Chapter 1

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Everyone gets comfort from something.
For most little children, it can be something as simple as a teddy bear, or a hug from a loved one.
For some, it can be the smile of a stranger, or the exhilaration of a thrill.
For me, it's Farrah.
Farrah is not a person.
She is not a doll or a toy.
She is not a pet.
She is my violin.
I made Farrah. She was my last violin before I was fired.
She's made out of scrap wood from the shop, and made from discarded supplies because it wasn't perfect.
Farrah may be a little rough around the edges. She's definitely not traditional.
But she's mine.
And she sounds beautiful.
But I'll never know what she sounds like.
I cannot hear.
But I can imagine.
And let me tell you, Farrah sounds amazing.
I imagine me playing Farrah in a fancy opera house, in a fancy black dress, my hair up in an elaborate updo.
I'll never hear my playing.
But they will.
I imagine the applause, the applause that even being deaf cannot steal from me.
Only Violeta has ever heard me play. All of the people at the Clearview Soup Kitchen have too.
They all smile at me, and clap.
Some of them have even learned how to sign, just so they can congratulate me.
Everyone thinks that these are people who are lost, who are Outcasts. But they are not Outcasts. They are not lost.
They have found their purpose.
Every night when I pack Farrah up and pack up my garbage bag, they smile and wish me well, and some even recommend empty street corners to sleep on.
My relatives may be broken. But these people are my family.
Lottie, the spirited old lady who cuts my hair and begs me to play the same song on Farrah, over and over again.
Violeta, the volunteer at the soup kitchen, who gave me a proper case for Farrah.
Destiny, a singer with what Lottie calls the voice of an angel, but her leg is crippled and her face is marred with scars. I don't care. She is still beautiful to me.
And Countess Juanero, a wealthy millionaire who sits at the corner table and will give us money and food and sometimes even a reservation at a hotel, but she only helps those who need it the most. She gave Lottie medicine when she had pneumonia, and she donates to a lot of programs for people like us.
I love them all. Sometimes Destiny and I do a duet. Our favorite song to do is "This is Me". It represents all of us so well.
Lottie was a hairdresser. Her husband died, and she got fired when her hands started shaking. She couldn't make enough to pay her rent, and the rest is self explanatory.
Destiny was famous once. She sang in the fanciest Paris opera houses, and people would pay millions to listen to her. Then she'd been in a car accident.
And I, Noelle Leveur, was a violin maker. I made violins for the best virtuosos in the world, and I played them, until I got fired. Farrah was my last violin.
I sat down at the soup kitchen table and began to sip my soup.
"Noelle!" Lottie chided. I can read lips. "Eat quick! I'm not getting any younger."
A few seconds won't kill anyone, Lottie. I signed back, sighing.
"Won't help anyone either!" She tsked. "Especially a young, pretty, thing like you. When I was your age, I had a man. You need to get yourself a handsome young man, to get yourself out of this dump and into the Hamptons."
Lottie always had a problem with something. Last week it was how Violeta wore her hair. The week before, it was Destiny's high E. And now, for nearly a month, it was my lack of a husband.
Violeta shook her head. "She don't need no man, Lottie. Our dear Noelle got that violin. She ain't gonna need anything else." She scolded. "Noelle, girl, you gotta play for someone! You gotta get a job."
Violeta, I've told you once, I've told you a million times. I don't need a job. I signed.
"Of course you do! I'm gonna help you brush up that resume!" Violeta was already set. "Kyle, can you handle my shift?"
"'Course." Kyle replied.
Violeta grabbed my laptop and tried signing in. Then she frowned. "What's your password?"
Not happening. I snatched my laptop back. Plus, that thing stopped working years ago. I only keep it around for scrap metal. And it stores pictures well.
She opened her mouth to protest, but I shushed her. It's getting late anyway. I should go find a spot to sleep.
"Try that corner on 5th Avenue." Lottie suggested. "It's under an overhang, it'll keep you dry, because there is supposed to be a nasty storm tonight."
"Not there!" Destiny frowned. "Last Saturday I tried that. There was this nosy reporter asking me questions. And judging by the tent she set up, she isn't leaving any time soon. And there's a corner where water tends to gather near there, and every time a car goes by we get soaked! You'd be better off sleeping on Ragged Row. "
Ragged Row was not the name of that street, but those of us who lived on the streets had given it that name, because you didn't want to sleep there.
There was a garbage truck that went past there, and some of it always spilled onto Rag Row. It was also right next to a nightclub so the noise was unbearable.
I decided to find a nice bridge to sleep under, after I did my nightly gig.
I set up on a street corner and unpacked Farrah. I rosined her bow and tucked Farrah under my chin. And then I began to play. It was a beautiful Mendelssohn concerto, and for a minute, it was just me and Farrah, and there was nothing but my bow across the strings.
I imagine the sound of a concerto, a sound I had memorized before my hearing loss.
And then I felt a tug on my leg.
I looked down to see a little girl no more than 5 looking up at me.
"You are really good." She said, smiling sweetly. "I don't have any money to give you. I'm sorry."
I bent down and smiled at her, pointing at my mouth, to indicate that I didn't talk.
"Can you not talk?" She hugged my leg. "That is sad. I will help you feel better."
She rummaged in her tiny pocket, her little hands finding their prize. She pulled out a star sticker and placed it on Farrah.
"Now your violin is a star too!" She smiled. "My name is Mina. I like stickers! Do you like stickers?"
I nodded.
"I have to go to my mommy." Mina said. "She's over there."
Mina pointed at a smiling lady with jade green eyes and light blonde hair. She didn't have the disdain in her eyes that others did. She didn't look at me like I was a disease. She waved and called, "Min-Min! You need to go! Say goodbye to the nice lady."
"Goodbye nice lady!" Mina gave me one last smile and skipped off to join her mother.
People like that were what got me through the day, and I smiled when I stared at the star sticker with it's little smiley face.
And then I saw a flash of lightning.
I groaned, hastily packing up Farrah and surveying my surroundings. I was far from any bridges, and the nearest overhang was on 5th Avenue with that nosy reporter.
I sighed but made my way there.
The storm would start soon.
A clap of thunder.
A flash of lightning.
And down came the rain.

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