"Mark? Mark, I'm home!" At last the boredom was cut short by the slamming of the door downstairs. It must have been Mum. I reached over and fumbled for the button of the CD player, so that it would shut up and stop talking on and on. The story had sent me to sleep eventually, but I'd needed the rest.
"I'm coming!" I called, and went to my door, pushing it open. It always stuck in exactly the same place. Dad had been planning to mend it, before the accident, but hadn't got a chance. Luckily I was used to it.
The corridor was clear. It always was. Once, somebody had left a couple of books in the middle of the floor and I'd tripped on them, because I didn't know they were there. I had a stick for when I was out and about but it was downstairs, since it wasn't that useful upstairs; I'd wanted a guide dog, but my mother had always been terrified of anything bigger than a hamster and so that hadn't been possible, for all she'd said she could live with it for my sake. I knew she couldn't. I didn't press the point.
"I've got something for you, Mark." Mum was right in front of me, her hand on my arm. "Come on, come into the front room. You're going to love this." So that was why she was late home - she'd stopped to pick me up a present. But what would it be this time? For you see, whenever I was miserable Mum used to go and get me something to cheer me up and I never knew exactly what she'd come across.
I was a little wary but I followed her into the front room anyway. She tugged gently on my sleeve and I knelt down, understanding that the gift, whatever it was, was on the floor.
It was rectangular. Well, oblong, but I didn't really care about fussy details like that. A box about five inches deep, covered all over in a roughish fabric that was obviously supposed to be hardwearing. There were straps on the back, or so I discovered when I lifted it gently off the ground to feel around it, and they were attached with cold metal clasps that pinched my fingers.
"Ouch." I'd got my skin caught under the clip. "What is it?"
"Open it and see!" So this wasn't the whole gift, this mysterious box? I tried to find the opening but was stymied by a flap which seemed to cover the zip and clip fastener. Mum helped me pull it across and undo the two zips which whizzed around, though they didn't go all the way. Obviously a hinge, and not a completely separate lid.
I couldn't work out how to open the clasp, but I didn't let Mum help me. Sometimes you just had to have the chance to work things out for yourself. Eventually I got there: the two buttons on either side had to be pressed in before it would open. A strange design and I wondered again what would be inside the box.
It felt like velvet, but that was just a lining. For a moment or two I was distracted, running my hands over the soft fabric. I'd never felt anything so plush and smooth. And then my fingers touched wood, and I knew what it was.
"You - you got me a violin?"
I'd heard about them from my audio tapes, you see. They were versatile instruments which could play as slow as a dirge or as fast as quicksilver - I'd even heard a few examples of them playing, though it was mostly just for the title of the story. But I had known I'd wanted one.
"Go on, get it out." Mum sounded excited. "There's a little velcro strap over the neck but you can find it, I'm sure. Get it out - have a go." And with trembling fingers I undid the strap and lifted my gift from its case.