When I was younger, small enough to slip into corners, small enough to curl up on my grandma’s lap, small enough not to understand the workings of the world, small enough to truly believe in wonders, my grandma gave me a gift. She told me to be careful with it, to protect it, to treasure it as she had. She told me not to touch it, not to mess with it yet, as one day, I would know what to do with it.
She presented me with a box, small and simple, white as freshly fallen snow. Before opening it to show me the true gift, she put on gloves, pitch black in contrast to the box and carefully tipped the lid off the container.
Inside the box rested what only could be considered a work of art. It was a flower, far bigger than my tiny hand. The leafy green stem was slender, but it reached up, up towards the top of the box.The stem branched off at the top in more directions than I could count, creating an infinite number of small, delicate, beautiful white flowers. It was no ordinary flower though, even I could tell, as it was made of glass. Blown glass to be exact, though at the time I didn’t know it. It was prettier than anything I had seen before, and the only thing protecting it was the cushion it was resting on inside the box.
In my childish curiosity, I reached out to grab it, fingers scrunching up as I anticipated what holding it would feel like. Just before the glass brushed up against my fingers however, my grandma swatted my hand away, making a quick click of the tongue. “Not yet, my dear Airlia,” she chided.
I was hurt by the scolding, but I continued to look at the flower in awe as she resumed speaking. “This is a glass Queen Anne’s lace flower,” she explained. “When I was younger, it was given to me by someone else, while I was traveling the world.”
“You did that, Granma?” I asked in my childish lisp, completely missing her explanation.
She gave me a large smile that pulled at the wrinkles on her face, causing me to erupt with giggles. “Of course, I did. I wouldn’t lie to you, would I?”
I shook my head in response and let her continue her story. I was a sucker for stories.
“It brought me much joy and beauty in its own right.” I understood that, it was beautiful and amazing, it was especially so in a child’s eyes. “I want you to have it, and treasure it, especially as you grow older. Then, hopefully, one day you’ll be able to part with it as well, and pass it on to another.”
At the time, I could never see myself parting with it, it was far too beautiful, but in order to please her, I promised her that I would. She seemed to know that at the time, but she determined to take it at face value. “I’ll keep it here for now, to keep it safe for you.” I agreed to the arrangement before running off, heading out to play. I never thanked her for it, though I realize now that I should have, as I found out the next day that she had passed away overnight.
In her will, it seemed that she had planned for this situation, as she specifically mentioned that the flower belonged to me. My mother, her daughter, didn’t understand why, but gave it to me regardless. Remembering her words, “Not yet, my dear Airlia,” I, well, mostly my father, stuck it up, out of reach at the top of my closet, via my request. I was little, but at that moment I wanted to honor what my grandma had told me. I slipped into the closet to sneak a peek every once in a while, but I couldn't reach it, so I stared at the box.
Over time, I grew. And inevitably, I began to forget.
By the next year, I had completely forgotten about the flower all together. In fact, I didn’t remember it until a few weeks ago. I’ve grown since then: I’m now 16, and a sophomore in high school. I’ve never been overly smart, and my teachers are never exactly pleased with my love of whimsy and fantasy, even if I knew now that none of it was real, and never would be. They would always complain, only when they thought I wasn’t listening, most often when my parents were around. “If only Airlia put as much into her studies as she did her reading. She’d be an excellent student.”
If only I knew how to focus on studying. But my mind had become prone to wandering, off, away from what I should be focusing on most of the time. Mostly, I contributed it to the bullies. They started picking on me when they found out that I was no good anywhere, barely scraping by. Not good at sports, not good at studies, not good at anything, just passable in everything. As I grew, so did they, and so did their methods.
At first, it was what you would expect of younger kids, and yes, that’s because we were younger. They would taunt me, tease me, on the rare occasion, pull on my hair. But as we aged, they became more physical, and I wish even now it was just the pulling of hair again.
The bullying became a regular thing for me, as regular as breathing, but it wasn’t any less painful to endure. I had tried to do something about it, but no one believed me, not when I had no friends, when it was the popular kids who were doing the bullying. Not when I waited so long to say anything. So I endured to my breaking point.
I locked myself away in my room, in terror and fear of what would happen if I left. At some point, I curled up inside my closet, pressing myself against the walls of the tiny room. I don’t know what exactly it was, but something compelled me after a while of sobbing to just go through my closet and check what was in it. Maybe I was looking for a knife or some other means to end myself, but instead I found the box.
It was no longer completely white, and it was caked in dust from sitting in the closet for so long. I couldn’t remember what was in it either, but I slowly crawled out of the closet and into my room, turning on the light so I could see better, despite the ample light streaming through the blinds of my window.
I once again found the flower, and was enraptured in its beauty. I now recognized it for what it was and words replayed in my head. “This is a glass Queen Anne’s Lace flower.” At my moment of desperation, I felt like this was the time, when I was broken and hurting, that it was time for me to have it, even if it had taken until now for me to remember it. I looked around for a bit, still not leaving my room, until I found a small plastic cup. It would work for now as something to hold it, at least until I worked up the courage to leave the room for something more appropriate to display it on.
As I reached out to grab it, I hesitated. It was delicate, I knew as much just by looking at it. But I felt like I needed its presence, needed the flower in a way I didn’t understand, so I reached into the box and grabbed the flower by its stem.
In doing so, I was rewarded. Light flashed by me, making it impossible for me to see anything. After a moment, it stopped. As I opened my eyes, everything seemed both bright and dark at the same time until they finally focused and my jaw dropped in awe.
I was no longer in my room, and though the thought initially scared me, my fears were quickly thwarted by the overwhelming beauty of this new place surrounded me. I was in a field of glass, with the only distortion in this place being the field of Queen Anne’s Lace that was real, instead of the glass one I had held. I reached out to touch one, to see if this was real, and paused as I saw my hand. It was mine, same proportions I was used to, same completely in size, yet it was made of blown glass, just as the flower had been. I could see through my hand, and I found it odd to be able to do so, but it felt right to me, like something that should have been. In my world, the real world. I ran my hand against my hair and found that it too had turned to glass, I was glass.
The idea was illogical, improbable, yet felt so right in every sense to me. I nearly cried out in delight, and I would have, if I could have, but due to being glass, I was silent, though my mouth did open up to show that I tried, I could feel it still. It didn’t bother me though, even if I went mute in the real world, if I could go back, it would have no effect on my life.
I began to explore the world and I found if I looked up at the sky, or at least where it should have been, I could see myself, well my real self. My eyes were open and I appeared to be in some sort of daze, and I could see my room around me too.
Content with knowing I was fine, I explored the world, and came to find I wasn’t the only thing other than the field that was constructed of glass. Trees, plants, even animals lived inside this world, made completely of glass. The animals moved as I did, though none seemed to fear me, in fact, they welcomed me. The deep green leaves of the trees swayed in an invisible breeze, though in this world, the only sound really was the clinking of glass against itself. As I continued to explore, it seemed as though the only thing that was still real was the Queen Anne’s Lace I had found when I had appeared. I hadn’t seen any other humans either.
Eventually, I grew tired and curled up on the ground, next to a giant brown bear. It acknowledged my presence by curling around me, causing small sounds of connecting glass to sound. I rested against it for a bit before moving a little. Sensing my intentions, the bear moved away and I left, determining that I should head back to the Lace.
I followed the path that I had initially took, surprising myself by not getting lost. When I reached the Lace I began to investigate it. Touching it did nothing for me, though after all of the glass, it was strange to touch something that felt so soft in comparison, not that I hated the feel. In fact I loved it, and I loved this world I had discovered. I sighed and lay down in the Lace, planning to sleep, surrounded by the real and glass.
As I did, however, I found myself shocked awake in my regular, clunky body. Not beautiful, not pristine, not glass.
It felt awkward and strange and I quickly realized I had dropped the flower back into the box in my surprise. I carefully pulled the lid back onto the box, deciding now that it had no place in a plastic cup.
I ended up setting the whole box on my dresser before flopping back onto my bed. To be honest, I know my grandma knew what the glass would do, it was obvious by how she danced around explaining it. What I didn't know was why she gave it to me and not my mother and how it worked.
I decided not to question it though. It was like I had my own secret, a hidden world resting within a box in my room. I smiled at the thought before rubbing my eyes.
I had registered that it was fairly late when I grabbed the flower, and it seemed that whatever rest I had gotten in the glass world had effected my real body. I felt well rested, despite my earlier breakdown that seemed to be ages ago.
Seconds later, I found out that it had been, in fact, much earlier. My alarm went off, the one that signaled for me to get ready for a painful, monotonous day at school. I checked the clock for the time, then my phone. It was definitely 6 a.m, meaning that time had flowed normally while I was in the flower. That took me a moment to process, but once I did, I began getting ready to head to school.
That day was actually more tolerable for me than most had been before, simply due to the knowledge I had that I could return home later and escape to the place I had learned to love overnight, where there were no people to torment me and the peace provided by near silence. Instead, I might spend the time running with wolves or sleeping with a lion. It was far more enjoyable than what should be been real.
As the bullies noticed my improvement in mood, the torment got worse. I noticed, but it just made me want to stay in the world of glass more and more.
Earlier this week, I began to bring the flower to school. I secured the box with better pillows and made sure it was properly closed. Then, while in class, I'd reach into my bag and carefully, quietly open it and simply touch the petal of a flower, sending myself in.
My grades began to drop due to a complete lack of attention in class, but I didn't care. I'd much rather play with the fox and deer than listen to a monotone lecture which would then lead to showing my inability to understand anything more than the basest of things. The glass didn't care about my inability, it just seemed happy I was there. It was my sanctuary in my world of problems and pain.
Today at lunch I went outside to ‘eat.’ To be honest though, I just went out to go to glass once more, away from people, where I couldn't be found. I hadn't eaten in a while, and my body had begun to show signs of weakness. My skin was becoming thin and secretly, I hoped it would become see-through, more like my glass skin. I knew it wouldn't, as this body of flesh was imperfect, however my glass one was as perfect as ever. The human body had its flaws, glass has none, I noted, slightly amused by my own failing body.
Now, I walk around, exploring some areas of the glass world that I hadn't visited before. I see this as a time as good as any to do so. Swirls of green and brown make up the forest that I currently tread though, but I pause as I see a splash of white out of the corner of my eyes.
I turn towards it and pause as, for the first time since entering this world, I see a glass Queen Anne's Lace. This is unusual to me to say the least. I've only run into it in the field where I enter and leave, and it has only been real, never glass. Except, there's one difference in this Lace. There is a single purple flower in the center of each cluster of flowers. Uncertain of what it meant, I moved to head back to my entry field of Lace.
At least, I was until I felt the whole world shake and I heard the first words I ever had in the world of glass.
“Aww… what does little Airlia have here?” a deep, cruel voice asks. I recognize it as one of the bullies, the star football player of the school.
My eyes widen and I began to run, trying to find the field.
“It's a flower,” girl states with a slight scoff. “An ugly one at that, yet oh so delicate,” she gives a wide grin as she stares into it, unaware that I'm inside.
I try to scream, to yell at them to stop, but I learned weeks ago that I have no voice as glass.
I finally see who holds the world I love as they speak and why they haven't been brought in as well. “Its hemlock, right?” the star lacrosse player asks, gripping the stem tightly in his gloves.
I freeze up. It isn't hemlock. My grandma said it was Queen Anne's Lace and she wouldn't lie to me. They're trying to break me even more, shatter my emotions like glass.
But a girl in the Botany club confirms my worst fear. “It is. You think you can kill yourself with a glass poison, Airlia? You really are stupid,” she sneered.
The only thing I could think of was the glassy flower with the tiny purple splotch in the middle. Then I shake my head. Even if the flower was hemlock, I had to get out and protect the world. My world.
“Why isn't she responding?” One boy asks.
“Maybe she doesn't have the incentive to,” the lacrosse player suggests, holding up the flower.
I try to scream in terror yet still it remains impossible for me to produce a sound. I can see the hemlock field just at the edge of my vision. I'll not be able to make it in time.
I start running anyways, producing a rapid clink clink clink as glass struck glass.
Just before I was able to dive into the poison, I heard a crash and