Actions

Work Header

No Sound

Chapter Text

Everything in my life feels so dark. Everything feels like if I touch it, it will disintegrate into thin air. I’m not allowed to touch anything and I’m not allowed to say anything.

The worst feeling is knowing something but not knowing why it is the way it is. It could be small things or it could be major things I know why I am the way on my am but I don’t know why. Why am I the destined one who turned out to be this way? Why am I the one to go through all the pain and suffering life is throwing at me? Why am I the one to sink as if there’s an anchor wrapped around my foot?

It’s sad knowing I will never get a definite answer. It’s sad knowing I will never be able to float back up especially when I’m alone. Nobody will help me fight my battles and that is exactly what I need to thrive and survive this hell we call reality. It’s not like I want to feel this way. Nobody would ever want to feel as if they were chained up. The more you struggle, the chains keep squeezing tighter and they will never lose their grip. It chokes you from the inside out and wraps you around with deadly thoughts, gripping and pulling you to make those thoughts a reality.

Yet a lot of people want to jump straight to it being a reality. Those people don’t understand the true meaning behind depression. Those people don’t understand the pain and suffering one has to go through to get to this deep point in their life. I want to live, I don’t want to die. As each day passes, I’m dying and there is nobody to relieve me.

I wasn’t this way forever and I hope I will never be this way forever. I’m only 16, I have so much to live for. I have so much to discover and see and do. For six years, I’ve been trapped in this nightmare that I don’t want to call a reality. I wish I can wake up and see that everything is okay. Deep down, I know it isn’t and there are no such things as chances. Nobody deserves a second chance at life and I am one of them.

I was only ten years old when I knew the reality of it all. It was the moment I was misused. I was beaten. I was abused.

When people hear the word “abused” they brush it off as it was nothing. They brush it off as a simple punch or kick. Abuse is much much more than that and people don’t understand the true meaning behind the word. It sickens me because here I am, stuck inside of a home I don’t want to be in. All because that one word is always maltreated.

Knowing you won’t get any help is a terrible feeling. Everybody deserves to get help and treatment. I know I also feel like nobody deserves a second chance at life. A second chance can mean coming from the victim side or coming from the evil side. In a way, your second chance could be getting help. I confuse myself because I can’t pick my battles. Sometimes I want a chance and sometimes I don’t.

It’s normal to be confused in your own thoughts especially when you have nobody around you to talk to you. It’s as if there are two people having a constant argument and no matter how exhausted they are they keep their hands at each other's throats. Those two people are quarreling in my head and they won’t give up. No matter what I do they will always be there.

My mind wasn’t always like this. It started when the abuse started. My body is tainted from scars to this day, one year after everything has happened.

One year of being alone.

I’ve been alone in this house for exactly one year and I am still hoping for a savior. The same thought of why I am begging for a savior is running through my mind. Why do I deserve a savior? Why do I deserve to be saved?

It’s sad when you don’t have the answer to questions. It can be simple questions like, “why is the sky blue?” If you don’t know the answer, you don’t deserve to know. So why do I deserve a savior? I don’t deserve one because I don’t know why.

Mixed thoughts always run through my mind like this and it is difficult to focus on school because of this. I go to an online school due to the enormous amount of anxiety constantly flowing through my mind. I never knew anybody at the school and I won’t be surprised if anybody knew I’ve been missing for the past ten years.

I’m in my freshman year, technically. I don’t take any advanced classes even though my online instructor wants me to.I do my own studying on my own.I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me who feels this way.

Everybody’s depression is different in some ways but some feelings remain the same. The feeling of wanting nothing more but to run that sharp edge across your skin, praying it kills you. Everybody has their own stories and this one is mine.

My story is confusing and it’s more than anybody could ever imagine. It’s the way life is unfortunately.

Every morning I wake up with the familiar sound of silence. Being deaf is never fun. I wish I can hear, I wish I can hear the birds chirping when I wake up.

I wasn’t always deaf and that is what ruins me the most. If I was born deaf, it wouldn’t drag me down. I lost my hearing and I miss the sounds of everything around me.

Losing my hearing later in life does have its perks though. I’m able to speak correctly and I know the volume I am speaking at. My worst fear would be talking too loud in a quiet zone ot talking so quiet people can’t hear me.  The downside is that my anxiety tells me that people are talking behind my back simply because they know I can’t hear them.

Occasionally, I’ll get ringing in my ears. I can’t hear anything but that rare ringing. It comes up every now and then because of the way I lost my ability to hear. The doctors said there is little to no chance of ever hearing again, so I don’t think of it as a sign of my hearing returning.

During the day, I do my typical online schooling, stopping every now and then to grab something to eat. I never eat too much because I never seem to have an appetite. Maybe it’s because I never had much to eat when I was younger. The lack of my food in my childhood caused me to lose my appetite even years later. I’m just used to eating small amounts of food.

It doesn’t bother me, so I don’t mind with it. I’m still as healthy as I can be and that’s, unfortunately, all that matters. I don’t want it to be all that matters, but I don’t have anything else to care for. I’m on my own and I have my own necessities that need to be taken care of. That’s it. Nothing else.

After my minimal hours of schooling, I have nothing better to do so I do some extra research, making me extend up to a senior level despite me being in a middle school level. I mean, if I did go to public school, I would be going into my freshman year this year despite my age. It’s the middle of summer, meaning school is out of session. I still continue my online classes because I have nothing better to do. I’ve fallen in love with education.

At night, I always read the last letter I received from my mother. I know it by heart so I don’t have to read it, but I do want to see that she cared a little bit for me. The front is labeled “Armin Arlert” with a heart beside my name.

The letter was of her apologizing and saying that things shouldn’t be this way, but the way she words things in this letter makes me feel like the apology was forced. It wasn’t an actual apology from her heart, but another person's heart. It’s heart wrenching to know that, but at the same time it’s all I have from her and so I keep it.

It takes me a while to fall asleep due to insomnia. Things have gotten better over the years, but it still takes me over an hour to fall asleep. I was on medication for my insomnia, but I stopped going to the pharmacist because I don’t know when my new prescription arrives. Every time I went to ask, they would avoid my question and say, “it’s not here yet.” I eventually gave up trying to see if it was there and fought my sleeping disorder on my own.

And, lastly, when I wake up, I repeat everything I did the day before.

I crave a difference in this routine. I crave someone or something in my life to break this robotic routine. But, of course, I’ve given up on this wish. If change hasn’t happened in a year, why would it change now?  

 

+++++

 

Today was the day of my maths test in school. I took algebra 1, which isn’t impressive at all but I found the subject itself fairly easy. I don’t want to take honors in math because I want to learn in a steady pace. I feel like if I jump ahead, I will suddenly lose myself. So, I stay in this first year class.

I went down to the kitchen and prepared some breakfast. I never eat a lot, so a couple pieces of peanut butter toast filled me up. I’m going to have to go shopping for food soon, I’m starting to run low on the main food groups I need to eat. I always dread going to the store, it’s not a fun place when you’re deaf, but it is a necessity so I just have to suck it up and get on with my life.

As I ate the two pieces of toast, I went over my notes and prepared for this test. Every number and equation was like second nature for me but I still want to make sure I am getting every bit correct. I know math is a difficult subject; if you get one thing wrong then you get the entire problem wrong. With a short test, you have a better chance of failing. The difference between a ten question test and a twenty question test is 5%. If you miss one on a ten question test, you get a 90% but if you miss one on a twenty question test, you get a 95%. Because this is now a ten question test, I need to study as much as I can.

A normal test is around 50 questions and a normal quiz is around ten, but this schools runs differently. Everything counts as a test grade, and a test grade is worth 60% of our grade. I have a perfect grade in this class and I don't know what I would do if it were to drop.

And eventually it became time to take the test. It wasn't bad at all, but I was stuck on a few parts. I have all the free time in the world and I got stuck in a few parts. I won't know my final grade for a few hours and that crushed me. I'm a very impatient person, I like to know as it happens because I want to know if I have to retake it or not.

In these few hours, I find myself gaining the courage to go to the store and get my usual supplies. There weren’t many items I need, so I only brought two twenty dollar bills. My usual supplies always consisted of bread, lunch meats, cheese, water and some snacks that help me during study time. I also get toiletries such as toilet paper, soap, toothpaste and mouth rinse.

I walk to the store because I can’t afford a car. Even if I could, I don’t think I would ever want to drive. Even though I am deaf, I am still just as capable as driving like everybody else. But because of my anxiety, I don’t think I can drive without having an anxiety attack. I don’t mind the thirty minute walk to the store, especially because summer is starting to wind down and it’s getting cooler outside. Even during the hottest part of the day, the walk is bearable.

Walking always calmed my thoughts. They would give me time to think outside of my studying. I just start walking and eventually, my thoughts carry me away and suddenly, I arrive at my destination.

The warm sun against my pale skin felt nice despite me being a bit burned by the time I go back. My body isn’t used to being exposed to the sun, causing my skin to turn lighter and lighter as years pass by. Of course, genetics also cause me to be very pale with bleach blonde hair. My hair has turned into a golden color as time passed and I’m honestly glad it did. Whenever I go out, my skin burns and darkens a tad bit more and my hair tends to grow natural highlights. It makes me look a bit strange, but the reaction fades away the day it happens. It is abnormal, I’m not sure why it happens to me, but it doesn’t bother me. Most people would say it makes me a bit more unique.

To be honest, I hate thinking I’m unique. I know everybody is unique in their own way, but I can’t help but to think that I don’t want to be unique. My life has always been shit and being unique is supposed to be a good thing. Having a sixth toe or being a prodigy in music is unique… and I don’t have anything truly amazing about myself.

Maybe it’s just me who thinks that way about myself because I can’t see myself from somebody else's point of view. Maybe that music student thinks they are terrible at the violin or the piano, maybe that person with the sixth toe thinks that they’re a freak and they want it removed. Nobody will truly see what makes them unique but others will.

I looked up after zoning out and saw the store across the street. The road was fairly easy to cross since I live in an empty part of town. I enjoy the emptiness because there are less people I run into and would have to apologize too. It’s less humiliation altogether.

I make my way into the store and buy the items I need. They only fill a small hand held basket thankfully. I always hate lugging around a big cart when I’m only getting a few items. It’s not like it’s annoying or anything, but there’s simply no need for it.

The store was huge but little people shopped here. It’s old and is bound to go out of business soon. It worries me because of my lack of transportation. I enjoy the walks but the nearest store from here would triple my walk. That just won’t do if I need to get and dairy or meat products. Maybe I can use some of my pocket money and get a cheap bike? How much are bikes? I hope they’re not expensive.

I flinched as I felt a tap on my shoulder, knocking me out of my thoughts. My gaze turns to face a taller boys glare and I immediately feel even smaller than before. “I kept telling you to move,” he snapped before leaving.

Sometimes, I feel lucky that I can read lips a tiny bit, but at times like this I hate it. I fucking hate being able to have some form of communication. Because of rude people like that raven haired man who snapped at me for no reason. He easily could’ve gone around me, he just chose to be an asshole.

People like him make me think about things. Maybe I’m not selfish enough. Everybody around me seems to be rude and maybe it’s normal. Being sheltered for most of my life, I wouldn’t know that. Or, maybe I only see the negativity because that’s how I grew up. I can’t see the positivity in them. Or maybe he's just an asshole altogether. I won't know that.

It's terrible how I will probably never know that. With how life is right now, I'm sure to be stuck in this damn home forever. I won't be able to go to a proper school or go to more stores or go on a vacation.

I do find it funny how one person can just make you have all these thoughts. One person you don’t even have to know can make you feel this way. Just one little thing a person does will ruin you.

But… that’s my life… right?

I was chosen to live this life, right?

Coincidences aren’t real. Everything is for a reason, right?

I ran my fingers through my hair and sighed. I’m overthinking things. I need to calm myself down and try to move on. Nothing will change if I keep sulking and acting as if the world is against me.

But what if you can’t control it?

I shook my head and continued shopping. I hate how my thoughts are so bipolar like this. I confuse myself and I hate that. I want things to mellow out but it’s also sad that I don’t know when that will happen.

Once I checked out, I started to walk home. It was the perfect time for my depressing thoughts to take over and I sighed once more. I just want to do one thing without feeling like a complete fuck up; just one thing without having these same thoughts speeding through my mind.

It’s sad that I don’t know what else to think of as well. I always pray for a change and it’s annoying having the same thought, but I don’t know what else to think.

Once I get home, I put the small amount of groceries away and lay back down in bed. I check my laptop to see if the test score is in and frowned once I saw it wasn’t. I don’t understand, the computer grades the test but why does it take so long for me to see the result.

I sigh and toss my laptop on the other side of the bed. I look over at the curtains in my room and furrow my eyebrows. A familiar black car is parked in front of the house.

I walk up to the window and peek towards the front door. I gasped when I saw a familiar bob of blonde hair, but I was unable to see her face. I know who she is right off the bat. The car, the hair.

It’s her.

I quickly fixed up my appearance before rushing to the door. I stopped in front of it and sighed. Should I open it? Should I face her after all that’s been going on?

Part of me wants to. Who else would’ve given me money and helped me pay the bills? She must’ve. Her and only her. It has to be.

I opened the door and before I could even see her, I’m embraced in her arms. I can’t help but to cry. Feeling my mother's grip once again makes the good and the bad memories rush back to me.

A normal person would be nothing but anger, so why am I here, crying in her shoulder and part of it is because I missed her? Maybe because it was loneliness. I didn’t have anybody after my parents left me and now I’m craving them back.

Who knows?

I know I will probably never know. But despite the past, her grip is soft. Her grip is loving. It makes me feel like the past didn’t happen and I love it so so much.

“Mom… you’re back.”

Chapter Text

Our hug was long and silent. Despite me not hearing, I can feel when she talks and I can tell she’s silent as well. It makes me wonder if she even knows I am deaf. They left me while I was hospitalized so the doctors most likely never had the chance to tell them.

I was the one to pull back to look at her. She’s changed so much within the past year. Her hair was short and shaggy as if someone took an ax to it and cut it off. There was a bandage planted on the left side of her jaw and I immediately get the feeling that my father caused it. Her blue eyes were now a dull and lifeless gray trying to reach for a hint of life.

She was talking to me and I felt bad I couldn’t understand her. She mustn’t know how I ended up turning out to me. “Mom… I’m deaf,” I silently say as I face away from her. There’s no other way to say it and it pains me how straight forward and painful it sounds.

I can’t sense her moving, making me curious. I look back up to see her unravel in front of me. Instant tears caked her face and she couldn’t move. She stood there as silent tears fell to the ground. I wrapped my arms around her once more and she accepted the light embrace.

This feels right. All those years of her ruining me don’t mean anything. She’s still here and she’s okay, she loves me and maybe everything was a misunderstanding.

The painful thing is that I know it can’t be a misunderstanding. She still hurt me. She hit me, she kicked me, she starved me. But now she loves me. All the neglect in my life forces me to crave this small portion of love that’s in my reach. The catch is that it’s a risk trying to take it.

“I’m sorry Armin,” I see her say. I only nod and look down once more. I’m starting to get an awkward feeling in this situation and I don’t know what to do.

She leads me to the couch and we sit down. I notice her move her hands in a very fluent manner. Sign language. Even though she didn’t know about me being deaf, she knows sign language. I want to ask her how she knows but I don’t bother with it.

I do know hints of sign language, but I’ve only begun my learning just a couple months ago. I still don’t quite know what all words are, even the simple ones. I manage to get what she is saying by the simple words and sentences I do know. I get she is saying she missed me and she loves me and that she is sorry. I don’t know how to reply to her. I know I should repeat the same thing and that everything will be alright, but I am afraid.

Fear is stopping me and it’s killing me. I know I have the right to be afraid due to what she’s done to me and I keep repeating this over and over again, but I can’t get this out of my mind. It is the only thing on my mind and I don’t want it to be. I want it to erase and I want to stand up for myself and talk back. I’ve always been the one to be pushed around by everybody and unfortunately these are one of those moments.

She reached over to place a hand on my shoulder and I flinched away, still fearing touch. This fear of touch I have is very small, but it is there thanks to her and my father. The fact that is is her once again makes it even worse. She gives me an apologetic smile and draws her hand back into her lap.

I fix my posture and look down ad her feet. “I don’t know if I can fully forgive you,” I speak up, hopefully being loud enough for her to hear. “I don’t know if I can let you come back into my life. I know you’ve been doing much for me while I’m gone such as paying the bills and giving me grocery money, but every time I think of you, I remember what you did to me, and I don’t know if I can ever get those images out of my head.”

I feel a sense of pride rush into my body, running through my veins and contaminating my blood as if it were a hard drug. I’ve never spoke up to them before and I finally have. It may be far from too late, but I have and it makes me feel proud of myself.

I’ve never felt so accomplished before, even through the rough tests in school or when I forced myself to wake up in the hospital. She adjusts herself to where she’s sitting further away from me as her gaze is set on the ground. She should’ve expected me to turn her down. I don’t think anybody could forgive someone who does this right away.

You have to earn forgiveness, it can’t be handed to you. You have to make the correct moves to earn it and I need to see her make those moves. Maybe she could say hello to me when I wake up or buy groceries for us. Maybe she could continue using gentle touches on me and erase those hard ones from the past. Maybe she could help me with chores around the house or make us meals. Those things will show me she cares and that she is serious about everything she is telling me.

“I’m sorry,” I see her lips read. I nod my head and adjust myself in my seat. “I didn’t expect you to forgive me.”

“You have so much to show me before I could ever forgive you, and I hope you realize that. I hope you realize how painful it was for me to just sit here, not being able to hear anything, and alone. Would you like it if you were left alone like that for so long?” I ask. I don’t mean for it to sound rude but at the same time I feel like she needs to be talked to like that.

She shook her head no and wiped the tears from her eyes. I scooted closer to her, holding my hand out. I can’t help but to comfort when people were upset. I want to teach her a lesson and let her cry, but I can’t help but to comfort her. It isn’t fair to let her cry, but also it isn’t fair to comfort her.

She took my hand and squeezed it tightly, sobbing harder. I adjusted into a more comfortable position, still afraid to get close to her. Once she calmed down, she let go of my hands and properly dried her tears. She apologized once more, most likely from crying like that. I just nodded my head and brought my arm into my lap.

After a while of talking about the situation, she went up into her room. It’s the very room I haven’t touched for so long. I'm still going to have to have a lot of time in my own because I don't know if I can handle having a second person here right now. I know I keep saying I can handle it and now I'm backing out, but I honestly don't know what I want until I am in that situation.

I still need time to adjust to her, that's what is keeping me back from giving in and letting me properly have a clear adjustment time. I go back to my own room despite me feeling a little bit hungry. The last thing I want to is cook food and she comes into the kitchen. I want alone time and getting that time will have to be this way.

I shut and lock the door before laying down and shutting my eyes. I instantly see a vision of her and my eyes shoot open once more. I feel a gasp escape my lips despite not being able to hear it.

I sigh as I sit up once more. Even shutting my eyes, she takes over. I tug my hair back in slight frustration and I frown as I feel a bit of my forehead. The only reason why I grew bangs was to hide awful scars. Every time I see my forehead, I remember what happened back then.

I get up just to kneel down in front of my full body mirror and pull my hair back once more. I didn’t have bangs when I was hospitalized, my hair was short and clean. Once I got out of the hospital and noticed how many scars I received from my father, I grew my hair out in order to hide them. I do forget they’re there and that makes me happy. Of course, just like everything else, I will get a sudden reminder and it will drag me down.

My frown worsens as I slowly start to take off my shirt. Every now and then, I will eye my body. I will let my eyes see every scratch, cut, scar, or gap that has been carved onto it. My eyes always look at my chest first. This awful chest that has a darkened scar caused by a knife going right across the entire left side. A giant burn mark the size of his hand has been placed right where my heart lays. The right side has many little scars caused by bottles shattering on it. The bottles ranged from soda to vodka. You name it, he drank it and he threw it. Every glass would shatter on me. The last memory I have of him is smashing a full bottle on my ears, a tiny sharp damaging one of my ear canals and ear drums, then causing nerve damage for my other ear.

You wouldn't think a bottle smashing on my ears would make me deaf, but it did. I don't know if he did anything else to my body after that since I passed out and that truly bothers me. My father always managed to do the impossible, whether it was good or bad. The chance of glass ruining your hearing forever seems like a one in a million chance, and he managed to do it.

I turn around and look at my back. Whip marks scattered across it, facing any direction you could possibly imagine. They’re still swollen and puffy despite them being old, and I don’t see them going away or dying down. He used to whip me, call me a faggot even though I don’t even know my own sexuality.

I never think of things like that. Why is it relevant when all I do is fear everybody around me? I don't take time to care about who I am. I don't take time to see what I want to do for my future education, or what I want for scholarships or if I want to go to a university rather than an online college. I don't take time to notice who I personally am. I only know my basic likes and dislikes like food and colors. I don't know my true fears other than abuse. Abuse. That word is so powerful. I fear people because of their cruel and abusive side that could come out any moment. I fear getting hurt once more even when I might deserve it. Abuse is a huge fear and people don't see that until they truly fear it themselves. I could be afraid of so much more than abuse but I don't give myself the time to stop and think about it.

I adjust my hair to where I can see the ugly scars once more. I can still feel them cover my forehead, you'd mistake it for wrinkly skin. Every time I see it, it pains me and yet I can't seem to look away from it. Why do I enjoy torturing myself like this? Why do I enjoy giving myself this pain?

It's not like I want to, but I do anyway. I do it out of habit and therefore, even though it hurts me deep down, I must enjoy feeling this pain. If I didn't like it, then why would I keep doing it over and over again? If I didn't like it, then why would I keep making things worse, whether it's a healed scar or creating a new one. If I didn't like it, then I wouldn't relapse and I wouldn't have the urges to just end my life.

I noticed a little piece of paper slide under the door in the corner of my eye. I went over and picked it up, unfolding it to see a small message from my mother.

Dinner will be on me tonight. Please be ready to go out in an hour.

I sigh and crumple up and Note before tossing it in the trash bin placed beside my bed. She doesn't know how much I fear going outside this house so I can't blame her. I just really don't want to see her at the moment especially because of everything new that's happening.

I'm just going to have to suck it up. I have to face these fears if I want to be more successful, especially with my education. Now will be a perfect start.

I rummage through my closet, looking for my nicest clothes. I don't have many that fit me anymore. Back then, my parents always made me dress up properly for school. I always stuck out like a sore thumb because everybody else wore such casual wear. Nowadays, a lot of the formal wear doesn't fit me.

I managed to find a white button up shirt and plain tan jacket to go on top of it. I wore blue jeans with it as well. I'm usually never the one to wear jeans, but I don't mind them every once in awhile. I look at the clock and widen my eyes when I see I'm running late.

How has an hour already passed? It feels as if it's been ten minutes. I sigh as I leave my room and head down to the living room. My mother is sitting on the couch dressed up as well. It’s a new maroon dress that I’ve never seen on her. She was never the type to wear dresses and when she did they were always a shade of blue. She only wears dresses on special occasions and even if it is a simple, baggy dress with no support on her figure, it still makes me feel underdressed.

Then again, a long time has passed so maybe that’s why she is dressed up. She’s changed her style. Was it because of him? Did he make her start dressing up?

No matter what now, I blame my father for differences in this family. She might just fancy a dress every now and then but I can’t help but to assume that it is because of him.

“You look nice,” she said. I tried to smile but failed. It still bothers me how I can’t hear her voice once more. I want to hear her again and hopefully be more calm about the situation by seeing her voice. I don’t know if it will help me or not, but just hearing a simple voice right now is what I need because silence is driving me crazy.

I nod and follow her out the door to her car. The black car looks like I should remember it, but then again I don’t. Or, at least not right now. I do remember having a black car, but looking at it up close and inside just takes away that memory.

I get in the passenger seat and buckle the seat belt, not looking in my mother's direction. She turns up the music and I can feel the vibrations despite not being able to hear it. I shut my eyes and let the vibrations calm me down. They playbin a specific pattern and I try to imagine what the music sounds like.

I wish I can hear music again. Music used to calm me down whenever I was upset but now I can no longer use that to calm down. It hurts knowing that I can no longer listen to the music and it hurts knowing that I never will be able to again.

We pull up to the restaurant and she leads me inside, her hand pressed firmly behind my back. Her touch wasn't as soothing as it was earlier today, but rougher as it used to be. It brought back memories of her rough grip on me, holding either my arm or my hair and dragging me across the room before  dad hit me.

I quickly got out of her grip despite not knowing where to go. She needs to learn her boundaries and if she constantly breaks them, then I can no longer live with her. I can’t live with this pain anymore.

Somebody leads us to a table and I sit down across from mother. I can’t read her expression at the moment. It’s a mixture of both anger and sadness. I can’t help but to feel that the anger is directed towards me. I’ve always made her angry, I’ve always made her disappointed.

The waiter looks at me and I give her a confusing look. “Can I get you anything to drink?” I read.

“Just some water, please,” I reply and look down, embarrassed because I don’t know how long she’s been standing there.

A couple minutes later, mother taps on my menu. I look up at her and give her a fake smile. “Armin, how do you feel about going back to school?”

Chapter Text

I froze as I looked back down at the table. School was a dark time for me especially because of the abuse happening back home. I don’t remember every detail, but I do know that I can’t handle school right now. I’m deaf, I don’t be able to hear the teachers or someone call my name. How will I be able to participate without hearing?

People will make fun of me, laugh at me because I am deaf. I know they will. Even going to the store to buy groceries, people are rude to me due to my loss of hearing. Nevermind me being with a group of teenagers who live to judge the people outside of their clique.

I shake my head no. I can’t involve myself around a lot of people like that for five days a week. I can’t do it and I can never do it. I’ll take online college if that means I don’t have to deal with people ever again. She reaches over and grabs my hand, causing me to flinch and pull it back.

I rest my hand onto my chest as I look at her in fear. Guilt instantly washes over her face, causing me to slowly drop my hand in my lap. “I can’t do it, mom. I can’t. They’ll hurt me, they’ll make fun of me, I won’t fit in at all. Public school isn’t made for the deaf,” I tell her, tears blurring my vision. My already broken speech is probably even more broken as it hurts to talk.

“It will be okay, Armin,” she signs. I shake my head and look down once more. I can’t go to school again and the thought of going back to school terrifies me.

I only looked back up when I told the waiter what I wanted to eat. I just got some French fries and a salad because of my lack of appetite. The horrid thought of going back to public school is taking over my mind and I know if I look back up to face my mother, she will mention it again.

Later that night once I got home, I immediately got into comfortable pajamas and laid down in bed. Right when I shut my eyes, terrible memories flooded my vision. The two boys, one with bright green eyes and the other with dull blue eyes, would constantly get involved in my life. I don't remember their appearance, not even their hair color, but something about their eyes stood out for me. If I see them today, I know I won't be able to pinpoint them. They're both very common yet unique colors. I feel like they stick out because one is bright and full of life while the other one is dull and searching for the will to continue before dying out. It's a strange combination to see the two colors together.

The only memories I have of the boys with the green and blue eyes is simply bullying. The blue eyed boy would slam me against the hallway walls in school and the green eyed boy would always ask me why I have cuts all over my body in a mocking sense, just to have the blue eyed one hurt me. Of course, coming home with bruises from them would old cause more bruises to occur. My father would always call me weak if they weren't from him. I'm useless and that I can't fight for myself, I get beaten up and I let it happen.

What frustrates me the most is that I can't remember most of my elementary school times. It's as if I was in a trance most of the time. You typically can't remember what happens in a trance especially in my case. It's as if your mind takes you away and it makes you forget that a fist came up to your face that day. It tries its best so you don't feel that pain and drag it on for a long time, but it fails once you snap out of it. Your face is throbbing in pain and a big bruise has been left behind. It isn't fair to have trances at times, especially when things like that happen.

I would like to know what happens in those moments because I am a person who wants to be awake and alerted. I don't want to zone out and is left clueless on what happened. That is how I feel about my short time at public school. I am clueless about what happened in school and I want to know what truly happened.

I open my eyes once more and sigh, knowing that even with my eyes shut, my vision will still be covered in color as memories flash by.

I wish these visions will go away but I also know that my life would be bland without them. I already can't hear so I depend on vision. I depend on seeing things around me and sometimes that carries on even when my eyes are shut. I wish I could see a good memory, though. Everything that runs through my eyes is negative.

I wish I could see those tests I got a 100% on in these visions. I wish I could see that person who helped me find medicine at the grocery store a few months ago. I wish I could see the wonderful meals I made for myself.

But, no. I can't see those anymore. I can only see the negativity that forces itself upon me. I hate it so much but at the same time I know things have to be this way for now.

Maybe going back outside can change that. Maybe going outside and back to public school will give me new visions. I won't be stuck with the same visions for the rest of my life.

I hate how my mind is going back and forth between staying hidden and going to school now. This is my first legitimate thought of going back to school and I already hate it. How could I go from refusing school for years to thinking that it wouldn’t be so bad? How could I go from incessantly fearing the outside world to wanting to push myself out there? How do I know everything will be okay when my senses are lacking?

I groan as I put a pillow on my head, blocking all sense of light. I hate this so much. I have a feeling that my mother will put me in school anyway so I don’t have a choice. Knowing the way she is, if she feels like I should do something I won't have a choice. She wants me to go out there and be a normal person because in her world, being home schooled doesn’t make you normal. I remember her saying that back then. If you’re homeschooled, you’re weak.

Will I be ready for public school? Will I be ready to face all of the horrible people around me? Maybe I can make a friend or I can meet someone who has the same disability as me.

I cringe at the thought of me having a disability. Yes, I do have a disability but I don't like calling it that at all. It makes me feel like I need to be treated differently. I want to be treated like everybody else but at this same time, I know that can’t happen. I won’t be able to understand them and they would have to learn a whole new language just to communicate with me. I can’t speak properly like everybody else. I know how to say the words and some may come out more clear than others since I did once have hearing, but I’m no longer perfect and people will be judgemental towards that.

Do it, Armin. Go to school. It will give you more opportunities to show the world what you want to do, it will give you more opportunities to figure out exactly what you want to do and how you can do it.

I wanted to scream at my mind for telling me that, but I know it’s right. Removing the pillow from my head, I get up and leave my room. I search around to find my mom in her room, reading a book. She looks up at me and smiles, placing a bookmark in the book and setting it on the nightstand.

“Hey Armin. Are you okay? You seemed really off on the way home,” she says. I want to question her actions because it’s rare for her to act upon my feelings like that. I brush it aside as I sit on the edge of her bed, looking away from her.

“I’ve decided that I want to do public school.”

+++++

The past few days have been busy with enrolling me into school as well as teaching me sign language. I’ve mastered a lot of the language in such a short time luckily since my mom knows it. I’m still curious as to why she knows it though she didn’t know I became deaf. I feel like she told me, but I can’t remember.

That’s one thing that’s been happening a lot lately. My studies are still impeccable, but simple things such as a story have been leaving my mind lately. I completely forgot about the day mother and I went to the restaurant and I agreed to go to public school. She had to tell me every detail about that day as she went to enroll me in school.

I am kind of bummed out about school as well. Though I am set to graduate, being 17, they still want to keep me in for a few more years, therefore transfering me as a sophomore. They said it is because they teach differently compared to most schools, and also the fact that if I were to stay in public school instead of transfering to online, I would be in my sophomore year. I feel old as a sophomore and 17, but I was assured I’m not the only one.

I hope their words are true. I hope these three years go by quickly and that these studies are easy. They set me up with counselors and helpers as well. My helper will guide me to classes and my lunch hour as well as teach me new words or forms in sign language. My counselor will help me with my speech impediment as well as teach me new words to say. She will also let me talk to her whenever I am feeling down or upset, much like a therapist, and she has me talk about my week every Friday.

I hope these new things will come in handy. I’m still afraid about the students because they’re not that open and welcome. My helper is a senior, that’s all I know. I don’t even know her name yet I have to depend on her. If she is ever absent, there is a second helper who is also a senior that can help me out. I’m not sure if I will ever meet her though, considering this first person is my helper because of her perfect attendance.

Today mother is taking me out for back to school shopping. It’s strange doing this considering it’s been years since I’ve done so. I look down at my lap as my thoughts take over. When did I leave school again? Was it elementary when I transfered, or was it middle school? Or, maybe the elementary and middle school were combined? I know a lot of schools in this area do so.

I grip my hair as tears form in my eyes. How can I forget my education from when I was younger? How can I forget simple facts such as that? I know the doctor told me my injuries have given me permanent memory loss, but I knew these facts just a week ago. Why is my mind suddenly giving up on me?

I let out a loud sob, not caring if mother can hear me. Why do bad things keep happening back to back? First, I lose my trust and faith in my parents, then I lose my hearing and I’m left alone to fend for myself. After a long time of a lonely silence, mother returns and I get put back into school, where terrible thoughts about it are eating at me during every single free moment I have. Now, my memories are slowly fading away. It doesn’t end. It doesn’t fucking end. Why won’t it end?

I feel a hand on my back. Though I have time to process who it is, I still let out a scream and push her hand away from me. I look at her as I huge my legs to my chest. “Don’t touch me,” I yell.

I look back down as I sob harder. How do I know I’m yelling? Yes, I can feel a stronger push in my vocal chords, but what if this entire time I’ve been whispering and now I finally talked normal? What if that wasn’t a yell?

I hate being deaf. I want my hearing back. I want some miracle to happen and I can gain my hearing. All I need is a new ear drum and a repaired ear canal, right? Surgery can be performed, right? There has to be a way, there just has to be.

I see mother kneeling in front of me and I push her away. “Don’t get near me,” I snap. I feel the anger radiating in my tone despite not being able to hear it. “Leave me alone!”

Her eyes show pain and sorrow, but she nods and leaves the room. Guilt instantly floods through me and I cry uncontrollably once more. She didn’t do anything wrong and yet I yell at her and push her away. What kind of monster am I?

You’re not a monster. You’re deaf because of her. You’ve been diagnosed with PTSD and depression because of her. You’ve been having mental breakdowns, panic attacks, anxiety attacks because of her. Get rid of her.

No. You are a monster. You hurt her. You brought this pain upon yourself. She only hurt you because you hurt her first, and she got fed up with you. Now look, you’re back to your own selfish actions.

I scream at the voices in my head, my throat instantly burning afterwards. I hate this battle, I fucking hate it! Why can’t my mind stay quiet? Why do these thoughts always appear at my weakest moments? Why are they always opposite thoughts that talk to me?

I look up to see nobody there. I expected mother to rush back to comfort me. I want to be in her arms, I want to cry in her shoulder and I want her to sooth me and tell me that it will all be okay. But, I pushed her away. I hurt her, I yelled at her, and I lost my chances. She won’t hold me tight because I pushed her away from me.

“Why do I always fuck up?” I ask out loud, wincing at the sudden reminder of not being able to hear it.

You brought this upon yourself, Armin.

I let out a sob as my head falls down once more. It truly is all my fault. I lay down and I sob into my pillow as my vision slowly fades away. Breathing suddenly feels like a challenge. It feels as if there’s something on my chest, about to crush it. My throat feels as if it’s clogged up and there’s just a tiny sliver where air can seep through, but that sliver is becoming smaller and smaller, and eventually it becomes nothing.

And eventually, it does become nothing as everything fades to a pitch black.

+++++

I wake up to a white ceiling. Though my ceiling is the same color, the patterns on it don’t look the same. I sit up and look around to see me in mothers room. She's sitting at her desk, sound asleep with her laptop lit up on an article.

What happened? How am I in here? Did I have a breakdown of some sort? I would never fall asleep in here.

I quietly get up to look at her laptop, warning her that she only has 10% battery remaining. I turn off the warning and my eyebrows furrow as I read a few words on this article.

It's all about panic attacks and what to do when someone is having one. Is that what happened? I know panic attacks are quite often, but usually I remember when I have them.

Everything instantly clicked and I fall back onto the bed. I started getting worked up because of my memory loss issues. I now remember pushing her away even though she was only trying to help me. I remember passing out as I struggled breathing. My breathing still feels off despite getting rest now that I put my attention on that.

I shut my eyes as I try to clear my mind. I can't have negative thoughts, especially if I had a panic attack. It can easily trigger another one. It has before and I ended up hospitalized from it.

No, it's not common for that to happen. The second one I had led me to a suicide attempt and that's why I had to be transferred to a hospital. To this day, I don't know how I was saved. Who called the paramedics to pick me up? I was by myself at the time, meaning someone must've walked in.

There have been a few cases where people would mistake my house for someone else's since all the homes on this street look identical to each other, so I want to keep me guess in that area rather than searching the entire house for cameras.

I look back at my mother, who is still asleep at her desk as the laptop shut off, losing its source of life. I take it as a sign to leave the room considering there’s nothing left for me in there. Once I get back to my room, I shut the door and go to my desk to take my medications. I hate taking them but I know they help me, especially after a panic attack or anxiety attack.

I grab the pills from the bottle before making my way to the kitchen. No signs of life is in there, making me thankful. As much as I hate being alone, I also hate living with someone. I’m afraid of bumping into them and things being awkward. Even though people live together for a reason, I still can’t help but to have the fear of running into them. I don’t want them to be mad at me for being in the same room as them, as it has happened before. I don’t want them to turn me down and go away. It may sound like an exaggeration, and I hate how I sound when I say things like that, but I still can’t help but to have those fears.

After taking my medication, I open the pantry door and search for food. Since my mother has been back, I’ve been keeping a schedule on when to eat. Back then, I only ate when I felt like it. I may have been hungry, but if I didn’t feel like eating then I wouldn’t eat until I felt like it. Now, I try to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner every day at a specific time. Meat in my bones have started to form.

While most people would be happy for losing weight, I am starting to feel happy for gaining weight. I was 40 pounds underweight when mother weighed me. It’s unnatural to drop that far under but I managed to do so. Now that I am eating more, I’ve gained ten pounds.

I think I’m more happy about it now because I am going back out to the public and I want to look more healthy. I want to look more approachable and I don’t want people looking at me strangely because of my lack of weight.

I am still restricted to wearing long sleeves. Scars are still fresh on my wrists, and old ones from father still show up behind the new ones. The last thing I want is for someone to see them. Even though it is a way of saying that I want help, I feel like I am already calling for it by being deaf. I don’t need to put more issues on their plate.

If I wasn’t deaf, then I would show them. I don’t find it as a bad thing at all. People show scars, fresh or not, because they want help. It’s a cry for help even if they don’t think of it that way. Why hide your scars when you don’t need to?

I feel like a hypocrite when I say that but then I say I want to hide them for now. Though it is okay to do one thing at a time. It is normal to take things slow and at your own pace. I feel like other things are more important as of now and that’s okay.

I pull out supplies for a sandwich and I start making them, considering it’s already three in the afternoon. Guilt floods over me as I remember the fact that we were supposed to go shopping today for school supplies. I wonder if we’re still going to do so. It was early this morning when I had my panic attack and now it’s getting late. Mother is sleeping at the moment which doesn’t help my guilt.

Though school won’t help my nerves right now, I still feel bad for ruining plans that were set in place. I don’t know how I can make it up to her. I can’t cook, I don’t have the courage to leave the house by myself right now, and I’d feel worse if I woke her up.

I decided to make her a sandwich as well, though I’m sure she doesn’t eat them. It’s the thought that counts in the end. I’m so useless, I can’t even do anything decent for my own mother. But, that’s life unfortunately.

Once I finish making the two sandwiches, it was as if she read my mind and she entered the kitchen. She smiles at me and my cheeks turn a bright red. “Are you feeling okay?” she signed.

I nod and push her plate closer to her. “I’m sorry for doing that. I made this for you,” I say, hoping she could hear me. I gasp as she thanks me before sitting at the table and starts eating it. It must ruin her diet considering she can’t have white bread and that’s all we have, as well as the processed deli meat.

She’s on a very strict diet because she’s recently been diagnosed with medical conditions she won’t tell me about. She can’t eat anything spicy, citrus or processed. She told me her diagnosis was nothing serious, and pray to God I hope she is telling the truth.

I sit across from her and start eating as well. She dusts off the sandwich quickly, thanking me once more before rinsing off her plate. She sits back in her seat while I finish eating. “Are we still going out today? I feel bad for postponing our plans,” I tell her. She nods and I sigh in relief. I should’ve expected that answer, but it is late after all. Rush will hit us on the roads while heading back.

I’ve never been through rush hour myself, so I hope it isn’t as bad as the news says it is. Traffic can get bad here because most people here work out of the town. While we are a big town, we don’t have many high paying jobs. People mainly work in the city beside us, causing a traffic jam during the evening.

I finish eating and go in my room to adjust my hair in the mirror. I throw on a hoodie before heading out the door. Mother is already in the car waiting for me. I sigh as I get in the passenger's seat and put my seatbelt on.

You’re doing good Armin. Keep it up, don’t fuck up.

I shut my eyes as I try to fight back tears. These voices come at the absolute wrong time. Mother is treating me to something. This shows that she is changing and I need to accept that. Yes, I still get anxious whenever she comes close to me. Yes, I want to run away and never see her again, but this is how things are now and I need to accept that. I need to see these good changes rather than the bad memories.

She’s buying me items. She’s never done that in the past. It goes to show that people change and people move on from their dark norm.

We pull up to the shopping center and she leads me to the entrance. I’ve never been in a shopping center this big so I stay close by her side. People are passing us left and right and for once, anxiety isn’t eating at me. Nobody is looking in my direction, they’re minding my own business rather than focusing their attention on me.

I hope it’s that way when I go back to school. I know people will look when I enter classrooms on the first day of school, but it’s expected. They do that to everybody. I just have to calm down my nerves.

She lets me pick out the school supplies I want. I got a plain black binder with a different color notebook for each class. I don’t know how many notebooks I will need for sure. I grabbed six just in case. One red, one orange, one green, one blue, one black and one pink. I grab college ruled notebook paper as well as some mechanical pencils and pens. My backpack is pitch black as well.

I feel nervous shopping for school supplies. Someone can pick on you for the smallest things, including your backpack color. I love pastel colors, I want to get a pastel backpack, but this small fear prevents me from doing so.

Once we finish shopping, my mom leads me to the check out lane. The line is long since there’s only two lanes open at the moment. She starts talking to the person in front of us and I feel mesmerised. She looks so familiar, where is she from?

Her long brown hair rests over her shoulder and her golden brown eyes are so full of life, you can see them from miles away. Why does she look so familiar? I don’t remember her being in my past but at the same time she reminds me of the dark times.

“Hey Armin, how are you?” she asks me. Mother must’ve told her my name.

“I’m good, how are you?” I ask. She seems confused by my speech impediment but she says that she’s doing good as well. Mother probably didn’t tell her I’m deaf.

Once we got home, I was already hungry again. Traffic wasn’t too horrible, it’s only six in the evening and we are already home. Mother makes us food and I wait for her at the dinner table.

The woman from earlier today keeps flashing in my mind. She looks so familiar yet I can't remember where she is from. Maybe I just knew someone who looked similar to her? I'm not sure but the similarity and remembrance is too much for me right now.

Where is she from? Where do I know her from? Who does she remind me of?

Chapter Text

Today is the day I face all of my fears once and for all. Today is the day where I show the world that I can be something more than a useless deaf kid. Today is the day where I can prove to myself that I can exceed different lengths and I can push myself out there to do better things.

Today is my first day back at public school.

It's sad that it isn't recognizable anymore. Billions of people go to public school, meaning that this big step isn't big at all to them. But for me it is more than a big step. It's a huge leap for me. I'm battling with so many fears and now I'm finally pushing those fears away from me. I’ve come a long way in such a short amount of time. Back then, I only left the comfort of my room if I needed to go grocery shopping. Now, I’m going outside more and I’m going to school.

I am still nervous about how people will react towards my lack of hearing. My helper is named Hange, and he is a book lover just like me. I felt bad when I first met him yesterday. I wasn’t aware that he’s transgender. Though I didn’t say anything out loud, I still felt bad for having thoughts of him being feminine before I got to meet him.

He wants to major in science which results in him always getting his head stuck in a book whenever he has free time. He could go on and on about scientific facts if you’d let him, but the way he worded things made me cautious about that. I feel like if I let him, I’d be up for an entire week watching him explain everything.

He helped me with a few errors in my sign language. He told me that his friends ex boyfriend was hard of hearing as well, so he learned sign language to help the boy out. I find it sweet how people will go certain lengths just to try and communicate with somebody.

It reminds me of how I used to think that there was no good in this world. Everything and everyone in it is negative. Hange proved that to be incorrect. There is good in this world and I hope I can find more people like him. He said that the people at this school are fairly decent, but there are still people who act up occasionally. I pray that doesn’t bother me.

My mother woke me up early this morning in order for me to fit some breakfast in my morning routine. It is bothersome how I can’t wake myself up by an alarm clock just like everybody else, but it is what it is. I am thankful there is someone who will wake me up on time.

Once I finished breakfast, I ran up to my room to finish getting ready. Now, here I am trying to figure out what I will be wearing. Style doesn't really matter to me, but I know it matters for others. I want to look nice for the new school as well as looking nice for others. I want to be presentable and maybe people won't be so harsh that way.

I pull out some black skinny jeans and a pastel blue T-shirt from the closet before shutting the sliding door. I take off the smelly pajamas and place then in the laundry bin before eyeing my bare body in the mirror. I’m still not very fond of my body, but at the same time I can’t imagine it any other way. Despite my weight gain, I still look as scrawny as ever. I don’t think that will ever change, and it’s okay if it doesn’t. Whether my body stays or changes, I will hate it no matter what.

It’s not the body I want to have nor will it ever be. It will still be covered in ugly scars revolving around my past and those scars will continue to multiply. Just last night, more scars were added on. Stress and anxiety about school made me break then, and it’s still quite urging now. But, I won’t. The main person that is refraining me from doing so is Hange because I know that he wants to see me in school and he is really looking forward to teaching me and helping me. He wants to see improvement, not deterioration. Thinking about him is what keeps me progressing through this tough moment and I won’t back down on this.

Before putting my clothes on, I take off the old, blood-stained bandages off of my wrist and thighs before cleaning up the wounds. I keep looking at my door in fears that it would open while I sit here, naked on my bed with nothing but a wash cloth covering my thigh. The door is locked, so even then, nobody could be able to enter in on me. Why do I keep having a fear that someone will come in?

I know it’s because of me being stone deaf. Losing this sense means that I can’t hear anybody entering the room, making me freak out in moments like these. My mother knows I do this from past scars on my arm, but I don’t want her to see fresh ones, especially this morning.

Once they were clean with fresh bandages on them, I put on some fresh boxers with the black skinny jeans and pastel blue shirt. The bandages on my wrist were still prominent due to the shirt being short sleeved, so I topped my outfit with a black zip-up hoodie. I left the zipper undone so that it didn’t seem like I was wearing all black as well. I’m throwing the pastel in so that I could look more presentable rather than the other way around.

My converse are pure white, so they add onto the color scheme as well. I put them on and tie them up before going to the bathroom. My hair was fairly decent due to its short length. It’s rare when I need to spend time to thoroughly do my hair since it is short enough to just fall into a nice and clean position. I brush it out a bit with my hands anyway to get a couple knots out of it before brushing my teeth.

It feels strange doing this routine once more. Yes, the last time I did it was years ago, but I still remember getting ready in the mornings. Mornings used to be very hectic because I always overslept and I tried to avoid my parents at the same time. Waiting for the bus felt like the worst experience rather than being slapped if I bumped into my father. The bus was always late and nobody ever talked to me while we were waiting. Instead, they added onto the bruises placed on my face. They made fun of my short hair that was gelled up to look like messy spikes. The winter times were even more horrible because it was cold outside on top of that.

The bus rules were dumb as well, such as assigned seats and getting written up if you’re not in that seat. The worst was that you had to be there ten minutes before the bus arrived. How did they even know you were there prior to its arrival? In order to avoid bullying, I had to get there as the bus got there, and they wouldn’t even let me on due to not being there ten minutes beforehand. The bus driver kicked me off of the bus that day and it was embarrassing, seeing fifty kids’ eyes on me and laughing at me as I walked back home. My parents weren’t too happy either. I didn’t go to school for that entire week in fear of those people mentioning that incident.

I know high school will be much different. My mother is driving me to school now and I will have helpers. I may see Frieda as well. She is like a substitute helper who will guide me around in case Hange is absent. The school counsellor, Hitch, will be calling me into her office at the end of the day as well in order to see how I’m doing. The first day of school after not going for a long time can really drive someone crazy, or so Hange said.

Once I completed my morning routine, I met up with my mother in the living room where she was reading something on her phone. She looked up at me and turned her phone screen off before standing up. “Are you ready?” she asked while signing at the same time.

I nod and grab the black backpack placed next to the front door. She opens the door for me and I walk out to her car. A huge pain in my stomach starts forming and each movement feels stiff as I walk towards the vehicle. I’m actually doing this, I’m actually going to school after all this time.

My main insecurity about my appearance is my forehead. What if a gust of wind or something knocks my hair out of place and someone sees the awful scars on it? I hinted at what’s on my forehead at Hange and he suggested foundation, but I don’t know what that is or how to put it on.

Once my seatbelt is buckled, I see my mother getting into the car as well. She immediately starts it up and begins driving. It’s only a two minute drive to the high school, which means it is walking distance. I may start walking to school so that she doesn’t have to drive me every morning.

She pulls up to the school where a bunch of other cars are lined up and the fear eats at me once more. My stomach grows tighter and my head starts to get dizzy. My vision turns as the car inches towards the school entrance. Kids are leaving their car either waving goodbye or completely ignoring the driver. I recognize Hange waiting for me outside the gate and I smile, feeling a bit more at ease.

The car comes to a complete stop and I turn to face my mom. She smiles at me and tells me that she wishes me luck. I nod and get out of the car, tossing my backpack over my shoulder.

I look around and two girls were staring at me. They look familiar but I can't remember when I've seen them. I look back to see that my mom has driven off already. I look forward once more to make eye contact with Hange. “Hey. Are you ready for your first day?” he asks while signing simultaneously. I nod and he leads me towards the front office. ‘We will need to get your paperwork and schedule at the office, then I will show you where your classes are,’ he signs.

I nod once more and follow behind him. People around us see me as a small, obedient boy who is pathetic if the other has to use sign language in order to communicate with me. In reality, they probably don't even notice us. Life doesn't always revolve around me, not anybody. Stress, anxiety, and fear makes it seem that way and I hate it so much. It makes me feel like everybody is watching when in reality, you're invisible to them.

He opens the door for me and I quietly thank him before entering the office. The room is huge with white based walls and white tile. The wall above the desk is painted black and blue with the school name on it as well as a giant paw print, considering the mascot is a coyote. The front desk is black to match the painting above and a TV showing the school news is displayed on the opposite side of the waiting area. The waiting area is two pitch black loveseats without armrests. A student walks through the double doors that leads to the inside of the school campus, looking at me. She must hear what Hange is telling the worker at the desk, meaning that she knows I'm new.

Once Hange has papers in his hands, he directs me to the double doors that leads inside the campus. The outside school feel is different compared to what I am used to. My old school used to have everything indoors; you never had to go outdoors for anything. This school has different buildings that are connected to each other. It forms a perfect circle.

“The downstairs over on the north and west sides of the loop is the 100 building and the upstairs is the 200 building. The downstairs over on the south and east side is the 300 building and the upstairs is the 400 building. The cafeteria between the two buildings is the 500 building, and the 600 building is behind the cafeteria in that breezeway back there,” Hange tells me while signing at the same time. I nod and look around to see what he is explaining. Each building has giant numbers placed on the edge of it.

I look back at Hange, giving him the signal to continue. He hands me a paper and I recognize it as my schedule. My first hour class is English. “The numbers on the buildings will help you find your class. English says it is in room 214, so it will be in the 200 building. Next hour you have earth science in room 317, so it would be in the 300 building. This is as simple as it gets around here,” he says. He doesn't sign any of it, but it was easy enough to understand since he broke down some words rather than combining them.

I nod once more and he leads me the way towards the cafeteria. Once we enter the empty building, he directs me to a table with a brunette and a blonde sitting together. The brunette looks at me and smiles, standing up. “Hello! It’s so nice to finally meet you! My name is Frieda, I'm one of your helpers. This is Historia, my younger sister,” she says while signing. She holds her hand out and I nervously shake it. The two look very similar now that she mentions them being siblings.

I turn to look for Hange and start to feel myself panicking when I don't see him. Frieda helped me sit down and she started to rub my back. “It's okay. Hange just went to get you two some breakfast,” she tells me. She must've noticed me starting to act up. I frown and face away from her, embarrassed. I just met her and I'm already acting up? I barely stepped foot inside of this building and I'm already making a fool out of myself.

I look around the large building and sigh. It is different being back here; it's not the same as elementary school. Everything is much bigger, there's so much open space and so many people piling into the room.

I look back at Frieda and Historia and the two smile at me. I try to give them a smile back, but instead I cower away in fear, backing away from Frieda’s touch. She doesn't seem phased by my actions, but I still feel bad for backing away from her.

Hange returns and sits between Historia and I. He slides a tray full of food my way and I give him the best smile I could manage to give, which isn't much at all. I thank him before opening the miniature cereal box and the bag of milk and adding the milk into the box. I am not hungry considering I ate this morning, but I do know that school food is expensive and Hange just spent his money on me. I feel like I have to eat it at this point.

While eating,  Hange kept telling me different things about the school, such as events going on and when lunch is. The school sounds very interesting, but I don't think I would be able to attend football games or school dances. I would be alone and I wouldn't be able to dance to the music or be able to tell what's going on in the games. Eventually, I finish off the cereal and milk, leaving a small apple left behind. I only get to take one bite of the apple before everybody gets up and puts their backpacks on.

I look at Hange and he ushers me to do the same. I do so and Hange picks up my schedule from the table. “The bell rang, so I will show you where your first hour class is,” he tells me. It bothers me how he didn't sign, but that must be for a reason.

I wave goodbye to Historia and Frieda before following Hange closely. He said that my first hour class is room 214, meaning that it is upstairs. He leads me up the outside staircase and holds the door for me. I thank him and quickly rush inside so that he doesn't have to hold the door for me for long.

He goes follows up to where he is by my side and I flinch when I feel his hand on my shoulder. I look up at him and he seems unphased by his actions. I want to question it, but I received my answer when the hallway started piling with people. He ushers me into a room and I sigh when people are already in it. A group of three girls and four boys seems to not notice me, but two girls do.

The teacher walks over to Hange and I and it was then when I noticed Hange had removed his hand from my shoulder. The teacher had soft white hair despite looking fairly young and glasses were displayed on the bridge of her nose. “Hello, you must be Armin. I'm Mrs. Brzenska,” she tells me and holds out her hand.

I nervously hold out my hand for her to shake and she does so. “We are currently in the middle of doing a group project. You don't have to do it, you can see the way our class works and just sit back and do your own thing until the completion of this project,” she continues. I nod and take my hand away.

She points to a seat that is now mine and I sigh, seeing three other people in that grouped up table. Hange taps my shoulder and I rotten around to face him. ‘I will be outside the door one the bell rings so I can help you to you're next hour,’ he signs. I nod and he leaves the room.

I face my seat and sit down where three others focus on me. The dark haired boy said something but I wasn't able to catch it due to my focus not being directly on him. I tilt my head to the side as a way of signaling that I didn't catch what he had told me. I don't want to speak up considering I don't want to be ‘the deaf kid’.

He chuckled and seemingly repeated himself. “Hi, I'm Marco. That's Ilse an that's Mina. And you are…?” he trails off.

“I'm Armin,” I whisper, hoping my speech impediment doesn't give away the fact that I can't hear anything around me.

“Are you new here, or did you just change classes?” Mina asked me.

“I’m new here,” I reply, smiling a little bit. They're nice, just like Hange. So far, everybody I have talked to is nice. Mina’s speech made it seem like she knew I an deaf. Maybe she was paying attention to when Hange was signing to me, unlike the rest of the class.

“You won't enjoy this school, trust me. It’s hell. Just stick to you and your friends and you'll live,” Mina tells me. I nod and chuckle a bit. “So, are you hard of hearing? I saw someone using sign language.”

I look down at my lap, biting my lip. I was really hoping that nobody would mention my hearing. Marco and Ilse were treating me like they would treat anyone else, and Mina probably was too. I don't want that to change. I want them to treat me the same way.

I look back up and I nod. “I'm deaf,” I admit.

She nods and smiles. “That's cool. I mean, not cool but… It’s an interesting fact, considering we don't know much about you.”

I sigh I'm relief. I can see her neck vibrating, showing that she really is talking. I would break down, run out of the room and hide, if she was mouthing everything.

“Have you always been deaf?” Ilse asks. She looks very invested in the topic. I shake my head and she nods. She looks like she wants to ask more questions, but leaves it at that. I appreciate it since it is a tough topic for me. All the painful memories still flood my mind when I remember what caused my hearing to go away.

The talking stopped when Mrs. Brzenska stood in front of the classroom. She talks to us and I can't understand what she is saying. I look around at the full classroom and notice half of the people looking at her, and the other half hurriedly writing down stuff or playing on their phones.

Eventually, a few people started getting up, including Ilse. She came back to our grouped up tables with a laptop and some blank pieces of paper. I suddenly get this feeling of stupidity because there is nothing for me to do. They're all working right here and I can't do anything.

I feel a tap on my shoulder and I flinch before turning to my left to face Mina. “Would you like to help us? You don't have to, but it's better than doing nothing,” she offers.

I smile a bit as I nod. I'm glad they're allowing me to participate. They knew how I was feeling without reading my thoughts or facial features. It's little things like this that enlighten my mood.

They catch me up with the assignment that they are doing and it makes me realize that I am really unfamiliar with the topic. Homeschool definitely was different and slower compared to public school. It also depends on the school, and I went from a super easy school to a super difficult one. I’m glad they only put my into sophomore year now because I would utterly fail as a senior.

Eventually, Marco gets up in order to put the assignment on a table in the back of the room and I look over at the clock placed above the smart board. The class hour is almost over, meaning that Hange must be outside waiting for me. My chest tightens and my eyes screw shut as everyone in the room gets up simultaneously. When I open them once more, most of the room is cleared out. I get up and head to the door, my backpack held tight to my chest. I exit into the hallway and I immediately see him. Relief floods over my shoulders as he walks up to me and puts his hand on my shoulder. “Hey, how was your first class? I saw those people at your table involving you,” he asks me.

I nod and smile a bit. It feels strange smiling so much after being left alone in the dark for so long. It feels welcoming, yet frightening at the same time. What if I show too many positive emotions, but this one person just comes along and utterly destroys that happiness for me? It has happened once, it is bound to happen again.

“Yeah, they’re all really nice in there. It’s just…” I trail off as I look ahead of me. It’s difficult for me to talk to people without looking at them, but I have to remind myself that he will be able to hear me. “Academically, this year will be difficult for me. I was clueless on what they were working on despite them lowering my grade level by two years.”

I felt bad because I didn’t have the motive to look back up at Hange. I know he may want to reply to me and I want to hear his reply, but I also don’t want to take my gaze off of the ground.

He leads me to another portion of the campus and we go in the downstairs hallway. The room wasn’t far from the main double doors, just like my first hour. I look at the room number 317, and my surroundings so I will remember where this room is.

Hange leads me inside and up to the teacher. He isn’t as young as Mrs. Brzenska, he is around his 50’s. “Hello, you must be Armin,” he tells me. I nervously nod and lean into Hange’s touch a bit more. Hange starts to rub my back, feeling my nerves get to me. So far, seven people have introduced themselves to me today. Frieda, Historia, Mina, Marco, Ilse, Mrs. Brzenska, and now Mr. Pixis. It’s starting to get overwhelming and it’s gut wrenching knowing that it will continue happening today. I don’t want to be introduced to people, I want to be back home, hidden, away from everybody. I don’t want to be the new kid that everybody must go up to and be nice to. Once I continue going here, their positive attitude will fade away. They will be cold towards me, I know it.

Hange is talking to him and I can tell by his nodding and short responses. Eventually, Hange leaves my side and I look up at him. “I have to go, but I’ll be back once more once the class it over, okay?” I nod and he smiles at me. “Good luck, this class is super easy, don’t worry.”

I nod, hoping that he’s right. He leaves the room and Mr. Pixis, the earth science teacher, instructs me to a certain seat and I quietly thank him. There are other people sitting around me, but they are unfamiliar faces. One person on the other side of the room I recognize from last hour, but I haven't talked to her yet. She looks cold yet warm at the same time with her bleach blonde hair held back in a bun. I can see the light and lifeness from her crystal blue eyes all the way from this side of the room, which I admire. I look back up at the front where Mr.Pixie sits on a stool in front of a table. There is something on the smart board projector as he talks. I look around the notice people taking out half sheets of paper and answering what is on the board.

I take out a piece of paper and rip it in half myself before looking up at the board. I don't want to sit here and do nothing the entire hour, just like the last one.

What is the name of the three types of rock?

I sigh and look down at my paper. I know I learned this before, but the answer isn't in my mind. I know one for sure is igneous, and I know another one starts with an S.

I start trying to remember my online science classes. I write down that an igneous rock is caused by volcanic activity, but it still bothers me that I can't remember the other two.

I look up and it instantly hits me. The other two are sedimentary and metamorphic rocks, sedimentary caused by particles of sand or pebbles and metamorphic caused by metamorphosis, or change, due to heat or pressure.

Once I finish writing it down, the teacher put the answer on the board and I silently applaud myself for remembering. This class shouldn't be too difficult as long as this continues going on. Though, it is the beginning of the school year so that can change.

Eventually, everyone passes up their papers and I turn around to see the papers being passed up to me. The person behind me hands me a small stack of three half papers and I quickly put my name on my own paper before passing up the four of them.

It's strange that the two people who acknowledged me didn't treat me like the new kid, but I enjoy it. They treated me as if I was here the entire time. I want that treatment to continue, I don’t want to be the new guy everywhere I go.

Or… maybe they tried to say hi to me and I just couldn’t hear them. Maybe they tried to be nice and introduce themselves but my disability prevented them from doing so.

I shut my eyes and tried to take my mind off of that thought. Today is such a good day so far, I don’t want it to be ruined by my own thoughts.

I open them once more and the teacher is talking. He knows that I am deaf and he won't put up what he is talking about on the board?

Eventually, I notice the familiar look of my name passing his lips. He looks at me and so does the rest of the class. “Come and introduce yourself,” I manage to catch him say. I take a deep breath before getting up and going to the front of the room. I turn to the class and they all have bored expressions on their faces.

“Hi, I'm Armin,” I say. I don't know how loud I am saying it which frustrates me. I still can't tell the difference between loud talk and quiet talk.

I turn to the teacher and he nods his head. “Hi Armin. What do you like to do? Your hobby? Your favorite thing about science?” he asks.

“I don't really do much; I used to be homeschooled and I did that for six years, so I focused on that. I am taking speech therapy. I am stone deaf, I lost all my hearing a year ago. I guess… my favorite thing about science is studying how earth formed and how it is today,” I say.

After I say that, I look up at the class and some of their expressions have changed. Some of them are shocked at my response and honestly, I am as well. I never expected myself to admit my personal life in front of an audience. Why would I be against my own thoughts, then share them?

Someone raised his hand in the back and I acknowledge him. “How come they didn't put you in a special education class?” he asks while signing simultaneously.

I'm a bit in shock due to the sign language, but if Hange and Frieda know it due to their past friend being hard of hearing, I'm sure more of his friends know the language too. “I do, but it is only a third hour and sixth hour. We don't have any teachers that can do it the entire day for my case,” I say.  “There are some seniors who know sign language and they help me during my other four classes.”

He nods and sits back down. I look at the teacher once more and he nods, thanking me. I quickly go to sit down and he starts talking once more. For the rest of the hour, I sit there and stare at my blanket desk, unsure of what to do. Nobody bothers me and I appreciate it.

Once the bell rang, I look at the clock to see what time it is so that I remember it. I go outside once the classroom is fairly empty, and Hange is out front. He smiles and walks up to me once he sees me and he leads me to the next class. I notice that some people from that science class are staring at me while I walk the hallways, now that they know why Hange is here by my side.

Hange taps on my shoulder and I face him. “Wait out here for me, I have to go to the bathroom,” he tells me. I notice him upset as he goes into the women's bathroom. I know he is transgender, why wouldn’t he go in the men’s one? If it pains him, why would he do so?

I look around the hallway to see that it was fairly empty due to this hallway not having a lot of main classes. One guy approaches me and I immediately feel intimidated due to his closeness. “You’re… Armin,” he says. I quietly nod and he signals someone to go into the bathroom; the one Hange is in. The brown haired boy then grabs me by my shirt and I start panicking. I look up at him and his face looks oddly familiar. Where do I remember him from? He looks like the woman from the store the other day, but are they related? Do I know this person from my past?

I must because how does he know my name? Maybe he was in one of my previous classes and I didn’t see him. Maybe his actions are because he knows I’m deaf from my science class.

He punches me in my eye and I yelp in pain, trying to push his arm away from me. He just laughs and punches me in the stomach before throwing me onto the ground and kicking me. “STOP!” I scream, curling myself into a ball.

The pain is all too familiar. Once I shut my eyes, I see my mother and my father. My drunk father who would hit me or kick me over the smallest things, like getting home two minutes late or dropping a cup of water, not even a glass. It was consistent, every day. For six years straight, I felt this nonstop pain.

The brunette lifts me by my hair and he laughs at the scars on my forehead. “You’re so pathetic, deaf boy. You fucking deserve this,” he sneers before spitting on me.

After those actions, I see somebody run and push him away from me and I notice it is Ilse. She is furious at the boy who did this to me even though he is right. I am an awful person; I’m helpless. I have to depend on other people in order to get around this school well enough. I’m wasting other people's time and energy and I don’t deserve it.

He is right, Ilse. Don’t stop him from the truth…

Let him hurt me, I deserve it…

I hurt people without realizing. Now, it’s my turn to be hurt...

Chapter Text

I watch the boy walk away as I sit, leaned up against the wall. Ilse runs up to me and checks up on my body. I let her do so but I can't bare to look at her.

She helps me up and walks me to the front of the school. I try to walk on my own, but the pain in my stomach is too much. The boy also stomped on my knees and shins, causing even more pain.

Eventually, we are in the nurse's office and the nurse is helping me onto a small tan cot. She checks up on my wounds before cleaning them up and putting bandages on some open wounds.

In the corner of my eye, I see someone running. I look up to see Hange, who is giving me an apologetic look. I just sigh and look down at my lap. The nurse taps my knee so I look up at her. “I need you to take off your shirt,” she tells me. I can see blood seeping through my shirt and I sigh, knowing that I have to despite me not wanting to.

Hange comes up to help me and I freeze, slowly backing away from him. I don't want to show them the scars that lie on my body; I don't want sympathy for something I hate being reminded of. “I… I can do it by myself,” I say.

“Armin, you're bleeding, you shouldn't be moving around so much, let me help you,” Hange says while signing. I sigh as I feel tears forming in my eyes and rolling down my cheeks. Hange rubs my back and kisses the top of my head. “It’s okay,” he soothes.

I nod and dry my tears, letting him help me take my shirt off. I look at Ilse and see a shocked, yet saddened expression displayed on her face.  Scars line up my stomach as well as a scrape on my side from when I fell earlier today, which explains the blood.

Hange holds my hands to where he can clearly see my wrists, coated in fresh cuts. He then moves to look at my back, which is full of scars from my father. “Who did this to you?” Ilse asks.

I shake my head as I sob harder. The nurse goes into her office as Hange and Ilse hug me. Once I start calming down, Ilse repeats her question. I'm debating if I want to tell them or not because I know they're trying to help me, but it may get my mom into trouble. She’s not the same anymore. She’s helping me by getting me out of my comfort zone. I wouldn’t have met these two if it wasn’t for her.

But you wouldn’t be crying about the situation right now if everything was okay…

I sigh, looking down at my lap and drying my tears. “My parents. Mainly, my dad,” I say. I feel Hange tense up and I immediately regret admitting where it’s from. I look  up and their looks urge me to continue. I can tell that they have so many questions about it.

“My mom hasn’t hurt me in well over a year now… but… they both left me. That’s why I was homeschooled for the most part. The abuse got so bad that people started asking questions, and so I was forced to transfer. My father is the reason behind my hearing issue. When I woke up in the hospital deaf, they were gone. I spent a year alone, but then my mom came back. And… and she really cares about me now. She put me back into public school and it’s really helping my comfort zone. Before, I couldn’t even leave my home most days, and I only trust you two with my past. I… I shouldn’t, but please don’t tell anybody else. Please, she’s changed,” I finish.

They both look speechless and Ilse is looking at the ground. Hange only nods and hugs me. I hug back and try to calm down my crying. Once my breathing soothes out, Hange pulls back and gives me a small smile.

“You're really strong, Armin. You've been through so much, yet you still come here and face your fears. Please tell us if anything happens, we will always be here for you, we promise,” he says. I smile and hug him tightly.

I don't find myself as strong, though. Yes, I have been through a lot but through those horrible experiences, but that doesn't make me strong. I cut, I've attempted suicide, I run from my fears. That doesn't show strength, it shows weakness.

He hugs me once more and then started cleaning the scrape on my side. I thank him before he hands me my hoodie. “Just wear this, not your shirt,” Hange tells me. I nod and put the hoodie on as he puts my lightly bloodied shirt in my backpack. “Do you want to go back to class? You have a pass to go home.”

I shake my head and sigh. “I don’t want to give up on day one. I can go through the rest of the day just fine.” Hange nods and helps me up before facing the nurse. He was asking her a few questions and I couldn’t quite understand what they were saying.

Part of me hopes that Hange is telling her about my mom. I feel like she heard a part of the conversation for some reason, so maybe he is just clearing things out for her.

Eventually, we leave the nurses office and while it hurts to walk, I still push myself to do so without Hange’s help, though his arm remained around my shoulder. He leads me to my third hour class, which is special education. This one out of two of the classes is for sign language and therapy. I hope Hitch is as good as I hear she is. She’s the youngest teacher in this school, which kind of makes me nervous but it’s okay.

Once we get into the room, nobody but Hitch is there at her desk. It makes me nervous how I’m the only person here considering there must be a lot of students at this school who need special education. Why do I have to be here by myself? Special education has such a vague range, you don’t even have to have a mental or physical disability to be put into it.

The teacher gets up and she is immediately worried due to me limping in here and Hange holding me up. I brushed Hange off of me and smiled at him, assuring that I was fine. “Hello, I’m Ms. Dreyse, but you can just call me Hitch. Are you okay? What happened? Do you need an ice pack?” she asks whilst signing.

I shake my head. “I’m okay, thank you. I’m Armin,” I say. I look up to see Hange explaining the situation and Hitch sighs.

“Eren is such a troublemaker. It’s sad because that person who bullied him all those years ago is the cause. He was such a good boy until he let that Levi kid into his life. Who would’ve thought they got into a relationship, especially after elementary and middle school,” I believe Hitch said. She wasn’t talking slow enough for me to fully understand.

So, it’s the other boy that had Hange in the bathroom that influenced Eren to do so? Either way, I don’t want to be anywhere near Eren, whether “Levi” is in the picture or not.

After a while longer of them talking, Hange hugged me before leaving. I turn to Hitch and she ushers me to sit down in front of her desk. “Hello, so how are you today?”

I shrugged my shoulders nervously and looked down. I know I should trust her, it’s her job to listen and to help people. I still can’t help but to be nervous despite knowing that she will eventually make me break. That’s what therapists to; you don’t think you will ever spill, but they get under your skin until you do.

“Did you meet anybody in your first hour class?” she asks while signing as soon as I look up. I nod and give her a small smile.

“Yeah. I met these really nice people and I sit with them. Mina, Marco and Ilse,” I tell her. She lights up light a Christmas tree right when I mention Ilse.

“Ilse is so amazing and Marco is like an angel sent down from Heaven. Oh boy was Ilse a troublemaker before Marco stepped into the picture. She has a bipolar disorder that her parents didn’t bother to care about, therefore she would keep on acting up. I don’t know how Marco did it, but Ilse has learned how to control her emotions better,” Hitch says, “and she is open about it too, so you can ask her all about it if you want.”

I nod and look down, awkwardly smiling. I don’t know what to say. Do I say more about Ilse, Marco and Mina? Do I move on to how my science class was? Do I mention how I helped in English class?

“Yeah, maybe I will once I get to know her a bit better,” I say, mentally slapping myself. I probably sound really stupid, but my deaf self wouldn’t know that. I look back up at her and she is smiling, writing things down. When she looks back up, I automatically look away through habit, but I know that I have to look at her if I want to be able to communicate with her.

I think that’s the number one thing that will bother me throughout school now. Not Eren, not the difficult level of education, but the fact that I won’t be able to tell if someone is talking to me until I focus my attention to them; the embarrassment of them tapping on or near you in order to get your attention.

“What about your second hour class… what was it… Science?” Hitch asks once I look up. I nod and look down once more. I don't have to look at her while I talk, I just have to look at her while she talks.

“It was okay. I came out as deaf, surprisingly. The teacher made me go up in front of the class to introduce myself and I just spilled. I don't know why I did, but everyone except Eren look it well, surprisingly.”

When I look up, she is writing once more. “Okay. Quick question, how good is your sign language?” she asks me. I shrug my shoulders and look around the room. Once I look back at her, she continues. “How about I sign, and you translate? This will also help with your speech. You don't have much of a speech impediment at all, which is very surprising, but there's no harm in practicing.”

I smile at the knowledge of my speech being decent. I didn't embarrass myself in front of Mina, Marco, Ilse and my science class. I did it, I spoke well enough for them to understand me. I knew they were able to due to them always replying, but sometimes I get the fear that they take a pause to comprehend what I was trying to say.

I give her a nod and she fixes her posture almost immediately. She points to herself before pointing to me. She uses both of her hands for the rest of the motions and I immediately know what she is saying.

“‘Can you teach me sign’,” I say. She nods and tells me I got it correct.

This goes on for the rest of the period, which wasn't long at all thanks to Eren. It's still bothering me as to why he would do that. Why would he go out of his way, ditching classes, just to do that to me?

There is nothing I can do except shrugging it off. There is no way he would tell me why, even if I attempt to demand the answer right out of him. All he would do is just push me back down.

I look down at my schedule and see that my fourth hour is in room 277, so it should be around the same area my first hour was. I look around and still see no sign of Hange. Hitch gives me a shoulder shrug and I sigh. “I hope he is okay. He said he would be back, and I can already tell he isn’t the one to break promises,” I tell her.

She nods and rubs my back. “I’m sure he just got caught up in something. Don’t worry about it. You can stay here until he gets here if you want,” she offers. I shake my head but give her a small smile anyway.

“Thank you, but I want to see if I can find the classroom on my own. I already went on the class hunt three times today with Hange, now I want to see if I can do it alone. If Hange makes it here, just tell him that I went to class. If I get lost, I’ll just come right back here,” I tell her. She smiles and I can see the happiness in her eyes.

I don’t know why my response makes her so happy. I mean, I’m proud of myself for wandering around the halls by myself, finally doing something for myself and not depending on other people, but I don’t see how that can be exciting for her.

“That’s very good to hear. Especially after what happened today, you’re still willing to go out on your own. Not very many people are like that, Armin. I’m proud to hear you say that,” she says.

“I mean I’m used to it,” I shrug, “I get beat up and then I have to continue as if nothing happened. I mean, at least this time I had the chance to speak up about it unlike my past.”

Her eyes widen and at that moment, I realize that she was never informed about my past. Her lips move, but I can’t read them. Instant images of my mother's face flash in my mind. They’re ones that show how upset she will be if I tell people the things she has done to me. After all, I did tell myself that I wouldn’t mention anything, yet here I am. I’ve told Hange and Ilse, and now Hitch. I would be upset if I were her.

The images aren’t full of anger, but sadness. She must be upset as to why I had to bring up the past. After all, the past is just the past. Now, we are in the present and she is all I have. Now, I have to depend on her. I can’t let our past ruin that because if I do, it may ruin our present and future.

I focus my attention back onto Hitch and she is still giving me a worried glance. “It’s okay, it was just an unnecessary comment. I should be heading off to class now,” I tell her. She sighs, but nods and lets me leave.

I walk as fast as I can back upstairs and to the end of the long hallway. I see the numbers getting higher, making me smile. I know I’m going in the right direction despite me not going to this area of the building beforehand. It makes me happy knowing that I don’t need Hange here in order for me to find my own way around.

Though, it does make me kind of miss Hange. I’m more comfortable with him by my side. I enjoy his assurance and his happiness. Here, by myself, I don’t feel that comfort or joy. It’s as if a part of me is missing, and that part is Hange.

It’s crazy how I barely know him, yet I’ve grown attached to him. He definitely has that personality that could do that to anybody, not just me. I wish I could be like him; I wish I could be that person that everybody can enjoy to be around with and make everybody smile and be happy.

It seems like I do the exact opposite of that sometimes. My parents proved that, my childhood bullies proved that, and now Eren is proving that as well. Then again, there are people like Hange, Hitch, and Ilse that show that I can be that person. I can be friendly and outgoing with everybody if I just forgot about my disorder for a while.

I smile as I see the room number I’ve been searching for, room 277. I enter the classroom and my smile fades away as I see the teacher already teaching his lesson. He notices he walk in and his cold stare turns into a softer one. “You must be Armin. Welcome, please take a seat wherever you want,” he greets. I smile and give him a nod before looking around the room.

I immediately notice Ilse ushering me towards her and I smile, sitting in the spot beside her. I’m thankful I at least know one person in this class and thankfully that is Ilse. I still feel bad for dragging her into the situation earlier today. I mean, this is my first day of school and my first time meeting her and suddenly she has to pick me up off of the ground and carry my limp body to the nurses office?

“Hey, how was your last hour?” she asks.

I go to speak, but I know that the teacher is teaching his lesson. I don’t know how loud I talk, so I don’t want to risk it being too loud to disturb the lesson. Instead, I get out a piece of paper and pencil so that we can write back and forth.

‘It was good. I got to learn a bit more sign language. Most basic, but some new terms and sentences and phrases. How was yours?’

I pass her the note and she giggles. I see her writing on it but I focus my attention onto the whiteboard while she writes. I do remember a lot of geometry from online schools despite not taking a solid class specifically for geometry. The online class always claimed it was just geometry, but I am pretty sure you don’t learn about stem and leaf plots or trying to find incomes in the subject.

I look down as the note returns to my desk.

‘Going old school with passing notes, I see. Also, it was good. Nothing interesting though, which is bothersome but whatever. Hey, wanna sit together during lunch?’

I fake a pout as I read the note, causing her to giggle. I smile and chuckle as I begin replying.

‘It’s a true curse, not being able to tell how loud you’re talking. I can tell the room is fairly quiet because I don’t see a lot of lips moving, so I don’t want to accidentally talk too loud. Also, sure. I’m not really hungry though.’

She just gives me an understanding nod rather than replying via writing. For a few minutes, we don’t talk until the teacher gives us a worksheet to work on. Of course, I partner up with Ilse so that she can show me what I missed. I don’t think the teacher meant to give me the paper considering I wasn’t here for a lot of the lesson, but I don’t mind learning the subject anyway.

I look at the paper in front of me as if SOH CAH TOA was foreign. To me, it is. I never learned this back when I did online schooling. Ilse teaches me what each item is and an easy way to remember it. Everything she says and illustrates on my paper, I copy into my math notebook. Once I do that, she shows me how to plug it into the calculator. I, once again, copy it into my notebook so that I don’t forget how to do so.

During class, the teacher comes up to me to make sure that I am doing okay and introduces himself. He looks very intimidating and I can’t tell if he actually is, or he just looks that way. I have to look up to the board to be able to tell what his name was because I couldn’t read it from his lips. Mr. Shadis, the board read. I look back at him and reply with my name.

Once he welcomes me and I thank him, I go back to learning how to do the math, which is simple to everybody but me. Apparently, Mr. Shadis is very good at detailing every single piece of geometry. That will help me in the long run, especially because I’m more behind than everybody else.

“Five more minutes,” Ilse tells me. Five more minutes until class is over. I nod and pack up all my belongings, thanking her. She nods back and begins to pack up herself.

She pulls out her phone and meses on it for a few seconds before turning to me. “Do you have a phone?” she asks. I shake my head and sigh.

“My mother didn’t really leave me with much. I hope I get a phone soon, though. I’ll most likely get a job and buy it myself, though,” I tell her.

She frowns, but then it turns into a smile once more within seconds. “I have an old phone you can use. I mean, it isn’t old, it’s an iPhone 7, but you can have it. I no longer need it since I got this one. The iPhone is kind of on the slow side, which is why I left them, but it’s a doable phone for now,” she offers.

I instantly shake my head. “No, it’s your phone, you keep it. Even if you don’t use it now, you may have to in the future,” I say.

She shakes her head and chuckles. “Don’t worry about it. I already deleted all my apple accounts and rebooted it back to factory settings. So, keep it. It’s yours. I’ll bring it tomorrow, alright?”

I didn’t reply. Instead, I jump into her arms and hug her with all I got. I don’t deserve Ilse or Hange. Especially Ilse, who I just met today and she had to help my ass to the nurse, and now she’s giving me a phone? Iphones are hundreds of dollars, and she’s willingly giving me one? There has to be some way I can pay her back; I will find a way.

“Thank you so much Ilse,” I say, but then my smile fades away and I push back from her, realizing that I may have pronounced her name wrong. It takes me a long time to learn how to say names, and Ilse’s name is a bit harder to say compared to Hange’s and Eren’s.

She gives me a worried look with how I pushed off of her, but brushed it off and smiled at me. “If you ever need anything, I got you, okay?” she says, then the bell rings. I nod and thank her once more before I rush into the hallway.

Outside of the room, I spot Hange on the other side of the hallway. “Armin, I am so sorry I wasn’t there for your last hour. Levi and Eren here holding me up,” he rushes out.

I shake it off and give him a smile. “It’s okay. I found my classroom on my own,” I tell him. He smiles and ruffles my hair, his arm wrapped around my shoulder as he led me to the cafeteria. I turn around to see Ilse following us and she giggles before giving me a thumbs up. I want to question it, but decide to brush it aside and lean more into Hange’s touch.

Now that I think about it, I wouldn’t be surprised if people thought Hange and I were an item. To be honest, I don’t think I could ever catch romantic feelings for anyone anymore, not after all the shit I’ve gone through. I want to, I really want to. If my heart tells me yes then I will listen to it… but will I ever meet that person?

With Hange, this is just his character. Both he and I love the presence of each other, but the way he holds me gives me the knowledge that it is platonic and I feel the same way back.

Walking to my last hour alone has made me realize how I feel about Hange. I do truly love his presence when I walk from class to class. He makes me so much happier and he gives me the comfort and protection I’ve been longing for.

Protection. It’s so dumb how I need to feel protected by another person. But to me, it’s amazing. Somebody is willing to step into my life and be my shield. I appreciate every moment of it, and I will always enjoy it with all my heart.

*****

Once lunch was over, Hange directed me to my last class. Yes, I do have speech after this, but I don’t necessarily count it as an official class such as English or Science.

He hugs me goodbye once we reach the classroom and leaves. As I watch him walk away, someone hits my shoulder. I look up and immediately feel all intimidated when I see Eren. “Get out of the fucking way, you’re blocking the goddamn entrance,” he snaps before going into the classroom.

Great. I have another class with Eren Jaeger. This will be fantastic.

I sigh as I enter the room and go up to the teacher. The teacher introduces himself just like every other teacher and he directs me to a spot. I sigh once more when I realize that the spot is right next to Eren.

I don’t argue with the teacher. I’m sure that no matter how much I argue, it won’t do anything. I sit in the seat and sigh, not bothering to look over at the boy. I just got my stuff out and started focusing my attention onto the teacher.

Throughout the class, I couldn’t help but to be paranoid. Every time I saw Eren move, I looked over. I know he hasn’t said something about me because I can see the dull faces of those around him. If he were to say something, they would react rather than looking emotionless. There was nothing interesting to learn about considering I already learned most of history. It was my best subject, so I already knew all of this. I feel like this will be my easiest class this year.

Once the class was over, I look over at the door to see Hange. In the corner of my eye, I notice Eren looking at me. When I reach eye contact with him, his gaze feels like guilt and sadness.

I shake my head and walk to Hange, letting him lead me back to special ed. I don’t need to see the fake sadness in his eyes. It’s all fake, he would never feel guilty for what he has done.

But your Mom has, so he can too.

No…

Mom took a year for everything to settle in. There’s no way Eren would feel guilty the day of the incident. He did it for a reason and he knows it. I wish I knew why other than the fact that I’m deaf, but there’s no way I will ever have the courage to ask him about it.

Once we stand outside of Nanaba’s room, Hange turns me to face him. “Stay safe Armin, okay? There’s no guarantee Eren will lighten up any time soon and I want you to stay safe. If you need anything, I will be here for you. Today, I will be driving you home from school; your mom can’t make it. I will be at the gate towards the parking lot, okay?”

I nod, thinking about what he told me. I know it’s common sense, but I feel like there’s more to it. Maybe he knows why Eren is acting this way and he isn’t telling me. I don’t want to push it, so I leave it at that.

I thank him before hugging him tightly. I barely know him, yet I feel protected by him. It’s something that not even my mother gives me, not after what she has done to me over the years. Hange has never done anything to hurt me or make me lose my trust in him.

Once he leaves, I go into the classroom and I see Nanaba, the special education teacher. Her hair style reminded me of Levi though she was blonde. She stood up and introduced herself to me, though I couldn’t pay attention to her. I just nodded and I kept my gaze down. Though I didn’t know Eren, he was constantly on my mind and it drove me crazy. There has to be a reason behind his actions. His actions are the reason why Hange knows about my mom.

Shit.

My mom.

She will kill me if she knows I told someone about the past.

She’s working so hard to forget about the past… and now people know her wrong doings.

I fucked up. I shouldn’t have told Hange. What will mom do to me if she finds out?

Chapter Text

Hange drove away ten minutes ago, yet here I am in front of my home, fearing to step a foot inside. What will mom do?

The thought of all that she could do to me has possessed me. I couldn’t focus on Nanaba at all, I couldn’t focus on Hange at all. The only thing I could think of is what my mother would do to me.

Eventually, I walk up to the front porch and get the key out from under the doormat. I unlock the door before placing the key back and shut my eyes.

Every day back in elementary school, I would come home and I was immediately greeted with pain. It was either my mother or my father laying their hands on me. What if the nurse contacted her about the situation? She could know what has happened; that I told Hange and Ilse about her. Despite telling them that it was okay, any person would be able to tell that it wasn’t okay. I want to give my mom a chance to make up from her past, but this is greatly affecting me even today.

Should I leave my mom out of my life? Hange offered me a place to stay, but I barely know him so I don’t want to put all of this on his plate. Then again, there may be even more things on his plate if I stay here, such as worrying about me and making sure I’m okay.

I shake my head, removing the thought from my mind as I enter the house. My mom is on the couch and she immediately looks up at me. Her facial emotions are a mixture of pain and anger, immediately letting me know that she knows what I’ve done.

“You told,” she says as she walks towards me. I don’t hesitate to make a dash for my room, but she grabs onto my arm and yanks me back. I don’t bother trying to listen to what she is trying to say, all of my focus is on getting me out of her grip.

“Let go! Let me go! Stop,” I beg, trying to push and shove her away. Eventually, she shoves me onto the ground. I try to take that as my chance to leave, but she crawls on top of me. My cries don’t get any quieter, but louder, as I try to push her off of me.

She pins my hands to the ground and yells at me. Once more, I don’t bother to listen to what she has to say, I just try to kick her away from me and free my arms.

Once I feel her grip loosen, I take it as my opportunity to push her off of me and I run to my room. I lock the door behind me as I let my tears run. I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up. Once an abuser, always an abuser, and that will never change no matter who you are.

Then again, I shouldn’t have told Hange and Ilse about what happened. This is my fault. Maybe mom would be nicer if only I hadn’t told anyone. I blew my own chances of an actual relationship with her.

She hurt you, she screams at you, she beat you, she raped you. Yet you still think you can be healthy with her?

I slid down my door as I gripped my hair. No. Shut up. She could’ve meant it. She can still mean it. She can still want me back in her life and we will still be good and she won’t be mad at me.

No. What’s done is done. Leave her. Leave.

I cried harder as I crawled to my night stand, pulling out the pocket knife I keep in there. There’s only one way I will stop seeing her, and this is the way. If these voices in my head tell me to leave her, then I leave everybody.

It’s from zero to one hundred, but I’ve come such a long way in trusting her once more. If I lose her, then I will have to depend on others to take care of me, to shelter me, to take me to my occasional doctor appointments for my ears. It’s too much to ask for. Even if Hange offers, there’s no way I could ever take it. It’s too much, I would overdue my welcome. So, if I am pressured to leave my mom, I am leaving everybody and everything behind.

Then go ahead. Do it. You don’t need her in your life. She will only be the continuous pain. With her here, you will never heal. You’ll still be weak, useless, stupid. So do it.

Do it, Armin. You’ve done nothing right. You hurt others when you were in elementary school, you hurt your parents and as a result they hurt you back. You’re useless. Just do it already.

I brought up the blade to my wrist as I cried harder, my head rested against the edge of the night stand. I am useless. I used to hurt my own classmates back in elementary school. I may not remember who, I may not remember what I did, but the voices are never wrong. They truly never are. They vary from nice to mean, but every single one is true.

I pressed the blade into my wrist and I felt the blood surrounding it, eventually drifting off and droplets falling into my lap. I removed it and I make deep slices, each one parallel to each other.

Two. Three. Four. Five.

It isn’t enough. If I wanted to end it all, this won’t be enough despite there already being over ten on my wrist by now.

I put the tip of the blade on the blue vein that pokes out from under my skin and shut my eyes. Once I do this, it will all be over. Everything. No more deafness, no more school, no more stress, no more harm, no more Mom, no more relying on others for my basic needs.

But… also…

No more Hange, no more Ilse. No more Mina or Marco or Frieda or Nanaba or Hitch.

I shake my head. They’ve only known me for a short time, they won’t care if I am gone. None of them will, not even Eren or Levi.

I drag the tip of the blade up my forearm and I scream in pain. No matter how many times I’ve done this, it seems like the pain grows more and more as I make a fresh cut.

I cry harder as I bring the knife up to my neck, starting to feel dizzy. It can’t be from the blood loss as I’ve done worse before, meaning it must be from the pounding headache from the crying, the screaming, and now the pulsing pain on my arm.

As I fall back, the knife doesn’t leave my throat. I’m so tempted to just dig it into my neck to make sure that I won’t be saved. Once I do this, I’m done. I will be gone forever. Nobody will be able to save me.

And so, I do just that. I dig it into my neck as black spots blur out my vision. The last thing I see is a man. His face doesn’t look familiar at all. Why am I seeing him? Who is he?

 

+++++

I feel conscious, though that’s impossible. Why would I feel conscious?

My body feels numb. I can’t hear or see anything. I can’t move. What is this? Why can’t I move? Why can’t I open my eyes? Why can’t I hear once more?

I thought after death, I would be able to hear once more. I would get rid of all the negativity in my life.

Eventually, my eyes open once more and I am greeted with a white tiled ceiling.

“No,” I whisper. This can’t be happening. I sit up and I notice the I.V. in my right forearm, and bandages covering my left arm.

How? How was I saved? I did everything to assure that I would die… how did I make it?

I move my head up to see a nurse walking to me and the movement immediately made me feel dizzy. She lays me back down and I can see her lips moving, but I can’t process what she is saying. Everything looks like a blur right now, and not being able to hear doesn’t help.

I eventually close my eyes, the blurriness of my vision causing a headache to form. My mind drifts off to the fact that I’ve been saved. I should be happy, I should be thankful, but I’m not.

My actions were for a reason. It may have been in the moment, but I’ve lived a shitty enough life to where the littlest things make me snap. This tiny incident was the one that did it for me. I don’t deserve to continue living in this pain.

Maybe this means that life will get better from here on out.

I sigh, opening my eyes once more. The nurse is still hovered over me and she looked relieved. She must have been trying to get my attention. She probably doesn’t know I’m deaf. After all, she doesn’t know me and they can’t tell I am since I’ve been unconscious.

“Are you okay? You weren’t responding to me. I will have the doctor come check up on you,” she says.

“I’m deaf,” I tell her. Realization suddenly dawns on her and she gives me a guilty look. “I’m okay… I don’t feel any pain.”

She nods and I can see her struggling to find some sort of easier communication for us. This is what I hate about my hearing issue; people start to get very awkward and they start to talk to me like I’m in kindergarten once they find out. I was able to understand her once my focus was on her, so she doesn’t need to change her form of communication.

I just want to be treated like a normal fucking person. Why is that so hard to ask for?

I shake my head and shut my eyes once more, not wanting to see her struggle over nothing anymore. There are more things to focus on right now and treating me like a toddler isn’t one of those things.

I do find this funny, though. Over the years, I’ve been hospitalized so many times to the point to where I can walk out right now like it was nothing. I feel completely fine, though I know right when I get out I will do everything I can to end up back here. I deserve it, after all.

Mom will no longer want to see me. I disappointed her once more; I told people the things she has done to me and I fought against her.

Hange can live without me because he barely even knows me,  same with Ilse and Mina and Marco. Nobody knows me well enough to miss me. Some people will probably be happy about me doing this, such as Dad and maybe even Eren or Levi.

I furrow my eyebrows at the thought of them. The first time Hange touched me, I learned freaked out on him due to my fear of touch. He and I did come a long way from that which makes me happy. Now, I accept Hange with open arms. I feel safe in his arms.

If you felt safe with him, then why would you off yourself? You’ll never feel that same comfort again, and he won’t either.

I open my eyes once more in a bit of a panic.

My mind always goes back and forth like this, like I’m having an argument with myself. I have these thoughts and I don’t know if it is like another person telling me these… or it’s just me making things confusing for myself.

I chuckle at the thought and how my mind just shifted to something completely off topic. I tend to do that whenever I am lying here with that stupid tube in my arm. I’m just laying here, after all. There’s nothing for me to do; I can’t move around the room or do some extra lessons online, especially now that I am back to public school. So, my mind drifts off.

I feel a pinch on my arm and I look to see a doctor removing the I.V. from it. He gives me a smile before getting a chair and sitting down beside me.

“Hello Armin, long time no see,” he says. I blink a few times before recognizing him as the doctor that has helped me when I first became deaf; doctor Zackly. “Your mom went home, she said she can’t make it to pick you up. I know you usually leave by yourself during your hospital visits, but under these types of circumstances, I don’t feel comfortable with you going alone. Those were for different situations, this one is much more serious.”

I nod and look down at my lap. He doesn’t know that my parents left me and it worries me how mom isn’t here now. Did she leave me again? Did she abandon me that easy?

“I don’t know anybody’s number. My friend is supposed to give me a phone the next time I see her,” I say.

I look up at him and he seems shocked. “First of all… you’re.. 17? And you don’t have a phone yet? Also, wow your speech has really improved since the last time we’ve seen each other. I bet you’ve been practicing a lot in school. And, since you don’t know anybody, if you know anyone’s first and last name we can take it from there,” he says.

I nod, blushing a bit at the compliment on my speech. “Hange Zoe, I do trust… them,” I frown. I don’t know if Hange is open about being transgender. By the looks of everybody around him, he doesn’t seem like he is. I don’t want to out him if he isn’t out.

“Oh, the Zoe family! Her father is a doctor here, actually. Small world, yeah? Let me go find Dr. Zoe to let him know to inform her!” he says before leaving. I tried to hold in my winces every time he referred to Hange as a female.

It must be difficult for him to go through that every single day. You’re just trying to be yourself but you can’t because people are assholes; they will judge you for who you are. Nobody can be the exact same and have the same insecurities. Some people don’t like their nose, so they fix their nose. This is the same exact thing; he doesn’t like something so he is going to to what he can to fix it… but unfortunately people don’t see it that way.

Thinking about what Hange may be going through suddenly feels like relief to me. I’m not the only one who lives through a constant pain. Of course, I always knew that. Everybody has their own stories and I know I’m not the only one who has gone through abuse and neglect. But, seeing someone who is as bright and cheerful as Hange possibly going through a tough time is kind of like relief to me. Look at how happy he remains despite the awful things people may say to him.

It makes me want to stand up for myself. There is good for me and there are people who care about me. I just have to be the positive out there that makes that change.

My thoughts were interrupted when Hange steps into the room. I look at him in confusion. How is he here already? There’s no way I was spaced out for that long.

“Hey Armin. I was here visiting my Dad at work when I was told you were here. Are you okay?” he rushes out. Well, at least that answers my question.

I shrug my shoulders and his frown deepens. He sits on the edge of the small hospital bed and pets my hair. “You can tell me anything, Armin,” he assures.

I give him a small smile before telling him what happened; how I freaked out on my mom and tried to end myself. He listened to every word so carefully as if his life depended on it and that amazed me.

He hugged me once I told him everything and I can feel the vibration from his throat. I can’t tell what he is saying, all I know is that he is speaking. His hands running up and down my back is soothing and calming. I shut my eyes and lean more into his touch, hugging him back.

He pulls away and smiles at me. “You can stay with me for a while, if you want. I don’t think going home at the moment is a very good idea and I live by myself, so I could always use the company,” he says.

“I thought you had your Dad…?” I trail off. I don’t necessarily like the idea of being with Hange especially if he lives with his parents.

He sighed, looking defeated. “They kicked me out when I came out. I mean, they pay for my apartments and everything, but they don’t necessarily enjoy seeing me around them. I’m still trying to find a job so I can take everything into my own hands and I can finally get away from them, but no place is hiring people under 18 right now,” he told me.

I frown and hug him. No person deserves to be kicked out of their own home. No person deserves to be abandoned by their own family.

And… the same thing goes for me if that’s the case.

I don’t deserve to be abandoned, I don’t deserve to be beaten to the point of losing my hearing. I don’t deserve to be picked on for having a disability.

I don’t deserve this.

I feel tears forming and I silently curse at myself. Why am I allowing myself to break in front of Hange again? I know he is my friend and I do trust him enough for this kind of comfort, but he is also upset if he told that much to me. I would’ve never guessed that all of this has happened to him.

“How do you remain so happy?” I ask him. He pulls back and gives me a sad smile before shaking his head.

“I have people in my life that help me forget about the bad ones. I have you, I have Ilse, I have Levi, I have Mike… I have so many people. That is what keeps me going. I focus in my schooling, I keep myself distracted by learning more ASL. Of course I have fallen multiple times. I’ve done shitty things to my body, and part of me regrets it while I know that it has happened for a reason. Events like this make you stronger. Soon, you will find what makes you happy, and you’ll reflect on moments like these and you can see how far you’ve come. I remember I was in this hospital bed once, this very room; I was in your spot. Looking back on it, it makes me happy. I have so many people who helped me feel better and I made new friends since then, including you,” he says.

During his short speech, I feel myself beginning to cry. “I’m sorry, Hange. I’m so sorry,” I cry. Those thoughts I had earlier no longer exist. Hange will miss me, Ilse will miss me… Hell, maybe even Eren will miss me.

He hugs me once more and rubs my back. The small, firm circles he makes into my back calms me down.

I want to take Hange’s offer, especially after he told me all of that, but I am afraid to. I feel like I should because of the story he told me, but at the same time I fear overstaying my welcome.

“Think about it,” Hange signs. I nod, closing my eyes and leaning back into his arms. I love how close I can be with him. Waking up to comfort every morning is what will keep me in a calm mind and calm atmosphere.

“I will go home with you today because I don’t think I can see Mom,” I tell him. I feel him nod, but not say anything. I close my eyes and feel myself starting to drift off in his arms. I stop myself, pulling away and laying back down. “When can I leave?”

“Well, my Dad said he wanted you to stay overnight, but if you’re with me then he will make an exception. He makes me keep medical supplies at hand. After all, he did want me to become a doctor,” he says.

“I’m guessing you don’t want to,” I say. His sad smile is back once more.

“I want to study Earth instead. I want to study minerals and create mixtures and cures and I want to discover new animals and study how the Earth moves and other planets and the possibility of other life out there… and unfortunately that not what Dad wants,” he tells me.

I nod and eye his body. He is slumped over and I can see his binder through his shirt. Something tells me that he did that on purpose since his Dad is here.

“I will stay with you tonight, and I’ll think on it while I’m there. I just want out of here,” I tell him. His eyes light up as his posture straightens. He jumps up and starts saying things, but I can’t read his lips.

He talks extremely fast and it gives me the negative thought of him talking slower purely for me. I know it’s to help me, and I know he talks slowly in front of others and maybe they don’t find it real at all. Maybe it’s just out of excitement. He is talking to me the way he normally talks. I’m just overthinking it.

It was as if realisation hit him and he stopped, virtually freezing in place. He nervously chuckled and mumbled an apology. I let out a small chuckle as he sits back down on the bed and ruffles my hair. “I will let my Dad know and he will be able to get you out of here within an hour,” he says.

I nod and he kisses my forehead before exiting the room. I situate myself in the hospital bed and look up at the white tiled ceiling. I can’t believe I am living with Hange despite knowing him for such a short time. Ilse giving me her old phone on top of that? I don’t know how to respond to all of this to be completely honest. I mean, I grew up with nothing and now I’m getting a new house with good memories and a phone and I have many supportive people in school.

Hange comes back in the room and smiles at me, handing me my clothes. “I’ll be outside of the room if you want me to. Or I can help you change. You’ll probably need help with your shirt because of your neck. Any roughhousing on your neck is bad, even putting your shirt on could be a bit much. Oh yeah! Don’t move your neck too much, I forgot to tell you,” he rambles, his cheeks flushed.

I chuckle at his flushed expression and take my clothes. My smile fades away as I remember what I had done to my neck. “How did I even survive that? Like… the most common way of killing someone is by slitting their throats. The statistics for that is higher than someone being killed with a gun! How… how did I live through that?” I ask.

“You are very true, it is one of the most common deaths… But you didn’t cut deep at all. It probably felt like you did because, quite frankly, you were probably already passing out from what you did to your arms there. Also, any pressure on your neck feels the same at a certain point. It fucking hurts. You probably thought you cut deep, but you really didn’t. I mean, you broke a lot of skin, but nothing too bad to need stitches,” he explains.

I sigh and look down at the clothes in my lap. Something tells me that I shouldn’t be grateful for being saved, but at the same time I am. I know the part of me that says I shouldn’t have been saved is the same as normal, depressing thoughts that like to fuck with me. Their words are very serious, though. They feel more meaningful than they have to be.

I flinch a little bit when I feel a sharp pain in my forearm, right above the bandages. I look down to see Hange removing the needle in my arm. I want to question it because even though his Dad works here, that still shouldn’t be allowed. Maybe his Dad said it was okay? Maybe, because he wanted him to be a doctor, he allows Hange to go things like this? It still feels strange, though. There are many checkups they usually do before they let me go and I haven’t gone through a single one.

Hange ruffles my hair before grabbing the shirt from my lap. There’s blood stains all over it, making me cringe. I see Hange’s lips moving, but I don’t bother looking up to see what he is saying. He helps me put my shirt on without having to move my neck. Once I get it on, he kisses the top of my head before exiting the room. I grab my boxers and pants and quickly put them on. The boxers feel gross since they’re the same ones I wore at school, but I know I’ll be able to go home and get some fresh clothes. After all, I know Hange wouldn’t let me go on with my day with blood stained shirt and pants.

After a couple minutes, Hange returns in the room and motions me towards him. “Does your neck hurt at all when you walk?” he asks. I shake my head and he smiles softly. “Good. Now let’s go. We are just going to see my Dad before we leave so that he can change your bandages, then we can go to your place and get some clothes.”

I nod and follow him around the hospital. He takes me into an office and I see the man that looks an awful lot like Hange. “Ah, there you are,” he says, holding out his hand. I can sense how fake he is being purely for the sense of my current condition. It doesn’t help, it makes me feel worse than anything else, but I go with it anyway.

“How are you?” he asks. I nod and look down, nervously. He starts unwrapping my bandages and gets out supplies to clean my wrists and neck. It feels very informal to do so. Out of all my times here, no doctor has ever done this. You must remain in your hospital gown in the room. I never even knew that Doctors had offices!

He puts fresh new bandages on and I smile at him. “Thank you,” I say despite feeling uncomfortable. He nods and returns to his desk, sitting down at it and ushering us out.

Hange leads me outside of the hospital and to his car. Once we sit down in it, he taps my shoulder and I turn to look at him. “Sorry about him. I know it isn’t necessarily right for doctors to do that, but he just thinks of you as another friend, really. He feels… not really disrespect, but lowly, because of it. He doesn’t really take his job seriously when I am involved.”

I nod, understanding. I completely understand how that would be for Hange, so I don’t blame him or the situation one bit. “It’s okay, I understand,” I tell him.

He turns the car on before turning to face he again. He looked down and does something on his phone before handing it to me. I look at the screen to see a GPS ready to go. I look back at him and he tells me to put in my address.

I do so and hand him the phone. He nods and puts on his seatbelt before driving. I realise that mine is off so I put it on before I go flying through the windshield again.

Yeah… again.

+++++

We get to my home as I feel the car turning off. I look up and spot my house, frowning when I see the car from the driveway gone.

Mom hadn’t been here for a long time, but I had already grown accustomed to her car being in the driveway.

“She’s gone. But, she couldn’t have left. She can’t be gone forever. She can’t leave me again,” I think out loud. “She can’t, no. She can’t do this again. She has to be in there. Maybe someone stole her car? Maybe she totaled it or took it in the shop to get it repaired. She has to be home.”

Tears blur my vision as I get out of the car as quickly as possible, running up to the door. I get the hidden key out and unlock the door. Once it’s opened, I automatically feel the empty aroma of the house. “Mom… Mom!” I call out, my words interrupted by hiccups.

I run into the kitchen and notice the emptiness immediately. I run into her room, and yet again, it’s empty. “No. No! You can’t leave me!” I scream, leaning against the wall and sobbing, sliding down to the floor.

I feel a hand on my shoulder and I scream, pushing the person away from me and backing up. My breathing is heavy, but it soon calms down when I realize that it is Hange. “She’s gone again, isn’t she?” I ask him.

He shakes his head and kneels down. “I don’t know, Arm’. I wish I could tell you,” he says. I cry harder as I jump into his arms, letting myself go as my face is pressed into his chest. He rubs my back softly as I cry and it helps me a little bit.

“The first time I go home alone from the hospital, I was left alone for a year. It… it can’t happen again. Maybe she’s at the store, or at a movie. Maybe things are just rough for her as well and she has to leave for a little bit. She… she can’t be gone forever. She can’t do this shit again! She fucking can’t!!”

Hange hugs me tighter and I let it all out. I can’t believe she is gone. Why would she make trips to stores or something while she knows I’m in the hospital? Why would she go anywhere except next to my side? It shows how much she cares about me.

I know I am over exaggerating, but I can’t help but to feel horrible about this situation. I know I came here with the idea of leaving here and living with Hange, but something in me still wished that she was here.

Once my breathing calmed down, I pulled away from him and dried my eyes. His thumb caressed one of my cheeks and I looked away, feeling flustered. “I’m sorry,” I say. I see him shaking his head in the corner of my eyes and I sigh. “I just… I wish that she was here. I know I should leave, but I wish she was here. I guess this shows just how much she really cares about me. She doesn’t, at all. But at the same time, without her I wouldn’t have you. So, I guess she cares a little bit? But… it still hurts.”

Hange nods and holds out his hands. I take them and he starts to rub mine. The small action is very comforting and I shut my eyes, embracing his touch. Eventually, he helps me up and I smile at him. “Thank you, and I’m sorry.”

“Never feel sorry, Armin,” he tells me. “Never feel sorry for breaking down. It’s unhealthy for you to bottle up all of these feelings. A breaking point was bound to happen, and you may have much more after this, but I’ll always be here for you.”

I hug him one last time before taking him to my room. I sigh when I see the dried up blood on the floor beside my bed. The blade, however, was gone. The paramedics must’ve taken it in order to prevent the same mistakes.

I pull out an old suitcase that used to be my Mom’s and started stuffing it with most of my belongings. “I may just take your offer of staying with you in general. I mean, I feel like we already covered this, but I still want to make it clear. No matter how many times I tell myself or tell you, I just really want you to know. I will to whatever I can in order to help around the house. I semi know how to cook, and I’m really good at cleaning and I can do grocery shopping. I can probably find a job… I mean I don’t know who hires deaf people, but I’ll figure it out. I want to be useful,” I speak without looking at him. He knows that if I don’t look at him, he can’t reply.

I don’t want him to reply, after all. If I let him, he will just argue against me. I am not about to have that, I am not about to argue and defend myself. Not now, not today, not in this shitty situation.

Once the suitcase is full, I place my laptop on top and shut it, having to sit on it in order to get it shut. After that, I grab my backpack and throw some extra clothes and my laptop charger in there. After that, I pulled out one last outfit and set them on the bed before turning to Hange. He got the hint and exited the room, shutting the door behind him. I stripped out of the nasty, bloodied clothes and put on some fresh ones, immediately feeling cleaner despite not actually being clean.

I grab my backpack and suitcase and meet Hange in the living room. He gets up and heads towards the door, though I stay and look around the room one last time. It will be weird not having a flashing device that lets me know when the doorbell is ringing, or intensely staring at a timer so I don’t burn food. I know Hange will tell me when it’s ready to take food out of the oven, and he will get the door if the doorbell ever rings.

It does bring down my mood whenever I think about that because it still gives me the sense of uselessness. But, I know it will be better than staying here any longer. I know if I stay here, I will go back to homeschool. I won’t exceed further in life if I stay here any longer.

With that in mind, I leave the house, locking the door behind me and taking the key. Hange doesn’t comment on it, only frowns, but helps me put my belongings in the car anyway. We get in the car and drive to his house.

I can’t believe I am actually doing this. I’m actually doing something that I know will be good for myself. I am pushing myself out there and trying to continue in life like Mom wanted me to when she put me back in public school.

Though, I will miss her. But… will I? All she’s done is caused painful memories, even now when I thought things were different. There just has to be a reason behind this. She wouldn’t go back to Dad after this… she wouldn’t.

I just wish I knew where the Hell she was. Where was she while I was in the hospital, and once I got out?

You’re putting too much faith in someone who’s done nothing but hurt you, Armin.

I sigh and shut my eyes, listening to the voice. It’s right. I’m putting too much faith in her. I hope for something different because she raised me to depend on her and Dad. That change will never happen, and this is proof that it won’t.

I can’t believe I let her back into my life. I’m so fucking stupid. Yes, I should thank her because now I have Hange, but I can’t help but to be disappointed. She left me once more, and this time it was her choice. Nobody could make her leave, she did it.

I’m an idiot for thinking any different.

Chapter Text

It's been three weeks since I started school here at Trost High School. Hange doesn’t live too far from the school, so I occasionally walk. I’m a bit upset about him moving to Stohess once he graduates, though. It’s only one town over so it isn’t too far of a drive to get to school, but it would still be a lot to ask for. I don’t want to worry about that now, considering it is only the second quarter of the school year, but it kind of terrifies me thinking about starting over again once this year is over.

I’ve grown a lot closer to people in my classes and it makes me happy how the fact that I’m deaf doesn’t change their views about me. They still talk and act the same; they don’t treat me any different over this. Ilse gave me her old smart phone, which is still fairly new as in the year it came out, but her old phone and I am on a plan with Hange. I felt a bit guilty at first because it’s an additional $90 a month, but it’s his Dad paying for it so I could care less.

I’m still iffy about his Dad after that first meet. I don’t feel comfortable around him, and sometimes the mention of him. Hange, though, has made me feel at home. My first night here, I was a nervous wreck and I felt nothing but guilt. I feel horrible for invading his space and taking his food and I don’t know his schedules when he showers or does laundry. I may be taking up his time to shower or run chores and I still hate that feeling.

He snapped at me multiple times for feeling that way. Of course, it’s not in a harsh way, but it still put me in my place. Things are starting to feel better and I feel more comfortable living with him despite that bothering me. He wasn’t lying when he said he was always at work as well. He works at least five days a week and he doesn’t get home until 10:00 at night.

Despite being alone, I actually really like it. I enjoy having space to ease my mind and having alone time for homework. I’ve been taking extra assignments so that I can keep up with all of the work, and I’m already ahead of most people in the classes. I’m happy I’m starting to understand the work and catching up on everything that I’ve missed over the years.

Most of my friends are in my English class considering we switch seats in that class every other day. Things did get a bit awkward at times, but it’s all good in the end. I remember, Hange had a mini party, nothing extreme and only light drinking. I’m sure there was music, but obviously I wouldn’t know that. He let me invite some of my English classmates so I brought Ilse, Marco, and Mina, as well as Jean, Mikasa, Frieda, and Historia. On top of that, Hange had his friends from the soccer team over. I didn’t know that Hange even played on the varsity soccer team until I saw all of his gear by the front door. Levi was here as well considering he is on the team, and I was very shocked when he apologized.

Of course, I forgave him. He didn’t do anything physical to me, and I do believe that Eren is the one who started it all. I still don’t know what grudge he has against me, but it’s very infuriating. Levi has a hint of why, but he’s uncomfortable sharing because he doesn’t know for sure. He doesn’t want certain thoughts of why this is happening to run through my mind. But, he did say that he’s 18 years old and that he needs to stop acting immaturely, which put me at ease. He isn’t the kind of guy I can see myself hanging out with on weekends, such as Jean and Marco, but if we do happen to be at a hangout together then I’ll talk to him.

Part of me still says that he will act up again. After all, if Eren has been influential in the past, he can easily do it again. Levi said that him and Eren broke up, which was shocking to me because I didn’t even know they had been in a relationship. Levi just said that it’d be best for them to part because of all the shit Eren has been doing since he joined high school, as well as Levi graduating this year and Eren is still a sophomore. He is still taking it hard though. They’ve been together for seven years. A normal school relationship doesn’t last that long; most barely even last a year and Eren and Levi have managed to be together for seven years? I can understand why it would be rough for the both of them. They’ve known each other since kindergarten as well. Levi lost a childhood friend of his. I’m sure Eren isn’t taking it well either and it makes me worry. Even though he hasn’t physically hurt me since the first day of school, I fear that it will happen again.

Despite that, I have a lot of people in my life to help me forget about Eren and his antics. I feel more comfortable going to school compared to my first day back from being bedridden. It was quite amusing, actually. I felt bad about missing two days of school, especially on my first week, but Hange refused to let me leave the bed. I kept trying to convince him that I was fine, but he wasn’t having it.

Hange also started taking testosterone shots and he’s very excited about that. It will change his face shape, allow him to grow more facial hair, end periods, and deepen his voice. Of course, there’s a lot more to it, but that’s all he told me when I asked him what that was. I’m really happy for him, especially since he’s taking a step into becoming more comfortable with himself. I’m afraid of not being able to see these differences. Of course, I won’t be able to hear his voice changing, but despite us living together, we barely see each other due to his school, soccer and work schedules. Because of that I fear not being able to see the physical changes to his body.

Maybe I’m overthinking it, just like everything else. I will see the changes and they will be truly amazing to see. I’m definitely proud of him. I wish I had the same amount of confidence as him. I have been getting better at being more outgoing, but I still enjoy more quiet time than anything.

Today at school, I’m not meeting Hitch or Nanaba today. They’re both absent, which is strange for them to be gone on the same day. I don’t question it, though. My main question is where I will be during those periods. I’m guessing they’ll just have me be with Hange or Frieda or at the front office. I’m not sure yet and they won’t tell me until the class period begins.

We aren’t doing anything in first hour today since we just finished up a project. Today is the day where everyone who didn’t do it does it, which is more than half of the class. I did it and turned it in the day after it was assigned so I could get it out of the way so I have more room to catch up on my studies. Mrs. Brzenska gave me some of their previous work and notes that I can use to study, and as a result I filled up half of my notebook with her notes plus my own. It’s like that with most of my classes, and as a result I have a very good grade in all of my subjects. It isn’t saying much, it’s only four subjects because special ed doesn’t necessarily work that way, but it’s still amazing how I caught up so quickly. I was very confused my first week of school, but now I’m onto week three and I’ve improved so much.

Hange’s car comes to a stop and I undo my seatbelt, getting out of the car and stretching my legs. It was only a three minute drive, but my body was still aching due to waking up fifteen minutes ago. Once I stretch, I grab my backpack from the floor of the passenger seat and shut the door. I still use the same black bag from the first day of school despite Hange telling me to get a new one. This one was perfectly fine, but he claimed that he wants a restart with everything and maybe that will help me feel better.

I enjoy remembering the school trip with my Mom though. The backpack was $40 as well, which is fucking insane for something everybody needs, so I don’t want it to go to waste.

I walk with him to the school gates before we go our separate ways. Yes, I do enjoy hanging out with him but I also like times at school with my own friends. Plus, I am still weary about being close to Levi, and Hange and Levi happen to be very close. On top of that, their friend, Erwin, keeps flirting with me. It makes me feel extremely awkward. I had asked him to lay it off a little bit and he’s been very respectful with that, but I’m still worried. Erwin is a really nice guy, though. I enjoy my time with him and the rest, but I don’t want to lead him on for something that will never happen.

Of course, maybe if I wasn’t stuck in this depressive mindset, maybe I would’ve let him. After all, he is extremely hot. He looks like the kind of guy who knows how to get their way, but at the same time he knows when to back away if he knows he can’t get it.

I walk until I find my first hour classroom. Class doesn’t start for another ten minutes, but Marco, Jean and I usually meet up here. Marco is here but Jean isn’t. “Hey, where’s Jean?” I ask.

“He’s dealing with Eren right now,” Marco says before rolling his eyes. “Those two have never gotten along, well, hardly everybody can put up with Jean’s cocky personality.”

I chuckled and nod. That is very true about Jean. He talks like he knows everything and everyone and that he owns it. It’s quite amusing, actually.

“Of course. I don’t know how we put up with it ourselves,” I reply and he laughs. I wish I could hear him laugh. I still struggle with putting voices to people, though some people manage to do it. Because of the way I lost my hearing and the way my lifestyle has been since then, I haven’t really tried to focus on my lack of hearing. I don’t want to, in a way. Despite learning ASL and speech in special ed… I really don’t want to. Sometimes, I want to cut off all forms of communication. Maybe just writing and texting. I don’t enjoy speech at all.

The way Marco moves when he laughs is angelic. Everything about him is angelic, really. I don’t know how him and Jean get along so well, but they do. They’re complete opposites, but I guess “opposites attract” is real.

I see Jean appear behind Marco and I immediately worry when I see a bruise forming on his cheek. I run up to him and run two fingers over the sensitive area. “Jean, what happened?” I ask hurriedly.

A blush forms on his cheeks before he chuckles. “Eren and I got into a fight, no big deal. He swung at me once, but I put him in his place,” he tells me. I sigh and remove my hand from his high cheek bone.

“Please be more careful, okay?” I say. It always pains me when I see bruises on other people. I’ve seen bruises on myself numerous times and it pains me when I see them on myself. When I see them on others, I know how bad they hurt, and the events that lead up to them hurt.

“I will, don’t worry about me. I knocked his ass out and we all know that he fucking deserves it. He was talking shit about you and that’s not okay,” he says with a proud smile on my face.

My worried expression instantly turns into a guilty one once he mentioned me. He got into a fight because of me. “You didn’t have to do that, you know,” I say. “You don’t have to put yourself in these types of situations for me. Let me take care of him, okay? You don’t deserve getting hurt.”

He shrugged it off and chuckled. “I did it because I want to, not because I felt the need to. I care about you; most of us care about you. Accept that. We will go out of our way to make sure that people like Eren don’t hurt you,” he tells me.

I feel a blush for and I look down, fiddling with my fingers. “Do you all really care for me that much? I haven’t really done much for you guys,” I say.

I look back up at him and gasp when he kisses my forehead. These people really love kissing my forehead despite my hair covering it. Jean, Hange, Ilse, and Marco all do that, and it’s always above the scar on the left side of it. “Are you kidding me? You just checked up on me and asked me in I’m okay. I’m sure you were asking Marco where I was, too. You helped Hange a lot. You may not see it, but we do. Hange was falling down a dark road before you came here. You helped Levi wake the fuck up, too. He’s even nice to me. Me ! Of all people,” he says.

I laugh at the part about Levi. It is true, he doesn’t look like the kind of guy who would be nice, especially because he refuses to show any emotion. The part about Hange worries me, actually.  I can assume it’s true because of his father and living alone, but now I’m curious if there’s anything else that’s bothering him.

“Thank you, Jean. The way I see it, if you say it then it must be true,” I tease him. He rolls his eyes before kissing my forehead once more.

We walk back to Marco and I smile. He displays a worried look although he expected something like this together. If not a giant bruise forming on Jean’s cheek, bloodied knuckles. Marco kisses the tender spot on Jean’s cheek, flushed once he pulls back. “You need to be more careful,” he says.

“What’s with everyone kissing me today?” was his reply, causing me to chuckle. I look away while they talk and look down at my phone. It’s still new to me despite having one for three weeks. Hange is trying to get me onto social media despite me not wanting to. He may finally get me into it, only because it is an easier way to connect with everybody.

I look up once I feel a tapping on my shoulder. Marco smiles at me and my cheeks turn red. He knows how I get whenever someone has to tap on me to get my attention, but I know they don’t really have a choice. Marco tends to do an aftercare of sorts to make me feel better, he’s even given me ice cream once.

“I’m sorry, I know how much you hate that, but I have to ask you a question,” he says. I nod and Jean leaves the two of us alone. I want to question it, but I bite my tongue. “Okay so… I really like Jean. I know he swings both ways at times, and I know he isn’t the best at romance… but I was wondering if you could help?”

The confession takes me by surprise. I nod anyway, though I don’t know what to do. “I will, but I don’t know what to do,” I end up saying out loud. “I’ve never been in anything romantic.”

He chuckles and ruffles my hair. “Don’t worry about that. I really just need the emotional support. The motive to actually go and ask him,” he says before looking up. The bell must’ve rang. Jean comes back to us and says goodbye.

Now that I know Marco’s feeling towards him, I see the way he reacts whenever they talk. I chuckle and follow Marco into the classroom, giving him a wink. He flushes red and turns away.

Once we sit down, I look over at the teacher and she smiles at us. It’s rare when Ms. Brzenska smiles, but it’s nice when she does. She doesn’t seem like the stoic, impassive teacher people had assumed back in the beginning of the school year. She truly loves her job, unlike most teachers here, I can sense a lot of stress in on her.

Throughout the class, I don't really talk to the others as I focus on the lesson. The ringing in my ear has started to come back, but quickly faded once Ms. Brzenska stopped talking. I do find it a coincidence, and sadly everything is back to being soundless.

I want to do something to get my hearing back. Anything. I know it is possible because of the way I lost my hearing, but it's thousands of dollars I don't have. I know it won't happen magically, there's still a lot of damaged parts in my ear, but one day, maybe I will get the funds. I keep telling myself that it is impossible, that there is no way my hearing will come back, but also something tells me that it's wrong. My hearing will come back. I hope.

I sigh, ignoring the thoughts as I put away my notebook. I’m almost in need of a new one but I don’t know where I will get the money for it. Notebook are fairly cheap, they’re less than a dollar, but I don’t even have one penny. When I left my old house, I left everything behind and that includes the money I was given. Sometimes I want to go back and spend the money on what I need and want, just buy things and hopefully put them into debt, but if by chance they’re in there… that’s a chance I am not willing to take.

The bell rings and everybody gets up and leaves the room. Hange still tries to walk with me to my classes, but I’m usually already to the next hour by the time he finds me. He insists on walking with me, saying I’m like a little brother to him and he wants to protect me.

“There you are,” he says while signing. I chuckle and hug him.

“You know you don’t have to follow me. I’ve been doing just fine on my own, even on the first day,” I tell him. He just ruffles my hair and laughs.

“Oh honey, you know we are friends, right? I want to be there with you. So, how was your first hour?”

I want to tell him how Marco confessed his feelings about Jean, but I keep my mouth shut and shrug. It’s not right for me to tell Marco’s love life to other people, especially towards Hange because knowing him, the word will get around. “I mean it’s school. We learned the history of middle ages for the book we are reading tomorrow. I’m pretty excited to read it.”

Hange has learned that I love reading books. Right now, we are reading the Canterbury Tales and even though I read it, I am still excited to be doing it in a class.

“That’s good. Well, I gotta go so meet up with me for lunch. I’ll tell you more details about the game tonight. You’re still going right?”

It took me a moment to remember about his soccer game. Once I remember, I nod. “Yeah, I’ll be there,” I tell him. He smiles and ruffles my hair one last time before leaving.

The next two hours roll by quickly, especially because my third hour was empty. I ended up hanging in the front office during that time, catching up on some work and doing rough sketches in the back of my notebook. When lunch rolled around, I walked over to Hange’s usual spot and smiled at him. “Hey, so you have the information about the soccer game?” I ask.

There were a few unfamiliar faces here and they were looking at me strangely, probably because of my speech impediment. My speech was never the best, I knew that, but it still intimidated me whenever someone would look at me strangely for it.

“Yes I do!” Hange said while singing. The others seemed to understand and their confused looks went away. I knew it was because of my speech, not because of the new face. I sigh as Hange hands me a piece of paper. “By the way, these are some other members of the soccer team. Eld, Gunther, Oluo, this is Armin. You guys will be seeing each other often. I’m sure you guys met, just haven’t talked.”

They wave at me and I awkwardly wave back. “Hi, I’m Armin,” I say before cringing. Hange already said that, why did I repeat that?

Now that I took in Hange’s words, they do look familiar; their names sound familiar as well. I just mentally shrugged and looked at the paper. It said to meet Historia over at the front entrance at 6:30. I nod and Hange smiles.

“So, Armin,” Oluo says as he practically shoves Hange out of the way. I flinch and back away a bit before he continues, “you’re that deaf kid yeah? How did you lose your hearing? Were you born deaf? How do you even lose your hearing if it isn’t from old age?” he asks.

I felt uncomfortable with the amount of questions he was asking. Hange noticed and ushered him away, making him sit back down. “Sorry, but that’s not something I’m comfortable with talking about,” I tell him. He snickers and gives me a smirk.

“Ignore him,” I see Gunther say, “he’s an asshole to everybody. I’m Gunther, by the way.”

I smile at him and nod. “It’s okay. It’s just a story I’d rather not tell,” I tell him. “It’s also a long story, at that. I don’t think I ever truly told anyone in detail about what my doctor tells me. It’s just… personal.”

Hange’s smile fades away at that. “When is your next doctor's appointment, by the way?” he asks.

“It was supposed to be today, but I postponed it till tomorrow,” I tell him. He nods and adjusts his binder through his shirt. I always tell him to stop wearing it so often, to wear baggy shirts or sports bras or whatever, but he refuses to listen to me. I understand what it’s like to feel uncomfortable in your own body; sure, it’s not the same way, but I do understand where he is coming from. I hate these scars that cover me, especially the ones littering my back from the whip Dad used. I hate it when I can still feel Mom’s hands linger on me, traveling down my torso in a soft manner or a hard manner, touching me in disgusting ways and hitting me when I couldn’t give her what she wanted. I was young, I didn’t even hit puberty yet, how would I have been able to do so? Even if I did, I still could’ve have given into that kind of treatment. Then again, I don’t necessarily know how that all works. I walk in to see my parents having sex, as well as a sex ed class through my online school. Her harsh slap along my young and growing body still lingers from moments like those. It makes me hate my body. Even then, I found other days to hide the disgusting feeling from others. I hope Hange does, too. Mine are just covering scars from the past, but his could have him hospitalized. I accidentally walked in on him shirtless a while back, and was horrified when bruises littered his chest. His ribs looked like they were caving in on his lungs and I want to ask if it’s from binding. Of course, that does sound impossible, very much impossible, but they look much too caved in to be natural. Sometimes, he tries to trick me by leaving his binder on the bed, but I know he uses bandages on those days he tries to trick me. His bruises always seem worse whenever he uses those. I truly worry about his health, sometimes.

He and I made a promise that he’d stop wearing them during soccer practice. It probably makes him feel awkward when it comes to the locker room, but his team mates are very supportive of him. They don’t see breasts on him, and neither do I. Sure, they are there on his chest, but we don’t think of it that way. To be honest, I’d be disgusted if someone were to hit on him for his chest.

“I think you should get a new doctor. Some things he is telling you aren’t adding up, Armin. One day your hearing could potentially come back but the next you’re stone deaf? Stone deaf usually means that there aren’t any chances. I don’t want you to get any hopes up on your hearing coming back, though. Maybe the ringing just has to do with your nerve damage. Or, maybe the ringing is because your ear is healing. After all, you did break bones inside of your ear and that could do a lot of damage, so maybe it’s just the healing process that’s taking away your hearing? Also, it seems unlikely how glass could’ve damaged the one ear. I believe the hearing damage part, but not the glass. I don’t know, I’m no doctor, I never looked up this shit, but I do know that the things your doctor is telling you is not adding up,” he says.

I nod, knowing he is right. The things that my doctor tells me isn’t adding up. I just want to believe what he says, I want to believe that he will help me through all of this. Things aren’t adding up, I know that. I am the type of person to hear something and go by it because I’ve always felt like I don't have a choice. With my parents, I listened to them and I did as they said. I’ve just grown accustomed to doing so.

“I will think about it. Just, not now. I don’t have the money to do anything anyway. Zackly is free because they know my parents, so that’s my only choice right now,” I tell him. His face scrunches up when I mention my parents but I shrug it off.

He leaves the topic at that and I look back at the paper. Who all was going with Historia again? Was it only Frieda and Ilse, or will some other people be joining us? School sports do run through hard times, I could be studying for tests and some people might have work, so I know it won’t be a lot of people joining us if anybody else shows up.

I didn’t look back up for the entire lunch period, I just played on my phone. I was on the application that Hange wanted me to get to stay close to everyone. I still don’t have anything posted because I simply have no need to do so. These people see me every school day, why would they be interested in seeing anything else? By the time I got bored with it, the bell rang. I looked up at Hange, who gave me a concerned look. I only smiled at him and went off with a small wave.

I have a feeling that Hange thinks I’m upset at him. I’m not by any means, but I’m still afraid that I showed it too much. I know he didn’t mean any harm by any means. I feel bad as I walk away, but when I turn around I notice that he had disappeared. I sigh, looking back in front of me as I continue my day.

By the time I get home, Hange is already there. He had driven home while I walked. “Hey, I’m sorry about lunch. I guess I felt awkward talking about my hearing and all… I didn’t mean to make you feel bad,” I tell him as I sit next to him on the couch.

“Oh you’re fine! I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have brought it up in front of them. But, I am worried Armin. If it’s money issues then don’t worry, remember my Dad works at the hospital? I’m sure we can get you free medical care,” Hange tells me.

I shrug my shoulders and sigh. “I… I don’t know. Yeah, I want to figure out what’s going on with my hearing and I want it to stick to a single answer. I know what you’re talking about, Hange. I want to know why my hearing has gone away. Now that you mention this, I don’t believe anything my doctor says anymore. I want to know. It hasn’t been a long term thought, though, so I want to give it time and think everything through. I’ll have a few more appointments with Zackly, then I’ll let you know by my results if it is adding up or not,” I say. I know it isn’t adding up now, and his words truly defy that, but I’m not ready to go to a new doctor.

I’m still getting used to all of the students around me in school making it difficult for me to jump from person to person. I want to take it slow. I’m familiar with Zackly, it’s more of a comfort zone despite being told all the wrong information.

“I understand. Take your time, Armin. Let me know if you change your mind,” he tells me. “Anyway, I just came home to get some food. I’m gonna eat then head off to practice for the game. You remember where to meet Historia?”

I nod and smile at him before running up to my room. I still have three more hours before the game, so I dump out the contents of my backpack onto the small bed and get started on the small amount of homework I was given today. Nanaba and Hitch usually provide some homework to help me with speech or sign language, despite not wanting to know sign language. I know I have to in order to communicate easier, though it feels like it’s rare when people do know sign language. I pretty much know everybody in this school that knows the language, and only three know it fluently. Three out of two thousand isn’t much.

By the time I finish my homework and extra studies, I still have an hour until the game. In that time, I start drawing. I never did much drawing despite not doing much back when I was alone, nor did I ever think I would draw, but the urge to do more than doodling in the back of my notebook has been taunting me a lot today after lunch.

I ended up drawing an eye. The almond shaped eye was filled in with mixtures of blue and green and it looks very familiar, though I can’t put my finger on it.

I gasp when there’s a dip in my bed. I notice Hange with a fresh bruise displayed on his face look at my drawing. “Wow, that’s really good. Do you draw often?” I disregarded his question and immediately brushed my fingers against his cheek. He flinched a little despite the feathered touch, but chuckled. “Don’t worry about it. There was just an accident at soccer practice. Got hit in the face pretty hard and it took like half an hour just to clean up my nose,” he laughed.

“Are you okay? How did this happen? You shouldn’t be playing it if you get hurt like this!” I say, worried.

He chuckles and shakes his head. “I just so happened to be right in the way of the ball and I got hit. Nothing major happened, don’t worry. Accidents happen; I wasn’t paying close enough attention. Nothing is broken, don’t worry. Coach told me to stay out of this game for today sadly. I was so ready to see you in the audience, watching me play. See how the team is very open to each other,” he slightly frowned. “Anyway, your drawing.”

I turn back to it and shrug. “I’ve never really taken time in drawing before. It is good considering I’ve never has any lessons on how to draw, or any idea. I just really had the urge to draw this. I don’t remember what it reminds me of, but this color is so… mesmerising,” I tell him.

He chuckles and looks at it. I watch his every move as he eyes the paper. He looks like he knows the person with that rare eye color, but doesn’t speak up. “It is really good. You should draw more often,” he tells me as he sets the paper back down on my binder.

I shrug and lay down on the comfy sheets. “I don’t know. It’s not really something I can keep on doing for a long period of time. I need breaks from doing it,” I say. “Many artists don’t stop when they’re at their work; they keep going and they don’t stop in fears that they’ll lose inspiration. This was only a small sketch, so I could go through with it. But, there’s no way I can go through with an entire portrait at once.”

“There are many artists who take breaks in between. I do see what you are saying about breaks though. Sometimes, what we have in mind then leaves and then we are stuck wondering what we are going to do now,” he says while signing. I nod and he smiles. “Still, though. I think you should. Even small sketch. You have quite an eye for it, no pun intended.”

I laugh and sit back up once again, hugging him. “Thank you. Now go put some ice on your face. I’m seriously worried. That must’ve been one hell of a kick if it left a mark like that,” I say.

He nods and leaves the room, smiling like an idiot. I know I’m smiling like an idiot myself and the thought makes my smile grow even more.

Historia texts me to say that she won’t be attending the game now that Hange isn’t going. It makes me feel bad because there’s more to the team than just Hange, and now people are bailing now that he isn’t playing tonight. That’s not fair to the other players, I’m sure they’re just as amazing as Hange.

I get up and go to the kitchen where I spot Hange. “I think we should still go to the game. Maybe while we watch the others play, you can teach me how the game works?” I offer.

I want to take the words back,  but I know I can’t. It was a gut decision that was out before I could think about it. Yes, the others deserve as much support as Hange does, but Hange needs to rest up. He just got injured, he should be resting until the bruise starts to fade away. If it is an impact on the head, I’m sure it rattled his brain a bit. He needs rest.

“Are you sure Armin? Historia and the rest aren’t going anymore,” Hange says as he removes the ice from his cheek.

“I mean,” I nervously chuckle as I scratch the back on my head. “Only if you want to. I mean… the others playing tonight deserve just as much support as you do, and so I think it would be cool to be there to support them. Of course, you do need rest so if you’re not up for it-”

My rambling was cut off when Hange put one hand on my shoulder and lifted my chin up with the other. He chuckled and ruffled my hair. “Sure, let’s go. I feel fine, the incident happened like two hours ago so I’ve had more than enough rest. If you really want to go, then let’s go!” he says.

I nervously chuckle once more as I back up. “Yeah, let’s go then,” I awkwardly say. He laughs before leaving the room. I don’t follow him, guessing he is going into his room to change his clothes. He was still in his soccer uniform with the number 17 displayed on the back.

When he comes back into the living room, I nervously smile at him and he laughs once more. “Stop being so nervous all the time Armin. Come on, let’s go watch the game!” he says.

I laugh and follow him into the car. I’m glad he is doing okay. He always looks so happy even when it isn’t. He should be caring for his bruises still, yet he’s anxious to get back into the school and to run up those bleachers to watch the game. No matter what, he is always so full of life and I admire that. I wish I could be like that.

Being fearless is something I crave. I don’t want these fears to hold me back, but my brain says otherwise. Whenever I am ready to go out, my mind tells me no and all the worst things that could possibly happen. One day, I know this fear will go away. If not, then it’ll ease. There will be a fine line where it stops and I will be able to do the things I want to do without much worry, and some can possibly be done without any worry at all.

One day, it will be that way. Considering I got up to ask to go to the soccer game despite Hange’s injuries, I’m getting there. I still have a long way to go and I still have a lot to learn before I can do something beyond extreme, but I know I will make it. It takes time to heal. I have to heal seventeen years of my life, it will take a while. I know Hange will be there every step of the way. Ilse, Marco, Jean, Mina, Frieda, Historia… they’ll all be there to help me. I know it. 

Chapter Text

Ever since Hange mentioned my doctor could potentially be feeding me false facts about my hearing, the thought hasn’t left my mind. Today is my appointment with him and I have an array of questions to ask him. I want an answer to this confusion.

The fact that sometimes he mentions I’m profoundly deaf, meaning that I should have some hearing, to that there’s no chance of my hearing coming back has been throwing me off. I want an answer.

I don’t want to live the rest of my life like this. I want to be able to hear again, I want to be able to hear Hange’s voice and the loudness of school and his soccer games. Though I did notice the crowd at his games were quiet. There was clapping, but nobody was screaming over a goal like they do on TV. I want to at least be able to hear those claps.

I want to be able to hear everybody’s voice once more as well as music. Everybody always talks about music and I see people carrying around guitars and violins. I want to be able to hear them play, though watching their fingers glide across the neck of each instrument is inspiring enough. To be able to hear what it actually sounds like it something I desperately want.

A thought that has crossed my mind is Zackly screwing me over purely because he is working for free thanks to my parents. He knows what they have done to me, and he always remains emotionless whenever they’re brought up. He doesn’t react to a word I say.

I don’t want to believe that he is betraying me. Besides, if I were profoundly deaf or moderate, then how come I can’t hear anything now? It does bother me how he doesn’t give me definite answers though.

I want to wait to switch doctors still. I’ve come a long way with having so many people in my life, I don’t want to overwhelm myself by adding even more people.

As I get ready for the appointment, I put on hearing aids. They don’t work, but in case of a miracle, I want to see how they feel. With the blue device in my ears, they’re uncomfortable. I know the person who used to wear these has larger ears, so I hope that’s why. I know I will be able to deal with having these on despite them not feeling great.

Hange never told me who these belonged to. He just gave them to me and said that they were sanitized and to try them. The image of them on my ears brings me to tears. I want them to work, I want them to give me the ability of hearing once more.

He walks into the room and smiles at me. I turn to him and proudly show the ears that I’ve been hiding through my mop of hair. “Hey that looks cool. Anyway, how was school today? I didn’t really see you and soccer held me back. Sorry for making you walk,” he says.

I chuckle and nod. “It was good, though I’ve been thinking of this appointment all day. I have a feeling that anger will get to me, though I’m trying to avoid that. If everything is false, I don’t know how calm I will be. Will it be anger, or sadness, or grief, or stress…” I trail off.

“I understand. If all comes to worst then we can find a new doctor. I can introduce you to my friends doctor, since said friend is also hard of hearing. He's been wearing hearing aids since elementary school, I'm sure his doctor is a good one,” he tells me.

The fact that he knows another doctor is comforting to me. I don't want a new doctor of mine to be a complete stranger. I’m still curious as to who this friend is and why Hange won’t tell me who it is. It has to be someone who still goes to our school because he retrieved the hearing aids. I know what it’s like to not want to meet new people, so maybe this other person is the same way.

“I mean that will help I guess,” I say and give him the hearing aids. “Just whatever it takes for me to begin hearing once more.”

Hange smiles and ruffles my hair. He always manages to make me dizzy whenever he does that, but that doesn’t stop the smile from growing on my face. “We will get you fixed up, don’t worry about it. Now, you ready to go?” he asks while signing. Sometimes he forgets to sign, but I’m glad he remembered this time because there’s no way I’d manage to focus on his lips with a partial headspin.

I look at the small digital clock in my room and shrug when I see the time. “It’s still kind of early,” I tell him before looking back at him.

“Well we are going to get something to eat, silly,” he says. I sigh and nod. I always feel bad when he spends his money on me because he needs to save up himself. He’s working to gain an apartment and he’s never stopped working for it and yet he helps me and buys me stuff with his own money. I know he cares about me and he is doing this because I’m important to him, but I still can’t help but to feel guilty, especially when there isn’t much I can’t do in return.

No job wants to hire a deaf kid, someone who can’t even hear customers. Customers would be so mad at me, they’ll be angry because I can’t hear them, they’ll yell at me. My boss won’t be happy with hearing numerous complaints about me and fire me. It’s best not to get a job, but then I’m out money. I can’t live under this roof forever. I can’t live under any roof without doing something for the rest of my life. I’m sure there are jobs for people like me, I just have to look harder.

He hugs me tightly, taking me out of my thoughts. He’s always good at reading me, which isn’t very good in the long run. I want some emotions, such as this one, to be kept to myself. I want this one to be personal to me rather than people seeing them and trying to help me with my own thoughts. No matter what they do or say, these thoughts won’t leave me alone. They’ll always be here no matter what they do and that’s the reality of it all.

He pulls back and smiles at me. “Don’t worry, okay? We will just get some fast food. There’s a new burger place up the street, wanna try that?” he asks.

I nod and he gets off of the bed. I reach over to my nightstand and grab a hair tie before tying my hair back. I look really feminine if I do this and I’ve been thinking about cutting it all off, but keeping my bangs to hide my scars, but I don’t know yet.

I’ve had my hair at this length for so long, I don’t know if I will be able to cut it again. Plus, what if I do end up getting hearing aids? I would want to hide it in my hair rather than the world seeing the fact that I can’t hear on my own.

I don’t mind looking feminine when I’m in my room, away from the public eye. My worst fear is society and its standards. I want to dress the way I want to dress, I want to be fearless wearing hearing aids, I want to be careless about what others think, but people always find a way to take that confidence and crush every fiber of its being.

I can’t be confident with myself, no matter how hard I try.

I sighed, shrugging off the feeling and facing Hange. “I think I want to get my hair cut soon. I don’t like the length it is now but also I don’t want to remove my bangs,” I tell him.

He thought for a moment before saying, “I know a style that will look good on you. You have your bangs but the back of your hair will be like the back of Levi’s hair; long on the top and an undercut. Do you want to do that after the appointment?”

I started at myself in the mirror before nodding. I can’t imagine it until it’s been done. I trust that Hange knows what he is talking about.

A while later, we are on our way to the appointment. We’ve already eaten and now my nerves are shocked. I don’t want to do but at the same time I want to know what’s wrong with my hearing. It’s still a number one thought on my mind rather than my hair or friends or school. No matter what, my hearing haunts my mind through every situation.

We pull up in front of the hospital and my shaking intensifies. I don’t want to see Dr. Zackly, but I know I have to. This is a test to see if he will stick to his words and help me figure out what the hell is wrong with me. We get out of the car and Hange looks back to make sure it’s locked before we walk up to the front doors. My shaking doesn’t get any better as the nurse nods at me, meaning that she recognizes me and that it’s okay to go ahead and see Dr. Zackly. Everybody here knows who I am because I get normal checkups here rather than at an urgent care center.

We walk up to the right door and I take a deep breath before walking into the room. I see my doctor and he smiles at me. “Armin,” I manage to see through his thick facial hair. I always struggle reading whenever their facial hair covers up parts of their lips so he usually shaves, but this time I’m on my own.

I nod as I sit down on the bed in the small, compacted room. I look to see Hange introducing himself to Dr. Zackly and I chuckle. I know he isn't too happy with what is going on which amuses me to see him so happy. 

"So, give me an update on our last checkup," Dr. Zackly says while signing. "You said your ears are ringing?"

I nod. "Sometimes it gets so loud to where it's unbearable, but it's rare when it happens in general," I say.

After that, he does regular checkups on my ears. He does the same thing every time. All he does is stick something in it, then examines them with a light. You'd think he would do something different if the checkups are for different reasons. But, no. He does the same thing every time.

"I don't see anything wrong," he says while signing. "It was probably in your head, you have no signs of hearing any type of ring."

At this point, I would've believed him. Though, at this point I can hardly remember any sounds from back then. I always think I do, but once you lose something it's difficult to gain the memory of what it was once like. It's as if you had vision for the first 15 years of your life, then suddenly you lost it. You don't remember what red looks like, you don't remember what people look like. Everything is a blank slate. That's how it feels with my hearing.

Though, sometimes I do feel like I remember sounds, such as my voice, and I have an image on what Hange's voice sounds like. I couldn't imagine why I would feel that way unless I can hear sometimes, but when I am asleep. Even then, how do I still remember these sounds when I am awake? Or, are these truly in my head and it's all by pure luck? Or, do I just not remember those faint moments where I can hear certain things? Or, can I hear things if it's close enough to my ears?

I want answers but I know I'm not going to get them through him.

"Okay," I sigh. I am not in the mood for arguing with him. I know he is in the wrong. I have little faith in ever finding out what the hell is wrong with me. 

Hange notices me, I can feel his soft gaze on me, but I can tell he is fighting the urge to stay silent. I look up at him and give him a soft smile. "Let's just go home," I tell him.

He nods and we both get up. I thank the doctor as I turn around and leave. Once we leave the care center, I speak up. "Do you think he is hiding it from me simply because of my parents? Because he has a connection with them? Does... he hate me so much as well?"

I don't look at Hange to see his response. I don't want to know what anybody would have to say about this shit fest of a life. I just keep looking forward on our way to his car. We get in and I buckle myself in before finally looking over at him. "I'm sorry, Hange. I'm just... I feel like an idiot. Why haven't I noticed this sooner? How come when I think I'm getting on a good track in my life, it just finds its way to fall apart? I'm already a mess, how come more messes keep happening? It's frustrating. I don't mean to drag you down or to cause awkward tension... I'm just frustrated."

He hugs me over the center console and rubs my back. I want to cry, to let out my frustration, but choose not to. Crying won't help me figure out what's wrong with me.

He pulls back and gives me a smile. "So, how 'bout that hair cut? Do you still want to do it?"

I nod and chuckle as his sudden change in attitude. He knows exactly how to make people smile and laugh and that's what I admire about him. Without Hange, I don't think I could be happy again. I mean, I still have a long way to go. I don't think I could ever be okay again, I know I will have scars that will follow me for the rest of my life. But, Hange creates a light for me to forget the negativity that life throws at me. All it takes is a simple smile of his. One smile could make a day better, and that smile is Hange's.

He get to the hair salon and walk inside. I immediately notice the prices on hair cuts and turn around. "I-I didn't know you had to pay I'm sorry, let's do this when I have the money for it," I tell him.

He grabs me and I flinch. He lets go when he notices me but I look up at him. "Armin, it's okay. I have spare money and I want you to do stuff. You don't have to worry about anything, I promise. I know I need an apartment on my own so I can stop living off of my Dad, but living a life off of nonstop work and school is fucking boring. Whether the money is spent on me or not, it's still an escape from the endless cycle of school and work. You don't have to worry. Trust me, I know what it feels like having other people spend money on you, I don't like it either. But you need it more than I do. You deserve the world right now, especially with what you are going through. Let me treat you, okay? It's only $12, I can make that in an hours worth of work, that's not a lot of money."

I feel bad now for almost running back into the car, but nod. "I'm sorry... I just don't feel like I deserve kindness, you know? I don't deserve any of it. I don't see why I am so special. You could do this with Ilse, or Historia and Frieda. You've known them for so much longer... so why me?" I ask.

"You're more special to me, in ways even I don't understand. Trust me, you're okay. Now, let's get that hair cut," he says.

Eventually, I get in the chair and Hange is explaining how he visions my hair. A lot of spraying, cutting and shaving later, I look completely different. I still have the same bowl cut style on the top, but I have an undercut. I enjoy it. Even though you can see my ears, I don't have faith in getting hearing aids any time soon but I don't care. As long as my forehead is covered, I'm happy.

Hange peeks around the corner to look at me and I can tell he is squealing. He hugs me tightly and I flinch once more at the sudden contact. Eventually, I loosen up and hug him back. When he pulls away, he goes to pay and pulls out his phone. He turns his camera on and I see the two of us on his screen.

I get the hint and I shyly smile in the photo. I notice him posting it on a social media page and I chuckle, thanking him.

It finally feels nice getting all of that hair off despite me wanting to reach for it to play with it, but I know changing my looks will be yet another way of improving myself and becoming more comfortable with the way I've become.

When we get back to his home, we watch TV. It feels rare when we spend time together due to his work schedule and my anxiety. It feels nice knowing I have a friend who I can always count on, as cliche as that sounds. But, today made me realize how important Hange has become in my life. He is truly my light. I couldn't be more grateful.

Chapter Text

I thought that today would be a casual, same old Tuesday. But, even without my hearing, I can sense the silence all around me.

This morning, it was normal up until second hour. Then, an awkward feeling arose among everybody. I look up and a single mouth isn't moving. Usually, everybody's mouth is moving to the point to where I can't keep up. 

I decide not to ask what's happened, but whatever did happen, it affected everybody.

During passing period on my way to my speech therapy, I still feel the same pattern of silence. I find it strange how I can sense it without knowing of it. Maybe there are noises, like light chatter or the clanking of feet on the tile, but that's just it. The emotions of people around me are negative.

I look up and see makeup running down Historia's face. "Historia, are you okay?" I ask.

She looks up at me and cries harder, clinging onto me immediately. I feel her tears soaking through my shirt but I don't care, I hug her back.

What has happened that's so bad that everybody is so silent and upset?

She pulls back and I wipe some of her black makeup off of her cheeks with my thumb. "It's Frieda... my sister," she said. "I-I don't want to be here," I manage to catch through her quivered lips.

"Do you want to go to Hitch with me? I'm on my way there right now," I offer. I don't know what's happened to Frieda, but I know it's major. I know how close the two were to each other, and I've gotten close to Frieda myself.

Frieda, Ilse and Hange are the best people I could ask for in this school, it'd crush me to lose any of them. I hope Frieda is okay.

With that, Historia nods and clings onto my body as we walk towards the 300 building. When we reach Hitch's room, she lets go of me and I open the door for her. Hitch looks up and immediately looks at her full of empathy. She rushes up to embrace Historia in a tight hug, causing the blonde to cry harder.

After a while, the two talk and Historia leaves the room. I want to question it, but decide to keep my mouth shut until she leaves. With whatever's happened with Frieda, it's making me extremely worried now. I've never seen anybody so broken before, I've never seen anybody cry and cry with no care with who sees.

"Frieda passed away this morning. Historia said that she wanted to stay home today, and during second hour, she got a call from the hospital... Frieda committed suicide."

In that moment, I feel everything drain my body.

Someone who I felt a strong connection to is gone, just like that. She's gone forever, I won't be able to see her again. I won't be able to see that big smile on her face whenever I walk around to my next classes or after school or during those rare lunch times when I'm not alone.

In just a blink of an eye, it's gone.

"O-oh..." I manage to say. Tears are blurring my vision. I close my eyes and feel the warm tears roll down my cheeks. The first thing I see once I close them is Frieda. Her dark brown hair going past her shoulders and the same bright blue eyes she shares with Historia. I will never get to see them again.

My sadness eventually turned into self hatred. Why haven't I seen these signs before? How come I was too slow enough to realize this? Now it's too late.

Every cut I've ever done, every thought I've ever had, every breakdown I've ever encountered, makes me feel selfish. There were other people who were going through shit, and these people didn't bother to notice because they were taking their time focusing on me.

The logical side of me knows that these people have much more time away from me than with me, but it's a thought that intrudes my mind. What if my broken self is the reason behind this? I could've stayed away and she could've gotten help.

But no, I had to cry about my mommy and daddy issues to people I don't even know. I wasted their time on something they can't even fix.

I feel a hand on my shoulder and I look up to see Hitch. She gives me a soft smile and I look down to my lap. My crying grows harder.

"I won't see her again. Ever. She's... she's really gone? What about Historia?" I ask. 

I look back up to see Hitch walking back to her seat. I dry my eyes to where I'm able to see her better. "She doesn't have anybody to take her out of school. Her parents are at the hospital grieving right now... Yes, it isn't right, they should've pulled her out of school, but they're probably too shocked to process anything right now. I told Historia that she can be wherever she wants for the rest of the day, the principal will give her a red card," she explains.

I nod. I feel bad for Historia to be trapped here rather than going to the hospital. I wish the school would just let her go.

It's noticeable that Frieda affected almost the entire school, I know she was well known by most of the school.

"Are you okay?" Hitch asks me.

"I think Historia deserves more sympathy than me right now... You should talk to her," I say.

I look down once more and pull out my phone from my backpack. I furrow my eyebrows when I see the amount of notifications I have. Most of them are from Hange asking me where I am, if I'm okay and to tell him if I find Historia.

One text in particular is from Frieda herself.

Hey Armin... I'm sorry I couldn't say hi to you in person today. To be completely honest, I didn't want to see anybody today. I didn't want anybody to see me in my weakest moment. I know the consequences of doing this, but the thought of this has been with me for so many years now.  It's driving me crazy. I never told anybody because I felt like my family or friends shouldn't know. The staff at this school is like my second family, and this school is my second home. You were like family to me and it hurts to know that I won't be able to see any of you anymore. I hope things get easier for you. I know this will affect you in your healing process, which is absolutely selfish of me, but I can't take this feeling away from me. I've tried to help myself but it's always been no use. But, please don't let this affect you too much. That's the last thing I want you to do. I want you to be happy and healthy. I love you Armin. Protect Historia for me, okay?

I turn my phone screen off and watch the device fall onto the floor. Hitch once more puts an arm around my shoulder and I lean into her touch. I notice Hange entering the room and he grips me into a tight hug. I feel his body shaking and hiccuping against mine and it brings me into even more tears.

We stay like that for a while before he pulls away. He tries my tears with his thumb and my crying slows down. "I didn't see her message in time," I tell him.

"None of us did," he said while signing. I sigh and lay my head on his shoulder once more.

"When will things get better?" I ask. "I want to be on a good track. I want to find out what's wrong with me, I want to have friends who are happy and healthy, I just want everything to be okay. Why does it feel impossible to be okay?"

I shut my eyes and Hange holds me close. It's as if it were a plot twist in a story. Everything is going well and then it makes a 180. I don't want a plot twist because it'll make our lives more hellish. Why did this have to happen? There could've been other solutions, so why did it have to be this way?

I look at Hitch and she gives me a soft smile. "You can go home for the day if you'd like," she tells me.

I shake my head. "No. If Historia is still here then so am I. It's unfair for her to be here out of all of us. She deserves to be taken out of school," I say.

Hitch nods and I let go of Hange. "I'm going to go check up on Historia, okay?" he asks. I nod and he kisses my forehead before leaving the room. I sit back in my usual seat across from Hitch. She writes something down in her notebook before closing it and setting it aside.

"Frieda was good for everybody in this school," she begins while signing. "She brought everybody happiness and I know she wouldn't want that to go away. We need to be there for Historia especially. This isn't the first time something like this has happened to her. What's happened isn't my story to tell, but it wasn't pretty. She even went by a whole different identity, hence why you've probably seen people calling her Krista."

"I've seen... I think it was Connie who said that but I never really put thought into it... but will Historia be okay after this?" I ask.

"I wish I could know the answer. She's been through a lot and that event affected Frieda even more than Historia... that's probably what started this. Give Historia time before you mention anything, but I know of all people, you can be there for her and help in so many ways," she replies. 

I don't know why she is turning the tables onto me if I wasn't involved in what happened, nor do I want to be. I know I was close friends with the both of them, especially Frieda, but it feels almost selfish to put myself into this situation. 

I shrug it off with a nod and she looks back down on her desk. I can tell she's holding in her emotions. She knows a lot more than I do in this situation which must make it more difficult for her. She knows more about Frieda than anybody else in this school.

"I'll let you go, Armin. Find Hange and Historia and make sure they're okay. Also, I've dismissed the three of you for fourth hour so that you can have an extended lunch," she says. I nod and let her be. It must be difficult for her to keep a professional look when she's on the verge of tears. Holding it in means she doesn't want to be seen, so I leave as soon as I can so she will no longer have to hold it in.

The door closes behind me and a high pitch rings in my ear. I cover my ears in pain and when I look up, students are leaving their classrooms. I look at the fire alarm and it isn't blinking. I check my phone and notice it's time for lunch.

Suddenly, I'm lost once more.

That noise I heard was the bell for class to end.

But... how?

I shake my head and go to the front office, where I'm guessing Historia and Hange are. I notice them there sitting in the chairs and I sit beside Historia. 

"Hey, are you feeling any better?" I ask.

She shrugs her shoulders and hugs me tightly. I hug back and shut my eyes for a few moments before letting go. "I don't know how you must feel right now, I've never been in this kind of situation... but I do know that from here it will get better. I know now it hurts, everybody is in shock right now, but I promise, things will get better," I say.

"Thank you Armin," she says. I nod and kiss her forehead with a small smile. She weakly smiles back and I chuckle. "So, how's your day been?" she asks.

"Well... I heard the bell after talking to Hitch. I mean, at least I think that's what it was. I just heard a loud pitch and suddenly people started leaving the classrooms. I don't know how I would ever be able to hear it, but I did. Maybe my hearing is coming back?" I say.

Both of their eyes light up and smiles grow on their faces. "No way you heard that?! How? We seriously need to figure out what's going on with your ears. I've never heard of a case where hearing just comes back like this. But what do you know, a new diagnosis is discovered every single day," Hange says.

I blush and turn away, not liking the attention on me. It's sweet and normally I wouldn't mind it, but right now I feel like all of us aren't in a good place for it right now. 

"Y-yeah. I mean it'd be cool to be able to hear again. I don't remember what my own voice sounds like. Do I sound super masculine or super feminine? Does my voice crack? Do I slur  or do I mess up?" I continue. "To be honest, I don't really want to know. But it'd be cool to hear my own voice. Anyway so, right now is lunch, right? We should get something to eat."

Historia nods and gets up. She seems very happy compared to a few moments ago, which is like an accomplishment. What if this is what Hitch was talking about? I still don't understand how I could be the person who makes everything happy once more. What am I doing that's different compared to everybody else?

As we walk to our usual spot, I think about my hearing. I was able to hear the bell, and it was louder than expected. My ears aren't used to sound anymore, therefore when I heard it, it was much louder than it actually is. Surprisingly, I don't want to use that experience as hope. A normal person would because they finally got to hear something, they want to be able to hear more things. For me, I didn't realize how much I've given up. I don't want to get my hopes up because what if it was just a one time thing? What if it was just pure luck? I don't want to be happy about hearing a simple thing when it may be just that. I'll never be able to hear anything ever again.

"Do you want to hang out after school?" Historia offers. I know she's bringing it up because of what she is dealing with at home and I want to help her, but I know I won't be much fun to hang around with.

"I'm busy. But, maybe Ymir or Ilse are available? Ymir seems to have a liking into you," I say.

"I know. It's obvious to the world that Ymir likes me. I don't know because I've never been in a relationship with another girl before. I know she won't pressure me into a relationship, especially right now, but I also know that I don't want to lead her on or give her any false hopes. I still need to decide how I feel, you know? What if the feelings I return are only out of pity or guilt? What if it's that "phase" people talk about. Like, yes you're gay and that's not a phase. But, I may go through a phase and I just like boys. I don't know," she rambles while signing.

I nod once she finishes speaking. "I mean, I guess if you are then you kind of just know. For me, I never once considered relationships but if someone were to ask me, then I would easily prefer guys over girls. Then again, I can't speak for it so much because I'll pry be single for the rest of my life... but I still have attractions towards males," I reply.

She giggles before replying. "You'll find someone, I promise. You have all the right looks in all the right places. Don't worry about it. Finding yourself a man will be easy."

I snort, "yeah because I look very feminine. Once they realize that I'm a dude they'll leave me."

"And that's good because that's how you know they're not worth it. If they figure out that you have a dick and they still care for you and love you, then you've found the one. Of course, it'll be awkward, maybe an argument or five, but if they still choose to be with you then why not?" she says.

"I guess..." I trail off. I agree yet disagree with the statement. If you're only attracted to the female body then of course a males body underneath my clothing will be a turn off for them. That is, sexual wise. Historia doesn't think sexually, only romantically. Romantically, I can agree. Sexually, I disagree.

Hange excuses himself before leaving to meet up with Levi and a few of his friends. I didn't think about how the topic could be rough for him due to him being transgender. It's different for him. Everybody expects him to have a body that he doesn't have, but one that he wants.

Historia and I talk for a little while before she informs me that the bell has rung. "Well, time to go back to class. Seriously, go back to the doctor to figure out what is going on. I'm praying for you," she says before leaving.

I clean up my stuff before walking to my next class. I look around to keep my mind off of the bell that I had heard. I didn't hear it this time, so it couldn't be the pitch of the bell. I shrug it off until I get into my classroom.

I notice Eren in the seat beside mine. Normally, he doesn't sit by me. I don't want to question why he is suddenly sitting by me. It's most likely to annoy me, because he knows he gets on my nerve.

I sit down and take out my notebook and furrow my eyebrows when he taps on my desk. "What?" I snap. People look around us and I try to hide back in my seat.

I look at him again and he looks upset. "I just wanted to see how you were doing, but never mind then..." he trails off.

"I'm sorry... I'm fine," I say before looking back at my notebook.

The tension of silence surrounds me once more as I remember why he asked me if I were okay. Everybody knows the closeness of Frieda and I due to her knowing sign language. She's helped me through a lot and today is when I know that many people have seen that.

The teacher walks in and doesn't say anything like he normally does. Instead, he goes straight to his desk and turns on the projector. Uploaded, there is a power point. He stands in front of the classroom and begins talking, his words appearing on the screen beside him.

"Today, I want to change our lesson plans and I want to help you guys open up to the class. Communication is something that we all fear on some way. Therefore, I want to begin a project. Right now is not the best time to begin this, I understand, but I want all of us to be more open and comfortable with each other," he begins.

I know he isn't referring to Frieda as why he is changing the lesson plans, but everything in my gut tells me otherwise. Every word makes me connect to Frieda in some way and he isn't even trying to do that. It feels that way because we weren't communicative with Frieda, but not everybody in this room knows that.

"Next week, we will be presenting a speech. What is something that you have gone through and you want to speak up for? It can be anything. Part of World History is showing how everything has evolved due to speaking up for what they believe in, for communicating with each other. Winston Churchill's speech, "We Shall Fight on the Beaches" or Abraham Lincoln with the Gettysburg Address. I want you to write a speech that speaks to you. What do you want to share with the people in this room? You have the remainder of class to do so."

With that, the rules of the project were displayed on the screen. They were no different than any other project rules, so I didn't bother to look at them.

I want to talk about my hearing because Eren is in here to show him how much pain he puts me in, but how will I be able to speak? This is a lot to say for someone who can't even hear themselves. The speech has to be submitted in written form, minimum one page long double spaced. It is not a lot considering most assignments are three pages single spaced, but it's a lot for me to say in front of an audience.

I shrug it off, starting to write my rough draft. I begin by writing out key parts that I want to write about, then work from there. I write about the events that occurred prior to my hearing loss. I don't write down who it was in fear that someone will report it. I am still a minor, so I can still end up in the foster care system. I write how I began online school and sign language in order to communicate. I write how I learned how to stay on high alert by using my other senses and how nearly getting hit by a car taught me this. Lastly, I write how I'm able to talk like I do now. I make it a key point that I am able to speak better than a others because I had once been able to hear.

I begin to write this in the form of a speech and I begin to explain how every case is different. Some talk obnoxiously loud, some very quiet. Some talk a lot, some don't talk at all. Some had more of a speech impediment than others. Reading what I wrote, I begin to think about what others think of me being deaf. Some people think it's one way and they stick to that without realizing that everybody is different. I have never met anybody else who is deaf as well, yet I know this. I know that others would not dare to speak as much as I do, whether it's because of fear or because they don't know much pronunciation. It's possible for us to learn, it's very possible, but it's difficult getting the hang of it when we can't hear the sound. We depend on the vibration of our throats as well as the movement of our tongues.

I write that in my essay before continuing to the story on how I became deaf in greater detail. I explain how my case is currently unknown. I explain how all my doctors up until now have lied to me, giving me false hope and false defeat. I write how I have the scars on my forehead because I got those the night of my hearing loss.

During my writing, Eren taps on my desk and I look up, noticing everyone walking out of the room. I look around the room once, then back at him.

"Bell's rung. Just wanted to let you know," he told me before leaving.

I furrow my eyebrows as I gather my things and run into the hallway, catching up with him. I grab his shoulder and turn him around. He flinches and adjusts his hat before straightening up. "What the fuck to you want?" he asks as he shoves me away from him. I don't take it and I step forward, maintaining my position.

"Okay, why are you suddenly so nice to me? No, how come some days you're nice but others you're a total asshole?!" I snap.

Eren rolled his eyes and went to go walk away, but I grab his arm in an effort to stop him. "No. I'm not talking so that you can walk away. Do you know how fucking difficult it is for me to say this? Now, tell me! Why are you so fucking bipolar towards me?"

"Shut up!" Eren yells as he yanks his arm out of my grip. I notice people in the hallway looking at us, but I don't care.

"I know that you're not suddenly nice due to my friend's passing. Even then, you pulled the guilt card! Then you talk to me nicely all over again? I'm confused, Eren. What the hell are you trying to pull with me?"

"It's none of your fucking business," he growls. His eyes begin to shine a dark, emerald green as his pupils dilate, full of anger.

"It is my business. You're hurting me! What the actual hell did I do to deserve this? Tell me!"

Eren grits his teeth and shuts his eyes for a few seconds before replying. "I'm getting revenge. There, happy?"

"Revenge? On What? You don't even know me," I scoff, crossing my arms.

"Bullshit! I know you very well back from elementary. You made my life hell! You think you going deaf was a coincidence? No. I think it's fucking karma," he hisses.

I take a step back and look down at the ground. "Eren, I have no idea what you're talking about. Elementary was so long ago! How could I possibly remember? Especially with everything that's happened when I did go deaf," I tell him. "Plus, what could I have possibly done that's so horrible to where you'd want revenge all these years later? It was elementary school! Everybody is over what happened in elementary school"

"You fucking idiot. You're... such a fucking idiot," he laughs. I can feel his laughter full of pain as he removes his hat. "You bullied me for countless years... because I have hearing aids."

My eyebrows are furrowed as I see the emerald green devices in his ears with a small light on the back of them. "W-what? Eren I-"

"Shut up. Just... shut up. You ruined me back then. You're worse than any bully on this planet. I've hid my ears ever since with a stupid fucking hat. Also if it weren't for Hange, I'd be dead by now. You made everybody turn against me, even to this day. People in this school remember those days, and they still rip my hearing aids out and laugh at me. You only had it difficult for a couple years. Because of you, it's been difficult for me for almost my entire life. You're not a good person, Armin. When I first saw you and heard your name through Hange, I knew immediately who you were and I wasn't going to have it. I'm so fucking glad you're deaf. Karma is a fucking bitch, isn't it?"

I'm frozen in place as he explains himself. I don't ever remember hurting anybody, especially over something that they have no control over. Of course, elementary was a different time because I wouldn't know that then, but even then I doubt I would ever bully someone.

"Eren... I'm sorry for what I've done in the past. I don't know what I did, or the things I've said, but I know it hurt you. I don't want to hurt anybody. If there's anything I can do, please let me fix this," I manage to say.

He shakes his head and closes his eyes. "I can't forgive you that easily How do I even know you mean that? I can't trust you, Armin. I can't," he says. He looks back at me and I can see the pain in his eyes. "I want to, I hear from Hange that you've changed, but I can't let the past go."

I nod and look down. Once I look back up, he is gone and Hange is beside me. I shrug away from him as he tries to reach out for me and I take the hearing aids he gave me out of my backpack.

"These aids... they're Eren's, aren't they?"

His eyes are full of guilt as he nods. "I'm so sorry, Armin."

I shake my head and walk away. I can't deal with anything else today. So much has happened that I can't take any more. Not today.