Dissonant

Lana is six and alone in a room of chattering children. She watches them giggle and gesture animatedly to each other. Their mouths move quickly, and conversation moves quicker, slipping through her fingers like water. The notebook scribbled with “Hi, my name is Lana!” lies forgotten at the bottom of her bag.
Lana is nine and she seldom speaks. She hates the words that are too big for her mouth, hates the way people look at her when she talks. But that’s also the only time they see her. She’s inside looking out through a one-way window, watching as the other children play and she wants to cry “Look at me! I’m also here!” but the words catch in her throat, and she’s left to choke alone. She curls in on herself to lessen the ache and treads so lightly she wonders if her feet will leave prints in the sand.
Lana is twelve and on her first day of high school. She’s sitting in class, head on her desk, eyes closed, when she feels a light tap on her shoulder. A girl with soft hands and softer eyes gazes at her. When she leans in, the aromas of coconut and spice fill the air. Lana watches her lips move, trying to catch the words before they fall. “What’s your name?” Lana takes a pen and paper from her bag, willing her hands to stop shaking.
Lana. What’s yours?
Emelie.
Later that night, under the covers of her blankets, Lana mouths the name over and over. Emelie. Emelie. Emelie.
Lana is thirteen and Emelie’s hands are on her waist, warm and slightly calloused. The vibrations from the speaker tickle her bare feet, brush against her lashes and lips. Unintendedly, she opens her mouth, humming along before she realises and snaps her mouth shut. But when she looks up, Emilie is smiling at her. Your voice is beautiful, she signs.
Lana is fifteen and she’s applying for her first job. Her report is in front of her, straight As line up in neat tidy rows. The interviewer is smiling as he skims over the page and Lana holds her breath. “Well, you can expect a call from us soon.” She bounces out, grinning from ear to ear. Emelie is tapping her foot impatiently from across the street. Did you get it?? Lana nods.
Emelie jumps up in the air, beaming and is about to dash across the road when Lana sees it. A car is speeding towards them and her heart leaps into her throat. Without thinking, Lana yells: “EMELIE, STOP.” Her voice cracks and breaks and she’s kneeling on the side of the road, gasping for air as panic floods her chest. Then steady arms wrap around her, wiping away the tears. She looks up and maybe it’s because of the blur but Emelie looks like she’s crying too. She points towards her, then clenches her hands into fists before pointing to herself.
You saved me.

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