Lacy altogether stopped going to the hospital. It'd been a week, a sad, miserable week, where she both fretted Shane would reveal her secret to the world, and felt the most crushing wave of self pity in her entire life.
For a little while Lacy actually believed in herself. Believed in her skills to overcome this obstacle, to live her life normally as if nothing had happened to prevent her from regular social interactions and conversations. That was all shattered now, like the silly dreams you have as a child and laugh at later, when you're grown and mature, thinking 'how ridiculously dumb I was!' while crumbling the old diary page filled with ancient goals. She came to the momentous, obvious conclusion that life was a pointless, noiseless, blur now. Motherless could also be added to the list of ness's. Never had Lacy felt the acuteness of her mother's absence until this bottom moment of misery and isolation.
Despite these inner manifestations, Lacy moved through life with the same quiet reserve as anyone else, or as she had before. No one noticed any outward difference, or odd occurrences that alerted people to the complete depression water-logging her down to the point where she felt the heaviness of her own despair. And even worse was, she didn't blame Shane for any of this. Of course, Lacy Chambers, now lacking of any self-confidence, unsure if she had ever possessed any, blamed only herself for believing that she could pretend she was normal. Shane, only helped her in the long run, proving early on how silly she was being.
Lacy stopped any social interactions all together. Even when the moment she had been desperately waiting for—her old best friend approaching her, wanting to know if they could hang out, rekindle their friendship—happened, Lacy stayed in her catatonic cocoon of noiselessness, and ignored the words entirely. She put no effort in deducing the meaning of her friend's lips moving, and instead tirelessly, numbly shoved her books into her locker, and walked away as if nothing but a breeze was beside her.
Rachel stared after her former friend with a kind of guilty, hurt, desperation, before giving up too.
The next Monday Lacy decided as she stared up at her ceiling, that she wasn't even going to bother going to school. She told her father she felt ill, and slept until mid afternoon, dozing in and out of dreams that still held sound. As she woke up each time, she only felt the acuteness of her loss over and over again.
By two she showered, and got dressed, because if she had learned anything as a child, being the daughter of a politician, it was to always look your best even at your worst. Diligently, as if going through the motions of a former life that no longer held any pleasure, she swiped liner across her lids, shimmied into a black pencil skirt, slipped suede heels on her feet, and walked downstairs into the lobby of their home so she could make a quick escape, unsure of the exact location she intended to go. Her father though, talking on the phone in that clipped impatient tone she was glad she could no longer hear, walked past and clamped a hand on her shoulder, halting her steps.
Lacy slid to a miserable stop, not turning to look at him as she usually would, and waited until the color of his voice zigzagging around her halted. He stepped around her, his face annoyed that he had to do so, and barely said anything before he handed an envelope into her hesitant hands and walked away.
Lacy stood in the hallway for a moment, as if deciding whether anything was really worth it anymore, before she finally started up again. Her slender hands held the envelope, and she carted it outside with her along with a black purse full of books she needed to return to the hospital, books she would no longer bother with.
In her car Lacy gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles and stared out the windshield with an unblinking gaze, afraid if she moved water would leak from her eyes and ruin the painstakingly crafted make-up she had on.
To distract herself, she looked at the address of the envelope—a school, downtown, one known for its poor facilities and poor students and poor funds—, inside there was a check addressed to the district, Hatchet High School.
Lacy plugged the street name into her GPS, and after a quiet breath, she drove down the driveway away from her cold mansion home. It took fifteen minutes to get there, and another couple to park. Lacy was unsure of what she was really even doing there, but she going on the assumption she was meant to deliver the charity check—probably another campaign strategy.
Her car was the nicest one in the lot. Most of the vehicles were rusty and duct taped, and old. Lacy felt like shrinking way. Inside she was a shriveling, dying soul, on the outside she walked with a purpose and grace that she had been raised to exude, someone of importance. Once inside the quiet halls of the school, she realized she had no idea where the administrations office was. She glanced down at the envelope, as if it held the answer, a treasure map, but it was blank and useless.
Just as she was wondering if she could leave without notice and pretend she had never come, a bell rang through the halls, and the long walkway flooded with students. Lacy felt her heart drain a little. NO going back now. She could already feel the eyes on her. She hiked her purse up her shoulder more, glanced down at the envelope once more, and followed a nearby sign that stated ATTENDENCE OFFICEin bold letter. They would be able to tell her. Hopefully.
Shane felt like even only forty five minutes of English was enough to kill him. Or put him in a near catatonic state. The girl next to him—the one with a bubble gum fetish, and a matching reusable water bottle for every outfit of the week—spent the entire class commenting on his fingernails. He wasn't sure if it was some strange way of flirting, but either way, he was weirded out.
Outside of class, Shane greeted the end of the school day with a mixture of happiness and gloom, now aware he had to drag his already tired body down to the lumber yard, then the hospital, where Lacy Chamber's continuous absence sent chills of guilt crawling through his stomach. He was starting to wonder if she'd ever come back, and because he knew it was his fault, Janet's incessant inquiries about her whereabouts were all the more gut-wrenching. He couldn't believe he'd been so self involved and self centered, that he created an entire illusion in his mind where she was attacking him because he was less wealthy. Now removed from the scenario, he couldn't fathom the lengths his mind went through to make that leap.
And as if his own guiltiness summoned up the object of his shame, there she stood, at the end of the hall, her posture impossibly proper, and the grace of her walk seemingly unfeasible in such shoes. For a moment he was in a state of confusion, convinced his brain had conjured the hallucination of her walking towards him, aware of his presence. But it was no such thing.
The high school dwellers of Hatchet high were so focused on her, it was impossible to miss. But who wouldn't, Shane reasoned, be looking at her? Lacy Chambers, despite his new found insight to her quiet demeanor, walked with a sort of natural elegance born with constant repetition, and although Shane knew more deeply than anyone else here her true humble disposition, it was easy to mistake the way she held her shoulders as confidence, when in fact, it was practice.
Their obvious stares might also be attributed to her clothing too, which characteristically matched her upbringing. She always seemed so uniformly put together, with soft feminine colors and tasteful clothing. She wore nothing like the girls here did, with their stomachs showing and scandalously short skirts or low cut tops. Today she was wearing a black form hugging skirt that went several inches above her knees, and a pretty, off white blouse that accentuated her natural curves, and because he found himself admiring her yet again, he felt even more unworthy just being near her.
Shane was unsure, as she unknowingly approached him, if he should say something, greet her, or blend into the crowd and avoid her. But just as the contemplation crossed his mind, her navy blue eyes flickered past the faces of whispering students and locked with his. For a moment he was frozen. He expected her expression to change, for a scowl or hatred to contort her smooth expression, but only fear briefly flashed in her dark eyes before she averted her gaze.
Shane was immediately spurred into action. Usually when someone was angry with, upset, or hurt by his behavior, he just couldn't bring himself to care. At all. But with Lacy Chambers, his actions had obviously deeply scarred her. Frightened her. Shane hadn't known he was capable of scaring someone so badly. Lacy Chambers genuinely considered him a bad person, and he couldn't stand it. In this case, in this instance, with these eyes, he did care.
"Lacy!" He called, and then flinched as he realized several things at once. Lacy Chambers was deaf, part of the reason for this whole mess, and obviously couldn't hear. The entire student body, furtively watching Lacy pass with secret glances and hidden interest, suddenly turned their full attention to them. And Lacy herself, noticing this change, with her eyes focused strangely on something in front of her, slowly turned back to look at him.
A panicked look flickered across her eyes, one where he could see the unconscious turn of her shoulders, as if she were contemplating bolting down the hallway away from him. He noticed this with a sting in his gut. He was such an asshole.
Because people were watching them, when he finally reached her, he muttered a quick greeting. Not for her ears though. "Hey," he said casually, inwardly ripping himself apart as he attempted to make conversation with a deaf girl in front of an entire school who didn't know, and she didn't want to know, about her deafness.
He spent the greater part of the last week wondering why she would want it a secret. Wouldn't it be easier if everyone knew? How did she manage school, conversations, life?
"Hello," She answered back, her eyes lingered quietly on his face for a moment, as if gauging what he wanted, what he was doing, then she turned slowly and started walking again. Shane kept up her pace. His fingers itched to produce the symbols of 'sorry' in sign language, which he had practiced for her when she returned to the hospital. Obviously, here, he couldn't do it in public.
A thick silence settle between them as they walked, at least thick to Shane. He wondered if the silence in her mind was always this uncomfortable and strange.
Her eyes flickered over to him, and she clutched her bag with those small, petite fingers of hers. "Could you show me to the main office?" She asked quietly, with a sort of relieved look. Shane was startled and completely thankful for the distraction. He hadn't even thought about why she was here, but now that he thought about it, what the hell was she doing here?
He nodded, now completely and awkwardly at a loss as to how to communicate. Usually he was so…confident, around girls. But Lacy Chambers suddenly stumped him. He directed them silently towards the head master's office, hyper aware of every movement beside him. She was carrying a white, flat envelope, her nails were painted a navy blue to match those eyes, and a small pearl necklace drew his attention to the slender, delicate curve of her collar bone and neck. All the while he was pretending not to watch her.
When they reached the office, Shane opened the door for her, aware of the eyes burning into their backs, aware, especially, of Ashley, his former girlfriends very unfriendly glower.
The headmaster too, looked oddly at them. Shane was in his grungy attire, he was after all, heading to the lumber yard, and Lacy must have looked like a clear, rosy diamond next to a lump of coal.
"Shane," The headmaster greeted in confusion and slight amusement. "I've never seen you in here unless you've escorted by the campus security. This surely is a treat, for you to be standing in front of me willingly." Shane felt his jaw clench, and was unsure if the older man was saying this for his amusement, or for Lacy. He said nothing. Lacy didn't seem fazed, but maybe it was because she couldn't hear. He hoped she hadn't lip read, but her gaze wasn't focused on his lips, like he noticed she usually did when she was speaking with someone.
"And Miss Chambers, what do I owe this pleasure?" He asked, turning towards her. Understanding now that the conversation was directed towards her, Shane watched in amazement as she pieced together the headmaster's words using only the movements of his mouth.
She smiled a polite, unflattered smile, and stepped forward, offering the envelope. "I've come to drop off a donation from my father. He heard your funds were low this year."
The headmaster seemed both grateful and reluctant to take the envelope. He smiled. "Why thank you. You're family is too generous." His fingers absently slid over the seal, as if itching to rip it open and seek the amount written on the check. Lacy didn't look convinced by his compliment, as if she knew as well as anyone that the headmaster, while thankful for the money, didn't particularly like Senator Logan Chambers, as did most of the community after his last election. She seemed adept, even in deafness, to sense the hostility towards her family in others. Years of practice, Shane assumed, had helped in that. It must be difficult being the unloved Senator's daughter.
She nodded, but said nothing, and excused herself before the headmaster had to uncomfortably hint that he had other things to do. Shane was surprised that he found himself irritated at the head of his school, although he never particularly cared for the man to begin with. Lacy didn't glance at him as she passed, but he followed her anyway down the hallway, outside into the sunny parking lot, and even to her shiny, new car that looked like a clear, pretty rain drop amongst the mud of the rest of the rusted vehicles. His own car was only several spots down, which he ignored as she spun to a stop to scavenge for her keys.
"Do you need something?" She asked, irritated, as she rummaged through her purse. He noticed how underneath that annoyed overtone, there was a certain dead quality to her voice, a deeper string of sadness ringing in her words. He wondered if she was even aware it was there.
"No." He thought about it. "Yes." What did he need? "I don't know." He sighed, ran a frustrated hand through his hair. For some reason, her weakness made him angry. That sadness in her voice rubbing his mind raw. Why was she so weak? Why did his singular outburst hurt her so much? It didn't seem fair to him. Instead, he asked, "Do you not have school today?" Her eyes watched his lips move out of the corner of her vision, still looking for her keys. There was a pause where she pieced his question together, gathering key words to plug them into the most probable sentence he would ask.
Her small shoulders lifted limply into an indifferent shrug. "Didn't feel like going today." He could almost hear the added thought that surely ran through her mind, what's the use? Anger pulsed through him again, and aware that he was becoming a heated beast in front of her again, he vainly tried to cool his rising temper.
"Look, I know yelled at you, and was completely out of line, but you need to get a hold of yourself. This is pissing me off, how the hell was I supposed to know you were deaf? I'm not a mind reader. You cant expect people to understand if you don't fucking tell them. It's a little unfair if you ask me."
Her face pulled down into a sour frown. Her wide eyes becoming a hint even more sad. She stood taller, straightening now that she found her keys, and stepped towards him. She didn't understand most of his rant, when people spoke too much too fast she tended to get lost quickly. But she did catch that last part, and it burned her mind.
"You think," she said quietly, now that she was so close. Her body was supremely smaller than his, but her inches of added height do to her shoes helped. "You think I want to keep this a secret? You think that I want people to look at me as if I'm dumb, that I want to lose all my friends, fail at school? If I could tell the world, I would. But life isn't fair. And no one would understand anyway, even if they did know."
Shane's mouth opened in confusion, suddenly he found himself yet again overturned by surprise. It seemed whenever he made assumptions about her, he was always very wrong. But he couldn't fathom a reason why she couldn't inform people of her disability.
She started to turn away angrily, either with herself for spilling yet another secret, or because she couldn't stand him. But Shane reached out and spun her around, preventing her from leaving. He didn't even mean to, but seeing her leave set off a panic in him. Now, seeing the fear in her eyes as his grip locked on her arms, he stepped away as if burned.
"Im sorry." He said. "Im sorry for…for everything, alright?" Her body was still frozen, still carefully cautious, he knew she was too much in shock to understand. He lifted his hands and spelled out the word, clumsily forming the signs. Interest sparked in her fearful gaze, and suddenly she was more alert, as if excited by the possibility to be able to sign with someone. But soon she was disappointed, Shane could tell as confusion clouded her pretty features as she tried to put together his awful signs. He feared he might have done it wrong, or at least formed some of the letters wrong. Finally after of moment of staring at his hands with a furrowed brow, she looked back up at him and shook her head. Slowly, as if not even thinking about it, she picked up his right hand and carefully pushed his fingers in to a fist, pushing his left hand away. Shane was captivated as she put his fisted hand against his chest, and moved it in a clockwise circle against his heart.
"This means 'sorry', or an apology." Lacy said quietly, letting her hand drop from his. Shane did the motion again to her, and small smile twitched on her sad lips.
"Apology accepted." She murmured quietly, and disappeared into her dark car with a shiny coat and tinted windows, and he had never felt as separate from her as he slid into his own, rotting, run down car.