Yet again I find myself sitting in the train on my way to London, at the train station I get picked up by a car, that surprisingly only has Louis and a driver in it. The tinted windows hide our conversation from the outside world. “Where is everyone else?” I ask him after greeting him. “Harry is in LA, we are not allowed to spend too much time together, he usually has to travel alone. 5SOS and Liam and I are going to be in the same plane today, Niall is going to fly from Dublin and Zayn wanted some more time with Perrie, so he’ll fly tomorrow.” Louis explains.
The warm summer air hits me and fogs up my glasses as I get out of the car. I see Ashton standing next to the private jet and I really don’t know if knowing that we’re going to fly with a small private yet is a comforting or terrifying discovery. I give him a small wave and he gives me a full blown dimply smile while pulling me into a hug. I freeze in his arms, unable to move and he lets go, a concerned look on his face as he asks “… not okay..?” while supporting his question with sticking up his thumb while shaking his head. “No, no, the hug was fine. You just surprised me.” I sign at him, but as usual, he doesn’t understand. So instead I pull him into another hug, we stand there for quite some time, just breathing in his scent and feeling his body heat radiating off of him. I suddenly feel uneasy, something scaring me. I quickly let Ashton go, frantically looking around, what is happening? What is that feeling?
But it’s not a feeling though, it’s more than a feeling, it’s thrilling and exciting, the ground is shaking, the air is shaking. What is happening? It feels like my head might burst and I start looking around, searching for the source of this uneasiness. “Beth, are you alright?” Louis signs to me.
“I really don’t know what’s happening? What is wrong? The air is shaking, I can feel it. Something is wrong. What is it?”
Ever so carefully Louis points at the airplane that just took off. “Airplanes are very loud” he slowly signs, looking a bit flustered. “So? I don’t care. I’m deaf. What is going on?” I respond, rapidly signing. Right as I lower my hands again, it returns, even worse this time. My body starts shaking as I see the airplane fly over our heads really low, preparing for its landing. It’s like something in my brain clicks and I realise that I can hear the airplanes. I can hear something, the sound of the planes broke my sound barrier. I forget about Louis who’s trying to sign to me and instead I turn to face Ashton who doesn’t know any signs at all, but somehow that feels like the right thing to do. “I can hear the airplanes. They make sounds. I hear the sounds. I’m hearing sounds.” Even though he can’t sign, I still feel like he subconsciously gets it.
My eyes start burning. Sound. I just heard my first sound. My breath hitches in my throat. That was a sound. My shoulders start shaking. Sounds are terrifying, but beautiful. I don’t notice the hot tears streaming down my face until Ashton wipes them away, but he can’t keep up, as more tears are starting to spill from my eyes, so he just pulls me into a hug. Hugging me even tighter than before. So beautiful.
As we go on the plane I throw my passport on the table while plopping down on a seat next to the window. Ashton takes the seat opposite of me and Liam takes the seat next to me. Thank god Louis sits next to Ashton, at least now I can sign to someone. I can see Niall jumping down next to Michael while enthusiastically chatting to Calum and Luke. My gaze gets pulled back to Ashton as he waves for my attention, his lips move while he frowns and holds up my passport, pointing at my name: Elizabeth McKenna. I nod “My name is too long, I like it shortened.” I slowly sign to him, making sure that I’m extra visual in the hopes of him understanding me. Ashton slowly nods, scribbling down a list of names in a notepad: El, Ellie, Eliza, Liza, Liz, Lizzy, Beth. “Why?” he asks while pointing at the last name.
“My parents gave me it.” I respond. His frown indicates that he doesn’t understand, I can tell that Louis wants to step in and interpret, but I tell him not to, Ashton won’t learn if he’s not forced to understand it. “Parents” I sign, still no response from Ashton. The sign for parents is a combination of the sign for “mother”, which is the letter “m” using the sign language alphabet, also known as fingerspelling, and the sign for “father”, which is the letter “f”.
“Mother, father.” I slowly sign, exaggerating my lip patterns. “Together: parents.” Which causes Ashton to slowly nod. Just to make sure, I write down the three signs in the notepad and slowly sign them again. This seems to do the trick and he happily nods, fully understanding me now. I can feel a warm feeling starting to bubble in my tummy, excitement rushing through me as he slowly signs “parents” back at me. I nod encouragingly at him and I can’t help but feel proud. Surprisingly Liam takes the pen and the notebook from the table and writes “You should teach us a few signs.”
His willingness to learn makes my heart flutter, I look over to Ashton and see him shift in his seat, leaning forward, waiting for me to make a move. So I start signing, slowly showing him the alphabet so at least now they can spell out the words they need me to understand.
“Thanks for walking me up to my room.” I sign to Ashton as I open the door to the hotel room. I expect him to walk away immediately, not wanting to spend any more time with me, but instead he keeps standing there, awkwardly combing his long fingers through his curls. “I’m very tired. T-i-r-e-d” I spell out for him, his nod indicating he does in fact understand that, yet he still doesn’t move, he looks around biting his lip, searching for words. “I l-i-k-e-d t-o-d-a-y.” he spells, making sure that I understand everything. I send him a small smile “Me too.” I sign, while nodding and pointing at myself so he’ll understand. Even though today has been nothing but travel; I’m still being truthful, I did enjoy today. I heard me first sounds today and I taught Ashton and Liam the alphabet, making communication so much easier. And, even though I don’t like admitting it, I enjoyed spending time with Ashton too.
“Are you not tired? t-i-r-e-d.” I ask him. Ashton nods: “V-e-r-y t-i-r-e-d.” I frown and carefully point inside the room, raising my eyebrows, silently asking him if he wants to come inside. He looks almost relieved while stepping inside.
As I step out of the bathroom I see Ashton lying in bed, already wearing his pyjamas, but at this point the jet lag has exhausted me so much that sharing a bed with Ashton really doesn’t bother me at all. I crawl in next to him “Good night” I sign at him and he slowly tries copying the sign, signing it back at me. I can see him starting to talk, but almost as soon as my head hits the pillow I drift off to sleep, too exhausted to keep my eyes open and lip read him.