Kai popped off the white lid, and lightly swirled his pinky around the foam that frothed on top of his venti latte. He then placed his finger in his puckered lips with a smirk lurking in his mind. Mona rolled her eyes and tried to hide her irritation as she watched the droplets of condensation drip off his lid onto the glass table.
“I really wish you would stop projecting your thoughts like that, Kai. You know it drives me crazy.” She stated between gritted teeth. Oh, I think that young couple is fighting, thought a middle-aged woman to another woman who looked to be perhaps her sister. Mona pressed her fingers to her temples and fought within herself to keep her thoughts private. I think she might be new to this town- the other woman projected back. Mona shot a look at their table and the ladies shifted uncomfortably in their seats. Such daggers. She’s definitely new here. Mona pressed her tongue to the roof of her mouth and inhaled sharply through her nose. “Kai.” She finally spit out.
Why do you have to be like this Mona? He stared at her.
“Kai.” She said once more, putting every ounce of venom she could muster into three letters. I really wish they would keep it down, we’re just trying to enjoy our brunch- the lady thought, and her sister agreed.
Mona shoved her heels heavily on the wooden floor, slammed her hands on the table, and stretched her limbs until her chair made a satisfying screech. She got out of the chair and shoved it forcefully back underneath the table. “I’m leaving now, are you happy!” She barked at the baffled patrons before storming her way out of the cafe. Purple flowers purple flowers purple flowers purple flowers purple flowers - she repeated as a mantra within her mind to wash out the complaints from that table and the other customers who started to join them in thought. Kai jogged behind her and grabbed her arm in an attempt to stop her.
Please, not the purple flowers again. Can we please talk Mona?- he pleaded in his mind.
“Yes Kai, we can talk.” She spun around to face him. “You know, talk with our mouths? Like how it should be in this godforsaken backwards town!” She swung her arms desperately in a dramatic fashion with every word she spoke. She knew she was embarrassing him, but she didn’t care.
Will you look at that couple? Such a ruckus this early in the day. Woof woof! I would be so embarrassed if I were him. Mommy, why is she not using her inside voice? Woof woof! I don’t know dear, but let’s learn from this, okay?- a crowd of women, children, dog walkers, and elderly couples chimed in all together.
Heat flushed Kai’s cheeks and his eyes nervously shifted amongst the people on the growingly busy sidewalk. He turned his attention back to her and pleaded with his eyes for her to stop. You said, Mona. You said you could get used to this.
Mona ran a hand through her hair and laughed in disbelief. “I haven’t physically heard your voice in over three months. How on earth is any sane person supposed to-” She lifted her hands and finished with air quotations “get used to it.”
Is that Kai Beagleman? Oh what a poor boy to be with such an unruly woman. I remember when he first brought her to town. Such a shame. This is why outsiders shouldn’t be allowed.- another passerby scolded in her head.
Mona felt hot tears beginning to burn the edges of her eyes. I grew up here Mona, this is all I know.- was all he could project to her. Mona bit her bottom lip as a single tear escaped down her cheek. “I’m losing my mind here, Kai. Nothing is a secret in this town. Everyone knows everything. I can't… I can't do this anymore.” She said gently, lowering her voice to what a normal person would consider a decent level. She gazed down at her feet and kicked the tips of her sneakers at a piece of gum that was welded to the grey sidewalk. “I think...I think maybe we should spend some time apart.” She finally spoke, but kept her eyes fixated on the piece of gum that she was slowly beginning to chip away from its cement home. She chanced a glance at Kai’s face and saw his expression contorted into a combination of grief and embarrassment. She swallowed the lump in her throat and spoke even softer than before. “I’m going to go back to my parents’ house for a few weeks...get my head right....be with people who speak with their lips.” She averted her eyes from meeting his and wrapped him into a hug; her tears dripped onto his navy jacket. I’m sorry, Kai.- she thought. She released their embrace and walked away from him without looking back. She placed her hands over her ears. Purple flowers purple flowers purple flowers purple flowers- she repeated in her head as the town’s onlookers stated their displeased opinions about her without uttering a single word aloud.
“We have finally arrived at our destination, beautiful Chicago! The weather is slightly windy, but otherwise it’s expected to be another wonderful sunny day! Please remain buckled until we give the all clear.” The pilot’s voice cheerfully rang through the cabin. They have no idea how wonderful it is to hear another human's voice.- Mona thought, then glanced around once more to see if anyone had heard her thoughts but no one seemed phased. She smiled and settled back into her seat. She could get used to this.
Mona had only briefly informed her mother of the situation when she had called her before her flight home; albeit slightly confused, her mother warmly welcomed her with open arms and said she had made a lasagna for them. Her father who was reading the daily newspaper, remained in his weathered recliner that had a permanent indentation from his familiar form; he grunted a “hello kiddo” as she dragged her luggage to her childhood bedroom, but otherwise seemed blase about the whole thing. She ran her fingers over silver and bronze medals from gymnastics and track, and sat on the floral bedspread that much to her previous teenage dismay, her mother had bought for her. She flopped back on the bouncy mattress and chuckled at the boy band posters that adorned the ceiling. “Don’t worry JT, you’ve still got it!” She joked to herself and flashed a thumbs up to the poster. As she remained sprawled out on the twin size mattress, she simply listened. Her mother clanged around in the kitchen opening cabinets and drawers, and reset a kitchen timer every so often to be followed with more clunks and bangs after it went off. Her father had turned on the TV at this point, and the announcer for a baseball game ranted to his fellow announcers about the results. While it may not have been excessively noisy, the house was by no means lacking sound. Yet despite all the different sounds, there seemed to be an odd silence that hung heavily in the air. She sighed, pulled out her phone, and took it off airplane mode. After a short period, her phone gave off a series of short and longer vibrations as message, voicemail, and missed call notifications began overlapping each other. She quickly clicked the lock button and tossed her phone to the side. She didn’t even have to look to know they were all from Kai. I’m so sorry!- she screamed woefully in her mind.
“Mona! Dinner is ready!” Her mom called from the kitchen. Mona peeked at her phone from the corner of her eye, then shook her head and made her way to the dinner table.
The occasional lighthearted conversation was had at dinner between long periods of silence where the only sound was chewing and gentle clinks of silverware on ceramic. It had been this way Mona’s entire life. This wasn’t a new concept or some sort of unusual silence; yet it drove her insane.
“Mom!” She blurted out, startling a noodle off her mother’s fork. “What are you thinking?” Her mother stared at her blankly for a moment then placed her fork down and shrugged her shoulders.
“Well, nothing in particular. I suppose that I was just thinking that I wish I would have used more sauce on this?” She said, and Mona turned to look at her father.
“What about you dad? What are you thinking about?”
“Damn Cardinals blew this whole season.” He grunted. “I don’t even know why they bother to keep bringing on that annoying announcer every game either.”
Mona took a deep breath and wiped her mouth with a cloth napkin. “Then why didn’t you guys say what you were thinking? Why keep it to yourself?”
Her mother and father shared a look of confusion with each other, then her mom scrunched her eyebrows and spoke. “I...I guess not everything needs to be said? Some things belong in just our heads?”
Mona sighed and slid out her chair. “I’m not hungry, I’m going to go for a walk.” She walked to the front door in silence. Whatever her parents were thinking as they watched her leave, she wasn’t sure.
She took large steps along the asphalt road of her street and watched her hot breath give out small white puffs in the night air. She passed by a few joggers who did nothing more than slightly nod in her direction in passing. As she looked over her shoulder and watched them grow smaller and smaller into the distance, she realized that she would never know what they were thinking. She finally sat down on the curb and kicked at the tiny pebbles in front of her as the cold of the concrete slowly seeped into her jeans. What am I even doing anymore?- she thought.
“Mona!” A voice called down the street. She looked up and saw Kai running towards her and swinging a bouquet of flowers. Kai! What are you doing here? He reached her and placed his hands on his knees while huffing. “Mona!” He said again. Out loud! He said it out loud!- She internally screamed. He grinned and held the flowers out to her. “Yes, I said it out loud. And I’ll always say out loud as many times as you need me to. Please Mona, please come back home. I can’t bear the thought of living life without you. We can-we can leave that town! We can move wherever you want! We can-” He pleaded, until Mona held up a hand to stop him. She got up from the curb and grabbed his hands.
It’s okay, Kai. I’ve realized that I was overreacting. I-I kinda actually hate the weird silence of the speaking world. I’m sorry you had to come all this way.- she stammered in her head. Kai shook his head with a smile and got down on one knee.
No, don’t apologize. This was a wake up call for me and how much I’ve been taking everything for granted. Mona, would you do the honor of making me the happiest man alive, and marry me?
Yes!...yes yes yes!- Mona exclaimed in her mind.
A middle aged woman was peeking through her blinds to watch the whole exchange and thought it was strange that a marriage proposal would occur with no words between the two of them. No one would know that of course, because she only thought it in her mind.
The months leading up to the wedding, Mona found herself absentmindedly chanting her purple flowers mantra to tune out all the gossip that swirled around her in town. Finally, on a crisp spring afternoon, Mona and Kai became husband and wife in a ceremony that her family thought to be strangely quiet.
The purple flowers everywhere really add that personal touch.- Kai joked in his mind as they shared their first dance. The mental chatting between their guests became a blurred together mass of sounds, and Mona simply smiled at her now husband before giving him a soft kiss. Let them talk all they want.- Mona thought softly.