When There’s No Silver Lining

Cars rushed by the house. Just by their sounds 16 year-old Luke could tell what type of vehicle each one was. Whether it was a truck, a bus, or a 4-wheel-drive with a trailer, Luke could hear just about everything from the little deck out front. If he he could focus Luke could hear birds chirping and rustling in the trees from his neighbour’s garden. Inside the house he could hear his dad preparing dinner. The clatter of trays and the odd curse were a dead giveaway. A siren approached, an emergency vehicle. Luke knew it was a police car. It zoomed past the house at a greater speed than all the previous traffic.

Luke opened his eyes to see the cop car, but he could see nothing. Nothing at all. Luke reached for the cane to his left and stood up from the deck steps. Carefully Luke climbed to the top of the steps, and paced along the deck to the front door, poking the cane at the ground in front of him as he went.

Two months ago Luke was at a party at Becca’s house. Becca invited Luke along with a big group of six formers from school.

Standing near the sofa, Luke found himself talking to Liz from his English class. Liz stood there listening as Luke talked about his goals and ambitions, including how he was going to join Police College after seventh form. She couldn’t help but feel engaged at Luke’s animated gestures and expressions. Perhaps the six beers Luke had guzzled over the last few hours had heightened his usually well reserved demeanour.

At around 1am Luke stumbled out from Becca’s house needing to get home. He was only a few blocks away and so he started down the footpath. A crescent moon shone overhead through dark greyish clouds. Before crossing the road Luke looked in both directions for cars. He was drunk, not stupid. There were no cars in sight, but suddenly Luke felt sick in the pit of his stomach.

He was being followed.

A group of three hooded individuals were right behind him. Luke kept on walking, not wanting to show he was afraid. The gang followed Luke to the footpath across the road. Luke didn’t look back, but he could hear the footsteps getting closer and closer together.

Finally Luke turned to face his stalkers, “What do you want?”, he cried out in desperation.

One of the three took a step forward and pulled a crowbar from the inside of his jacket. “We want your money,” he snarled. A scar that stretched from his mouth to his cheekbone twitched as he spoke.

“I ain’t g-got any money”, Luke stammered.

“What else do you have then?” the scarred leader was right on top of him now. His warm breath hitting Luke in the face.

“I ain’t got anything,” said Luke and he started to turn. But the leader wasn’t having any of it. He grabbed Luke with one hand and with the other belted the crowbar down onto Luke’s face.

There was a sickening thud of the crowbar as it hit bone.

Luke screamed out in pain and fell to the pavement. Blood trickled down his cheek.

Before Luke could touch the wound the leader was upon him again. Another whack in the face. Blood filled his eyes, he couldn’t see.

Luke could feel the other two kicking him in the side as he lay helpless on the concrete. But soon he couldn’t feel anything. Even the sounds of the beating became distant as everything faded to black.

It had been a long month in hospital for Luke. Confined to a hospital bed with ongoing reconstructive surgery, he was either out on a general anaesthetic or so out on pain medication he couldn’t move anyway. The doctors told him he would never see again. His father visited him every day. One day he thought he heard Liz — nothing but a gentle sobbing at his side. The police investigating the assault asked for a description of the assailants. Luke described the leader’s distinctive scar, but couldn’t recall anything else.

Eventually the leader was found by the police, and locked up. But Luke still felt empty inside. He would never see another flower, another sunset, or another human face. He would never see the things he never got around to seeing, like the Grand Canyon, the Great Wall of China, or discovering a girl’s body. He could never watch another movie, or play another videogame. It would be brail and audio books from here on out.

He couldn’t go back to school. Police college was completely out of the question now. Every police siren would bring back feelings of regret. If only he hadn’t gone to the party that night. If only he hadn’t drunken so much. If only he didn’t prattle on to Liz McHardy for so many hours.

If only he’d run.

Although Luke was often told he was lucky to be alive, he just didn’t feel that way. He couldn’t. Luke felt like the unluckiest kid in the world.

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