The Dandelion Crown

This was a short story I wrote for a virtual writing workshop back in June, through Denison University, based off an awesome prompt. The story also won second place in my local library adult short story competition, so I’m excited to share this with you all! Please leave a like and comment 🙂 Also, if you have any requests for thematic topics you’d like me to write about, feel free to contact me!

The memory danced in her mind the way a firefly sways in the night, flashes of glittering, bright nostalgia blinking on and off. Calli remembered picking the yellow, weedy dandelion under the ocean of a sky; then she plucked another—and didn’t stop until her fingers wrapped around a dozen, plump, viridescent stems. When she’d collected her treasure—the fluffy, bright tops shining like pirate’s loot in the sun’s vibrant rays— she twirled the ends around and around in an indefinable loop and wove the flowers together with the delicacy of handling a newborn.

            This last task, Calli reminisced as she sat secluded from the rest of her family, was the most tedious. Hours upon hours of attempting perfection; of finding the most durable flower stalks to utilize for her creation, and yet she was very rarely pleased with the end result. Her finished product was always blemished, according to her piercing examination; the dandelions were too stringy, or fragile, or wilted to be of much use to her.

            As the remembrance played on inside her head like a perpetual movie reel, Calli waited with her hands clasped on her lap in the stark yellow hospital room. Her mother and father reclined across from her, both asleep, escaping to fantastical dreams instead of remaining in a dreadful reality which was plagued with anxiety.

            Calli evaded sleep continuously, as it only offered frightening, shadow-cloaked nightmares for her future, and instead relied on her memories to provide her with consolation.

            “Calliope? We’re ready for you,” a voice said, butchering the pronunciation of her name, and Calli jerked her head up to see a frizzy-haired, unfamiliar nurse with a rigid posture, sickly sweet smile, and cold, emotionless eyes.

            “Where’s Miss Megan?” Calli asked softly as her parents snored on.

            “She’s on temporary leave. But you’re a big girl now, Calliope. Almost sixteen, I hear. You’ll do just fine without her,” the woman said in a nasally, overconfident tone. “Now come along. Doctor Wolf shouldn’t be kept waiting. He’s a very busy man…”

            Calli didn’t hear the rest of the nurse’s chattering because she was too preoccupied with shaking her parents awake. It took all of her energy and focus to do so; her mind was spinning with questions about her missing friend and her limbs refused to move unless she deliberately instructed them to. It was like she was stuck in a slow motion, underwater scene where she could only vaguely hear what was happening and only barely see through her hazy surroundings. So, as her parents walked in front of her down the hall, she gripped her mother’s hand like it was the last thing tethering her to the earth.

            In some ways, it was.

            Inside the office, the new hire—apparently called Nurse Angie—fired a round of routine questions at Calli, who mumbled her usual responses as her anxiety grew to a new height. Her heart yearned for comfort; for Miss Megan, who had provided a perky atmosphere in the midst of a tumultuous cancer treatment and who had acted as her second therapist.

            What had happened to her?

            She certainly didn’t believe Angie’s ‘temporary leave’ explanation because Miss Megan would have emailed or texted. She always did when she was going to be absent for appointments. This time, Calli had received no warning, and it caused her heart rate to skyrocket; her palms to grow sweaty.

            When Doctor Wolf finally made an appearance, Calli drifted off again into the great expanse of memories that filled her mind. She made it a point not to listen to the doctor’s ramblings, because it would upset her too greatly, so she attentively stared at the portrait of the girl with the dandelions.

            There had been an attempt to pursue a happy, cheerful theme throughout the children’s hospital, which resulted in multitudes of yellow hues painted on the walls. Every time Calli sat in the aggressively bright waiting room, she remembered this painting in the doctor’s office, and was able to find solace in another place and another time, when life seemed abundant with imagination. She remembered raising the petite, dandelion crown to her own head for the first time, placing it atop her maple curls. She remembered standing with a smile and watching her dazzling reflection in the stagnant, calming surface of the pond. And, while the weeds she wore were certainly not flawless—some might accuse them of being dirty and unsanitary, and she herself had dubbed them as sorrowfully bent under the summer’s thick heat—she remembered a single thought from that day, which she was never able to grasp again, not after the treatment:

I am beautiful.

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