldn't go home until the day of the surgery. If they want to do more tests before then we'll bring you back."
So now, she sat looking out at the stars for the last time. Late that afternoon she had walked alone in the woods that ran behind the house, walked and watched the birds as they flitted from branch to branch. A squirrel had chattered a warning as it scampered up a tree, and a cardinal had preened himself on a limb just above her.
"Good-bye," she had whispered as the sun began its journey behind the mountains.
She knew it was time now to go to bed, but still she hesitated. Then, she rose quickly, and as she pulled the drapes she whispered, "Good-bye, good-bye."