“Wow. Your eyes.”
“What about them?”
Adele blushed, “No they’re not.”
“They are, they’re so bright, it’s like they’re sparkling. I can’t believe I never noticed before.”
“Now I know you’re making it up. My eyes are the most boring colour. They’re just plain old brown.”
“Huh? You’re eyes aren’t brown, they’re bright green with flicks of gold and brown in them.”
Adele frowned, “No, they’re not. They’re brown. Same as my dads. Not even brown with something else, just straight brown.”
“I don’t know why you keep saying that you’re eyes are obviously green.”
“Wait? Really? Hang on.”
Adele ran into the bathroom and turned on the light, she had expected Johnny to follow her, ready to shout out that he got her, but he had stayed on the couch. She looked at herself in the mirror, he was right, her eyes were green and they were beautiful. But that wasn’t right. Her eyes had always been brown. She had hated them when she was a teenager. She had begged and pleaded for coloured contacts, even though she didn’t need glasses. How she had hated that colour, that bland brown. But this new colour filled her with fear. She had an eye appointment only a short while ago and everything was fine, her yearly check up to make sure there was no problems. Surely they should have spotted something like this? Such a change couldn’t just occur overnight. She thought back, when was the last time she had actually looked at her eyes? A few days at least. Johnny was a good starting point, she had seen him a week before and he hadn’t said anything then. They were still in the early stages of dating, so it might not be something he really noticed. Perhaps he thought she had been wearing brown contacts before.
There was something about this, some memory tugging at her incessantly, but she couldn’t quite bring it forward. It was something to do with her grandmother. Nana had been dead for almost seven years now, so it wasn’t like she could ask or anything. There was someone else, her father, telling Nana “Don’t fill her head with all that nonsense. You’ll only frighten her.” Then they hadn’t seen Nana for a few weeks. She had been upset at the time because normally they saw her at least twice a week. It had been shortly after her own mother had died and the loss of seeing Nana had been like losing her mother again. After weeks of crying her father finally brought her around to Nana’s. She remembered that hug well enough, warm and soft and full of her grandmothers favourite perfume. Her grandmother had said something to her during the hug, something she hadn’t quite caught, but she never mentioned eyes again. What was it? She shook her head and took a deep breath. Johnny was probably wondering where the hell she was, not to mention he most likely believed she had some kind of mental break. Maybe she could just pass it off as something else. Once he was gone she’d make another eye appointment, maybe ring her dad and see if he remembered what it was that Nana had told her.
Johnny left a short while after she came out of the bathroom, they sat and talked for a little while, she side stepped the eye thing, mumbling something about going for another eye exam. She wasn’t sure if he entirely believed her but it didn’t matter all that much. She liked him but it wouldn’t be a huge deal if he didn’t want to see her again. Hell, she’d definitely understand if he didn’t. Once he had gone she had checked again in the mirror and her eyes were still that bright green.
She took a sip of her tea. She had an appointment with the eye doctor the day after tomorrow. She thought it was a little long of a wait but it was the best they could do. She wasn’t entirely sure that the receptionist believed what she said.
“Hi dad, it’s me.”
“Hey honey, how’re things?”
“Um. Ok I guess. Something weird happened”
“Yeah. My eyes, they’ve changed colour. I remember Nana said something to me about eyes when I was younger, but I don’t remember what. I thought maybe you might know? I’m a little freaked out, I’ve an appointment with the eye doctor in a few days but I was hoping maybe it’s just some kind of weird gene in the family or something.”
He was silent for a moment, “no, it’s not a gene.”
“Well, do you know what it is?”
“I might. I’m not sure. Do you want to come over? Might be better to have a chat.”
“Dad, you can tell me over the phone. I’m not going to freak out or anything.”
“No. I think it’d be better if you came over, or I come to you.”
“Ok, fine, is ten minutes ok?”
“Yeah. I’ll put the kettle on.”
Adele hung up and looked at her phone for a second. She saw her father every few days, but he was always happy enough to talk on the phone. She took her cup of tea and poured it down the sink, trying to ignore the shaking in her hands. Her father was old fashioned in some ways, he was always first to get the latest Smartphone or gadget, but there was some things he just didn’t do. Giving bad news over the phone was one of them.
The drive took longer than she had expected. She drove carefully, always stopping when the light turned orange. It wasn’t until she was sitting outside his house in her car that she realised what she had been doing. She didn’t want to go in. She didn’t want to hear what ever he had to say. Not knowing was better. She’d go to the eye doctor and they’d tell her that it was just one of those things and there was nothing to worry about. And what if they didn’t? What if they said that it was cancer? Or some kind of disease that worked quickly, that if she had gotten to an ER in time they could have saved her eyes. She shuddered, then pushed the thoughts away. It would do her no good to get all worked up out here. She’d go inside and have a cup of tea and her dad would tell her about it. Maybe it was just because they were talking about Nana, her dad never talked about his mother all that much, not since she’d passed and only ever in person. The closest he had ever gotten was a terse “I can’t talk. I’ll call you later.” It was only later, in person, that he revealed he had been visiting her grave.
Her father was waiting at the front door, she didn’t even have to knock. He looked pale, sickly. Had he said he was coming down with something? Adele couldn’t recall. The tea was already sitting on the kitchen table. Adele sat down, feeling comfortable in the old wooden chairs. She wrapped her hands around the cup but didn’t take a drink.
Her dad looked at her for a moment, then shook his head. “I was hoping you were imagining things, but you weren’t. They really have changed.” That more than anything frightened her. It wasn’t just in her head now, it was real, it was a fact.
“So what didn’t you want to tell me over the phone?”
He took a drink from his tea, then sat for a moment gathering his thoughts. Adele wanted to tell him to hurry up, but she knew rushing him wouldn’t only make everything longer.
“You’re Nana was always telling stories, to both of us. I remember the day I came in and she was telling you about the eyes. I lost it. I shouldn’t have but I did. I yelled at her and left. I had told her about her stories again and again but she didn’t listen. Said we all needed to be prepared, be warned. I remembered those stories from when I was a child. They had terrified me. I’d wake up every morning and follow the ritual. First I’d put out some milk for the fairies, so they would leave me alone. Then I’d check my eyes, make sure they hadn’t changed. It took me almost twenty minutes to see to everything, to protect myself. I used to have nightmares. You were still young, but I didn’t want that to happen to you. I was fifteen before I stopped the rituals and nothing bad had happened. I realised that it was all stories, no matter what my mother insisted. So I lost it. I had planned to never let you see her again, I was so angry. After a bit I calmed down and saw how upset you were. I talked to your Nana and made her promise, swear on everything she believed in that she would stop telling you those things and she promised. After that she only ever read you stories from books. Never told you to watch out for the creatures that inhabited the world we couldn’t quite see.
I think for me, the worst one was the story about the eyes. She said that they’d come at night, sneak into your room and take them. Pluck them right out of your head and replace them with their own. She said it happened in our family before, many, many times and it would again. She told me about my uncle Irving. Apparently it had happened to him. His eyes were brown, but one day they changed to bright blue. He seemed normal at first, but then he started to change. He became meaner, would lash out at people, play cruel tricks. Nana became frightened of him, she would always hide from him if she could. He was different in other ways. He’d disappear for hours, without a trace. She had tried to follow him once, he went into his room and closed the door. When she opened it again a few minutes later he was gone. The window was locked from the inside and there was no where for him to hide. She waited and waited, a few hours later he yelled at her, shouting that she shouldn’t be in his room. He hadn’t used the door or the window, she was watching both. He had just appeared behind her. Then one morning she woke up and Irving was gone. Just like that. Vanished. They searched and searched for him but there was no trace. One day she was in his room and she found them, in a tiny little container. His brown eyes, looking like they were just plucked from his head. She was told to never speak of it. That it happened in their family. She told me about it when I was a boy, told me the things I could do to try and protect myself from it. I didn’t believe her then.”
he trailed off.
“Now I don’t know.”
“But you’ve never seen it happen to anyone, have you? It could just be stories to explain away medical problems, right?”
He looked uncomfortable for a moment.
“When I was about twenty, I was out with Nana, we had travelled to the city for the day. While there a young man struck up conversation with me. Told me he knew my family, hadn’t seen me in years. I assumed it was one of my many cousins. He had bright blue eyes. When Nana saw him she shrieked and fainted. She wouldn’t tell me anything about it. I just thought it was a funny turn. Maybe she had too much excitement. She could always be a bit excitable. I heard her arguing with Granddad that night, said she saw Irving. I thought it was just the fainting spell. Granddad didn’t believe her and I didn’t either. But what if she was right?”
Adele shook her head, this was ridiculous. It had to be just old stories. Ones meant to frighten people, or explain away medical maladies. She took a sip of her tea and grimaced when the cold liquid hit her tongue.
She chatted with her father for a while longer, already dismissing his story. It was all just too crazy. She would go to the doctor and they’d treat what ever was wrong. Perhaps it was just a genetic quirk and her great uncle had just turned into an asshole after puberty. She could tell her dad felt guilty, but once she had some kind of medical diagnosis in her hand he’d feel better. They hugged and she left, getting into her car.
She parked in her usual space and got out, as she did her bag slipped and fell to the ground, scattering everything. Grumbling she started shoving things back in. Someone passing by knelt down to help. They stood again, “Thanks.”
He smiled at her, she didn’t notice, she was too distracted by his eyes, they were a bright blue.
“Hey, you’re Adele right?”
He stuck out his hand, “I remember you from when we were kids. My parents were friends of the family. I don’t know if you remember me, I’m Irving.”