I literally have to sprint to get out of that room before I break out into tears in front of all of these people. I shove past faces forcing melancholy expressions and ignore Jenna yelling my name. After winding through countless hallways, I finally collapse on the floor of a dark room that smells like a musty old attic and cheap carpet cleaner. All energy drains from me as I lay face down, finally sobbing uncontrollably. How could she do that? How could she have justified going out and getting those surgeries? And why does she feel the need to fix something like her deafness? That's when a terrible thought hits me.

What if she did it as sort of a final cutting of ties with me?

Even though that's a narcissistic thought, it's quite possible that it's true. It would make sense, actually. When I walked out of her life, she had no need to keep ASL in her life. I know that I didn't like using it, knowing that I would probably never see her fingerspell my name again.

It doesn't take long for the door to fling open. Without even lifting my head, I can feel her presence next to me, our bodies parallel on the floor but not touching. When I finally build up enough courage to look, her impossibly deep blue eyes are staring right at me. Her hair is pulled up in a hectic way, giving me a generous look at her implants.

"Don't be ignorant, John. This won't change anything."

But hearing her talk just makes me sob even harder. She sounds like a hearie now--using articles, pronouncing each word correctly, speaking at a socially acceptable volume and pace. I hate it.

"Oh John," she gasps, moving closer to encircle her arms around my waist. "Please don't cry. I knew that this would hurt you, I knew, but I thought I would have more time. I thought you could find out in a different way."

I turn my head away from her, but she just presses her fingers to the back of my neck. "You're angry," she says, her voice ruined by no longer being handicapped and utterly perfect. "And rightfully so. But don't shut me out. Not now. Not right when I get you back. Do you know how much I've rehearsed this cheesy romantic conversation in my head where I'd tell you everything I feel about you? I had hoped you wouldn't be crying." She laughs a sad, stupid, hearie laugh.

Her fingers move from my neck just to be replaced by her lips, which whisper something I can't make out. But I do hear her breathe, "I love you." She pauses, takes a rattly breath. "I was pretty sure that I didn't anymore until I saw you there. You know, I've never seen you dress up. But let me tell you, you're the hottest person I've ever seen in slacks." Her hand starts to run through my hair, directly over my right ear. I hope to the ends of the earth that she doesn't see the goosebumps springing up on my arms.

She keeps talking, her voice low and gritty. "You know why I love your blank skin? You're an empty canvas that you've never allowed anyone to write on. That's both good and bad. You're a closed book, a muted television, a blinking alarm clock after the power goes out. No one knows you but those who are privileged enough to speak your language and that's so unbelievably special, John. You don't even know it." Her hand snakes its way underneath my collar, running over my shoulder muscles.

"Touching you is so different and superior to everyone else." Her voice is literally quavering at this point, her hand moving across my collarbone to return to my shoulders and spine. "There are no bumps and ridges and secrets you wish you hadn't seen." She swallows hard. "And I'm telling you everything I've thought about you and I don't care if you ever talk to me again. I would never be able to forgive myself if I let you go without knowing this."

She gently takes my chin in her hand and draws me up so we're both sitting, her eyes wide, testing the waters to see if she just drowned herself. To answer her question, I snake my hand around the back of her neck and pull her against me, warning myself against literally eating her face. I don't think she was expecting that, if her gasp of surprise was any indicator. Don't bite her, don't bite her, don't bite her, is all that I can think right up until she chomps down on my lower lip so hard that I can sense the metallic taste of blood.

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