As a man who’d been almost stone-deaf since birth, meeting women was something out of Christian Brown’s comfort zone. They may have smiled, but from their eyes, and replies, he knew he was less than intelligible.
Now he was shown to a seat in the Koh-I-Noor restaurant. He took a deep breath and looked around at the mainly empty seats, then at his watch. 7.55 p.m. His councillor and psychologist, Susan, had arranged a blind date for him with a lady called Stephanie. She’d told him nothing about her, just that she was attractive, divorced and in her early forties.
But he trusted Susan. Over the past three years, she’d helped him gain social skills and a measure of confidence. Looking in the mirror, he recognised his good looks, despite the hearing aids behind both ears.
A woman with a white stick and sunglasses passed his table, aided by a waiter. “Are you Christian?” he inquired.
Hearing the dull thudding of his own voice, Christian responded that he was Church of England. He must have been intelligible after all, as he saw the woman stifle a laugh. The waiter struggled with both Christian’s pronunciation and the joke, reiterating the question.
Christian read the lips of the woman, presumably Stephanie, as she stood at the table. “Are you Christian Brown? May I join you?” From the way she felt the table and edged around it, he realised she was blind.
Stephanie had likewise been told very little about Christian, and now sat, trying to understand his strange manner of speaking. Susan had said he had a good heart, and that was what she now needed most in a man. She asked Christian if he could lip read and heard a noise that sounded like ‘yes.’
Christian admired her long chestnut hair and judged from the parting that it was her natural colour. She had high cheekbones and perfect teeth. He felt a strong attraction building and told himself to relax, to let her feel at home with him. To his surprise, a waiter brought her a beige plastic-coated card, covered in small bumps.
Stephanie skimmed it with her fingertips. “May I have Chicken Vindaloo and Tarka Dahl, please?” She smiled in Christian’s direction, “I like things spicy!”
Christian read her lips and felt his face flush, then, with relief, realised it didn’t matter.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned. It was Susan, all smiles at seeing the two of them together. She gestured in sign language to him, whilst speaking it out loud for Stephanie’s benefit. “Hello, Christian, are you all right?”
Stephanie felt a kiss on her cheek and Susan’s hand on hers, and a whisper in her ear.
“Are you OK with Christian?”
They both smiled at Susan, one seeing, one unseeing, one hearing, one unhearing, realising that this wise and compassionate woman was trying her best to bring much-needed romance into both of their lives. Neither felt inclined to object.
Featured in the book, Flash Friction: To Cut a Short Story Short, vol. III: 72 Little Stories
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