Mandy had just started learning to make words with her hands. Between her stumbling efforts and Kel’s patient corrections they found time to fall in love.

A couple of months later she was nearly as fast as he was. The bouts of laughter they drew from each other felt like being drunk on happiness.

Mandy told her parents to set another place. She explained what to expect.

‘What, hand signals?’

‘Signing.’

‘You sure it’s the right thing.’ Her mother started madly wiping anything in sight. ‘He might be happier…you know…with his own kind.’

God he laughed when she told him. That night he watched her parents. He read  discomfort on their faces and on their lips. He tried to talk but they refused to hear him. Neither would they direct conversation to him through Mandy.

‘Rude, aren’t they?’ she signed.

Kel shrugged and passed her the salt.

She smiled.

‘And very fat,’ he said.

Mandy passed the butter. Her shoulders began shuddering. Her father looked at her sternly.

What the hell, thought Kel. ‘Look. There’s a rhinoceros up your mother’s nose.’

Mandy dissolved. As she sunk under the table straight-faced Kel picked up the water jug and offered to refill her mother’s glass.

2011—Richard Holt / small stories about love (smallstoriesaboutlove.wordpress.com)

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