Dangerous to Know & Love(8) by Jane Harvey-Berrick

He closed his eyes, then spoke again. “Do you think it’s like that for blind people? I mean, if they used to be able to see… can they remember colors? Do they think in color, dream in color? Sometimes I think I can hear music in my dreams…”

Lisanne’s throat closed tightly, and she felt responsible for making him feel like this. And she had a responsibility to answer him.

“Yes, I think they do. I mean, I think I would. You know, Beethoven carried on composing even after he went deaf.”

“Yeah, like no one’s ever said that to me before,” he said, scathingly.

“It doesn’t make it any less true,” she said, quietly.

He sighed.

“My… condition… is called idiopathic sensorineural hearing loss – which means they don’t have a f**king clue. They think maybe it was a virus, but they don’t really know. It began after I started high school. The first thing was that I got into trouble: teachers said I wasn’t concentrating, or I was being a smart-ass and not answering them. One teacher really had it in for me, Miss Francis. She had one of those f**king irritating high-pitched voices, and I couldn’t hear a f**king thing she was saying. You lose the high sounds first – low tone reception takes a bit longer. I was too dumb to tell anyone I was having problems.”

He paused and looked down.

“Then my grades started dropping. I got into fights and my parents got called in a ton of times. One of my teachers was the first to guess what was going on. I was sent for tests… by the time I was 15, I had moderate to severe hearing loss.”

He scrubbed his hands over his face.

“The school said they couldn’t ‘deal’ with me anymore. So… my parents sent me to a special school. When they… when they died, I had just under two years left, so… I graduated, and I swore that I’d never live like that. I didn’t want that ‘disabled’ tag – ‘differently able’ for f**k’s sake. I f**king hate it.” He paused. “I lost just about all my hearing then. I have some hearing in my left ear, but I’m not sure about that anymore. I didn’t hear that f**king fire alarm. Maybe I could hear a damn bomb going off – I don’t know.”

Lisanne didn’t realize she’d been holding her breath until her lungs began to hurt.

“And… hearing aids don’t help?”

Daniel pulled a face.

“Not really. They work for some people. I tried digital hearing aids but they didn’t provide enough amplification, and voices sounded muddy and distorted. The analog ones were better – but not by much.”

“But it would help a bit?”

“Sure, if you want people to treat you like a f**king moron.”

“Not all people!”

“Don’t f**king tell me what it’s like. People say shit like, ‘Oh, you talk really well’, like they’re f**king patting me on the back or something.”

“So… there’s no… no hope? The doctors…?”

He shook his head. “Nah. I’m one of their ‘worst case scenarios’. Memorable, you might say.”

Lisanne felt slightly sick, but plowed on.

“You mustn’t give up hope, Daniel. Scientists make breakthroughs all the time. You could… I don’t know… take part in a trial or something. What about those implants I’ve heard about?”

He shook his head again.

“I used to think like that, but I’ve had enough of being a f**king lab rat. I’ve spent so much time in hospitals and clinics, having different tests, being fitted for different hearing aids – each one more f**king useless than the last one. I couldn’t stand going through all that again… the hope. It f**king kills you.”

He looked so broken, that Lisanne wanted nothing more than to try and comfort him, but before she could think of anything, he shook his head, as if to clear it.

“Fuck me,” he said, “that sounded like a freakin’ soap opera. Do you wanna go do something fun?”

Lisanne’s head was spinning from his change of mood.

“Okay,” she said, uncertainly. “Like what?”

“Trust me?”

“No.”

He grinned.

“What have you got to lose?”

“Um, my life, my reputation, my sanity?”

Daniel laughed.

“Is that all? Come on. I’ll get you back to your dorm room in one piece. Can’t speak for your reputation if you’re seen with me, though.”

Lisanne pretended to sigh.

“Guess I’ll have to live with that.”

Half an hour later, Lisanne was staring in open-mouthed amazement, her jaw firmly on the floor.

Seriously? He’d taken her to an arcade?

“What are you? Thirteen?” she said in utter disbelief.

“No, baby, I’m all man,” he said with a smirk, winking at her. “Want me to prove it?”

She crossed her arms across her chest and tried to look stern.

Daniel just grinned at her.

“Aw, come on! It’ll be fun. We can eat chips, drink soda, and shoot up stuff. What’s not to like?”

He grabbed her hand and pulled her inside. His excitement was infectious – he was like a little boy, his eyes shining. Lisanne had to admit she liked this playful side of him. He was so serious most of the time.

He changed ten dollars into tokens and handed her a pile.

“Uh-uh, I think I’ll watch you.”

He grinned at her and headed for a machine called MotorStorm Apocalypse.

“This one’s awesome.”

For nearly an hour, Daniel played on various games. She was amused watching him act like an overactive kid; he reminded Lisanne of her brother. Every time he won or scored highly, he turned around and gave her a huge grin. He even persuaded Lisanne to take him on at Project Gotham Racing, and then kicked her ass in all four city racetracks.

Refusing a rematch, she wandered off to get the promised chips and sodas with a ten dollar bill that he insisted she take from his wallet, then they sat on a couple of plastic chairs and watched a group of junior high kids fight over Ridge Racer.

Lisanne had to admit that despite herself, she’d had fun. The one thing that disturbed her was that it was so easy to forget Daniel was deaf. Several times she’d spoken to him when he’d had his back to her, before remembering to tap him on the shoulder.

She could see how easy it would be for people to find him unresponsive or rude. She sort of understood what he’d said about not wanting people to know, but she didn’t really get why he’d rather have people think he was a jerk. She remembered the proverb her mom had drummed into her: you have to walk a mile in another man’s shoes before you judge him.

She sighed, realizing she had a lot to learn.

Eventually she decided that it was getting late and that she’d promised Kirsty they’d go out together tonight. A large part of her would have been happy to stay with Daniel, but a promise was a promise.

He offered to take her back to her dorm room, and Lisanne accepted gratefully.

But when he dropped her off, his face was anxious.

“Um, Lisanne – you won’t say anything to anyone, will you?”

“No, I promise. Like I said, it’s not my secret to tell,” she repeated.

He looked relieved.

“So, we should reschedule our study session,” she reminded him.

“Yeah, I guess we should. Give me your phone – I’ll program in my number.”

Wordlessly, Lisanne handed her phone to the hottest guy in college, trying not to smile as he punched his number into her contacts list.

“Just give me a cool ringtone, okay?” he said, an amused look on his face.

“I’ll give you Celine Dion,” she said. “You’ll never know.”

An incredulous look passed over Daniel’s face, then he threw back his head and laughed.

“You are one tough woman – I like it.”

Then he slung his leg over the saddle of his bike, and took off into the darkening sky.

With his words ringing in her ears, Lisanne hugged herself, then skipped back to her dorm room.

He likes me!

Before she could put her key in the lock, the door was yanked open and Kirsty dragged her inside.

“Do not tell me you just had a five-hour study date with Mr. Tall Dark and Deliciously Dangerous!” she yelled.

Lisanne laughed nervously.

“Kind of. We studied for a while…” a very short while, she thought. “Then we hung out for a bit. That’s all.”

“Shut up! So, was it like a date? Did he kiss you? Did you get some tongue action? Spill!”

“No! I told you – we studied and then took a break. He’s… nice.”

“Nice?! Oh, you do not get away with saying that the hottest guy on campus is nice! Please!”

“Um, well, he gave me his phone number, but that’s so we can set up another study date.”

Kirsty’s eyes nearly rolled out of her head, they were so wide open.

“He gave you his phone number? Oh my God! I’m so jealous! Promise me next time you’ll screw him senseless until he’s cross-eyed and can’t walk without crutches – then give me all the details, with written notes. Is he well hung?”

“I can’t believe you said that!” shrieked Lisanne.

“I’m compiling a dossier,” said Kirsty, pulling out a sparkly purple file. “It lists the names of the twenty hottest guys on campus with all their details. Daniel and Mr. Red T-shirt are equal first, and I need some vital statistics. How tall is he?”

Lisanne capitulated, deciding it was easier to go along with Kirsty’s crazy plan than attempt to fight it.

“Um, well, he’s taller than my dad, I guess, but not by much, so he must be about six-two.”

“Excellent,” said Kirsty, licking the end of her pencil and writing in her notebook. “Eye color?”

“Hazel with gold and green flecks – and really long eyelashes.”

“Hmm, so you got quite close,” said Kirsty, raising an eyebrow.

A light pink heated Lisanne’s cheeks. “I was sitting opposite him in the library like forever – I couldn’t help but notice.”

“Oh, okay. Tats?”

“Well, yes. I didn’t get a good look at all of them, obviously…”

“Obviously…”

“But he’s got them on both arms and maybe across his back. I’m not sure.”

“Hmm, interesting. Nipple rings?”

“What?!”

“That’s the rumor – that he’s got two nipple rings.”

“I… I…” stammered Lisanne.

“Oh, well, see if you can find out for next time. And find out if he has any other piercings – other than his eyebrow, of course.”

Lisanne’s face was scarlet. “I can’t ask him that!”

“I can let you have a copy of the checklist to give to him if you like,” said Kirsty, looking almost serious.

Lisanne shook her head so hard she was afraid she’d dislodged her brain, along with all rational speech.

“How often did other girls check him out?”

That question was easier to answer.

“Huh, all the time.”

“So ten out of ten for being eye-fuckable,” confirmed Kirsty.

Lisanne had to give her that one.

“Oh! Does he have a tongue piercing?”

Lisanne screwed her face up trying to remember if she’d seen any sign of a stud in his tongue.

“I don’t think so.”

“Pity. I might have to deduct points for that.”

“Yeah, but he has a motorcycle.”

“Oh, God, yes! I can’t believe you rode on it. You’re so lucky, Lisanne.”

The comment sobered her immediately. Yes, she was lucky. She was damn lucky. She had a family who loved her; she had her hearing. And she had her music.

Daniel had lost all of those.

Kirsty’s dossier was meant to be fun, but Lisanne couldn’t help wondering how differently Daniel would be judged if people knew the truth.

* * *

Daniel had no choice but to trust Lisanne. The thought pissed him the hell off. He knew from experience that most people let you down sooner or later. Sure, she seemed like she was on the level – she seemed nice. But he didn’t know her, and that made him nervous.

All he could do was wait and see.

Chapter 4

Sunday dragged painfully.

Lisanne sat in her room, catching up with the Everest of homework that her professors had seen fit to pile on during the first two weeks of the semester.

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