Jasmine & Marietta at 14
Jasmine and Marietta went, as they did every year, for their birthday luncheon, to a little tearoom overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. They met when they were 14 and always brought the picture taken of them together the year that they met. Two freshmen in high-school they were brought together by eye issues. As they always did they reminisced, looking back with the wisdom of old age, at that tender time when every barb hurt as the other kids mocked and made fun of them. They didn't talk about bullying in those days, kids were just cruel.
Marietta: Jazz, I always used to think it was harder for me because I couldn't hide my eyes. They called me fish eyes, and googly eyes, and stopped and stared at me making their eyes as big as they could, and then would burst out laughing. You were so beautiful I didn't think you had a care in the world and I couldn't figure out why you were so nice to me. (She smiled tenderly and reached over and stroked the hair that still hung over Jasmine's left eye, now silvery grey but charmingly curly still.)
Jasmine: I always used to feel sorry for you, you know, about your eyes, which I thought were beautiful, and probably saw the world better than most people, and I admired the way you didn't try to hide, you just looked them square in the eyes and made yours bigger and I'd laugh when you'd go, "BOO!" and dash at them as if your eyeballs could reach out and grab them. After a while they left you alone but I still never wanted them to know my secret.
Marietta: I know Jazzerling, but what you had to deal with was worse, because the boys loved what they saw until they...
Jasmine: ... found out.
Marietta: I know honey.
Jasmine: I only went on one date and when that boy screamed when he kissed me and...
Marietta: He was a jerk.
Jasmine: But he told everyone, and no one ever asked me out again, and the girls treated me like a pariah, as if they could catch what was wrong with me if they stood too close.
Marietta: If they could catch what you had they'd have caught a bigger heart, and a kinder countenance, and they'd have known compassion, and they would have moved in the world with more grace.
Jasmine: I don't think they could catch that. I think they were afraid to catch the fear in the one eye they could see.
Marietta: But we had a bigger secret later.
Jasmine: We surely did. (Laughing) That would have startled the doodly-doo out of them.
Marietta: Ha ha, doodly-doo bug...
Jasmine: But we didn't talk about that in those days. I wish we'd been able to.
Marietta: But it didn't stop us from loving one another.
Jasmine: No, it didn't. (Blushing)
Marietta: They never cared to know anything about who we really were, so why should they have known about that?
Jasmine: No, you're right. They didn't need to know. I've been happy with you all of these years. Your eyes saw straight into my heart and didn't judge me when you knew.
Marietta: Oh, I knew so much more than that honey. I knew all I needed to know.
Marietta bent over, pulled the hair back that covered Jasmine's left eye, and kissed the empty socket on the scarred skin that covered it. They rose together and Marietta pulled the chair out for Jasmine. They walked out into the sunshine, down the street arm and arm, and Jasmine leaned her head against Marietta's shoulder. They didn't mind that the tea room they first went to together was now shabby, the cabbage rose patterned wall paper yellow and curling at the seams. To them it still looked just like it did when they were girls, feeling all grown up and blushing and flushing, their cheeks hot, hoping no one would notice. They would meet for tea once a week and go to their respective homes with their head filled with dreams of tea and scones with clotted cream and lemon curd and each other. That was as racy as it got in those days.
The next year Marietta stood in front of the old tea shop waiting for Jasmine but she didn't come. Jasmine had died four months before and the tea shop had finally closed. A tear ran down Marietta's cheek, her huge eyes brimming with tears, and she bent down and put the pink rose that she carried on the worn mat in front of the locked door. She kissed it first, and against the rose she set the picture of she and Marietta at 14.
My beautiful one-eyed girl. I'll meet you for tea soon and we won't hide to have anymore...