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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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Marina took a deep breath. “Are you still at GeneSys? Susan Li told me you’d hired on there, but that was a while ago.” She sipped at her water, trying to downplay the importance of the answer.

“Yeah.” He nodded. “In fact,”—something—“promoted in October. Senior Research Director, if you can believe that,” Jeff said, shrugging a little. “Pissed off a lot of people who thought I’d been promoted over their heads. They all want the pick”—he’d moved his hands apart, no, it must be “big.” Or “bigger.” Celery? That didn’t make any sense. Oh, “salary.” Then “nobody” with a shake of the head, and a garbled string. Marina blinked rapidly, trying to make sense of it, to keep up, barely catching the next part: “—seventy-eight-hour work weeks.” Or maybe it was “seventy- and eighty-hour work weeks.” Marina suppressed a flare of irritation. It would be easier with the interpreter, except she was afraid it would alienate her from Jeff even further.

Jeff paused. “And you? Are you still painting?” With one hand he rotated his water glass, sunlight reflecting sharply off the ice cubes.

Marina was concentrating so closely on his lips that it took her a moment to realize his eyebrows were raised. He’d asked her a question. Painting. “No,” she answered quickly. “No. I haven’t painted since . . . right after college.”

Jeff looked genuinely disappointed; he said something that ended with her name, then cocked his head. “So what are you doing now?” he asked.

“Oh, I’m still an artist. Limited-edition holographic jewelry.” She touched her pendant, then held it out for him. It was a hologram of a huge spreading apple tree, her first really successful piece and a sentimental favorite.

Jeff leaned closer, squinting a little. Her name again, and she caught nothing else except the last word: “real.” He glanced up, looking astonished. She studied his expression and decided he hadn’t seen all of it.

“Have you ever read the Bible? Genesis?” she asked.

He frowned. “Yeah.” There was more, but once she had the affirmative Marina didn’t try to figure out the rest. He peered at the pendant again, jaw dropping when he saw it, and she couldn’t help grinning. She’d camouflaged a serpent among the tree branches; it was hard to see, yet once found it seemed obvious.

Jeff blinked and shook his head. “That is really rare.” He mouthed the words slowly—the first thing he’d said so far she didn’t have to struggle to decipher. Suddenly he jumped a little and turned to the left, glancing over his shoulder. “Sorry,” he said. “Somebody broke a glass or something back there. Startled me.”

She nodded, dropping the pendant back to her chest. After twenty-seven years, she was used to having people react oddly to sounds she couldn’t hear.

Jeff watched her with narrowed eyes. “You never got an implant, did you.” His expression was disapproving. “You spoke so well, I thought maybe you had . . .” He waved a hand vaguely around his ear.

“No,” she said. “Just speech therapy.” This was too close to the reason for their breakup four years ago, and she didn’t want to talk about it now. She pulled her interpreter from the bag at her feet and thumbed it on. She had thought Jeff would feel more comfortable if she could look at his face rather than down at a screen, but she’d forgotten how much work it was to lipread, and how easy it was to miss things.

“Anyway,” she continued, “Iridium Gallery just down Michigan here started carrying my pieces last summer, and they’ve done real well. Better than I’d hoped.” She had fought long and hard with the owner, who had wanted to feature the fact that she was deaf in the little plaque of information about each artist. Marina had adamantly refused. She wanted people to appreciate her art for itself, not out of misplaced pity for the “disadvantaged” artist.

Just then their dinners arrived, and when Marina saw Jeff ’s grilled swordfish she wished she’d taken more time with the menu. Jeff noticed her gazing at it and insisted they trade.

“Grant—my roommate—is a vegetarian, so I don’t get to eat a lot of fish,” she explained. “We trade off cooking, three nights apiece per week. Although he owes me a week or two at least,” she added, rolling her eyes. “Somehow he’s always on call at the hospital when it’s his turn, never mine.”

“He’s a doctor?”

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