Bella could tell from the thoughtful look on Holly's face that she'd try to talk her out of the decision she'd already made, but it would do her friend no good. There was no changing her mind.
She stood, abruptly walking the length of the room, and halted in front of the window to stare outside. Hovercrafts flew across the sky leaving little white clouds in their wake. Bella looked down below her to see people interacting with each other, laughing, chatting, and greeting one another. The city was full of activity.
And she heard none of it, not so much as a bird chirping or the sound of an engine. She lived in complete silence, and had since the age of nine, shortly after her parents were killed by a careless motorist. She'd come down with a cold that had soon developed into a nasty viral infection that destroyed her hearing. It was ironic that she'd lost the one sense she'd depended on the most. Bella had been a proficient violinist by the age of five. A child prodigy was what they'd called her. But what was the point in continuing when she didn't know if she was playing the right note, or whether her instrument was in tune?
Her violin still rested in her closet, a reminder of when she was whole. It mocked her each time she laid eyes upon it. With the help of a school for the blind and deaf, she persevered, learning to live independently. She now held a job as a teacher at the same school, owned her own condo, and lived relatively well by most standards, but she longed for more.
Bella wanted to hear again. Perhaps things would have been easier if she'd been born this way, but she could still remember the sweet sound of music. Her mother had played the piano, and her father the flute. When they'd played together as a family, those were her favorite memories.
She still missed them every day, wondering if they'd be proud of the woman she'd become.
A hand descended on her shoulder, forcing her to turn around. Bella focused on Holly's lips to make out what was being said. "Look, Bella, I know this operation means a lot to you, but I would hate for you to be disappointed. This surgery is still in the experimental stages. Not only is it possible you won't get your hearing back, but you could die. Remember when the eye implants were developed for the blind? Quite a few patients didn't make it before they finally perfected the procedure."
Bella held up her hand, stopping Holly before she could say any more. "I know you mean well, but I won't change my mind. Don't you think I've weighed the pros and cons already? I know that by participating in this experimental surgery I'm putting my life at risk, but it's a chance I have to take."
Holly flipped a strand of long auburn hair over her shoulder with a sigh of obvious frustration. Bella was familiar with that gesture. "I don't believe you've thought this through properly. I'm sure if Sydney were here, she'd say the same thing."
"I've already talked it over with her and she's supporting me in my decision, just as I would expect a friend to do." Bella was finding it difficult to keep her anger under wraps. What the hell was Holly's problem? Lately she'd become Miss Doom and Gloom, but never would Bella have believed her friend wouldn't stand behind her.
"Just because I'm concerned doesn't mean I'm any less of a friend than Sydney. You know I'm here for you, but I don't want to lose you to something that's not guaranteed. Besides, you lead a perfectly normal life."
"If you believe that then you're more out of touch than I thought. Do you think being this way is a trip to the moon? Yes, I've learned to cope with my disability, but I'll never forget what it's like to hear the sound of laughter or music playing. Knowing there's something that could possibly fix my hearing loss has given me hope when I thought there was none. Would you take that away from me when I desperately need to believe in something? If you're truly my friend, you'd at least try to understand where I'm coming from."
Holly recoiled, eyes widened as if she'd been slapped. "I am your friend. How could you imply I'm not?"
"Because you wouldn't try to talk me out of it if you were. You know how much this means to me. I've thought long and hard about it and I can't go on living like this when I know this can be fixed."
"Possibly fixed. But that's just it, you don't know for sure. Could you stop for a minute and listen to yourself?" The minute the words left Holly's mouth, she flushed apparently realizing the faux pas she'd made.
Bella knew her friend had meant no harm in her comment, but she wasn't in the mood to shrug it off. Narrowing her eyes, she glared at Holly. "It's hard for me to listen when I don't hear anything. This subject is no longer up for discussion and I'd like for you to leave."
The suspicious sheen of tears entered Holly's brown eyes. "I didn't mean it. I swear I didn't."
"I know, but now I'd like to be alone."
Holly reached out as if to hug her, but Bella took a step back, avoiding the gesture with a shake of her head. "Just go, please."
She turned her back to Holly. She wasn't interested any longer in the way this conversation was going. Wrapping her arms around her body, she walked to the corner and leaned her head against the window, willing herself not to cry. She didn't turn around again until she saw Holly leave through the reflection of the window.
Swiftly, she wiped away an angry tear. Sydney had talked her into telling Holly about her decision because it was the right thing to do. Bella had been reluctant because lately Holly had begun to make strange statements about what the Cyrellians were doing to the planet. From what Bella could see, the Cyrellians had done nothing but good for Earth and its people. The only thing they asked for in return was the chance to study the inhabitants of this world. When all was said and done it seemed like a fair enough bargain.
Actually it seemed more one-sided in the Earthlings' favor considering all the technology and innovations in medicine they'd brought with them. Few could remember a world without the Cyrellians and most of them didn't want to. Now that they'd found a way to restore hearing loss by rebuilding the inner bones and an electronic implant, Bella could only count her lucky stars.
She was well aware of the possible risks of the procedure, but the idea of being able to hear again made those possibilities inconsequential.
With a sigh, Bella walked over to her couch and flopped onto it. "Television," she commanded, bringing the set from the ceiling to her line of vision. "Channel Three News." The TV came on as did the subtitles for the pre-set closed caption feature programmed into it.
Trying to keep up with the flashing words, she finally gave up when a dull throb began at the base of her skull, threatening to turn into a full blown headache. She didn't feel like reading the news anyway. At times like this, it would have been nice to lie back, close her eyes, and listen to the sound of the anchorman's report as he relayed the happenings of the world.
Tears stung the back of her eyes. She'd give anything to hear the sound of... anything. No one could know the ordeal she faced daily. When she'd received that brochure in the mail about the miracle operation, Bella had believed it was an answer to her prayers. Sure it was experimental, but she didn't care. If there was the slightest of chances that her hearing would be restored, she'd take it. Damn the consequences.
If she could hear, maybe she wouldn't get those pitying looks any longer or deal with men who felt they could treat her any way they wanted because she should be grateful to have them. Some would say she was lucky to be alive, but what kind of life did she really have?
"Television off," she ordered and lay back on the couch, closing her eyes. A smile tugged at the corners of her lips. Tomorrow she would go down to the BioMedic Labs and take the test to see if she was a candidate. She couldn't wait!