I’m going to do a thing.
Go watch this video. It’s only a couple of minutes of your time—please, for me?!
So that’s a clip from the deaf production of the musical Spring Awakening.
Yeah, I’m serious. A deaf musical. And it’s one of the most stunning pieces of theatre I’ve never seen live! (For reasons I’ve never understood, Spring Awakening bombed when it debuted in the West End in London, after many successful years on Broadway. British theatre audiences just didn’t connect to it, though it does have something of a cult following these days, mostly in amateur theatre groups.)
If Signs does for anyone what that clip does for me, I might, maybe, have done what I set out to achieve with that novel. I always had a very clear idea of what Signs would be. Caleb was always deaf, always socially awkward and mildly agoraphobic. He always had communication issues, was possibly on the autism spectrum, and was always blond. I knew a lot about Caleb before I started to write about him. With the exception of Will and Jesse from the Another Way series, Caleb has always felt like one of my most ‘real’ characters. I found these images early on in the writing process and they helped me build Caleb’s sort of sweet, shy innocence. The striped shirt definitely features in one scene, and I’m sure the second picture was inspiring too 😉
From these pictures you can really see how perfect the cover art image is. The boy is Caleb, he just is, and it’s such a beautiful cover. Possibly my favourite cover?!
I’ve spoken before about how I started and stopped writing Signs many times. It was one of those ‘work in progress’ stories that I went back to from time to time, wrote a bit more, then abandoned again while I worked on something else. At one point I had both Signs and The Impossible Boy abandoned—Impossible Boy is coming out January next year, so I’ve finally cleared both of them from my work in progress list!
I spoke to some lovely readers at the UK Meet and confessed that I actually cut the epilogue when my editor suggested that it weakened the ending of the book. They were totally right, but a few people have asked for it now, so here you go. The never-before-seen Signs epilogue.
Epilogue. One Year Later
Caleb was in the kitchen, making a start on dinner when Luc arrived home. He looked up from the chopping board when the door slammed and waited for Luc to skip through the apartment.
“Hey, baby,” Luc said, wrapping his arms around Caleb from behind and insinuating his hands under the hem of Caleb’s t-shirt.
“Hi,” Caleb said and shivered at the cold hands. He tilted his head to the side, offering his neck to Luc’s kisses, smiling to himself when Luc obliged.
Caleb set down the knife and turned in Luc’s arms then reversed their positions so Luc’s back was against the hard counter top and Caleb could box Luc in. It had been a hard few weeks for Luc while he got exams out of the way and he spent long hours in the library revising. Now there was only one exam left and his success so far had put him in a good mood.
It was a relief to see the hard lines of tension melting out of Luc’s face, the dark circles under his eyes disappearing as he started to sleep better, through the night. Luc rarely had nightmares any more and, even if he did, Caleb just held him until they passed. He didn’t even mind the disturbance to his own sleep.
Luc was smiling indulgently as he reached up to wrap his arms around Caleb’s neck, drawing him down into slow, exploring, intense kisses. Caleb was just about ready to give up on dinner and drag Luc to bed – enchiladas be damned – when Luc broke the kiss, laughing, and set his head down on Caleb’s chest. Caleb inhaled deeply then sighed.
“What’s for dinner?” Luc asked.
“Chili,” Caleb said. “I’m making it from scratch. Is that okay?”
“Perfect,” Luc said and leaned up to peck Caleb on the lips again. “I’ll just go take a shower.”
Caleb still used lip reading as his main way of understanding people, and in public was still so wary of speaking aloud. But, he was working on that with his therapist, and working on the speaking part with his speech therapist. Sometimes having two therapists was exhausting, but they were there for a reason. And Luc would come with him to some appointments, which was nice.
The only person Caleb felt completely at ease speaking around was Luc. When communicating with his parents ASL was still his first language, one that he shared with them, where they all knew each other’s shorthand.
Luc didn’t care that his speech wasn’t perfect, or that he sometimes misheard words or pronounced them wrong. Although their days of Luc’s speech therapy were over, he still used the same techniques to help Caleb hone down certain words, and still rewarded him with kisses.
Since he knew Luc would probably be hungry, Caleb rushed through the final preparations for their meal and turned the heat on the stove down low to let the chili simmer, then started loading the dishwasher. His last class of the day had been earlier in the afternoon, so he’d taken the opportunity to catch up on some of his assignments and clean the apartment. Well, he’d done the laundry that was in the hamper and made dinner.
When Luc reappeared from the bedroom he was shirtless, wearing only a pair of boxers. My boxers, Caleb thought to himself, but didn’t challenge Luc on it. Anticipating what Luc wanted was easy; at some point (and Caleb couldn’t quite remember when), Luc had decided that the best thing in the whole world was bare chests lying against each other. When Luc stood at the end of the sofa and put his hands on his hips Caleb made a show of sighing, but secretly smiled as he crossed his arms over his chest and tugged his t-shirt up and off.
Moments later Luc had rearranged himself on top of Caleb on the couch, his head turned to watch the TV. The next bit was easy too; Caleb started a light, easy stroking up and down Luc’s spine, making him purr with delight.
Luc had a tattoo now. If there was no birthmark on his chest it would have curved in a semi circle from one collarbone to the other. Because of the birthmark it started about two thirds of the way along that imaginary line, and ended on his shoulder.
If the angle looked off balance then that was good, as far as Luc was concerned. It was supposed to. The words read ‘Blood, Threat & Fears’ and started right on the edge of his blood red birthmark. He thought it fairly self explanatory.
Caleb had gone with him when he got the tattoo done and had held his hand for the few hours it took to complete. Luc couldn’t imagine going through something so important and permanent without Caleb by his side. That was just the way they were with each other now.
As with so many other people, Luc thought he’d probably caught the tattoo bug and had already started planning his next seven or so designs. Caleb had been fairly emphatic in his refusal to get anything inked on his own body and Luc silently approved of this decision. He couldn’t think of anything at all that could make Caleb’s skin any more perfect than it already was. That probably made him a sap. He didn’t care at all.
It had been an easy decision to stay in New York with Caleb, and one he hadn’t regretted. That wasn’t to say it hadn’t come without repercussions. There were reasons why Luc had wanted to go to an East Coast school – there wasn’t anything there that would remind him of his father.
Memories of his dad still haunted Luc from time to time. He still woke up from nightmares, especially when he’d been somewhere or seen someone who reminded him of the sort of person his father had been. After Jo had come home for Thanksgiving and found out Luc was living with a boy, Luc had had nightmares every night for two whole weeks. Apparently, a few years in Florida weren’t enough to wash away the years of bigoted thoughts that Jo had learned at their father’s side.
Luc knew he would never be close to his brother, and that was okay. Since making the decision to stay in New York he’d grown ever closer to Ilse, who had become like a sister to Caleb, too. She invited them over for dinner at least once a week and they tried to return the favor from time to time. Ilse was a rock. A constant.
“Dinner, baby,” Caleb murmured, his chest rumbling against Luc’s as he spoke. The words were slightly slurred, but that was how Caleb always sounded. Luc didn’t even notice it any more. “You should put a shirt on.”
Luc lifted his head and propped his chin on Caleb’s chest to look up at him. “Do you love me?”
Caleb grinned. He knew this game. “Yes,” he said.
“More than the whole world,” Caleb said, and ran his palm down Luc’s back.
“Show me,” Luc said, his eyes full of promises.
Caleb leaned down and pressed his lips to Luc’s mouth, taking both beautifully firm ass cheeks in his hands and squeezing. Luc reached up into the kiss, his hand cupping Caleb’s face, and slipped his tongue into the mix.
They struggled to their feet, then Caleb gave Luc a wicked sort of look, and threw his boyfriend over his shoulder, fireman style.
“Hey!” Luc yelled, laughing.
Caleb took him first to the kitchen, turning off the stove and leaving their dinner there – it would be fine – then walked through the apartment to their bedroom.
They could, and would, and did have sex everywhere. It was their place, after all, and they were never interrupted. Luc wanted love, though, and there was only one place where they did that.
Caleb dumped Luc unceremoniously on the soft white sheets and stood at the end of the bed looking down at him, lust and love clashing in his eyes.
‘You’re still the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,’ Caleb signed in front of his bare chest.
‘I love you.’
“I love you too,” Caleb said. Then he set about showing Luc just how much.
I think I will always feel like I never quite did Signs justice. There’s a part of me that will always want to go back and pick at it and rewrite sections, like I did over and over before the novel was finished. Despite that, I’m proud of what I accomplished. It’s a very different novel from others I’ve written, and I’m always aiming to challenge myself as a writer.
I’m going to leave you with another clip from the Deaf West Spring Awakening – it has very little to do with Signs, but it’s a gay, signed romance, so I’m hoping you’ll forgive the indulgence!
Oh, and because I had a handful more ‘inspiration’ photos in my folder, you might as well have a look at those too.