Listen before you speak (1-2)
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Book #1 in the Silence Series Elijah is no ordinary boy. In fact, he is as different from what a normal boy could possibly be. The golden rule in life has always been "listen before you speak", but what happens when he meets a boy? Will he still be able to just listen? Even when the boy urges him to speak all the unspoken words he has tried so hard to silence for so many years? When Blake walks into Elijah's silent world, the sound starts forming around Elijah's mouth; and he speaks for the first time in four years. Will Blake still love Elijah after hearing everything that Elijah has listened to but never spoken about all those years, or will he get the hell out of dodge as his instincts scream? This story is PG13, since it may have strong language. This story may contain self-harm issues, abuse, and other traumatic scenes. Please be advised that the main character is homosexual, and therefore there will be romantic actions between same-sex characters. If that makes you uncomfortable in any way, please refrain from reading. All Rights Reserved
The sound vibrated through my skull and into my brain, splitting it open and letting it fall into shards of broken glass, missing with my shattered heart and soul.
“What?!” I shouted back in my mind, but still trying my best to block the irritating sound of her voice out of my mind.
“You’re going to be late!” The irritating voice shrieked back, and I could not help to cringe and pull the covers up higher, hoping that they would offer some more protection against the terrible noise that was my mother’s voice.
“I’m coming!” my mind repeated but still not a single sound escaped my mouth.
“I’m serious Elijah! Get up! We are going to be late! Do not make me come in there and get you!”
“Urgh,” I groaned. She wouldn’t leave. Experience has taught me that many times before.
“Hurry!” she shouted once more.
Getting out of bed is probably the most difficult challenge of my day. I love sleeping. It’s like they say; sleep is just like death, but without the commitment. I’ve never been big on commitment, but death seems more than right to me at this moment in time. This is part of the reason why I fall out of bed and don’t climb out.
Getting dressed is challenge number two for the day. What do you wear when you have a closet full of clothing and nothing to wear? Surely not the blue sweater I got for Christmas, or the green hoodie that made its way over to me on my birthday. In the end I pick the same I wear every day. The outfit that has become my uniform and disguise so that the world would not recognize me. A black skinny jean, a grey shirt, and a band hoodie sporting the words “the Black Parade is Dead!” on it.
I look at myself in the mirror, drawing my fingers through my hair, which is also challenge number three for the day. The regrowth is getting too much, probably an inch already. Some children get snow days. Why can I not get a dye day and stay home from school to dye my hair? But then again, why would I be so lucky? It’s not like I have been lucky before in my life. Maybe this is just the way things work.
Straightening my hair doesn’t take that long anymore. I can actually attempt to do my fringe until it covers my eyes without even actually looking in the mirror. But I still look. I like seeing how I disappear and become invisible with every stroke of hair falling in front of my eyes. Covering up the green until only a slight grey tinge comes through, making them all see that I have eyes, but that I do not really see with them. I like it this way. Nobody notices somebody if they do not have a soul, and this is the only way I know to hide my soul from the rest of the world.
Just before I head out of the room, I look back to the mirror. Picking up the black liner from the floor where I dropped it last night, I put the finishing touches on the look I have had since when I care to remember. A black cross covering my lips, showing the fact that I will not speak. I will not talk about what happened, and I will never say what I feel. Because that just fucks everything up in the end. To listen is just a way better approach.
The drive to school is the same as always. I hide in the back seat of the car, slowly nibbling on my toasted waffle, hoping that ‘she’ won’t notice that I’m still there, somewhere in the back, but sometimes every single time that I think this particular thought she seems to sense me on the back seat.
“Did you have enough to eat?” she asks and I see her worried eyes flash towards me in the mirror.
“Why don’t you talk to me?”
I shrug this time. A nod just won’t be enough.
“How is school?” She drives slower so that she can take a look at me in the back of the car.
Another shrug from me.
“Don’t you think that cross over your mouth is a bit much?”
I shake my head in disagreement, not being able to tell her that it is the only thing that scares everybody enough to keep them sitting far away from me. They talk about me, but they never approach me. That’s the way I like it.
“Why won’t you speak?” she poses another question just as she hits the brakes, which makes me sit upright in relieve. I’m spared the one question she wants to know the answer of, and the one question whose answer is the reason for the cross over my lips.
I climbed out of the car and walked away, only looking back once as she hooted, causing me to lift my hand in a half-enthusiastic greeting.
As I walk towards the school on open pilot I see the others staring as they always do. Too scared to approach me, but still whispering behind their hands; eager to have a little bit of gossip early in the morning. One girl actually said my name so loudly that I actually turned around to look at her, which was when my whole life started falling apart, leaving me sitting on my ass and looking up into a face I had never seen in my life, but definitely wanted to see again.
He was skinny, but not too skinny either in his grey chinos. The checkered shirt was pulled tightly across his chest and his hair was mostly hidden beneath the beany on his head. It was however his eyes that I fell in love with. It was warm. That is the only way I can think of describing it. Warm and like liquid chocolate, and just the perfect amount of take-my-breath-away mixed in with it.
“Sorry dude,” he said with a smile as he offered me a hand up.
Hesitantly I took his hand. It’s not the first time I’ve fallen down at school before, but it is the first time someone has offered me a hand and looked like they meant it.
“That’s a really nice band,” he said trying to make a conversation as he pointed towards my hoodie. “My name is Blake.”
I stared at him for a few seconds, not really knowing what to do. Then suddenly; “Elijah.”
The sound that came from my mouth sounded weird in my ears. It’s been a while since I’ve spoken. I don’t even know why I said anything. It just happened.
“Well, I hope to see you around buddy,” Blake said with a smile that invited me in. He patted me on the back and walked off.
“Look back! Look back! Look back!” my mind screamed loudly, and just before he slipped away behind a building he turned around… And raised his hand, waving at me. I waved back, and then he was gone.
It has been four years since I have spoken. Four long years since I have said a single word. Four years of therapy for me going mute on the rest of the world, and still no progress. I never spoke that much before the incident either, but after my twelve birthday I just never spoke again. It just happened. It was just another decision I made, almost like deciding what to wear in the mornings. I promised that I would listen, and that is exactly what I did from that moment on. My silence became the music that surrounded me. It became the one thing that defines me.
My locker was located at the far end of the hallway and I was already late I realized still standing in the same spot where Blake had left me. Sprinting towards the entrance and my locker I did not see Lucy, the most popular girl in the school as she whispered to her peers about Blake and me. I did not see Gavin and Pike, the jocks joking and pointing at the cross slapped across my lips either. This morning I saw nothing until I came to a halt in front of my locker where I forced myself to look for my English book, grabbing it and running towards my English class just as the bell loudly sounded the start of first period. With The Scarlet Letter clasped under my arm I ran for all I was worth to get to class first in order to get my favorite seat in every class; the one right in the back on the right side, where I could be close to a window. I bumped a few people on my way to class, but I had every intention in being the very first person seated at his desk, but this day was not to be my day at all, because not only was I the second student to get to class, but the first one also took my seat.
His eyes brightened when he saw me, or maybe I was just imagining it. I wanted so badly to walk over and tell him that he was in my seat, but instead I was almost too where he was and took the sear just in front of him as Lucy and her crowd poured through the door and took their seats right in front of the class. Lucy liked to be seen. If it wasn’t already obvious by how high her blonde hair was stacked on her head, you became aware of it as soon as she sat down at the front desk ready to answer any and all questions the teacher had. Usually they were all wrong, but she never seemed to mind as long as she got the attention she craved.
“Have you read it yet?” a voice came from behind me, and I prayed that he wasn’t directing the question at me.
“Elijah,” I heard the whisper and reluctantly turned around, and was once again caught in his gaze.
“Don’t speak! Don’t speak!” my brain screamed franticly, and for a change my lips listened. I only gave a quick nod and turned around to face the board in front of the class.
“How was it?” Blake asked again.
God! Why did this kid want to talk to me? He looked normal enough? Did he not know the status queue or what? Cool kids never mingled with the ones that had black crosses penciled across their lips.
I quickly turned around and shrugged like I usually did with my mother. That should be enough to keep him in his place, and just as I turned around in my chair again Alice, walked past me and took the seat next to Blake.
“Hi! I’m Alice and you are? I haven’t seen you around here before? Are you new?” she rumbled the questions out.
From afar I have always liked Alice. I have never heard her say a cruel word about me, she was top of the class, and she was beyond pretty, although I have always thought she would be prettier if she maybe straightened her hair. That brown frizz she carried around on her head went out of fashion in the late 80’s.
“Blake. Nice to meet you!” he answered. I couldn’t help listening to the conversation. They were right behind me, and to be quite honest I also wanted to know if Blake was new.
“I’m from New York, the place where dreams come true,” he said and gave a chuckle so catchy that I couldn’t help but smile as well. Something I stopped doing the moment I realized I was doing it.
“I was there last summer! My dad’s sister lives out there. To be quite honest I didn’t really like it that much. There’s just too many people. Nobody seems to care about anybody there,” Alice resumed the conversation. I’m glad she did. Sometimes I just listened in on other conversations because it made me feel like I was a part of it.
“Hey Elijah, have you ever been to New York?” I felt Blake’s hand on my shoulder as he said it.
I started to turn around, ready to shake my head, but Alice jumped in before I even had a chance.
“So you met Elijah? He’s mute. Hasn’t said a single word since I met him in freshman year,” Alice offered up all the information needed. I was glad that it was Alice telling Blake that. She still did it in a nice way with a smile towards me. Lucy would’ve been mean while saying it, making me sound like the freak I am.
“Well, you’re not deaf are you?” Blake asked, looking directly at me, not mentioning the fact that I told him my name earlier, which I did find a bit odd.
I shook my head, making my fringe shift, exposing my left eye, but I automatically brushed it back, concealing my soul.
“Well, then I don’t see the problem. Have you been to New York City?” Blake repeated.
I shook my head a second time and then also noticed the sympathy forming in Alice’s eyes. Or maybe it was guilt? It was difficult to tell.
“You should go there someday. You would like it,” Blake said, although I didn’t have the faintest idea why he said it.
“Quite down now class!” a loud voice came from the front of the class as Mr. van Leer entered the classroom. Of all the teachers in the school he was by far my favorite and the only one never to try and force me to write the answer to a question down on a piece of paper and show it to him from across the class. He accepted the fact that I got good grades, and further ignored me for the most of the time, accept for offering that he was there for me if ever I needed to talk or write from time to time. Maybe it was because he was in his twenties that he still knew how to actually work with teenagers. He never seemed to pick favorites and always treated everybody exactly the same.
“First things first,” Mr. van Leer said. “We have a new student who has transferred here from New York. Would you mind standing up Mr. Barlow?”
Blake stood up and gave a weak smile as he waved to the class.
“If we could all help making feel Mr. Barlow welcome and accepted here I would really appreciate it. Now, let’s take out The Scarlet Letter and turn to chapter one.”
There was a ruffling of books and pages around the classroom as I heard Alice behind me offering her services to show Blake around school.
“I think I’ll get along, but thanks for the offer,” Blake dismissed her just as Mr. van Leer started to read the chapter.
“A throng of bearded men, in sad-colored garments and grey steeple-crowned hats, inter-mixed with women, some wearing hoods, and others bareheaded, was assembled in front of a wooden edifice…”
I just rested my head on my arms and listened to Mr. van Leer’s voice telling the story, closing my eyes and allowing the scene to play off inside my mind. Seeing the prison, the rust, the wood, every small detail of the words that filled my mind.
Like all other literary books I got at school I read it through twice before we started on it. Now it was nice not tensing up, but just taking in the scenery that unfolded.
When Mr. van Leer finished with the chapter I finally set upright again.
“So class, why do you think that Hawthorne began the story with a reflection about the need for a cemetery and a prison?” Mr. van Leer asked.
As I expected Lucy’s hand shot straight up into the air.
“Yes Lucy?” Mr. van Leer asked politely.
“Because there’s so much crime in this world and so many murders that it’s the two things every town need,” Lucy said and smiled to the classroom, even giving a little wave as if she had just won the Oscar for best actress.
“Good guess Lucy, but no. Anybody else?” Mr. van Leer said and gave Lucy a weak smile, who was still trying to wave to the rest of the class. Sometimes I wondered if she even hear what was said in class. Maybe if I could fake being mute she could fake being deaf?
“Nobody?” Mr. van Leer asked again. Then without raising his hand I hear Blake behind me beginning to speak. I couldn’t stop myself from turning around and looking him directly in the eyes, only to find his eyes fixed on mine as he spoke.
“Puritans wanted to create a Utopian society. They wanted everything to be perfect. The author however reminds us that nobody is perfect. That we all make mistakes. It’s purely metaphorical at this point in the book.”
“Very good Mr. Barlow! If we were at Hogwarts I would’ve just appointed five points to Hufflepuff,” Mr. van Leer smiled. That was just another reason why everybody liked him so much. His references to popular fiction that students actually read for fun.
“I’m in Slytherin,” Blake said loudly as he sat down, making Mr. van Leer give a laugh before he rested his eyes on his copy of his book again.
“Who was Ann Hutchison?” Mr. van Leer asked. This time however he skipped over Lucy’s raised hand, since we all knew she would get it wrong, and picked Alice whose hand was raised just as high.
“She was maybe a type of a feminist. She wanted women to be equal to men and that they could pray in public just like the men did. She was exiled from Rhode Island because of it,” Alice said with a smile as Mr. van Leer gave her a small applause. At that moment Lucy took the moment to be sour because she wasn’t picked to answer.
“She probably had ugly frizzy hair as well!” Lucy sneered in Alice’s direction, which made her smile drop just as fast as her correct answer had given it to her in the first place.
“Okay class, calm down! Rather tell me the significance of the wild rosebush that grows beside the prison door?” Mr. van Leer asked, but not before he gave a stern look towards Lucy, who surprisingly didn’t put her hand up this time. Blake on the other hand obviously had the answer, since he was almost leaning out of his chair to make sure he could be chosen.
“It represents God’s nature, and shows us that God is much kinder than any human can be, just as Lucy so generously showed us a few moments ago,” Blake said, which made the entire class burst out in laughter. Even though everybody thought Lucy to be dumb and mean, nobody ever said a word about it. Mainly because her father had loads of money, and partly because she was still good at doing major damage to your social reputation at the school.
“Thank you Mr. Barlow,” Mr. van Leer said trying to hide his own smile as he turned towards the board, which was also the moment Blake took to throw a crumbled piece of paper onto my desk.
I unfolded it, my heart raising, but at the same time wanting to climb out of my chest.
Blake had a swanky handwriting, almost like a girl. Neat, but with lots of curls, almost like he tries to impress with each and every letter.
Will you please have lunch with me?
I turned around and looked Blake in the eyes, slowly nodding, allowing a small smile to form on my face.
What on earth was I doing? Why would I be saying yes to having lunch with Blake? I didn’t talk and I did not want anybody to know me at all. Why was I allowing someone I’ve only known an hour closer to me than I allowed my own mother?