Heart

Ryn is morbidly pessimistic, blaming the world for his problems. He would probably see past the anger if he could still... well, see.

Asher sees the good in everyone, probably best since she blocks out what everyone says about her. Not by choice, but she does it.

The pair are forced to form a bond after becoming partners in group therapy as a desperate attempt to bring some light into their lives, starting with writing letters to each other. No one expected a third letter to arrive.

// Cover by ireumeun.chloe

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4. Three ∞ Speakers

Asher pushes herself out of her chair, silently praying that her slow and cautious movements will disguise how her body is behaving as if it is a baby giraffe shuddering around on roller-skates.

           

“Um, I’m Asher,” she begins, uncertain of how much of her nervousness is being released in her shaky voice, slightly croaky from misuse. The expressions of the bored teenagers in front of her remain blank. At this point, she wishes she was the boy in the sunglasses, praying that she doesn’t have to see that their eyes drift aimlessly around the room before returning to her face. Her cheeks flush red and she looks at the battered black Converse – the pair where the original white laces have been replaced with neon ones – on her feet. She stares at the bright colours and tries to force a smile onto her face. She fails.

           

“How are you feeling today, Asher?” Jonathon prompts impatiently. Luckily for the girl, she isn’t quite capable of working out the tone of a voice by lip reading.

           

“Alone.”

           

Jonathon has to wave his hands wildly to capture Asher’s attention, making sure that she will read his lips to save him from making a poor attempt at signing out his words for her. At least he doesn’t start talking in an exaggerated slow voice – that doesn’t help at all.

           

“Would you like to take that thought further? I’m sure that there’s someone else in here who is feeling exactly the same but isn’t quite willing to voice their emotions.”

           

She shrugs and starts regretting that she didn’t wear jeans with pockets to hide her trembling hands in.

           

“I just feel like there’s no one I can relate to. I’ve lost my hearing and all that I get is a load of sympathy that I don’t want. I just want a friend, you know?”

           

Asher looks frantically around the circle, looking for someone to be showing signs of acknowledging her words. The only change in facial expression comes from Ryn: his grin has been replaced with a scowl. She turns a little more in his direction and aims her next works at him as she feels a sudden spurt of confidence.

           

“Sometimes, I feel as if I’m going crazy. I’m just so… I don’t know, desperate? Yeah, I’m desperate for someone to show me something that’s past sympathy. I want someone to care about me. My own mum treats me like I’m a burden. My friends don’t care anymore because I can’t even pretend that I’m listening to them. They don’t understand.”

           

There is a flurry of movement in the corner of Asher’s eye and she notices that Ryn is on his feet. His knuckles are white from where he grips his cane.

 

“C8H11NO2 plus C10H12N2O plus C43H66N12OS2 is the chemical formula for love,” he says and Asher struggles to accurately decode the formula itself. It is the only thing that Ryn has said voluntarily for months, the only thing he’s ever said in therapy since when Jonathon picked on him only a few minutes earlier. “It can be manufactured easily in the lab but an overdose could lead to things such as schizophrenia, extreme paranoia, and insanity.”

 

Jonathon steps in suddenly as Asher parts her lips to speak, waving for her to be quiet. “Ryn, I think that we’ve heard enough from you today. I’m glad that you want to share with the group, but would you mind sitting back down now?”

 

Before the boy agrees, he turns to where he last heard Asher’s voice come from, hoping she knows that he’s talking to her.

“Sometimes, having nothing is better than having something.”

 

***

 

“There’s a girl,” Ryn announces to his father as soon as they are both seated in the car. Ryn is slightly breathless from rushing back with the help of the assistant, desperate to speak to someone. The older man flashes a look of surprise towards his son.

           

“What’s her name?” he asks. As other members of the therapy group begin to trickle out of the main doors, he looks at them, wondering which one she is. He leaves that to his imagination. After all, his son wouldn’t be able to point her out.

           

“Asher,” Ryn replies, her name tumbling out his mouth, closely followed by a quick stream of other words. “She’s so different to everyone else there.”

           

A smile plays at the corner of his father’s mouth. Ever since the operation, he hasn’t seen his son show any emotions other than various signs of disgust. “What do you mean by that?”

           

The memory of their brief encounter plays back in his head like a movie, then a kaleidoscope of images as he tries to put a face to a voice, the voice that spoke the only words that have mattered to him in a long time.

           

I just feel like there’s no one I can relate to. I’ve lost my hearing and all that I get is a load of sympathy that I don’t want. I just want a friend, you know?

           

“I think… You know what? I think that she could be just like me.”

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