SIGNS OF A QUIET HEART: (MY HEART IS YOURS - BOOK 1), страница 1
Copyright © 2014 Theresa M. McGill
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and events are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Signs of a Quiet Heart, My Heart Is Yours—Book One
ISBN 978-0-9863645-0-1 (eBook)
ISBN: 978-0-9863645-3-2 (Paperback)
First edition: 2015
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This book is intended for mature audiences (18+).
Contains adult sexual situations and language
For Mom and Dad
Although you have been gone from this Earth for a while, you are always in my heart. You both read to me as a child and always encouraged me to read. Neither one of you thought it odd when the occasional neighbor would report that I had been observed walking to and from school every day, with an open book in my hands. Thank you. I miss you both.
Table of Contents
About the Author
My thanks to the tireless staff at Hot Tree Editing, my editors Becky Johnson and Peggy Hurst Frese, and all the other editors and beta readers who have offered their support and encouragement. I am grateful to everyone who has read my manuscript, blogged, shared or just befriended me in the indie book world. I especially wish to thank the many authors whom I have never met—members of the vast indie book community—who so graciously corresponded with me through email or Facebook and always had time and patience for a new author’s endless questions. Thanks to Bex ‘n’ Books blog and Hot Tree Promotions for their willingness to spread the word and steer book-minded people to my Facebook pages.
I do have to thank two people who helped me tremendously. Lynne Tucker, my BFF, who always asked how my writing was going and expressed heartfelt encouragement and pride in my endeavor. Your honesty and friendship means so much to me. I would also like to thank Becky Johnson, CEO of Hot Tree Editing. I started working for Hot Tree as a beta reader in April, 2013. Although we have never met in person (hopefully that will change in the near future), Becky has become a dear friend. When I decided to write my first novel, she was encouraging and supportive from day one; always positive, professional, cooperative, and extremely caring.
“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”
“Blindness separates us from things, but deafness separates us from people.”
“Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.”
– Helen Keller
The lunchroom was complete chaos. This was nothing new or out of the ordinary, however. The warning bell had just rung, accompanied by flashing strobe lights, letting the children know they had five minutes to clean their tables, push in the chairs, then line up. Children were frantically trying to stuff what was left of their lunches into their mouths, or into the nearby trash cans. Each class sat at specific tables and was assigned two receptacles, one for garbage and the other for recyclables.
Mrs. Doris Blanchard, the elderly principal and founder of the Mabel Blanchard Elementary School for Special Children, was a proponent of environmental issues of all kinds. She had been raised in England, in the 1940s, by a mother who was a conservationist back when most people did not even know what that word meant. Mabel turned off lights, conserved water, and disposed of all organic waste into a compost heap in the backyard. Who did that seventy years ago? “The average person doesn’t even do that now, in the 21st Century!” Doris pondered aloud with a frustrated sigh.
Because of her mother’s influence, Doris encouraged recycling on every level, and in every area of the school, much to the annoyance of the cafeteria workers and some of the staff. Mrs. Blanchard didn’t care; she had strong beliefs and certainly practiced what she preached. She was also a proponent of positive reinforcement. The class who properly lined up first got a point, if and only if their floor area and tables were clean and all trash, as well as recyclables, were properly disposed of. The class with the most points received a party at the end of each month.
At six-feet tall, Mrs. Blanchard found it easy to survey the cafeteria scene as it rapidly morphed from chaos to quiet. She saw class K-1 was already in perfect formation; girls and boys lined up almost military-style under the watchful eye of Mia O’Brien, K-1’s teaching assistant, who was wearing a very confident grin while nodding her approval to her kindergarteners. Mia had coached them well; her four younger brothers, three of whom were rowdy eight-year-old identical triplets, had given her a lot of practice. The principal’s bushy, gray eyebrows furrowed as her face took on a puzzled appearance, her piercing, squinty, brown eyes boring through those of the first few children in line. The children, shuffling their feet nervously under her scrutiny, looked to Mia for support. Mia smiled knowingly and winked at them.
“Hmmm, that is most unusual,” Mrs. Blanchard muttered to Mr. Victor Verdugo, the assistant principal. “How do you suppose they are doing that?” Her slight British accent became somewhat more pronounced, especially when she was upset, perplexed, or did not have one hundred percent control over any given situation. She lifted her chin and stared in the direction of class K-1. Mr. Verdugo craned his neck and attempted to follow her eyes with his own. At 5’ 6”, he actually had to get on his tiptoes; a sad and depressing fact which had plagued him since high school, when he had not experienced the growth spurt his parents had assured him would happen, and every other boy had already enjoyed.
He sighed to himself before responding, “What do you mean, Doris?” He gazed in the class’s direction, hoping to see what she was looking at; something he was obviously not perceiving. As his boss, she intimidated him; he would do anything to stay in her good graces.
“This is the third time this week class K-1 has finished first. Just look at them. They could almost pass muster at Buckingham Palace.” She chuckled at her own silly joke as Victor joined in. “That class has never finished first
“Doris, you know perfectly well all class behavior, whether good or bad, rests at the feet of the teacher. The buck stops there, if I may be so bold as to quote you.” Victor looked up into her eyes, searching her face for agreement. Even after all the years they had known each other, working side by side, she still managed to scare him a bit. She was a ‘larger than life’ figure to him. He respected her immensely and always sought her approval.
“Damn right, Victor. I have taught you well, have I not?” Her stern expression softened and her eyes had a faraway look. “How many years ago did you show up on my school’s doorstep looking for a teacher’s assistant position? My recollection says thirty ... could that be right? It doesn’t seem possible.”
Victor’s eyes glistened. “You are exactly right, as usual. I will forever be grateful for your confidence in me and for mentoring me through college and graduate school. I owe you everything.” He was an emotional man where Doris was concerned. She was his mentor as well as the mother he never had. He also was keenly aware the feeling was mutual; Doris was never able to have children.
She sighed wistfully. “You will replace me here one day, you know.”
“Doris,” he whispered respectfully, although there was a twinkle in his eye. “You will outlive me for sure.” She gave him a devilish smirk before she spoke.
“Oh, I highly doubt that. I will retire one day as principal, but I plan to continue to work here in some capacity until I am carried away on a stretcher.” They both shared a laugh. “Actually,” she continued in a wicked whisper, “I have my eye on the assistant principal position.” Victor’s faux-shocked expression was priceless and quickly softened into a wide grin. The two of them had a long history of playing this back-and-forth teasing game.
Still smiling, Doris turned to Victor and gently pushed him in the direction of the microphone. “Why don’t you do the honors today.” Victor gave her an exasperated look as he sighed into her ear, mimicking her British accent. “Well, it’s about bloody time.”
After Mr. Verdugo announced the winning class and the K-1 victors jumped up and down ecstatically in unison, Doris gave Victor an approving nod, followed by a request.
“Kindly remind me to visit K-1 one of these days. Ms. Bennett and I need to have a little chat.” Victor nodded knowingly, and then turned to exit the cafeteria. Doris followed a few seconds later as the bell rang and the children headed to their afternoon classes.
Ms. Roberta Bennett, known to everyone as Robbi, sat at her desk, rushing to finish her lunch of fresh fruit and plain Greek yogurt. She always brought her lunch from home; she deemed the cafeteria food unhealthy and preferred her own company rather than the gossip and negativity of the staff lounge.
Robbi Bennett was a beautiful woman: 5’ 9”, with very long, sun-streaked, medium-blonde, wavy hair; sky-blue eyes and a knockout figure, belied her age of forty-two. She went to the gym every day after school. She actually kept track of how many days she did not make it to the gym. Her personal record was twenty missed days the previous year. That meant, for the mathematically challenged, three hundred and forty-five days of working out. Her lean, toned body was proof positive. She looked good for her age, amazing actually, and she knew it. When she moved to California from New York five years before, she decided to become thirty-two. No one had ever called her on it. Several men she had met could hardly believe she was even that old; although, she suspected, they were probably lying. Only the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing in Sacramento knew the truth, and, of course, the DMV. She made sure no one ever snuck a peek at her driver’s license.
The ‘end of lunch’ bell had just sounded and Robbi knew she had approximately thirty seconds before her kindergarteners would come storming into the classroom. She jumped up from her chair, did a few stretches and toe touches, palms flat on the floor, smoothed her hair and went to the door to greet her class.
The exuberant children barreled into the classroom with Mia in the lead, looking very much like a proud mama, although with her dazzling long, curly, red hair, green eyes, and youthful freckles, no one would have believed it. At nineteen years old, she was the oldest child in a large Irish family and grew up assuming many responsibilities. Because her fourteen-year-old brother, Shane, was autistic, she had a unique understanding of children with special needs. As a result, her job as a TA came easily to her.
She immediately snatched the digital camera off the desk and began frantically snapping photos as the kids high-fived and fist-bumped Ms. Bennett, whom they obviously all adored. It was the sixth week of the spring semester, and the class had recently devised a clever plan to improve their results in the cafeteria clean-up contest. Mia quickly pocketed the camera, and gently shooed the children toward the large round table in the middle of the room, encouraging them to find their seats and quiet down. Each seat had a child’s name clearly marked on it.
The bell sounded, signaling the start of the afternoon session. Strobe lights also flashed everywhere in the school; this was a legal requirement in all Special Education schools because many students had hearing impairments of varying degrees. There were two hearing impaired children in K-1, but both had moderate hearing losses and were not classified as deaf according to the school’s audiologist. Benjamin, a bright child with an impish grin, had above grade-level communication skills. One had to remember, however, to make sure he was directly facing the speaker, wearing his hearing aid, and ambient noise in the classroom was kept to a minimum. This was no easy task, considering how loud a dozen animated kinder-kids could be.
Isabella, the second hearing-impaired child, was actually joining the class for the first time immediately after lunch that day. Robbi had read the child’s file the day before; Isabella’s records indicated she was way below grade level as far as communication was concerned. Although she had been born with a moderate-to-severe hearing loss, her previous teachers had observed she appeared unable to hear anything and seemed to be somewhat non-verbal. The audiologist had reported Isabella refused to wear a hearing aid. There were also comments: Isabella is shy, prefers to play alone, not very social, etc. There was an additional folder marked ‘Confidential’ with a single piece of paper inside. Robbi, as the supervising teacher, had access. The paper contained a few cryptic and very disturbing words and phrases: child is withdrawn, headstrong, sullen, possible neglect, excessive absences from school, uninvolved mother, suspected drug and alcohol use in the home, as well as during the pregnancy. Home visits were made, but no evidence found. WHAT? Drug use during pregnancy ... born with a hearing loss.
Robbi was livid, screaming inside her own head. Shoving the entire folder back into her file cabinet, she slammed the drawer shut. Turning her key in the lock, she returned to her desk; head pounding, stomach churning, with an ache deep in her heart for a little girl she had not even met yet. Isabella was due to arrive at any moment.
Isabella’s records may have described her as quiet and shy, but her first day in class was anything but. Ms. Bennett had planned a small celebration, complete with a large ‘Welcome Isabella’ banner, her name on her seat at the round table, and a few little gifts. When Isabella arrived, she took one look at the sign and pointed at it, shaking her head, saying, “No! No!” It was not a tantrum, and she did not scream. The little girl simply stamped her foot, and then blew her bangs up with a frustrated puff of breath. She was very adamant and determined. She pointed to herself, then the name and pleaded with tears starting to form in her eyes. “No!”
Robbi was at a loss, not knowing exactly how to communicate with the child. She was the teacher in charge, yet she felt helpless; she did not know any sign language. Isabella’s records had indicated she had learned some signs in American Sign Lan
Ms. Bennett’s eyes darted wildly around the room, but she already knew Toby, her other TA, was not there. He was late coming back from lunch, again. Shit! He often preferred to leave campus on his lunch break, frequenting a local pizza place. Occasionally, he would meet up with friends there and lose track of the time. He was also new to class K-1, having been assigned two weeks before specifically to assist with Isabella, since he was hearing-impaired himself. Thankfully, Isabella had calmed down and was being led around the room by sweet little Jack, a boy with Down syndrome, who was clutching her hand as if his life depended on it. He was busily pointing out things in the classroom, as if he were a museum docent. Adorable.
The door banged open, and Toby hurriedly entered the room looking extremely apologetic. Speak of the devil. Robbi quickly donned her ‘pissed teacher’ scowl and glared at him.
“Sorry, Ms. B, my truck’s battery died and I had to ask one of the guys for a jump.”
It was difficult to be angry with Toby Daniels. He was a tall, good-looking boy, twenty years old, with long, shaggy, slightly wavy, jet-black hair, through which ran a silver streak he swore was completely natural. What made him stand out, besides his broad grin and solitary dimple, were his distinctive eyes: one a warm brown, the other a striking, pale aquamarine. Toby had a shy, boyish quality about him, which was enhanced by his inability to grow any kind of facial hair, much to his chagrin. He seemed to have a good heart, and the kids were crazy about him. He was actually a former student at the school, and a special pet project of Mrs. Blanchard’s, who gave him the opportunity to become a teacher’s assistant. She definitely had a soft spot for the boy. Toby had a mild-to-moderate hearing loss himself, although it was barely detectable. He wore a tiny hearing aid, which was completely hidden in his ear canal, and knew some American Sign Language. In the teachers’ lounge, he often bragged how playing the ‘sign language card’ while out with his friends enabled him to easily pick up girls. “I teach a girl how to fingerspell her name, then show her a few dirty signs; it never fails.” Of course, he only shared that information when Mrs. Blanchard was not in the room.