James was angry. He was angry with Ace’s family, and he was angry with Ace, too. Ace was the bravest and strongest person James knew, so why did he put up with the way his family treated him? Why did he continually make excuses for him?
James cursed his sightlessness. If only he could see he would— What would he do? Fight them? Get into a fist fight with Ace’s mother? His father? His brothers? Well, at least that was an option. If he was half as good as Ace at martial arts he’d kick his brothers’ arses sight or no sight. It was disgusting the way they treated Ace, and even more disgusting that their parents let them. It was almost as if the Richmonds were punishing their son for being blind.
Well, and there was the albinism. James didn’t really know what that meant. He’d been told that Ace was paler than other people, with white skin, white hair and white eyes. In his head that came out as fey, like the fairies he’d seen in the story books his grandmother used to read to him when he was a child, before he went blind. He knew Ace was tall and slender and his hair was long and silky. He could feel that Ace’s face was fine featured and blemish free. So how could he not be beautiful?
Were they jealous? Those people who called Ace ‘freak’ and ‘monster’. Were they cowed by his beauty? Were they just scared of someone who was so perfect and so different? Maybe they were just dicks. He’d have thought Ace’s own family would have understood and would try to protect him rather than hurt him.
To be fair, Ace’s mother did try to protect him, but her method was to shut him away from a world she saw as hostile and inaccessible to him due to his blindness. She saw it as a disability while Ace, who had never known anything different, took it completely in his stride and was entirely fearless.
“Of course blind people can do martial arts,” James said, his frustration evident in his voice. “Ace wouldn’t have won an award if he couldn’t do it, would he? And I don’t think Professor Black would have suggested teaching a class if Ace wasn’t capable of doing it. Ace is capable of doing a lot of things if you’d just let him—”
“That’s enough, thank you James. I must say I’m surprised by your rudeness. I’m sure your mother wouldn’t be happy if she were here.”
“What’s he done now?” James’ mother’s voice indicated she was, right on cue, just behind Mrs Richmond. James was pretty sure she hadn’t been there long.
“Mrs Richmond doesn’t think Ace can do martial arts, even though he won an award for it.”
“You won an award? Congratulations, Ace. That’s wonderful.”
By Ace’s startled cry, it appeared James’ mother had hugged him.
“Um, thank you Mrs Thomas,” Ace said.
“How many times do I have to tell you, it’s Margie. Mrs Thomas makes me sound so old.”
“Don’t you dare.” Mrs Richmond broke in. “It’s very rude.”
“To address an adult by their first name.”
“Nonsense. That a ridiculously outmoded convention. Besides, James and Ace are hardly children anymore. James will be sixteen in a few weeks.”
“You’re still coming to my party right?” James said anxiously. Ace had been afraid his mother would refuse to allow Ace to stay with James for a week in the summer. He’s asked her and she said she’d think about it. James thought this might be a good time to raise the subject with his mother there for moral support.
“We’ll see,” Mrs Richmond said, in a tight voice.
“But of course he must come. These two have been friends from the start, and he’s never been to visit. Don’t worry, our home is very ‘blind friendly’. We’ve had a lot of practice. James has always been adventurous.”
“That’s what I’m worried about,” Mrs Richmond said.
“What do you mean?”
“Your James is very…confident, and brash. Ace isn’t used to being like. He’s much more conservative. I’m afraid James might lead him off on an escapade, and that Ace would get hurt.”
James snorted. “Ace is no delicate flower,” Mrs Richmond. “If anyone was likely to lead into an escapade it would be him, not me. I’m really very cautious.”
“Well that’s not exactly true is it, sweetie,” Mrs Thomas said. “You can be a little…impulsive. But I can assure you, Mrs Richmond, we will keep a close eye on them and make sure Ace isn’t hurt.”
Will James thought. Not would. He grinned.
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