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1. A Thought
A single pansy laced through the slots of my locker. The petals lay flat across the dingy metal, soft to the touch and barely smelling sweet. I place it under the heavy braille textbook in the locker, before slamming it shut and heading to lunch.
“Who gave it to you?” Riley had asked from her place in her thick novel. I shrug, tapping at the smooth handle of my cane, and shift along the plastic-painted table. I don’t know, I say. I just found it there. Alex and I then turn in our English assignment, the clean-cut binder paper lay oddly on the bumps and divots of my own writing. Mr. Simmons shuffles the paper, and I could have bet anything that he had slapped on a fake smile when took the papers from our eager hands. Alex asks if I could read her some of my writing someday. I shrug.
A crown made of rosemary was tucked into my backpack. It stunk of pine from where careful shears had sliced through thick stems. I set gently over my head, letting gravity drag it down to rest on my brow, tickle my ear. I pull the pansy out from under the textbook and rub my forefinger over the dried petals. I place it in an empty mint tin and set it back into the locker. Riley doesn’t mention the garland circling my head, and I don’t mention the mood in the air. Alex asks if I’m going to prom this year, but I laugh and turn back to Mr. Simmons’ lecture. She shifts and begins to whisper to her friend about the plans she’s made to invite someone to the dance, and a pang of jealousy strikes my chest.
In the library, I pause in my homework and consider the crown. I rent out a book, no doubt getting weird looks while doing so, and snap off a piece of the garland, squishing it between the pages. I walk home that day.
Mistletoe, I learn, is glued onto the ribbons I’d found stuffed into my makeup bag. I hadn’t noticed, too happy to think twice about which flower or leaf had been included this time, and quickly braided my hair up with it. Riley sniffed when she noticed the slick leaves, only mentioning that it was suspicious how many flowers I’d been given.
Everyone in the hallway planted sloppy kisses on my cheek, forehead, chin, depending on how tall they were. Riley handed me a wipe to get rid of the smooth lipstick stains against my skin, but I just smiled and stuffed it into my backpack.
Alex notices the ribbons and rushes to kiss my cheek, landing closer to the corner of my mouth. She apologizes, and I brush it off, and the bell rings.
Viscaria is tangled in my hair when I rush to Riley and tell her I’ve been invited to prom. Chad, the burly quarterback had stumbled up to me with a handful of the sticky stems, telling me his friend was too shy to ask me themselves and asked if I would agree to go with them to prom. “Why are you abandoning me?” Riley yells, and I can hear from her choked voice that tears have slipped from her eyes. “Just because you’re getting attention now, you don’t want to spend time with me.” It’s not like that, I say. I just want to have fun my last year of high school. “They’re using you!” She argues. “They’re going to pull a prank that’ll leave you even more alone than before.” Why are you so against this? I ask, and she sobs harder. “Because popular kids are only gonna go after the blind girl for a trophy.”
When I put the Viscaria into the mint tin, it has strands of smooth hair knotted to the leaves, watered with unshed tears over a friendship I’d lost.
5. You Are
My mom pulls my hair around the scalding iron, and I tug on a dress we bought from a second-hand store. My dad says I look like a banana on stilts, but it’s okay because the fabric is soft and the lacing is loose. Alex picks me up, and we laugh all the way to prom.
When we get there, the doors are sealed shut and a teacher is telling us that some stupid junior snuck in with marijuana and got the whole thing canceled. Alex begins to drive me home, but a deep laugh rumbles in her chest and she leads the car off the road, parking the both of us on top of a sweet smelling hill. We sit in the back of her rusting truck, and she hands me a bouquet of daffodils. I bury my nose into the yellow coronas and smile against the dome-shaped petals. We kiss over the flowers, soon forgotten and lacking in the sweetness made from lip touching lip.
I hesitate on the edge of the block, Alex already sobbing in the doorway, her screen door bouncing off her leg. College starts in Stanford around a week after the next sunrise, and the job Alex was hired to begins in a fortnight. I’m worried I made a misstep, leaving our small Chicago suburbs for the distant state of California. My little tin box, now dented out of a rectangle into something closer to a circle, is drowning in Alex’s tears. The sweet peas cry along with her, sap seeping from their stems where my unsteady hand had hacked them from the garden.
I wish I knew what Alex looked like, if she had dark hair or round eyes, or if her skin was splotched over with freckles. Because if I did, her sore cries would not be what I left with whenever I caught the fragrance of forget-me-nots. I’m half tempted to run back to her, kiss her, trip over the crack in her first cement step and tell her I’ll never leave her side again. But I’m the one who left violets in the doorway; I’m the one who left faithfulness in the doorway.
But I had loved. And she had loved. I walk away from Alex, and I think that loving had been enough.