Look in her eyes, if you get a chance. What do you see? Anger? Joy? Sadness? All of the above and more? You, street food vendor, what do you see? Hunger, want, desire. And you, would-be mugger? Purpose, meaning, pity. What about you, little street urchin, what do you see? Compassion, loss, wonder.
All true in each moment. The vendor sells her a trio of kabobs, sizzling meat and vegetables. The mugger losses his hand and earns a word of warning, “Try it again, me or anyone, and I’ll kill you.” She gives the boy a pair of coins, he’ll eat for a week.
Back home she pauses outside her father’s study. Why isn’t she knocking? Because Elliot Gavin knows she’s there. With his enhanced hearing he can trace her every footstep. Not only hers, but the whole estate’s staff. Everyone has a unique pattern to their gait. Like a fingerprint, laughter, or eye color.
“What’re you waiting for? Tell me what you learned.”
She closes the door behind her, sits on a cushion. “More tea?”
“I’m fine, thank you. Tell me what happened.”
“They were welcoming, told me they respect you and hold you in high regard—”
“But they said they’re not going to lower the tax.”
“I figured as much. It was worth a try. And you did as we discussed?”
“Kill them, you mean? I hate word games.”
He laughs. “Yes, true. I’m so used to it though, you must forgive me.”
She smiles, looking into his milky eyes. The best medicine and science was able to give him hearing better than a dog, but his sight is forever lost. She recalls the way he used to look at her, before the attack. She’s playing with him, wresting on the grass in the courtyard. Her mother watching, smiling. Tammy carries a tray of lemonade out, mother thanks her. Tammy bows and as she leaves smiles at ten-year-old Alex.
Alex waves to Tammy. When she looks back her dad is watching her, beaming, almost on the verge of tears. Above, a billboard dragged by a drone hovers by. A man chewing gum, gives a thumbs up, returns to chewing, another thumbs up. Ten minutes later Alex goes to bed. That’ll be the last evening her father is able to see her. During the night a team of would-be assassins strikes, but is repelled by Gavin security. The poison grenade the assassins throw into Elliot’s room destroys his hearing and sight.
Alex pours herself half a cup of tea. “They’re dead, yes.”
“How do you feel?”
Alex shrugs. A wasted gesture, one of the things her father will never see again. A tear runs down her cheek. “Fine.”
“Then why’re you crying?”
He can hear that? “You…How—”
Elliot smiles. “It’s in your voice.”
She looks away and wipes her cheek. “It isn’t because of what I did, it’s because of what you can’t do.”
Alex nods. Fuck. “Yes,” she says.
“I don’t need to see, I love you just the same.”
“I’ve never questioned your love, dad. That isn’t what makes me cry.”
“Do you remember the last time you saw me?”
“In the courtyard, lemonade, a billboard for JawSum Gum. One of my clearest memories.”
“That’s why I'm crying. You’ll never be able to look at me again. It’s selfish, I know it is. But I wish you could see me, smile like you did that night. I see how people look at me, mother, Tammy, people in the city. It’s always different, but none of them can see me the way you did. You were the only one that saw the potential in me.”
“Ah, I see.”
Alex laughs, “No, you don’t. That’s the problem.” Her father bursts into laughter as well.
At least they have that, the sound of joy.