Lily was starting to get worried about Delilah. Since that one time she giggled when Mary Ann and stroked her spine, she hadn't made a single sound. She was walking, and she even walked silently. The only noises that ever warned Lily of Delilah's approaching was the clatter when she fell, which she did often.
But although she didn't talk, Delilah certainly wasn't stupid. Her cool green gaze, which had once scared Lily, proved more than able to study the texts of many books within the house.
On the year she turned two (they'd discovered her birthday was on the sixteenth of December) she had started picking up the books and opening them. However, before she was three, she started picking them up the same way Peter did, and flicking through the pages the same way, and it was obvious that she was actually reading. How much she understood, neither Peter nor Lily knew.
Nor would they guess. They had grown to love Delilah, for all her peculiarities. When she wanted something, she still wouldn't make a sound. She'd make herself visible, however she needed to, which sometimes scared them both, not just because of the way she popped up, seemingly out of thin air, but also because this usually happened in places like on top of the roof, on the sink, or generally high up places.
And she was a fairly clumsy child, for all her stealth.
When she'd made herself seen, and had been gotten down to shrieks, hugs and kisses, she pointed determinedly at what she wanted. If she wanted food, she'd point at a cupboard where there was food. If she wanted a book that was too high for her to reach, she'd point at it.
They'd started to get used to this, but it still freaked them out. The way her bright green gaze looked at them as she pointed, her finger seeming determined to make a hole in the air.
And if what she wanted wasn't where she was, she'd tug on their arms, and pull them to where it was, then point. She was a very clever child, they gave her that much.
They were starting to despair that she was mute, when she spoke for the first time. She was four, and it was Halloween. George had stopped by earlier in the day, with his latest boyfriend. One thing Lily had noted and even sometimes whispered thanks for, was that Delilah seemed to attract love and attention in her way, and had brought her back on terms with both of her sons.
Not that they'd been on bad terms, they just hadn't seen each other or spoken a lot.
And when the doorbell rang for the second time that day, Lily opened the door on a most peculiar sight. It wasn't dark yet, so she knew it wouldn't be trick-or-treaters, but for some reason she'd grabbed one of the bowls of candy she'd set near the door anyway. And spilled it all over the floor.
were four children, one who was eight, Lily's first grandson, and
two girls who were three, her two granddaughters, twins. And another
girl, who looked about twelve or so. Children out of the way, there
was Mary Ann, Fabian, and Lisa, Fabian's wife.
All four children were dressed in Halloween garb, obviously they were going trick-or-treating, but it was the sight of Mary Ann that had made her spill the candy. Mary Ann had a tattered shirt and pants on, with blood seeping out of each rip. For a second, Lily had thought she'd been attacked by something, which is what had made her jump and spill candy everywhere. But, no. It was a costume.
The twins, Jenna, and Jane, both were wearing frilly pink dresses, with small tiaras on top of their golden tresses, a wand in their hands, and wings on their back. Chris, who was eight this year, had a black suit on, with red highlights, fake fangs in, combed-back blond hair, and fake blood spilling out of his mouth.
The older girl, who Lily recognised as Helen, an orphan who had come in just before she'd left, was wearing all black, a black conical hat, and white face makeup with black lipstick, eye shadow, and blush. Her hair was a chestnut brown, Lily remembered, but it was hidden in her hat. She had a broomstick clutched in her hand, that had a stuffed black cat on it.
Every Halloween, the orphans made their own costumes, with materials provided by, basically, who ever had enough money to spare.
'The others are with the group,' Mary Ann said, as the children all trooped inside, while Fabian, herself, and Lily picked up the candy, which was mercifully wrapped.
'She knew where I was going though, and she wanted to see Delilah again.' She finished, as she threw a chocolate bar into the bowl. Lily nodded.
'She's dressed up as a grim reaper.' Lily said, gesturing inside so Mary Ann knew she was talking about Delilah. Lily nodded.
'Has she said anything yet?' She asked, and both mother and son shook their head, which made all three smile as they trooped in after the children, to the lounge room, where Delilah was sitting by the fire, hood off, long dark brown hair gathered in it.
Her entire face was black, which had taken Lily ages. Thankfully she had Peter and George to help, although George's boyfriend had been scared of her.
'Hi.' Helen said, walking right up to Delilah. She held her hand out, which Delilah shook.
'Don't you talk?' Helen asked after a full minute of silence between them, the only sounds the fire crackling, the adults talking, and the siblings running around in their grandparents house playing tag.
'Well I don't really have any reason too, I find I'm perfectly able to make my wishes apparent without use of spoken text.' Delilah said, softly, but which nonetheless made everyone in the room look at her.
Lily was clutching her breast, her eyes closed, a thankful expression on her face, while Peter looked thoughtful, Mary Ann looked proud, and Fabian looked pleased.
Helen smiled at Delilah, and then went of to play with the other children. Delilah looked thoughtful for a moment, as if deciding whether to play or not, before giving an odd shrugging gesture and settling back down to read again.
She flicked through a few more pages before it was dark enough for them to agree it was time to go trick-or-treating. Fabian let his children go in the care of Mary Ann, and Delilah pulled up her hood, picking up her scythe, which Lily had made out of a wooden broom handle and some cardboard she'd painted silver.
Delilah really looked like a grim reaper, everyone they visited that night agreed. At four years old, she was so silent, that occasionally the party she was trick-or-treating with forgot she was there, saw her and screamed. She was smiling serenely under the hood of her black cloak, enjoying the night air. She kept her bag under her cloak, so she didn't ruin her image.
When they got back, she put her candy under her bed. She didn't have any now, like most kids were doing, spreading their loot on the floor or on the sheets of their bed, stuffing as much into their mouths before their parents made them stop and go to bed.
Delilah saved them. She got changed into her pyjamas and into bed, all this quieter than a mouse. If they hadn't seen her come in, their other guests parting to their different destinations, Peter and Lily would have been shocked to have seen her in her bed when they went to turn off the light. Lily tucked Delilah in, kissed her on the forehead, and murmured goodnight, while Peter smiled as he flipped the light switch.
Delilah proved to be even more different when she talked. She still didn't talk much, preferring to make herself noticed and point out what she wanted, but now that they knew she could talk, Lily and Peter knew that she'd be fine when she went to school. In fact, they couldn't wait until she had friends and were bringing them back home, to prove that she was more normal.
What proved most odd about Delilah as she started to speak more, was her use of language. Peter and Lily hadn't really kept any books from her, letting her read anything she wanted. One of the first things she'd read, actually properly read, was a dictionary. And with that was also a thesaurus.
One day, when Peter had taken the day off, he took Delilah to the park. She wouldn't go on the swing unless he went on the other one, and so they sat there, the swings moving slowly back and forth, neither of them really keen to give it much more momentum, and Delilah had a book in her hand. She was reading Alice in Wonderland.
'Why do you like to read so much?' Peter asked. In his own hand, of course, was a book. His was a book about underwater plant life.
'To the best of my knowledge,' Delilah began, putting the bookmark Lily had made her in her book and closing it, resting it on her lap and looking up at Peter, with that gaze that somehow none of them got used to. 'I read to know. I read to know about the world that the book provides. Whereas you read to learn, about our world and about others. I know that still other people read to read, to have something to do.'
This surprised Peter. He himself couldn't see much difference in her descriptions of reading to know or reading to learn. He thought that they were the same. When they got home, he sat in his study for a few hours, just mulling this small surprise over in his head. Reading to know, reading to learn.
After a few weeks of him nearly pulling his hair out for not being able to think of even a single difference, he cornered her about it.
'Sweetie,' He said, as she was sitting in a corner of her room, hair in a plait down her back, out of her eyes, book in hand, and green eyes on book. She looked up at him, this time with a thoughtful gaze, and for a moment Peter could almost have sworn she knew exactly why he was there. 'Sweetie, remember the other day, how you told me you read to know and I read to learn, could you please tell me what the difference is.'
How crazy he seemed to himself. Going to a four year old for information. But he knew in his heart that he couldn't get better information anywhere else.
'I read to know. To know is to have no uncertainty towards it. To know is to understand and to know is to not question. To know is forever, something you'll always know. You read to learn. To learn is to not be sure. To learn is to not understand and to learn is to question. To learn is temporary, before becoming true knowledge.' This only confused Peter more.
He looked at this girl, who he thought of so much and so often as a daughter, and he couldn't imagine any words that had more wisdom in them than those this four year old had just produced.
'You mean you remember every single thing you read while I may not?' He asked, sitting down beside her now, relaxing slightly now that he had the most important part of the conversation lodged in his head.
'Yes… and no.' Delilah put her bookmark in her book at this point and put it carefully on the ground. 'You will remember every thing you read, just not as sure knowledge. You may not understand it, you may question it's truth. Yes, not everything written is truth, not even in histories, biology, or mathematics. You question these things you find that are not truthful and these things you find that are. Have no questions and you know. Have questions and you can only learn.' She smiled, in a serene way that freaked Peter out.
He had no idea what she was talking about, but he knew that she was absolutely right, somewhere in him he knew that everything she was saying made perfect sense. But he just couldn't see it.
'See, now you know.' She said, and Peter was sure that she'd been looking at him, sure that she must have seen his inner turmoil, his inner confusion but certainty. Yet her eyes hadn't moved from looking at the wall across from her.
Peter left and went back to his study to think. Before he forgot, he typed up everything his daughter had said, everything he could remember her saying, on this subject. Saving the document, he leaned back in his chair with a thoughtful expression on his face.
He certainly had a weird daughter. And, adopted or not, she certainly was his daughter. His and Lily's. There was no other way to describe the love they both felt towards this darling, weird girl.
Delilah started preschool the next year, and as the first of September came around, Peter and Lily were teary as they dropped her off at the small school building.
By the time she was in first grade, Delilah had read all of the books in her room, most of the books in Peter's study, and some of the books in his room. And because of all the knowledge she gained from reading all of these books, she was way ahead of the class.
Without wanting to disrupt her learning, and the learning of others too much, her first grade teacher sent her on into the second grade, where she still wasn't struggling. After a month there, she was sent to the third grade, but she wasn't allowed to go any higher than that. So Delilah, aged seven, was in the third grade when she came back to school from her Christmas break, and doing just as well, if not better, than the other students.
She didn't have any friends, exactly, but a lot of people liked her. Everyone in the school, was actually in one of two minds about her. They either adored her, which all of the teachers did, or were freaked out by her and her green-eyed-gaze, which either gave the impression of seeing right into the soul, or gave the impression of happiness, which somehow freaked people out even more.
When she smiled, it was such a serene smile, that everyone who saw it could have sworn to anyone in the world that she was an angel.
And that was why she was given the nickname "smart angel" by the group of girls and boys who seemed to adore her more than the rest who were in that mind. Delilah didn't really seem to notice that people followed her around, she was usually off in a world of her own, which everyone wished they knew about, for she never told any of them, not even Peter or Lily.