Music From Another Room
Music From Another Room
Deafness, hearing impairment, or hearing loss is a partial or total inability to hear. It is caused by many different factors, including but not limited to age, noise, illness, chemicals and physical trauma. Deafness is defined as a degree of impairment such that a person is unable to understand speech even in the presence of amplification. In profound deafness, even the loudest sounds produced by an audiometer may not be detected. In total deafness, no sounds at all, regardless of amplification or method of production, are heard.
Hearing loss can be inherited. Around 75-80% of all cases are inherited by recessive genes, 20-25% are inherited by dominant genes, 1-2% are inherited by X-linked patterns, and fewer than 1% are inherited by mitochondrial inheritance. When looking at the genetics of deafness, there are two different forms: syndromic and nonsyndromic. Syndromic deafness occurs when there are other medical problems aside from deafness in an individual. This accounts for around 30% of deaf individuals who are deaf from a genetic standpoint. Nonsyndromic deafness occurs when there are no other problems associated with an individual other than deafness. This accounts for the other 70% of cases.
Reed deCesco had been deaf for as long as he could remember. Both his parents had the recessive gene for the kind of heredity deafness. There is a delicate mechanism in the middle and inner ear that becomes bony and cannot vibrate. It is called otosclerosis. After finding out it was likely for all their future children to be deaf, they decided not to have anymore.
Reed had the kind of "deaf speech" that was not easily understood if someone didn’t know him. It caused him a lot of problems in public when he tried to communicate with hearing people, and very often he had to resort to pen and paper. His toddler speech was so poor only his parents could understand him. People often had to ask his parents to interpret what he was saying. Reed was very self- conscious of his voice since he had never heard it himself. He resorted to using sign language and would only use his voice if he absolutely had to and saw no alternative.
Late Tuesday afternoon Reed was sitting in the apartment he shared with his friend and interpreter helping her pack. McKenna McCall had been his interpreter for almost two years now. When she had signed on (no pun intended), both of them knew it was only temporary until she found a job. McKenna had gone to college to be a teacher for the hearing impaired. Working with Reed had given her an opportunity to use her sign language.
She rarely hung out with friends and when she did, she would always take him with her. Just because he couldn’t hear, didn’t mean he had to miss out on a social life. McKenna would always sign what other people were saying so Reed would feel included in the conversation. Even though McKenna tried to include him, it still wasn’t the same as having his own friends.
Three weeks ago she had received an offer from a school in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Reed knew this day would come. He had only hoped it wasn’t going to be so soon. Teaching was McKenna’s dream and he couldn’t and wouldn’t ask her to give it up for him.
Reed was wrapping up the last of McKenna’s unicorn figurines in newspaper when she came in carrying a box marked bedroom.
“Well, that pretty much takes care of the bedroom,” she said both speaking and signing. Even though she wasn’t leaving for another month, she wanted to get a head start. She sank down on the loveseat next to him.
“I’m going to miss you,” Reed signed.
“I’m going to miss you, too, sweetie,” McKenna responded. It had nothing to do with romantic feelings at all. She called everyone ‘sweetie’ even the girls.
“Really? You are?”
“Of course I am. Don’t be silly.
“We sure had some fun times didn’t we?”
“Remember the time we stayed up all night so I could teach you how to swing dance? You had the biggest crush on Shae O’Connor. She said all she knew how to do was swing dance.”
McKenna had rolled up the rug and exposed the hard wood floor. She signed for Reed to take off his shoes and socks and stand bare foot on the floor. She turned up the volume and pumped up the bass. She showed him how he could feel the vibration. She walked up behind him and started rhythmically patting him on the shoulder to show him how he could feel the tempo and beat. McKenna started with some small steps, front to back and side to side. When she wanted him to go faster, she would squeeze his hands. It turned out Shae didn’t know any more about swing dancing than Reed did. She had only said it because she didn’t want to appear shallow and not many people knew how to swing dance.
“Remember the time I gave you that horrible hair cut?” McKenna laughed. “You gave me red, white and blue hair by using mayonnaise and finger paints.”
One winter they had gone snow tubing up on McKenna’s aunt’s property. They both slid down the hill by themselves. Then they decided to try and go down together. Half way down the inner tube tipped. Reed ended up on the ground, McKenna ended up on top of him and the inner tube was on top of her. After a couple more tries, they finally made it all the way down the hill.
“Those were some good times.”
“It’s almost lunch time,” McKenna looked at her watch. “Do you want me to make you a sandwich or something?”
“No thanks. I have to get to work.” Reed worked as a janitor at the Princess of Wales Theater. He handed McKenna the last wrapped unicorn and signed, “I’m really going to miss these little chats.” McKenna had been the like the sister he never had.
Beverly Jean Perkins stood nervously in the wings of the Princess of Wales Theater in Toronto. Ever since she was a little girl, she had dreamed of being on this stage. It was here where she saw her first musical and it had been her goal ever since. It was difficult since her parents had divorced in her early life. She lived briefly with her father and stepmother. It was her father who sent her to live with her mother and stepfather. Since both of them had stage careers they could provide for their talented daughter's artistic training.
Beverly’s stepfather sponsored lessons for her at an independent arts educational school in Toronto, then voice lessons with a concert soprano. The range, accuracy and tone of Beverly's voice was amazing ... she had possessed the rare gift of absolute pitch. She had a very pure, white, thin voice and a four-octave range. She had the pipes that could blow the roof off this place. Her voice teacher had repeatedly urged Beverly to pursue opera. Beverly herself felt her voice was unsuited for the genre and too big of a stretch for her. She thought her voice lacked the necessary guts and weight for opera. She chose to avoid songs that were sad, depressing, upsetting or written in a minor key in fear of losing her voice in a mess of emotion. She had always preferred musical theater instead.
In high school, she had been part of the madrigal choir. There were different tables. The head table consisted of the best singers and they would go around and perform at different places and Renaissance Fairs. They were almost always juniors and seniors. Beverly was one of the only freshman to make the head table her first year. After high school she joined a professional madrigal group.
After many years of training, her moment had finally come. The way it came was by pure accident. When she tried out for the play, she had been cast as the understudy for the female lead. Over the past years when people heard her sing, they couldn’t believe she hadn’t been cast as the lead. The theater business was based on a who you know basis. Beverly hadn’t made her mark yet and wouldn’t draw as large of an audience and someone who had been around for a while.
Her angels must have been smiling down on her because three nights before opening night, the female lead had come down with bronchitis. She kept insisting she would be alright by opening night, but she had only gotten worse. It was then the director came to Beverly and said, “Tonight’s your night.”
Beverly was a calm person, but put her on a stage and she did a complete 360 degree turn. It was unimaginable the change that occurred as soon as the lights hit her. She was spot on every time.
Reed stood in the back of the darkened theater. Even though he couldn’t hear the words or the music, he liked watching the actors interact with each other and the extravagant costumes they wore. By watching their body language and facial expressions, Reed would create his own story line.
That night he noticed a new actress was on the stage. Someone he had never seen before. She was about five foot four, had dark blonde hair and blue-gray eyes. She had captured his attention right from the start. Reed never held a grudge against his deafness only this time he actually wished he could hear her voice. He could only imagine it sounded as beautiful as she looked.
After the show, Reed went through the aisles to see if anyone had left any personal items; glasses, wallets, one time someone had left their laptop computer. If he found a paperback book, he usually took it home with him to read. Then he would bring it back and turn it in to the lost and found. This time he found a program left in one of the seats. He quickly stuck it in his pocket. The programs usually contained head shots and little biographies of the actors. He planned to look up the new actress.
“Excuse me?” Beverly came up behind him. When he didn’t respond, “I said excuse me.” Again no response. “Don’t you know its common courtesy to respond when someone is talking to you?”
Reed had a keen sense to know someone was standing behind him. He turned around. He could see her mouth moving, but couldn’t make out any of her words. The lights were dim so he couldn’t see her facial expressions which might give him a clue to what she was saying. She was wearing a coat and a hat hiding her blonde hair and in combination with the lights he didn’t realize it was the same woman he had seen on stage. He squinted into the darkness.
“Sir, don’t you speak English? Are you French? Parlous vous Françoise?”
Reed stood there, dumbed.
“If you are just going to flat out ignore me then forget it. You are the rudest person I have ever met. Good-bye.” Reed watched as she stormed out of the theater. He was used to missing out on conversations. He just shrugged his shoulders as if to say ‘whatever’ and went on cleaning.
Back in his apartment, Reed flipped through the program until he found the picture of the actress he sought. She was the understudy for the female lead. She was twenty-seven years old and had been acting and singing since she was five. She had made her debut at age nine playing young Cosette in Les Miserables.
Reed found it hard to believe he had never seen her before now. And he had been working at the theater for almost three years. He had gotten to recognize and know some of the performers. Some more personally than others, but still.
Beverly was in her dressing room shaking herself out to loosen up her muscles like she did before every performance. She did her own vocal warm up even though she was going to do a group one with the other actors later. She sang a scale punching it up a good two octaves above normal. Usually the highest note for a soprano would be a high A. When you had somebody with a voice like Beverly’s, it would be a crime not to put a few high C’s in there. She asked the director if he wanted her to go higher. He replied, “Go for it.”
She unzipped the garment bag which contained her costume; a wine colored gown with a gold and green pattern, three petticoats and a laced up corset bodice. An upside down triangle piece of cream colored satin went down the middle of the bodice to the princess cut waist line. These costumes were hot and heavy. Beverly was thin, but she never felt like she could take in a full breath with the imitation whale bone cutting into her sides. Her hair had been banana curled with the back pulled into a ponytail leaving two sleek chin length curls bouncing delicately.
She was walking down the hall to the warm up area when she saw movement out of the corner of her eye. She looked and saw the man who had blatantly ignored her other night. Their eyes met. She defiantly tossed her head and kept right on walking.
She saw him again leaning against the wall in the wings watching the cast doing a last minute run down. When some of the other cast members saw him, they waved, shook his hand or patted him on the shoulder telling him it was good to see him. Despite his earlier behavior toward her, Beverly did think he was rather nice looking; dark wavy brown hair, dark eyes, tanned skin and just a hint of a five o’clock shadow. When he smiled, he showed a row of straight white teeth. At least he had good oral hygiene. After he had disappeared into the audience, Beverly leaned over to one of her co-stars and whispered, “Who was that?”
“Oh, that was Reed,” Jake replied.
“So that’s his name.”
“He works here. Do you know him?”
“I sort of ran into him the other night. I came back to get some sheet music I left here.”
“Why do you look like you just took cough syrup?” Jake responded to her look of distaste. “Couldn’t you find your sheet music?”
“I can always borrow Daphne’s, but that’s not the point.”
“I spoke to him and he ignored me, just flat out ignored me. Even when we were face to face. I don’t know how someone like him could get a job…”
“What do you mean someone like him?” Jake cut her off. “You have something against deaf people?”
“Of course not. But he’s one of the most disrespectful people…what did you say?”
“That’s right. He didn’t answer you because he couldn’t hear you. He’s deaf. Reed’s deaf.”
“Oh my gosh. I feel terrible. I was so mean to him. I need to apologize. Tell him I’m sorry.”
“It’s something I need to do. For me. I could write him a note.”
Even though Beverly didn’t miss a word or a note, her mind wasn’t fully on the performance. Being blinded by the spot lights, she couldn’t pick Reed out of the audience.
Afterwards Beverly quickly changed into her street clothes, scribbled down an apology note and went looking for Reed. She hoped she would be able to find him. Now knowing he worked at theater, he should still be around. When she found him, he was putting a new garbage bag in one of the trash cans in the lobby. Summoning her courage, she walked up behind him and lightly placed her hand on his shoulder. He turned around. He couldn’t believe the woman he had seen on stage the other night was standing there right in front of him. He was so stunned for a split second his hands forgot how to sign.
“I’m sorry about the other night. I didn’t know you were deaf. I said some mean things. I’m sorry. Here,” she thrust the note at him.
Reed couldn’t quite tell what her erratic actions meant, but they intrigued him. He reached out, took the note and read it. He closed his eyes and smiled. He got it now. He held one finger up telling her to wait for a minute. He fished a pen out of his shirt pocket along with a small pad of paper. He wrote something down and showed it to her. It said: I think the sign you are looking for is…” He pointed to himself. His other hand formed a fist and made a circular motion on his chest.
Beverly nodded as though he had been speaking to her. She tried to mimic the sign. She almost got it, but her other hand had been open and not closed which changed the meaning of the sign completely. Reed knew she had meant to sign ‘sorry’ not ‘please.’ He took her hand in his and closed it and then with his hand still on hers put it to her chest made the circular motion.
He wrote something else on the pad and showed it to her.
You didn’t need to apologize. I get misunderstood a lot, but thanks. Beverly stood there awkwardly not exactly knowing what to do next. Reed helped her out. The sign for your welcome is… and then he showed her. She copied. Then she held her hands out for the pen and paper.
“May I?” She quickly wrote something and handed it back to him.
I would like to make it up to you. Can I buy you dinner or something?
Reed shook his head no.
“No?” Beverly asked. Maybe he hadn’t accepted her apology. He was writing something else.
But I wouldn’t mind a cup of coffee.
“Of course.” She held her hands out. She was making the sign for ‘what,’ but her face said ‘where’.
I think you mean…He held up his index finger and moved it back and forth. Where, not what.
Beverly smiled sheepishly and did the correct sign. He handed her the pen and paper. He would let her decided. She wrote down the name of the little Tick Tock Coffee Shop around the corner. Then she pointed to her wrist. Reed understood and his fingers formed the number for 10:00. He didn’t do the correct sign for ten so there wouldn’t be any confusion.
Beverly nodded and pointed to her eyes and then at him and made an arch sign. Reed figured it meant tomorrow, not to go or leave. He signed the sentence the correct way to show her. He got a kick out of her trying to find a way to effectively communicate with him. She acted like a child lost in the middle of an enchanted forest. He was used to signing with McKenna and knowing exactly what each other was saying. This was going to be a whole new experience for him. He could already tell Beverly was different. A lot of other people wouldn’t have bothered to apologize.
Dressed in her light pink and white polka dot pajamas and fuzzy pink slippers, Beverly searched for a sign language alphabet on her computer. She printed out the page and sat down on the couch to practice making the letters. She had gone to Spain one summer as an exchange student. The two things she had to know how to say were: Where’s the bathroom and I want beer. Having blonde hair and blue eyes, lots of Spanish guys would crowd around her, speaking to her in rapid Spanish. She was embarrassed when she had to keep telling them, No comprende, meaning she didn’t understand. She didn’t want to have the same thing happen with Reed.
The next morning Beverly’s brain slowly began to clear as she finished her morning yoga. Every morning she would get up around 6:00am and go for a run. It helped clear her mind and get rid of stress. She followed a narrow path over to the beach. It wasn’t a real beach, just a stretch of sandy land which ran against the lake. Wind tugged at her clothes which consisted of a white t-shirt, black shorts and an orange windbreaker. Nor wind or sleet or snow could stop her from running. Well except maybe a fire or an earthquake. She lengthened her stride along the damp, packed sand at the water’s edge. There Beverly lost herself in the beauty of the dawn streaking red in the east. She jumped agilely across a narrow arm of the creek that ran down to meet the lake. Beverly knew every curve and rise of the so-called coast. She’d run this way a thousand times, first as a girl, then as a woman. Thanks to the magic of the changing light and windswept water
no two runs were the same. Even though Beverly loved her acting career, when she ran she felt completely free.
Back in her apartment, she made scrambled eggs whites topped off with a couple strawberries and a slice of honeydew melon, her favorite. She passed on her regular morning coffee since she would be meeting Reed in a little while.
Beverly peeled off her sweaty workout clothes and stepped into the shower. As the first hot spray of the shower hit her face, she sighed in earthy pleasure. She groaned in satisfaction as the water ran over her shoulders and down her body. Her shoulders moved back and forth under the steady stream of hot water. She had the sculpted shoulders of an athlete and abs to bounce a dime off. She lathered shampoo into her hair while the hot water pounded over her shoulders. She allowed herself several long, indulgent minutes under the pounding water. She shut the water off and grabbed a towel.
She used a hair dryer to straighten her hair and to add volume. Her mother had told her the trick to wearing make -up is to look like you aren’t wearing any at all. Beverly applied a very subtle pink eye shadow and some blush to highlight her high cheekbones and natural beauty. She wasn’t a big fan of lipstick. She only wore it when she performed. Any other time she stuck to good old fashioned chap-stick. She decided to wear a bright green shorts and sweater set with a bold orange blouse underneath. She spritzed on some of her favorite perfume. Since Reed could not hear her golden voice, she would try and appealed to his other senses.
Reed walked into the living room dressed in khaki pants and a blue polo shirt. McKenna noticed right off there was something different about him. His hair was slicked back and he had added some hair gel. She also caught a whiff of cologne.
“Where are you going all guised up?” she asked. There was no sign for the word ‘guised’ so she had to finger spell it.
“Out,” Reed signed back.
“Just out.” Whenever Reed did something out of the ordinary, McKenna had to play twenty questions.
“Come on. Reed. What’s going on?”
“I’m meeting someone for coffee.”
“A female someone?” McKenna said slyly. Reed could tell what she was hinting at by the look on her face.
“As a matter of fact, yes.”
“Good for you. What’s her name? Is she also deaf?” Here McKenna went playing twenty questions again.
“As far as I can tell, she’s hearing. And I don’t remember her name.”
“You are having coffee with her and you don’t even know her name?”
“We didn’t get that far last night. It all happened kind of fast.”
Would you like me to come with you...to translate?”
Reed knew McKenna would help him in any way she could. And normally Reed would have accepted her gracious offer. This time it was different.
“Thanks, but no thanks, McKenna. I can’t rely on you anymore.” The way it had come from his hands it read like she was abandoning him, hanging him out to dry, rode him hard and put him away wet. “Sorry. That didn’t come out right. If it’s all the same to you, I’d like to do this by myself.”
It wasn’t all the same to McKenna, but she understood. It was almost like Reed was a little baby bird getting ready to leave the nest for the first time. They both knew he would have to start doing things for himself sometime.
“I’m your friend. Of course I understand.”
“Thanks.” Reed leaned over and gave her a friendly kiss on the cheek.
“She must be something pretty special if he willing to take the risk,” McKenna murmured when Reed’s back was to her. Reed was not normally a risk taker.
At 9:50am, Reed was standing in front of the Tick Tock Coffee Shop. Being deaf, he always made a point of being on time. When Beverly didn’t show up at exactly 10:00, Reed thought he had been stood up. It wouldn’t be the first time. But at 10:02am, he was relieved to see her crossing the street. When she caught sight of him, she waved frantically in the air. He waved back.
“Sorry I’m late,” she said breathlessly. She had remembered the sign for ‘sorry’. Reed was impressed. He noticed she had a notebook with her. It showed she wanted to have a conversation with him. He couldn’t remember any other people he had gone out with (which wasn’t many) ever doing it before. He was touched.
He opened the door and held out his hand as if to say, “Shall we?” Some women hate it when a man opens the door for them or pulls out a chair. Reed thought Beverly was a classy enough lady to appreciate the gesture. It appeared he was right.
After they were seated, he pulled out his own pad and pen and wrote down, You look nice. Beverly smiled.
“Thank you.” Reed recognized those words on her lips.
She opened her notebook. You look nice, too.
His hand formed the letter Y and he moved it back and forth between them. It was the sign for ‘same’. Beverly understood and copied it. Reed sniffed the air. He had noticed her perfume.
It’s called Morning Glory.
Very nice, Reed wrote back and Beverly lips form the words ‘Thank You’ again.
Do you have any brothers or sisters? she wrote.
Instead of writing his response, Reed shook his head no and then made the signs for ‘brother’ and ‘sister’. He held out his hand again. This time he meant to say, And you?
She signed back she had no brothers and no sisters. Then she made the sign for ‘same’. Reed nodded in agreement.
Then the waitress showed up interrupting their conversation. Beverly ordered a caramel mocha. Reed pointed to his choice. Sometimes he would give the number connected to what he wanted. Beverly saw Reed had asked for a soy latte. She asked him about it.
It’s my interpreter, Reed wrote. She’s always on me about eating and drinking healthy. She’s a vegetarian.
Beverly raised her hand to summon the waitress back. This time as she talked, she also incorporated some broken sign one of them being same. She had asked the waitress to make her order a soy one as well.
“Same?” Reed signed.
I like to try new things, Beverly wrote. What do you like to do?
Reed didn’t see any way to respond without writing. He liked to ski, play pool and go hiking. She automatically answered the same question she had asked him. Besides acting and singing, Beverly also liked to dance. She started taking clogging lessons at age eleven. She had enjoyed it so much it became a hobby. She had been part of a clogging team and they went to contests and had done well. They also toured around the United States and Canada and became quite well known.
Reed couldn’t remember the last time he had an intimate conversation with a hearing person that is.
Then she wrote Do you like music?
It took her a few seconds to realize what she had done. When she did, she clapped a hand over her mouth and began frantically making the sign for ‘sorry’ again. Reed saw the fearful look in her eyes. She was afraid she had hurt his feelings. He held up his hands and shook his head no and smiled. Then he wrote, It’s okay. I like the way you talk to me like I am a normal person. Not a deaf one.
When Beverly would write down a word, Reed would point to it and show her the sign. By the time they were getting ready to leave, Beverly had learned the signs for: coffee, cream, sugar, fork, knife, spoon…and anything else found on the table.
I had a good time, Reed wrote.
“Same,” Beverly signed.
Maybe we could this again sometime?
Are you asking me on a date?
Reed shrugged his shoulders and the expression on his face said maybe.
Beverly thought she would save him the trouble and wrote, Sure. I’d love, too.
Great. Then I guess I will see you at the theater.
And please don’t be a stranger.
During intermission, Reed went backstage. Beverly and the rest of the cast were regrouping getting ready for the next act. When she saw him, she reached out her hand. He took it and gave it a warm squeeze. They looked at each other for a few seconds and smiled. Then Reed continued on his way.
“It looks like you and Reed got acquainted,” Jake said.
“Yeah,” Beverly replied. “He’s really nice.”
“Are you two an item now?”
“We just had coffee.”
“I didn’t picture you as being the kind of person who would date someone who’s deaf.”
“Deafness only affects the ears not the mind. Intelligence is one of the qualities I find most attractive in a man.”
It was the oddest thing. Reed found himself thinking about Beverly off and on during the day. Thinking of the dozens of things he wanted to tell her, know about her or show her. Reed even found himself actually looking forward to going to work just knowing Beverly was somewhere nearby. Just seeing her smile could lift his spirits.
Beverly was feeling the same way. Reed was different from the other men she had dated. Maybe that’s why she liked him. If was kind of nice not sitting by the phone waiting and hoping he would call.
He didn’t want to appear pushy or needy so he waited a little while before officially asking her out again. However, they had had a couple of instant message and e-mail dates. They had found a way to communicate with each other since they couldn’t talk on the phone. This time Reed wanted to take Beverly to The Pool Hall for a burger and maybe a game of pool.
Since the theater had only matinee performances on Sunday, Reed and Beverly decided to meet at The Pool Hall Sunday afternoon. This time Beverly was wearing jeans and a blue, pink, purple and white, plaid short sleeved button down shirt. Her hair was down, but still wavy from the banana curls. Beverly’s favorite color was hunter green so Reed made a point of wearing a green shirt. They waited until after they placed their order to start a conversation. Reed was the one to initiate it.
So how was your week? Reed wrote.
How’s the show going?
Just fine. We have gotten a standing ovation every night.
That’s good. Boy if this wasn’t awkward. Hearing or deaf, small talk can still have the same uncomfortable effects. They had already gotten through the getting to know you part through the instant messenger and e-mail.
Can I ask you a personal question? Beverly wrote.
Reed was kind of surprised at her request, but nodded.
Was it hard growing up deaf?
Sure it was. Everyone has growing pains. And he left it at that. It wasn’t something he liked to talk about.
It was like he had been caught behind a wall - one side being the hearing world, the other side the deaf world. Where did he belong? Where was the door in the wall? He had not found his identity as a deaf person yet.
Beverly sensed Reed didn’t want to talk about his childhood so she decided not to push the topic.
Now can I ask you a question? Reed wrote. It had been nagging at him for a while. He had wanted to ask it, but it never seemed to be the right time.
What’s your name?
Beverly burst out laughing. Reed didn’t understand why she was laughing. He didn’t think it was a funny question. She quickly wrote I can’t believe I didn’t even introduce myself. Then she pointed to herself and finger spelled her name.
Beverly, Reed silently repeated to himself. It suited her. He was surprise she knew how to finger spell it. He showed her if wasn’t necessary to sign her whole name every time. After finger spelling it once she could say her name again by making the letter B and placing it over her heart. Then he showed her how to sign: My name is.
That question had broken the ice.
Do you play pool? Reed wrote.
Beverly answered with a smile and a nod. Without another sign, they headed over to the table. Reed got two cues off the rack and a cube of blue chalk. Beverly fished the balls out of the pockets and racked them up.
Reed handed Beverly a cue and offered to let her break. Her break was successful even though no balls were sunk. It turned out Reed was a slap shot. Not having many friends growing up, he had lots of time to practice. On his first shot, he sunk a solid ball. It meant Beverly would focus on the stripes. After he had sunk a couple more balls, he saw her looking at him. She pointed to the balls and then held her hands out. He could see a question mark in her eyes.
Reed shrugged his shoulders and smiled sheepishly, since the notebook was back on the table. Half way through the game, Beverly sat down in a nearby chair. She figured she wouldn’t get another turn with Reed sinking balls left and right. Occasionally he would miss. Each time Beverly had chance to even the score, she ended up scratching or missed the ball she was aiming for completely. If she did happen to sink one, it was purely by accident.
When it came time to sink the eight ball, the person is supposed to say which pocket they are planning to try for. Reed just used his cue stick as a pointer. He successfully sunk the eight ball with Beverly still have half her balls still on the table. Seeing her forlorn expression and her cheek resting on her fist, he motioned for her to come over. He pointed to a spot on one of the striped balls. He then pretended to hit the ball using an invisible cue. He was telling her to hit the ball in a certain spot.
Using his own cue, Reed showed her how to line up a shot. She tried to copy his stance. It wasn’t going too well. Reed held up his hand telling Beverly to stop. He walked up behind her and placed his large left hand on top of her small one adjusting the cue accordingly. Then he reached around with his right and did the same thing with the end of the cue. With his arms around her, Beverly felt a shiver run through her. She could feel Reed’s warm breath on her cheek. They bent at the waist as if they were doing a samba dance move. Reed showed her how to control the cue stick and apply just the right amount of force to the cue ball. After a few tries, Beverly had finally sunk a ball. After a couple more shots like this, Reed decided to let Beverly try one on her own. Every time she would sink a ball, she would get all excited. Finally she had sunk all the balls. Even though she had gotten skunked, she was smiling and laughing.
By the time they returned to their table, their food was already cold. They had been so engrossed in the game, they had completely forgotten about eating.
I think you owe me a re-match, Beverly wrote after the waitress went to get them a doggy bag. As soon as I brush up on my pool skills.
I can give you some pointers.
That would be great, was Beverly’s written response.
I must warn you I can be a pretty tough teacher.
Well, I am pretty good student.
Later that night after talking/writing with Beverly, Reed was thinking back to his childhood. He didn’t think about it often. It was not the best time of his life.
He went to many playgroups as a child. He sat alone feeling socially outcast and wondering what was going on and why other children would not play with him. One time he was trying so hard to communicate to this little boy and could not understand him at all. The playground aide tried to help, but Reed was unable to understand her either. So he did not have a chance to befriend that child.
He was not invited to his classmates' birthday parties. The parents would make them invite him as a courtesy. As young as he was, he knew the real reason he was invited to those parties - "pity" invitations. At one party, watching the other kids dancing to music, he felt so left out he started to cry. The birthday child's parents got on the phone to Reed’s mother and said "Come and get your son. All he does is cry!" Reed was crying because he wanted his own friends.
There are always those few people who think it’s funny to tease someone who has a disability. Even though he couldn’t hear what the people were saying, he could tell by their facial expressions it wasn’t something very nice. Sometimes, they would point or laugh at him. They would come over and wave their hands in his face while making up stupid signs. Reed became known as “the deaf boy.”
But Junior High was the worst of the teasing and bullying. Junior High is the age when pre-teens and teens' hormones really start to kick in, and self-esteem is particularly fragile. Kids that age look to pick on, tease or bully anyone who is different.
Reed had to walk up a hill every day to get to the bus stop. As he approached the bus stop, he never knew if he would be the bullied, a target of rocks, dirt, spitballs, or just teased with plain old-fashioned name-calling. On the bus no one would sit with "the deaf boy." Reed eventually befriended a boy who was also the victim of teasing and bullying. That boy and Reed became good friends or so he thought. This boy would not visit Reed in the daytime only in the evenings. Years later after their friendship had ended, Reed learned the boy had avoided coming over in daylight because he did not want it to be known he was friends with “the deaf boy."
Reed learned the hard way some deaf kids could treat other deaf kids the same way hearing kids did- by leaving them out, by making fun of them, and by playing cruel jokes on them. Some things the deaf kids did to him were just as cruel as anything any hearing kid ever did. One time, Reed was on the toilet and did not know a group of boys had locked the door. When he finished his business, he found he could not get out of the bathroom stall! For about an hour he was locked in, pounding on the door for help. Of course no one heard him. Finally, one boy let him out
Reed faced more discrimination in high school. He was on the school paper. He got his first assignment only by fighting for it. The editor had assigned someone else to write an article on his club's activities. He protested, and was allowed to write the article. Although he was able to write more articles after that they did not let him become an editor.
By the eleventh grade, the years of loneliness, teasing, and frustration had taken its toll. His self-esteem plunged through the floor. He walked around hunched over, hugging his schoolbooks to his chest. Just trying to find someone to eat lunch with was an ordeal. Reed’s depression and loneliness were upsetting to his family, and they could not really understand what he was going through as a deaf teenager.
However, it was not all bad. For his eighth birthday his parents got him a white Persian kitten with blue eyes. Reed named him Snowball. As ironic as it may sound, Snowball was also deaf. It was common for white cats with blue eyes to be deaf. The people his parents had gotten Snowball from said they were happy they were able to find him a good home. Not very many people wanted a deaf cat, even one as beautiful as Snowball. He became Reed’s first friend, hearing or deaf, not mentioning the hundreds of imaginary friends Reed had created over the years. His mother used to laugh when Reed would get down on the floor and try and sign to his cat.
Reed was confused. He felt…he had never felt that way before. Was it possible to fall in love with someone after only one date? He didn’t know. McKenna snapped her fingers in front of his face.
“Hello? Earth to Reed.”
“Oh. Sorry. I guess I was someplace else.”
“Where were you? Mars?”
“Very funny”. He saw McKenna staring at him. “What?” He finally signed.
“Are you feeling a little blue?”
She may not be deaf, but she sure was observant. Reed rang his hands together.
“Do you believe in love at first sight?”
“Well, I believe in love,” McKenna replied. “Why do you ask?”
“No reason just forget it.”
“Oh, no you don’t. I’m not letting you off the hook that easy. There’s something you’re not telling me. I may not be your interpreter anymore, but I am still your friend.”
“Best friend,” Reed signed. If he couldn’t confide in McKenna then who could he confide in? “Her name is Beverly.”
“Who? The opera singer?”
“Are you in love with her?”
“I don’t know. She is the most beautiful, artistic person I have ever known. All I know is I have to see her again.”
Instant message and e-mail dates were fine, but it wasn’t the same as looking into Beverly’s eyes or seeing her smile. Reed wanted to take her and visit the museums and cathedrals, especially Casa Loma, a mid evil castle. He wanted to have lunch at the sidewalk cafes and long naps in the afternoon when they were tired. He wanted to walk the boulevards while holding hands, just being there with her. No words. He wanted to dress in slacks, a white dress shirt and a sports jacket. He wanted to bring her flowers and candy. Beverly wasn’t too fond of roses. She liked daisies. And her favorite candy was not chocolate; it was coconut macaroons. Reed was hoping to surprise her. But she was the one who surprised him.
He met her outside her apartment building at 1:30pm, picnic basket in hand.
When they had arrived at the Deer Path Park, Reed noticed she hadn’t brought a notebook with her this time. Maybe she had just forgotten. Luckily, he had a pen and paper in his shirt pocket. Over the years, he had learned to carry it with him everywhere he went. After they had spread the red and white checkered table cloth on the ground underneath a big maple tree he flipped open his pad and started writing.
“Stop,” Beverly laid her hand on his. “I don’t want to write anymore.” She used signs she thought Reed would understand. “I want to communicate with you only using sign language.”
Reed was didn’t know what to sign. He was touched. No one had ever taken such an interest in his means of communication before.
“How am I ever supposed to learn if I don’t practice?” Beverly asked. She spoke and signed at the same time. This gave Reed a chance to watch her mouth and learn how she pronounced certain words. To him lip reading was a more intimate kind of communication.
At first, communication with her was a bunch or sporadic, broken sign and finger spelling. Reed was a kind and patient teacher and let her take all the time she needed. Beverly was a perfectionist and would get all frustrated when she couldn’t sign something perfectly the first time. Sign language was not something you can learn overnight. It was just taking longer than Beverly had thought. She wasn’t going to give up. Reed could tell how much it meant to her. As time went on, Beverly learned how to connect the words and create full sentences. If she didn’t know the sign for a certain word, she would make up her own then finger spell it. If the word had a sign for it, Reed would show her. If not then they used her made up one. It might look weird to other people, but Beverly and Reed would know what it meant. From that point on their conversations seemed to flow.
Reed took two tin foil wrapped sandwiches from the picnic basket. He handed one to Beverly.
“Meatloaf, my favorite,” Beverly exclaimed.
“Mine, too,” Reed answered with sign for same. “Would you like some lemonade?”
“Its fresh squeezed. Is that okay?”
“Of course.” Beverly was seeing a pattern here. Her favorite sandwich, her favorite drink. “Did you also bring my favorite pie?”
“If I remember correctly, you are not big on pie.” Reed took out a plastic container.
“Oatmeal cookies!” was Beverly’s joyful response.
The day Reed had been dreading had finally arrived. Beverly and the cast’s final performance. Even though the play was officially over, they had been offered to do an encore performance in Quebec. It was like Beverly had swept into town and declared a holiday. She had raised Reed’s expectations. She had excited and confused him. Then she would vanish. How fortunate.
So I guess this is good-bye,” Reed signed. He felt it best to nip in in the bud.
“Why does it have to be good-bye?”
“The play is over, you’re leaving…”
“I’m coming back. “
Reed had heard that line before.
“Just because the play is over doesn’t mean we still can’t be friends.”
“Friends?” Reed asked. He had only hoped she would think of him as more than a friend. “Friends. Friends is good…right?”
“Friends is very good,” Beverly smiled, gave his arm a pat and started to walk away.
Reed ran up behind her and placed his hand on her shoulder. She turned around. “Can I have a hug?”
Reed’s hug was warm and firm. He didn’t want to let her go. As if letting go meant he was losing her. As she leaned back, Reed put his hands on her shoulders, drew her back to him and kissed her.
What were you thinking? Reed silently scolded himself. He was all set to sign I’m sorry until he saw Beverly reaction. She wasn’t upset, she was smiling. And the longer she stood there the wider her smile got. She was so surprised. She hadn’t even puckered. She liked the fact Reed had gone right for her lips instead of her cheek or forehead.
A week had never seemed so long before. Even though they sent e-mails, it wasn’t the same as seeing Beverly every day. They had agreed to meet at the coffee shop when Beverly got back to town. It wasn’t like she could call him to let him know. When she saw Reed, her face lit up like a city block on the Fourth of July. After a quick hug, Reed asked, “Would you like to go someplace a little more private?”
Beverly’s eyes held a question.
“So we can talk,” Reed signed quickly. He didn’t want her to get the wrong idea.
“I’d like that.”
They walked to Reed’s apartment in awkward silence. Even though their lips were silent, the wheels in their minds were turning somersaults. Reed was thinking about the kiss. He could only assume, she had been thinking about it, too. They couldn’t pretend like it never happened. They both knew they had kissed last week. Only after they had settled down on the couch with a couple glasses of wine (thanks to McKenna’s love of Arbor Mist), did the silence break.
“So how was the encore?”
“Oh, it was fine,” Beverly answered and took a sip. “Come on, Reed, the encore isn’t what you really want to talk about.”
Reed started to get embarrassed. He wasn’t sure where to start. He could say he was sorry. But he wasn’t. He had wanted to kiss her.
“Let’s not beat around the bush,” Beverly said. “We kissed.”
“It’s just I thought I might never see you again. And I had wanted to do it for a long time. I thought I might never get another chance.”
“Did you really think I would just cast you aside?”
“It’s happened to me before. More times than I want to admit.”
“My friends are important to me. You are important to me, Reed. I want you to be part of my life no matter what happens.”
“I want you in my life also.”
They leaned in and kissed. Their lips skimmed over each other’s with a featherlike touch, but it was more sensual then if they had fully kissed. Reed pulled back to see Beverly’s reaction. She was smiling. Seeing she liked it Reed signed, “Again?”
This time his hand skimmed over her skin and came to rest on her cheek.
“Let’s just take it slow, okay?”
“Okay.” Reed agreed. He leaned in to kiss her again.
After they were finished Beverly, said, “Well, maybe not quite as slow.”
“Medium it is.
They always began each date with a kiss instead of waiting until the end. He liked kissing her. He could only assume she liked kissing him, too.
“I was wondering… maybe you can tell me why we feel so comfortable together?” Reed signed after they kissed.
“Sure that’s easy.”
“I have no idea.”
“Last week I felt empty. Like there was a part of me missing.”
“That was exactly how I felt.”
“But I don’t feel that way now.”
“Do you…do you suppose that’s what love is?”
“I wouldn’t know. My parents divorced when I was young.”
“I remember my mother crying. She cried a lot, mainly at night. I guess she thought I couldn’t hear her, but I did. For a long time, I thought it was normal for parents to split up. Now I know it’s not always the case.”
“My parents didn’t understand me. They tried, but they couldn’t know what growing up as a deaf teenager was like.”
“I used to ask my friends what it was like to have a mother and father who lived in the same house. I wanted normal. I needed normal. Needless to say our relationship is far from normal.”
“What is normal?” Reed signed. A house with a white picket fence? 2.5 kids and a dog?”
Beverly chuckled. “I don’t know.”
“We have things that other relationships have,” Reed pointed out. “We are two people who enjoy each other’s company. We have attraction, affection and respect.”
“You’re right.” When Beverly stopped signing, Reed could tell there was something bothering her.
“You’ll probably think it’s silly.”
“I want to be honest with you and I hope you want to be honest with me. I don’t want us to keep secrets from each other.”
“Don’t tell me. You’re married.” Reed was trying to lighten the mood.
“You used to be a man? I’m cool with that.”
“Reed! I am trying to be serious. There is something I want to tell you. I have only been in one real relationship and it took me a long time to get over him.”
He was a struggling artist painting murals in Toronto for the summer. He couldn’t afford an apartment so he was living in a pop up tent in the park. His tent was all tattered and he looked so sad and miserable. Beverly had felt sorry for him. She offered to let him come over for a shower, a hot meal and air conditioning. One thing had led to another. At first they had agreed on everything…except marriage. She wanted to, he didn’t. And on kids. She wanted six, he wanted zero. He wanted her to give up her acting/singing career and follow him all over the world. He never stayed in one place too long.
“Did you love him?” Reed asked softly.
“I loved thinking I did,” Beverly answered. “As far as the rest…no, I didn’t. I’m just scared if I let my guard down my heart will get broken again.”
“I understand. I’m scared, too.”
“Sure. Relationships can be scary stuff.”
“Real scary,” Beverly replied.
“It’s up to us whether we let the fear control us or not. I don’t want to be in a relationship based on fear.”
“Me neither. It wouldn’t be healthy. For either one of us,” Beverly paused. “Are we breaking up?”
“I don’t want to break up.”
Neither do I. So no more talk about it.”
Reed and Beverly spent as much time as they could with each other. Their dates were just like normal peoples with a little help. A perfect night for them included: coming home after a long day, making dinner and then cuddling up on the couch and watching a movie together, with captions of course. They also both enjoyed doing outdoor activities like roller blading in the park and go riding on the bike trails.
Sometimes they played games. Twister was one of their favorites because they knew at some point they would collapse into a laughing heap. They made S’mores. There was something so intimate about licking the melted marshmallows from each other’s fingers.
“I thought you would have had another audition by now,” Reed signed when Beverly had invited him in. She had promised to make him one of her famous root beer floats. The walls in Beverly’s apartment were covered with all the programs from plays she had been in; The Sound of Music (Sister Sophia), My Fair Lady (Mrs. Pierce) and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Benjamin’s bride) to name a few.
“The only part I want to play is the part of your girlfriend,” Beverly responded.
“Well, honey, that part was written especially for you,” Reed answered.
“There has been something I have wanted to ask you,” Beverly sat down on the loveseat next to him. When she didn’t continue Reed signed, “Yes?”
“How should I put it?”
“Just come right out with it.”
“Can you talk?” Beverly blurted out. “I mean, I know deaf people can be taught how to talk, but I didn’t know…” her mouth was moving faster than her hands could sign.
Reed answered her by holding his hands close together meaning he could talk a little. “I’m much more comfortable using sign language than verbal communication. People have a hard time understanding me.”
“I just wondered is all. It makes no difference to me how we communicate as long as we do.”
They both wanted to take their relationship to the next level. Up until now they both had been too embarrassed or shy to bring up the subject of sex. Reed had some experience. Even though the majority of it was just pity sex. The girls felt it was the least they could do for him. Give the deaf boy some sex. It was very important to Reed that he not scare Beverly. She really had no experience with men. Her mother never really took the time to tell Beverly about the facts of life. She was just a naïve young girl, who had no real girlfriends to talk to or ask questions about sex. Beverly was sure Reed didn’t expect her to be so inexperienced. But he never rushed her. He cared about her dignity, her modesty and he was so gentle. He could have signed a couple of impatient words and it would have broken her heart. Maybe all men are like this, Beverly didn’t know. Reed made some suggestions and she started to understand she had to be more sensitive, more
tender. He made her feel she was much older and she was a woman. She didn’t feel awkward or inadequate around him. Reed just couldn’t hurt people. He had no meanness in him. Every girl would have loved to have this kind of lover for their first experience with sex.
When Reed held her close, Beverly didn’t feel the time passing. She didn’t know what time it was, whether it was day or night and she didn’t care. They just hugged, held each other and kissed.
Reed had never seen anything so beautiful as Beverly discovering herself, her own sexuality. Her curious hands explored him. He had never known how arousing it could be to be someone’s first.
“That was,” Reed started to sign, but stopped and started again. “You were…”
“Stop,” Beverly pushed his hands down. “Don’t sign. Say it. I want to hear your voice.”
Reed hesitated for moment. Then he opened his mouth and said very slowly, “Won-der-ful.” He put his hand to his throat to make sure he was speaking and felt the vibration of his vocal cords. After saying the first word, Reed wanted to say more. The first word was always the hardest. “Amaz-ing.” His lips formed the words, but they had a slurred sound to them.
“For me, too,” Beverly said while signing the word ‘same’. A few minutes later she was asleep.
Beverly awoke feeling different. A change had occurred in her. She was more aware, understanding. Being with Reed had been an opening, an awakening. Reed was right beside her half naked. He was wearing a pair of boxer shorts low on his hips. Her warm body was draped over him like a blanket. Slowly, she inched her way over to her side of the bed, not wanting to wake him. Reed muttered in his sleep and rolled, his leg sliding over Beverly’s thigh. He rolled again this time pinning her beneath him. Then his hands tightened and he pulled her on top of his chest.
Again? she thought. So soon? She wasn’t sure she was ready for round two.
“Do you want to take a walk?” Reed signed suddenly.
“But it’s in the middle of the night,” Beverly protested.
“I’ve heard moonlit walks can be quite romantic.”
Beverly pondered for a minute.
“Come on,” Reed coaxed. “It will be fun.”
“Oh, alright. Why not?” Beverly gave in.
The fog was as thick as pea soup. Lights flashed on a gravel road and cut across the highway. A minivan swerved from its lane heading straight for another car. Breaking hard, the driver of the other car turned on to the shoulder; their tires spinning in the mud. The minivan fishtailed, and the other driver swung hard to the right to avoid impact. The car took a half circle through the mud and the minivan raced past with only inches to spare.
But it wasn’t over yet. The minivan’s headlights picked up two figures on the left. Because of the sharp curve and in the fog, the people wouldn’t be able to see the vehicle until it was nearly on top of them. The minivan spun out on the mud and fishtailed sideways. In its haste, the minivan had missed Reed, but hit Beverly.
Reed crouched down beside Beverly. She wasn’t moving and he saw she was bleeding heavily. Reed moved so he could check her face. He tried to open one of her eyes carefully with his finger, but she didn’t react. He pulled up Beverly’s sleeve and searched frantically for a pulse. Yes, no, maybe? Reed was no doctor and he couldn’t tell if she had a pulse. Beverly still wasn’t moving or making any noise. It couldn’t be a good sign.
Suddenly, Reed remembered reading about heat loss in cases of shock and trauma. Even though all he had was a windbreaker, he shrugged it off and covered Beverly’s motionless body. He knew not to move her because he didn’t know the extent of her injuries. There could be internal bleeding or spinal cord damage.
Beverly needed help now. Reed needed to call 911. This was one time he was forced to use his voice. It might be the only way to save her. Even though he wouldn’t be able to hear the person on the other end, he would try and tell them the information they needed. He found Beverly’s cell phone in her purse.
“I need help,” Reed tried to control his shaky voice. “My girlfriend was hit by a car. Just—just hurry. She needs help. Just send someone, okay?”
Reed quickly glanced around. They were about three miles east of downtown on route 101, the south side. There was a four way stop just beyond the big hotel.
“Hurry please. Just hurry with an ambulance.” Then he laid the phone aside.
When the ambulance arrived, the paramedics lifted Beverly onto a stretcher, started giving her oxygen and a saline IV. The paramedics insisted on checking Reed out as well. Beverly was the one who was hurt, not him.
There were people everywhere, phone ringing and equipment carts rattling by, none if which Reed could hear. Elevators came and went while more people swam past. Reed felt like he was trapped in a fog. It was like he was living part of someone else’s dream. All he could see was the closed doors to the emergency room where Beverly was lying in a white bed hooked up to tubes fighting for her life. The driver of the minivan had suffered a heart attack and had lost control.
Reed closed his eyes. He couldn’t have known. If he had only heard the car coming, even just for a second…he drew in a hoarse breath. There was no one to hate, no one to curse. He felt a burning behind his eyes as people jostled him, chattering about baseball, pizza and stocks. Again none of which Reed could hear. That was the problem. He couldn’t hear. He was the one who had screwed up, not Beverly and yet she was the one paying the price.
She’d been in the room for almost an hour and no had come to tell him anything. He knew it had to be bad the longer they delayed it. Reed couldn’t get rid of the vision of Beverly’s body still and pale on the hospital gurney. He closed his hands to fists, slammed them against the wall, unaware he had moved even when the pain splintered up his arms.
“How is she?” McKenna entered the waiting room. After finding out about the accident, McKenna had taken the first available train back to Toronto. If something or in this case someone was important to Reed then it was important to her.
“I don’t know,” Reed signed after releasing McKenna from a quick embrace. “I asked the nurse for an update ten minutes ago, but she never got back with me. If something happens to Beverly…”
“Don’t think that way, Reed. Everything is going to be fine. Beverly’s going to be fine.”
“Can we go somewhere? I want to talk to you alone.”
“Of course. What’s going on?” McKenna asked after they had taken a seat in a quiet corner of the cafeteria and getting an awful cup of coffee from a machine that demanded exact change.
“I’ve been doing some thinking and I have made a decision.” Stop beating around the bush, Reed told himself. “I am seriously considering getting a cochlear implant.”
It had always been in the back of Reed’s mind. Since Beverly’s accident every spare second he had was spent thinking about it. Now more than ever.
A cochlear implant (CI) is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing. The implants often can enable sufficient hearing for better understanding of speech. The quality of sound is different from natural hearing, with less sound information being received and processed by the brain. However, many patients are able to hear and understand speech and environmental sounds. Newer devices and processing-strategies allow recipients to hear better in noise, enjoy music, and even use their implant processors while swimming.
McKenna’s reaction was one of surprise and then shock. Reed had completely caught her off guard.
“What brought this on?”
“A lot of things. You know I have never looked at my deafness as a crutch. I keep wondering if this was even partly my fault. Maybe I did something or didn’t do something. It’s eating at me, McKenna. Even the hint of a possibility...”
“Reed,” Mc Kenna’s hands interrupted his signing. “There was nothing anyone could have done hearing or deaf. It all happened too fast. It wasn’t your fault. We don’t get to play God no matter how much better it would feel.”
“Still after meeting and getting to know Beverly, I find myself thinking, wondering, wanting to know what her voice sounds like. It’s made me wonder what other things sound like; rain, church bells, a dog barking. I want to hear, McKenna. Even if it’s just something as simple as “Hello”.
“I know I can’t fully understand what you’re going through,” McKenna signed gently. “But I support you in whatever you decide.”
“Shouldn’t you be trying to talk me out of it?” All his life people had been telling him not to be ashamed of his deafness or who he was. In the deaf community, the people are very proud of their deafness. If they decided to talk instead of using sign language it’s considered an insult. As strange as it may sound (again no pun intended), they are thrilled to learn their baby is deaf rather than hearing.
“It has to be your decision,” McKenna answered. “But do me a favor. Make sure you are doing it because it’s what you,” she signed the word with force, “want. Don’t do it for me, don’t do it for Beverly. Do it for you.”
Reed nodded. He knew McKenna would tell him the truth.
“There’s no guarantee it will work,” McKenna said.
“At least I will have tried. I won’t be sitting here wondering ‘what if?’ Besides, I won’t be any worse off than I am now.”
A man in a long white coat and a stethoscope appeared in the arch way. McKenna and Reed stood up. Reed had to put one arm against the wall because he’s knees were threating to give out. His heart beat quickened as the doctor walked over.
“How is she?” Reed signed. McKenna translated.
“It’s done,” the doctor replied. “We got the bleeding under control. She has a concussion, but she’s stable.”
“We still need to run some tests and assess the extent of her injuries. The next twenty four hours are critical.”
“What do you mean critical?”
“There’s always a risk factor to consider,” the doctor explained. “But she’s strong and healthy and her blood work is good. With some time and a lot of rest, I don’t for see any problems.”
“Can I see her?”
“Just for a minute,” the doctor replied. “No more.”
Beverly’s face was pale and her hair was damp. She had a white bandage wrapped around her head. They had stitched up the nasty gash on her arm. She had some cuts and scratches on her face. Her oxygen level was 97 and the heart monitor showed a wavy line, not a flat one. She wasn’t out of the woods yet, but at least she was alive. That ought to count for something. Reed walked over and wrapped his hand around hers. Her eyes opened for a split second.
“You still owe me a rematch at pool,” she mumbled.
“You just concentrate on getting better.”
Her eyes closed and she drifted out again.
Reed leaned forward and gave her a soft kiss on the forehead.
“I love you,” he whispered.
Reed stayed with Beverly for the rest of the time she was in the hospital. The only time he left was to shower (he didn’t know if he soaped up or not) and wolf down bad coffee and food that didn’t have any taste. Beverly slept most of the time. It was very important to Reed to be there when she woke up. And he would hold her hand until she fell asleep at night.
“Reed!” Beverly’s face lit up like a Christmas tree when she saw him standing in the doorway of her hospital room. “It’ so good to see you.”
He walked over and they embraced.
“How are you feeling?”
“Better,” Beverly signed and spoke. “The doctor said I should get to go home soon.”
“That’s great. That’s really great. I…”
He got interrupted before he could continue. A woman in green scrubs appeared in the doorway. She walked past Reed and started to check Beverly’s vitals: temperature, blood pressure. Then a doctor came in and listened to Beverly’s heart, lungs and administered some medication through her IV. He also checked the bandage around her head. After the exam was complete the doctor turned to Reed. Reed quickly got out his pen and pad of paper.
The doctor understood. He walked out of the room for a minute and then returned with a pretty nurse with chestnut colored hair. She just happened to be fluent in sign language and the doctor had asked her to act as a liaison. The doctor had the nurse ask Reed if he was friend or family. Was he going to be the one who was going to be with Beverly for the first 24 hours? When Reed got a queer expression on his face, the doctor explained it was just a precautionary measure and hospital policy…in case there were any complications. The doctor handed Reed a list of follow up instructions. Beverly needed to rest and take it easy for four to six weeks; four being the bare minimum. Don’t do too much physical activity too soon…and that included making love. Under the certain circumstances the doctor suggested Beverly stay at Reed’s apartment since it had two separate bedrooms and it would be easier for Reed to care for her there instead of going over to
her apartment every day.
Beverly woke to the heavenly smell of coffee. The scent reminded her, her stomach was empty. There was a light knock on the bedroom door. Then she saw Reed peeking through the half open door. She motioned for him to come in. He opened the door further and Beverly saw he was carrying a tray.
“I thought you might like some breakfast.” He sat the tray across her lap.
Warm maple syrup.
Blueberry and cinnamon pancakes.
Reed placed a steaming mug in front her. As she took a sip, the taste of freshly brewed beans made her close her eyes.
“It’s my new stuff.” He had just bought a new bag of Jamaican Blue Mountain a few days ago. “Do you want butter on your pancakes?” He slid a stack of pancakes on to a plate. Beverly wondered what she had done to deserve this kind of treatment. No one had ever made her breakfast in bed before. It was very romantic.
“Don’t you want some coffee?” she asked. “Tell me how you like it.”
“No sugar. Just a splash of milk.” Reed signed and sat on the edge of her bed.
“I can’t remember the last time someone cooked for me.”
“Didn’t your mother ever cook for you?”
“No. At my house it was always take out.”
“Who taught you how to cook?” Beverly nursed her coffee.
“My mother. She said it was part of liberal education. How’s the coffee?”
“Good.” Beverly forked a piece of pancake and popped it into her mouth. The syrup and butter melted together on her tongue, so delicious she nearly moaned. She took another bite and gave up the fight. Pride had its place, but not where blueberries and cinnamon pancakes were involved. She finished a wedge of pancakes, flavor boarding on the edge of a religious experience.
After breakfast Beverly thought a hot shower would make her feel better. As she headed for the attached bathroom, Reed took the tray to the kitchen. When he returned, he peered through the crack of the bathroom door. He saw her silhouette on the shower curtain fluttering under the spray of pounding water. Then Reed saw her arms moving frantically. Her body lurched forward and her silhouette huddled to the ground. He quickly pulled the shower curtain away. Beverly was on the floor of the shower, her legs drawn up to her chest. Her face was tight with pain, her body was shaking. She must have slipped, fallen sideways and hit the floor. Shivering, Beverly huddled against the wet wall, trying to regain her bearings. Reed saw her mouth open. By the look on her face he knew she was in pain. With that Reed stepped through the streaming water. H scooped her up, flipped off the shower and grabbed a towel on his way out of the bathroom. He wrapped the towel around
Beverly’s shaking body and gently placed her on the bed. With quick, gentle motions he dried her hair and body. After he had dried her off and got her back in bed, Reed signed, “What happened?”
“I fell,” Beverly replied. “I’m sorry. I didn’t want you to see me like that.”
“It’s okay. Everything is going to be fine.”
“I was just tired and clumsy.”
She turned her face away from him. Reed sensed she didn’t want to talk about it anymore. She just wanted to wallow in her self -pity alone.
Beverly appeared in the doorway of the small living room. She had a pillow and blanket under her arm.
“What wrong?” Reed shot to his feet. He was immediately concerned.
“I couldn’t sleep,” Beverly signed. “I thought maybe we could talk.”
She tossed her pillow down beyond the end of the couch and wrapped her blanket close sliding onto the floor. She wriggled until she was comfortable.
“Reed, about tonight in the shower…” Beverly began.
“You can’t talk down there.”
“I’m fine. I’ve got my pillow…”
Reed ignored her hands, picked her up and placed her on the couch. He tucked the blanket around her.
“Go to sleep.”
“I don’t want to sleep.”
Reed was pretty sure talking would lead to touching and other things her body wasn’t ready for. He moved to an armchair. Pulling up the leather ottoman, he stretched out his legs and sighed. “Okay, we’ll talk. But just for a little while. You need your rest.”
Beverly cleared her throat. Reed scratched his neck. Neither one said a word. She didn’t want to think about her clumsiness or the bruises from her fall in the shower. She hated that Reed had found her there on the floor like a klutz. A stark naked klutz at that. But the glint in Reed’s eyes told her he wasn’t buying her hasty explanations. She had noticed something else. Reed looked like he was pondering and really wasn’t “listening” to her.
“Are you okay?” she asked. “Is something wrong?”
Reed rang his hands together.
“What is it? Please tell me. Maybe I can help.”
“You know I love you, right? And I would never do anything to hurt you.”
“Of course. I love you, too.”
“I was wondering…uh, hoping…well, you see…I can’t do this.”
Reed got up before Beverly even had a chance to respond. He stopped just inside the sliding glass doors.
“Come on, you coward. Be a man. Go in there and ask her.” Reed said to himself. He turned back around.
“Reed, what’s going on?” Beverly was right behind him.
Reed took a deep breath and started signing again. “You see with McKenna being gone and everything, I don’t have an interpreter anymore. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with someone I don’t know.”
“Okay.” Beverly’s hands drew out the word.
“It’s only logical since I already know you and your sign language is getting good, it really is. Your signing gets more fluent every day. I was wondering…”
“You want me to be your interpreter?” Beverly finished signing.
“No?” Beverly repeated in disbelief.
“I don’t want you to be my interpreter. I want you to be my wife.” Reed’s hands blurted out.
Beverly was stunned. She didn’t know what to say or what to sign. She just stood there as dumbed as Reed was. Reed couldn’t read the reaction that appeared on her face. Was she happy? Or upset? He didn’t know and it was driving him crazy.
“Wow,” Beverly said once the shock began to wear off. “I don’t know what to say.”
Part of Beverly wanted to sign “yes.” Part of her wanted to run for the hills. Memories of her past relationship and her parents’ divorce flooded her head.
“We are not your parents.” Sometimes Reed could tell what she was thinking before she signed it. “We won’t let it happen to us.”
“But it doesn’t mean it won’t. There is a big risk when you start gambling with your heart.”
“Then let’s not look at it as a risk, but as an adventure or a journey. A journey we can take together.”
Beverly smiled. “I’d like that. Yes, Reed, I will take this journey with you.” In the past she had always listened to her head. Now she was listening to her heart. There are some things in this life that you just know. And this was one of them. She would not let her decision be based on fear of the unknown.
Beverly was tired of everyone hovering over her. How are you feeling? Are you comfortable? Why don’t you sit down and rest? Are you hungry? Can I get you anything? At first she liked being pampered. Now it was just irritating.
One afternoon Beverly met Reed at the door, dressed in a plaid peach, red, and yellow button down shirt and a short khaki skirt. She was holding a picnic basket.
“How about a picnic?” she asked. “The weather’s supposed to be gorgeous today. I made sandwiches, ham and Swiss, your favorite. I also have cake and cookies.” Beverly was so tired of being cooped up inside. Reed was glad to see the shimmer back in her eyes.
“So this picnic thing…you cleared it with the doctor?” It hadn’t been that long since she had been released from the hospital.
“The doctor said I was good to go on all accounts. He gave me his full medical seal of approval, blood tests, physical exam and all. No restrictions.” Beverly smiled suggestively.
Reed had been handling her with kid gloves since the day she came home from the hospital. He bullied her to eat every morning. Over the last weeks he had done nothing more than kiss her…no matter how much he wanted to do more. He wasn’t about to take any chances.
“Maybe today isn’t such a good time…” Reed started to sign. There was some instinct of worry that lingered making him pull away when she moved toward him. And then there was the incident with the shower that had scared him to death.
“Stop handling me! I won’t break. I am not a porcelain doll. So back off!” And with that signed Beverly stormed out. “I mean it!” she said when she saw Reed following her.
He figured she just needed some time to herself to cool off. He would let her come to him. About an hour later, Beverly found him sitting on the small balcony overlooking the city. She lightly placed a hand on his shoulder. He turned to face her.
“I’m sorry…” Reed started to sign.
“No, I’m sorry,” Beverly held up her hand.
“You have nothing to be sorry about.”
“I shouldn’t have snapped at you. You have been so kind and attentive. “
“I just worry about you.”
“I know. But you are not my keeper. I don’t want your sympathy or your pity.”
“I know. And you right.
“I don’t want people treating me like a piece of expensive crystal that will shatter if you look at it cross eyed. Otherwise I might have to get nasty.”
Reed bit back a smile. Beverly didn’t have a nasty bone in her body. He leaned forward and they sealed the apology with a kiss.
“You know what the best part is about having a fight?”
Reed shrugged his shoulders.
“Making-up.” Beverly smiled.
“What would you like?”
“Show me what I like.”
Beverly didn’t have to ask twice. Reed picked her up in his arms and carried her toward the bedroom.
He nibbled at her lips until they parted for him.She felt the warm brush of his tongue, the wet friction of his mouth. She knew she was giving him the same pleasure as he was giving her. She had seen it in his eyes and felt it as his warm body lay over her.
“That was incredible,” Beverly breathed even though she was facing away from him. And she didn’t sign since her hands were still clenching the pillow after her last climax. “You were incredible.”
“You were pretty incredible yourself,” Reed replied forgetting to sign.
“What did you say?” Beverly rolled over to face him.
Reed freed his hands, “I mean…you wanted me to use my voice.”
“The way you said it, you were agreeing with me. And you used the same word I did.”
“I read your lips.”
“I wasn’t facing you. You couldn’t see my lips.”
Reed quickly reached over and switched on the light. It was then when Beverly saw it.
“The ear piece behind your ear.” She pointed to the back of her own ear.
“Oh that. It’s just a cochlear implant,” Reed signed back like it was no big deal.
“When did this happen?” Beverly asked.
“I’ve missed you.” Reed leaned over to kiss her, but she placed her hand on his chest stopping him.
“Reed. Answer me. When did this happen?”
“Well I just had it implanted a couple weeks ago, but it’s been in the process since your accident.”
“Oh, Reed.” Her face, eyes and hands were filled with remorse. “It wasn’t your fault. This isn’t what I wanted.”
“I know,” Reed replied vocally. “It’s what I wanted.”