Excerpt III

*Note: I’ve decided to start from scratch with my NaNoWriMo project. Seems like I’m doing too much telling, not enough showing, and I can’t say I’m happy with the writing. Any tips are welcome!

Jacob sat on the concrete curb and wrapped thin arms around knobby knees. His shirt was threadbare and his coat old, a hand-me-down that was too small; bony wrists poked out beyond frayed cuffs, and the folded collar was wrinkled and ripping away at the seam.

Periodic waves of chills flowed through his body, starting at his toes and up to the tips of his ears. He could feel pinpricks at his scalp. He shivered once, twice.

Paul hadn’t come yet to pick him up. All the other students had left. He’d watched them, much like Lucy had the previous Friday, crowding into warm vehicles with welcoming parents who gave kisses and hugs and smiles.

Maybe Paul had forgotten about him. Jake wouldn’t mind being forgotten, wouldn’t mind being invisible. That was better than being out in the open.

He didn’t even like Paul, anyhow, he thought, scrunching his shoulders. Paul didn’t know how to sign, he didn’t know how to listen. He just talked and talked and talked. Not that it mattered since Jake couldn’t read lips fast enough. He figured anything coming out of Paul’s mouth was a lie. All adults lied.

Except Miss Lucy. She was different. Her smile wasn’t hard or too bright. It wasn’t forced like Paul’s was sometimes. Hers was natural. Plus, she had a space between her two front teeth. She was beautiful.

Paul still hadn’t come. Jake sighed, fingered the paper bag next to him. He’d clutched it since Miss Lucy had given it to him, had rubbed and rubbed the bag until it was soft and smooth. Now he unfolded the top and pulled out the pieces of paper he’d written on that day. Jake unstretched a leg to pull a pencil from his pocket and flipped the sheets of paper over, balancing them on his knees. Then he started to draw.

He hadn’t started with an idea of what to sketch, what to create out of lead and lined paper. But as he drew the pencil down, as he shaded in areas, Miss Lucy’s face appeared. Swirls became her curls, light shadowing became her eyes, crosshatching formed the roses that bloomed on her cheeks. She smiled in the picture, smiled at him. Like a mom.

Jake flipped to the next page and began to draw another face. The lips were thin, the eyes narrow, the face crinkled with deep lines, early wrinkles. The hair was straight and hung in clumps. The roots were darker, the lines more crudely drawn.

When Jake lifted his pencil, Rose stared back at him. Rose and Miss Lucy. Jake couldn’t explain why, but he felt a swelling in his throat, tears pricking at his eyes. He couldn’t tell if it was sadness or rage. It made his skin heat, made him burn. He crumpled the side-by-side portraits into a ball. Then uncrumpled and ripped them into pieces. The ragged squares fell to the ground like snow, soft and light.

Jacob stopped, took deep breaths, pressed cold hands to flushed cheeks, closed his eyes. He lifted his face to the weak sun. Then he gathered up the flakes, shoved them in the bag. Threw the bag across the street into the woods. He jammed the pencil back into his jeans pocket and resumed his earlier position: thin arms wrapped around knobby knees.

Paul still hadn’t come.

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Other and Together

*Note: This story is an updated/edited version of the one that has been published on WOW! Women On Writing. Thank you for reading!

The girl stood on the street corner, alone. Her hands were at her sides, fingering the pleats on her burgundy skirt. Her school bag lay silent against her leg, though the occasional breeze gave life to the buckles that remained unfastened. She didn’t glance around, looking anxious; she didn’t look bored, her eyes glazed over and blank. No, she observed, absorbing the colors of the trees and the sky, the touch of wind against her skin. She felt.

This little girl, Amber, was other.

She saw strangers’ looks, the fear, the lack of understanding. She saw the flushes of embarrassment, though she didn’t understand them. She saw parents kneel down and scold their children when they laughed or pointed at her.

Unlike those children, Amber could not hear, could not speak. She could make sounds, enjoyed the vibration in her throat. She didn’t know that the noises were jarring and loud, didn’t realize they made her a target. Fluent in sign language, Amber communicated with a flutter of her hands that appeared almost poetic. But without friends, she chose to interact with no one. She merely watched the world around her.

On this particular day, while she waited at the bus stop, something changed for her. As strands of blonde hair danced against her face, as the hem of her skirt lifted and fell with each gust, Amber slowly raised her arms higher and higher, reaching toward the sky. She tilted her head back, closed her eyes, and welcomed the sunlight that turned her vision red. She swayed back and forth, back and forth.

And when she lowered her head and opened her eyes, there was a girl standing in front of her.

“Hi, my name is Annie. I’m new. My family just moved here. What’s your name?”

Amber stared at the girl.

“Are you new here too?”

Silence.

“Am I bothering you? I can stop talking. My dad tells me I talk too much, but sometimes it can be a good thing. My family moves around a lot ‘cause of my dad’s job, so being a chatterbox makes it easier when you’re at a new school. I have a new cat, too, and his name is Charlie. Do you like cats?”

Amber’s brown eyes revealed nothing, only reflected Annie’s curious gaze.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but you’re not very talkative. Are you ok? My sister, Sarah, she says I can be really annoying, but I don’t care. I spend a lot of time with my mom, anyway. She doesn’t work, she stays home to take care of me and Sarah and Charlie and my dad, and she likes to cook. She’s shy, so I like to keep her company. I’m great company. Do you want to come over later? Where do you live?”

Again, silence was – and could only be – Amber’s response.

“You’re really quiet. Is there a mall around here? Sometimes Sarah drives me to the mall, and we go shopping. You should come next time. My mom doesn’t like to go shopping ‘cause people look at her funny. I talk for her using my hands. See, like this.”

And Amber’s world opened up.