THE SOUND OF SILENCE
Isa woke as she did every day, face down, head buried between her pillows, Golden Earring’s Radar Love blaring at top volume from her phone on the table beside her. She groaned, refusing to open her eyes. Instead, she flailed her hand somewhere in the vicinity of her phone, slapping at it until it went quiet. She gave a contented sigh at the sudden silence, rubbing her face against the pillow beneath her, moaning obscenely. She loved her bed. She loved her sheets. She just loved sleep. Sleep was good.
Just five more minutes, she promised herself, lids already closing. Just five more minutes, and then she’d get up and do all of the things. She could already smell the coffee brewing downstairs, and the smell was almost enough to get her to stir. Almost.
The bed shifted beside her, and Isa couldn’t help the way her stomach fluttered. Wren. Wren was hardly ever still in bed. By the time she woke up, he was usually already three miles deep into his morning run. This was a treat. One she planned to take full advantage of.
She turned her head in his direction and lifted the edge of the pillow covering her face, blinking at him with bleary eyes. It wasn’t sexy, but, even after six years, Wren rarely required much prodding.
The sun wasn’t up yet, but the sky was starting to lighten from indigo to smoke, bathing the room in just enough light for her to see her mate lying beside her. She couldn’t help but smile. He lay tangled in the sheets, one arm behind his head and the other on his bare torso, the stark white of their sheets stretched across his hips like he was waiting for Jack to paint him like one of his French girls.
Her hand moved of its own volition, her fingers splaying over the hair that trailed from his belly button, disappearing beneath the fabric. “Morning,” she mumbled, voice sleep rough, her mouth painfully dry. Yeah, definitely not sexy.
He entwined their fingers but didn’t speak, didn’t even look in her direction, his gaze fixated on their closed bedroom door, a small scowl of concentration on his unshaven face. How did he manage to look hot with bedhead and a face full of scruff? It wasn’t fair. She probably still had drool on her chin.
She squeezed his hand, and he squeezed back but otherwise ignored her. Isa frowned, forgoing the shelter of her pillow to snuggle closer, kissing Wren’s shoulder. Still nothing. A small trickle of unease danced along her spine. “What’s wrong?” she asked, silently praying his answer was absolutely nothing ...just once.
Wren—finally—glanced at her. “Do you hear that?” he asked, voice dripping with suspicion.
Isa closed her eyes, listening intently. She could hear everything, feet shuffling in bedrooms, plates clattering in the kitchen, the rhythmic heartbeats of the twelve other people currently residing under their roof, but nothing else. “Hear what?”
“Exactly,” Wren said emphatically as if that should make the problem clear to Isa.
“Baby, I’m sleep deprived and caffeine deprived, and I’m feeling very neglected right now, so start making sense or start paying attention to me while I’m still half-dressed.” She bit down on his shoulder for emphasis.
Wren grunted, rolling over and catching her lips in a long kiss that had Isa’s toes curling. That was more like it.
“Isa, my love, when was the last time even one of our teenagers was silent, let alone all of them?”
Isa froze, her pulse skittering offline. She eased back, letting her eyes slide shut, listening once again. This time, she gave the matter more attention. Wren was right. She could hear Kai’s heartbeat in the shower, and Rhys was brushing his teeth. She could hear the soft snuffle of RJ inhaling and exhaling deeply, still sound asleep somewhere in Rhys’s room.
She let herself partially shift, using her wolf’s much keener sense of hearing. Tristin, Neoma, Donovan, Harlow, Tate, and the Gemini were in the kitchen. Ember was in her bedroom, which meant Mace was in her bedroom. Mace had no heartbeat to confirm her suspicions, but where Ember went, Mace followed. Neoma and Aaron were in the sunroom, but she couldn’t imagine what they were doing.
Why were they all so quiet? “What’s happening?” Isa asked, already knowing that Wren had no answers.
“They’re not panicking, so they aren’t in any danger. A spell gone wrong?” he mused, a grin splitting his face.
Isa scoffed. “You mean a spell gone right.” She lifted her hand.
Wren high-fived her lightly. “Touché.”
“So ...what do we do about this?” she finally asked.
Wren picked up a piece of her hair, brushing it across her lip. “I suppose the responsible thing would be to go downstairs and demand to know what the hell they’ve done this time.”
Isa wrinkled her nose. “Ew, no. I don’t want to be responsible. I want to be irresponsible. Let them clean up their own messes. I never get you all to myself anymore.”
Wren’s hand snaked under the comforter still cocooning Isa, one large hand circling her calf and squeezing before sliding higher. A high-pitched wail started down the hall, signifying that RJ was awake and that he had definitely not fallen victim to the silence spell.
“Ignore it. Not our baby, not our problem,” Isa reminded him with a smirk. It wasn’t her fault RJ had chosen Rhys and Kai.
Wren was nuzzling his nose against Isa’s throat when there was a terse knock, followed by the sound of the door opening. Isa snarled, knowing without looking who it was. Her brother was the only person in the house who would dare to enter without waiting for permission.
Isa glared at Rhys, and he glowered right back, unimpressed. He was already dressed for school in faded jeans and a black t-shirt that was covered in what looked suspiciously like baby snot. He had RJ in his arms, holding the baby facing outward, giving Isa and Wren a full view of the boy’s tear-stained cheeks, runny nose, and drooling mouth. His dark, curly hair was damp, his pale blue eyes were red-rimmed, and he was still wearing the butter yellow footie pajamas he’d gone to bed in last night.
Rhys didn’t say a word, just plopped RJ at the foot of the bed and left. “Hey!” Isa cried, but Rhys was gone. RJ gave one last shuddering sob before a smile broke out on his face, revealing four tiny teeth. He clapped his hand to his open mouth before sweeping it towards them. “Muah,” he said.
Blowing kisses was his new favorite thing. They mimicked the gesture back to him, and he began to crawl towards them on the bed.
Wren sighed, kissing Isa’s nose before snatching RJ and setting him on his chest, holding him still while he cleaned the boy with the tissues on his bedside table. Once he was clean, RJ held out his arms to Isa, eyes flashing an icy blue. “Grrr.”
She smiled at him before scrunching up her face and growling back. “Come here, big boy. What’s going on out there, huh? Why's everybody so quiet? Do you know?”
“Buh,” RJ said, his expression serious as if he’d just delivered information of grave importance.
Isa’s second alarm kicked on. Bon Jovi screeched at her from the tin can speaker of her phone. She was never letting Wren pick her alarm music again. RJ clapped his hands, delighted, but Isa contemplated throwing the phone out the window.
She gave an exaggerated whine, kicking her feet. “I don’t want to adult today. You do it,” she said, silencing the alarm, already throwing back the covers.
Wren snatched the baby back, following her off the bed and slapping her butt. “It’s your turn to adult and my turn to get the shower first.” Isa growled, eyes flashing red. Wren just laughed. “Sorry, babe, them’s the rules, remember? You even laminated them and put them right there.” He pointed to the laminated list that was stuck to their mirror. It was true, she had made those rules, but it was on a day when those rules worked in her favor. This was not that day.
“Fine, but you take the little stink bomb with you,” she said, digging her fingers into the baby’s belly until he giggled.
“Yes, Alpha,” Wren intoned, but then he was pulling her close, burying a hand in her hair and kissing her like he’d never see her again. When he pulled away, she followed, not wanting it to end. “Go, woman. I need to get ready for work or we will both be late. You go and figure out why our children are acting so weird.”
She waited until she heard the shower kick on before shoving her legs into a pair of shorts and making her way downstairs.
Once in the kitchen, things only got weirder. It was the same flurry of activity as always. Harlow and Mallory were at the stove cooking. Neoma sat on the floor playing with Romero. Ember was pretending to do her French homework.
Harlow handed Isa her coffee cup with a smile, and Isa decided she liked the kooky witch best of all. Isa took a sip of her coffee, leaning against the counter, observing the group’s bizarre behavior. Nothing was out of the ordinary. Except, nobody was speaking. Not a word.
Aaron was now at the island on his laptop. Donovan was at the breakfast nook, purple headphones covering his ears, tapping out a rhythm with his fingers. Nobody appeared to be angry. Even Tristin was smiling at Tate, sneaking pieces of his bacon when he wasn’t looking. Something was most definitely wrong. Tristin rarely smiled. This must be worse than she thought.
“Okay, that’s it. Somebody needs to tell me what the hell is going on. Now.” Isa frowned as they all turned shocked faces towards her, gazing at her like she’d just screamed an obscenity in the middle of a church social. “What? What is happening? What did you screw up? Please tell me you didn’t kill and/or resurrect anybody because I do not have the capacity to deal with that today.”
They all looked at each other in confusion before Ember nudged Aaron and pointed to the computer. Aaron nodded, fingers tapping the keys before turning his screen to face her. He’d pulled up a website. The top of the page read ‘National Day of Silence.’
Isa frowned, reading on, feeling like a jerk the further she read, covering her mouth with her hand. Oh. She glanced up to find eager, expectant faces looking back at her. “And you’re all participating?” Heads bobbed all around the room. “The whole school?”
Aaron turned his computer back around and typed out something before spinning it back to Isa.
HOPEFULLY THE WHOLE TOWN.
Isa nodded, her need to talk leaving her instantly in the face of such a powerful message. They’d all agreed to participate. It wasn’t that she was surprised. They were all good, kind, decent, responsible kids, but it took a special kind of commitment to forgo speaking all day. Especially for her children.
The whole ride to work she was silent. She let Wren drive, mulling over the idea of a silent protest. When Rhys was in eighth grade, they’d tortured him, teasing him mercilessly about his inability to control his shift, about his crush on Kai, about anything really. She’d watched her already cripplingly shy brother wither under their scrutiny and the cruelty of their taunts. Even at eighteen, he barely spoke when away from the family.
Wren glanced in her direction, concern etched across his face. She waved him off. As soon as Aaron had shown Wren the website, he’d been on board. So, they sat in the car, silent, RJ burbling in the back happily, unaware that the silence around him was unusual.
When she got to the restaurant, she went straight to her office, leaving Wren to set up the baby’s playpen while she opened a blank page on the screen, thinking for a moment before she started typing. When she was finished, she printed a copy of her sign and grabbed the scotch tape.
Wren gave her another curious look as she passed him. She just handed him his copy and kept moving. Once in the dining room, she tacked the paper to the glass door at eye level where none of the customers could possibly miss it.
TODAY, THE HOWL AT THE MOON CAFE STAFF HAS CHOSEN TO PARTICIPATE IN THE NATIONAL DAY
OF SILENCE TO HELP BRING AWARENESS TO THE BULLYING AND HARASSMENT THAT MANY IN
THE LGBT COMMUNITY FACE EVERY DAY.
YOU ARE FREE TO SPEAK TO OUR STAFF, LIKE ALWAYS, BUT PLEASE DON’T BE OFFENDED IF THEY DON’T
SPEAK BACK TO YOU. WE’VE PLACED PAPER AND PENCIL ON EACH TABLE IF YOU DECIDE YOU WOULD
LIKE TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS POWERFUL STATEMENT.
REMEMBER SILENCE CAN CREATE CHANGE!
THANK YOU IN ADVANCE FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDING.