Hey everyone! Well, here goes nothing--I've officially submitted my story into the shark tank, so (although I'm hoping you all don't rip it to shreads) I'd really appreciate comments or constructive criticism. Thanks! Enjoy.
* * *
Hear You Me
Chapter One: Cruisin', Movin', and…Jumpin' Boys?
A new beginning, I thought to myself as I stretched out along the backseat of the minivan. I didn't quite fit; my gangly legs dangled out the window, and I sighed contentedly as the warm wind whipped against my bare feet.
Mom was driving in her usual way—her shoulders tense, and eyes wary as they remained transfixed on the bumper of the car (a perfect five-second-rule distance) ahead of her. She didn't drive too often and, when she did, it was hardly ever on the highway, but she wasn't about to let me drive the three hour trip, or allow my older sister, Hannah, to drive—considering her license was temporarily suspended for a parking incident she swore was unintentional; it was just a coincidence her ex-boyfriend was the one she rear-ended.
I let my head roll to the side as I studied my sister's profile.
She was staring out the window in a daze, eyes half-lidded with exhaustion. Her cheek rested on her fist, elbow propped up on the door's ledge. I chuckled when she made no move to replace one of the buds of her headphones that fell out as she yawned.
"How much farther?" Hannah asked groggily.
"You asked me that five minutes ago," Mom replied with an exasperated sigh. "We have a little under an hour remaining."
"God, you're driving slower than a snail…"
"At least I don't drive like a wrecking ball."
Hannah grumbled and crossed her arms over her chest. Her eyes found mine in the side-view mirror and narrowed. "Ew, Emily, your feet smell like shit," she said, waving her hand in front of her face while pinching her nose for emphasis.
"Language," Mom said dully.
"Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning," I mused.
Hannah and I had nothing in common. She had wavy, long blonde hair the color of straw, baby blue eyes, strong facial features, and long, tanned legs that easily made her a huge hit among the men. I, on the other hand, had shoulder-length honey colored hair that was stick straight, and boring brown eyes. I was shy and insecure, whereas Hannah was much more outgoing.
I tucked a piece of hair behind my ear, and my fingers casually brushed over the cold plastic of my hearing aids. I sighed. Being partially deaf set me apart from everybody. It was one of the many reasons—probably the biggest reason—why my mom was so overprotective, and why I desperately wanted to get away.
Whether or not I could hear, diminutively, the sight of my hearing aids caused people to act differently. People took pity on me. They spoke to me in loud, obnoxious voices and often slowly as if I was retarded or something.
When I was younger, my mom took me to the park. I threw out of my hearing aids in a nearby trashcan when I saw all the kids playing together, in hopes that they would accept me as one of their own; after all, without the hearing aids, no one could possibly tell I was deaf. But when they approached me, and spoke, I suddenly became nervous and fearful. They were talking to me and I couldn't hear anything they said; they surrounded me, confining me to a tight space that made my breathing intensify. I grew self-conscious, and when they began laughing and pointing at me, I cried until Hannah came to my rescue. When she signed to me, her movements were wildly animated, almost impossible to read; I could tell she was upset too.
After that, my hearing aids never left my sight.
Hannah wasn't afraid to speak her mind, and she certainly wasn't someone you'd want to become enemies with; however, she did have her "good" moments…
Like surprising me by sending in one of my college essays for scholarship consideration to one of the most prestigious high schools in the state. Just one year at Moore Academy could potentially get me into any college of my choosing, and as a senior, college was just around the corner.
I hugged the school's booklet close to my chest, fingering the edge of the letter that stuck out from between its pages. Moore Academy was a school for the wealthy and privileged, and it only admitted one student a year by scholarship. Hannah secretly mailed in an essay I wrote and the next thing I knew, the principal contacted me and sent my acceptance letter through the mail.
"There's your future home," Hannah muttered sarcastically.
I sat up abruptly and pressed my palms to the window. I could just barely see it in the distance, but even from far away it was clear that it towered over all the buildings within proximity.
I looked back down at the picture on the cover of my booklet and compared it to the real thing.
It reminded me of a medieval castle with tall towers and thick walls made of stone. It had four wings, two for each gender, and a large building directly across from the gated entrance that housed all the classrooms. The walls that wrapped around the whole school were spread apart in the shape of a square; the open area filled by the spacious courtyard. As I turned the page in the booklet, I spotted a small picture with several students smiling and waving at the camera as they sat in the grass.
It was incredible.
Mom cleared her throat. "We still have a way to go."
Hannah laughed mockingly. "We'll be thirty minutes away when we turn onto the exit."
I set my things aside and re-adjusted my seatbelt. We were so close…
A new beginning…
This school was the perfect chance to start over.
My eyes strayed to the dashboard and I watched the numbers on the milometer scroll higher. I wasn't sure how many miles we had already traveled, or how much more were left, but I suddenly wished they would spin faster, if only it meant we would arrive sooner. Nervous jitters ran up and down my spine. I wanted to get to the school now…but apparently that wasn't part of the itinerary.
A small orange light caught in my peripheral vision and I groaned inwardly.
"Mom, when was the last time you got gas?"
Her eyes fell to the gas gage, where the symbol of a gas station glowed brightly. Her eyes widened and she scoffed in disbelief.
"When did this happen?" She shook her head. "T-This cannot be right. I got gas yesterday morning, and I haven't driven it since. I filled it purposely for this trip."
"Maybe dad drove it," I offered.
"No, he's been taking the Honda Civic."
I scrunched my eyebrows in confusion. Hannah licked her lips and pushed her earphones farther into her ears, sinking low into her seat. She was acting oddly suspicious. I leaned forward in my seat, folding my arms over the shoulder of the chair. "You got in late last night, didn't you…?" I whispered into her ear. "Did you go somewhere?"
She stiffened. "No."
Mom eyed the two of us curiously. Hannah averted her eyes out the window. With a huff, Mom snatched Hannah's phone from the top of her pouch purse resting between the seats.
"Mom!" Hannah shouted, trying to grab it back.
She pulled it away and flipped it open. It took her several moments to navigate through her many settings, but she finally managed to pull up a recent text message. "Thanks again for picking me up from the party, Han. XOXO, Sammy," she quoted.
Hannah sank further into the seat and narrowed her eyes grudgingly. Mom tossed her the phone and threw her hands up in the air, making the car swerve slightly. She re-gripped the wheel as an old lady driving a car one lane over honked loudly, flipping us the bird as she sped past—something mom thankfully didn't take notice of in her anger.
I raised my eyebrows at the old hag in shock. Weren't they supposed to be nice, sweet, and stuck in the fifties? This lady could have been an extra in Rocky Horror Picture show with her snow-white hair and bright red lipstick.
"You drove when your license was suspended?" Mom exclaimed. "What were you thinking?"
"She was intoxicated," Hannah said. "I wasn't about to let her walk home; it's too far!"
"I just can't believe—" she paused "—Too far? Exactly how far was it?"
Hannah snapped her mouth shut and turned her face away bitterly.
"Well, you used enough gas to make my tank empty…" mom answered for herself.
"She's my best friend! What was I supposed to do?"
"You could have told me—"
"Oh, so you could go blab to her mom?" Hannah snapped.
Mom growled and shook her head. "You're father and I will discuss this later," she said through clenched teeth. "And you bet I'll be calling Mrs. Gregory tomorrow." She crossed two lanes of traffic, and cut into the first exit in sight. More horns flared and I pressed my back against the seat, nails freely digging into the soft leather.
Looked like 'driving miss daisy' just became 'driving miss dangerous.'
* * *
Mom pulled up to a gas pump and shuffled through her thick purse in search of her wallet.
"Emily, get the gas," she said, handing me her American Express.
Hannah's eyes widened with outrage. "Since when do you trust anyone with your plastic?"
Mom glared at her, and replied in a dangerously low voice before shoving the door open. "Since you made it clear that we need to have a talk."
She slammed the door behind her and Hannah groaned. "Great!" She swung around to face me, and punched me hard in the shoulder, making me yelp. "Traitor!" she said mercilessly. "Don't ever expect me to help you ever again!" I held my hands up in surrender, stifling my laughter as mom rapped her knuckles against her window. Hannah cursed once under her breath and then stepped out, preparing for an onslaught.
I followed her out of the car and watched the two of them head off toward an empty area of the parking lot, before turning toward the gas pump.
Now how does this thing work again?
I studied the screen. Insert card. That didn't seem too hard. I slid it into the machine and removed it quickly. The machine beeped several times, but it was so soft, it hardly registered to my ears. Select fuel type. I pushed the lowest (an 87) and then pulled the nozzle from its hold, turning toward the car. Crud. I forgot to take the cap off. While attempting to balance the nozzle under my arm, I unscrewed the cap, setting it on the trunk of the car. The station dock beeped impatiently, making me growl. "I'm going, I'm going!"
When the gas began to flow, I sighed and leaned against the side of the car. My hands were covered with black residue and I scrunched my nose in distaste. Checking my surroundings, I casually wiped them against the thighs of my jeans, smearing black stains against the stretchy blue fabric. Oh well, I'd just wash them in my personal washing machine when I arrived at school.
I tilted my head back, allowing the intense heat to warm up my face.
It was hot, almost unbearable. I pulled my hair up into a messy ponytail, wiped my sweaty forehead, and then inhaled a deep breath of air, hardly bothered by the overwhelming smell of gasoline. I didn't mind all the unusual smells: gasoline, nail polish remover, paint, and permanent markers—those sorts of things. Trust me…they can create the ultimate high; one must be careful when handling them for long periods of time.
My eyes slid closed and I missed the soft click of the hose when it finished, as well as the gentle footsteps of someone approaching.
I squeaked and stumbled to the side. I almost fell over and only managed to stay upright by gripping my hands against the car's smooth surface.
"Don't scare me like—" I glanced up and froze mid-sentence, suddenly aware of what or, more importantly, who managed to surprise me so easily.
It was a young boy around my age, eighteen at most. He was gorgeous, with short, shaggy hair the color of dark chocolate, dropping slightly into his eyes and curling around his ears. His face was smooth and flawless, with a strong jaw and high cheekbones. His nose was straight and came to a point above a pair of thin, welcoming lips, curved at the edges in a mocking smile. But all these features went unnoticed when my eyes locked onto his pair of unnatural, bright jade eyes, framed by a halo of dark lashes, and shaded by perfect eyebrows. They were beautiful, mesmerizing; they already had me hooked.
My cheeks flushed with embarrassment.
"Sorry," he muttered after a moment, smile faltering as he realized I probably wasn't about to say hi back. Dolt! I mentally smacked my forehead. "I didn't mean to startle you."
I swallowed. I'd never had good experiences with boys. I'd never gone to a public school (being home-schooled and all), so I hardly ran across boys my age on a daily basis, nor did I really ever engage in conversation with boys when we were in proximity. I usually got tongue tied with a complete loss in what to say—like right now for instance.
Say something! I coached myself, feeling my body erupt in a wave of tingles. Don't just stand there like an idiot!
I wiped the sweat accumulating on my forehead, and looked back up at him, shocked to see a pleasant smile return to his face. He chuckled softly, and I lost my nerve. What is he laughing at? I hated it when people laughed at me. I hadn't said anything, so I couldn't have made a fool out of myself…could I? Then again, by acting like a mute, I may look silly—floored to the black concrete by his gaze, my eyes ogling him openly like spring glasses. Aren't those meant to make people laugh? Focus!
"Hi," I said shyly. Lame…
He smiled meekly and looked down at his worn out Adidas Millenniums, scuffing them against the blacktop. He quickly glanced over his shoulder and scratched the back of his neck. I watched him nervously, shifting from foot to foot. He had to have walked over here for something. Boys just didn't approach me to start a friendly chat, and he wasn't a friend to "catch up" with, considering I was miles from home; I'd never seen this guy in my life.
"I was…uh…" he paused to chew on his lower lip, and I watched him stupidly as he pointed over his shoulder. I could only focus on his face, those amazing eyes… "I was just wondering, uh…would you jump me?"
My mouth went slack, and I gaped at him like a fish flopping on the bank of a river. Did my deaf ears just deceive me?
Did he just say what I think he said?
I spluttered incoherent sounds in my search to comprehend what he was talking about. It had to be a joke. Jump him? Did he really expect me to knock him to the ground now like some crazed, hormonal teenager? …Sure, the idea sounded surprisingly delightful (wink), but I wouldn't go so far as to attack the boy right here at a gas station, with grease covering me from head to toe.
He stepped back and held his arms out, shaking his head furiously. "No, no! That's not…I…that's not what I meant! I was asking if you would jump my car—no! I mean start my car—jump-start my car! Yeah!" Slower, with a deep breath, he repeated, "Would you help me jump-start my car?"
Although relief flooded through me after he clarified his intentions, I felt slightly disappointed. Get a grip! I mentally smacked myself.
He shook his head slowly in humiliation. It was amazing how quick the cards could turn. Look who's embarrassed now! —Don't let him just stand there pathetically, jerk! I was the one acting like an idiot by just standing there, watching him sulk, even after he had clearly asked me for help.
…Jump-start his car? I had no idea how to do that, but what the heck. I might as well make something out of his presence for as long as I could.
His head popped up. "What?"
"I'll help you jump-start your car."
His smile was genuinely sweet, and I couldn't help but smile back, butterflies swarming in my stomach.
"Okay, thanks. Great," he said. "I'm right over there." He pointed back over his shoulder and I nodded meekly.
I stepped forward to follow him and, being the clumsy person I am, tripped over the hose. I caught myself and cursed my luck, mumbling under my breath about how inconvenient things could be at the worst possible times. The guy continued on his way and I quickly pulled the hose out, re-screwing the cap back on the gas tank. Just as I was about to race after the handsome boy, mom approached with a disgruntled Hannah trailing behind.
"Are we ready?"
I looked back over at the boy. He opened the hood of his car; a car that was sleek, black and unnamable to me, since I didn't no a thing about cars. But it looked expensive.
"Um…" I trailed off, not sure how to continue on a topic about guys to my mother.
Mom turned to me with an eyebrow raised. "Was there something wrong with the pump?"
"Then why do you have black soot all over yourself?" She licked her thumb and tried to swipe it against my forehead.
What? I pushed her hand out of the way and looked at my reflection in the window. I had a long trail of grease along my forehead and I groaned in mortification. Crap! No wonder he was laughing. I vigorously began wiping it away.
"Well, let's get going…"
"Wait!" I said quickly. "It's just… This guy needs help with his—"
"Guy? What guy?"
I looked over at the boy fiddling now with his engine. Mom followed my gaze and frowned. "We're on a tight schedule," she clipped. "There are plenty of other people here he can turn to." Yeah, and he turned to me. "Let's go."
"Come on, sweetie."
"I should at least tell him…" I trailed off. "He should know that I'm leaving…"
"No time! We need to leave now, if we want to arrive on time."
She ushered me back toward the car and I bit my tongue. I climbed into the back seat and as the car pulled away, I peered out the back window at the boy. He was looking at the pump we'd just left from, scratching the back of his neck in confusion. As we pulled out, he looked over and finally spotted us. His hand lowered as he watched me go, subconsciously taking a step forward.
I placed my palm against the window and sighed.
Guess my life with boys won't be changing any time soon, I thought miserably. I didn't even take into account that he could have easily seen my hearing aids.
Personally, I'm not deaf, but I do know sign language. It is not my intention to offend anyone within the deaf community, so if I've made a mistake, please let me know so that I can correct it.