14-year-old Avis Green is intrigued by the misty mask of Zac Anthony Martin, a mute boy in her school; but she's just one of many people. Then she meets him at the hospital. She wants to know why he's there... but she's starting to think he wants to know why she's there as well. And Avis doesn't plan on telling.
There were three facts every single female (teachers, students, co-ordinator, you name it) in my school knew for certain about Zac Anthony Martin.
One; he was undeniably good-looking. That wasn't even a statement one bothered questioning. With his cerulean blue eyes which brought out the different tones in his feathery brown hair, he was definitely an object of speculation for much of the female population of my school.
Two; he was a labyrinth of questions, and nobody had quite yet tackled the task of finding the center of it. It was evident when you looked in his eyes; he was full of queer ideas and strange thoughts, but they were all hidden in the mist of secrecy.
The third was the most obvious.
He was mute.
Nobody knew anything about that except that he never spoke. No one knew whether he was born that way, or if he’d been in a terrible accident which destroyed his vocal cords forever, or even if he simply refused to talk.
Perhaps his friends did, but they never told.
He had a small group of selected friends; two, or three. (It would be hard, I suppose, to make friends when you couldn’t have a vocal conversation.) He wasn’t social, nor did he seem vain, but he was just himself, and it was hard to figure out someone like him. It was strange how he never got teased about the fact he couldn't speak; yet no one did.
Any new pupil was bound to ask the question, Who's that boy? Because that was just how it was - he was unspeakably attention-seeking, just by existing as he was. It wasn't even simply his looks. He had an aura about him which drew the eyes of many towards himself.
Then people wanted to figure him out.
Some girls openly embraced their adoration for him; they gushed about how he was their biggest ‘target’; usually hypocritically, because they typically ended up finding other people.
Then there were some who seemed to not care, but that divided sharply in to two more sections – the ones who actually didn’t care, and those who just pretended.
And then there were people wedged in between, the ones who weren’t drowning in his intensely blue eyes and dark mystery, but they were human, and curiosity did reach out to them once in a while. I wouldn’t say they didn’t care – rather, they had given up, or knew a lost cause.
I had been in the same school as Zac Anthony since preparatory, but we had never conversed, partially because I had a separate group of friends, even then, and majorly because I didn't understand why he didn't talk. Rather, I thought he was rude.
Now, I didn't know if he remembered me at all.
Well. If he remembered me at all, until I met him at the hospital today.
I walked through the 4th floor hall, with my irritatingly cheerful mum and sister, Charlie, who was very curious about the hospital. She didn't remember it at all, as the last time she came here, she had been 7 and fallen off her bicycle rather magnificently, and she certainly hadn't been to this part of it, yet.
"That's a trolley, Charlie," I told her. "You use it to move stuff like medicine to other rooms without having to grab it all in your arms. It could be dangerous if it fell."
"Could there be an explosion?" she asked, her eyes large and astonished.
"I don't know, you should ask the nurse, maybe she'll tell you."
"What do nurses do?"
"Oh, they're a bit like doctors, but they don't do the really important stuff, I guess."
"I suppose it isn't a part of their job. Maybe they haven't trained for it." I was getting tired of her interrogation, mostly because I was merely guessing the answers.
"That's stupid," said Charlie stubbornly, as we turned a corner, and my mum walked briskly up to a doctor, and began talking to him.
"I think so, too," I said absently, watching my mother converse with the dark-skinned doctor. His label said Dr. Andrews. I had never seen him before. But I was seeing a lot of doctors I didn't know, nowadays. It was almost routinely.
"Avis!" My mother beckoned me, and I sighed, unamused by the drama. I walked after her, high tops dragging at the slippery floor. Charlie followed me, dancing across the marble.
"I'm too young to be spending this overly-large amount of time in a hospital," I told Dr. Andrews frankly. He laughed. I took a liking to him instinctively; anyone who laughed like he did had to be at least a decently nice person.
"You like sounding smart, don't you, Avis?" Dr. Andrews asked me. I shrugged. But I did like sounding smart - I liked not being underestimated just because I was younger and such, and I didn't like my mum always being so... motherly and crooning to me. I liked Dr. Andrews more so now - I had only said a sentence to him and he figured me out well.
"Well, Avis," Dr. Andrews said, in a firm way, "Most of these details can be discussed with your mother. I won't take away your sporting chance of being young." He smiled broadly, and I smiled back. "I'd just like to run some tests on you and your progress, and then we'll see where this goes. Alright?"
"Okay," I agreed, tapping my left high-top against the toe of my other.
I didn’t really mind the hospital much; I minded being boxed in by everything there. I had grown to prefer being alone, where my thoughts could drift and fly wherever they pleased, even slipping from my mouth if need be.
Charlie suddenly shook my arm, startling me, making me glance up at her wide eyes.
“Isn’t he from your school?” she questioned, gesturing vaguely to my left. I frowned, and glanced over the waiting seats in the corner.
Zac Anthony Martin was sitting in the third row from the front, with his bottom lip caught between his teeth, and, to my utter surprise, was staring at my shoes.
“Is he looking at your shoes?” asked Charlie, looking dumbfounded.
I connected his gaze with my feet – it seemed he was. I looked down at my high-tops, studying them.
They used to be white, but, disaster by disaster, they ended up rather tie-dyed. Not in a particularly intriguing way, either – though there were splashes of red and purple because of a paint project at my friend’s, they were mostly beat-up and blackish from the fire place (don't ask). On the front, the only place I managed to keep relatively white, someone I don’t recall had scribbled across both of them, dividing the letters in half on each shoe, Keep Holding On xx, but that was all.
I looked back up, and Zac’s gaze seemed to flicker between my shoes and then something on his lap.
I chewed my own lip, uncertain of how to handle such a queer situation.
Charlie, however, jumped right in to it.
She bounded up to him.
“Why are you staring at my sister’s shoes?” she asked.
Zac looked at her and blinked, his expression one of surprise. Charlie laughed, full of childish charm, and tilted her head to the side.
Soon, a slight smile grew on his lips, and he mirrored her movements, looking up at her with his head tilted slightly to the right, with mild interest.
I looked at the pair in bewilderment. I didn’t even bother trying to hide my gaze.
“Whatcha doing?” said Charlie quizzically, sitting down next to him, all bubbly and cheerful.
Zac kept smiling at her with his small smile, head still tipped to the side, and I heard a tapping sound. I resisted the urge to go and see what they were doing.
I didn’t really know what to do – whether to go up to him and make conversation, or to just smile from the distance and nod vaguely.
As it turned out, I didn’t make the choice.
“Avis! Come over here, look at this!” Charlie squeaked.
Both Zac and Charlie looked at me expectantly, Charlie looking fascinated in that innocent, childish way all kids do, Zac looking bemused.
I hesitated briefly, before trailing off to the waiting chairs. Mum made no protest – probably because she was already deep in conversation with Dr. Andrews.
Charlie was gazing in awe at whatever was in Zac’s lap, and, as I closed the distance between us, I realized it was an art pad.
Zac Anthony Martin had been drawing my high-tops.
And he was spectacular at it, too. There was an open box of pastels with the contents sprawled across the chair on his other side, and there were random patches of color across the drawing. The scrawl across the Converse' tips was done in an almost violent coal-black.
“Wow,” I said simply. “That’s really, really good.”
Charlie was by far more expressive with her words.
“It’s fantastic! It almost looks like a photocopy or something! Look at the colors, oooh, I like this redish color! Where did you learn to draw like that? Why don't you draw like that, Avis? Can you teach me? Please?!" She looked at Zac with eyes full of amazement, bottom lip poked out and pleading.
Zac seemed quite startled by her reaction. I gently tugged one of her dusty brown curls.
"Why don't you ask Mum to find you some art classes?" I asked her, trying to distract her from the current situation. "You could ask her right now."
Charlie nodded eagerly and clambered out of her seat, then skipping towards my mum, eager to get what she wanted.
I winced as I looked back at Zac, who started smiling again, that same mysteriously cute smile which attracted people like moths to a flame.
"Sorry," I apologized, "She's impossibly hyper at times. I need her on a leash, honestly."
He just nodded, and then glanced back down at my shoes, and went back to his drawing. He looked older than his fifteen years.
"Why'd you chose my shoes?" I asked suddenly, as it was the first question that sprung to mind. I automatically wished I had just waved goodbye and went off.
Zac glanced back up at me, his eyes clouded, and tapped the bottom-left corner of the page with the back of his pencil.
I carefully leaned forward, doing my best not to topple over, because that's often a daily occurence with me, and read the words out loud; "Because everything has a story to it. Ah, clever."
He nodded once again, and then looked past me. He looked like he was about to laugh.
I glanced back myself. Charlie was slyly darting around the hall, holding her hands up like a finger-gun, and playing Police with herself. I heard her say "Pew pew!" as she pretended to shoot someone, then blowing the top of her 'gun', like as in cartoons.
I laughed, and it seemed like Zac did too, but I didn't hear him. Maybe he was actually mute after all.
"I'd better save myself from further embarassment and stop her," I said, half-relieved to have an excuse to leave, half-disappointed for the same reason.
Zac shrugged, smiling in a more polite way now, simply lifting the corners of his mouth.
I decided to make it blunt. "Bye, then," I said, smiling weakly, and walked towards Charlie. I stared down at her, though not from much height.
"Did you have to go and ask him?" I asked her tiredly.
Charlie just smiled, showing the gap in her top teeth. "I just wanted to know. He can't talk, can he?" she questioned, rapidly switching topics.
"Yeah," I said, glancing back at him. He was still studying my shoes, not that I minded much.
Charlie squinted at him, nose crinkled like she was staring at the sun. "He's cute."
"You're eight, Charlie," I scolded her.
"You're only fourteen!" Charlie protested loudly, and I gave her a Shhh look. She sighed. "You're only fourteen!" she repeated in quieter tones.
"And I don't argue with that fact," I retorted, propping myself up against the spotless white wall. I scuffed the ground.
"Avis!" my mum called. "Dr. Andrews needs you!"
"Coming," I called back. I propelled myself off the wall, and, with a last brief glance at Zac Anthony Martin (who was still engrossed in his drawing), I walked off.