Stories

The Winter Flower

by Ericka S., Age 17 , Grade 12, Cornwall Central High School, Cornwall, NEW YORK USA
Teacher: Mrs. Schebesta

Part I

“One night he threw me into a wall and started to choke me. It was a nightmare and I couldn’t believe it was real. ‘Why did you make me do that?’ he asked and cried into my shoulder, his tears diluting my blood. The next morning I woke up sore and bruised all over. I turned and looked over at his pillow and there was a bouquet of flowers. They became his own fucked up way of saying he’s sorry.”

    “I just don’t get why you bothered to stick around for another year when you were completely capable of leaving! Wouldn’t he explain to you why he was being so abusive?”

    “His excuse was always that he was afraid to lose me because he loved me so much. He did the things he did because they were his way of showing me that he loved me.”

My eyes nearly roll to the back of my head as I let out a huff of frustration. “You weren’t some helpless little girl, Anna, you’re a grown woman!” I snapped. I didn’t mean to sound so harsh, but I couldn’t help myself. My body begins to tremble with a slight, insuppressible shake of rage and disgust that, for a moment, took over my body as anger and disbelief flooded my mind. A faint gasp of disdain escaped from her quivering lips. When I the pain and fear in her tear-brimmed eyes, I had realized what I had done. “Anna, I-” I pause, choking back tears of my own as I watched hers fall. “I’m sorry, I really am. I just feel confused and frustrated, and all this negative talk isn’t helping the situation. And I certainly didn’t mean to blame you for any of what happened to you.  I just need you to help me understand, Anna. Please,” I muster between sobs, “help me understand.”

    She walked into my open arms where we found solace in the safety of the other’s embrace. “I wanted to leave him, I really did, but I just couldn’t find it in me to do it. If I left, what would I do?” Tears lined the edges of her eyes as she stepped out of my arms and made her way to the couch. I sat with her as she took a shaky, deep breath in, summoning the strength to finish. “Jason, you just don’t understand. He’d whisper in my ear, ‘Why can’t you see how lucky you are? I’m the only one who would take you.’ Eventually, I began to believe that it was my fault and felt like I was on a rollercoaster that I couldn’t get off. I was afraid of him and scared to leave, but I figured he must be sorry because I’d always find flowers on the bed.”

    Her voice trailed off and she dabbed at her wet eyes with the back of her grey knit sweater’s sleeve. No one looks good in their darkest moments, but it’s those moments that make us who we are; and in spite of her makeup becoming a bit smudged from the wetness of her tears, she still looked like an actual work of art. Constructed by the hands of angels, their work no less than impeccable when they painted stars in her eyes. She always seems to disagree, though, because she can’t understand why they sculpted her in Heaven if she was destined to be damned.

My eyes drifted to the floor, sickened with an overwhelming grief that surrounded me like my own flesh. An immense sense of guilt ignited within me, every second burning hotter and brighter, filling my throat with ash. “Anna?”

“Yea?”

I sighed and looked up to her where she sat cross-legged facing me, calmly looking at me as if she had already put our argument behind her. She scooted closer to me, kissing my shoulder before resting her head upon it. I took her hand in mine and kissed the top of her head.

“Is that why you don’t like flowers?” I whispered into her hair.

I felt her body shake as her laughter brought light to the looming dark cloud that seemed to cover us. A gentle kiss graced my lips and she looked at me and smiled. “Yea, that’s why I don’t like flowers.”

Only when I hear the soft whir of my laptop fan did I realize I had spaced out. I shake my head in hopes of also shaking away this morning’s events from my thoughts, and refocus. The screen flicked back on as I slide my index finger across the mousepad, and in doing so I nearly drop the computer off my lap as music began blaring from one of the numerous tabs I had apparently previously opened. My heart races as it attempts to recover from sudden shock, and I begin to feel it’s deep and frantic pulse in my ears as I scan through the tabs to find the source of what felt like a heart attack. I browse through and exit out of different social media and news sites until I find the one playing music and close it. Looking to the bottom right hand corner of the screen, the time reading 2:35 and almost closed it to leave when I notice one more browser was open. I click it open and see the last portion of the article I hadn’t finished.

Those who have been victims of domestic abuse may suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). The most common symptoms associated with PTSD are agitation, hypervigilance, flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and depressed moods. If a loved one suffers from PTSD:

  1. Don’t pressure him/her into talking- It can be difficult for them to talk about their trauma. Help them by offering acceptance and understanding rather than talking.

  2. Know their triggers-  Certain sights, sounds, smells, people/places, and objects associated with the trauma they experienced.

  3. Don’t take their symptoms personally- If they seem distant, irritable, or angry, remember that it may not have anything to do with you or your relationship.

  4. Become educated on PTSD- The better you understand the symptoms, effects, and treatment, the better help you can provide to your loved one.

    I close the laptop and, setting it aside on the couch, head towards the bedroom to change into something nicer than the black sweatpants I’ve worn for the past two days. Shuffling through the dresser drawers, I settle with a basic white t-shirt and the new pair of Nike joggers Anna had given to me for my birthday. I throw on the first pair of sneakers I see, grab my keys from the nightstand, and just about headed out to when I remembered I have no clue where I’m going. In an effort to make up for lost time, I sprint into the kitchen and grab the therapy office’s address, finally being able to leave.

    Outside the apartment building, downy flakes fall effortlessly past the glow of 24th St. lights, a sprinkle of white flurries cascading against the night sky. The pavement and sidewalks had begun to accumulate the fresh evening snow and, cautiously, I walk to my car, careful to avoid slipping. I let the car warm up for about four minutes before heading out.

The drive through Denver never ceases to amaze me as there is beauty around every corner. Beauty can be found in the mist under a city lamp’s light shining in a blanket of rain, Denver lights glimmering like jewels in the puddles that hold the night’s secrets. The city is especially alluring during the winter holiday season when the snow twinkles in the sun during the day, and under the reflection of Christmas lights at night.

    I pull into a parking spot outside the psychologist’s building and wait, letting the car run so it stays warm. I pull down the mirror to quickly check my appearance before Anna walks out. The white surrounding the blue of my eyes had become a bit red from staring at a computer screen all afternoon and little strands of black hair poke out of the top of my head. I look to my right and find an old, quarter-filled water bottle at the foot of the passenger seat and pour a little in my hand in an attempt at flattening and controlling my hair. With that, I flip the mirror shut and notice Anna step out of the building, breath visible in the winter air as she hastily pulls on her long white coat, and walks over to the car. She opens the door and sits down, cupping my face in her cold hands and giving me a kiss before putting on her seatbelt. “Thank you for picking me up again.”

    I back out and begin to head back to our apartment. “No problem. So how was it today?”

    “It was pretty good. I talked about what happened between us this morning and he said that it’s a good thing it happened. He said it’s good that you’re willing to understand and listen because it can help you better comprehend what I had to live through.” I felt her fingers intertwine with mine and I let a little smirk sneak onto the corner of my mouth, eyes never leaving the road. “Thank you.”

    “For what?”

    “Just for being there for me through everything. I love you so much and I don’t say thank you enough for everything you do for me.”

    I lift my hand and kiss her fingers. “I love you so much more.” I let go of her hand and prepared to make a u-turn at the upcoming light. “I want to take you somewhere.”

    Puzzled, her right eyebrow lifts with curiosity. “Where are we going? It’s already three and it’s gonna get dark soon.”

    I smirk, “It’s a surprise.”

    Heading north on I-25, we watch the city lights dissipate behind us and become foothills. When we began to enter the mountains, Anna started to squirm in her seat, each passing second more agonizing than the last as her curiosity burned within. Every attempt she made to squeeze information out of me was futile, and I couldn’t help but laugh when she got so annoyed with me she stared out the window in silence, pouting like a kid whose parent said they couldn’t eat dessert because they didn’t finish their veggies.

    After about an hour and twenty minutes, the familiar rock slab on the side of the road that reads Estes Park appeared, and Anna’s face lit up, her body trembling with excitement. Driving through the little town she points out The Stanley Hotel and, for the million-and-first-time, mentions how she wants to spend one night there in no room other than 237, just like The Shining. We pass the nativity scene on the front lawn of town hall and watch the little shops outlined in twinkling Christmas lights pass by as we exit the town.

I continued driving until I saw the gate to Rocky Mountain National Park, and about a half mile into the park, I pulled into a parking lot where we put on our jackets and got out of the car. In front of us was a metal railing accompanied by a plaque by it with facts about the mountains and the park. Anna takes my hand and we walk over to the railing the wind kissed our bare faces, leaving behind rosy imprints of the cold winter weather.

    She leaned on the railing overlooking the mountains and said, “God, what an amazing view.” then looked back at me, smiling.

    I looked at her and thought, God, what an amazing view, but I just smiled back and said, “Yea, it is.” because she is the sky and I could do nothing but stare, hoping one day a star would fall; a mere glimpse of how she shines for me.

    We stood behind that railing and watched the sky turn from orange to a hundred shades of pink to dark navy blue. I took Anna by the waist and pulled her in tight, heat emanates from her body and encompasses me, calming my every nerve. “I’m sorry for what I said this morning Anna, I had no right to get angry the way I did. I just need to come to terms with the fact I’ll never fully understand what it is you went through with him, and the only thing I can really do to help is listen. I don’t know what I’ll be doing in five, ten, twenty years from now, all I know is I want to be with you. And every day for the rest of forever I swear to you I will do anything and everything I can to help and support you. I’m so in love with you Anna.”

    A small tear falls from the corner of her enigmatic golden eyes and she beams up at me. We exchange a kiss engulfed in the fires of passion and consumed by the embers of love, as if it would be our last, though we know it wouldn’t. “I love you Jason. More than anything.

    There’s a story behind every person, a reason they are who they are. They aren’t like that just because they want to and knowing how to show love and support isn’t always easy. You can’t just force force them to get better. After all, something in the past created them, and sometimes it’s impossible to fix it. But with time and patience, you can help them heal by just being together.



Part II

The rough dew covered needles protrude from the fingers of the pretty blue spruce outside our living room window. I love days like today, when the sun is out and my mind is clear like the sky. I sit on the couch watching her in awe as she lives her carefree life, and daddy, too, gazes at her, enamored, grateful to be a part of it.

She floats through the kitchen and prepares my lunch, and in doing so I begin to notice how perfect you are for me. Each hour I long for the moment I may finally be by your side again. It’s the little things you do like hold me in your arms or kiss me good morning and we watch a movie. My favorite thing in the world is just spending time with you. You love me and daddy through the discord of this world and the chaos of your mind, and I thank you.

Her smile warms my soul as she walks over to me, placing the plate of food in front of me and kisses the top of my head. Lips like soft velvet and skin warm as coffee, her gentle touch sets fire to my skin as if just bathed in the rays of the spring sun overhead. She’s the ever changing winter wind. A gust of clean, crisp air, roaring through the living room tousling up your hair. She whistles through doorways as she sails down the halls. Her laughter gives flight to paper planes, but her silence will convince you the trees will never sway again. She pushes the clouds out of the sky and stirs the wildest seas. Some days you’ll feel foolish for wearing gloves, other days you’ll regret not bringing a coat. And no matter how you think you may know her, you could never predict her behavior.

I know her simply as “mom,” and in my short life, I’ve yet to meet someone more perfect than her. Thick, molten gold-brown hair falls in magnificent ripples down her back. Daddy says that she doesn’t like flowers, but there she stands, radiance emanating from her figure even more by the little blue columbine I picked for her from our garden that she now wears behind her ear.

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