Rachel Hicks has something to prove to Imdiko Conyod. They’ve been struggling together for quite some time for a breakthrough on her inability to speak.
Her doctor’s voice brought her back from her contemplation of the mountains that reminded him of home. “What do you want more than anything, Ray-Ray?”
She turned to look at him. His eyes were big, bigger than most Kalquorians she’d seen. The vibrant blue-purple orbs almost seemed to glow against his dark skin. She swallowed hard, the lump in her throat having nothing to do with the blockade against her speech. What did she want? Boy, she would love to give him an earful on that.
Conyod nodded in encouragement. “If it’s something I can get, I will. Then all you have to do to claim your prize is say just one word. Any word.”
Love. I want to say love. Because every time I look at you now, that’s what my heart screams. It might just be infatuation, but damn it, it feels like the real thing.
He leaned close to her, his gaze avid. “There is something you want. I can see that. Tell me.” He nodded at her handheld computer sitting on the floor next to her cushion. She used it to communicate with the staff, since her stubborn throat refused to open up.
Damn it, she didn’t want to type. She wanted to talk. But fear of what she might say, the secrets she might tell, kept it all bottled up. Back on Earth, she’d been beaten and tortured for information. She’d kept the words inside, only screaming as hideous pain was inflicted on her poor body. I’ll never, ever tell you anything had been her internal mantra for all those terrible months. And now she couldn’t tell anyone anything at all.
She wanted to make Conyod proud. And he’d said she could say any word. Perhaps a word her now-dead torturers wouldn’t understand?
Rachel opened her mouth. Thought of a new word, saw its brightness in her head. Watched it travel down, down, closer to her mouth, approaching where the blockage always appeared just in time to keep her silent. Closer still, the passage still open, almost there…
“Retig,” she said.
The word was little more than a breath, with just enough grating undertone straining through to make it audible. It had been years since she’d spoken, and the weakness of her surgically healed vocal chords was obvious. But she’d said a word. Damn the bastards who had shut her up, she’d talked.
Conyod's mouth dropped open. He blinked. Then pure, unadulterated delight suffused his face, making him smile broader than Rachel had ever seen him smile. Her heart thumped painfully to see how he transformed with unguarded happiness.
He laughed hard, and the deep, rolling sound of it filled the room. Rachel had never heard Conyod laugh before, and it was a beautiful sound. His eyes were bright, as if they'd filled with tears. He reached for her as if to gather her in an embrace. Apparently he remembered himself just in time and settled for clapping.
Boy, she wished he'd hugged her instead.
She'd said hello after all. True, she'd said it in Kalquorian, but she'd done it. And he was so pleased. She smiled at his undisguised delight with her.
Coming fall/winter 2012