"My name is Sarah. I'm 17 and live in Las Vegas, Nevada. Or, at least I did. Ever since my Dad got a job transfer, my family and I made the move to Branson, Missouri.
I used to be popular at my high school, with a large group of friends. In this new state, getting used to the lifestyle and making new friends has been a challenge. Over there, I was someone.
Here, I'm no one. I know that's egocentric. I can't help it, this is how I've always been. I miss the thrilling city life and feeling included.
One afternoon when my younger brother was glued to Star Wars, my Mom decided this would be a perfect time for a drive to the coffee shop.
We got out of the vehicle, and walked into the cafe.
My Mom directed my attention to a girl my age. Her black hair was in a loose three strand braid, and she was wearing a lavender blouse and dark blue jeans.
She also had a service dog, a border collie.
"Sarah, this is Tess. Her parents and I met a few days ago, and we figured you two should meet."
"Hi" I said.
Tess reached out her hands to touch my face. "It's nice to meet you Sarah. I think we're going to get along."
Tess felt her way to the order counter with her cane and dog. "Let's get our beverages and then we can get to know each other." she told me.
"Ok." I respond, feeling kind of awkward. This might be kind of rude of me, but how do you treat a blind person?
Tess ordered a mocha with cinnamon. I got an iced coffee." We made our way to an empty booth and sit down.
An awkward silence passed between us for a few moments.
"So how long have you been here?" she asked
"Not that long. I'm from Las Vegas originally."
"That's awesome. I've never been, but I'd love to visit one day."
Tess's border collie gave a lick on my right hand.
"Oh, this is Cookie. She's my seeing eye dog and one of my most loyal friends."
"She's beautiful." I petted her.
"Do you like to read?" I asked her.
"Yes. Romantic comedies, for the most part."
"I watch romantic comedies. Friends and Star Wars too."
"Same here" Tess replies.
"I heard your Mom is taking us to a show this evening." Tess says
"What kind of show?" I ask.
"It's a variety show. Magicians, singers, acrobats. It seems exciting."
"Except... I didn't finish my sentence."
"Except what?" Tess asked.
"You can't see anything." I replied, referring to her blindness.
Tess sips on her drink, and I beat myself up for saying the wrong thing.
"I can still see what's happening when I listen. Then I'm able to create a picture in my mind."
"I'm so sorry."
"Don't be. It was a condition that's been with me ever since I was six years old. I've learned to get used to it. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I make the most out of life, as best I can.
Tess's optimism was something I was never very good at.
"I guess that was something I needed to hear. The challenges I've gone through are probably nothing compared to yours."
"It all depends how we deal with them. Everyday, I realize I have a choice. To be controlled, or to take control."
"I never thought of it like that before."
At 6:00, the curtains opened, and the show began. I described every detail to Tess. Between bites of nachos and cotton candy, we shared our favorite scenes with each other.
There was plenty of laughter between us. I had only met Tess just that afternoon, and already she was making me feel welcome here.
Plus, she helped put life in a better perspective for me, when I had forgotten to.
And it all started with the coffee shop friendship.