He was of the upper-class; a highly refined gentleman of great status and extreme wealth. His arrogant words knew no bounds; they were spat out at the destitute beggars that lay whining at his feet, seeking the limitless extent of the gold that he possessed, and at the homeless orphans who dared not to approach his obviously rich body, for fear that he would beat them senseless if they did so. He held a slick, titanic black umbrella in his left hand. The tip would click unceasingly against the cobblestone paths that he practically owned; splashing tediously in puddles of grimy water. When that would happen, he would jerk the tool into the air, scowl heavily at the rainwater and continue on his way.
However, this day was a day that he would not forget as easily as the days that lay behind him; for those days were consecutive ones with hours that slipped his mind as easily as a fish slips through one's unclasping fingers. This one would cause a considerably massive effect on him, for it announced the first month of his home with no more younger brother—and if all went well, the one when he would bring to his house a new sibling. The costume that he had ironed and washed before he retreated to his bed each evening once again beautified his already aristocratic structure, adding to his handsomeness. His haughty eyes, stained with the hues of the grass below his pale feet and the shades of the perennial leaves that adorned the garden gates of the piece of elderly architecture in front of him, betrayed his thin-lipped, somewhat friendly smile. His walk was composed of stiff-legged stamps, and arms hanging like inflexible branches from his shoulders.
The morning was one that did not include the fine threads of a vermillion, red and golden string of colors in the sky. It was, instead, full of lazily rolling clouds, that circled lethargically around and around him. He impatiently tapped his umbrella against the gates, allowing himself a loud, relieved sigh as a guard (all dressed in a navy blue) came to relieve him of his wait.
"Sir Arthur Kirkland we have been waiting for your arrival thank you for showing interest in our humble orphanage I will now proceed to show you the children that fit your list of requirements please come along with me." The statement was uttered in a long, bored breath as the guard turned and began striding briskly across the orphanage grounds. The gentleman gnawed eagerly at his lip, carelessly licking his finger as a small trickle of ruby red slid down his chin. At last, he would have a replacement for his deceased kin. The unnatural silence that had filled his mansion for so many sunrises would at last be chased away.
The guard's heels clacked harshly on the stones as the two walked on in silence.
"How many are there, that have the traits that I desire?" His voice was as brisk as the rest of him, with a barbed English accent that fit his gentlemanly demeanour.
"Several I can only estimate about ten or less your requirements were many and orphans being educated with so few teachers and whatnot..." Once again the guard spoke hastily, as if he was craving to end the conversation.
The man was able to receive the hint, but the corner of his colourless lip forced its way upwards, to show his disdain and irritation. Again a drawn out quiet fell over the duo, twisting about like a worm that would not cease to live. It wriggled about irritably, impatiently, unable to be freed from the abhorrent bonds of Life.
"We are here sir Ms. Michelle will now escort you to the room where you will meet the orphans."
"Thank you." The sir cast a final contemptuous glance at the robotic sentinel, as a pretty little lass scuttled down across the wooden steps; sorry excuses for steps, that is, the man thought. The lass's skin, stained with the hues of the parchment that the aristocrat would use to keep certain words, prescribed for a lover somewhere in the future, complemented her fair, beechnut-brown hair. She offered the man a bashful smile, before sliding her hand over the railing and with a pitter-patter began making her way up the stairs. After a moment's hesitation, he followed, but with more care, as if the creaking stairway underneath his feet would give way to a pandemonium of dust and splintered wood.
The shadows, crisp and sharp as kitchen knives against the creamy yellow wall (with the paint slowly peeling off from it), showed him the pitiful condition of these homeless children. Scornful glares with his honeydew-coloured eyes alerted the attendants, who rushed to hide his detestable scrutiny from the innocent children.
They stopped at a particularly large door. Ms. Michelle turned to smile again at Arthur, who did not return the gesture, finding the girl most irksome and far too much of an easygoing lass.
The orphans, who had managed to allow themselves to be led into a long procession of blemished clothing and dirtied faces, gazed up at this new marvel with awe. They chattered among themselves, each of them desperately wanting to be the one that this unmistakably opulent man would take away from the miserable building.
One of them stood out amongst the rest; a charming little female, with eyes round and gaping as the full moon. They were dyed brilliantly with soft (e/c)s and bright white lights (from the fluorescent bulbs above her, no doubt). Her hair hung in clumps, covering her face that was blackened with mire. Her hands were quivering with the hope that she was soon to escape the confining penitentiary that was a partition between her and the world she knew lay outside.
His listless gaze paused at her; then moved on. Then it came back to her, scrutinising her frail frame and her face, mottled with blotches of filth.
"You are educated, yes?"
He paused, continuing to gaze pompously at her.
"Speak when you are spoken to, poppet."
She furrowed her brows, hesitantly swaying her head from side to side.
"Speak, you useless thing!" The whites of his eyes began showing as he stretched his eyelids far apart. He extended an arm, as if to yank the trembling girl upwards into the air.
"P-please, sir. She's deaf."
He shot the attendant a burning glare.
"Deaf? Deaf, you say? Then explain to me how she has managed to understand my words! How does being deaf affect one's ability to converse, especially with ones of such a high class!"
"W-we taught her how to read l-lips. Please, sir. Be kind. Most orphans here are disabled in one way or another. (y/n) got off lucky."
"Lucky? What do you mean by that?"
"A-all she is is deaf and mute," Michelle moistened her lips, a pleading expression on her ghastly white face. "P-please, sir, just give her a chance."
Somewhat composed eyes met hopeful ones, the green of the summer meeting the (e/c) of the plants that grew in it.
"I suppose you would like to take a...a turn around the garden, yes, poppet?" He muttered, his tone somewhat ungracious as he offered her his arm. After a brief moment's hesitation, she bobbed her head up and down eagerly and clung to his arm, as if it was her sustenance to life. He could barely repress a shudder, wondering at her revolting condition and if it would dirty his fine clothing. Yet slowly but surely he convinced himself that it was no worry, for if she would be the one he chose, be the single particle of dust that he swept away with his broom into his magnificent house, it would do no harm to harm his textiles now. She would clean herself there.
The garden did not pique his interest at all; it was full of the same lifelessness that his property had, with the same drab roses that were dyed a specific colour; a touch of rouge petals that resembled a fine pair of lips to lay one's mouth upon; whiteness, to symbolise the snow that had melted away from the city's rooftops months ago, and to incite the innocence of the youthful individuals who lived in the orphanage. He had long grown weary of the flowers, for they gave him no happiness.
"Poppet?" He grazed his hand across her shoulder.
She ripped her delicately (e/c) gaze away from the ever clouded sky, the placid stare that had, a few minutes before, been gazing upon the fragile frames of doves. She had always been fascinated by the way they carefully stroked the invisible air with their feathered, wide paintbrush-like wings. Did they paint the sky, with peculiar hues that could not be beheld by the contemptible human eye?
Her hair slipped across her shoulders in a childish manner, her head moving downwards ever so slightly, as if to ask the older gentleman what he wanted to say.
"…if you cannot converse with words, what…whatever do you do to get a message across to another?"
Strangely enough, his answer was a small incline of those impossibly pale lips, a softening of those velvety eyes. As he continued to watch her, her hands began sliding across one another in a bizarre flurry of fingers.
All too suddenly he understood.
"Hey, hey big brother! Check this out!"
"W…whatever are you doing, Alfred?"
"It's sign language! Isn't that awesome‽"
"I…I fail to comprehend. Wherever did you learn of this?"
"At school! There's a mute girl there! I asked her to teach me, and she did! Isn't that cool‽ here, copy me!"
"What are you doing?"
"You know, big brother, this…means…I love you!"
"…that's amazing, Alfred. However, you shouldn't be constantly speaking with ones that are not of your class."
"But—then I'd have no friends!"
"That does not matter. Your wealth marks you as different. Besides, that female cannot even speak."
"So? Can't she talk with here?" A pleading tone had crept into the child's voice, as his stubby finger prodded his sibling in the chest.
The sixteen-year old Arthur had allowed his eyes to widen cautiously. How did this little boy, barely as tall as the shortest first-graders, come up with such comments that caused even the eldest individuals' eyes to flash with utter surprise?
The silence from earlier had swallowed the two of them in a veil of peace. But this time he was more than content to stand there, idly, motionless, his palm lying stationary on her.
Her fingers connected with his as she gazed up at the sky, pointing to some unseeable force.
"What is it you're telling me to look at?"
She continued to gesture impatiently at whatever lay above them. He squinted, yet all he could distinguish were the slowly parting clouds, muddied with disturbingly brown greys, and the blank white canvas of the cloudy afternoon, ready to be smudged with colours that were not available to them.
He could sense his emotions tangle and conflict with one another. Was there something this young lass could see, but he could not?
"I cannot understand what you wish me to look at," the man said angrily.
She turned. No, listen.
For there was nothing but the tranquility that he had never felt before in his life, no matter how desperately he had sought for it. How had this little girl brought it to him, this rare flower of noiselessness? Not even a sharp note from those perpetually jovial songbirds dared strike a pitch of noise in this unstirred air.
A sense of fathoming commenced to open up inside him, yet he still could not interpret what exactly those two swivels of the wrist and shakes of the hand had really meant. Was it possible to listen to silence?
But of course. That was the pure simplicity of it all; Silence was the symphony that she unceasingly heard ringing in her ears, a repeating song that could never die, no matter how hard one tried to pluck out those obscured earphones that kept her from hearing even the tiniest of sounds.
Here it came; here it came once again. The otherworldly serenity that could not be felt by one who was constantly stressing; about what would come next, about a friend falling for a twisted sort of male, who would not hesitate to slice one's neck open with a switchblade, about the assignment to be handed in at the morrow. It could not be heard by one who refused to sew their mouth up with the strings of quietude, for all they loved were the meaningless words of the century; for place a meaning in a simple jumble of letters and it becomes something one spits out with her chattering tongue everyday.
Those were his curious thoughts as he pondered what all this could mean, walking home alone that night. All he had wanted was to do was arrive, speak, adopt and leave.
But instead of speaking, he had listened, had he not?