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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Outcasts and Angels: The New Anthology of Deaf Characters in Literature
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Lianna pointed upstairs. “She put-in-suitcase clothes she. Go all-night party girl-friend house she.”

As if on cue, Lianna’s daughter ran in from the living room then. “I ready go,” she signed to her mother. Marina was startled, and then felt foolish. She knew Lianna couldn’t speechread very well, and couldn’t vocalize at all, so of course her daughter would have to sign.

“You pack-suitcase finish you?” asked Lianna. “Feed cat finish you?”

The girl nodded vigorously, ponytail bouncing. “I finish, finish.” She signed a name initialized with a C. “Her father drive us.”

“OK,” signed Lianna. “You know number phone?” The girl rolled her eyes and signed the seven-digit number in a blur. “Okay, Mom?” she asked aloud.

Lianna nodded and held out her arms. Her daughter grinned and gave her a hug, then ran out again. Marina watched, caught in a wave of longing. She couldn’t remember her own mother ever hugging her like that.

“Lianna,” she said impulsively, “you think difficult have hearing child?”

Lianna looked thoughtful. “I-don’t-know if hearing child difficult more than Deaf child. Maybe different. All kids difficult. Worry worry worry.” She sighed, staring at the picture. “Long-time-ago I want Deaf baby. But my daughter I-loveher.” She turned back to Marina, looking at her closely. “You pregnant you?” she asked. “For-for you-ask-me g-y-n doctor name, yes?” Marina hesitated, then nodded.

Lianna smiled and gave her a big hug. When she pulled back, she signed, “Not worry. You will fine. You see.”

For a moment Marina considered telling her the whole story, but she realized that would be foolish, and would only endanger Lianna if something went wrong. So Marina smiled as if reassured, and walked back to the living room with her.

Larry broke away from his conversation with Nancy and came up to admire her earrings. She smiled when he instantly discovered the hidden aspect; it tended to elude hearing people, but Deaf people invariably got it right away. Each earring was a dangling cylinder containing a holographic hand; as the cylinders rotated, the hand changed positions, spelling out a word. The left one spelled d-e-a-f, the right one l-o-v-e. “Appropriate,” signed Larry, his other hand caressing her jaw lightly as he released the earring.

He drew her into talking about her work, and slowly she began to relax and enjoy the party. It was such a relief to be able to communicate without the constant struggle. She missed this feeling of camaraderie and sharing that made even Larry seem like an old friend instead of someone she’d just met. She found herself flirting with him, and realized how long it had been since she’d felt even that comfortable with a man.

She pushed all other thoughts aside. Time to worry about that decision later.

Two weeks went by in an agonizing crawl, and Marina did nothing. Then it was as if a weight had been lifted off of her chest. Somehow, knowing she couldn’t change her mind made her situation easier to deal with. She felt calm and secure and competent.

As far as she knew, no one had ever been accused of deliberately engineering a defective child. She didn’t know what the consequences of that would be, and was grimly determined that she would never find out. She had to make it obvious that she was expecting a hearing child.

Marina went shopping. She bought baby clothes, and toys, and a crib—and a little minidisc player to go in her room, which the baby would share until they moved into a larger apartment, and a dozen different albums of children’s songs and lullabies.

Seven months later, Marina gave birth to a baby boy. The doctors checked him over and pronounced him perfectly healthy, and let them both go home the next day.

Marina walked to her bedroom and collapsed gratefully onto the bed. She had foolishly thought that once she’d had the baby, the hard part was over. She hadn’t realized she would be so exhausted afterward. And so sore in every muscle she could barely move.

Grant came in behind her with the bassinet, which he placed on the stand beside the bed. He touched her leg to get her attention, but she was too tired to even look at him.

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