At eleven-thirty Saturday morning Rachel arrived at her parent’s house. Both of their cars were parked on the street and the garage was empty. Rachel pulled her car in to the garage and closed the door.
“Good. You’re here.” Her mom said for hello when Rachel came in the kitchen. “Adam has been waiting for you. He has the Chess set up in the other room.”
“He doesn’t waste any time does he?”
“Neither do you.” Her mom laughed. She picked up a potato and cut the peel off with a knife. “Oh, when you’re done playing Chess could you help me with a few things in the kitchen?”
“Yeah, call me when you need me.” Rachel walked out through the kitchen and in to the living room. Adam was on the couch reading a book. Over on a small wooden table near the bay window he had set up a chess board with mahogany and artificial ivory pieces. She tapped his shoulder and without looking back walked straight to the board.
“Ready to lose?” She signed.
The two of them sat in complete silence. Their focus was on the chess board and nothing else existed.
“Hey you two I hate to interrupt but everyone will be here soon.” Rachel looked up at her mom. After forty-five minutes of playing neither was in check.
“Finish later?” Rachel signed.
Adam waved her on and Rachel followed her mom in to the kitchen.
“Wash your hands then will you get the mashed potatoes finished up?”
“The mixer and everything else is there.” Rachel poured the warm mixture of melted butter and evaporated milk into the blended potatoes. Her mom made the best mashed potatoes. The secret was to using baked potatoes or cook off some of the water of boiled potatoes before adding the rest of the ingredients.
“So who is the other couple?”
“I don’t know if you know them. They’re some newlyweds your dad and I have taken under our wing.”
“So you can show me how great married life is?” Rachel smiled to her mom.
“I think it’s great. Your daddy and I are best friends.”
“But most marriages aren’t like that.”
“I know.” Her mom looked toward the living room where Adam was sitting with daddy. “Most people don’t have a marriage like your daddy and me but my concern is the two of you. I want you and Adam to have happy marriages.” She paused again to put the corn casserole in the oven. “That’s why we want you to meet a nice man.”
“I will but it has to be in my time mom. Can’t you be happy for who I am now instead of thinking once I’ve-.” Rachel paused. She was getting agitated and that wasn’t the point of today. She came over to see Adam and Curtis. Today was for fun not tension. “Mom, I promise when I find the right guy I am ready to settle down. Okay.”
Her mom nodded her head and turned but not before Rachel saw her mouth “Thank you, Jesus.” Oh well, if her mom felt better thanking a dead philosopher Rachel wasn’t going to fuss.
They finished up in the kitchen and greeted the guests as they arrived. Curtis was the last there.
“Hello again.” Rachel said when she opened the door.
She held the door open for him. “I don’t know if my mom warned you but this is a dating ambush.”
“Mom invited over another couple and you. Presumably to create a third couple for the afternoon.”
“I see.” He said and he nodded his head. “So this is an unofficial first date. And what about Adam?”
“Oh he’s here but his job is to report to mom later on what everyone was whispering since he reads lips so well.”
“Good to know.”
“Come on in and make yourself comfortable.” She motioned to the living room. They had arranged a couple of folding chairs between the couch and daddy’s lazy boy recliner. The seats were full when they walked in.
“Do you mind sitting on the bricks in front of the fireplace?”
“You mean the hearth?”
“Is that what you call it?” Rachel laughed and squeezed in the circle formed by the couch and chairs.
“I think so.”
“There’s no fire burning so we won’t get hot.”
“Good to know.”
They sat down and leaned up against the glass front with a sizable distance between the two of them.
“Have you had a chance to talk to Adam?”
“No.” Curtis replied. “Just a few passing words. I don’t know sign language and I think I still make old hearing people mistakes.”
“Talking slow and over exaggerating your words?”
Rachel pounded her foot on the floor twice. Adam turned and looked. So did Daddy.
“Rachel, I could have tapped him for you.” Daddy said, in his ‘Father Knows Best voice.’
“I know but I didn’t want to interrupt.”
“And stomping wasn’t an interruption?”
She waved Adam over to the Ottoman next to her.
She turned to Curtis. “I’m going to sign and talk at the same time. ASL is not exactly like English so sometimes I slow down a bit or stop talking. I will look at you when I’ve finished interpreting what Adam says. Then you can start.”
“How is ASL different from English. I thought sign language was English.”
She signed what Curtis had said to Adam then told him to read the people’s lips until she was done explaining ASL to Curtis. He laughed and waited.
“What’s so funny?” Curtis asked looking from Rachel to Adam.
“I told him to eavesdrop on everyone else while I’m talking to you.”
“Oh. I saw a show once where a woman was in the FBI and her job was to read lips.”
“Sue Thomas, FBI. Great show. That’s a real woman you know.” Rachel tucked a bit of hair behind her ear.
“Yes. She’s a Christian.” Curtis again looked between Rachel and Adam as he spoke. He had clearly done some research on the deaf community for his business. She hated when people pretended Adam wasn’t a part of a conversation.
“Yes.” Adam said in his nasal voice. “I went to hear her speak at a church once. She’s very funny.”
“I was amazed in her trust in God.” Curtis turned away from Rachel and focused on Adam. “I haven’t actually met her but I saw her talking in a church on tape once. You’re right. She is really funny.”
Adam started to laugh. “Yvonne and I went together when I saw Sue Thomas.” Adam bent over and held up a finger. He laughed harder and tears started to run down his eyes. “Rachel, interpret.” He signed.
“He wants me to interpret.”
Curtis turned back to Rachel.
Adam began. “Tell him when I see S.T. there long line see her. I want hurry and I ask Yvonne interpret for me so I not slow read lips.”
She told Curtis what Adam had said. Curtis started laughing.
“That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”
“What’s so funny over there?” Daddy called over.
Rachel told the rest of the group and there was a mild chuckle but nothing link the belly laugh going on with Adam and Curtis.
“Okay boys.” Rachel both said and signed at the same time. “Did you want to talk or not?”
“Yes.” Curtis said. “But you were telling me about ASL.”
“Real quick there are a few different kinds of sign language. There is SEE which is Signed Exact English. There is ASL, American Sign Language and then there is Pidgin sign. SEE is obvious. It’s English. ASL is more like French in its structure and it also leaves out words like to, at, the.”
“Didn’t know that.”
“So how do you keep the two straight when you are talking to him and hearing people.”
“It’s funny. When I watch his signs I don’t really pay attention to what I’m saying. I say what I see. Like you can read a book and not remember the words even though you said them out loud.”
“I never thought of it like that.”
“Y’all can come on out en eat.” Her mom called.
“Adam, eat.” Rachel signed.
They walked to the table, where her mom made certain Rachel and Curtis sat next to each other. They had the blessing then started eating. The meal was pleasant with everyone chatting back and forth at the table. After she helped mom clear the table Rachel went back out to the hearth where Curtis was already sitting with Adam.
“We were talking some business. Could you ask him a few questions for me?”
“Sure.” Rachel scooted closer to Curtis so they were both across from Adam.
“Ask him if he’d come by my place this week to look over my ideas for the new business.”
She interpreted. “Adam says that would be fine and that we make a really cute couple.”
“What?” Curtis said.
What had she done? Her cheeks started to burn. “Um, I’m sorry.” She wanted to slink up the steps. She felt like she had walked in front of the whole school with her skirt tucked in her pantyhose.
“It’s fine. He was paying you a compliment.” Curtis said. “Can you finish for me?”
Rachel nodded and interpreted the rest of the conversation. Adam left to talk to the other guests leaving Rachel and Curtis alone on the hearth. She now felt awkward sitting next to him on the bricks but sitting on the ottoman and facing him would be equally as uncomfortable.
“Thank you for your help on the pre-approval.” She finally said.
“You’re welcome. How is house hunting?”
“Well the offer I made on the first house was turned down flat but Drew is looking for other places.”
“Who is Drew?”
“Ah, how far do you live from here?”
Rachel turned back to Curtis. “About half an hour or so.”
“Are you looking to move closer?”
She laughed. “Not really. Mom is trying to move me closer against my will.”
He smiled back at her. “You know, your mom speaks very highly of you.” His voice held a soothing quality which surprised Rachel because it was so much higher pitched.
“My mom? Really?”
“Yes. I hear updates on you and Adam fairly regularly.”
“My mom is a matchmaker.” She laughed. “She means well but unfortunately she lays it on a little thick sometimes.”
“No. She doesn’t talk like that.”
Rachel turned toward him and folded her arms. “How does she talk?”
“She is very proud of how you’ve created a successful business at such a young age and that you have the confidence you do.”
“She said that?” Rachel looked out to the dining room where her mom and Adam were busy setting out mini-cheesecakes out for dessert. Curtis continued to speak.
“Yes. She’s told me she worries about you being on your own but she knows you are a strong woman.”
She turned back to Curtis. “I had no idea my mom felt that way.”
“She has good reason to. You’re a wonderful woman.”
She looked straight at him. His playful smile was gone replaced by intense blue eyes that were fixed on her, searching. He was putting out a ping. At least that was the term she had given it. A man put a compliment out in the air to see how she would respond. If she smiled and blushed he would be emboldened. If she deflected it he didn’t have to feel rejected. She felt heat burning in her face. Despite her best efforts she was blushing.
“Thank you.” She smiled then turned away.
“I know your mom kind of threw us in an awkward position today but I’m glad we had a chance to meet socially.”
He wasn’t anything like Drew but she felt a tug on her heartstrings. Maybe that was why she felt that way. “Me too.”
“And thank you for helping me with Adam.”
“My pleasure. You are going to have to learn some sign language if your going to run a business.”
“Yep, I’ve been trying to avoid it since I’m awful with languages but I need to bite the bullet and start learning.”
“It’s not that hard.”
It felt awkward now. Their light-hearted banter was now forced questions and stilted replies. Despite that she wanted to keep talking. She enjoyed sitting with him this afternoon sharing fun stories and laughing. Years ago this was life: Saturday afternoons with mom, dad and Adam playing chess or scrabble and laughing at old stories.
It was like the first couple of years of college when Yvonne, Adam and-.
She stopped before the pain got a foothold again. Those memories needed to stay tucked away with all their hurt.
It was enough to say it had been a long time since she had felt so light. And almost as long since she’d felt so much heartache. That was back when she did pray.
You are reading A Face in the Shadow by Tiffany Colter.
Tiffany is a writer, speaker and writing career coach. She is a frequent contributor to print and online publications in addition to her regular marketing blog at www.WritingCareerCoach.com
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