Thorns

I toyed with my pink rose, twirling the stubby throned stem in my fingers. I cut this from Old Man Courtney’s yard. I had walked down to my old high school and this yard across the street from my school was a signpost in my memory. He’s probably long dead and the ranch house has most likely changed hands, but the pink roses remain. Beautiful. This one is perfect. I shoved the flower in my laptop bag and return to my coffee. Five minutes later, Kayleigh walked up to the coffeehouse.
She checked her reflection in the shop glass. Looping a stray curl behind her ear, she came in. My body went on alert, my chest tighten, and I fought not to hunch my shoulders. I pretended to type on my laptop. Kayleigh was heavier than she’d been in high school. I surveyed her over my Americano. Her makeup was contoured and skillful, her body softer than her shape during her cheerleading days. She wore a black turtleneck dress and denim jacket, strictly Walmart and cheap knee high boots. I smiled into my coffee, thinking of how long she must’ve took to great ready.
I fake typed and watched her wait. I watched her eyes on the door. I watched until the glow of anticipation dimmed and her eyes were crushed stubs of cigarettes. After her second iced coffee I opened my Plenty of Fish Jordan account and pressed send. They had spent seven months texting. I came up with excuses why Jordan couldn’t call and reasons why they couldn’t meet up. After all this time I was an expert at giving enough to keep my online lovers on the line. I began to pack up as Kayleigh read the last text Jordan would ever send. As I slid my laptop into my bag, the rose from Courtney’s garden scratched my thumb. I squeezed the rose in my fist. I’ve done this so many times that I could feel her hurt gurgle up from the floor, fill the room, and drown Kayleigh.
I worked through most of my yearbook meting out punishments. Spent, I stood up. I listened to Kayleigh stifle a gasp and head for the ladies room. I stepped in front of her and we bumped hard. I’m taller, thinner, and stronger than the pudgy freshman who ran to and from school because the cool girls wouldn’t let me have peace on the school bus. Without seeing, Kayleigh looked up at me apologized and scurried away. I realized I had bled on her denim jacket just a little. I dropped my crushed flower at her table and headed out.

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