Flowers for Rose

Submitted into Contest #86 in response to: Write a story where flowers play a central role.... view prompt

47 comments

Fiction Sad High School

It’s eerie how time slows down during calamity, allowing your eyes to widen while your lungs forget their need for air, and then suddenly it spits you out in a new life, scarred and reeling. What do you hold on to?


Friday, September 24, 2021 4:47p.m.


The bus smelled stale and years of grime clung to the walls, but it could have been a prom night limo based on the way we were carrying on. Finally mask free, delirious from hormones and the intoxicating joy of skipping a whole day of school for a French play, we reveled in the moment. The bus driver and our teacher must have felt the same way because they chatted up front with their eighties music on, completely ignoring the shenanigans of the ten teenagers in the back.


I glanced out the window at the hilly terrain, and when I turned back, Kate was gone and the seat next to me empty. But not for long. Carter slid in moments later, and I froze.


“How’s it going, Rose?”


I twisted desperately toward the back where Kate now giggled with another friend, probably sharing the same tidbit of gossip she’d whispered to me three minutes ago.


“Don’t even think about it,” his rich voice crooned. He leaned across me, and I flattened myself against the seat.


“What are you doing?” I hissed in my breath but couldn’t help noticing the floral smell of his hair. Herbal Essences, perhaps. Metal snapped loudly, and I looked down at a seatbelt across my lap.


“Now you’re not going anywhere,” he said with a smirk that revealed adorable dimples on each side of his smile.


I looked down at my hands as my cheeks began to burn. Why could I never find words in situations like this?! He grabbed my left hand and placed it on his blue jeaned thigh while I remained in panic mode because I’m a social genius. Pulling a pen from his pocket, he began to draw on the top of my hand.


“I thought it was time for us to get to know each other better.” Carter glanced up at me to make sure he had my attention. Obviously. “If you’ve heard the rumors, they’re true. Tessa and I broke up on Wednesday. So you can stop worrying, but feel free to keep blushing like that.”


I lifted my hand to inspect his artwork- a circle with five round petals and my name in the middle. “That’s not a rose, you know.” Hey, there’s a saucy line.


He shrugged. “What is it?”


I giggled nervously. “I don’t know, a daisy or something?”


We locked eyes, and I think that was the moment I ceased breathing. His dark brown eyes sparkled with mischief and secrets, and I wondered what it would be like…


A hard jolt at the front of the bus,

an expletive from the driver,

grinding guardrails,

freefall,

floating teens,

impact,

BLACKOUT.


A heavy weight sat on my body, rendering me immobile while I worked on breathing in and out to clear my foggy brain. Someone moved near me- I could feel their presence, felt fingers on my arm and a gentle tug. I struggled against the gravity holding my eyelids shut until they cracked open.


An orb of color hovered over me. Shit, was this heaven? I strained to focus. Pink and green carnations materialized with tiny white baby’s breath poking out in all directions. Perky.


“Ooo girl, you must have a guardian angel watchin over you. That ain’t just luck.” A nurse passed in front of me, the movement rolling a ball of nausea down my throat to my stomach. My chest constricted as panic squeezed me tight, and everything faded to black.


Murmuring voices woke me later. The gentle cadence of my dad in conversation comforted me, and a sharper voice said, “I’ll check back in tonight to see how she’s doing.”


I waited, then peeked out. A long, slender branch bearing numerous blue faces arched toward me as if it wanted to poke my leg. Frickin Avatars.


Then I spotted Dad. I tried to open my mouth to speak, but shooting pain ran through my jaw. I felt his hand on my arm.


“Hey, pumpkin. How ya doin?”


I blinked wildly and looked from his face to the disturbing blue thing.


“Oh, are these too much? I can move them. People keep sending flowers.”


My eyes followed him as he moved the potted orchid to a deep windowsill that looked more like a florist shop display than a hospital room. He returned and took my hand in his.


I lifted my other hand a few inches off the bed and pointed toward my face, and he nodded.


“You dislocated your jaw, so the wraps are holding it shut to let it heal. You have a feeding tube that runs into your stomach.” He let that sink in for a moment. “You also broke both femurs, and last night they did surgery to set them with rods and screws.”


My breathing wheezed through my nose. Get it under control. I tapped my fingers on the bed to give my panic an outlet.


“You were the only one wearing a seat belt, Rose. I’m so proud of you and so incredibly thankful you’re okay.”


My eyes burned with shame. It wasn’t like that, nothing to be proud of. Dread filled my gut, but I had no way of asking, and I felt too weak to bear the weight of the reality looming ahead of me, dark and menacing. It could wait.    


The day passed slowly as I drifted in and out of consciousness, visions of flowers tangling with fragmented faces in my twisted dreams. I awoke to a red sunset and pain pulsing through my legs and face with each heartbeat.


A soft knock distracted me, and relief flooded my system when Hallie entered. My best friend.


She rushed to my bed with a wet face. “Oh my gosh, Rose,” she sobbed. “You look terrible, but you’re alive. I can’t believe it!”


A hot tear rolled down my own cheek as I watched her emotions flow.


“Can you talk?”


I merely grunted. She searched the room, coming back with a small notepad and a pen. “Here, you can write if you want to talk to me.”


I took them with a reluctant sigh. I supposed it was time. Did anyone else survive?


“No,” she said softly.


I covered my eyes and wept, accepting the truth I’d felt but suppressed. When I finally stopped, I spotted the small bouquet of white daisies she’d set next to my leg on the bed. I held up my left hand and discovered the round flower drawing remained un-smudged, with Rose in the center. It was real. He was gone. They were gone. And I was still here.


My school held a memorial service for the eleven people who died the next Friday. I was unable to attend, still trapped in the hospital bed with bandages around my head and six inch incisions on my upper thighs. The bus had landed upside down, and the seatbelt that had been fastened in a moment of flirtation had snapped my legs but saved my life. Lucky me. I couldn’t decide if I was more grateful or embarrassed to be alive.


On Saturday morning, they unhooked my IV and removed the feeding tube, took off my head wraps, and sent me on my happy way. Jail break never fell so flat as me rolling up to my house in a rented wheelchair, broken and bereft. The only glimmer of light was that I could still use my own bedroom since we lived in a one story house.


Dad pushed me into my purple room. “Do you want the flowers in here?”


“Sure,” I muttered through my teeth; it was still hard to move my sore jaw. I sat facing the mirror while he ran back to the car, and I stared at my reflection for the first time since the accident. I looked hollow. Purple rings drooped under my eyes, and the bruising on the lower half of my face tinged my skin green. Hello, Haunted.


I glanced down at my left hand out of habit, but it was a blank slate again. I’d asked the nurse to scrub it off when I couldn’t bear to look at it anymore, then bawled as his last mark disappeared from the world. I hadn’t even cared about him before that field trip, but now I felt a huge loss.


The flowers slowly filled every flat surface in the room as Dad made the trek over and over. They were pretty, but most were beginning to fade, except the unnatural Avatar orchid, which I’d probably be stuck with forever.


Over the next few days, I consumed my school work like candy. I’d never been studious, but neither had I been this bored or bedridden. I flew through my required reading and solved math equations like beloved puzzles. When I ran out of homework, I rolled around on our flat driveway, soaking up the sun and listening to the birds chirping. The fresh air kept me from going crazy.


Sometimes the neighbors stopped to offer their condolences, and I vowed to never shake my head with pity and tell someone how sorry I was. Totally unhelpful and disconcerting. Move along, your dog needs to poop.


After two such head shaking ladies strolled away, I spotted Dad watching me from his office window. The next morning I heard a loud saw screeching outside. I covered my head with my pillow to drown out the noise, determined to waste the day away by sleeping.


“Rise and shine, pumpkin!” Dad bounded into my room a few hours later. I groaned and glared at him from bed. He looked downright grungy.


“What have you been doing?” I grumbled.


“Come on, I’ll show you,” he said with an eager smile.


“I’m not dressed, and I have morning breath.” I had re-mastered the whine I dropped when I was eight.


“Okay, ten minutes. Then you’re wheeling out to the driveway, kid.”


“Fine.” I moved through the motions with jerks and grunts, still sore two weeks later. Dad had been great, patient and easy going as always, and I was glad he worked from home. But my irritation level was at an all-time high; the pain nagged me in spurts, while the grief (and guilt?) continually clawed at the back of my mind. It was… a lot.


A new sight met my eyes as I left the shadows of the garage: Freshly constructed raised flower beds lined the length of the driveway. They rose to the height of my lap in the wheelchair and were already filled with dark soil. So that’s why he looked dirty. I glanced up at Dad.


He stood proudly with his hands on his hips, grinning from ear to ear. “I thought gardening would be a good distraction. I already bought you some little plants and seed packets.”


“Wow. Thanks, Dad.” I frowned, not because I was displeased, but because I’d never thought to do such a thing. I tried to turn it into a thankful smile. “This will be great.”


“Awesome! Well, I’ve got to run back inside for a meeting, but your supplies are all on the table, and the hose is already turned on. Just twist the nozzle. Have fun!”


I wheeled over to the table and explored the supplies. I was impressed- he’d thought of everything. He even left a notebook with a pen and a note that said I might want to map out where I planted the seeds.


For the next two hours, I pulled plants out of thin plastic pots and dumped tiny seeds into my palm. I marveled that something that looked like a speck of dirt would soon grow into lettuce and rainbow carrots; I liked this new hobby. I pulled the last pot onto my lap and rolled to an empty plot of dirt. When I looked down, the shape of the flowers struck me like a lightning bolt. I froze.


The flowers were small and yellow, with round centers and five rounded petals. The image that would forever be burned into my brain overlapped this real life version like a trippy horror movie. My breathing grew shallow, and I began to sweat.


My fingertips touched the flowers. So delicate. Both hands slowly closed around them, my grip growing tighter and tighter as heat poured into my face. “I hate you,” I whispered. My fingers dug into the center, and I ripped the plant apart. “I HATE YOU!” I screamed, shaking it up and down until dirt flew all directions and pieces of shredded greenery fell to the ground. Tears streamed down my face, and I chucked the pot into the yard with force.


A door slammed, and Dad sprinted toward me. “Rose, what’s wrong?!”


He knelt down in front of me as I sobbed. “There you go, let it all out.”


I wiped my face on my t-shirt and sniffed.


He brushed my hair out of my face. “I saw you out the window, and I thought you were having a seizure or something.”


I laughed bitterly. “That would be the demented cherry on top, wouldn’t it?”


“I’m trying to not think about it.” He stood up and assessed me with crossed arms. “You’re covered in potting soil. We might need to hose you down.”


“Or not,” I said with a grimace.


He backed up toward the hose.


“Dad. I have wounds. Don’t even think about it!”


“They took your stitches out, and you’re pretty stinky, so…” He bent down with a gleam in his eyes.


“NO!” The spray blasted me in the chest, and I screamed in earnest. “I’m gonna kill you!” I spluttered.


He cackled and ran around behind me to spray the dirt out of the seat. It tickled my booty, and I started to squirm and giggle. “YOU’RE demented for spraying a cripple!”


But the laughter had started, and I couldn’t seem to stop. He handed me the hose, and I turned it on him and shot him in the face. He deserved it. He howled and spit water, then danced on the driveway as I sprayed his bare feet.


“Now I feel better,” I said with finality.


Even so, it didn’t prevent another mood swing at the dinner table. My hair was still damp as I ate his famous meatloaf meal.


“You go back to school on Monday. How do you feel about that?” he asked.


“Overjoyed.”


We ate in silence for a few minutes.


“Your cross country team has a home meet tomorrow. Do you want to go?”


“Nope.” I didn’t look up from my food.


“You haven’t said anything about it since the accident.”


“What is there to say? I have metal in my legs. I can’t run.” I stabbed a green bean.


“You could say you’re bummed.”


“It’s not like they’ll miss me. I wasn’t even in the top seven.”


“But you could go to support your teammates,” he said gently.


“Dad, it’s embarrassing!”


He set down his fork and leaned forward. “Honey, you were in a bus accident. Don’t be ashamed of surviving!” he said fiercely.


I jutted my chin out but regretted it when pain sliced into my ears. I rolled my eyes. “Fine, I’ll go.”


A hint of a smile snuck onto his face at the victory, so I ignored him the rest of the night.


I braided my hair over one shoulder the next morning in front of the mirror. I’d already applied mascara and lip gloss, and I felt satisfied with my appearance under the circumstances.


The parking lot was packed when we pulled into the school. Hallie walked up to the car and opened my door.


“What are you doing here?” I asked in surprise. “You hate sports.”


“I know,” she said with a smile, “but I’m here for moral support.”


The three of us headed down to the football field where the race would begin and end. I nervously wrung my hands in my lap as we moved onto the rubber track. The stadium pulsed with energy and motion, and adrenaline pumped through my veins as if I were about to race. Some of my female teammates jogged toward us as they warmed up. They squealed when they spotted me and ran over for quick hugs. When they ran off, we noticed the backs of their jerseys said Team Rose. I couldn’t stop smiling.


As the start time approached, all of the women’s teams gathered near the starting line. They huddled in groups for last minute pep talks. Some of the schools chanted a cheer, but my teammates turned around and shouted, “WE LOVE YOU ROSE!”


A man called through a megaphone, “Runners to your marks!” The gun sounded, and the pack of runners took off. Their footsteps thundered away from us, the people on the sidelines.


It wasn’t so bad sitting on the side. A ton of parents came over to talk us. They told me how thankful they were I survived, patted me on the back, and said I’d be out there again in no time. It didn’t feel as doubtful when person after person encouraged me, especially the cross country boys, who ran next.


Eighteen minutes later, we all screamed like gorillas when the leaders ran back onto the field. After recovering, our top runner made a beeline over to me. She placed a towel on my lap with a long stemmed rose. One by one, as our runners finished, my sweaty teammates each brought me a rose. My lap was full of color by the end of the morning.


Dad squatted beside me. “You okay, kid?”


Time seemed to slow down again as I looked at the beautiful displays of love: I had flowers from teammates, a loyal best friend at my side, and a thoughtful dad who understood me. That’s what I would hold on to. I eventually nodded and laughed through the tears. “Yeah, I’m okay.” 

March 26, 2021 01:57

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

47 comments

16:08 Mar 31, 2021

I love how you wove flowers into every aspect of the story. Also, your story was really unpredictable, and I mean that as a good thing. It was new, fresh, and an emotional rollercoaster. It was incredible written and I enjoyed every minute of it! It made me want to go write a story :)

Reply

Holly Fister
16:14 Mar 31, 2021

Thank you so much Lucy Jane! I appreciate you taking the time to read it and give me feedback. Have fun writing your story 😊

Reply

20:20 Mar 31, 2021

Of course! Any time :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
17:22 Mar 30, 2021

... .... holy crap, why did i not read this sooner?!!?!?!? a m a z i n g!!! the injury was described so well, the aftereffects were *chef's kiss,* the symbolism and the tinges of romance were beautiful, and the whole story was a gift to the earth. if this doesn't get a shortlist or a win, i'm gonna sue-

Reply

Holly Fister
17:41 Mar 30, 2021

Haha, thanks Kate! You’re awesome!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Michael Boquet
15:54 Mar 27, 2021

I love all the different ways you worked flowers into the piece. My favorite part was how you structured/described the crash. Touching ending to a well written story. Well done.

Reply

Holly Fister
17:05 Mar 27, 2021

Thanks Michael! Gardening is my favorite hobby besides writing, so I was excited to have a prompt that gave me an excuse to write about flowers! Thanks for your positive feedback on the crash structure. I thought it would be cool and was hoping it didn’t make the event feel too distant. I appreciate you reading my story and commenting!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Claire Lewis
17:30 Mar 29, 2021

Hi Holly! This story is moving and powerful. I like that you focus in on how Rose comes to terms with the accident, and that you show us the process of healing, each step punctuated with flowers. Excellent work, I’m looking forward to reading more of your stories :)

Reply

Holly Fister
17:36 Mar 29, 2021

Thank you so much, Claire!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
R. B. Leyland
17:07 Mar 29, 2021

Honestly, when she ripped up those flowers and her dad held her, that was perfect. Think it captures the explosion of emotions that was inevitably going to come out, then the fatherly instinct. From then on it was the happy recovery that almost brought tears. Loved that she was so down and her friends did everything they could to cheer her up - again, makes the whole story feel real. Well done!

Reply

Holly Fister
17:16 Mar 29, 2021

Thank you so much! I haven’t quite been in her shoes, so I had to imagine her emotional rollercoaster, but it’s affirming to me that it touched you. Thank you 🙏🏻

Reply

R. B. Leyland
17:25 Mar 29, 2021

You have a great imagination in that case. It really came through :) you're welcome!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Beth Connor
17:00 Mar 29, 2021

This was such a well-done story- haunting and hopeful at the same time. I loved your opening paragraph, it really drew me in. The fact I could ride along on Rose's journey through her experience drew me in and kept me invested. Excellent story!

Reply

Holly Fister
17:03 Mar 29, 2021

Thank you so much Beth! I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment! 🙂

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Tatiana Claudy
03:26 Mar 29, 2021

I like the story because it surprises - I could not anticipate the crush from the beginning. I like how you described such a wide array of emotions ... and how you used flowers in different parts of your story... You are such a talented storyteller! Thank you!

Reply

Holly Fister
12:15 Mar 29, 2021

Thank you so much Tatiana! I appreciate you reading and commenting.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Jess Kris
19:03 Mar 28, 2021

This is amazing, Holly! I loved how quickly the accident happened and how the audience doesn't know exactly what it means at the time, just as Rose is oblivious to what the accident has caused. The way you illustrated the scene with direct action painted a very accurate image in my mind of what the accident would have been like. I also really loved how you traced and hinted at the concept of survivors' guilt. Very effective!

Reply

Holly Fister
19:48 Mar 28, 2021

Thank you for reading and commenting, Jessie! Yes, I wanted most of the story to be focused on her recovery, and hopefully the short beginning prevents you from being as sad about them but more sad for her, although I didn’t really plan it that way! Thank you so much for your feedback!

Reply

Jess Kris
05:16 Mar 29, 2021

Yes, it most definitely did. Keep at it, Holly! I'll be holding an eye out for your new stories.

Reply

Holly Fister
12:14 Mar 29, 2021

Thanks Jessie! I look forward to reading more of yours as well!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Zelda C. Thorne
07:08 Mar 28, 2021

Wow so sad but powerful. Loved the way you wrote the crash, very effective. Her emotions felt very real, shock, guilt etc. I also felt for the Dad trying to help his little girl. So many emotions! Well done.

Reply

Holly Fister
13:36 Mar 28, 2021

Aw thank you so much Rachel!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
K. Antonio
02:10 Mar 27, 2021

I knew right from the title that this was going to be sad. I saw you were having difficulties with that, so I'm glad it worked out and it ends up reflective of the piece. I'm a sucker for these types of sad pieces with a bit of hope in the end. Enjoyed the story a lot, nicely written and emotional. The use of language was very appropriate for the "high school tag" and the story's reveal of what was happening with the narrator throughout was attractive and made me really feel invested in her. Thanks for sharing!

Reply

Holly Fister
03:10 Mar 27, 2021

Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I was still second guessing my title, so it makes me feel better to hear it fits the piece well.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
H L Mc Quaid
14:48 Mar 26, 2021

A tragic story with a hopeful spark at the end. Great job. Only thing i'm not sure about is the title, as it seems a tad whimsical for such a serious story. Anyway, well done!

Reply

Holly Fister
14:51 Mar 26, 2021

Thank you, and yes I was struggling with a name for it this time! Still working on that I suppose.

Reply

H L Mc Quaid
14:55 Mar 26, 2021

maybe 'five petals' ?

Reply

Holly Fister
14:56 Mar 26, 2021

Hm, yeah that’s a good thought!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Holly Fister
14:55 Mar 26, 2021

I originally named it Rose. It could be that or Only Rose since she was the only one left... usually the title seems obvious to me, but not this time!

Reply

H L Mc Quaid
15:00 Mar 26, 2021

hmmm. if you wanted to keep rose in the title, maybe "a single rose" or "the last rose" "broken roses".... But the five petals is also a recurring theme. If you knew what that flower was, you could say "a daisy for rose" or something. or a five-petaled rose...etc etc. haha.

Reply

Holly Fister
15:19 Mar 26, 2021

Or “Flowers for Rose” since she received them throughout the whole story? Haha, so many options!

Reply

Holly Fister
15:22 Mar 26, 2021

Buttercups kindof look like what I was picturing but I don’t think I should use that since I don’t say that word in the story.

Reply

Holly Fister
15:30 Mar 26, 2021

Thanks for brainstorming with me, Heather! 🌼

Reply

Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 2 replies
Mike Henry
09:43 Mar 26, 2021

Great story, Holly! I enjoyed it immensely.

Reply

Holly Fister
12:08 Mar 26, 2021

Thank you so much, Mike! I enjoyed writing her sarcasm.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Chris Morris
22:17 Apr 07, 2021

Hi Holly, finally getting round to reading your story! I really liked this - I thought the story was going in a pretty dark and horrible direction but there was so much light here. You portrayed someone experiencing survivor's guilt really well and I was glad to see her get some form of her life back at the end. Really well written too, well done.

Reply

Holly Fister
12:18 Apr 08, 2021

Thank you so much Chris!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Angel {Readsy}
05:09 Apr 03, 2021

Nice story sister

Reply

Holly Fister
12:01 Apr 03, 2021

Thank you!

Reply

Angel {Readsy}
00:03 Apr 23, 2021

Kindly read my new story I need to talk to a fairy

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Nina Chyll
22:33 Mar 29, 2021

I love the idea of trying a teenage in this very final way. I also really like how flowers were incorporated into the story in so many ways: the protagonist’s name, the drawing on her hand, the hospital etc. - you’ve made the prompt feel full of life in spite of all the death. If I was to suggest something, I think this could easily be expanded into a 20k-word novella. The plot doesn’t exactly feel rushed, but I felt a little moved along at some points, the word limit dictating the pace. This is of course a subjective observation.

Reply

Holly Fister
23:12 Mar 29, 2021

Thanks Nina! You’re right, I did squeeze a lot of action in 3000 words- I usually do. And I had a similar thought that this one would be fun to expand into a bigger story. Maybe when I get off this addictive short story kick, haha! Thanks for reading!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Elizabeth Inkim
19:13 Mar 29, 2021

Hey Holly! Beautiful story; I love how you wove the flowers into the story. The dialogue was funny, raw, and so full of grief sometimes that I made them feel all the more real; well done. I, too, actually wrote a story this week, the same prompt too; it's called "Nothing Gold Can Stay", and I completely pantsed it. I am usually a devoted outline, but this time I threw my outline to the side and wrote this instead. I'd love to know what you think.

Reply

Holly Fister
19:46 Mar 29, 2021

Thank you Elizabeth! Yes, I’d be happy to read yours this afternoon!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
John Steckley
19:00 Mar 28, 2021

Your words created pictures that were easy for my mind's eye to see. And the idea that something trapped you but then saved your life is a good one. Great going.

Reply

Holly Fister
19:55 Mar 28, 2021

Thank you for reading and commenting, John! That’s a cool way of putting it!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply