“Do you like to be called Philip or Phil?” She was pretty, this stranger, sitting across the room from him. Not pretty like his Mom, no she was pretty in a way that reminded him of girls he’d seen in superhero movies with his dad. This girl, in particular, reminded him a lot of Captain Marvel, and he liked her best. He was thinking of Captain Marvel’s belt and how he’d like one just like that when she waved her hand in front of his face,
“Yoohoo?” she asked playfully. His eyes met hers, and he smiled for a moment.
“Philip,” he responded, and picked up some of the markers on the table in front of him, removing the lids and smelling a faint whiff of watermelon.
Amy Rinaldi was sitting on the floor, at the same level of Philip the day she first met him, and she quite liked him. He was different than many of her other clients, willing to talk, albeit about things unrelated to his trauma, but he came, every week, twice a week, and while his mother usually sat outside the room waiting, she would fill Pam in about whatever they’d discussed each week. The first time she met Philip, though, her curiosity about his past had pushed him a little too far that day and she immediately regretted it.
“Can you tell me about your Dad?” she asked. Philip looked up at her, and his eyes furrowed, looking frustrated and a bit confused. She wondered if she’d overstepped asking about him so soon.
He was quiet for a few minutes, then, “What do you want to know?” he eyed her suspiciously.
“Whatever you want to tell me,”
“I don’t even know you, and…” he trailed off, his eyes glancing to a picture on her desk. He saw her, Amy, and a man, tall, thin, dark haired with their two children, presumably. For the rest of the forty-five minutes they had together, he didn’t speak again.
Amy motioned Pam to come into the room, and she picked up Philip’s backpack from school and thanked her politely, putting a hand on Philip’s shoulder, she glanced back.
“Thank you,” she said quietly, and Amy just nodded, puzzled on what had made their conversation end so abruptly.
“I’ll see you in a few days!” She smiled eagerly as he walked out of the small room and didn’t glance back.
Cece spent a lot of time these days alone. Sure, her grandmother was there most of the time, or her Aunt Larissa, or someone to watch her and her brother while her Mom was at the hospital, but most of the time she was in her room alone. This January afternoon, the weather had cooled, and sometimes she dreamed of snow in her backyard. She would try and think if she could remember snow when she was tiny, but only photos popped into her mind. She loved looking at a photo of her Mom and Dad building a snowman with her when she was maybe three years old, they looked so young to her, and happy. She’d forgotten what it looked like to be that happy.
“Cece!” she barely heard her name called from downstairs, but the light flickered in her bedroom. A doorbell of sorts that had been installed earlier that fall. She sighed, getting up from her bed, and stomping unnecessarily hard down the stairs.
“Oh,” she stopped when she saw Pam walk through the door.
“Hi honey,” she set down the bag she brought with her to the hospital and pulled her into her arms. Cece awkwardly let her body rest against her mother, Pam’s arms tightening against her, as she laid them flat against her sides.
What was she doing home?
She glanced around briefly looking for her grandmother but she wasn’t in sight. She figured Philip must have been in his room upstairs,
“I am so sorry Pam mumbled into Cece’s sweatshirt. Cece carefully brought her arms up, around her mother’s torso and hugged her back for a moment. “I miss you,” Pam whispered, and stroked her daughter’s long brown hair.
Cece pulled away and she signed, I miss you too. Are you home for a while?
Pam was still learning, but attempting to get better with lessons almost every day at the hospital when she wasn’t tending to Jim. She’d gotten very good at bathing, and shaving him from bed, watching as he’d get a quick haircut to keep his bangs out of his eyes, and putting lotion on his hands in the colder winter months; his elbows and hands always dried out. In the evenings though, she’d sit down with her dinner, and do a quick online lesson. She was picking this language up quickly, but she knew that for her to really learn, for her family to truly be able to engage, they needed to be immersed. That was the afternoon she had been told about the Tennessee School for the Deaf. Her friend Melanie, who was partially deaf, was teaching her ASL, (they’d met at the Pediatric Audiology department) and they’d have coffee or virtually do a lesson multiple times a week. That day though, she had slipped a pamphlet into Pam’s hands. She knew about the trouble Cece was having in school, and that her hearing had decreased to a profound level of hearing loss.
“Just think about it,” Melanie signed, as she showed Pam the cottages that the students’ lived in. They were adorable. Pam smiled reading about how the children lived in oversized cottages that were similar to their own homes with house mothers that would assist in homework, and they had time to watch movies, play video games, and continue their ASL immersion 24 hours a day, even outside of the classroom. The tuition was hefty for an out of state student, but she knew that something had to change for Cecelia, if nothing else in their life did. And if they lost Jim? Well, she knew she’d need a support system bigger than what their small family could give her. Jim was Cecelia’s entire world, and the reality of him not coming back was becoming more and more real every day, as was the little girl growing inside of her.
There’s something I want to talk to you about She set her hand on Cece’s back and motioned her to the island. She jumped up on the stool and Pam came around the corner into the kitchen, grabbing them both some juice that was in the fridge. Cece watched as she poured two glasses.
I know that I haven’t really been around much, because of Dad. And I know that school hasn’t been easy for you Cece scowled at this, she was fine. Pam raised an eyebrow in return,
Melanie told me about a really amazing school today. It’s for kids just like you, all the way through high school She was choosing her words, signs rather, carefully. It’s in Tennessee
Cece stood up, she pulled her hearing aids out, and turned around, storming away towards the stairs,
“Cece wait!” This did absolutely no good, and Pam moved quickly to the stairs, turning her daughter around, there were tears in her eyes.
You’re sick of me Cece signed, and let a few tears spill onto her freckled cheeks.
Pam pinched her thumb and two fingers together, over and over. “Baby, I am not sick of you,” she sighed, “It’s just, I haven’t been here, and I know you need more. And I don’t know if Daddy is going to be-” she stopped. Cece was staring through her. She was worried every time she saw her daughter there was a little less going on deep within her. Her eyes had become so dark, and she could barely read her most days.
“I’m not moving away,” she stated, and moved up the stairs, taking the time, even though she couldn’t hear it well, to slam her door, so that Pam, a floor down, was shook by the noise.
“So it’s in Tennessee,” Jim’s hand scrolled through the website, watching short clips of the children at the school signing, playing sports, and learning. He smiled, watching a group of kids cheering on at a basketball game, and thought of what it would be for Cece to be surrounded by students just like herself. “How long ago did you find out about this place?”
“It was back in January, Melanie told me about it,” she smiled weakly. Jim had been awake only a few days but he wanted to know everything, and the conversation about Cecelia’s hearing had been a point of interest for the majority of that day. “I don’t know if we should just send her away though Jim, she was pretty insistent about not going anywhere,” she pulled her thumb to her lip and bit the corner of it.
“So let’s not,” he looked up at her, and away from the computer. She looked at him puzzled, “let’s not send her away,”
“Doesn’t that sort of defeat the whole purpose of this conversation?” she was confused, and slightly frustrated they’d spent two hours discussing this school and affordability for nothing.
“If she resides in Nashville, it’s free right?”
Pam stared at him, this thought hadn’t even crossed her mind. Sure, she knew he was thinking of not going back to Athleap, that he’d think about getting back into teaching again and recertification once he was feeling back to normal, the stress tolling on him even when he wasn’t at work, but moving? All of them just uprooting their lives, and their home, and her mother, and moving to Tennessee?
“Just think about it, okay?” he asked her, his eyes widening and a smile crossing his lips. He was always more spontaneous than her, ready for his next adventure, and she loved that about him, but it terrified her to death. How could he be so sure they’d be fine, wherever they went. Where would they work? How would Philip handle another transition? How were they to make such a big decision about their family?
“So, you talked to the realtor?” Jim asked, as he pushed a curl out of his wife’s eyes,
“Yeah, she’s found a great rental for us now in Mt. Juliet. She said the schools are awesome for Philip, and that Cece will be in the right district for TSD, she said as soon as we’re ready we can go up,” her eyes widened, as she raised her shoulders into an excited hug.
Jim swallowed, for the first time in months he saw a vision of what would be like after the hospital. A better reason to get up every day and fight for the strength back in his legs. He’d told Athleap that afternoon he was giving his formal resignation, and already was looking into recertification for his English education degree. If this move was anything, it was a chance at a new life for them, to get away from this place that had been the source of so much sadness over the past year.
“Mom said she’d go up and get the rental ready for us,” Pam smiled. Jim was so grateful for everything Helene had been doing these past few months, he wasn’t sure how he’d ever be able to thank her.
“What about this little lady,” he tapped his fingers on her stomach, “we really need to think of a name, you know,” he grinned at her, planting a kiss on her head.
“What about Charlotte?”