AFTER THE DARKNESS • by June Gundlack

Fiona loved the sensory gardens at Brook End where she could walk without fear, using her stick and the fence chains to guide her. The roses were at their best with fragrances mingling in the air. Voices nearby prompted her to speak.

“The roses are beautiful, aren’t they?”

Fiona waited for a reply, but it didn’t arrive. Although this sometimes saddened her, today the scent from the roses made up for lack of conversation.

It had been twenty long, dark years since a stray firework had exploded in front of her, sending flashes of light and sparks into her face. Fiona’s sight had disappeared instantly, although it was not always obvious to others. Her fair hair and pale blue eyes were still able to turn a head.

Fiona could smell the aroma of fresh coffee wafting from the garden café. She tapped her stick before turning around, becoming startled as someone took her arm.

“I am sorry, I hope I didn’t offend. Can I help you; are you looking for the seat?” A man asked

“No, you didn’t offend, you scared me. Yes, I am looking for the seat — I just have to look with my stick.  I didn’t mean to snap at you.”  Fiona laughed.  She had grown used to people feeling awkward.  “I can still remember how beautiful roses are and I do enjoy their fragrances.”

“Me too.”

Fiona smiled.

“Talking of fragrance, just smell that beautiful aroma of coffee, it seems to be calling me so I’m going to get a cup — can I bring one back for you?”

The man had a gentle voice; Fiona found it reassuring. Since losing her sight, her ability to mix with people, especially men, had been a struggle with her inability to trust what she couldn’t see, and partly down to people, who were unable to disguise their discomfort in not knowing how to approach her.

“But, why?

“Well, you are a beautiful woman, sitting in a beautiful flower garden, on a bench with my name, and I want to?”

Fiona could hear the smile in his voice and this reassured her.

“Er, thank you — a coffee would be nice, thanks.”

Under the warmth of the late afternoon sun Fiona’s eyes closed as she enjoyed the peace and solitude. She opened her eyes, an involuntary action from the days when she had sight. Someone was singing.

“The scene from here is beautiful.”

Fiona recognised the soft voice as that of the man who had shown her to the seat. An embarrassing warmth began rising in her face. She could also smell the unmistakable coffee aroma.

Fiona imagined the man in front of her to be slim and handsome. His voice was caressingly soft, making her feel excited and nervous, like a teenager at her first dance.

“You said this was a bench with your name, what did you mean?”

“Yes, it reads, ‘With gratitude for many hours of much needed peace’ — Greg Wilson.”

Greg sat next to her, sipping at the frothy surface of his latte.

Fiona moved to face him, even though their eyes would not meet.

“Are you famous?”

Greg shook his head, and then shut his eyes at his moment of stupid absent-mindedness.

The lack of a verbal reply prompted Fiona to speak.

“An artist maybe?”

“What makes you think I’m an artist?”

“Because of the inscription you read out, that you spend many hours here. I imagine you might draw the beauty of the flowers.”

“Guilty as charged. Yes, I paint and love this garden because of the peace and tranquillity”.

“I love the garden for the same reason, although sadly I cannot paint.”

They laughed, together, comfortably, as if they were old friends.

“You know my name’s Greg — and you are …?”

Fiona tried to conceal an almost smile, hoping her face wasn’t giving her warm feeling away. Greg was stirring something in her she thought she would never experience.

“I’m Fiona White, my friends call me Fi.”

Greg smiled.

“Fee? Now that’s an interesting name — so does that mean you charge to talk to strangers who try buy you coffee?”

“Oh yes, I charge like a rhino.”

“I like your sense of humour Ms White, or is it Mrs?”


“So, how’s the coffee, Miss White?”

“It’s good, Greg.”

Greg put his hand on hers making her jump a little, almost spilling her coffee.

Greg sighed.

‘I’m sorry, Fi, I didn’t mean to scare you again.

Greg squeezed her hand.


“Yes, I’m sorry, it’s just that when people suddenly touch me, it is a little frightening.”

Greg stood.

“I’m trying to find the right moment to ask you out for a date, perhaps a meal, Fi.”

“Even though you know I’m blind?”

“Of course, and it’s got nothing to do with your ability to see or not, I wanted to ask you out even before we spoke, that’s why I teased you about my bench.”

“You mean it’s not your bench?”

Greg laughed.

“It is my bench and I do like spending time here, to shut my eyes and get away from the world. It gives me an opportunity to see things differently. I imagine things, and then try to feel them. I find it a more emotional view. Then, when I paint, I paint from within and not just the view in front of me.”

Fi surprised herself by laughing. Her heart was pounding, and she felt breathless. She realised that Greg was able to see her world, they had something in common.

“What’s funny?”

“Nothing. Your vision on life is refreshing, Greg.”

“So do we have a date then, Fi?”

“Yes, I think we do.”

“I’m glad,” he whispered.

Fi opened her eyes and blinked. A salty tear escaped and ran down her cheek.

“Fi, you have tears in your eyes, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong, Greg — I’m very happy and can’t wait see you again.”

June Gundlack has been writing short stories, letters and articles for over ten years; many published in magazines, national press and anthologies. June’s appetite for writing followed a course in Start Writing Fiction at the Open University. Her characters are often based on people she meets or events in what has been an interesting life so far, and one she intends to widen further.

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