Flower crowns

Olivia Tu | Art by Vivian Chen

    A bouquet of fresh daisies lay scattered across her nightstand.
    A nice surprise, really–she couldn’t remember the last time anyone had gifted her anything. Those flowers, albeit small, seemed to glow in the inky moonlight, bearing pale petals that parted to form toothy grins–grins which softened the suffocating air.
    Her arms threatened to buckle as she tried to haul herself up, ignoring the ache in her bones. Strangely, it was the first time in years she’d felt a flicker of curiosity; an emotion foreign to her dragging days that spun around like a perpetual carousel. With her tiredness overridden by impulse, her itching hands crept towards the nightstand. The daisies came with an unexplainable essence she was drawn to, their aroma trying to awaken memories lost in the whirlwind of yesterday…memories that shoved against her chest, but didn’t form a coherent picture.
    Just as her fingertips brushed against the stems, she heard the unmistakable sound of an object hitting the window.
    A flurry of hushed giggles followed shortly, causing the woman to pinpoint her attention to the window, only to find the landscape barren, as always. Before she had the chance to turn away, however, the ruddy face of a girl peeked through the window, grinning wildly. The woman’s heart skipped a beat. There was something about the way the light illuminated the girl’s frizzy, auburn hair, the way dimples emerged from her cheery smile; a sentiment that rendered her speechless.
    The little girl waved her arms, bouncing up and down, motioning towards the closed window. The fervor in her eyes was contagious–as if in a trance, the woman found herself slipping off the bed, her body feeling surprisingly light when she stepped into her slippers. It was almost feather-like, how she felt when moving – donning her jacket in swift motions, unlatching the window with nimble fingers. It was almost uncanny how the pain in her body had faded into the night, giving her a youthful spring, something she found herself longing for from time to time. The little girl reached out her hand silently, placing the woman’s worn palm in her smooth one. And despite the chilly wind that welcomed her outside, she felt wrapped in a warm embrace, from their interlocked, enclosed hands.
    The little girl led the woman as they ran. Sloping mountains with ragged edges, forests aligned with brushy trees, glassy lakes – they all blurred past, splashes of muted color that adorned the world around with a distinct sereneness. It wasn’t until they reached a wide hill that they ceased their journey. The woman gulped in cool lungfuls of air, but oddly, she didn’t feel exhausted–quite the opposite. She felt rejuvenated. Her gray hair, once a fiery auburn, fell down on her shoulders neatly, a contrast to the little girl’s hair, which stuck to all sides of her face after being tousled astray, a sight that almost made her laugh. Up, up, up, the hill they trekked, finally settling on the wide expanse, revealing a sight to behold. A meadow, washed in night blue. Filled with a sea of daisies, like individual iridescent pearls rolling in the fields. On the top of the hill, the wind quieted alongside the girl’s energy – present yet contained. It blew through branches, jingled leaves, and rocked the prairie clovers, like a whispered lullaby.

    The girl plucked four flowers. She gave half to the woman, the delicate petals falling into her palm like a bittersweet caress. All her attention was directed onto the girl’s hands, which twisted the flower stems deftly, knotting them together. Flopping onto the grass, she picked another daisy and tied it to the growing chain.
Beside her, the woman sat down and observed the girl’s hypnotic movements. Something about it made her feel lost in the clutches of time. Maybe it was the innocent bliss of the girl’s curled lips or the wandering clouds–she sensed an awakening crack in the horizon, eliciting the memory of sunshine nestling in her cupped palms, the daylong warbling of swallows. Her heart stirred. It had been a while since she’d felt such beauty, such transcendental calmness. The woman’s hands moved without thought, weaving daisies with an unknown
familiarity. All around, fireflies had begun to breach the darkness, their light serving as a hundred lanterns, commemorating. She was lost in her own world. A place where she could frolic for hours without tiring, a place where she could lay on the hillside for hours without having to worry. She only snapped out, when the little girl nudged her arm. In her palm, rested a daisy crown, bright petals as pure as childhood.
    “Enjoy,” she whispered.
    The first word she’d spoken, as well as the last.
    The woman traced the outline of the flowers and stared longingly as the girl sprinted down the hill, lively as ever. There was a dull pain with her gone–she didn’t want to forget this night, nor did she want it to end.
    Listening to the girl’s words, she placed the crown of daisies on her hair and gazed into
the night, cherishing the tranquility