“I’m sorry, but at this point we don’t have any concrete knowledge on why she won’t speak.”
“Are you sure there isn’t just one more test you can run? We’ll pay for it all, of course. It’s not like it’s a burden for us- we’ve been saving up for our child for years.”
“We’ve already ran every test that might point us towards some sort of answer.”
“We’ve been trying for years to have a child, and now that we finally have one you’re trying to tell us that she’s going to have to be confined to special education classes?”
“Now, ma’am, that’s the exact opposite of what I’m trying to tell you… please, just calm down and listen, okay? I believe that being in a normal kindergarten classroom could be beneficial to her, considering that there appears to be nothing wrong with her mind or senses. She might even start talking once she sees other children doing it on a regular basis.”
Emory stopped swinging her feet when she heard this. A look of worry passed over her face, but no one was paying enough attention to notice it.
She had ran off to a deserted area of the schoolyard to avoid everyone, just as she had done for the past two years. The boy she had been assigned to sit next to in class followed her. “Hey, dummy!” he yelled. She winced at the familiar nickname. “Answer me!” he demanded. She glanced around, looking for an escape, a teacher, something. A grin appeared on his face when he noticed her eyes widen in fear. “I’m going to punch you to the ground, kick you, hurt you… I’m going to do everything because you can’t do anything!” The scene faded away as he laughed manically.
Tears blurred Emory’s vision as she tried to calm herself. She gripped her skull tightly in her hands. You’re okay. You’re at home, in your room. They can’t get to you here. They always did, though, in the form of nightmares. Almost every person that was a part of her life had played the role of the bully at one point or another. She hardly ever slept because of them, but the exhaustion that this habit caused was what made her do it anyways. There was only one nearby school and both of her parents worked, so this was something that constantly troubled her. Every teacher and student knew about her by now- even if they didn’t know her name, they still recognized her as “the girl who couldn’t talk”. Every day she considered running away and never looking back. She always imagined herself entering a golden city where she didn’t get teased and her stolen voice was returned to her. In the back of her mind, she knew that this place didn’t exist, that it was all just a fantasy she had made up in her head as motivation. That was why she was still here- because there wasn’t anyplace else for her to go. That’s not your only reason. In fact, you’ll go other places, but only as long as she’s by your side.
“I know that they’re hurting you. It’s pretty obvious by the look on your face.”
Meagan was the only person who would stand up for her. She was pretty, sweet, kind… everything that you would expect from a young girl. She could’ve been so many things… but she decided to give it all up and stay by Emory’s side instead. She was also the only person who never showed up in the nightmares.
Every night, while her parents were still asleep, Emory tried to talk. She would carefully form the words with her mouth and attempt to push sound out the same way she did when screaming or laughing. It never worked, but she continued trying anyways because there were just too many things that she wanted to say. “I love you.” “I’m glad you stuck with me for all these years.” “I wish we could be together forever.” “Thank you for everything.”
Emory grinned as she finished writing down the meaning of the final card. This was going to change her life. She would no longer have to go through notebook after notebook, scribbling down whatever it was that she wanted to say; getting frustrated when she was just writing down the same things every day. She had tried carrying around a whiteboard, but someone had made a complaint to the school about it. No one could say that it was bad for a kid to carry around a deck of cards- other kids did it. Everyone would just assume that they were normal cards, and if they did see the pictures taped to the back sides, they would have no idea what any of it meant unless Emory or Meagan told them.
Meagan was going to come over after school, and Emory had something very important that she wanted to ask her friend. She pulled out the cards that she would need and laid them on her desk. She had made extra copies of these four specifically for this day since they would both be communicating using them.
Emory’s parents secretly wished that Meagan was their daughter. At least, that was the impression that Emory got from a hushed conversation late at night. That was the last time she listened into a conversation that she wasn’t meant to hear.
The two friends sat at their usual table to eat. Once they were finished with their food, Emory laid out the cards for the day’s conversation. Meagan made a displeased face. “I can’t believe I used to be friends with those jerks.”
The concept of the cards was relatively simple to understand. Each one stood for a general idea, and when combined the ideas became more specific. Colors, such as red and green, where also used to make ideas more specific. In this case, the cards showed a beaker, a yellow smiley face, and a red speech bubble. The beaker stood for whatever science class the two of them were taking that year. A smiley face stood for a person or a word that represented a person. Because it was yellow, it meant that the word it was standing for was gender-neutral and referred to a person. This could be either “science teacher” or “lab partner”, but the red speech bubble made Meagan infer that it was a lab partner since teachers never said anything mean.
After school, Emory brought Meagan to her room. Her palms were sweaty, and her breathing pattern was a bit off. Emory picked up the cards and showed them to Meagan. The red heart was for romantic love, while the blue and pink smiley faces represented the two biological sexes. Back when they made the cards they hadn’t known any other way to denote “male” and “female” that they could agree upon, so they had stuck with the stereotypical colors.
Emory picked up the yellow smiley face, while Meagan picked up the pink and blue ones. She had been expecting this, which was why she had decided to have Meagan use the cards instead of answering out loud. If one of her parents came home early and overheard… things might not have turned out too well.
She pulled out a piece of paper and wrote in her best cursive, Will you go out with me?
Meagan nodded as tears filled her eyes. “Yes. I’ve wanted this for so long.”
Maybe she wasn’t the daughter that her parents wanted, but Emory had all the love that she needed right in front of her.
Author’s Note: This was written for the short story challenge on The Sims Forums. The theme for this month was “Late”. Fun fact: I didn’t actually start talking until I got glasses, which was when I was two (almost three).