This story is by Tracy Busse and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Breathe in, breathe out, the rhythm of life. The beauty of what is. Emily could see, but she could not hear. Deaf since birth, her world was surrounded by an audible silence. Frustration filled many days like the sinking of a casket in a lake. She could not see past the tears folding over her eyes.
Her parents joined her frustration with shouts and the slamming of doors. They were explosions Emily never heard, but they reverberated through her heart to the limits of her soul. The reality of her existence weighed her down. Neither parent knew how to handle her. She saw their thin looks of pity that masked their annoyance. Her solution was to disappear.
If Emily could not be seen, she could not evoke anger, annoyance, hatred, or despair. She would cease to exist. For Emily, that meant finding places to hide. There was an old dumbwaiter that she would crawl into until she grew too large. Sometimes she would sit in her closet creating stories of far off places she would like to see. She assumed her parents were happy about her decision to hide. They never asked where she had been or what she had been doing. But worst of all, they never found her. She was alone.
When Emily was twelve her parents died in a car accident. She didn’t know until the day after because no one knew where to find her. Their backyard led into a large forest that eventually led to a creek surrounded by boulders and jagged rocks. She knew every crevice, cave, and alcove available for her retreat. That was where she was when she learned of her parent’s death.
The forest was the only place she could hear life. The deer and the rabbits pulled her from her hiding place with deep satisfaction. Lush vegetation and silky grasses surrounded their life. Her heart pounded with excitement as the animals played. Laughter filled her soul and woke her senses as she delighted in the creatures. Even the moss created a tingling in her finger as she grazed the velvety green blanket that covered the rocks. Her senses caught fire when she smelled the raw earth, the vibrancy of spring, the sweetness of summer, the majesty of fall, and the enchantment of winter. Each season brought mystery and wonder. Deep in the forest, she learned she could hear.
It was a golden day, crisp with the anticipation of winter. Emily’s legs hung over the edge of an enormous boulder that stood thirty feet above her creek. She watched the amber water flow over golden stones. Tiny rapids formed, carrying leaves and sticks along the way. Seemingly dead things were being carried into a new adventure. Emily watched a large stick and imagined it was a vessel carrying an army of men into battle. More like an ancient Viking ship with slaves rowing and warriors thrusting their fists to the skies. The water created brief resistance as each oar dug through the murky sea. She wondered where this battle should take place? Will they win or be slaughtered by the enemy?
Emily’s body flinched as an enormous hand gripped her shoulder. Panic forced her head to turn. She saw a policeman looking down at her with compassion. His lips were moving, but she had not yet acquired the skill of reading lips. Sensing his kindness, she slapped her ears and shook her head. Nodding in comprehension, the man sat next to her on the rock. She looked at his face as he stared ahead. His eyes were creased from smiling and his lips curved upward as he regarded the creek. Her right arm felt the steady pounding of the man’s heart. This was the first time she felt the heartbeat of another human.
There was something important he needed to tell her. She wondered why he didn’t just write her a note. A string of tutors had taught her to read. Reading stories about the past had become another form of escape. It was also the way her parents would communicate their absence. It was strange to have someone join her in her place of isolation. Even when her mom sat on the foot of her bed, the distance between them was like a wide ravine. This officer was different. He was close. She felt his presence, the way the sun warms your face on a cool day. An internal voice she had never heard before spoke. Tears glistened her cheeks. The voice told her that her parents were dead. Time stopped as Emily’s body digested the news. Her brow furrowed as she wondered what to do with this loss. The desire to withdraw pulled at her until she looked at the man next to her.
Compassion and sorrow flowed from the officer. It tugged at a part of her heart long forgotten. His presence was a silver thread in a sea of darkness. As she looked up at him, he glanced down at her with tiny streams of tears reflecting a glimmer of light. Her heart woke up as she was drawn to the stranger. She could hear his heart beckoning her to come with him. Gingerly, Emily placed her hand in his. A smile flowed from his face and filled her with an unfamiliar sensation. Amazed, she realized the stirring in her was love. She did not know love could be heard through an expression.
He rose to his knees, so they were facing eye to eye. His gentle brown eyes invited Emily to rest. Tears melted her stoic expression. Light skipped across the creek as she looked around her little world. Something told her that everything would be ok. This man would guide her next steps as she listened with the ears of her heart.