Hey folks! How are you on this chilly wintry day? Can you believe that Sunday is Valentines Day?? Me either!! Time is constantly flying past me... It's craziness.
Anyhow. I have a three-part Valentines story for y'all!! The first part today, the next part tomorrow, and the last part on Sunday. :)
*drumroll* And now I give you...
A/N: Dialogue that is both within quotation marks and is in italics, indicates that it is sign language (ASL).
Ever since they'd first met in second grade, Shay knew Daniel was the guy for her. Kind, sweet, and rather cute in her eyes, he was her knight in shining armor. She was a seven year-old with a serious crush.
Shay didn't see him much over the summer and when school started back the following autumn, the boy who had trouble keeping his dark hair out of his striking blue eyes was gone. She learned from a friend of Daniel’s that, due to his father’s occupation, the Rogers family had moved over summer vacation.
Shay was heartbroken. He hadn't even cared enough to say goodbye.
Time passed, as time has a habit of doing, and Shay got over her childhood crush. But she would never forget the young boy who carried her books and let her wear his jacket on a rainy day.
And somewhere else, across the country, another family was faced with life-changing struggles and trials. But the boy, on whom they were focused, would always remember the sunny-blonde girl with an outgoing disposition to match.
Fourteen years later…
The cute, little vintage diner on the outskirts of Willows, California was bustling – as usual. Shay Williams, home from college for summer vacation, worked the register. Greeting each customer with a smile, she spent most of her work hours taking orders and giving back change.
The cash drawer closed with a satisfying cha-ching! as another customer approached the counter.
“Hey,” Shay welcomed the young man with her bright, cheery smile. “What can we get for you today?”
Instead of spouting off his order, as was the norm with most customers, the young man offered her a friendly smile and withdrew a cellphone from his pocket, holding it out to her.
Shay was confused, but looked down at the glowing screen anyways. It read:
My name is Daniel and I am not able to verbally communicate. I would appreciate it very much if you wouldn't mind to take my order in this way.
Shay grinned as she looked up from the bright screen. He only thought there was a communication barrier between them.
“Do you use sign language?” She signed the words as she spoke.
A slow smile covered Daniel’s face. He nodded and signed back to her. “Thank you.”
“No problem. What can I get for you?”
Shay took the young man’s order and he was soon seated at a booth across the diner to wait for his meal. She smiled to herself as she realized that even here one could use the art of sign language. These were the times that she knew studying to teach American Sign Language was the path God had chosen for her.
“Hey, Shay!” The cook calling to her, jolted her from her musings.
“We’re a little behind back here. Could you take out these orders?”
“Sure,” Shay agreed. Grabbing a small service bell from beneath the counter, she placed it next to the cash register and hurried through the free swinging kitchen doors.
Balancing a tray of food on each arm, Shay soon wove her way through the crowded restaurant. She couldn't ignore the little flutter her heart did when she saw that the last plate went to the young mute man. What was his name again?
She took a deep breath and strode towards him.
“BLT with no tomatoes?”
Obviously engrossed in the book he held, Daniel turned to her with a start. He smiled when he recognized her. “Yes, thank you.”
“You're most welcome.” She placed the basket, holding a sandwich and fries, in front of him. “Is there anything else I can get for you?”
He glanced over his food and shoved the book into a backpack in the seat next to him. “No, I don't think so. Thank you.” He reached up and swiped his hair from his eyes. Shay froze.
“Daniel Rogers?” she exclaimed. The words flew out of her mouth before she could give them a second thought. She really needed to work on that.
He watched her carefully, a confused stare in his familiar blue eyes. He nodded slowly. “Do I know you?”
She slid into the booth across from him and extended her hand. “I'm Shay Williams. We were in Mrs. Collins second grade class together.”
“Of course! I thought you looked familiar.” Daniel grinned. “If I remember correctly, you had quite a crush on me.”
Shay blushed and offered a lame shrug. “What can I say? I was seven.”
Daniel appeared to be on the verge of a laugh.
“And now you're trying not to laugh at me.”
Daniel grinned and held up his hands in surrender. “Guilty as charged.”
Shay laughed, grateful for the lightness of their conversation. “So, has your family moved back to town?”
Daniel shook his head. “Nope, just me. I'm teaching at a summer school for mute and deaf children out at the old campground for the next few months. After that,” he shrugged, “who knows.”
“That's wonderful! I'm actually studying to be a teacher of ASL.”
“Really? I was wondering where you learned such fluent sign language. You haven't missed a thing I've said.”
Shay beamed at the compliment. “I've always admired the language of the hands.”
“What inspired you to learn and teach sign language?”
“Well, my uncle is deaf and I–” Their conversation was interrupted by a shout from the kitchen.
“Shay, come on! You've got a line of impatient customers waiting!”
Shay groaned. “Coming!” She turned back to Daniel. “Hank comes off gruff sometimes, but I know better. His bark is worse than his bite.”
The look of concern that had crossed Daniel’s face at the cook’s rough tone, swapped back to a smile. “I'll let you get back to work. I've enjoyed talking with you.”
“I've enjoyed it too.” Shay slid out of the bench and stood. She bit her lip hesitantly, considering what she wanted to offer. She cleared her throat and pushed ahead. “There's a young people’s gathering at church tomorrow night. Dinner, Bible study, a concert. You should come.”
Daniel grinned. “Will you be there?”
Shay nodded, wondering why he'd asked such a question. “Sure.”
“Then I just might have to come.”
The blush returned, deeper this time, as she realized what he meant. “Great! Well, I really need to get back to work. Hope to see you there, Daniel!”
Shay clicked her short nails repeatedly along the edge of the tabletop. It was the next night at the young people’s gathering and she was anxiously watching for Daniel. Leigh, her best friend since childhood, remained at her side. After hearing of Shay’s encounter, Leigh was rather interested in seeing the young man who'd always been able to catch Shay’s eye.
“Oh, he's coming in the door right now,” Shay exclaimed in a whisper, her excitement evident.
Her friend squinted in that direction. “There's several guys at the door. Which one?”
“Dark hair. Green shirt.” Shay muttered the brief description behind her hand as she dragged her own gaze across the room. She didn't want to seem too obvious.
“That's Daniel Rogers?!”
“Leigh!” Shay hissed, elbowing her friend.
“Sorry,” she shrugged. “But I think you should wave to him,” Leigh motioned in Daniel’s direction. “He looks kind of lost.”
Shay frowned and stood up. “Daniel! Over here!”
He looked her way and Shay waved him over to their table, returning his bright smile.
“Good evening, ladies.” Daniel signed as he approached their table.
“Hey!” Shay greeted. “Have a seat. I was starting to think you weren't coming.”
“Yes, she's always this bubbly, talkative, and straightforward.” Leigh spoke up from her seat on the other side of Shay.
Daniel chuckled and pulled out a chair.
Shay shot Leigh a warning glance and quickly offered introductions. “Leigh, this is Daniel Rogers. Daniel, this is my friend, Leigh O’Connor.”
Leigh smiled and held out her hand. “Hi, Daniel. I heard a lot about–” she winced at the sharp jab from Shay's foot, “...you.”
He shook her hand, not noticing, or wise enough not to comment on, the exchange between the two young women. “Nice to meet you.”
Shay interpreted his response to Leigh before turning to Daniel. “So, I realized last night that I didn't even give you directions for how to get here. I'm so sorry. I can't believe I did that!”
He grinned. “I didn't need directions. Willows isn't that big.”
“I know,” Shay sighed. “But still… How awful of me!”
“Actually,” Daniel paused, as if about to make a confession. “I knew right where to find you. Your family has always came to this church.”
“So we have.” Shay grinned, pleased that he remembered.
With fun and good company, the evening flew by. Shay found that she enjoyed Daniel's laid-back personality and his open approach to life.
After the concert, they said goodbye outside of the church and then Shay returned inside to talk with Leigh.
Leigh gave a sidelong glance as Shay walked up. “Did you see your boyfriend off?”
“Boyfriend?!” Shay repeated. “That's a bit presumptuous, don't you think?”
“Is it?” Leigh grinned, knowingly.
Shay rolled her eyes and walked on out the door ahead of her friend. She didn't wish to confirm Leigh's anticipations, but she had a feeling she would be spending a great deal of time with Daniel Rogers over the coming summer.
The first month of Shay's summer vacation seemed to fly by. She worked most days in the diner, where Daniel now ate most of his meals, and she spent her days off helping out at the summer school where Daniel was teaching.
Shay enjoyed spending time with Daniel and she had a blast being able to communicate with all the sweet children.
One evening, about five weeks after the day he'd first showed back up in town, Shay was leaving work when movement on the patio near the entrance caught her eye.
She grabbed her purse and hurried out the door. Daniel was standing there next to the door, waiting for her. “Walk you to your car, ma'am?”
Shay smiled sweetly. “I'd like that.”
As they sauntered along down the sidewalk, Shay easily kept the conversation up. Her never ending source of chitchat amazed Daniel. As did everything else about this sweet girl.
“Did you hear me?”
Daniel was jerked from his thoughts when he realized Shay was speaking to him. He cleared his throat and glanced away when he further knew he'd been caught staring at her. “I'm sorry. What did you say?”
She laughed, not the least bit bothered. “I said I've enjoyed spending time at the summer school.”
He nodded. “Yeah, I have too. Spending time with the kids and…with you.”
“It's been really great for me,” she went on. “I've learned so much about ASL that I can't learn from a textbook.”
Daniel felt like someone had socked him in the stomach. Was that all she saw him as? An easy way to practice sign language? He had to know before their budding relationship progressed anymore.
By the time they reached her car, he'd worked up enough nerve to ask her out. He scratched his chin awkwardly. “I'd like to ask you to go out to eat with me.”
Her green eyes twinkled. “That would be fun. When were you thinking?”
“How about tomorrow night?” Daniel suggested, stepping ahead of her to open her door.
“Tomorrow would be great,” Shay smiled up at him before tossing her purse into the passengers seat.
“I'll pick you up around six.”
“I'll be ready.”
The following evening found Daniel and Shay seated on the open porch of a locally owned seafood restaurant. The conversation remained lighthearted before and during their meal. Daniel hesitated to bring up the subject he'd rather not discuss. After the waitress had taken away their dessert dishes, he decided to bring it up.
“There's something I need to know.”
“Sure.” Her brow furrowed. “Is something wrong?”
He shook his head. “You've never once asked me what happened with my voice. Why is that?”
“I guess I just assumed that when you were ready to share that with me you would.”
Daniel nodded. “I appreciate that you haven't asked me about it, but I think you ought to know.”
“Alright.” Shay shifted in her chair and propped her elbows on the table, giving him her full attention. “If that's what you want.”
Daniel rubbed his thumb back and forth across a scratch on the table. “I want to tell you, but it's not easy to talk about.”
She nodded. “I understand.”
His thumb stilled. He wanted to lash out in frustration – she didn't understand and she never could – but he knew that she was only trying to be a friend.
As if reading his thoughts, Shay continued. “Well, I guess I don't understand, but I'd like to be a listening ear…if you want.”
The last three words came out almost as a question, causing Daniel to feel obliged to answer. A nod would suffice. Concentrating on the table, he took a deep breath and began.
“My family was involved in a car wreck when I was sixteen. It was bad, and we all got hurt in one way or another. Besides the damage to my vocal chords, I was pretty banged up too. They didn't know if I would make it. I was unconscious and sedated for days.” He paused and bit his lip. “Then when I woke up, I couldn't speak.”
When Daniel looked up, he was deeply touched to see tears shimmering in Shay’s eyes. She truly cared.
“That must have been awful. To wake up from something so…horrific and…not even be able to ask what happened or–” She broke off and swiped at a runaway tear.
Daniel nodded. “Yeah. It was…”
Shay reached across the table and touched his arm. “It's okay. You don't have to tell me anymore if you don't want to.”
“I need to finish.”
Shay nodded and patiently waited for him to go on.
He clenched his jaw, determined not to cry in front of her. “Waking up like that was…terrifying. It was like a bad dream, a nightmare, and I couldn't escape it. I was too weak to write anything, and then once I could, I had to use my left hand. My right arm was broken in the accident. It was several days before I could even converse with my parents, much less…” He broke down. His hands stopped moving, forming words, and his forehead dropped to his palms. It was too much; digging up old heartaches was too painful.
When Daniel felt Shay’s hand leave his arm, he was hurt but not surprised. What would a beautiful, talented girl like Shay want with him anyway?
Moments later he was startled to feel her hands on his shoulders. “You're not alone in this, Daniel. And you never will be.”
What do you think? Are you enjoying this story so far? Looking forward to the next part? Let me know!!
Thanks for reading! : )