She was sitting in an alcove of Libby’s, her brown hair drawn back in a knot and her knees pulled up as she leaned on the glass panel at her side. Her sketchbook was resting on her knees as she took to work capturing the quiet street on the other side of the window. She was careful to leave out the moving people and cars.

She’d been working on it for the half hour she’d been in the booth. She evaluated her work once again and, satisfied, continued on to the wedding dress shop, Dentelle, that sat across the street, in front of the second bus stop in town. The other stop was somewhere near the beginning of the town’s residential parts.

Libby’s was conveniently smack in the middle of the busiest street in Tisbury, so you could grab a coffee or one of the café’s famous coffeecakes as you waited for your clothes to dry in the laundromat at the corner. There was little traffic in Tisbury, their population being an unremarkable five hundred—on the dot or not she didn’t know. Most worked outside of town, leaving roads nearly empty in the afternoon. Even lonelier was night, when the neighborhood watch patrolled.

They had formed after a well-known citizen had complained to the council of the theft of his lawnmower. The mower, like the culprit, had never been found. The neighborhood watch rarely mentioned their first failed investigation. Yet, they bragged to newcomers of them being successful in eradicating crime in Tisbury, but the crime had actually minimized to petty thieves and vandalizing teens from the local high school. It was lucky that seldom did newcomers arrive at Tisbury.

And so it was strange to see a boy, not much older than her, walk out of Dentelle and stop to wait for the bus. She’d never seen his glowing, stop sign red hair in town before—practically no one in town had hair that bright. He wore a long sleeved shirt and dark jeans that reminded her of a penguin. He was tapping his gray shoes on the cement sidewalk.

Her pencil skidded down her paper when he looked at her through the window, a smirk on his face as if saying “Got you.” Then he nonchalantly waved at her. Manners that were integrated in her since grade school kicked in so that she was returning the gesture before realizing that she was waving at a complete stranger.

He was now crossing the street and entering the café, the bus forgotten. When he passed the threshold, she realized the full five and three quarters feet of his height that the distance had not properly displayed. He ordered before heading over to her corner, drawing the attention of the female cashier. Her brows raised slightly.

Close up, his jeans looked a navy blue, ruining her image of a penguin. His eyes were a light brown, as if the fire in his hair had illuminated his irises. As he looked down at her, his smile stretched from ear to ear.

“I apologize if I caused that,” he said, indicating the mark on her paper. She stared at it then at the boy that waited expectantly for a response.

“Excuse me.” The cashier stepped from behind the red haired boy. “I’m sorry, but my sister is mute.”

If the boy had not been a newcomer, he wouldn’t have needed to be informed of her condition. All of Tisbury knew of the girl who refused to speak, even to her sister, and it made them wary of her, afraid of her unspoken thoughts.

“Then do you know sign language?” he asked. She made a fist and nodded it. Yes.

She had decided to learn it a couple months after her silence began. Her sister, Maura, had brought up the idea, wanting to be able to communicate with her some other way than a notebook. They took ASL classes at the community college in the city nearby. For the past two years, they could finally ‘speak’ to each other.

The boy made his own gestures. I think we’ll be fine here. This was to Maura, who looked to her little sister. Signs or words were not needed to convey the question in Maura’s eyes. The girl nodded.

“Okay, I’ll be at the counter if you need me.” With that Maura was back to servicing the customers, occasionally glancing over at her sister.

The boy slipped into the seat opposite her. His hands were forming signs again. My name is R-O-N-A-N. What’s yours?

She signed three letters that could be found at the back cover of her sketchbook. Three letters that formed the name her mother had given her sixteen years ago. A-V-A

He smiled. It’s nice to meet you A-V-A.

As the bus screeched to a halt outside, Ronan did not make a move to leave. Instead, he sipped from his coffee mug and watched it drive away.

Ava knocked on the table to capture Ronan’s attention. Shouldn’t you be on that bus?

Since Ronan had entered, she’d tucked her pencil behind her ear and traded her sketchbook for Earl Grey tea and a coffeecake. Ronan’s brilliant brown eyes flickered to the window, then back to her. He lifted his hands.

I think you’ll help me find my way home. He smiled as he signed.

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