Friday, February 14, 2014

Dandelion: A Valentine's Day Story

Not the best love story I've ever written, but here it is:

Love the mason jar with dandelions! {Cheryl Joy Miner Photography}

He waited for her outside her school, with a wilted dandelion in his small, sweaty palm. It wasn’t an ordinary dandelion-- it was perfectly shaped and golden except for one bright orange petal. He had been so excited to find it, and now he was going to give it to Kilmeny.

As time passed at the speed of a snail, he shifted his weight from sneaker to sneaker.

“Are you coming, Max?”called Mommy from the minivan.

“I’m waiting for Annie and Kilmeny,” he yelled back. “I’ll walk home with them.”

His mother seemed ready to argue, then shook her head with a strange little smile and pulled away.

The elementary school had dismissed fifteen minutes ago. The adjoined middle school would let out any minute now.The bell rang then-- with the doors opening like a bursted dam and children pouring down the steps. Max stood there, suddenly aware of how small he was compared to the other children.

But they didn’t matter. He was here to see Kilmeny. Sure, she was his sister’s best friend, but there was no reason he couldn’t talk to her, too.

There she was-- with Annie, her slender fingers gripping her backpack strap as she walked down the stairs at her own pace. Her brown hair glowed gold in the sun, and her green eyes were laughing. Max thought she was beautiful. She was Kilmeny-- named for the character in an old book her mother had adored.

Whereas time had been going at the speed of a snail seconds ago, now it was more like a snail driving a Maserati. His little heart began beating faster and faster and he felt his face grow hot.

The flower he had picked for her now seemed petty and childish. What would he say? What would Kilmeny’s reaction be? Would she laugh-- oh, suppose she laughed? What would he do then?

It was all Max could do not to run for the hills.

“Ma-ax!” moaned Annie. It was too late to bolt now. They’d already spotted him. “Why’d you have to show up at my school? That’s so embarrassing.”

“I think it’s cute that he waited for you,” smiled Kilmeny. She grinned down at her friend’s brother. She was four years older than he, but it made no difference to Max.

“H-- here,” Max choked. “I picked this for you.”

He held his breath.

“Oh, thank you Max!” she said. “That’s so sweet.” She bent down and kissed his cheek.

With that she turned to Annie and they shared some significant little glance. Giggling, they started for home.

Max sighed-- from relief or longing or a mixture of both; he wasn’t sure. But he followed them home with a strange new emotion that he couldn't quite place.

“Leave her alone, Max,” said Annie. Annie and Kilmeny were eighteen now; and to Max’s disappointment, he was still four years younger. “She just needs to sort things out.”

Max ignored her. He knew what Kilmeny needed.

He went through the living room and stepped softly out onto the back door.

“Kilmeny?” She sat, unmoving, on the edge of the deck, with her knees pulled up to her chest. She stared unblinkingly out into the field behind the house, watching the wind tease the wildflowers and long stalks of grass. “Kilmeny.” He pronounced her name with care, letting his ears relish in the sound of it.

She didn’t respond.

He sat beside her in silence for a moment, then took her hand and pulled her up. He was finally taller than her, he noticed, if only by an inch. She followed without protest as he led her to the middle of the field, her eyes unseeing and her expression blank. He stopped directly in the center.

“What do you see?” he asked, pointing all around them. The sun had set a few minutes ago; its golden-red glow still quivered on the field scattered with thousands of dandelions.

“I don’t know… a field of weeds.”

“No,” he corrected. “A field of wishes.” He reached down and plucked one of the dandelions, careful not to detach any seeds.

“Make a wish,” he said, holding out the silvery-white blow flowers.

“I don’t know what to wish for.”

“Then I’ll make one for you.” He shut his eyes, held the dandelion close to his lips, and blew.

“What’d you wish for?”

“Cain’t tell you, or it won’t come true.”

Kilmeny smiled.

“Let me try.” Max gave her a dandelion. She mimicked what he had done, then tossed the stem over her left shoulder.

“Nice,” said Max. “What’d you wish for?”

“Cain’t tell or it won’t come true,” she quoted, laughing

“See,” said Max. “I told Annie I could make you smile. Now would you tell me what’s wrong?”

Kilmeny was silent for a moment, staring at a black-eyed-susan she had just plucked. Max wondered if he had just ruined it.

“I just… I… don’t know what to do,” she whispered. “I lived for him. And he…” she blinked slowly. “...he left me.”

“Justin was a jerk,” he told her. “He didn’t deserve you.”

“No,” said Kilmeny. “He found someone who’s probably prettier and smarter and funnier than me.”

“No, he didn’t,”

“How do you know?”

“I know because there’s no one prettier or smarter or funnier than you in the whole world.”

She said nothing, but the look in her eyes was enough. Better than any old kiss, he thought.

Days flew by quickly, turning into months and then years. Seasons always seemed to walk by so much faster now that they were married. The laughter of children filled their little house, and soon did the laughter of grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.

Change was always happening, but it didn’t phase them. They were ready-- they had each other.

Still, it was far too early when Kilmeny was sitting by Max’s hospital bed, listening with teary eyes to the beeping of the monitor, knowing it wouldn’t be long. Max tightened his grip on her hand just a little after one a.m., pulling her closer and opening his mouth to speak. Kilmeny leaned in to hear him.

“Remember when we wished on the blow-flowers? And I wouldn’t tell you my what I wished for?” He asked. Kilmeny nodded. “Well,” he said,

“You made my wish come true.”

Two years passed. Kilmeny’s loving hands grew frailer and bonier as they flew over quilt after quilt. Her hair was thin and sparse. She grinned and laughed often, but her small green eyes never smiled with her lips anymore.

One day, when six-year-old Ellie decided to visit, she found Grandmother’s house was very, very still as she pushed through the screen door. Not a breeze stirred. Not a floorboard creaked to signal Kilmeny rising to greet her granddaughter. The old jukebox in the dining room wasn’t singing.


No answer.

Ellie tiptoed forward, holding her breath. The grandfather clock ticked slowly, the only indication that any time was passing at all. If not for its frequent ticking, she would have sworn that time had really stood still.

She turned the corner to the living room. “Grandmother?”

She approached the figure in the armchair, wondering why Grandmother didn’t welcome her and offer a gingersnap.

Kilmeny’s eyes were closed, as in sleep, but her chest did not rise and fall. No breath filled her lungs.There was some new beauty about her-- though her cheeks were more gaunt and the hollows beneath her lashes were a shade more noticeable. A finished quilt top lay on the side table under the lamp, with tiny calico cats embroidered in the border.

And in her hand was a small, faded, pressed dandelion with a single orange petal.

Tell me what you think, guys.
Happy Valentine's Day!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Go ahead and drop me a comment-- I appreciate them so much! I try to reply to all comments you leave me as quick as I can, whether it's on my blog or yours.
Rebecca :)