The Flower This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

November 20, 2010
I sighed and turned away as his fingers flew effortlessly over the keys in beautiful patterns. Of course he won’t notice as I walk away, or when I turn back because I just can’t help it.
I would say that he was perfect, but that sounds wrong. He has dark brown hair and eyes that were always laughing and kind. Good at everything, that’s what it seemed like. He played piano, saxophone, drums, guitar, and I heard that he wanted to play the trumpet, too.
Please don’t play the trumpet, Nick. I don’t want you to take away the one thing I have that you don’t.
I work as hard as I can, my pencil moving furiously across the paper. He makes better art without ever trying.
I stare up from my untouched lunch at him, sitting as far away from me as possible on the other end of the long table. Don’t stare. Don’t stare. It’s so stupid and obsessive and he doesn’t even care. But don’t stare. It’s creepy.
He must have said something funny, because everyone laughed. I glanced around at the empty seats surrounding me. No one to laugh with. My friends were all a grade behind me, both held back.
And me? What could I do? Why was I so “perfect?”
I could do freaking math.
I was a math whiz. Every single freaking day, I was done ten, fifteen, twenty minutes early. And people’s eyes would widen as they turned to me and said “Are you done ALREADY?”
And I would have to smile and nod and say “Yeah.” And bite back saying the dreaded words. It was easy.
“I wish that I was smart like you, Miss Straight A’s All Year!” People would tell me. “I wish that I could get things like you get them.”
This they say as they walk away from me. Always walking away. And I would just shrug as they rejoined their real friends, and as they laughed, I wanted to scream at them, “Are you so sure about that?”
If I could trade my brain for one thing, it would be for friends.
I’m jealous of your smarts.
I’m jealous that you’re not alone. I’m jealous of your many friends. I’m jealous that you have the guts to talk to him, I’m jealous that he talks to you back, I’m jealous of your life. And I don’t care if I get F’s or A’s, because in the end, it won’t make a difference.
He smiled as he shut his locker and headed off to the next class, one that we shared, where we would watch a movie about the mummification process in Ancient Egypt, and he would smile and his nose would wrinkle up, and I would smile and laugh and say something funny, and he would be the only one to laugh.

HOMECOMING:

My entire grade of twenty six bright eyed, happy students was gathered in one small health room, our home room, so they could pass out Homecoming Flowers.
They cost two dollars. They’re just carnations that you can send to anyone in the elementary, middle, or high school. It’s a nice way to say “I care,” and at the end of the day they all end up in the garbage cans. I had gotten one for my third grade neighbor, who, as much as she annoyed me, was like the sister I never had.
I stared down at the fake grains of wood on the desk, wishing they would just get over with it. I wish Tyonna was still in my grade so that we could laugh at the people getting flowers, when really I was jealous of them. I wish that they would just hurry up and get the stupid thing over with so that I could go home and cry because I didn’t get a freaking flower again.
The last name called rang out clear as day, and I couldn’t believe that I heard right. Stumbling, I walked to the front of the room, and a smiling mom handed me a greenish carnation, painted black on the ends, with the little note that went with it.
I returned to my desk in a daze as the mom took the empty bucket that had recently housed flowers and left. I pressed the carnation to my nose, an eerie combination of utter joy and utter dread filling me.
The note had my name and grade so they could deliver it, but it wasn’t signed. A simple message said “HAPPY HOMECOMING!” in handwriting that I recognized.
A single tear fell from my eye as I pressed the soft petals to my nose, inhaling the sweet perfume that fall had given the single flower. Someone looked over my shoulder at the handwriting.
“That’s a girl, definitely.”
I shook my head in agreement, but I knew that it wasn’t a girl’s handwriting. I knew that it was his.
But I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. It was impossible.
He was just so….and I was so…..
Ugh.
I think that would make a terrific second name for me. My name is Ugh.

A few hours later I was at Tyonna’s house, eating up the hours between school and the homecoming game. I showed her my flower and the note, and all she said was “It’s a guy. See how the letters are all squished together? It’s a guy. Definitely.”
“I don’t know!” I said as I plopped onto her bed, a caterpillar shaped pillow staring up at me. “I mean, I want to think it’s Nick, but I mean, he wouldn’t send it to me. And plus, Tyrel and Garon got one with the same message, same handwriting, same unsigned. And whoever did it would have had to spell Tyrel Hoofer way wrong! They spelled it H-I-F-F-E-R!” My eyes caught the floor as my heart sank lower and lower. “There’s no ‘I’ in Hoofer.”
Tyonna’s eyes lit up in a way that I knew she was thinking of something I didn’t know. Her sandy hair bounced on her shoulders as she walked closer to me. “No! It was Nick! Cause I was talking to him on Facebook the other day, and he said “You wanna Homecoming flower?” and I said “What?” And he said “Yeah I’m getting one for everyone…Well not everyone just certain people.” And I said “No.” And he said “Good cause I wasn’t going to get you one.” and then a couple minutes later he says “Is this how you spell Hiffer? H-I-F-F-E-R?” It’s Nick!”
My heart swelled up with the joy that maybe, possibly, I could have gotten a flower from him. I screamed and did the girliest thing I’ve ever done.
I jumped up and down waving my arms.
Mid jump I stopped and said, just to be clear. “This doesn’t leave this room.”
She gave me a hug and I jumped again. When my heart rate had returned to normal, I took my carnation and pressed back to my nose, and somehow, it smelled like the sweetest thing I’ve ever smelled.

It’s been a few days since Homecoming. I’ve been trying to get Nick alone to ask him, but he’s always surrounded by people. But today I got my lucky break…Or maybe it was the worst luck I could have had.
We were in the lunch line, with no fellow freshmen around at all. And no one else would care…
My heart beat fast and my throat sealed up as I thought about what I wanted to ask. I couldn’t do it. I was too afraid.
No! Just do it! Just do it!
No, I’m too afraid.
Before I had a chance to think twice, I heard somebody speaking, and realized with a start that it was me.
“Nick?”
His head turned around so I could see his warm eyes smiling at me. It was terrifying. “Yeah?”
I swallowed. “Did you send me that flower?”
His eyebrow creased. “What flower?”
Oh, please don’t make me explain. This is hard enough! “That Homecoming flower?”
His eyes got wide and he let out a long, low whistle, and turned away. “I didn’t know you got a flower. I think Mr. Warburton sent it. Didn’t Tyrel and Garon get one too?”
“Yeah…But the person spelled Hoofer way wrong.”
He laughed really hard, and just then we were interrupted by his normal group of friends. None of them saw me, and all of them cut me in line.
I stared down at the white grains of fake wood of the table, and remembered our short conversation. He was sitting sixty feet away at the opposite end of the table, but we were an entire world apart.

“He’s lying” were the first words to escape Tyonna’s mouth when I told her what happened. “First he says he didn’t know you got one, then he tries to blame it on someone else? He’s totally lying. And he can deny that conversation all he wants, he sent you that flower.”
I bit my lip nervously as a small wave of hope crashed through my stormy mind. I wanted to believe her, I really did.
But it was just impossible….that he could like me, I mean. Just too impossible.
“Tyonna?” I bit my lip again. “Are you positive about that chat on Facebook?”
Her eyes went wide as she tried to sooth my aching heart. “I swear to God, I wouldn’t have told you if it weren’t the absolute truth. I even saved the chat on my Grandma’s computer.”
“You can do that?”
“Yeah.”
“Oh.”
And as I walked from the cafeteria, I’m ashamed to say that I felt the smallest bit of hope.

I was standing in front of my mirror at home, dark shadows playing with my face.
I hated looking in the mirror. It always betrayed me. It showed how stupid I looked, why I was such a nerd.
I wondered briefly what came first: Studying because I was alone or being alone because I studied?
I think it was the first.
I sighed and picked up a wilted carnation, dried from age. It’s been about a week since Homecoming.
I looked desperately at the note, which I knew was written in his handwriting. But suddenly, Happy Homecoming wasn’t very comforting.
Don’t do this to yourself. He wants you to be happy.
No. He doesn’t want me to be happy. If he wanted me to be happy, he would have told me that he sent me the flower. He didn’t. He didn’t send it. I’m just an idiot. And I probably sounded like an idiot to him all over again. Why am I such an idiot? A coward?
I hate myself.
I pressed the skeleton flower to my nose and inhaled deeply. But the fragrance was all gone now, nothing left but petals and leaves.
I guess that’s the thing with flowers. After a while, you begin to wonder why they were ever sweet.

I sighed and turned away as his fingers flew effortlessly over the keys in beautiful patterns. Of course he won’t notice as I walk away, or when I turn back because I just can’t help it.





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