Everything was consumed in darkness. There was not a single glimmer of light passing through, This was the normal way for Belle French to live.
Every morning, she would rise in darkness, dress in darkness, and begin her morning chores in darkness. The darkness never went away. Regina always slept in because she was what Ol' Maurice called a "worker of the night". She knew her mother was a prostitute. She had know all too well and for many years how Regina made a living. Belle always called her mother Regina and not mother because Regina told her it made her feel old.
Today was like any other day. Regina and Ol' Maurice were still out cold. Belle quietly felt her way around their tiny apartment, trying to get some of her chores done so she would have time to go to the park. Regina hated when she went to the park; said it made her lazy and dumb. Ol' Maurice was drunk most of the time and hung over every morning. The only reason Regina allowed for him to love with them was his job brought in a bit more money.
Belle thought if she was lucky he would walk her to her favorite tree in the park so she could work and sneak in her reading. Regina says they could earn more money if she got her head out of the clouds and did her job. Regina said she could be home more if Belle only strung her beads more and stop thinking of herself.
Regina was not an awful mother. Sure she lost her temper at Belle but that was only because Belle usually messed up something on a count she was slow and uncoordinated. Regina slapped her from time to time to remind her how lucky she was and she was grateful. Ol' Maurice always just sat and watched the scenes in his drunk stupor.
It wasn't so bad stringing beads for a living. It paid less than Regina wished but Belle could do it with her blindness and not have to worry about being fired. Mrs. Lucas or Granny was good about that.
Every couple of days, she would bring Belle a new case of beads with string and take the made necklaces with her. There was a specific pattern in which the beads went but what made it easy for Belle was that each size of the beads was distinct. Belle had easier memorized the pattern and beads sizes quickly. The porcelain orbs glided easily over the string. The only great concern she had was if she lost any beads. She would never know if she did or never find them if she knew.
As the morning aged, Regina and Ol' Maurice stirred. Belle put on the kettle. They could only afford cheap, instant coffee which tasted bitter and rancid. Belle preferred tea much better but only Mrs. Lucas would bring it every so often.
The dishes felt clean but Belle washed them anyway. Regina likes her plate and cup clean. She usually slapped Belle if they were not. The water's sloshing echoed in her ears. The lukewarm suds were therapeutic and comforting.
Chores were a constant companion for Belle. They allowed for her to know the little apartment that housed her, Regina, and Ol' Maurice. While working, she was able to be aware of where she was and what was where. Regina's side of the room was the biggest. She claimed since she made most of the rent, she got special privileges. She had the nicest bed and the nicest sheets. When Belle got to make her bed everyday, she would run her fingers on the fabric and enjoy the pleasant sensation that washed over her.
Other than doing the dishes and making the beds, Belle mended and washed the laundry, cooked, and made sure that the floors were free from any mess. It was also her job to help Ol' Maurice in anyway if her needed it, but usually when she asked, he would just growl at her and tell her to piss off. If the chores failed to meet completion, Regina would slap her and beat her until she thought Belle had learned her lesson. Regina also would tell her what she did wrong; calling her useless, dumb, and slow.
But once her chores were done, she could size and string her beads just the Granny liked her to do. It was the one thing that she was good at other than listening. She wished she could read better but she had only one book of fairy tales in braille and it had been a gift from Granny. Belle hid it from Regina because she always took the gifts she received, either taking them for herself or throwing them away, saying she was too spoiled as it was and didn't need anymore junk in her life.
When Belle was by herself, she would turn on the radio and listen to Dr. Hopper's talk show. He had a kind but sure voice. He always had interesting stories that inthralled Belle and seemed to love helping people. Belle wished she could called him but she had no idea how to work the phone Regina kept on her side of the apartment. Being blind and alone may be what Belle was used to but she would give anything for a chance for an adventure or even more simple, a friend.
If Belle got to go to the park, she would maybe make a new friend. And at least it would get her out of the apartment. She had tried to make friends with Ms. Lucas’s granddaughter, Ruby, once when she little. Belle loved Ruby. Ruby didn’t care that Belle was blind or that Belle had limited abilities. Ruby liked to make jokes and tell stories. She also helped Belle complete her chores after so that they could have time to play.
Well of course, one day, Regina had come along home sooner than usual. She knew that Ms. Lucas was due to stop by but she had not expected that little Ruby Lucas had stayed the day, or any other day before. Regina opened the door to the apartment to find the two girl, bright-faced from all their laughter, underneath a sheet fort in the middle of the room. Regina’s voice had gotten really loud at that point. Belle tried to image Regina’s anger and felt it with the typical slap across her cheek. This one sent her flying.
“Why can’t Ruby come over to play?”, Belle had asked later after Ruby had been thrown out.
“Because I said so. Don’t I make the money to keep a roof over your head? And this is the thanks that I get? You hanging in my home with that wolf filth. I thought I told you better than that, Belle!”
“What’s wolf filth? She isn’t filthy! Ms. Lucas makes her take a bath everyday.”
“She’s the disgusting filth. Her parents were part of some radical movement group called the Moon Wolves. It’s not a socially excepted group. They are evil people. Like all the other groups out there. Now stop questioning my decisions and make my supper. I’m gonna work a little extra tonight since I have tomorrow off from my other job.”
That had put an end to that. Belle had never seen Ruby again after that. She asked Ms. Lucas about her if Regina wasn’t there when she came. Ol’ Maurice never cared to say much about Ruby either. Belle was grateful for that. She still didn’t understand way certain groups were so evil and that Regina was so opposed to them. Belle couldn’t ask Ol’ Maurice either because he response was usually a grunt or a drunken slurry drooling out of his mouth.
All this time gave Belle some time to think. Her chores were done for the day. The prep for Regina’s supper was completed too. She even had completed all the beads. It was the perfect night to ask Regina, again, if she could go to the park. She hoped that with enough convincing, Regina would let her go. Belle wanted to know what it was like to be in the great, wide somewhere. How she always envisioned the park. She would make sure to ask for extra work from Ms. Lucas. That would make Regina happy for sure.
Though secretly, Belle wished that she would make a friend. Since becoming blind, her life was the apartment, Ol’ Maurice, and Regina. She was grateful for it all but she craved an adventure of her own. Dr. Hooper’s radio stories always seemed so promising. The heroine of the story goes on an adventure, learns so much of the world around her, and comes back to tell of all the wonderful things that she experienced.