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Blinded in a car crash, 11-year-old Aisling is given an ancient harp inhabited by the spirit of 17th-century harper Blind Rory O’Cahan. She soon discovers that she can talk with Rory through the harp. Her skill attracts the attention of the Irish Fair Folk, who kidnap her to perform for them in the Otherworld until the end of time. Her 8-year-old brother, David, sets off to rescue her with the help of their father and Rory, the family Bean Sídhe, Her Above, and a member of the Hidden Folk of Iceland. Then she enters a life-changing harp competition.
Aisling woke up in the dark. To a strange smell.
It was her mother, Nora’s, voice, sounding worried. Not from the kitchen as usual but close to her bed.
“Turn on the light. I’m getting up. Ow! I hurt all over.”
“Dear, there’s been an accident.”
“No, dear. Us. You and I were in an accident.”
The sound of screeching tires and a crunch that she heard and felt came back to her.
“Mum, are you all right?”
“Yes. Well, apart from some bruising.”
“I think I’ve got bruising, too. Everything hurts when I try to move. And my eyes hurt. Turn on the light so I can see.”
“Aisling, some pieces of glass went into your eyes, and …”
Aisling put her hands to her eyes.
“I’ve got a blindfold on.”
“It’s a bandage. The doctors got all of the glass out, and …”
Aisling started to rip the bandage off. Nora held her hands.
“No, don’t. The bandage is there to keep your eyes from moving too much.”
Aisling’s hands slumped to her sides.
“The light’s on, isn’t it?”
“It smells like a hospital.”
“Yes. The doctor’s coming back to check your eyes in a few minutes.”
“Am I blind?”
“We don’t know. Your head hit the door window and you were knocked out. The doctor wants to see if the force of it detached the retinas. Those are things like film strips that line the inside of the eyeballs and send the images to the brain through the optic nerves, and they can come loose in an accident.”
“So I might be blind.”
Aisling heard the door open and a man’s footsteps approach the bed. A sympathetic voice said, “Hello, Mrs. Mooney. Hi, Aisling. Are you feeling better now?”
She wanted to say Yes to make the kind-sounding doctor feel happy, but it wasn’t true.
“I can understand that. You got banged around a bit. I want to take a look at your eyes if the bleeding has stopped. We couldn’t see clearly before. While you were asleep, I put some drops in your eyes to dilate the pupils so I can look inside.”
She felt capable hands unwinding the bandage, and then it was off. She opened her eyes. It was still dark.
“The light’s still on, isn’t it?”
The doctor paused before he said, very quietly, “Yes.”
“I feel something warm on my eyes.”
“I’m using a light to look at the retinas. Those are …”
“I know what they are.” Her voice sounded harsh. “Are they detached?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“I know what that means. And the optic nerves?”
“The good news is that they’re not severed, but there seems to be a bit of damage. So …”
“I’ll look on the bright side when I can see again.” She almost regretted the bitter tone, but not quite.
“Let me finish. Damaged optic nerves often regenerate spontaneously; that is, they repair themselves in time. I’ve seen medical reports about detached retinas spontaneously reattaching, too, though it’s rare. The fact that you’re young is a big advantage. Meanwhile, we have a therapist who can help you learn how to …”
“I don’t want to learn how to be blind. I don’t want to be blind. I want to see.”
Her mother held her while she cried. The doctor said nothing. Aisling understood it was because he knew that words wouldn’t help.