I look outside the car window as we pass through sunny Sydney on our way to Ashton’s house. I slightly open the window to let in a little bit of fresh air in the suffocating car. Looking down at my blue jeans I instantly regret my decision to not change into shorts in the aeroplane before I landed in Australia. The United Kingdom was incredibly cold when I left home, but Australia has decided to mess up my biological clock by being steaming hot in the middle of December.
Geography has always been one of my favourite subjects in school and I fully understand why Australia is hot in December, but damn, none of my previous studying has prepared me properly for this moment in which I will probably be celebrating Christmas in a tank top on the beach.
“Alright, this is it.” Anne-Marie says to me as the car comes to a halt. I look over my shoulder and see that Ashton has already jumped out the car to grab my suitcase from the boot. I quickly exit the vehicle and turn to Anne-Marie who is standing next to the car waiting for Ashton to pull out my suitcase.
“You have a really nice house.” I sign to Anne-Marie who stares at me with a blank expression. Right, she doesn’t know signs. My mind starts racing trying to find different ways of making her understand the compliment, but before I can get a chance to do so, her head snaps to where Ashton is standing. She turns back to me and replies with a thank you. Now that my lip reading skills are improving, I sometimes forget that other people’s understanding of British Sign Language hasn’t improved.
As we walk through the front door I brace myself for the hardest part: meeting Lauren and Harry. Who both appear to be hanging around on the sofa, Harry’s gaze glued to the TV while Lauren is busy typing away on her laptop.
I don’t know if Anne-Marie said something, but both of the kids snap their attention away from the electronic devices and are now staring at me.
“Hi.” I wave at the both of them and I get a small wave in reply. I glance at the TV to see that Harry is watching SpongeBob, I walk a bit closer to the sofa and point at the TV. “My little brother loves SpongeBob.” I sign at a terrified looking Harry.
Shit, now what? I didn’t mean to freak him out.
“Brother.” I sign again, trying to exaggerate my lip patterns, but it doesn’t seem to click. So instead I put my fist to my chest, signing “my”, I then show him with my hand how tall Eliot is, leaving my hand in the air as if it’s resting on top of his head. I point with my other hand to “Eliot” and hold up eight fingers. Some form of understanding spreads across his face and I form my hands into a heart shape to indicate that he loves SpongeBob and then point back to the TV. I repeat the whole thing one more time and Harry slowly nods in understanding.
I glance over to Lauren and see her already looking at me. “… you ... lip read?” I respond with a nod.
“Is it ... ? Where … it? … know … too?” She quickly fires at me. I try to catch words from her questions, but they all come tumbling down her lips faster than I can process them. A tap on my shoulder makes me snap away my attention from Lauren and look straight into Ashton’s eyes.
“She said-” He starts to sign.
“No.” I cut him off. “I don’t want to know. You were right, I need to try more, you shouldn’t have to interpret for me the whole time.”
I turn back to Lauren and give her a hopeful look.
“... lip … difficult?” She asks, much slower this time, I quickly nod and she slowly starts to repeat her previous questions.
“Where ... learn …?” She continues and I’m lost. How am I supposed to explain speech therapy to her? Then my eyes fall on her laptop and I carefully point at it. She immediately gives me the device and I start typing away in the word document that was already opened. “I learned it in speech therapy, my therapist is British though. Accents change lip patterns that’s why it’s hard to lip read you. If you talk a bit slower and exaggerate your lip patterns it’ll be easier for me.”
I delete my explanation from the document as soon as Lauren had read it, my eyes scan the rest of the text. “What is this?” I sign to her by pointing at the text.
“It’s my last assignment for English before the holiday. We have to write a short story and it’s really difficult.”
“I can help?” I type. “I study English Language and Literature. This for example is supposed to say “you’re” instead of “your”. “Your” is only possessive. Who taught you this?”
She points at Ashton and I start laughing. “Well there’s a reason why he is in a band and not in university, isn’t there?” Which causes Lauren to laugh too, judging by Ashton’s fond expression I don’t think he realises that his sister and I are making fun of him and something tells me that he really wouldn’t care if he knew we were.
I look down at Lauren and smile before proceeding to read her story as I correct her words and explain the grammar to her. Ashton pretends to watch Nickelodeon with Harry, but I can tell that he’s secretly still watching us as we wrap up the story with a beautiful ending to it. Lauren looks at her laptop and a smile spreads across her face as she rereads it, I can tell she wants to say something when she looks up at me. I want to too, but I’m not sure what. “Thank you for letting me help”? “You’re welcome”? “That was a great story, you’re very smart.”? “I really enjoyed that.”? “It’s nice meeting you.”?
Probably all of the above, but I feel like words nor signs will suffice. She must sense that too, because she quickly but carefully wraps her arms around me and I gratefully hug her back, because actions speak louder than words. And as I hug her I can see Ashton looking at us while happiness spreads across his face and I realise that mine and Ashton’s actions often tell me more than our words do too.
I'm sorry for this chapter, I don't particularly like it, but i felt like i needed to write not only about Beth and Ashton, but also about her and his family so here it is.
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