DAISY CHAINS by BLUE COUTELL an episodic novelette
episode five: the innocent questions
“Babe, how do you feel about roses?” Ivy runs her hands over the pile of daisies between them. The stems poke gently into the palm of her hand. “Like they’re better left alone,” Astrid says seriously. Ivy runs a hand through her own blonde hair with a sharp exhale. “Wow, okay. What do you have against roses, exactly? They’re easily the prettiest flower. Undoubtedly the most romantic.” “People grow them for show. Just to be pretty. You have to groom them, to maintain that aesthetic. The thorns remind us that they are more than just a pretty flower; yet if you get caught on one, you deign to curse the roses and not yourself.” “It’s almost like you’ve thought about this before,” Ivy says after an extended moment. She is still running her hand through the pile of daisies. A small smile turns at Astrid’s lips. “You know an awful lot about a person that way. Just by asking innocent questions. As for you—you’re the rose. But I knew that already.” Ivy’s eyes look deeper in the sunshine, unnaturally gem-like. “What do you mean?” “You tell me.” Ivy gives out a sigh. It is disconcerting, being with Astrid. She always has a way of knowing everything about Ivy, without even being told. It was those innocent questions, that have largely gone unnoticed until now. What else has she blindly given away? “Okay, fine. What’s your favorite flower, Astrid? Let me see if I can peg you.” “Daisies,” comes Astrid’s instant reply. “Okay. Daisies are beautiful weeds. Weeds happen to grow wherever they want, with no regard for anyone or anything around them. When they grow, they spread like wildfire.” “So, you’re saying I’m a weed? Just infiltrating one by one?” “I’m saying, that you don’t need permission from anyone to do as you please. And when you decide to grow, you don’t stop for anything.” Astrid raises a brow at Ivy, trying hard not to break into a smile. “You’re a natural,” Astrid confirms, making Ivy beam. “Will you teach me how to make a daisy chain?” Astrid hands Ivy a few choice daisies and goes into the simple steps of splitting the stem. “You’ve gotta make sure the daisy you’re picking has as much stem as possible to work with. Easier to clip it than to not have enough,” Astrid says, showing Ivy how to weave the stems through the small holes. Ivy takes control of the flowers and tries it on her own, with unsteady hands. “I’m kind of terrible at this,” Ivy admits. “Just takes practice. I’ve been making them since before I can even remember. Mom would take me here every week after church,” Astrid says, a small cooling on her skin at bringing up her mother. “Why’d she stop?” “She decided extracurricular church was more important.” “You go to church a lot, huh?” Ivy says it with part of her lower lip pinned by her teeth as she struggles to combine the daisies together. “Depends. Sometimes I get away with needing more time for homework. Sometimes I don’t.” “Astrid … I don’t believe there is a God.” Ivy says it like a true confession, like Astrid is a person worthy of absolution. It jars Astrid to hear it. “Why would you say that?” Astrid says, judgment absent in the cloud of curiosity. “Because too many bad things happen to good people. God seems not to care, if he exists at all.” “Haven’t you read the Bible? You’re not supposed to expect Heaven until you do the work to get there. Life isn’t supposed to be struggle-free; it’s supposed to test you.” Astrid recites the things she’s learned all her life without effort. “And you believe what the Bible says about homosexuality?” “I don’t know what I think anymore,” Astrid says honestly. She corrects Ivy’s strategy in forming her own crown. Astrid still isn’t sure she is actually a lesbian. She liked Ivy. Quite a lot. She was exceptionally pretty; her lips were the color of a rose. It was perhaps the only time Astrid has ever stopped to admire something that can make you bleed if you aren’t paying enough attention. Ivy was Astrid’s rose. “Me either,” Ivy says shrugging her shoulders. She holds out the chain on her index finger for Astrid to inspect. “Not bad for a first go,” Astrid says respectfully, fingering the work on the chain. “What happened to your arm?” Ivy asks, her eyes catching on a couple of dark purple bruises along Astrid’s right forearm. Her cold hand grips Astrid’s wrist in concern. When Astrid looks down at the bruising, she realizes it looks much worse in the harsh daylight than in her dimly-lit home. She retracts her arm, but it doesn’t make the revelation go away. “Playing with my dog. Got too rough,” Astrid lies. She’s told it before, it comes out easy. No fight in the lie. “Oh,” Ivy says uneasily. Ivy has been listening to lies all her life; she knows one when she hears one. But she was still getting to know Astrid; it didn’t seem like her place to question what was likely more than a playful dog. “Happens often,” Astrid encourages. “He’s a big dog.” Astrid doesn’t know if Ivy is buying any of this, because the furrow of Ivy’s brow says she isn’t. Ivy doesn’t vocalize a reply, instead opts to weave her fingers with Astrid’s. “Babe, I’ve been thinking hard. I want you to be my girlfriend.” “What? Me?” Astrid blinks. “Yes, you.” Ivy laughs lightly. “You’re beautiful and brainy, and I think your daisy addiction is endearing. I like who I am when I’m with you.” She squeezes Astrid’s hand, who then returns the gesture. “Yeah, sure.” Astrid smiles, finding it hard to erase for the first time in her life. Ivy smiles big and leans in. Their bodies hover over the pile of daisies between them, where they meet in a kiss. Astrid feels a bit more alive when she’s with Ivy. She didn’t have a lot of time left, but if she can spend it with Ivy, it might be enough to make it worth it. That train platform changed everything and nothing.