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Deaf

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Beca Mitchell stood, her back against the wall of the playground while she looked out at the multitude of children running around before her. Squeals of delight sounded around her while the kids enjoyed recess.

And while Beca normally loved recess, today was different. Because her mind was on the new kid. The new kid who had arrived in their class moments before the bell rang for recess. The new kid who was currently stood at the classroom window, looking out at the children in the playground.

Beca couldn’t quite understand why Chloe didn’t want to come out and play. Recess was like the best time of day! Other than music class - but that was only on a Thursday afternoon.

The seven year old looked at the redhead, and felt a tightness in her chest. She didn’t like how sad Chloe looked.

The bell rang and the children all dashed to the doors of their respective classrooms with excitable squeals.

“Miss Bradshaw?” Beca asked as she joined the line of children that queued to go back into class, grabbing the hem of her teacher’s sweater to pull the woman to a stop, “How come the new kid didn’t come out and play?”

She watched as the teacher hesitated, then looked down at Beca with a kind smile, “Starting a new school can be scary, Beca. Maybe you should try and make friends with her?”

Beca nodded, looking at her classmates ahead of her as her teacher moved to the front of the line. Maybe she should.

But as the brunette stepped back into the classroom, she watched in disappointment while Aubrey Posen strode up to the new kid and took her firmly by the hand, tugging her to the carpet area where all the children would sit. Aubrey was brave and loud and confident and very clever. Of course she’d make friends with the new girl first.

So Beca took a seat on the carpet behind Aubrey and the new kid, crossing her legs and watching Chloe somewhat curiously. Aubrey, of course, began rambling about her favourite dress (which she happened to be wearing) and how her father was set to return from war next week (which she couldn’t wait for). But Beca noticed that Chloe seemed to just smile awkwardly at Aubrey while staring hard at the girl’s mouth. It was very odd.

After a short while Aubrey paused, furrowing her brow. “You don’t say much, do you.” and a couple of moments passed where Chloe just stared at Aubrey nervously before shrugging. Beca knew there was no way Aubrey would have the patience to keep going like this. And unsurprisingly the blonde girl let out a huff in frustration.

“You’re boring.” she muttered, and with that Aubrey rose to her feet, moving to the other end of the carpet to sit with Stacie and Flo - two other clever confident girls in the class.

Beca swallowed loudly, noting the way Chloe seemed to look over at the girls longingly. The redhead looked sad again, and tears shone in her eyes. Beca didn’t know why she cared so much about this kid. Something drew her to Chloe. Perhaps it was because the kid looked so lonely? Beca remembered how lonely it felt being the new kid.

So she shuffled forward on her butt to sit beside the new kid. Chloe seemed a little shocked by Beca’s arrival, as though she hadn’t even heard her approach. But once she saw Beca’s kind, nervous smile, Chloe seemed to relax a little.

“Hi. I’m Beca.” Beca said, waving gently. Chloe didn’t introduce herself. But she did wave gently in return with a shy smile on her own face. At least that was a start?

“Do you have a favourite book?” Beca asked, remembering that today would mark the start of a new ‘storytime book’ that Miss Bradshaw would read out to them - a chapter a day.

Chloe hesitated, her smile dropping slightly as Beca simply waited patiently for a reply. But Beca didn’t give up like Aubrey did. And because of this, Chloe gently shook her head to try to communicate to the girl that she didn’t understand what Beca had said. Beca didn’t pick up on that information, and instead the seven year old just shrugged.

“That’s okay. There are so many books in the world, it’s hard to pick just one. My favourite is The Cat in the Hat. Thing 1 and Thing 2 are so funny! They…”

Chloe watched the girl beside her hard. Or more specifically, watched her mouth, trying to figure out what she was saying. It didn’t help that this kid kept bringing her head down to look at her hands while she spoke - Chloe struggled to lip read whenever someone did that.

It was never going to be easy starting here as a child who was hard of hearing in a hearing school. But Chloe had been desperate to join a bigger school and make some friends instead of being homeschooled by her mother. Perhaps this girl who appeared to be chatting away about something would be her new friend?

“…I can let you borrow it if you like? I think you’d really like it.” Beca finished with a giggle, finally looking back up at Chloe with a grin. The girl had a soft smile on her face, but remained silent. Beca hesitated. She knew kids could be shy. Hell, even she had been shy when she’d joined this school last year. But she hadn’t been mute.

Beca cleared her throat, but just as she was about to ask another question, their teacher clapped her hands to gain the children’s attention. Chloe noticed the girl beside her and her other new classmates turning to look at something at the front of the classroom, and when the redhead also turned to look, she saw the teacher talking to them with a big smile on her face. Fortunately, Chloe spied the translator she’d arrived at the classroom with earlier, sat beside the teacher, and she watched as the woman signed what Miss Bradshaw was saying.

“So you may notice we have someone else joining me at the front today.” Miss Bradshaw said, motioning to the woman beside her and her young students all nodded, their big wide eyes having already clocked the stranger moments earlier. “This is Mrs Hinchcliffe. She will be in class every day for the rest of the school year to communicate what’s being said in the classroom to and from Chloe.”

Beca, along with the rest of her classmates, turned to look at the new girl. The colour drained from Chloe’s face as she peered anxiously at each child that stared back at her. This was scary.

“Eyes on me please!” Miss Bradshaw said quickly, realising that what she’d said hadn’t been the wisest of moves. That poor kid. Fortunately the children all promptly turned back to look up at her, “You see, Chloe is deaf. It means she can’t hear.”

Beca glanced at Chloe again, her little eyebrows rising as the young redhead stared at the translator, presumably translating what was being said by their teacher. So thatwas why Chloe was so quiet. She hadn’t heard a word Beca had just said!

Thirty minutes later and Beca plodded up to Miss Bradshaw who was now sat at her desk while the seven year olds drew pictures relating to the first chapter of the dinosaur book she’d started reading them. The teacher immediately noticed the petite child, Beca looking up at her with her big deep blue eyes. And Beca looked concerned.

“Miss Bradshaw?”

“Yes Beca.” The woman replied in a soft kind tone. She’d always had a soft spot for this kid. The kid that had been so quiet when she’d first joined the school last year. And while still quieter than most in the class (unlike Patricia Hobart) Beca appeared to channel that quietness into becoming fully aware of her surroundings and all that was going on with the people around her.

“I want to talk to Chloe but don’t know how.”

The teacher felt her heart warm at how sweet the youngster was. She could see the torment going through Beca’s mind. She knew Beca would’ve tried her hardest already to become friends with Chloe, but that Chloe’s deafness would’ve provided a barrier.

“Why don’t you write what you want to say down on a piece of paper and show her?”

Beca hesitated and her chest felt a little tight. “Write?” She checked nervously. She wasn’t very good at writing. Or reading. She found it really hard. She was at the bottom of the class for both reading and writing. It upset her a lot, but her Daddy had told her that every kid was different, and that even though reading and writing wasn’t her strongest subject, music and dance was. Beca loved music and dance. “I-I‘m not very good at writing.”

“It won’t matter to Chloe, Beca.” Miss Bradshaw replied in an encouraging tone, “She’ll be really happy you tried to communicate with her.”

The seven year old looked over her shoulder to see Chloe looking much more relaxed as the translator chatted to the child in sign while Chloe signed back. Beca wished she knew what Chloe was saying.

Chloe let out a giggle at the joke Mrs Hinchcliffe had just told her. She would have to try to remember it to tell her Mommy when she got home later. Her Mommy would be pleased she’d had a nice time at a proper school.

Suddenly she jumped as a hand rested on her shoulder. Chloe was startled quite easily due to not being able to hear people approach her, no matter which direction they were coming from. The little redhead turned to see that girl again, blinking at her with her big blue eyes. And Chloe looked down to see that the girl was holding out a note with some writing on, which Chloe slowly took.

The handwriting was scrawly and a little difficult to read, but Chloe peered at it and managed to make out what the girl had written to her:

Hi my name is Beca

Im sory I sed so much befor but you cudunt heer

Wanto be frends?

Chloe looked up from the note with a massive smile on her face. She waved enthusiastically back at Beca, mouthing “Hi Beca!” and to her delight, Beca grinned and waved back.

Beca felt giddy with excitement. The note had actually worked! And her writing must not have been so bad that the new girl didn’t like her. To see Chloe looking so happy made Beca feel happy. Though she became a little nervous when Chloe began signing eagerly at her. Beca’s heart sank. She didn’t know what Chloe was saying to her, and her shoulders slumped slightly.

“What were you asking me earlier?” came the translator’s voice, making Beca jump for a moment. The girl looked over at Mrs Hinchcliffe with a slightly alarmed expression. But Chloe let out a chuckle, reaching out and gently taking Beca’s wrist to draw her attention back to her.

The two seven year olds looked at each other as Chloe began quickly signing with an amused smile on her face. And as she signed, Beca watched the little redhead’s face while listening to Mrs Hinchcliffe who had begun talking again.

“Mrs Hinchcliffe is here to translate for me.” The woman said before pausing as Chloe paused, then speaking again as Chloe added, “And for you. Anything you say to me she can sign so I can understand. And anything I sign, she can say to you so you can understand.”

Beca’s face lit up when she realised what this meant. It meant she didn’t have to worry about reading and writing when communicating with Chloe. And she was thrilled! The little girl turned to the grown up with them.

“Can you tell her that earlier I asked her what her favourite book was?”

Mrs Hinchcliffe turned to Chloe and spoke while she signed: “Earlier, I wanted to know what your favourite book was.”

Beca looked back at Chloe eagerly, excited that Chloe seemed to have understood exactly what she’d just said (even if it was via a translator). And she watched as Chloe turned back to her too and signed enthusiastically once again.

“I love The Cat in the Hat!” Chloe signed, letting out a giggle while adding, “Thing 1 and Thing 2 are my favourite characters!”

And Beca tugged a huge gulp of air into her lungs while smiling broader than she’d ever smiled before, “That’s my favourite book too!!!” she gushed to Chloe, and both children turned to the translator while Mrs Hinchcliffe quickly told Chloe what Beca had said.

Chloe let out a delightful squeal of excitement, suddenly reaching out to take Beca’s hands to regain her attention and Beca happily obliged.

“Did you want to be friends?” Chloe signed and Mrs Hinchcliffe translated, and another bubble of joy grew in Beca’s heart. Because yes, she really did want to be friends! So the little brunette turned to the woman beside them and asked:

“What hand movement is ‘yes’?”

And Mrs Hinchcliffe smiled kindly at Beca, bringing her fist out, “You just make a fist like this.” which Beca did, “Then you rock it up then down, as though it’s giving a quick nod.” and Beca practiced the motion while the adult added, “Perfect!”

Chloe watched in sheer delight as Beca turned back to her with a grin, and signed ‘Yes’. It was this small action that had the redhead feeling full of hope and happiness. Because here was a girl who not only wanted to be her friend, but also really wanted to make an effort to talk to her in whatever way possible.

Beca didn’t judge Chloe because she was deaf. But Beca also seemed to care that Chloe was deaf. Not because it made the girl a minority in the classroom, but because Beca wanted to try as hard as possible to be friends with Chloe in whatever way she could. And if learning how to sign was one of those ways, then Beca would happily learn.

For now, the two little girls continued to get to know each other with the help of Mrs Hinchcliffe. And Miss Bradshaw watched them with a soft smile on her face, proud of young Beca for doing all that she could to make the new kid welcome in their classroom. Beca and Chloe were going to become a force to be reckoned with - she was sure of it.