SPEAKING THROUGH SOUND WAVES
One flat note. One sharp. Two. Three. One flat again.
With her brows furrowed in frustration, she let a torrent of air escape her lungs, her frown deepening as her eyes fell on the music in front of her. Why did it all have to be so hard?
She knew the answer, of course: because Tchaikovsky had written it that way. And because the level of repertoire that stood perched on the music stand in front of her was expected to be learnt by any aspiring performance major with her instrument.
She looked over at it. Dark mahogany wood overlaid by a smooth black strip that held the instrument’s strings looked back at her, the very top of her violin curling in on itself and staring back as reassuringly as an instrument could.
This hadn’t been her first violin. No, she had started out with something much smaller and shinier, perfect for a beginner at the tender age of six as she was when she had very first started the instrument. But now she was bigger, older, more experienced, as anyone would expect from an added fourteen years of honing her talents.
She scoffed, shaking her head. Talents. Much too glorified of a term if you asked her. All she had to do to create differences in pitch was put her fingers on the tapes around the fingerboard, which should have been gone long ago, though she had her reasons.
And the precious few who knew them paid no mind to the way she did things, her eyes always looking over at her fingers, studying them as she played. The many who didn’t, however, would throw an accusatory look her way, as if she should know better than to play with the different strips of tape forming what seemed almost like a rainbow against the inky black neck of her violin. The tapes, however, were the tool of a beginner, not to be seen on a college sophomore’s instrument, much less a future performer.
The sudden absence of cold, smooth wood beneath her fingers broke her out of her reverie and her eyes snapped open, her hand grasping the neck of her violin just before the body of the elegant instrument crashed into the ground.
Her eyes stared wide at the violin that was, thankfully, intact as it sat in front of her. Quickly checking it over to make sure no real damage had been done, she let out a quick breath and returned it to her shoulder, glaring at the music before her once more and cursing Tchaikovsky in her head, as there were times when she had little control over how loud her voice could be. Shaking out her right hand, she gripped her bow and began to play again, drawing it in long, smooth strokes over the strings. Though, soon, her bow strokes became light and bouncy, her fingertips flying over the tapes and landing perfectly on every one of them. Well, as perfect as a violinist playing with emotion can make them, of course, as she had learned certain techniques over the years that had only heightened her playing.
But none of that crossed her mind now as her eyes stayed trained on her left hand until she lifted her bow off the strings with a flourish. Her chest heaved in exhilaration as her mind imagined the cheering crowd. Then, she let her bow drop, finally basking in the feeling of pride coursing through her that, as every instrumentalist knows, only comes after a performance worthy run-through.
With a feeling of contentment slowly replacing the rush she had felt only moments earlier, she carefully laid her violin inside its case and zipped it closed, then checked her watch, her eyes widening when she saw the time.
Hurriedly, she slung the strap of her case over one shoulder, her backpack on the other, and bolted out of the practice room, almost forgetting her music on the way out.
Stuffing it under her arm and making a mental note to return it to its place with her instrument later, her eyes flitted down to her watch. She began to run faster. But it didn’t matter. She was already late.
Eventually, though, she made it to class and took her seat, which, unfortunately, was at the very front of the classroom.
“Lost track of time,” she mouthed. The professor, who had always been a little more lenient to the students who worked hard inside class and out, gave an understanding nod in return.
She smiled back at him, then took out her notebook to write down what she could from the board in the remaining time, though she knew her professor would send her an email containing the spoken word from the lecture after class for her to take down what she’d missed.
Though, for now, she simply sat and wrote diligently, her eyes flitting up and down from the board to her notebook as she tapped her toe to an imaginary beat, Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto playing in the back of her mind.
Another practice and another few missed notes greeted her the next day, though no tardy arrival to class joined it. One could say that she had learned her lesson, but, in reality, classes were over for the week, and now she was free to play Tchaikovsky to her heart’s content for the weekend, though content was the last word she would have chosen.
She grumbled, dropping her instrument from her shoulder in frustration, though she was careful not to let it slip from her hand this time, and glared at the music just as she had done yesterday. Breathing a diligent huff, she raised her instrument to her shoulder again. It was always those few measures leading into the cadenza that she stumbled on, though playing alone was normally never a problem. In fact, most of the time when she was practicing, with the added addition of a piano or orchestra or not, the thought of playing alone never even occurred to her, as she was so lost in the music she could rarely tell if an accompaniment even existed.
Running through a measure or two a few times until they reached her level of approval, she kept her eyes glued to her fingers, then let her instrument rest, a satisfied smile on her face as she finally allowed her mind to wander.
She didn’t have many in the way of friends at the university. The only person she would even think to consider one had to be her roommate, who, in her mind, only looked past the barrier between them because they stayed in the same room together. Though, she could be wrong. Her roommate did seem genuinely nice and had even accepted learning how to break that barrier with a smiling face when the opportunity had presented itself. Besides her, no one else had proven themselves to be anything more than a casual acquaintance. However, that suited her just fine. She couldn’t ask for anything better.
Shaking her head with an expression almost as bright as the sound of her violin, she laid the instrument in its case – being deliberate in stowing her music away with it – then slipped the strap over her shoulder. Taking care not to close the door to the practice room too loudly, she walked out of the building, pulling her jacket tightly around her.
It wasn’t exactly cold, not like the winters there that froze even the air, though a sudden gust of wind, even now in the spring (which she found to be just bearable in the year that she had lived on campus), could still send a slight chill through her bones, especially when she had been cooped up in a stuffy practice room for hours on end as she had been only moments ago.
Shaking off the sudden rush of cold, she zipped up her jacket and adjusted the strap on her shoulder, though of how many times she had done the same few steps over again she wasn’t sure. Returning the strap to the position it held when her jacket had been unzipped, she continued walking, the feel of her shoes hitting the pavement sending vibrations up her legs and into her body.
Her head looked up occasionally, mostly to watch for oncoming cars or people; otherwise, she kept her eyes on her feet, determined to make it to her dorm as fast as possible with no interruptions.
Suddenly, she felt a hand grab her and pull her roughly to the side. Her head snapped up. Her hands raised, curled into tight fists as she mentally prepared to fight off her aggressor. Then, she looked around. A white car was driving across the intersection she had been about to cross. Whoever had grabbed her, she realized, had pulled her out of harm’s way.
Her hands dropped and she turned to face the person whose hand had pulled her back, her chest heaving as her eyes brightened with thankfulness.
He was nothing in the way of special, with brown hair and eyes just as she had. Even so, she could sense they shared some common interest, even if she couldn’t quite make out what it was.
“You okay over there?” he asked. She nodded, only just realizing she was beginning to shake as the gravity of the situation dawned on her.
“Thank you,” she breathed out, scanning quickly over his expression after she had responded and letting a flicker of pride zip through her when it remained indifferent.
“No problem,” he said, casually sticking a hand in his pocket. “Were you going somewhere?”
She shrugged, hiking the strap of her case – which seemed very much a squeaky wheel at times – farther up onto her shoulder as she gave a slight shake of her head.
“Just back to my dorm,” she told him, watching him nod.
“I was going to go get some lunch,” he said. “Want to come?”
“I’m not that hungry,” she said, receiving a shrug in response.
“Come anyway. It doesn’t look like you get out too much.”
She laughed, though it was quickly stifled. She hadn’t heard her own laugh in years.
“Not really,” she responded with a soft chuckle, though even that was soon reduced to silence.
“Why do you do that?” he asked, her eyes filling with confusion.
“You’re not letting yourself laugh,” he said. Her face fell, quickly losing the grin it had once held. He was attentive, she’d realized, making a mental note only to smile whenever he’d said something funny.
“You should,” he continued. “It’s pretty.”
“Really?” she asked, amazement filling her eyes when he nodded. “I guess I forgot what it sounded like.”
“You don’t know what your own laugh sounds like?” he asked incredulously, making her sigh and tuck her hair behind her ears.
“What are those?” he asked, beckoning her to follow him down the street as she trained her eyes on her feet again.
“Hearing aids,” she responded after a moment, looking up at him to survey his expression, though it only seemed to be fueled by curiosity. “They help me hear the vibrations from things like cars when I’m walking, but you had to pull me out of the way of one just now, so they must not be on.”
As she finished her sentence, she reached a hand behind her ear and ran her fingers over the black treble clef on one hearing aid, then the other, flipping switches on the back of them and smiling contentedly when a low buzzing reached her ears.
“So, what do you need hearing aids for?” he asked, watching as she stuffed her hands into her pockets.
“Um, I’m deaf,” she said quietly. “They just help.”
“Oh,” he said, confusion filling his expression. “So, how can you understand me?”
“I can read lips, so I’m fine as long as I’m looking at you,” she said, making him nod in understanding.
She threw an appreciative look his way, partly for his indifference and partly for continuing to walk with her. She’d never gotten this far with most others.
“I’m guessing you didn’t expect me to stick around,” he said. She shrugged, giving him an affirming nod.
“How did you know?” she asked him, looking up to make sure she caught his words.
“You seem surprised.”
She laughed, completely forgetting her habit of stifling it while she showed off a toothy grin.
“Um, I’m Allison,” she said, stopping long enough to stick out a hand.
“Christian,” he responded, shaking her hand with bright eyes. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too.”
In the weeks that followed, Allison saw more and more of Christian, sometimes agreeing to a lunch after she’d practiced, and other times simply letting him walk her to a few of her classes, chatting about little things on the way. Today, she had agreed to lunch.
Sitting across from him at one of the many small, round tables in the school cafeteria, she gently took her case with her violin stowed safely inside and nestled it under the table, taking care to avoid her and Christian’s feet.
“Is that a violin case?” Christian asked with his mouth full, nodding his head towards it.
“Mmhm,” she responded, earning a confused look from him.
“But how—?” he began, though she cut him off with a sly smile.
“How do I play?” she said, Christian nodding mutely in response. “I have tapes that tell me where to put my fingers.”
“I’d like to hear you play sometime.”
“Yeah, I’m sure you would,” she responded, looking back at her sandwich in silence.
Christian sighed, tapping her on the shoulder and begrudgingly making her look up at him.
“What, you don’t want to play for me?” he asked, feigning a look of innocence.
“No, I do,” she assured him. “I just don’t usually play for a whole lot of people.”
“I don’t know how I sound. Hitting the right notes is about all I can control.”
“I’m sure you sound great,” said Christian, taking another bite of his lunch as Allison threw a thankful look in his direction. “What’s your major again?”
“Violin performance,” she told him before letting out a laugh at the ridiculousness of the simple statement.
“Wait, so, let me get this straight,” said Christian, holding up his hands in confusion. “You’re a violin performance major, and you don’t like to play for people?”
“I never said that!” Allison said indignantly, folding her arms in defiance. “I just don’t like to hit the wrong notes when I’m performing.”
“Uh-huh.” Christian nodded, wincing when Allison shook her head and hit him playfully on the arm, grinning.
“Stop it. Let me eat,” she said with a laugh, that was, for once, not hurriedly stifled like so many others, and finally took a bite of her sandwich.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Christian throw a warm, amused smile her way, then return to his lunch in silence.
A few minutes later, he broke the quiet, prompting Allison to tap his shoulder and making him look over at her.
“I can’t see you,” she said, shrugging when he mumbled a quick apology. “What were you saying?”
“Um, I’m not trying to be offensive, but, you know, since you can’t hear yourself talk—”
“That’s a nice way of putting it,” she remarked playfully, taking a bite of her lunch before looking back at Christian, who mimicked the half-smirk on her face for a moment before continuing to talk.
“So, how do you sound like you’re…”
Christian stopped, placing his chin in the palm of his hand as he sat in thought for a moment, looking occasionally over at Allison in hopes she would finish his sentence.
“How do I sound like I’m hearing?” she suggested after a moment, her eyes brightening when Christian nodded.
“I wasn’t born deaf,” she told him as she took a bite of her lunch. “I got really sick when I was around eight and ended up losing my hearing from the infection. But it’s good that I can still talk like I’m hearing, considering I haven’t heard my own voice in twelve years.”
“Yeah,” Christian agreed, a small smile on his face. “Um, it's beautiful, by the way.”
“Thank you,” Allison responded, a pale blush climbing her cheeks.
“Sure,” Christian said with a shrug. “So, um since you’re deaf, do you know, um…hold on, I can’t remember what it’s called…”
“Sign language?” said Allison, making Christian look up with a grin on his face.
“Yeah, that’s it.”
“Yeah, I do. Some people can get by with just that, but I personally think it helps to have sign language and lip reading for nicknames and stuff that I can’t sign.”
“Cool. So, can you teach me?”
“Sure.” Allison bobbed her head, her eyes bright with happiness at the prospect of another joining the small group of family and friends she held dear.
“Awesome! Um, I can help you work on playing for people, if that’s okay.”
“Great! So, a deal’s a deal, then?”
“Yep,” said Allison, sticking out her hand and giving Christian’s a firm shake. “A deal’s a deal.”
“Come on, please? We shook on it.”
Allison shook her head, holding the neck of her violin carefully in one hand and her bow in the other as she sat on one of the two hard, metal chairs in the practice room, avoiding Christian’s gaze.
His chest moved heavily up and down as he sighed, moving to sit on his heels in front of her with a pleading look on his face.
“Please?” he said again, receiving another shake of Allison’s head.
He sat in thought for a moment, then reached out and put his hand on hers, making her head snap up. Looking pleadingly at her one last time, he slowly took one hand and held it up to his chest, moving it carefully in a circle from left to right to sign “Please,”.
Reluctantly, Allison moved her violin carefully to her left hand and taking her right, with her thumb pointing towards her and her fingers outstretched, and pointing three times to her left, expertly signing “Fine,” in response as she rolled her eyes.
A quick twinge of satisfaction blanketed Christian’s expression, then he pulled her up, reassuring her with a quick look before she turned her gaze to her violin, returning it to her right hand as she quickly made sure the instrument was in tune, then put her fingers to the strings in a few different patterns. After a minute or two went by, however, she turned to Christian, letting her violin drop from her shoulder.
“I don’t know what to play. What do you want to hear?” she asked, Christian shrugging in response.
“Anything. It doesn’t matter to me.”
Allison nodded and stood deep in thought. A moment of silence passed, then she lifted her violin to her shoulder and, shaking her right hand out one last time, began to play. The fugue from Bach’s Sonata No. 1 in G Minor soon flooded the room, crashing against the white painted walls like tidal waves.
Christian had told her once, in one of their many meetings over the past few months, that music, for him, had always been a form of release, a chance for him to relax and just be himself, without the forged expressions and attitudes he walked around with to appease people. Allison had thought much the same, though music, to her, had always been more than just letting her walls down. In fact, it was the very thing keeping them up, keeping her trapped in her own little world where she could communicate with others in a way they would understand. At first, that world contained only her parents, who watched with nothing but pride as she, at eight years old, put her fingers to the tapes of her violin and began to play, though she could not hear it. Then her world grew, Allison finally allowing in her roommate when, after almost half a semester of pleading, she played for her in the dorm they shared, being applauded with her roommate’s open hands shaking quickly back and forth. Now, almost a semester later, it grew again in a cramped, stuffy practice room as Bach sailed through the air and the brown-haired boy in front of her watched intently, his eyes glued to every movement. Allison’s fingers landed on the last sequence of tapes, sending the last few notes to Christian’s ears before she dropped her bow. Searching the space for Christian, as she had suddenly remembered he was in the room, her eyes drifted to the chair he had been sitting in, then widened, blinking confusedly when she saw him on his feet, clapping.
“That was amazing,” he told her, though the immediate relief that had begun to pool up inside her was soon stifled by doubt as she shook her head.
“You’re just saying that,” she said quietly, watching as he jerked his head up suddenly with what could have been a scoff, though she couldn’t be certain.
“Are you kidding? You play better than some of the professionals I’ve seen, and much better than me, and you. Can’t. Hear. Allison, that’s amazing! You’re amazing.”
“Um, can you repeat that a little slower?” she asked, turning to face him fully. “You were talking too fast for me to follow.”
“Mmhm.” Christian nodded, moving himself and his chair closer to Allison. She smiled, then suddenly tensed, pulling back ever so slightly when he put a hand up to her face and kissed her, though, after a moment or two, she relaxed.
Almost bursting at the seams with happiness, Christian broke away, a small smile curving upwards on Allison’s face.
“You’re amazing,” he repeated softly, a breathy laugh leaving Allison’s lips as she began to register the feeling of Christian’s lips on hers from only moments before. “Also, I play violin.”
“You what?” Allison exclaimed, her eyes widening in amazement and joy. “Since when?”
“I’m double majoring in music and engineering, so I’m not practicing as much as you have to, but I still play. If you want how many years I’ve been playing, I started when I was around eight, so almost thirteen.”
“What are you working on?”
“Right now? Um, Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto.”
“Me too! I’d love to see you play sometime.”
“Then, will you give me an encore?” Christian said softly, confusion filling Allison’s eyes.
“Sure…” she said slowly, a bemused laugh following her words. “With what?”
Christian remained silent, quietly clearing his throat in attempt to give Allison a hint, a flash of victory welling up inside him when her eyes widened.
“Tchaikovsky?” she asked incredulously, only to receive a nod. “No. Anything else.”
“Oh, come on, please? You’d probably sweep the floor with me.”
“No,” she signed, definitively shaking her head.
Christian laid a gentle hand on her shoulder, making her turn reluctantly to face him.
“Please?” he signed back, a questioning, pleading look in his eyes as she sighed, then began to speak.
“Um, you know that thing you did earlier?” she asked with a smirk as her mind wandered back to the moments after the last notes of the Bach she had played began to fade away. Christian nodded, his mind straying back to those same few moments as his expression began to mirror Allison’s.
“Mmhm,” he said. “What about it?”
“Uh, could—could you do that again? Then maybe I’ll play for you.”
Christian beamed, gently taking Allison’s hand and pulling her towards him, then meeting her lips with a quick, shy peck. Allison returned it after moment and both violinists sat, quietly giggling as if they were only schoolchildren. Then, Christian spoke up.
“So, now you’ll play?” he asked, brightening when Allison giggled.
“Maybe. We’ll see,” Allison answered playfully.
“That’s good enough for me,” whispered Christian, gently taking her hand as they gazed into each other’s eyes.
Allison watched pridefully, a small laugh leaving her at the sight of yet another repetition of the simple sentence she had taught Christian as he signed it for what had to be at least the twentieth time that day, his eyes alight with fascination.
“Honey, I think I know what your name is by now,” she told him, making him laugh in response, though he still carefully signed, “Hello, my name is Christian,” one last time before looking up at her.
“You do it,” he urged her, a soft sigh leaving her mouth at his request, as he had already voiced it several times that day, though she complied with a lighthearted chuckle nonetheless. Lifting her hands from her lap, she quickly signed, “Hello, my name is Allison. Nice to meet you,” as Christian watched, fascinated by her speed and ease.
“How did you do that last part?” he asked confusedly, bringing his hands up and attempting to copy Allison’s motions.
“I’ll show you,” she told him. Laying her left hand face up in front of her, she took her right hand and brushed her palms together. “This is the sign for nice.”
“Okay…” Christian nodded slowly, carefully copying Allison’s actions and brushing his palms together just as she had done. “Like that?”
“Mmhm! Then you sign this for meet.”
At this, Allison took her hands and curled them into fists with her pointer fingers sticking straight up, then touched her hands together, her two first fingers facing each other.
Christian carefully copied her actions, looking up at her only to receive an affirming nod which caused him to brighten in response.
“Then you just point to whoever you’re talking to to sign you,” she continued, pointing at Christian with a smile. “And you put it all together like this.”
Looking up to make sure Christian was watching, Allison slowly signed “Nice to meet you,” then prompted Christian to follow.
“Nice…to meet…you…” he signed hesitantly. Looking up at Allison again and receiving another approving nod, he let his hands drop, then held up two fingers as his head tilted questioningly to the side.
Fighting back a laugh, Allison shook her head, taking Christian’s hand in her own.
“Like this,” she told him, curling his middle three fingers down to shape the sign language letter Y and moving it back and forth once between them, then dropping her hand from his to demonstrate, weaving the new sign into her previous sentence seamlessly.
“So, like this?” Christian asked, signing “Nice to meet you,” slightly faster than before, then taking his hand and curling his fingers into the shape of the new sign, moving it slowly back and forth between the two of them.
“Mmhm. Exactly.” Allison nodded, leaning forward to give him a peck on the cheek. “You’re a quick study.”
“I have a great teacher,” Christian responded, returning her kiss with one of his own. “And speaking of being a quick study, um…”
Christian warily raised his hands, his brows furrowed in concentration as he slowly signed “My friends want to meet you,” then looked back up at Allison, who was staring at him in surprise.
“Why?” she signed back, a sort of apprehensive confusion entering her eyes.
“Because I’ve been talking about you a lot lately and they’re curious, that’s all,” Christian told her. “If you don’t want to, I can just tell ‘em to wait. I don’t mind.”
“No, I don’t mind, it’s a good idea, I just haven’t had a good track record with hearing guys,” she whispered, looking up at Christian when he laid a hand on her shoulder.
“I promise they’ll be nice, okay? And if they’re not, I’ll talk to ‘em and we can just try again another time. It’ll be fun, Allie Cat.”
She chuckled softly, her hands subconsciously forming her name sign that Christian had turned into a spoken nickname within minutes of it being taught to him.
“Okay.” She looked up at him with a nod.
“Awesome! They wanted to meet us in the cafeteria for lunch. Is that okay?”
Allison nodded again and Christian pulled her up, lacing his fingers through hers and walking out of the door of her dorms down to the cafeteria, waving at his friends when he spotted them.
“You okay?” he signed to Allison, who gave his hand a squeeze.
He returned it happily as they walked up to the three young men sitting at a larger table they had put together.
“So, um, this is my roommate Chase,” Christian told her, pointing him out and watching as Allison gave him a wave, Chase happily returning it. “And this is Jordan and Gage.”
“I’m Allison,” she told them all, receiving waves from the three of them. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“You too,” Chase responded as he lifted his hands and smoothly signed “Nice to meet you.”
Allison’s eyes grew wide, a comfortable sort of surprise welling up inside her.
“You know sign language?” she signed back, watching intently as he nodded.
“I had to learn for my cousin. He’s hard of hearing. Are you?” signed Chase, thankful of the chance he had gotten to hone his skills. Allison quickly signed, “I’m Deaf,” in response, making Chase nod understandingly.
“Can you read lips?” he asked. Allison nodded, sneaking an amused glance at the look of pure befuddlement on Christian’s face.
“He’s so confused,” she signed to Chase, making him laugh.
“Hey, what are you saying about me?” Christian said after he had gotten Allison’s attention, forcing her to take a deep breath or two to avoid bursting out in laughter.
“Nothing,” she said, kissing his cheek reassuringly. “Chase was just asking me some questions, that’s all.”
Christian brightened and pulled Allison closer, kissing the top of her head.
“You’d better be good to her, man,” Jordan warned him. Christian flashed him a reassuring look as he sarcastically remarked, “Yeah, I will, Dad, don’t worry.”
Jordan rolled his eyes, turning to Allison with a friendly, questioning look.
“So, what’s your major?” he asked.
“Violin performance,” she responded, earning a look of confusion from the three of them.
“But how—?” began Gage, Allison cutting him off with a laugh.
“I have tapes so I know where to put my fingers,” she told him, making him give an understanding nod.
The rest of the afternoon passed with happy banter, a few laughs and a sign language conversation or two between Allison and Chase until they said their goodbyes and she and Christian made their way back to her dorm room happy and content as ever. Maybe, Allison thought, just maybe, hearing people weren’t as bad as they seemed.
“Hey, so there’s this implant thing—”
“Christian, drop it,” Allison snapped, her eyes brightening in triumph when she saw Christian’s lips stop moving. Though, when he sighed, bending down in front of her with his thumb gently grazing her cheek, she huffed, turning away with a slight frown.
“What’s wrong, Allie Cat?” he whispered, always able to turn whatever mood she was experiencing into happiness at the use of her nickname.
“Nothing,” she told him, turning away again. Christian followed, determined to stay within her line of sight. “Just don’t talk about that, okay?”
“Why?” Christian signed, earning a prideful smile from Allison as he showed off his newest word.
“Because,” she signed back, throwing his sign back at him as her eyes filled with annoyance.
“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked softly. “I won’t make you.”
Allison sat in thought for a moment, averting her gaze from Christian’s until he turned her face towards his, giving her hands a reassuring squeeze.
“You can trust me with whatever it is,” he told her gently. “I just want you to know that, okay?”
Allison nodded, making the mistake of blinking back tears in Christian’s line of sight as she battled with her emotions, apprehensiveness at the forefront of them all. He let out a long, deep sigh, worry pooling in his eyes as his mind ran wild, trying to figure out any way to comfort the girl in front of him.
Eventually, he led her over to the couch in the apartment he shared with Chase and sat her down, wiping away her tears with his shirtsleeve.
“Shh, it’s okay, Allie,” he whispered as he hugged her tight, knowing she could feel the vibrations of his voice rumbling through his chest as he spoke. “You’re okay.”
Silence surrounded the two of them for what felt like an eternity, then Allison sniffled, laying her head on Christian’s shoulder with a thump as he held her in his arms.
“Do…do you think I’m broken, Christian?” she asked hesitantly, feeling him shake his head as he turned to face her.
“I have never, ever, thought that. Not since the moment we met, do you understand me? You’re not broken, and even if you were, I wouldn’t want to fix you. You’re perfect just the way you are, I promise.”
Allison let out a shaky breath and wiped away her tears. She glanced at Christian’s expression, which brimmed with worry and curiosity, though it didn’t seem to push her towards divulging anything. He simply waited patiently for Allison to speak. She took one breath, then another, and finally began to talk, her voice shaky as she fought off an oncoming set of fresh, hot tears.
“Um, the last hearing guy I dated…” she began, looking up to meet Christian’s gaze to make sure he was still listening. “He was nice, for a while, and everything was okay, but then one day he kept bringing up the implant and he just wouldn’t let it go and when I’d asked him about it, he said he’d found a way to…I think his exact words were ‘to cure my deafness’ because he didn’t want to try and learn how to communicate with me anymore because it was ‘too hard’ for him and—”
“Oh, Allie, I’m so sorry,” Christian cut in, hugging Allison as tight as he could while she dissolved into a quietly sobbing mess of brown waves and clung to Christian as tightly as possible, though she still met his gaze when he put a hand up to wipe away her tears. “I promise I’ll never do anything like that to you as long as we both live. I promise. That guy was a jerk, and he had no right to say anything like that to you.”
“I know.” Allison nodded. “I broke up with him later that day if that makes you feel any better.”
“Good for you.” Christian chuckled warmly, sitting her up and running his fingers through her waves as he let his eyes brighten, hoping to make Allison see the humor in the situation.
Christian kissed her forehead, attempting to convey all the pride-filled love he held for her, then she spoke.
“I was thinking about getting the implants for a while, you know,” she said, Christian blinking in surprise.
“Really?” he asked. Allison nodded.
“I almost went through with it too,” she continued, shifting into a more comfortable position, though she was still wrapped safely in Christian’s arms. “But then people started thinking I was the broken girl and I took it to heart and—”
“But you’re not broken, Allie,” Christian whispered.
“I know. I’m just sick of everybody thinking it.” She sighed, looking up at him. “I just can’t hear, that’s all.”
“I know. You want to know why I brought it up?” he asked as he ran a thumb over Allison’s temple. She was silent, eventually giving him a nod. “Because I want us both to hear how beautiful you play. I feel like you deserve that, but I’ll only go through with it if you want to. I’m not forcing you.”
Allison nodded, sitting silently as she fell to thinking, then quietly spoke up again.
“My birthday’s coming up soon,” she told Christian, who smiled as he pulled her closer, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.
“Well, then, how about you can get the chance to hear me play if everything works out?” he suggested. “Would that be okay?”
“That would be amazing!” She nodded excitedly, wrapping her arms around his neck and hugging him tightly. “Thank you.”
Christian hummed in response, hugging her tightly while the look in his eyes filled with pleasure at the pure joy radiating off the girl in front of him.
“You okay?” Christian signed to Allison as they walked into the hospital waiting room and Christian signed her in, watching as she quickly shook her head back-and-forth. “What’s wrong?”
“Nervous,” she signed back. Christian gave her a tight one-armed hug, watching her hands intently as they sat down. “I don’t like surgeries.”
“You’re gonna be okay,” he reassured her, receiving a thankful smile as she laid her head on Christian’s shoulder and he leaned across his chair, sticking a hand out towards Allison’s father. He shook it, then Christian slowly raised his hands, Allison watching with a prideful smile on her face as he carefully signed his next words.
“Hello. My name is Christian. I’m Allison’s boyfriend.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Christian,” Allison’s father responded. “Did Allison teach you that?”
“Um, she did, actually,” Christian responded with a laugh. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were hearing.”
“Don’t be sorry,” Allison’s mother reassured him, Christian shooting her a thankful look. “You’re the first hearing boyfriend she’s had that would even bother with sign language around us.”
“Really?” Christian asked, his eyebrows raising in surprise when Allison’s mother nodded. “Then, I hope you don’t mind me saying so, but those other hearing guys are jerks.”
Allison’s mother laughed, then turned to her daughter with a perplexed look on her face.
“What convinced you?” she asked, gesturing to her ears after she had finished.
“Christian,” Allison signed back, feeling Christian perk up beside her as she spelled out his name. She smiled over at him, then continued to sign. “He wanted me to hear myself play. He says it’s beautiful.”
“It really is. I don’t know how she does it,” said Christian, Allison catching his words out of the corner of her eye as he spoke.
“Carefully,” she responded, making him laugh.
“Um, you don’t mind giving us a minute alone, do you? I wanted to talk to Allison about something in private.”
Allison’s parents nodded and walked to the other side of the waiting room as Christian turned to Allison.
“So—” he began, stopping when he saw the worry etched on Allison’s face. “Hey. What’s wrong, Allie Cat?”
“Nervous,” she mumbled, fidgeting with her intertwined hands.
“That’s okay. This is just a simple surgery,” Christian reassured her. “You'll go in and they’ll put you under and you’ll just be sleeping while they do what they do. Then, when you wake up, your parents are gonna take you back to your house and they can take care of you, and you can spend your whole spring break with them. That sounds good, right?”
“Will you at least come visit?” Allison asked. Christian nodded, kissing her forehead.
“Whenever you want,” he told her.
Her worry subsiding somewhat, she laid her head on his shoulder, though she perked up when Christian tapped hers.
“Um, have you thought about your future much at all?” he asked, making Allison cock her head confusedly to the side.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Um, just, you know, where you’re going after college.”
“Oh. Um…well, I thought I was going to be deaf coming out of college, so I was planning on going back to the school I went to growing up and teaching violin to the kids there that want to learn.”
“Mmhm. The world always needs more music, no matter who’s playing it. What about you?”
“I’ll probably go and work for some big company, but you’ll be there, I hope.”
“Of course I’ll be there,” Allison said with a laugh. “Is everything okay, Christian?”
“Yeah, it’s fine,” he assured her. “Why?”
“Well, why are you talking about all this right now?”
“Um, because I wanted to give you this,” said Christian, pulling a small box out of his pocket and flipping the top up. A silver infinity ring with a tiny, aquamarine stone nestled in the center sat inside.
“It’s a promise ring,” he explained quickly.
“I know what it is, Christian,” Allison told him, delight and curiosity mixing in her eyes as she watched him nervously respond.
“So?” he asked, his knee involuntarily bouncing speedily up and down as he waited on edge for an answer. “I’m not committing you to anything, this is just to say that I’m always gonna be there, whether we settle down together or not.”
Allison nodded, a smirk slowly replacing her thoughtful expression.
“You know, that whole ‘settling down together’ thing sounds pretty good,” she said, Christian’s face almost immediately lighting up in response.
“Really?” he said, his world suddenly seeming as clear as ever. “I mean, that’s what I wanted the ring to be for, but I didn’t want to pressure you and—”
“Christian, I want to settle down with you someday,” said Allison, a sense of assuredness to her voice that made Christian’s face brighten even more than she thought was possible. “Now, are you going to give me the ring or not?”
Christian laughed and pulled the ring out of its box, about to slip it on Allison’s left ring finger before a voice called her name, shifting his attention to the nurse standing at the door.
“You ready?” Christian asked, confusion filling Allison’s eyes at his question, though it quickly faded when she saw the nurse standing at the door.
She let out a shaky breath and nodded, then stood and made to walk towards the door, though she stopped when Christian grabbed her hand, turning to face him again as her parents walked back over to the two of them.
His chest moved slowly in and out as he took a breath, then raised his right hand up to her, making a fist, then holding up his thumb, pinkie and pointer finger as Allison gasped softly, a small grin forming on her face.
“I love you too,” she signed back, causing Christian to form a grin of his own as he let go of her hand and motioned towards the door.
“Don’t take too long,” he said, making her giggle before she walked off, soon disappearing through the door.
Christian gazed after her, then felt a few quick taps on his shoulder. He turned to see a young woman with a smile on her face, signing fluently to him, though she stopped when he put his hands up as a signal to wait.
“I don’t know much ASL. I’m hearing,” he responded, a slight apologetic look on his face.
“You’re good at signing,” she responded, Christian signing a quick “Thank you,” in response.
“My girlfriend teaches me,” he signed slowly, looking up from his hands only to receive an approving nod before she reached into her purse and pulled out a notepad and pen, hurriedly scribbling something onto it, then handing it to Christian. ‘In case you need it,’ it read.
“Thank you,” Christian signed, making her nod. “My name is Christian.”
“My name is Ella,” she responded, putting her palms together to start a sentence Christian could sign in his sleep: “Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too,” Christian signed with a smile.
Ella smiled back, then began to sign again, Christian switching back and forth from his hands to the notepad, which he passed to Ella at times so she could write down the sentences he had yet to understand, until he heard a voice call, “Family for Allison?” and he pointed the nurse out to Ella. She nodded, deftly signing “It was nice to meet you,” and giving him a wave. Christian returned it, signing “You too,” in response before following the nurse to Allison’s room in recovery, where she was only just beginning to blink awake.
Christian thanked the nurse, then gently took Allison’s hand, smiling when she turned towards him.
“Hey, sleepyhead,” he whispered, earning a soft chuckle from her.
“I’m tired,” she responded, Christian kissing the top of her head.
“I know. How about we get out of here and you can take a nap in your own bed, huh?” Christian said softly, making confusion fill Allison’s eyes.
“What about the surgery?” she asked groggily, Christian chuckling softly at her response.
“They already did it, Allie Cat. You’re waking up now,” he told her softly, brushing a hand over her forehead as a look of realization came over her face.
“Oh,” she said quietly. “Then, can we go home?”
“Mmhm.” Christian nodded. “Come on, let’s get you out of here.”
Allison smiled, stumbling slightly when Christian helped her up.
“Woah, careful,” he said softly, tightening his grip on her as she steadied herself. “You okay?”
“Mmhm. Just dizzy,” she responded, worry filling Christian’s eyes as he sat her back down.
“You think you can make it to the car, or do you need to sit here for a little bit?” he asked.
“We can go home. I’ll be fine,” Allison reassured him.
Christian gently kissed her cheek and carefully pulled her up, waiting until she gained her balance before slowly making his way out into the waiting room.
Allison smiled dazedly at her parents, reminding everyone once again that sleep was the first and only thing on her mind and earning a few soft laughs, then being led out into the parking lot.
“My parents are okay with this, right?” she asked sleepily once Christian had helped to buckle her in and was seated next to her.
“Mmhm. We asked them the day you said it was okay, remember?”
“Oh yeah. They’re here, right?” she said, causing Christian to stifle a laugh and kiss her cheek, giving her hand a squeeze.
“Mmhm. Hey, why don’t we put this where it belongs, huh?” he asked, pulling Allison’s promise ring out of its box and slipping it onto her finger when she nodded.
“Let’s get you home, babe,” he chuckled as he gave her hand a squeeze, Allison nodding woozily in response.
“I’m so tired,” she mumbled, letting off a quiet yawn.
“Then how about you can go to sleep, and I can be your pillow?” Christian suggested, making Allison nod and settle her head on his lap as she laughed sleepily.
“Don’t crash,” she muttered jokingly to her parents, Christian letting out a soft laugh as he kissed her forehead and saw her smirk.
“They won’t,” he assured her. “Sleep tight, Allie Cat.”
Allison mumbled something incoherent in response, then her eyes fluttered closed, her soft snores soon reaching Christian’s ears.
He gazed lovingly at her, soon shaking her awake as they pulled into her driveway.
“Hey,” he whispered softly when Allison turned her head. “We’re here. You just stay there, and I’ll help you out of the car, okay?”
She nodded and raised her arms up to stretch, slowly moving to unbuckle her seat belt as Christian went around to her side of the car, offering her his hand as she slowly got to her feet.
She yawned and laid her head on Christian’s shoulder, making him chuckle and rub her arm.
“Don’t fall asleep yet, baby, we have to get inside first,” he told her, laughing quietly when she grumbled, blearily blinking awake.
He slowly helped her inside and gently sat her on the couch, then Allison tapped him on the shoulder as he made to stand up.
“What’s up, Allie Cat?” he asked, smiling to himself when she pulled him back down and laid her head on his shoulder.
“Can you stay here? You’re comfortable,” she responded, making Christian laugh and nod as her parents came to sit in the room.
“How long have you been teaching Christian?” Allison’s mother asked her, her hands moving speedily as she signed.
“Since the start of the semester,” she responded as Christian put an arm around her. “He learned fast, didn’t he?”
Allison’s mother nodded.
“He plays violin, you know,” Allison told her, making her mother’s eyes light up.
“Really?” she asked Christian, who nodded.
“Mmhm. Not as well as Allison, but I still play.”
“I’m sure you’re amazing, honey,” Allison told him, making him give her a thankful look.
“Thanks, Allie Cat,” he said, pulling her closer and giving her a squeeze.
“We’re actually learning the same thing right now, so I said I’d play for her if everything works out,” said Christian, watching as Allison’s mother nodded.
“Chase was telling me the other day you’re playing the Tchaikovsky for some recital, or something?” said Allison after she had tapped him on the shoulder, receiving an affirming nod from Christian.
“Yeah, I am,” he told her. “For my junior recital, actually. You’re gonna be there, right?”
“Of course I am,” Allison said with a laugh. “I might be able to hear you too.”
“Mmhm.” Christian nodded. “You just might.”
“You ready?” Christian signed, his entire being brimming with excitement as Allison laughed.
“Christian, stop–” she began with a giggle, putting a hand on his knee in attempt to still it. “Stop bouncing, honey, I can't follow your hands.”
“Sorry,” he said quickly, smiling when Allison gave his lips a quick peck.
“It's okay,” she told him. “I'm excited too.”
Christian grinned back at her, then Allison's parents’ car came to a stop and they all walked into the audiologist’s office, Allison letting out an anxious sigh.
“Hey,” Christian said softly, putting a hand on her shoulder. “What's wrong, Allie Cat?”
“What if they don't work?” she whispered, looking almost helplessly up at Christian. “And–and if they do, what if I don’t like the way I play, or the way my voice sounds…or the way your voice sounds, or—”
“Hey. Hey, calm down,” said Christian, putting both of his hands on her shoulders. “Everything is gonna be fine, okay? They wouldn't have even scheduled the surgery if they didn’t think they were going to work.”
“Mmhm. And I know I’ve already told you this, but you sound amazing when you play and your voice, whether you like it or not, is something I’m never going to get tired of hearing.”
“What about you?”
“I think you liking the way my voice sounds is the least of my worries, babe,” he said with a soft laugh. “We both know you're not that shallow. And, look at it this way, if they do work, since you're turning twenty-one today, I’m taking you out for a drink, and if they don't work, since you're turning twenty-one today…”
“You're taking me out for a drink.” Allison laughed, thankfulness in her eyes as she smiled at him.
“Exactly,” said Christian, brightening at the look on Allison’s face.
“I love you,” she said softly.
“Me too, Allie,” Christian responded, pulling her into a hug as the audiologist walked into the room.
“Are you ready?” he signed to Allison, who nodded, smiling nervously over at Christian and her parents.
They smiled reassuringly back at her and the audiologist fit the sound processors, which looked much like hearing aids, though they felt much heavier, onto her ears.
“I can't hear anything,” Allison signed with a shake of her head, giving Christian’s hand a reassuring squeeze when worry seeped into his eyes.
The audiologist nodded and pressed a few keys on the computer in front of him, then looked back up at Allison.
“Now?” he signed, receiving another shake of Allison's head.
The audiologist looked up at Allison while he pressed a few more keys, smiling to himself when her eyes went wide.
“I heard something,” she signed, Christian giving her hand a tight, excited squeeze.
“Can you hear this?” the audiologist signed as he pressed another key, making a high-pitched beeping reach her ears. Allison nodded, a grin beginning to form on her face.
“I’m going to turn them on now,” the audiologist signed, Allison signing a quick “Okay,” in response.
The audiologist fit batteries into each of the processors, then shut the open compartments, each of them blending smoothly with the rest of the processors. He played another high-pitched beep and asked again if Allison could hear it, to which she responded with another nod, then he nodded to her parents, who smiled over at her.
“Hi, sweetie,” whispered Allison's mother, an expression of pure joy on her face as Allison gasped, her hands going up to cover her mouth. “Can you hear me?”
“Mmhm,” Allison responded shakily, nodding as she blinked back unshed tears. “That's your voice.”
Allison’s mother nodded, her eyes now brimming with joyful tears of her own.
“That–that's my voice,” she breathed in amazement, chuckling softly through her tears. “That's my voice, Mom.”
Allison's mother nodded again in response, a full-on grin glistening with tears of pure delight now stretching from ear to ear on her face.
Allison sat, amazed, in silence for a second or two, then let out a sound somewhere between a laugh and a sob and hugged her parents tightly.
“We love you so much, Allie,” her father whispered, making her face light up again at the strangely comforting change in pitch that reached her ears when he spoke.
“I love you too,” she whispered back, hugging them tightly again before Christian grabbed her hand.
She had long been accustomed to his touch, his smooth, wide hands, with fingers much like Perlman, encapsulating her smaller, more limber ones in his, more times than not making them disappear completely within his grasp except for the fingers that laced through his. However, when his lips moved, Allison saw just that, nothing but the movement of his lips alerting her of when he had begun to speak. So, when a warm, caring voice broke the silence – which was now accompanied by a soft buzzing from what Allison had been told was the air conditioner – she did not recognize at first that it was the boy who had learned sign language for her, even though, to him, it held no benefit. The boy who had befriended her, the spark they shared quickly igniting one of love. The boy who had stayed.
“Hey, Allie Cat,” he said softly, giving her hand a squeeze. “I love you.”
Allison laughed softly and sniffled, studying Christian with a newfound interest as her grin became plastered on her face.
“I love you too,” she whispered back, smiling when Christian reached forward to wipe away her tears. He grinned back at her and gave her a quick kiss, making her giggle.
“That makes a noise?” she asked, Christian nodding as he laughed.
“Mmhm,” he said, eliciting another giggle from her as he kissed her again, then turned back to the audiologist with a squeeze of Allison's hand.
“Your hearing will be a little sensitive for the first few weeks until your ears get used to hearing again, so no violin with those on until after that, okay?” he told her, making her nod, sticking out her bottom lip as Christian laughed, putting a hand on her shoulder.
“Hey, I’ll play for you as much as you want until you get a little more used to hearing. Does that sound okay?”
“That sounds great.” Allison nodded, a grin forming on her face again.
Christian grinned and hugged her tightly. Then, they all said their goodbyes to the audiologist, returning to Allison’s parents’ car and driving down the road back to her house.
“Keep talking,” she urged him excitedly as she buckled her seatbelt, lighting up at the sharp metallic click that reached her ears. He laughed.
“What do you want me to talk about?” he asked, Allison shrugging as she snuggled up against him, brightening again at the soft rustling that she heard when Christian’s shirt rubbed up against hers.
“Anything,” she responded. “Just talk. I like your voice.”
“Oh, really?” he said, making her nod, laughing when he smirked at her. “Well, then, I’m not gonna stop talking for a long, long time.”
“Yay,” said Allison. Christian laughed and kissed the top of her head, worry seeping into his eyes when Allison jumped.
“You okay?” he asked softly. Allison nodded, reassuringly squeezing his hand.
“That just scared me a little,” she told him, looking down in embarrassment as she fidgeted with her hands. “I, um, I forgot kisses made a noise.”
“That’s okay,” he assured her, taking her hands in his and running his thumbs over them. “You know, a lot of things make noise.”
“They do?” she asked, her eyes alight with curiosity when Christian nodded. “Like what?”
“Well, the car we’re in right now is making a noise. It’s kind of a buzz,” he said. “Can you hear it?”
Allison furrowed her brows in concentration for a minute or two, then nodded, slowly at first, though it eventually became more confident.
“What is that?” she asked.
“That’s the engine.”
“Oh,” Allison said. “What other things make a noise?”
“Uh…Chase. Chase makes noises.”
“Chase makes noises?” Allison asked, giving Christian a look as he chuckled.
“Yeah, all the time,” he said. “You should see him when there’s a game on. He gets really loud.”
Allison laughed, shaking her head, though she perked up at Christian’s next words.
“You make noises too, you know,” he said, earning a confused look from her.
“Like what?” she asked.
“You snore,” he said, Allison shaking her head in confusion.
“What does that sound like?”
“Um…” Chase fell silent, his chin perched on his hand as he thought, then his eyes brightened and he simply put his head back against his seat, mimicking the sound of snoring. Allison giggled and Christian opened an eye to see her making a face, her nose and eyes crinkling in slight disgust.
“It’s quieter when you do it,” he assured her, pulling her close again. “Cuter too.”
Allison sighed and shook her head, Christian simply humming in response as he pulled her closer, rubbing her arm as he kissed the top of her head.
“Happy birthday, Allie Cat.”
Christian yawned, flipping lazily through his phone as the thunderstorm that had started that evening raged on, smiling at the pictures of him and Allison that illuminated the screen. They had both begun, over the last few weeks, to become accustomed to Allison's newfound sense of hearing, Christian helping to explain new sounds, or put context to a few new words that had previously held no real meaning to her.
There were times, however, when it all would become too much and Christian was no longer an interpreter, but what he had been ever since the beginning: someone to talk to, and, on occasion, wipe away tears. And when a soft, hurried knock on the door of his and Chase’s apartment reached his ears, his head snapping up at the sound, he knew then it was one of those nights.
He sighed, standing with a stretch and making Chase, who was plucking experimentally on the strings of his guitar, look up at him.
“Everything okay?” he asked, Christian nodding in response as he ran a hand though his hair in an attempt to tame it.
“Yeah. I just think Allison's gonna crash here tonight,” he responded. “That okay?”
“Sure.” Chase shrugged.
Christian flashed him a thankful smile, then went to open the door, coming to face a shaking, teary-eyed Allison.
“Hey,” she said quietly, looking up at Christian with a halfhearted smile. He sighed, beckoning her inside, then pulling her into his arms as they sat on his bed.
“Allie, did you walk here?” he whispered, laying her head down on his shoulder.
“My roommate drove me,” she responded quietly, feeling Christian nod as he hugged her close.
“What’s wrong, baby?”
Allison took in a shaky breath, then opened her mouth to speak, only to close it again as she let out a whimper.
“Shh…shh, you're okay, I’ve got you,” Christian whispered.
“Use your hands, Allie Cat,” he signed, the simple sentence being one either of them could sign without thinking.
She gulped, taking a shaky breath, and nodded, gesturing to somewhere outside the dorm’s walls, then bringing her balled up hands to her ears and shaking them with another whimper.
Confusion filled Christian’s eyes as realization filled Chase’s, an apologetic smile on his face as he looked over at her.
“She’s saying the storm’s too loud,” he told Christian, who nodded in response. “She’s scared.”
“Come here, Allie,” he whispered, running his fingers through her waves and tracing the processors over her ears when his fingers got to them. “We can take these off, baby. You don’t have to have them on all the time.”
“No,” she whimpered, shaking her head. “Cause then we’ll have to go back to the hospital, and I’ll have to do another surgery and—”
“No, no, Allie, these can come off,” Christian explained with a soft laugh, running his fingers over the processors.
“They can?” she asked.
“Mmhm.” Christian nodded. “Here, I’ll show you.”
Slowly, Christian moved his hand to the back of her ear and slipped off the processor, Allison’s hand flying up to meet his at the introduction of the sudden quiet.
“Can I take off the other one?” he asked, his voice quieter than it had been before. Allison gave a slow nod and Christian slipped the other processor off her ear, holding them both in his open palm before setting them on the table on the room.
“Better?” he signed, brightening when Allison nodded, giving him a thankful, relieved smile.
She sniffled, Christian’s chest heaving as he let out a sigh and hugged her close again, laying down in his bed and pulling her to him while he rubbed her arm.
“You want to go to sleep?” he signed, Allison slowly nodding as she yawned, weaving her fingers into Christian’s.
“Good night, Allie Cat,” he whispered, gently kissing her temple. “I love you.”
“Christian, will you play for me?”
“In a minute, babe,” he responded as he quickly typed out another sentence to the essay he was writing on his computer, looking up at her when she gently set her violin and bow down on the chair next to Christian’s music stand.
“You’ve been doing that all day,” she told him softly, laying a hand on his. “Take a break.”
“But Allie, I have to finish this. I’ll play in a minute, I promise.”
“Honey, you’ve rewritten the same sentence three times,” said Allison, taking his hand off the keyboard of his computer and into hers. “Take a break.”
Christian sighed, running a hand tiredly through his hair and closing his computer with a drowsy smile towards Allison, brightening when she mirrored him.
“What do you want to hear?” he asked, a playful, mischievous smirk forming on her face.
“Tchaikovsky?” she said, making Christian let out an incredulous laugh.
“Seriously?” he asked, one look at Allison’s expression telling him that she was anything but kidding.
“You don’t have to play the whole thing,” she told him, a thankful look crossing his face. “Just the pretty part.”
“What’s the pretty part?” Christian asked softly, coming to sit beside her on his bed.
Allison opened her mouth to respond, then closed it again, letting out a groan of annoyance.
“I don’t know what it sounds like,” she grumbled, making Christian chuckle quietly.
“Can you describe it?” said Christian, Allison letting out a soft huff as she planted her chin in her hands and thought.
“Um, it’s at the end of the second page, after the 16th note runs, um…” she began, finally caving with a sigh, walking over to the chair she had set her violin and bow on and bringing her violin up to her shoulder. “This part.”
With her eyes glued on her fingers, Allison deftly drew her bow across her strings, making a warm, deep sound ring from the lower registers of her violin, eventually moving her fingers swiftly across all four strings until she lifted her bow into the air with a flourish, a grin spreading across her face as the sight of Christian’s applause caught her attention.
“Allie, that was beautiful,” he whispered, Allison meeting his awe filled eyes with ones of joy.
“Um, was it okay?” she asked as Christian walked up to her. “I don’t have the processors on.”
“Yeah.” He nodded, kissing her forehead. “Yeah, Allie Cat, that was amazing.”
Allison smiled, a slight blush climbing up her cheeks.
“Keep going,” Christian urged her, making her quickly shake her head as her eyes widened in realization.
“No, I’m…I’ll mess up,” she told him. Christian sighed, reassurance flooding into his loving gaze.
“You won’t. I promise,” he returned softly, walking over to his bedside table and grabbing Allison’s processors from their place the night before, then walking back over to her. “Do you want to try it with these?”
Allison pursed her lips in thought, then shrugged, nodding, and fit the processors onto her ears, her eyes brightening when Christian’s voice reached her.
“You ready?” he asked, Allison nodding as she put her violin up to her shoulder again.
“Where do you want me to start?”
“From where you were is good,” Christian responded, receiving a quick nod from Allison before she began to draw her bow across the strings again. Though, before she had even finished a measure, her violin fell from her shoulder and she shook her head, wincing.
“Too loud?” asked Christian, Allison nodding slowly as she took her hand away from her ear and set her violin and bow down, walking back over to Christian with a defeated sigh.
“Hey,” he said softly, putting a reassuring hand up to her face. “Don’t worry about it. You’ll get it eventually, Allie.”
“But it’s been weeks, Christian!” she said exasperatedly, flopping down onto his bed with a sigh.
“And the doctor said it might take weeks to get used to hearing everything,” he responded, sitting down next to her and placing a gentle hand on her knee. She brightened slightly, moving closer to him as her hands fidgeted distractedly with her promise ring.
“I just want to hear myself play, that’s all,” she said softly. “For the longest time, everyone’s said it’s amazing and I’m just…I’m sick of being the only one who doesn’t know what it sounds like.”
“Well, how about this?” began Christian, lacing his fingers through hers. “You play without the processors just like you always do, and I can record you, then you can listen to that while you get more used to hearing. Is that okay?”
“That sounds great.” Allison nodded, laying her head down on his shoulder.
Christian smiled to himself and gave Allison a tight, one-armed hug, then stood up, carefully taking his violin out of his case and tightening his bow, then turning to Allison with bright eyes.
“Where do you want me to start?” he asked.
“Can you go from the beginning?” Allison said, brightening when Christian nodded.
“Now, uh, I'm not as good as you, so I might mess up a little,” he told her, making her laugh, shaking her head.
“That doesn't matter,” she said softly. “This is just for fun.”
Christian threw a thankful look her way and let out a breath, finally setting his bow on his strings and drawing it across them in smooth, long strokes, closing his eyes while he played.
A content smile came over Allison's face and she closed her eyes, only listening, though she could tell Christian poured emotion into every bit of his playing without her even having to see it.
After a moment, she opened her eyes, having realized that Christian must have stopped playing, and raised her hands up to him, shaking them quickly back and forth in her form of applause. Christian smiled, letting out a soft chuckle as he came to sit over by her.
“So, you liked it?” he asked, making Allison nod enthusiastically.
“That was beautiful,” she assured him, giggling when he swooped in for a quick kiss. “I think you’re ready for that recital.”
Christian laughed, shaking his head.
“I’m not even close,” he told her.
“Well, I think you are, and I couldn’t even hear you until a few weeks ago, so I think that says a lot,” responded Allison, leaning in to kiss his cheek.
A thankful look crossed Christian’s face, then he sighed again, gently taking Allison’s hand.
“I love you, you know that?”
“I know. I love you too.”
A shaky, shallow breath left Christian’s lungs as he paced back and forth in the empty concert hall in the college’s fine arts building, gripping the neck of his violin tightly, as it had almost slipped from his grasp only moments ago.
“I can’t do this,” he muttered under his breath, shaking his head as the speed of his pacing practically doubled. “I can’t—I can’t go on stage in front of all those people and play. I’ll-I’ll mess up, I’m not—I’m not ready, I can’t—”
“Honey, calm down. You’ll be fine,” Allison said softly, though none of her words seemed to reach Christian’s ears as his dress shoes continued to make soft thumps on the carpeted floor.
“Christian,” she repeated, though he only continued to pace. “Christian!”
Finally, he stopped, looking up at Allison in slight surprise as he began to surface from his worry-induced haze.
“You’ll be just fine. Okay?” she said, Christian nodding slowly as Allison led him over to one of the many empty velvet chairs and sat him down. “You’ve had plenty of recitals, right?”
“Mmhm,” he answered quietly, lacing his fingers through Allison’s.
“This isn’t any different,” she said, running a gentle thumb over his hand. “And I’ll be up there with you, remember?”
“Oh, yeah.” Christian laughed, letting out a shaky breath as he stood and studied his violin before turning to Allison. “Um, can we run over Navarra one more time? I really don’t want to think about Tchaikovsky right now.”
“Mmhm!” Allison responded brightly, picking up her violin from the chair she had set it on and lifting it up to her shoulder. Christian did the same, watching closely as Allison cued him in with a sniff and a bob of her head, then they began to play, drawing their bows smoothly across the strings as they smiled at each other.
Locking eyes every occasionally as they played to make sure one followed the other, their bows shifted from gliding in smooth long strokes, to becoming quick and bouncy. A loving look passed between them, then Allison’s eyes darted to her fingers, her eyes glued on them as her bow moved once again in smooth, long strokes. Christian’s remained bouncy, hitting one string after another before both his and Allison’s bows returned to playing long and smooth, both players swaying to the music. Minutes upon minutes of sound filled the room until Christian and Allison’s fingers were simply floating above the strings, just barely touching them. They flashed each other a quick smile, Christian letting out a quick breath as their bows became light and bouncy once again, the tips of them just barely touching the strings on their respective violins as Allison and Christian’s left hands plucked the strings much like a guitarist would, then their fingers floated on the strings once more and, a measure or two later, they lifted their bows off their strings with a flourish, grins on both of their faces.
Christian laughed breathily and brought Allison into a tight, one-armed hug, his eyes bright as he let her go.
“Why aren’t you the soloist again?” he asked, Allison letting out a giggle.
“You’ll be fine,” she reassured him yet again. “Besides, I wouldn't want to steal your thunder.”
“What thunder?” Christian laughed, making Allison sigh as she flopped down into a chair.
“Play a little bit,” she urged him. “You’ll see.”
Christian opened his mouth to respond, then closed it with a soft sigh, putting his violin up to his shoulder and giving a sniff to cue himself in, then drawing his bow in smooth long strokes on the lower strings of his violin. A warm, rich sound filled the room and Allison closed her eyes to listen, a content expression on her face.
After a moment or two, Allison opened her eyes to see Christian with his eyes closed swaying to the music. She quietly picked up her violin and drew her bow across the strings, her part to the orchestral version of the piano accompaniment that would eventually back Christian filling the room.
His eyes fluttered open and he looked over at her, then continued to play, his sound and confidence growing as Allison accompanied him until he lifted his bow off the strings with a satisfied smile.
Allison let the final note ring out around the room before walking up to Christian and pressing her lips to his. She broke away with a loving look, gently running a thumb over the stubble trying to impersonate sideburns.
“That thunder right there,” she whispered.
A loving look crossed Christian’s face again and he brought his lips to hers for a brief but wonderful moment or two, a soft scratching reaching Allison’s ears as he brushed a piece of hair behind one of them, breaking away in surprise.
“You're wearing the processors,” he breathed, a grin slowly forming on his face.
Allison nodded, laughing joyously when Christian carefully set his violin in his open case, then picked her up, spinning her around in a circle before bringing her into a hug, her feet safely on the ground again.
“I love you so much, Allie Cat.”
“I love you too,” she whispered back, pulling away slightly to check the time on her phone. “We have to get backstage.”
Christian let out a breath and nodded, disappearing with Allison backstage just as the first few people attending the concert entered the previously empty recital hall.
“Are you sure you don’t want to just take my place up there?” he asked, Allison sighing as she walked forward and took his hands “I mean, you’re playing the same thing I am and you’re just so much better at it and—”
“No, I’m not.” Allison laughed. “I’m only just starting to hear how I play or what the different notes sound like again, so I have to figure it all out. You’ve done that for years. You’ll be just fine.”
A loving smile came over Christian’s face, then he peeked out into the almost half-filled hall, letting out a resolute huff.
“Um, I guess everybody’s here,” he said, receiving one last reassuring smile and a kiss from Allison before he turned to walk onstage.
“Good luck out there,” she said softly.
Christian nodded, then steeled himself one last time before walking towards the stage. Though, just before he made to step out onto the light hardwood floor and face the crowd, he turned to Allison with a smirk.
“See you on the other side,” he told her, making her giggle as she gave him a wave and he walked onstage.
In her perspective, out of the many others that had come to see him play, she had the best seat in the house, standing just offstage while she took in every minute of Christian’s playing. It was sometimes joyful, sometimes sad, though always full of emotion, whether it was Christian grinning, or simply the way he moved his bow in long, smooth strokes on the strings, pouring his heart and soul into every note.
However, occasionally, Allison would slip off her processors and simply watch Christian’s hands, or the way he swayed to the music, still evoking emotion even without the added sound. And music it was.
So, Allison kept her gaze fixed on Christian, whether it was with the processors on or off, determined to capture every movement of his fingers, every change of his bow, and every fading note as it withered away into the distance.
Then, someone tapped her shoulder.
She turned towards them, greeting the pianist that had accompanied Christian, who was none other than her roommate, Maria, with a friendly smile before realizing her hands were moving. Quickly signing “Wait,” she slipped the processors back on her ears – as she had taken them off for the time being – and motioned for her to continue.
“Sorry, I can’t see your hands,” she said apologetically. “I have the processors on, though. What’s up?”
“You ready to go onstage?” Maria asked, smiling to herself when Allison nodded excitedly.
“Christian’s amazing,” Maria told her, Allison nodding in agreement.
“I know,” she responded. “He even gives me a run for my money some days.”
Maria laughed, then took her place at the piano as Allison walked over to Christian, giving him a small smile in greeting.
“You were amazing,” she whispered to him before waving to the clapping crowd.
She winced, making both Christian and Maria look at her worriedly. She smiled at them both reassuringly, then took a bow and turned to Christian, raising her violin up to her shoulder.
He took a breath and nodded, mirroring the bob of Allison’s head when he cued her in and they both began to play, their last note filling the air a mere six minutes later as Christian and Allison took a bow and, one by one, the crowd stood, cheers filling the air around them.
A shaky, shallow breath left Allison’s lungs as she paced back and forth in front of the mirror in her and Christian’s bedroom, the memories of his junior recital filling her mind, though that had been almost two years ago. Since then, Christian had graduated, and he and Allison had moved in together in an apartment of his own Christian had bought just after he finished college. Now, on her graduation day, Allison paced inside that very apartment, only looking up when a soft knock reached her ears.
Her eyes locked onto Christian’s and she gave him a timid wave that he returned with a reassuring smile, walking up and kissing her cheek.
“Here. I know you were looking for it,” he said as he handed Allison her cap.
She looked thankfully at him, then grabbed his hand as he made to walk away, letting out a nervous sigh.
“What do I have to do again?” she asked, Christian leading her over to their bed and sitting her down.
“You're just gonna go out there and wait for your name to be called, then you get your diploma, shake some hands and then go have dinner with me and your parents.”
“Mmhm.” Christian nodded, gently lacing his fingers through hers.
Allison smiled, laying her head on Christian's shoulder and holding up her thumb, pointer finger and pinkie. Christian’s eyes brightened and he mirrored the sign Allison had held up, kissing her cheek.
The two of them sat in silence for a few minutes, then Allison sat up with a sigh, running her fingers over the slowly growing five-o-clock shadow on his face.
“Christian—” she began, a soft laugh cutting off her words.
“I know, I know, I can’t grow a beard,” he said, giving her a kiss. “I’ll go shave, then we can go, okay?”
Allison nodded, laughing softly as Christian stood, returning, clean shaven, a few minutes later and pulling Allison up. He adjusted the cap on her head with a smile, gazing lovingly into her eyes as he ran a thumb over her cheek.
“You look beautiful,” he whispered, making Allison shake her head, laughing breathily.
“Sure,” she said, gesturing to the graduation gown around her shoulders like a jacket. “Everyone will be wearing this, Christian.”
“I know.” Christian shrugged. “But I bet no one else has processors like you do.”
“They don’t need them,” Allison laughed.
“And you’re even more beautiful since you do,” Christian told her, Allison’s cheeks turning a deep shade of pink at his words.
“Thank you,” she whispered, leaning into Christian when he pulled her close.
“No problem, Allie Cat,” he whispered back, giving her hand a squeeze. “You ready to go?”
She nodded, her fingers laced through Christian’s as they walked out to his car and drove off to where that year’s graduation ceremony would be held.
Allison gave Christian’s hand a squeeze, which he happily returned as he parked, then he found his seat next to her parents while she waved to Maria, walking over to her with a smile.
“You ready?” she asked, brightening when Maria nodded, practically bouncing up and down with excitement.
“Okay, what’s going on?” Allison laughed. “You only get this jumpy when something big happened. What’s up?”
“Chase asked me to move in with him,” she blurted out, Allison’s eyebrows raising in surprise.
“That was fast. Hasn’t it only been six months?”
“Yeah, but it just feels right,” Maria told her, making Allison smile and hug her.
“Well, I’m happy for you guys,” she said, both women grinning when they let each other go.
“Me too,” said Maria, her eyes drifting down to Allison’s left hand. “Hey, you found your ring!”
“Yeah, Christian found it a few days ago. I actually can’t remember when I lost it. I always take it off in the same place.”
Allison shrugged, excitement painting her face as more and more graduating seniors joined the group of caps and gowns, the ceremony finally beginning. She and Maria threw each other a grin, then suddenly, Allison's name was called.
Letting out a shaky breath, she stepped forward, being handed her diploma and shaking a few hands just as Christian had told her, cheers from her family filling the air as she stepped off the stage, though Christian’s was by far the loudest.
Allison laughed, shaking her head as she flashed him a smile and a wave, then turned her attention back to the ceremony as the last few people stepped off the stage and Allison and the other new graduates fought to stay attentive through the few speeches that followed, though more than a few turned to their families, throwing excited glances back at them.
After the last speaker stepped off the podium, Allison gave one last tight hug to Maria, then hurried off to her parents and Christian, getting wrapped in his arms when she reached them.
“I'm so proud of you, Allie Cat,” he whispered.
Allison sighed contentedly while turning to hug her parents tightly, both of their faces beaming.
Christian watched, looking over at Allison with bright, prideful eyes, then he gently took her hand, making her turn.
“Can I ask you something?” he said, Allison nodding happily.
“Yeah, of course. What's up?”
“Um, actually, before I say anything, can you take off your ring for a minute?” he asked, making confusion fill Allison's eyes as her right hand drifted down to her ring.
“Sure…” she said slowly, cautiously slipping her ring off and putting it on her right hand, as her dress had no pockets to hold it. “You know, you could've at least waited until tomorrow to break up with me.”
“What?” Christian laughed, gently giving Allison's hand a squeeze. “Allie, I’m not breaking up with you. That's crazy.”
“You're not?” said Allison, taking a breath to stifle her panic as relief washed over her.
“No! Never.” Christian shook his head. “I just wanted to replace it with something a little better, that's all.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I want to settle down with you,” Christian said softly. “I mean I want to spend the rest of my life with you by my side when I wake up every day. I mean I want you in my future and I hope you’ll let me in yours.”
Letting out a long, slow breath, Christian carefully reached a hand inside his pocket, pulling out a small jewelry box and bending down on one knee. Allison gasped, her hands flying to cover her mouth, though they just as quickly went up to wipe away the tears brimming in her eyes when Christian balanced the now open box– nestling a shimmering golden ring inside, a channel of diamonds on either side of the aquamarine stone set in the middle – on his knee and slowly raised his hands.
“Allison Wilde,” he signed slowly, his trembling hands causing him to resign a letter once or twice. “Will you marry me?”
Allison swallowed hard, gazing at Christian and his hopeful, anxious gaze. She took a breath. Was she, Allison, who had only in the last few years dropped her guard, going to allow herself to keep it there forever? Had she permitted herself to fall in love with someone who could hear the world around him out of sheer curiosity? Was she willing to trust that he would never desert her, like the others she had developed a romantic attachment to had?
Her mind continued to race at the thoughts whirling around in her head, until now, as she absorbed the vision of the man who knelt down in front of her with a ring held in one hand, gazing at her with all the love he had to give. Her whispered answer was clear as day, as she knew it would be for the rest of their lives…
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