a Daria Fanfic by wyvern337
Daria held onto her mother's hand as they left the library and crossed the street to where the car was parked. She'd been walking on her own for awhile now, but holding onto Helen helped her stabilize herself, at least in a psychological sense: it could be scary out away from home, and she liked to make sure she kept close to her mom. As they stepped up onto the curb Helen stopped, looked down at her daughter and, pointing upwards, said "see that airplane, Daria?"
As a matter of fact, Daria couldn't see it -- could barely even see far enough to tell that her mother was pointing, much less what she was pointing at. As her visual range had always been that short, she'd just assumed it was normal. More recently, as the adults had taken to pointing out things to her she couldn't see, she'd formed the idea that her eyesight would improve as she got older, and that being able to see distant objects was part of that mysterious and far-away thing called being grown-up. For some reason, though, this time it annoyed her. She was sure that the plane was up there -- somewhere -- and that her mother could see it, but why couldn't she? Daria frowned, squinted, tried to picture in her mind what the distant aircraft must look like...why wasn't it getting any easier? was something wrong with her?
Looking down at her daughter when she didn't receive a reply, Helen noticed Daria straining as she looked upwards. The aircraft was pretty high up -- so much so in fact that you could hardly make out its shape and the engine noise, if it was reaching the ground at all, was drowned out by the sounds of the street. She'd only noticed it because of the flash of the sun glinting off its aluminum skin. But still, shouldn't Daria be able to see it? Was there something...wrong with her?
As the seconds passed, Daria began to sense her mother's expectation of some kind of answer, and perhaps...something more? Uncomfortable, she said "oh, I see it now", and pointed in what she guessed was the correct direction.
"That's good, sweetie," said Helen, unable to keep the note of concern out of her voice. Not only had Daria been pointing to the wrong part of the sky, the plane had passed behind a cloud.
That evening, Helen found herself paying more attention to Daria than to the library book she was helping her read. Daria was pausing over the more difficult words, of course, while she tried to figure them out, but now that she was paying more attention to how her daughter was reading, there were some other things Helen noticed. For one thing, Daria wasn't just frowning in frustration at the words, she was squinting in a way that seemed to Helen as if she were finding them hard to see. Not only that, but now that she was looking more closely, she also seemed to notice Daria holding the book unusually close to her face.
"Jake?" called Helen across the room to where her husband was engrossed in the evening newspaper.
"Uhm, yeah?" came the reply.
"Have you noticed Daria trying to read?" she asked.
Hearing her name and realizing her parents were talking about her, Daria stopped trying to read her book and turned her attention to the conversation.
"Sure have!" said Jake. "Isn't she amazing? Beats me how the two of us had such a..."
Daria smiled a little, recognizing the praising note in her father's voice.
"Jake!" Helen interrupted, her daughter jumping slightly in her lap at the sharpness of her tone, " I'm talking about the way she squints at the pages, and holds the book so close to her face. Do you think there might be something wrong with her eyesight?"
Daria's eyes widened in alarm. Something wrong with me?
"I don't know, I hadn't really noticed. D'you really think it's anything serious?" Jake replied.
Helen was disgusted at what she perceived as her husband's cluelessness, but she didn't say anything about it at the time. Instead she answered, "I don't know. I think I'd better get her in and get her checked. Maybe our regular pediatrician knows a good eye specialist."
Early one afternoon about a week later, almost running late as a result of having to find someone to watch Quinn in the middle of a weekday, Daria and Helen stood at the front door of Village Eye Medical Group. The door had a logo on it of a stylized eye inside a big triangle, big enough that Daria could see it more-or-less clearly. Something about it seemed vaguely sinister to her. In the entry foyer was a sliding window with a counter in front of it, set above the level of Daria's head. She could see that there were some folded pieces of paper with writing on them projecting over the edge of the counter.
"Good afternoon," came a woman's voice from behind the window, "and welcome to Village Eye. How may I help you this afternoon?"
Daria peered at the source of the voice, but even at that close distance the receptionist was little more than a blurred, variously-colored smear.
"We have a one-thirty appointment with Dr. Williams," said Helen.
While her mother fussed with the largely invisible person behind the window, Daria turned her attention to the pieces of paper she'd noticed before. She was getting a sense that this was going to take awhile, and thought maybe she could avoid getting bored if there was something to read. As Daria stood on tiptoe attempting to reach the brochures, the receptionist cast a slightly-disdainful glance at her. Just what I need, one of the ill-behaved brats making a mess I have to clean up. Noticing what her daughter was up to, Helen pulled one of the brochures off its stack and handed it to Daria without looking down. The girl held it up close to her face and, frown-squinting at it, started aloud: "A Pu...pub..lis..lic..."
"'Publication', sweetie," said Helen, still not breaking from her haggling session, though the receptionist looked down in surprise at Daria.
Soon Daria and Helen were sitting in two chairs near the opposite end of the waiting room from the receptionist's window, Daria trying to make what sense she could of an informational brochure on macular degeneration while her mother helped her in her attempts to sound out the more difficult words. This hadn't been going on for very long (a tribute to Helen's negotiating skills) when they were called back into the offices for the examination.
Standing behind the tape line on the floor, Daria peered at the chart on the wall at the end of the hallway. It was so far -- how did they expect her to see all of it? Still, she obediently described what she could make out. The big "E" at the top was easy enough, but it wasn't long after that she started to have trouble. First he had her try to read it with both her eyes open, then with just her right eye, then just her left. She found she could make out a little more of the chart that last way than with just her right one.
After that test, Daria and Helen (who would have none of simply staying in the waiting room) followed the doctor into a darkened room with a big, strange-looking chair in the middle of it. After the doctor helped Daria up into the chair she found herself flinching as he lowered a...thing towards her face. Gray metal, attached to a movable arm, bigger than her head and in two connected pieces, each with a glassed-over hole in its center. Daria didn't know what it was and wasn't sure she wanted any part of it.
"It's okay," Dr. Williams reassured her. "Just look through the two holes in it and tell me what you can see."
Daria held still as the device was lowered onto the bridge of her nose and adjusted until she could see through both lenses. The doctor then switched on a projector, kind of like the one Jake sometimes did slide shows of the family vacations with, and a chart full of letters a lot like the one in the hallway appeared on the screen. Daria caught her breath as she realized she could make out several lines of letters more than she'd been able to out in the hall. Was this when her eyes were going to start to get better, so she could see all the things the grownups could?
"Okay, Daria," said Dr. Williams, "I'm going to change the lenses in these glasses --"
Glasses? Thought Daria, a little confused at the unfamiliar use of the word.
" -- And you tell me whether you can see the chart any better."
She couldn't, really, and she said as much.
"How about now?"
And so it went, Dr. Williams changing lenses, sometimes using a wheel or dial of some kind built into the...glasses?...sometimes by actually inserting new lenses into them, sometimes with one eye or the other covered, occasionally switching the projector to a chart with different letters on it, always asking Daria whether the changes were "better or worse?" Sometimes they were much better -- in a few she could even make out all the letters -- while one was actually worse than nothing. Most of the changes really weren't noticeably better or worse, though, and Daria wasn't sure how to answer with those, little though she liked making the doctor guess.
Finally, there were no more lenses, no more "better, or worse?", and the device was taken away from Daria's face. The doctor told Helen that her daughter had severe myopia as well as moderate astigmatism, then he said it was time to dilate her eyes. He showed Daria a small dropper bottle and told her he was going to put some drops in her eyes that would "make it so I can see inside them and tell if there's anything wrong there." He wasn't sure how much his young patient understood of what he was telling her, but he liked for them to know as much as possible about what was going on. "It might sting and burn a little at first, and it'll make things look brighter than normal. We'll give you some special glasses --
That word again...
-- That'll help make things look less bright. These effects won't last long --" Dr. Williams continued.
"You mean they'll be tem-por-ar-y," interrupted Daria in her little toddler's singsong.
For a moment the doctor wasn't sure what to say, taken aback by Daria's precociousness. Then he said, "Yes. Yes Daria, that's exactly what I mean. Your eyes should be back to normal by tonight or tomorrow. Now I need you to tilt your head back...look at the ceiling...."
When the first drop hit her eye, it did more than just sting a little. Daria just barely heard her mother's sharp, horrified gasp from across the room, nearly drowned out by her own shriek of pain. Dr. Williams handed her a tissue which she used to blot at her eye, and after a few moments asked her if she felt like she was ready to do the other eye. She didn't feel ready, but Daria realized that this was something that was going to be done, one way or another, and that if she insisted on stopping now she'd just have to go through it again later. She swallowed, set her jaw, nodded silently, then tilted her head back to receive the other drop.
Afterwards, Daria and Helen sat in a waiting area while they waited for the eyedrops to take effect and Daria's pupils to dilate. There was a selection of childrens' books and large-print books for adults in the waiting area, and Daria tried to read some of them, taking frequent breaks to wipe at her eyes with some more tissues Dr. Williams had supplied her with. Her eyes still burned, and they just wouldn't seem to stop tearing. She also noticed the room seeming to get slowly brighter, but the effect she found the most irritating was one she hadn't been forewarned about: as the room got brighter, the letters in the book she was trying to read became hopelessly-blurred, much worse than normal. Soon she couldn't focus at all and slapped the book shut in frustration.
Noticing her daughter's irritation, Helen laid her hand over Daria's and said "it'll be okay, sweetie. It has to be done, and it'll get better soon --" Daria flashed her an annoyed look. "Of course, you already knew that, didn't you," she finished a little lamely.
Daria acknowledged this, though at her age she was still a little worried, and the tense hoarseness she heard in Helen's voice didn't help things much, but she decided to put on a brave face and tough it out. After a little while (about fifteen minutes, not that she could've seen a clock or watch face to read it), the drops had done their work and it was time go back into the examination room and finish things.
The rest of the exam was something of a blur for Daria of head-harnesses and inescapable painfully-bright lights being shone in her eyes. Finally it was over, and she heard the doctor telling her mother that there was no evidence of any serious underlying pathology and Helen saying "thank God."
Next Daria was fitted with a pair of dark glasses made of thin clear-brown plastic with cardboard earpieces that constantly felt as if they were cutting into the skin behind her ears. She overheard but didn't really pay much attention to Dr. Williams telling Helen when Daria's glasses would be ready. One thing she did notice was Helen anxiously asking whether she should keep Daria from reading anything until her glasses were ready, so her eyes didn't get any worse. This earned a sharp look from Daria, though it failed to be noticed through her shades. "No need for that," said Dr. Williams, "it wouldn't make things any worse, especially over such a short time."
At first Daria wondered why she'd been given the dark glasses, but this question was answered for her as soon as she and Helen stepped out of the Village Eye offices into the parking lot. Even with the shades, everything was horribly bright, especially around the edges of the glasses where light leaked in. Daria squinted a lot on her way to the car, and she looked down pretty much the whole way, squeezing her eyes shut whenever she could afford to (not wanting to run into anything or fall down, of course).
After they'd made it to the car Helen, perhaps feeling a little guilty over what her daughter had just been through, asked Daria if she wanted to go for ice cream. Daria didn't really feel like going anywhere except home. Not only was the brightness of the direct sunlight beginning to give her a headache, but another unmentioned side effect of the eyedrops was beginning to make itself felt: Daria was getting drowsy, and cranky. "There's too much light," she said crossly, and she and Helen drove home in silence.
Daria went to bed early that night, slept unusually-soundly, and by the next morning her eyes (except for itching a little) were back to normal.
About a week later, it was time to go back to the optometrist's to get the glasses. Daria felt a little apprehensive about the trip, even though Helen had reassured her it was just to pick up her glasses. Though she couldn't quite put the feeling into words yet, she'd learned to associate the place they were going with pain or at least discomfort.
Once they were there, Daria got to see her first pair of glasses for the first time. there was a round lens for each eye (larger, she noticed, than the ones in the...device she'd worn during the examination), with black plastic frames. While her mother haggled and fussed over the glasses' cost, Daria slipped them on for the first time.
Immediately, she was struck by how much sharper-focused everything was and how much better she could see. She wasn't sure yet just how they'd done it, but whoever'd made the glasses had captured the effect of the very best combination of lenses she'd tried out during her exam!
The second thing Daria noticed was that there was a weird...flatness to everything. It was harder to tell how far away things were, and there was a strange sensation while looking at objects that made her a little dizzy and even queasy.
Finding no way out of paying the apparently exorbitant cost of the glasses, Helen looked down at Daria and sharply admonished her to take good care of them, that they were very expensive and would be hard to replace. Daria didn't really need to be reminded to take care of them -- anything that helped her see this much better was certainly worth going out of her way to care for! -- but looking up suddenly at the words being addressed to her did make her momentarily dizzy and caused her to reel in order to keep her balance.
Apparently the doctor realized what side effects Daria was dealing with, as he told her then that she'd get used to the new glasses and the...strangeness....in her vision would go away over the next few days.
After Helen paid for the glasses, she and Daria left the doctor's office and went out to Helen's car. They'd just started to drive out of the lot when Daria suddenly leaned against the window and exclaimed "the leaves!"
"What, sweetie?" asked Helen.
"The leaves on those trees!" replied Daria.
Helen looked where her daughter was pointing, over at a row of scrubby-looking saplings that had been planted between the parking lot and the sidewalk. Some institutional-looking landscaping species, they'd obviously been planted recently, when the new medical center had been built. Not the most impressive or exciting of sights.
"What about them, Daria?" asked Helen, slowing the car down.
" I can see them from way over here!" said Daria excitedly.
She was excited because she could see them, Helen realized. Before they must've just been...what? A blur? A smear? Until today, Daria -- her baby! -- wouldn't have been able...couldn't have even....
Helen suddenly swerved off course and parked the car, a little awkwardly, in a space near the exit of the lot. This confused Daria, who had thought they were going home. Then she looked at her mother, and became even more confused. She knew, from recent experience, how they could blur the vision, and now that she could see better it was really brought home to her how good a thing it was to be able to see where you were going, but still she didn't understand what had happened. Helen hadn't had any drops put in her eyes while they'd been in there -- Daria was certain of this, they'd been together the whole time. The only other cause for tears she knew of was to have been hurt in some way. Was that what had happened?
And now, The Disclaimers: I don't own Daria, MTV/Viacom does. I'm not making or going to make any money off of this, and I don't own anything worth suing me for anyway, so please don't. I wrote this story for fun, of a sort. May you have fun, of a sort, reading it.