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Honesty This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

Beneath my window, a boy sells flowers. I pass by every day on my way to school and see his eyes, glassy and unfocused and a shade of pale ice blue. He’s my age, maybe older, with clothes two sizes too big with patches over patches and holes everywhere. His fingers are slow and uncertain, gracelessly tying big, awkward bows on artlessly assembled bouquets.
Their flowers are $1.23 more than the flowers of every other booth lining the street, but every morning on the way to work and every night on the way home, my father would flowers. One randomly selected flower in the morning, given to me, and a bouquet of a dozen red roses for my mother every night. Every morning before school, I pressed the flower of the day between the pages of my journal, a beautiful little secret to come back to.
After a messy divorce and nights of pretending to sleep through angry biting words and waking up to broken porcelain and deep shadows underneath my eyes, my father moves to Minnesota and there are no more flowers, just my mother, her current (flavor of the week) boyfriend, and me.
And one day, when the nostalgia cuts more sharply than usual, I find the same boy with the empty, unseeing eyes and buy a little cactus in a clay pot for endurance and a pink carnation, just for my father because I will never forget him, no matter how far away he is and no matter how much my mother wishes I would.
When he hands me the flowers, the pads of his fingers brush my hands and they are softer than I would have imagined, his hands smooth and clean and nails well cared for. I wonder, briefly, as I press the carnation between two pages, how his hands can be so soft and smooth if his whole life has been a struggle to survive and make ends meet through endless days of laboring in a little garden with unseeing eyes.
And I see that boy on the subway the next day in a clean t-shirt and jeans, laughing and smiling with friends. He looks straight into my eyes and I can see him seeing me.
On my way home, there’s a little girl with wide, piteous eyes, just as glassy and unfocused and just as blue. She’s eight, maybe, and looks so tiny and delicate standing in the booth with her fingers fumbling at the flowers and such abject misery and sorrow creasing her eyebrows that there’s a little line of people waiting for flowers, checking their watches though none dare to leave.
That night, when the street lay empty, the boy with the blue eyes comes and packs up the flowers and the girl gathers up the paper and ribbons. Her fingers don’t fumble and her step is quick and unerring.
Slowly, I flip through the pages of my journal and the secrets are no longer beautiful, just dried up lies pressed between pages of truth. I close my eyes and wish for honesty.
The next morning, I buy my last flower from the boy beneath my window; an orange mock, for deceit.





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