The Library

Hannah was diagnosed with cancer when she was twelve, and was pulled out of school at thirteen when her condition became terminal. In the time since she left school, she discovered a love for reading and began to spend time at the library that would shape her life.

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3. Making Acquaintances

I was sitting in the corner of the old library by myself the following Saturday morning. I wasn’t so much reading as letting time peacefully pass by at its leisure, letting it carry me along. I was half-asleep, and found the experience pretty peaceful.

“Hey!”

I looked up, startled, and saw a skinny girl with brown, bristly hair standing in front of me.

“Hello..?” I replied, confused.

“Remember me?” asked the girl, a small smile creeping into her expression.

I stared at her for a moment before a memory finally clicked in my brain. She was the girl who spoke to me while she was returning a book last week.

“Oh, hey!” I exclaimed, sitting upright. “You’re... Kathleen?”

“Katherine,” she smiled. “You were close enough.”

“Well, Katherine,” I laughed. “How are you?”

“Okay, I suppose,” she replied. “How about you?”

“Hanging together,” I said. “Things could be worse.”

“I suppose that’s a good way of looking at things,” she replied.

“Maybe it is, maybe it’s not,” I said. “Either way, it keeps me going.”

“That’s important,” she agreed. “We all need something to keep us sane.”

“Definitely,” I agreed. “So, you like reading then? Any favourite books?”

“The Harry Potter books,” she said, grinning from ear to ear. “I know everyone’s read them, but I just love them so much!”

“Good choice,” I laughed. “What sorts of music do you like?” I asked, deciding to look for things we had in common.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I can’t listen to music.”

“What? Why?” I asked. How could anyone not listen to music?

“I’m deaf,” she smiled. I had no idea. My jaw dropped.

What?” I asked. “You’re deaf?”

“Yeah,” she said. “I lost my hearing when I was young.”

“If you’re deaf... How can you hear what I’m saying?” I asked, completely bewildered. I’d never met anyone who was deaf before.

“I’m very good at lip-reading,” she explained. “So I can only understand you if I can see you.”

“That’s kind of cool,” I said, smiling, and then realised how that could have sounded. “The fact that you can lip-read, I mean... Not the fact that you’re deaf.”

“I know what you meant!” she laughed. “But anyway, now you have to tell me why you don’t go to school.”

“Oh,” I responded. “Well, I have cancer.”

“Are you getting treatment?” she asked.

“No. It’s terminal,” I replied.

“I’m sorry,” She said. “It must be awful.”

“Actually, it doesn’t make much difference,” I said. “When I was first diagnosed, I just wondered why it had to be me. But then I realised that, when there’s no good reason for anyone developing it, why not me?”

“That’s brave,” she said. “I don’t know how I could live with the knowledge that something’s killing me.”

“I don’t know how I’d live without being able to hear anything,” I smiled.

“I can cope with it being deaf because I haven’t always been deaf,” she said. “I can remember what my voice sounds like, as well as my mum’s voice... I remember what certain things sound like, and when I see them happening, it’s like I hear the sound inside my head.”

“Isn’t that infuriating?” I asked. “Hearing the sound in your head and knowing that you’ll never really hear it?”

“I find it a bit scary, really,” she said. “I find it scary that one day I might forget what things sound like, because if I forget, it’s not like I can just listen to them and refresh my memory.”

“Why did you go deaf?” I asked.

“I have a condition that means my hearing has been getting progressively worse since I was about ten,” she said. “My hearing’s pretty much one hundred percent gone now and the doctors are scared that my eyesight might go next.”

“So you could end up blind as well?” I asked.

“Well, it’s a possibility,” she said. “But hopefully it won’t ever happen.”

“I hope so,” I said. “Just stay positive.”

“I try to,” she smiled. “You know, we should meet up again sometime.”

“Sure,” I replied.

“Do you have a phone number?” she asked.

“No, I don’t...” I said awkwardly. When all my old friends from school stopped contacting me, I stopped using my phone and Dad cancelled the contract to save money. I really don’t mind, since my brother and I share an old iPod Touch that I can play games on. “I could give you my house number though, if you want.”

“Sure,” she said, and I wrote the number down on a piece of paper for her. “I’ll call you sometime!” she smiled.

“Okay,” I smiled.

“See you,” she said, before she turned and disappeared behind a bookcase.

I looked up at the clock on the wall and realised that my dad was supposed to pick me up ten minutes ago and would be waiting outside. I jumped up, shoved my book into my backpack and hurried away, saying a quick goodbye to Mrs Agalia as I rushed past.

I saw Dad’s car outside and hurried over, sliding quickly into the passenger seat to escape the cold weather.

“Sorry I’m late,” I said.

“We should be home by now, dinner’s cooking and it’ll burn,” said Dad. I could tell that he was annoyed, but didn’t want to snap at me.

He started the car and began to drive off while I fixed my seat belt. We were going very slowly through the traffic, and after a long silence I decided to say something.

“I made a friend,” I said simply.

Dad turned to look at me. “Really?” he asked. He had given up on encouraging me to interact with others about a year ago.

“Yeah, she’s called Katherine,” I explained. “She’s deaf, but she can lip-read.”

“Oh, that’s interesting,” he said. “Did you just meet her?”

“Well, I spoke to her once before but I only really got to know her today,” I said. “I didn’t even realise she was deaf until she told me.”

“Well, it’s great that you’ve got someone to talk to,” Dad replied. “I’m proud of you.”

“Thanks,” I replied, smiling to myself.

 There was silence for the rest of the journey home.

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