Darkness Dawns is a love story. It also tells the tale of one man's war with himself, brought onto the battlefield of his blindness. Leo Ferrar suffers from diabetic retinopathy and lost his sight two years ago. Unable to bear the scrutiny of strangers or the impact of his blindness on those he loves, Leo has determined on shutting the world out ever since. This is the man Ben meets on his first day at work as Mr Ferrar's care assistant.
A former heroin addict, Ben was sentenced to six months community service as punishment for his crimes by a judge entitled to condemn him to a seven-year stretch. Far too charming for his own welfare, Ben soon proves unaccountably brilliant at 'bulldozing the blind'.
When fate sees fit to dispatch Ben to the home of the man he has internally dubbed Mr Ferrarcious; it is with the words of the last five unfortunates who'd dared darken Leo's doorway ringing in his ears.
A door that is opened by a man who might be Lord Byron himself. Drop dead gorgeous and as hot as hell, Leo Ferrar has the most beautiful eyes Ben has ever seen.
Never has an irony seemed so cruel. Nor fate so fortuitous.
Leo was pissed off.
This wasn't an uncommon occurrence, it must be admitted, but today, his mood was so malignant, he might have been impressed by its magnificence, if he wasn't so pissed off. He'd woken up with the black dog on his back and it had all gone belly up from there. Suck it up and get on with it.
While Leo had done his damnedest to abide by his own decree, much as he had for the last two years, today was really chapping his ass. He'd given up counting how many injuries he'd inflicted on himself after nutting the corner of an overhead cupboard door some dickhead hadn't bothered to shut, then stubbing his toe and smashing his shin on Henry the Hoover. Lurking in the hallway like a landmine with a smug smile.
To put the tin hat on it--an excellent idea, all things considered--Leo just knew he'd donned odd socks. Pitiful. He'd sworn blind that he would never wear mismatched socks. Before he'd gone exactly that, Leo couldn't have cared less--if they hadn't reeked to high heaven, they'd done just fine, thank you very much--but now? It felt like one indignity too far in a day festooned with the fuckers...and it hadn't even flourished its trump card. Yet.
Leo extended his right hand until it brushed a smooth cube of plastic and pressed the large circular button on top, which was pale yellow. Quite why that mattered so much, he had no idea. It just did. The clock itself was dove grey. An electronic voice informed him that it was 1:49. How Leo wished it was nearly ten to two. Eleven minutes to go. If 'Ben' wasn't late.
Lateness had merely been a minor inconvenience Before, but when every step counted, and every single day was a head fuck of calculations, each second of additional waiting felt as if it scored itself into Leo's skin. Accomplishing the simplest of tasks had become a feat of precision, patience and perseverance, in the face of his own utter ineptitude.
Life was now an endless loop of nothingness and numbers in a relentless onslaught of darkness. Its soundtrack issued instructions or imparted information in benumbing monotones, even the bloody clock. It was uncannily akin to being addressed by a Dalek; Leo couldn't help but hope that it might, one day, declare that it was time to exterminate him.
'Living Made Easy' was the legend intoned by his laptop when Leo clicked his bookmark for the company that specialized in similar devices. Easy? Someone had a very sick sense of humour. If only their pancreas had devoured it.
He should've probably had a shave at least. Ah well, it was too late now. Ben would be here soon. If he wasn't, then he could just bugger off again when he did deign to turn up. Leo knew full well that Social Services were sick to the back teeth of him--justifiably so--but he sure as shit hadn't requested their assistance. All he wanted was to be left in peace to get on with it. Why was that considered so unreasonable?
Other people, particularly strangers, made him feel so useless, Leo found it as unbearable as he promptly became in their presence. He was fine on his own. He could manage. He still hadn't set fire to himself, despite dire warnings to the contrary, nor had he drunk himself to death, although that might have crossed his mind, a few times. It was impossible to put into words--without sounding churlish or ungrateful--just how much he loathed having a stranger in his flat. A person whose primary purpose was to do the very things Leo hated most; poking about and providing help he didn't want.
It was probably more accurate to say he didn't want to have to be helped. This might be as cantankerous as fuck, but that didn't make it any less true. He'd always been self-sufficient. Stoic. So, it had come as something of a shock to discover that he'd lost his right to privacy alongside his sight. That really was insult to injury, whichever way you couldn't look at it.
Instead of being considered self-reliant, Leo was now deemed 'difficult'. While he'd always been a bit of a grumpy git, he had elected to live alone as soon as he'd been able to afford to, rather than inflict that on someone else. Before. Now? Leo had to put up with the professionals who turned up on his doorstep, whether he wanted them to or not, and vice versa. A situation so chafing it made him ever more recalcitrant, so he wound up feeling just as guilty about that, as he did for refusing to become someone else. Oops, sorry. 'Adapting'.
The loss of his eyesight had been brutal, but Leo had sucked it up. Survived. He wasn't so sure he could ever convince himself that surviving the loss of his dignity had been worth it.
The doorbell jangled--every nerve ending--1:58. Ben wasn't late, for which Leo was grateful; but not being forced to wait, for a visitor he didn't want, really wasn't much consolation. Shoving his chair back with a resigned sigh, Leo stood up. The damn thing toppled over. Of course. The bell rang again, a sound so jarring he left the chair where it was, hoping to answer it before the bloody thing staged another assault on his senses. The table was set into the bay window opposite the door, which meant navigating the width of the front room to reach it. It was not situated there to make things deliberately difficult for himself--as had been opined--Leo simply liked sitting in the window. The caress of sunlight on his skin was too soothing a pleasure to pass up.
"OW! Fuck!" Bastard Henry. Rolling his eyes in disgust, Leo yanked the door open.
"Hello, Leo. I'm Ben, your new support worker." 'Ben' had the softest masculine voice Leo had ever heard. A sound as gentle as windchimes stirred by a summer breeze.
"'Lo. Come in," Leo muttered, which probably didn't sound very welcoming, but at least he hadn't added; you might as well, you no doubt intended to anyway.
"Thank you. Are you okay?" Ben sounded worried, which was strange, unless the gash on Leo's forehead looked worse than he'd suspected. "Only you shouted, Ow! Fuck! before you opened the door."
Leo blinked. Twice. His new support worker had just said 'fuck' before he'd even crossed the threshold. Ben might just last the day.
"Oh sorry, I tripped," Leo explained, stepping aside to free up the doorway.
"Over Henry? Do you have a death wish, leaving him there?" A question accompanied by a chuckle and a rush of air as Ben's presence filled the hallway.
"No. I just like having a reason to let rip with a few ripe words every half an hour," Leo admitted, much to his own bemusement.
"You need a reason? Fuck. I would've thought that losing your sight was justification enough. I'd be effin' and blind--oh shit. I'm sorry, I'm hopeless. Are you sure you're okay? You look a bit... befuddled."
Befuddled? How...strange. Two fucks, a shit and a blind faux pass, all before Ben had taken his coat off. In truth, he wasn't far off, Leo did feel decidedly...bewildered. Both by Ben himself, and a glimmer of something Leo hadn't felt for so long, he could neither name nor fathom it. Curiosity? Interest? Whatever it was, it felt as rusty as an old bike left out in the rain.
"Sorry, I'm just having a bad day. You might as well come through. I spend most of my time in here..." Leo pointed towards the front room before turning to walk the seven paces required to reach it. "The kitchen is through that door..." He gestured with a wide sweep of his left arm and promptly smacked Ben--what sure seemed like--full in the chest. "Fuck! Sorry!" His chest? Christ, how tall is he? Leo was five eight-and-a-half, so Ben must be well over six foot.
"S'okay, it wasn't your fault, it was my bad." Ben's voice was so warm that his words felt soothing, rather than simply sounding as if they were supposed to be. "I didn't leave enough room for manoeuvre, I should know better. I never seem to though. Know better, that is. No worries, I'm tougher than I--"
That did it. Leo let rip with snort of laughter as sudden as it was staggering.
"Tougher than you look?" he managed to splutter.
"Oh fuck! Leo, I'm so sorry! Shit! I'm hopeless. Should I go out and come in again, or just bugger off full stop?" Ben's words tumbled over themselves in their rush to leave his lips. He might just trip over them on his way out, should he attempt to leave.
"I think you'd probably get lost." Leo snorted, a sound uncannily akin to a chuckle. What the hell is there to laugh about? More to the point, why hadn't he already dispatched Ben with a flea in his ear? As a human being, Ben was a walking, talking liability. As a potential support worker? He was absolutely bloody dreadful.
Where the hell had they found him? Had Social Services resorted to not-so-subtle point making about Leo's litany of complaints? Perhaps they figured that an afternoon with Ben might shut him up, once and for all. Shut me up? It'll probably kill me.
Christ. Now what? How Leo hated this part. Trying to make conversation with someone he didn't know and couldn't see was excruciating. He hadn't realized how much he'd relied on first impressions, until he could no longer form them. This, while judgement was being made upon him--with no recourse to the verdict whatsoever--left Leo horribly exposed. Naked. Vulnerable; utterly unable to discern if an instant dislike had been taken to him. On sight. Social interaction had become a Molotov cocktail of self-consciousness with a side serving of paranoia.
Ben was only here because it was his job--he was paid to tolerate Leo--which smacked of hiring a prostitute. Without the sex part to look forward to. The latter pretty much summed up his life for the last two years...and would undoubtedly remain just as true for...ever.
Leo never wanted to be someone's pity fuck. That was probably his greatest fear in a dark world full of them.