• "hey, f*****t, don't you know ipods aren't allowed in class?" he moved to take it from her, but she held onto it with a stone grip.
    "dude, don't pick on her," one of his friends said, pulling him away. "don't you know what happened?"
    the music was so loud it could be heard by others, even though she had her headphones on.
    some teachers wouldn't put up with it, no matter what she had gone through. but they weren't mean about it, either.
    "ms. ellie, would you mind turning that off?" she only stared at the young man, not even sure what he said. "how about turning it down?" the only sound that came from her was the music.
    sometimes it wouldn't be enough. in an empty hallway or a bathroom at the massively large school, she'd slump down to the ground and curl up in a ball. she would hold the headphones on tighter. if she focused hard enough she would only hear the music and none of her sobs.
    home was no longer an option. the school had taken a very large amount of pity on her, letting her stay as long as she wanted while a foster family was lined up. when the doors had to be locked she would only wander the surrounding neighborhood. the music was still - always - loud enough to hear, and as she passed houses dogs barked in the yards.
    her clothes stayed the same. her looks, hygiene, health - it all stayed the same. she was perfectly stable on the outside.
    some tried to befriend her. it never worked. she was listening all the time, but deaf to everything except the music.
    she ate alone. she sat alone. she worked alone. everything. alone.
    sometimes, when she was totally seperated from everyone and everything, curled up in a ball on the floor, she would take the headphones off. there was no music then. there was screaming. there were guns going off. there was that night.
    and then she put the headphones back on, holding them there especially tight. music blasted once again.
    it had been like that for a month now. she was still sitting alone at lunch, slowly picking at her food. a girl came over and sat next to her. she did what no one had dared to do, going for the headphones themselves. and, ellie did not stop her. she slid them down so they were resting on her shoulders, wrapped safely around her neck.
    there was silence.
    and, because there was silence, she was no longer deaf. there was no real sound; only the constant chatter of the student body eating leisurely filled her ears. they looked at each other.
    "do you want to talk about it?"
    she put the headphones back on, and they both continued eating their lunch.
    the girl started to follow her. she helped her carry her books if there were too many, she did her homework next to her, and even walked around with her until it was too late. all of this was in silence.
    except for lunch, that is.
    "do you want to talk about it?"
    every day.
    another month passed. the girl never left her. she didn't go off to another group of friends. ellie got a foster home - she would never call it family - and the girl even spent the night. the headphones remained on as they watched movies, always childrens' movies, always happy endings, and never death. the girl didn't mind. she stayed.
    "do you want to talk about it?"
    they were friends. she knew it. the girl knew it. but those were the only words they ever said to each other. yet, they understood each other more than any other pair of friends in the school. the girl knew her secret, and it was that she wasn't deaf. not really. she proved it every day.
    she proved it again in the evening. they were on a walk. the temperature was cool, and the moon was new. it was a tuesday, and it had been twelve weeks since it happened. it had been five and one day since they met. she took her headphones off herself, and they stopped walking.
    "do you want to talk about it?" the girl asked, even though it wasn't lunch time.
    the next day there were no headphones to remove.