Authors: Natasha Orme
|The Fullness of Quiet|
|Any Subject Books (2012)|
The Fullness Of Quiet by Natasha Orme
Jocelyn is a profoundly deaf teenager living with her father and younger sister, Helen. Since the death of their mother, Jocelyn has tacitly assumed the homemaker role and is beginning to build a life for herself.
Romance is in the air when a new boy arrives at her deaf school and things seem to be on the up at long last. Unfortunately for Jocelyn, all is not set to run smoothly with the star-crossed lovers nor at home where the drama begins with Helen becoming seriously ill.
About the author
Natasha grew up abroad as the daughter of a soldier serving his country and this meant that she spent her childhood years traveling to and living in foreign countries.
From a young age she enjoyed putting her ideas down on paper and, as her talent developed, she found herself drawn more and more to writing.
At the age of eleven she went to a military boarding school in Dover and here was where her writing really developed. Although it wasn't necessarily part of the curriculum, the love of making up stories fascinated her and, by the age of fifteen, she had already completed her first novel.
Natasha is now following a Creative Writing degree course at the University of Winchester in Hampshire, England.
A special thank you goes out to The Centre For Deaf People in Bristol whose advice and suggestions I’ve been pleased to take on board while writing this book.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
First Edition 2012
© Copyright reserved by author.
Any Subject Books
I live in a world of silence. There’s no numbing buzz, there’s no background whispering and there’s no music, at least not in the way think. My music is made through the vibrations around me. Despite the silence that I'm enveloped in, I still find beauty in the world. The beauty in the trees, the flowers, the sunset and sunrise. Most of all though, I can see the beauty in people.
I woke up every morning with a gentle shake from my little sister, Helen. Every morning she signed to me letting me know that breakfast was ready or that she’d had a really good dream last night or something silly like that, just so she could be the first to speak to me. That was how I communicated and how I still do. I sign to others. All my family could sign but it was hard when I met people that couldn’t. They would become wary of me as if I was an outsider and it used to really upset me.
I didn’t go to an ordinary school like most teenagers. I wouldn’t have been able to learn. Instead I went to a school especially for teens like me. There was around two hundred of us in total. The school was classed as big.
I’m not a particularly confident person. My disability has held me back all my life. I don’t like being centre stage to anything. I’ve never participated in drama or music or anything that might make me stand in front of others. I’d much prefer sitting in the corner and getting on with some work.
I do love to be artistic though. I love bright colors and the way they can blend together. I love to be able to sketch my imagination and show others what I can see. I love the transformation of an image from reality to paper. That is where my passion truly lies. In Art.
There were nine other people in my class. Some of them were able to hear a little maybe in one ear or the other, but most of them, like me, heard nothing. My best friend was a girl named Charlie. Her full name was Charlotte but she hated it. She was very funny. Odd though that sounds, even those of us that can’t communicate like everyone else can convey humor. The one thing I loved the most about Charlie was that she didn’t need to pretend to be somebody else to please everyone. She was much more confident and comfortable than I was with the silence and she didn’t care what people thought as long as she was happy. I really did love her for it and admired her beyond belief. I just couldn’t fathom how she could walk around not listening to anything and still be more self-assured than most girls her age.
The families that lived in our town have lived there pretty much all their lives. Most have lived there for generations and so it was rare we ever got any new students at school. I couldn’t remember the last time a new family moved to the area with a deaf child. I wouldn’t say it was a close-knit community because there was still that large divide between those that think they were better than everyone else and those that generally didn’t care.
That was why I was surprised to find an eleventh member of my class one morning. Nobody had been expecting this new arrival, least of all the teachers. His mum brings him into school one morning explaining how he’d moved to this town over the weekend and wished to enroll him at once. Who just moves over a weekend these days? Surely it’s a business that takes at least a week? Anyhow, he tipped up and the teachers couldn’t really say no. He was deaf in both ears, like me. That was the immediate connection.
His name was Joshua. He sat towards the front of the class and I tried to study him out of the corner of my eye whilst our teacher explained a presentation on our history topic. He wasn’t exactly stand-out-of-a-crowd gorgeous but he wasn’t ugly either. There was something about his fine bone structure that made him curiously handsome. There was nothing particularly unusual about him so he managed to avoid the school gossip. In a way that was a good thing, for him at least.
He didn’t really talk to anyone for the first few weeks of being there. He quietly entered the classroom each day and got on with it. He didn’t make a fuss or effort to fit in. One of the other guys had been talking to him every now and again but Alex hadn’t been getting much luck. He was my other best friend, my guy best friend. He was so sweet and I loved him for it.
I always used to wonder what the world really did sound like. I’d been born deaf and I personally think that’s better than having the ability to hear and then drastically losing it because then you know what you were missing out on whereas I don’t. I guess you could say ignorance is bliss. It must look strange on the outside for someone who hasn’t interacted with deaf people before because for us to be loud and hyperactive, it’s all communicated through the hands and body language whereas for ordinary teens it’s through their voice. Well I’m not saying that we can’t use our voice but we can’t hear ourselves speak and having been deaf all my life, it’s hard for me to form words with my lips. I can lip read pretty well but having never needed to use my own lips for speech it feels foreign even when I try.
It’s an odd feeling being able to speak but not hear what you’re saying. You can feel your vocal chords vibrating and where there should be noise, there’s nothing. Not that I’m not used to the silence but it’s a peculiar feeling. I don’t know how many of my classmates think about this sort of stuff, it’s not like I can accidently voice my thoughts because it takes extra physical effort to express anything. I’m always grateful that I’m deaf and not blind though. If I couldn’t see, life would be truly miserable. I may listen to silence but I’d rather that than see into nothing.
I used to love going home every evening. Mum had died when I was very young. I have no idea what from. Daddy always found it hard to speak about her. He misses her very much. I’ve only seen him cry twice and both times were on the anniversary of her death. It’s a morbid day of the year for us. Daddy, Helen and me go down to the cemetery and lay some flowers on her grave. We say a few prayers and take it in turns to privately talk to her. Daddy always takes the longest. Father McCoy takes us children into the small church for milk and cookies to give Daddy some peace.
I walked through the door to find fresh flowers everywhere. The anniversary of Mum was last week and we mourn for a week every year. Daddy doesn’t go to work, we don’t pick flowers and the television isn’t switched on. Daddy says it gives us time to think about her and what she’s doing in heaven now. Well, that was last week so Daddy makes a special effort to brighten up the house and chase all the darkness away. I could smell the fresh air sweeping through the rooms and I knew that Daddy was out working.
We weren’t exactly rich but we certainly had enough to live comfortably. Daddy worked as a psychologist and therapist. Not one of those fancy downtown ones but one for those that can’t afford the city prices. He worked with the ordinary people of the town that had problems. He was sufficiently popular and had a stream of regulars. I think he found his work enjoyable because he could sense how he was helping others and it also helped him to forget everything that he didn’t want to remember.
I saw Helen’s backpack on the dining room table, announcing that she was home so I decided to go find her. She was in her room singing to herself. She often took part in the musical productions at school and had been given the main role several times so I took that to be a sign that she was a good singer. It made me proud of her. Not many are able to find a talent such as hers at the age of seven.
I signed to her to ask if she wanted me to do her hair. She signed back that she would. I often played with her hair. Not for any particular reason, just because I could. She loved it. She put some music on her CD player and sat down in front of her chair. I never knew what sort of music she listened to. I gave up trying to keep track. One day it’s songs from children’s programs and the next it’s the latest boyband. I chose to listen to my own music. Silence. It was much more relaxing.
I sat down on the pink chair and plugged the straighteners in next to her vanity table. Pink was Helen’s favorite color and always had been. She was a typical girl in the sense that every item in her room was pink and fluffy. I began the slow process of straightening her long, silky hair. The color shimmered as it cascaded down her back.
It wasn’t long before Helen signed to me to let me know that Daddy was home. She had obviously called his name because he appeared in the doorway. I watched him speak to her and attempted to lip read but couldn’t quite keep up. He signed to me that he thought it was nice that we were sat together, even though it was what we always did. He said that he’d had a hard day at work and hadn’t got anything planned for the rest of the day. I needed to decided what we were going to have for dinner.
I asked her what she wanted and she signed back that she wanted something and chips. I smiled, she always wanted something and chips.
“No chips tonight,” I said. Her face dropped.
“How about potato waffles?” I asked. Her face lit up and she started jumping around. “Sit still,” I signed. “I need to finish doing your hair.”
She sat as still as was humanly possible for a seven year old. I thought about how fluid her sign language was for someone so young. It was an advantage for her because it meant that there wasn’t anybody that she couldn’t communicate with. It’s strange how one person with a disability can change the lives of so many.
I finished her hair and turned the straighteners off. She held my hand as we went downstairs and she flitted about the kitchen getting out what she thought we would need. Helen had been helping me make dinner since she was five. Even if she was getting things out the fridge, she wanted to help. She always wanted to help. Especially me. I was her ward and she was my guardian. She always protected me even though I was the one that was supposed to protect her. I guess that was down to my inability to hear.