Author's Note: The support I had for 'A Little Chemistry' was mind-blowing. I loved every review and bit of feedback I got, and I just couldn't resist putting a new story out there for you all. I do hope you guys follow my other Keith fanfics, and that you enjoy them, but here is the opening of a brand new, multi-chaptered that I have had in mind for awhile. I was inspired by the ABC Family show 'Switched at Birth,' and if you haven't seen it, I definitely recommend watching it. Anyway, this plot-bunny was born after watching that show, and now, I am SO excited to finally get it out there for you all. For anyone who doesn't know, this story will follow the Switched at Birth's theme of teenagers being deaf- Natalie's signing is in bold, and Keith's is in italics throughout this whole story. Please review, and enjoy the first chapter of: 'The Silence in Sound'.
Disclaimer: I do not own Keith, Ron Carlson, or Switched at Birth.
It was an odd sort of feeling, being around people who couldn't hear you.
She could see the looks on their faces; the smiles they offered since they could hear nothing, and because they assumed the world was a beautiful place- one that they would love to hear. She knew that it wasn't, though. The world wasn't an absolutely beautiful place all of the time, and sometimes, their smiles bothered her. Sometimes, she wished there was one person that could associate with the fact that all was not okay in the world. They were deaf, how could they even think it was? She sighed and took the piece of paper and pencil resting on the back tables, clocked in, and set off on her third week of volunteering. She slung the lanyard holding one key off her neck and opened the door that said employees only, with a loud sigh. She wished she didn't have to volunteer here and pretend to be so happy and lively, but it was either this or the party supply store. She figured at least this was somewhat less enthusiastic than a party place.
Brooke didn't mind the party supplies volunteering, but Brooke was also much happier than Natalie at the moment. Brooke cared about college, but she wasn't a fanatic about getting perfect grades and scholarships. Brooke was very driven, but also laid back: a mix that always confused Natalie. Brooke always supported her, and always tried to point out the good things in life to Natalie, but it didn't always work. One morning, in the girl's bathroom, as Natalie was caking on make-up to cover a bruise across her cheek, Brooke had tried explaining to her the various routes she could take in dumping Rafael. One had been to just tell him, one had been to avoid him, and one had been for both of them to beat him to a pulp and run. Whereas this had gotten a laugh out of Natalie, the joy had lasted long, and after school Brooke helped her nurse another bruise with ice in the parking lot. Natalie forced herself to please Rafael, but it never worked.
Natalie swung open one of two double doors and walked down the hallway, watching as her feet slid across the white tile floors. She knew the sound of shuffling feet was obnoxious, but she was just so tired. She had been up all night studying for finals, and now that she had taken them and gone through a full day at school, she was ready to go home, not volunteer until 8 O'clock. Natalie had been so focused on her GPA, that she hadn't given her volunteer hours any thought. Now, here she was. It was 5 months until graduation, and she had no hours. Billger's School for the Deaf had been kind enough to offer her doubled hours, and meals with the rest of the students, so she took the opportunity. Most of the kids here stayed only for regular school, and then went home at 4 O'clock, while others stayed overnight for months on end. Those bad cases, the ones that were almost fully deaf, were treated like they were at a boarding school.
Natalie fluffed the pillows on the row of empty beds and straightened the sheets. Turning to the laundry basket that was on the floor, she folded the clothes and looked at the tags to see what letter was on them. 'R' went to the bed with the respective 'R' on the headboard, as did S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, and Z. she came to the last bed and placed the clothes near a binder that read: English Comp. 1, Keith Zett. She stared at the notebook curiously- no one ever left their personal things lying around. Shrugging and turning to her right, she let out a frightened scream as she came face to face with a young boy she hadn't known was behind her. He simply laughed and shook his head as she apologized. He pointed to his ears, still shaking his head no. Natalie sighed and tried hard to remember the signing the crew had taught her.
It's fine. The boy signed back. I get a kick out of people looking at my notebook; the last name is missing letters- Not dumb enough to leave things lying around.
Natalie took her pointer and middle fingers, and ran them down her nose, signaling laughter.
Keith smirked but it quickly faded as he plopped down on his bed. He rubbed his red eyes and let out a deep breath.
You're the volunteer?
You, are, the, volunteer, right?
You aren't very good at the native language.
Natalie furrowed her eyebrows, and Keith rolled his eyes.
I know, I know, slower. You, are, not good, at our language.
I've just started learning
Keith nodded, un-motivated to try to sign to her again. Natalie noticed that he was done with the conversation and offered him a curt nod before exiting the room. As annoying as it had been to be told repeatedly that your signing was poor, (especially when you've never been told anything pertaining language, or school was bad), Natalie was happy to find someone in this place that didn't false a smile. In fact, no one else had even talked to her during the past 3 weeks except everyone who could actually speak. She hiked the laundry basket up higher on her hip and continued to the wash room to drop it off. She still had two hours left of her shift, and she would have continued talking to Keith if he hadn't been so adamant and sarcastic about her terrible signing skills. She shrugged and set the basket down. glancing at the clock, she realized they'd be serving dinner soon, and that she would have to hurry to the staffroom to make it in time.
She decided that she would go home that night and take a break from the schoolwork to learn better sign language; she really wanted to have a longer conversation with the boy holding a mysterious glint in his bright green eyes. Rushing down the hallway, she heard footsteps behind her as she approached the door to the staffroom. She had made it just in the nick of time, and she was incredibly thankful. Hunger screamed out in her stomach, causing an uncomfortable pain in lower abdomen. She saw motion out of the corner of her eyes and turned.
These aren't mine
Natalie eyed the shirts he held in his hand curiously.
Put them on the person's bed they belong to
That's your job. He smirked.
Natalie sighed. No dinner for me tonight
You don't have to come back just to put them on the beds, I'm simply saying that you need to do your job better.
Thanks for the concern
Keith nodded and turned back, walking in the opposite direction, and then making a left before disappearing. Natalie shook her head and walked into the staffroom then. She was greeted by their smiling faces and shouts of, 'thought you got lost!' Most of the people on the staff were young, in their mid-twenties to early thirties. There were only about two forty year olds, and the principle was in his 50's. Natalie took the seat that he, Mr. Mkinnon offered her, and took her plate from Lynda, one of the forty year olds that ran the gardening classes for younger girls.
"So, how was your day today, Miss Anderson? Anybody speak to you yet?"
"Uhm, this kid, Keith in the second boy's dormitory did."
Moira smiled. "Keith is brand new. He just moved schools Monday. He's one of our cases that wasn't born deaf, so he's been taking a little more 'getting used to' than the others.
Natalie nodded. "How did he become deaf, then?"
Normally, the kids she saw were born deaf, or their hearing had gradually declined as a birth defect or family history. It was odd that someone who appeared to be her age, (17), would transfer/lose their hearing so late in life.
"Keith was diagnosed with a tumor a year ago. The tumor is pressing down on the hearing receptors in his brain- he's only been deaf for about 3 months."
Natalie's mouth hung open slightly before she replied: "Why doesn't he talk then?"
"It's been long enough for him not to recall volume control, or how to form certain words. The tumor is pressing down on that whole section of his brain, so certain things just don't register. He is a trip, though- Keeps us laughing, that kid. I don't think he's too thrilled about being here, though. I think he'd rather act mute than be labeled as deaf the rest of his life."
"Understandable," Natalie replied simply, digging into her dinner.
They all sat there, chatting amiably until the meal was finished. By the time it was over, Natalie had a half hour left of volunteering before she could clock out, so she mentally checked over everything she had done: mopped, folded the clothes, made the beds, cleaned the bathrooms, and labeled new books before putting them in the library. Everything was finished. She checked the sheet of paper Melanie, (the Gym teacher), had left her just to double check. Melanie was a loud, outgoing, kind person who had taken to Natalie quite quickly. Natalie laughed as she saw the last 'To-do' item, scrawled quickly in Melanie's bubbly cursive: Make a new friend!
Natalie checked that off too. Whereas she wasn't sure that Keith was her friend, per-say, she had indeed made an acquaintance, and that was important. Melanie had encouraged her to speak to as many new people as she could so that they would take her to all the school functions and fundraisers. Figuring Keith wasn't one of the teens that would participate in any of those things, though, she decided to just get to know him. She didn't really care about being taken to their school events, a deaf prom, or fundraisers, so it didn't bother her much. She slipped the sheet of paper into the drop box in the back room and rested the pencil back on the table. She went to her chart to write in how many hours she had put in for approval. Principle Mkinnon was already back there, s he immediately wrote in double the hours and stamped is approval on her sheet. She smiled grateful and stowed the paper into her pocket to turn in to Mr. Miles.
Walter handled all of their transcripts and guidance counselor stuff now since their original one had just been fired. Natalie knew that Walter wasn't specifically qualified for the job, but that he was better prepared for it than any other member of the school staff, and she enjoyed talking to him about her future plans, and volunteer stuff. Natalie walked down the hallway to the front door, now that her time was finally up. When she arrived there, though, and looked up from pulling her keys out of her purse, she came face to face with Keith. He stood there, staring at her with a childish grin plastered across his face, his green, plaid pajamas bringing out the color of his eyes though they were red and tired with no sleep.
When do you volunteer next?
Next Friday, why?
Maybe, you can help me clean out the REC room.
Why are you cleaning it?
They gave me something to do instead of wondering aimlessly. He offered her a disgusted face.
You don't like it here, do you?
He shrugged, but didn't sign back. For a moment, Natalie was sure he had mentally checked out of this conversation like he had the last two, but then he signed back slowly: I miss my truck.
You can never leave here?
They let us out some weekends, and holidays, but it isn't the same. My Dad has to drive it here, and I'd rather be driving her everywhere.
Keith chuckled. Yes, her, jealous?
Natalie laughed and shook her head. No.
Keith began to walk past her, but turned to her and signed: You should be, smiling before walking away.
Natalie just rolled her eyes and exited the school. When she got to her car, though, right out front, she did take one last look down the hallway before pulling out.