EPISODE TWO: I DIDN'T KNOW I LIKED ROSES, BUT I LIKE THEM ON YOU
Trigger warning: Suicide, strong language
DAISY CHAINS by BLUE COUTELL an episodic novelette
episode two: i didn’t know i liked roses, but i like them on you
It was a perfect day, Astrid thinks. “What are you doing?” Astrid calls out across the field. Ivy is off a little way, crouched down with indescribable grace. It’s enough to make Astrid’s breath catch. Ivy’s blonde hair hangs lightly as she plucks only the best daisies from the grass. Approaching Astrid, she drops a bounty of them at her feet like an offering to a goddess. Ivy gets to her knees and splays out the wildflowers between them. There must be hundreds. Ivy tucks a bit of Astrid’s dark hair behind her ear, earning a kiss to the ‘dusky rose’ lipstick-drenched lips. “I love you,” Astrid says like it’s the last time she’ll ever say it. There’s a slight quiver—the slight melancholy barely perceivable to those who really listen. Ivy’s green eyes just light up. Astrid begins splitting stem sections off meticulously. Her fingers deftly weave and create the beginning of a crown. After a prolonged moment of nothing but spring’s soundtrack, Astrid crowns Ivy. She kisses the queen. Ivy grabs a couple of daisies of her own and mimics the movements, though her work is not as precise. She remembers learning this as a kid, but being a kid was a long time ago. Sixteen is the precipice of adulthood. “Did you read it?” Astrid probes. Ivy’s face screws up in a grimace that she automatically tries to erase … but fails. Astrid’s brows go into a deep furrow. Astrid had given Ivy her copy of J. D. Salinger’s A Perfect Day for Bananafish. “I found the ending to be far too predictable, if I’m being honest.” “Predictable? Explain yourself, Queen Ivy.” As if in a peace offering, she removes her crown and places it on Astrid. They can rule together. She really believes that. “He crashed the car. On purpose, too. He wanted it over from the start.” Ivy says it so casually; she’s focusing on working on her daisy chain. “He wouldn’t hurt his wife.” Astrid’s response makes Ivy guffaw. “He straight up says she represents everything he threw aside after the war. Babe, you’re in denial.” “Okay. Fine. Sybil? The bit about the swimsuit? He sees blue. Oceans. Tranquility. But she’s wearing yellow. A representation of something happier. He can’t see happiness anymore. What say you?” Ivy keeps chaining, pondering a response, no goal in mind. She mauls a few daisies in the process. She sucks at this. “We are the Seymours of the world, I suppose,” Ivy says. “I can’t see it either.” Astrid purses her lips. “He’s trying to find it though. Through music, innocence … Sybil was just a symbol. He wants to believe the world isn’t total shit.” Astrid shrugs. Ivy sneaks a look at Astrid’s hands deftly working a fresh crown. She’s working at twice the speed and twice the skill. “Jesus, Astrid. The whole thing with the kid is gross. The way he touches her? It’s like subtle, but it’s … gross. And fucking bananafish? Could have been any other fish in the world, but J. D. Salinger chose the closest thing he could to a dick.” Astrid looks more dismayed by the second. Ivy wants to wipe the expression off her face like a smudge of dirt on her cheek but decides to let Astrid think less of her. She deserves it. She hates that story, but how could she outright tell that to Astrid? “You’re getting it all wrong. The bananafish goes to the holes where the bananas are and eats them until they get too fat and die. Seymour is the fish. He has all these goddamn feelings and emotions, and powerful shit inside him, and they just keep bottling up. He’s not talking to anyone about anything. He just goes to his hole and dies. And you know what? The only honest communication he has with his wife is that bullet through his head.” Astrid is out of breath, and Ivy keeps her eyes on the daisies, so she doesn’t see the quiver on Astrid’s lip or the tears lining her eyes. Astrid is waiting to be acknowledged, but Ivy seems impassive. “Are you the bananafish, Astrid?” Ivy says finally, setting down her messy, imperfect crown. “Is that why it means so much to you?” Ivy’s eyes meet Astrid’s. She reaches out and wipes the tears away. When Ivy looks down, she sees the stark dark metal of a gun in Astrid’s lap. “Babe, what are you doing? Just talk to me.” Astrid shakes her head, rejecting the idea of consolation. If Ivy didn’t understand the story, there was nothing else to be said. She was hoping Ivy would come with her. They’d both be crowned queens, and they could rule the bananafish kingdom. But Ivy didn’t have cigarette burns in her arms. Astrid stays silent. She just blinks back her wet lashes and kisses Ivy. Ivy hoped if she kissed her well enough, she could make this all go away. But when Astrid pulls away, the gun still sits between them in a sea of daisies. “I know it’s shit right now, but we just gotta get through school. We just gotta hang on a little longer.” Ivy looks at the ugly gun, too scared to touch it. Yet, she is confident Astrid doesn’t mean it. Astrid is the strong one. Astrid has been in love with Ivy ever since their first day. But Ivy doesn’t see that all chains, even ones made of something beautiful, are still chains. Astrid grips the heavy gun and puts it to her temple. Just like Seymour. “I love you, Ivy.” Before Ivy can reach, the trigger clicks and the daisies are painted red. The daisies rise in the wind of the collapse. Ivy’s hands shake in horror. She grabs the gun and tries to remember how to breathe. One bullet left. Astrid had left it just for her.