There was a black-eyed Susan.
Always a black-eyed Susan.
I never liked black-eyed Susans, their yellow petals too flashy and flamboyant, their dirt-brown center too dark and dreary to be any Susan’s eye color, yet lately, they seemed to be the only flowers I long for.
Out of all the flowers that bloom in summer, she's my favorite.
I shot up before the sun even dared rise. One foot stumbling after the other, I staggered out of bed. It was out of habit for me to be sprinting about at such an early hour, but I couldn't help it. It was summer.
I flew past a sleepy Sunny, almost colliding with her. However, I didn't stop to apologize like I usually would. An earful followed my steps, but it’s summer, Sunny could wait.
I stopped myself just before I would crash into the wooden bark door. I ought to be a little more careful. I ought to hope a little less.
Well, it was summer, though, and I felt brave.
Snatching up the pile of letters and cards, I scanned for your delicate handwriting, for a splatter of Susan’s yellow. And yet letter after letter, all of them addressed to Sunny, my stomach started to sink.
I tried to keep the smile on my face, but I felt it slipping away like an orange sunset sinking into the ocean—sad and helpless.
Maybe the mailman was late?
No, the mailman could never be late in this town.
Maybe the letter got lost?
But nothing could ever get lost here.
In a town so perfect, there was no reason for anyone to feel heartbroken on the first day of summer.
I did, though.
“Sunny! I got your letters!” I belted, trying to sound cheerful. My roommate emerged from the kitchen, frowning, obviously unhappy with the commotion.
“Aww cheer up, Sunshine! They didn't name you Sunny to see you frown on this lovely summer morning,” I teased, handing her the letters. She folded her arms and glared at me.
“I’m sorry,” I sighed. “I was just excited. You know how I get every summer. Don't be mad.”
Sunny cracked a smile.
“Thank you,” she said. “Oh, and I have your letter on your bed.”
“Umm… Your letter? The one you’ve been waiting for all year? I’m surprised you’re
still keeping it together without it.”
“I’m gonna kill you, Sunny!” My voice told a different story though, high and giddy. I didn't wait another minute more before I was sprinting again.
“A little too late for that, Becka. Happy first day of Summer!” Sunny yelled after me.
I dashed back to my unmade bed. The sun was slowly waking from its slumber, shining enough light for me to make out the rose petal sheets and the sole thing I had been waiting for. There it was, my only letter coupled with a black-eyed Susan, yellow and flashy, calling my utmost attention.
You did write.
I can't believe another year has passed. There are so many things I want to tell you, but I can’t help but recall our good summer memories. Feels like yesterday we were in your backyard looking for fairies in flower patches.
You didn't believe in fairies though.
I knew that, and I knew you knew that I knew that too...
I smiled. You still talked the same.
You remember that summer, don't you?
I chuckled because you asked this question every year even though you already knew the answer.
I could never forget that summer.
Flashback to when we were sixteen and carefree. The sun shone like a giant sunflower in the sky. Its lights danced with the songbirds, casting shadows behind trees, adding gleaming glints in your golden hair. It was the time to explore, try new things.
And maybe even fall in love.
Lucky for me, I had you do all the planning, as you always did every summer before that. That year was a bit different, though. You didn't want to knit a silly hat or start collecting old exotic coins, but you wanted to catch a fairy. You wanted to catch a fairy with me.
“Becka, I think this summer it would be good luck if we find a fairy.”
At first, I thought it was a riddle. However, the more I searched your eyes, the more I saw innocence spilling out like marigolds blooming under the sun. “Okay,” I could hear myself say.
My best friend wanted to find a fairy, and so we would do just that.
We spent days in my backyard, hoping, waiting. “Fairies live in flowers, you see. If we stay very still, we might see them,” You whispered as you laid on your stomach, staring at the lily patch. I had my doubts—lots of doubts actually—but never in a million years would you ever be one of them.
You were so smart, Becka. If it weren't for you, we'd probably be stuck in your backyard for the rest of the summer…
I shook my head smiling because I wasn't smart. In fact, I was foolishly in love with you.
I remembered how several days had passed without luck. Your eyes started to grow tired. You were still determined to catch a glimpse of a fairy though, tough as wildflowers.
“Wildflowers,” I mumbled, and I suggested we go to the field. “Maybe fairies live in wildflowers. We wouldn’t have much luck here, would we?” I told you. Your eyes lit up the instant the words escaped my mouth, and the next moment we were skidding in the sunlight, windswept and free.
You know, Becka, black-eyed Susans come back every year, but I’ve never seen so much yellow in one place before. The butterflies and bees really outdid themselves this year.
I just wish you could come back to the field so you'd see how much has changed since you went away.
Flashback to that very summer when the field was dabbled with the most vivid colors: aster purple, dahlia pink, daisy white, iris orange, salvia blue, and of course, black-eyed Susan yellow.
I recalled myself squinting as you tugged me into bright yellow. It was like walking into drops of Sun—blisteringly beautiful, yet almost painful to look at.
"Out of all the flowers that bloom in summer, she's my favorite," You spoke as if it were the simplest thing to say.
"Yeah. I just read about her. A poem by John Gay. Black-Eyed Susan was desperate to be with her lover, Sweet William. She did whatever she could do."
I nodded, still not impressed by how the flower was glaring at me. I found the petals too bright and the center too dark. There was nothing subtle about black-eyed Susans, and that bothered me.
“She’s so brave, fighting for love and all,” you paused for a moment, thoughtful, before continuing. “I guess it makes sense. Black-eyed Susans are pioneer flowers. They're the first ones to grow after a fire, you know.”
You turned and smiled at me, your eyes sparkling under the sunlight.
“When did you even start researching about black-eyed Susans?”
You bit your lip but didn’t answer. Instead, you glanced at the field and mumbled:
“I wonder if she ever found her Sweet William."
We looked around trying to find a trace of sweet William pink, but we didn't.
"Huh, I guess not," you said finally.
"Well, we can grow some. I think if we start planting the seeds in July, we'll get beautiful sweet Williams by the summer after next," I pulled you by one hand and gestured to where we should plant our sweet Williams with the other. You squeezed my palm. My heart purred to your touch like a cat under the Sun.
"And maybe then the fairies will come out," you added hopefully, and I nodded.
We planted our sweet Williams just next to the black-eyed Susans that very summer.
It’s a shame you didn’t get to see the sweet Williams we planted together. But I wanted to let you know that they’re still beautiful this year, even though they’re not the original ones we planted. I have a feeling that they’ll sit next to the black-eyed Susans every summer on. That’s a comforting thought, right, Becka?
I let out a voiceless laugh because you were right. It was comforting to know that at least our black-eyed Susans and sweet Williams would last together forever.
Even if we wouldn't.
That summer ended with no peep from a fairy. I remembered my disappointment and frustration towards the arrogant little creature.
And I didn’t even believe in fairies.
“I’m sorry,” I said as I rubbed your back. I could tell that you were sad. No one should be sad in summer. And you should never be sad.
“It’s okay. We were together and had fun.” You gave me a little smile which I returned. Taking your hand in mine, I stroke your fingers with my thumb. I wished I could’ve done more.
“Do you still believe in fairies?”
“I think I do.”
“Well, if you want we can always try again next summer.”
We didn’t try again the next summer, though.
Or any summer after that.
I miss you every day, B. Nothing’s the same after you left. It’s still too painful to look for fairies again.
Maybe next Summer?
I blinked back my tears, hoping that one day I might be brave enough to read your letters without crying. Shaking my head, I took a deep breath and called Sunny.
“Hey, Sunny? I’m going out. See you tonight, okay?”
I didn’t wait for a reply. Suddenly, It felt wrong to be waiting at all. It was summer.
It was time to be brave like Black-Eyed Susan.
I soared out of home, my wings fluttering fiercely against the summer sun. I didn’t think twice before speeding past the blooming flowers to where everything was buried. I knew I wasn’t ready to see you again, but next summer had failed me far too many times. I needed to be brave this summer if I wanted to be brave at all.
For many years I had refused to look at this place. And now that everything was flashing right before me, I felt lightheaded. My muscles ached as I hovered around, and I could feel my boldness wearing off, slipping away like summer falling into autumn.
Yet all of a sudden, I felt my heart stop—again. Every part of me cheered as I found what I was looking for. I almost couldn’t believe it.
Perched on a cypress, I studied the young woman, no longer sixteen. She sat near a stone, a book in hand. On the grass before the stone was a folded parchment and a lonely black-eyed Susan. By noting how neat the stone was, I could tell that it had been well taken care of.
BELOVED DAUGHTER, SISTER, FRIEND
SEPT 23,1997 - JUNE 21, 2015
What a painful yet peculiar way to see one’s name again.
I fluttered closer to the woman before my grave. I fluttered closer to you. As I sat cross-legged on the stone in which they had engraved my name, I gazed upon you, my best friend. You still had the same golden hair, blue eyes, rosy cheeks, and you still gleamed perfectly in the summer Sun. Suddenly, I felt the urge to laugh and cry at the same time. It was like being sixteen and falling in love again.
"Sweet Whittany," I was surprised to hear my own voice, small yet sure, uttering the nickname I gave you summers before. You seemed startled, too, as your head shot up from your book, blue eyes searching for whoever called.
You said you wouldn't look for fairies this summer, but for once our eyes met.
"Do you still believe in fairies?"
"I think I do."
It seemed like a thousand summers had passed before you spoke, your voice the same soothing melody.
Lying on the grass between us was a black-eyed Susan.
Always a black-eyed Susan.