Midnight’s Flower

rose

(Note – I wrote this in 2010.  You’ll see references to things from that era.  Back then I did not write poetry.  Ever.  So the poems in here are, well, they are supposed to be written by high school kids, so…  This is unedited, just as I “found” it.)

“What’s this?”  Zachary Wooldridge picked a spiral-bound notebook out of the weeds.  He was sitting on a rock in his favorite hiding spot, a small open area hidden from the main path that ran through the patch of woods behind his house.  Situated near the top of a hill the little private zone afforded a view out over town, though with the residential trees, the nearby river and more distant hills as a backdrop he often imagined he was a million miles from the nearest person instead of smack-dab in the middle of town.

Zack turned the notebook over in his hands a few times.  The front cover was an unadorned black.  The back was what drew his interest for a rose was inked in by hand, a rose all in black with the lines being created by un-inked areas of cardboard brown.  Care was taken to make every petal stand out, contrasting with the crudely drawn oversized thorns.  One thorn near the bottom had a large ink-black drop which Zack guessed was supposed to be blood.

Leafing through the notebook Zack found it to be full of poetry written with the same black ink.  The print was small and plain, but was tight, exact, somehow creating a sense of urgency or pain.  Because of the neatness Zack could only imagine a female hand creating the print, thinking of his own sloppy, spidery text.  In his mind he saw a tall, thin girl dressed all in black holding a black pen with a hand fringed with black fingernails gracefully sharing her innermost thoughts with the notebook, occasionally brushing raven black hair out of her eyes.

Zack read through a few poems at random.  He was amazed at some of the imagery and multidimensional facet of the poems.  For instance, “Forgotten Skin” seemed to be about walking around “dressed” only in bones – “When I went out today; I forgot my skin.”  The poet though, stays invisible – “Bony hand holds the door; he doesn’t see or care.”  And yet, to Zack, it seemed to say so much more, to cry out for attention.

After reading “Dark Rose” Zack stopped and looked around, more than a little bit embarrassed.  He read it again, the first few lines out loud, “A dark rose; from my fertility grows.  Soft pedals delight; thorns carry a bite.”  The lines, sometimes in tight rhyme but more often free verse, excited and stimulated him yet somehow made him feel unclean, as if he watched unnoticed through a keyhole as the poet undressed and showered, as she unwittingly exposed her most intimate flesh to him.

Zack drew himself away from “Dark Rose” and read through “Midnight’s Flower”.  “The hour approaches; darkness on my soul.”  From the beginning he had a feeling of unease which only increased as the poem unfolded.  “His hands burn at the touch; blisters under my skin.”  The uneasiness gave way to alarm.  “He gropes for Midnight’s Flower; he hopes to take its power.”  Zack stopped and tightly closed his eyes for a second before finishing the poem.

Did I just witness a rape? Zack wondered.  He was beginning to shake, just a little at first but increasing violent.  He calmed himself repeating, It’s only a poem, just words.

Zack quickly flipped the page to see what would come next.  “The Visit” was written more in prose than poetry, though there was a certain rhythm to the words, a beat stronger than that of the alternating flowing and choppiness of “Midnight’s Flower”.  At first the story confused him, a surrealistic stay at a distant relative’s house, being yelled at for getting sick, formal ceremony and starched sheets, a friendly farewell hiding an ungraceful exit.  There was an unfriendly feel to the relatives, the poet’s protectors.  How could family be so cold?  On a second read through Zack became aware that it could be read as a visit to a hospital to have the poet’s stomach pumped after a suicide attempt.    He tried reading it again at face value, but it seemed even more unsettling that way, full of false friends and hateful relatives.  Dark as it may be, the hospital visit seemed to sit with him better, far less frightening.

Zack closed the notebook and sat thoughtfully on his cold rock, looking out over the town but ignoring the vibrant colors.  A cold October breeze slapped him in the face, waking him out of his reverie and awakening his resolve.

The poet was in trouble; he must find her and offer his help.

Zack got up and headed home.  He was already late for supper and still hadn’t touched his homework.

As Zack walked through the hall between second and third period the next day he tried to imagine every girl he passed as the unknown poet.  There were a few girls who tried for an “artistic” look, but he couldn’t imagine any of them as the secret author of such deep poems.  He passed brain-dead Dina with her stringy blue-black hair.  From a distance she looked cool, but from up close her dull eyes didn’t seem to have the fire to write such words.  Kerstin was out as was Cassie and Ashlee.  He’d seen Ashlee’s attempts at poetry last year in English class.  No, it wasn’t her.

Tyler, who was also a junior, was standing near Zack’s locker.  “Hey you fag, get out of my way.”  Zack ignored him.  “Hey loser, I’m talking to you.”  Tyler grabbed Zack’s shirt and pulled him close, threatening fist waving in the air.  Zack could see some of Tyler’s football buddies smiling in the background.  “You, my friend, are about to see if there’s an afterlife.”

“Tyler, let ‘m go.  Now!”   Zack turned to thank his savior, Jason, the captain of the football team.  “And you, you instigated it.  Watch your step.”  Jason swiveled and walked away, drawing the life out of the small crowd that had gathered.

Zack turned back to his locker, face bright red.  Someone snickered.  He just couldn’t understand it; he was on friendly terms with most of the jocks.  And Tyler, Tyler Johnston was the last person he could imagine picking on him.  He put his Math and Chemistry books away and took out his English and Current Affairs books.

“How was your near-death experience?” Kyle had a big grin on his face as he watched Zach take his seat.  Zack looked around the lunch table and laughed to himself at how fast news seemed to travel around the school.

“It was nothing.  I think Tyler knew what we were having and made a deal with a lunch lady to get some fresh meat instead.  Ugh, how do they expect us to eat this crap?  I don’t even know what it is.”  Zack started picking at his food.  Everyone else laughed and went back to their previous discussions.  Kyle, next to Zack, insisted that James Kirk had said previously only that he was from Iowa while Randy was adamant that he had said he was born there, making the new movie hugely inconsistent.  The seat across from Zack, at the end of the table, was empty, while in the next seat over Matt was arguing with Billy over the Health Care Reform Bill.  Josh and Brian, sitting across from one another, were both studiously avoiding being drawn into a political discussion while neither of them had even seen the new Star Trek movie.  They occasionally exchanged glances when Billy said something insensitive.

Zack went through the tables in front of him trying to place the notebook with each face before rejecting them one by one.  He still had no idea who the poet could be, yet the image in his mind grew sharper.

It was raining that evening so Zack went straight home from school and didn’t leave the house.  He had a lot of home work to catch up on anyway.

Zach was approaching his locker as usual the next day before third period.  His mind was slowly going over the lines to “Dark Rose” as he kept an eye out for the hidden poet.  He never noticed Tyler or saw his foot sticking out until he was tripped up, catching himself just in time but dropping all of his books.  There wasn’t much he could do about it but pick his stuff off the floor and ignore the muscle-headed taunts.

“Hey, that’s mine give it to me!”  The girl was obviously a freshman.  She was short and a little chubby, though not fat, her short light hair was pulled back in a way that made her face seem wider than it was tall, her oversized glasses amplifying this effect.  Although she looked familiar, Zack didn’t know her name.

“Prove it: where did you lose it?”

“If I knew where I lost it then it wouldn’t be lost, now would it?  Idiot!  Just give it to me!”

“Guess.”  Zack had a sinking feeling; this wasn’t how he imagined meeting the poet nor could he imagine this girl the creator of such deep thoughts.

“Oh, maybe by my rock.  I don’t know, that’s stupid, it’s my notebook, give it here.”

“OK, it’s yours.  I just wanted to be sure since I know it must mean a lot to whoever wrote it.  I’m sorry, here it is.”  Zack handed the girl the notebook.

She snatched away then quickly turned back on him.  “Are you trying to tell me you read this?  You violated my privacy!  How dare you!  These are my most intimate thoughts and you despoiled them!”  She looked ready to explode.

“Hey, hold on a minute.  How could I know it was yours, I don’t even know who you are!  I couldn’t just leave it out there to get rained on, could I?  And these poems are great, nothing to be embarrassed about.  Look, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean any harm.  Anyway, I have to run to class or I’ll be late.”

Zack fumbled with his locker just saying “uh huh” when she continued on with how insensitive he was.  Finally, English and Current Events in hand, he headed down the hall, his nemesis’ voice receding in the background.

This time it was Matt who started when he sat down.  “See you got yourself a new girlfriend.”

“What do you mean girlfriend, by the way they argue they must be married.”  Brian was leaning over grinning at him.

Zack knew there was no winning.  “Yeah, yeah, you’re all just jealous seeing you’ll never have one.  Seriously, does anyone know who she is?”

Kyle grinned.  “Seriously, yes, I do.  Why?  Who wants to know?  OK, now seriously…  That’s Haley Green’s cousin.  She’s living with her or something.  You never saw them walking to school together?  They live just around the corner from you…”

“Haley Green?  Maybe I saw her, but I never paid attention.  Not much of a resemblance, is there?”  Everyone was looking at him.  He once let out that he had a huge crush on Haley.  She was a senior, and though the top of her class, was very popular.  Way out of Zack’s league, though she was always very nice to him.  He couldn’t remember a time when he didn’t know her or a time he wasn’t head over heels about her.  “What’s her name?”

“Melissa.  From what I understand she’s floated between different relative’s houses off and on for the past two or three years.  She stayed with Haley’s family for about four months last year and was in some of my sister’s classes over at the middle school.  She’s smart but really weird and didn’t make any friends there.  I hear she spent the summer at her parents’ but has been with her aunt and uncle since school started.  I guess a fresh start for a freshman.”  Kyle grinned at his little word play.

“Thanks Kyle.”

On the way home that afternoon Zack noticed Melissa walking just ahead of Haley.  He quickly caught up.

“Hi Melissa, I’m Zack.  I’m sorry we had such a rough introduction.  Really.  I’m sorry about all of that.”

“I know who you are.  We’ve only been walking to school almost side by side for a month and a half, about time you actually noticed me.  Asshole.”

“Hey look, I’m really sorry.  I just wanted to tell you that I’m sorry if you think I shouldn’t have read your work, but I have to say it was great.  I love poetry and I think you’re as good as any out there.”

“Why don’t you just leave me alone, you effin jerk.”

“I know I don’t have a poet’s way with words…”

“In other words, he’s a nerd and has problem’s expressing himself.”  Zack didn’t realize Halley was that close.  The popular senior smiled.

“Thanks Haley, I’m sure you’re helping a lot.  Anyway, Melissa, I’m just trying to apologize.”

“Screw yourself.” She picked up her pace.

“You shouldn’t bother, she’s not worth it.  My cousin here has a black heart.  See you Zack, don’t lose any sleep over her.”  Haley gave Zack a big smile as she took the turn towards her house.

“Thanks Haley.  See ya.  Bye Melissa.”

A half an hour later Zack slid around the ledge blocking his private spot from the rest of the world.  He turned and found Melissa sitting on his rock.  She had obviously noticed him, her face turning red with anger.

“What are you, some type of wacko stalking me?  Why don’t you leave me alone in the one place in the world I can have some privacy?”

“This has been my private haven since you were in diapers so don’t try pinning any of your stupid labels on me.  I’ll go ahead and take a walk this time, but you better not be here when I get back in a half an hour.”

“OK Zack, you can stay, but you have to sit on that rock down there and not look at me.”  Melissa was pointing to a rock about 15 feet down the hill.

Zack took a long look at her and nodded.  As he settled himself into his spot down the hill he couldn’t help thinking that Melissa really did look a lot like Haley, or at least she would if she did her hair different and wore different glasses.  Make up would help.  It was almost as if she purposefully tried to make herself ugly.

The new rock wasn’t as flat or as comfortable as his usual seat and he was more aware of the cold.  There was no view to speak of and he could see the backs of houses only 60 or 70 feet away.  At least with the leaves changing it was pretty, if somewhat dull.  He squirmed, trying to find a more comfortable position.  After a while he half turned to talk to Melissa.

“Don’t look at me!  You can talk, if you must, but stay facing that way.”

Zack turned back towards the houses.  “Although I’m more into fiction, I really do read a lot of poetry and, well, as I said, I think you’re very good.  I just wanted to say that again.”

“If you know so much about that type of thing, symbolism and metaphor and everything, what was “Forgotten Skin” about?”

Zack tried to bring the poem back into his mind before he started.  “You feel naked and exposed, yet invisible.  Nobody seems to know or care.  Hell, I may have even been the one who didn’t notice you open the door.  And yet you seem to like not being noticed.  It might hurt, but it’s better than the alternative.  It’s like you don’t like your skin, don’t like your looks….  What’s wrong with your looks anyway?”

“Besides that I’m ugly?”

“You’re not ugly; don’t say those things about yourself.”

“If not, then why did it take my getting in your face for you to notice me or acknowledge my existence?  As it is, you have to be pretty for anyone to notice you or take you seriously.  Don’t lie; I’ve seen you eyeing my cousin while ignoring me.  The only reason you’re pretending to be interested in me at all is you feel bad for me, nothing to do with me as a person.”

“I’ve known Haley forever and there are a lot of new freshmen I see every day and ignore.  I… well, I’m sorry I didn’t talk to you sooner, but as Haley said, I’m a bit of a nerd and…  and you’re wrong, I do want to know you.  Anyone who can write such great poetry has to be worth getting to know.  And… OK, I know I’m only digging myself deeper.”  Zack wanted to avoid the obvious that Melissa was purposefully trying to stay under the RADAR; everything about the way she presented herself seemed designed to push her into the background.

Melissa went on the offensive again.  “’A nerd’ is right.  Not quite Asperger’s, but not normal.  I’d call you a misfit.  You and your whole lunch crowd, misfits every one.”

“Misfits?”

“Yeah, misfits, and boring misfits, always sitting in the same pre-assigned seats, playing your preassigned roles.  If given the choice would any of you really hang out together?  OK, Kyle and Matt are nerds too, but they’re so different from you and from each other.  You’re a band and English nerd who likes to think of himself as an artist.  Kyle is the science and math nerd, not understanding why the arts even exist.  Matt is another band nerd, but he also hangs with the party crowd on weekends.  Randy really is Asperger’s.  He should be the top of your class but he can’t function like you.”

“Leave Randy alone, he’s a great guy.”

“Try changing his routine and see how great he is.  I don’t understand why Billy sits with you except that he’s not accepted anywhere else.  I mean, I know there are some holy-rollers in this school, but nobody thumps a bible harder.  Besides, he’s dumb as rocks.  He he doesn’t take any of the ideas of compassion to heart and uses the Bible to prove his hatred.  And Josh, why would a Jew sit at the same table as a fanatical fundamentalist unless he was a misfit too?  He’s a jock, why doesn’t he sit at the jock table?”

“We’re open minded and accepting at our table and Billy is harmless.  As far as Joshua is concerned, he’s a great guy and has always hung out with us.  He’s Brian’s best friend.”

“Best friend?  Are you sure?  My guess is he’s just like Brian and they’re a little more than friends.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Oh come on, if you didn’t know Brian’s gay than you really must be Asperger’s.  It’s so obvious.”

“No he’s not!”

“Don’t turn around!  Why are you so upset, I thought you said you were open minded?  It doesn’t make him any less of a person, does it?    Just watch and listen to him sometime.  I really don’t think Josh is, but he has to know about Brian and maybe he is.  So?  What’s the big deal?”

Zack thought about it.  It did make sense, but he just had a hard time accepting it.  Was he being a bigot, a jerk?  And if Brian really was gay, how could he stand being around Billy?  Around any of them?  He started going back over his words to see if he said anything insensitive, remembering the crack about him never having a girlfriend.

Melissa broke the silence with another line of questioning.  “What do you think “Dark Rose” is about?”

“Uhm, it’s about…”

“Say it!”

Zack found himself blurting, “It’s about your vagina!”  He turned red, glad he had his back to her.

Melissa snickered.  “Of course, my vulva and vagina, I just wondered if you’d actually say it or maybe even use a vulgarity.  I could never imagine you swearing.”

Half ignoring her Zack couldn’t help but asking about some aspects he found puzzling.  “I understand the pleasure part of the poem, but not the pain.  Why is it so awful at times?”  He immediately wished he hadn’t asked such personal questions.

“What do you know about it?  Do you get a monthly curse?  How can you even begin to comprehend?  Do you live in a world where nothing about you matters except for this one thing, this one accident of your anatomy?  And even if you are reduced in the world’s eye to just a vagina, even that doesn’t matter if you’re not good looking.  Plain girls can’t be smart or have talent; they’re ignored by our society.”

Zack began to protest, “But…”

“OK, tell me who you thought wrote the poems in this book before I showed up, describe her.”

Zack, embarrassed but dutiful, tried to describe his inner picture of the secret poet.  “Well, I thought you were, or rather this fictional person was tall and thin.  She wore all black and had jet black hair.  She painted her nails black and her black lipstick contrasted with her light skin.  She was cool, much cooler than a nerd like me.  She’s…”  He stopped realizing he almost said, “She’s beautiful.”

“A goth?  Those people have less talent than your small fingernail.  What do they know about life, about pain?  They’re born followers trying to be cool by copying some ideal they don’t comprehend.  And a pretty goth at that.  I was beginning to think you understand but you’re just like the others.  Obviously you never imagined someone like me writing them.”

“Um, I’m sorry, but you asked.  If I had described you, you would have known I was lying.  I was wrong and really think you have talent.”

“Turn around.”

She was holding her notebook open showing him a new drawing.  It was a good likeness of the view from the seat except she drew him in the foreground with an oversized head blocking much of the scenery.  Melissa snapped the notebook closed, stood and worked her way out of the private spot.  Zack sat and watched her go wondering why, even though all she did was tease and berate him, he was even more fascinated by her than he was before.

Zack didn’t see Melissa on the way into school the next day, Friday.  The morning was very uneventful, with only a vague threat from Tyler after second period.  At lunch, however, Zack decided to shake things up.  He arrived a little earlier than usual and sat in Billy’s place.

“Hey, what are you doing?”

“I wanted a change of scenery.  Why don’t you sit on the other side and see what you’re missing?”

Billy shrugged and sat in Kyle’s usual spot.

“Playing musical chairs?”  Zach patted the spot to his left, across from Billy and Brian sat down.  Kyle, without a word took Ryan’s place and Josh sat next to him.

“Hey you’re in my place.”  Ryan was standing behind Kyle.

“So?  Sit somewhere else.”

“How am I supposed to eat someplace else?  This is my spot.  You’re in my chair.”

“Tough.  I want to sit here.  There are plenty of seats.”

“But that one’s mine.”

Zack noticed Ryan was close to tears so intervened.  “Hey Ryan, I was thinking.  In Herbert’s “Dune” the ornithopters seem like a dumb idea on a planet that’s all blowing dust and sand.  Too many moving parts.  Wouldn’t they be constantly freezing up?”

“No, they’re perfect for the job.  If I could draw you a picture you’d know what I mean.”

“Come sit over here and show me.”  Zack put a piece of notebook paper and a pencil in the empty spot next to him.  Ryan came, setting his lunch to the side, and started drawing, occasionally taking a bite.  Zack looked over at Kyle who gave him a grin and a wink.  Zack then started looking around while Ryan droned on about flapping aircraft on desert planets.  He noticed Melissa at the end of a table full of freshman girls.  Nobody was in the seats next to or across from her.  Zack smiled but she looked away.

It was Sunday afternoon before Zack next made it out into the woods, a beautiful, crisp fall day.  He turned a corner and came face-to-face with Tyler.

“What the Hell’s going on, Tyler?  We may never have been best friends, but we’ve known each other since we were toddlers and used to play together all the time.  Why did you suddenly become a jerk?”

Tyler looked up and Zack noticed the puffy eyes and realized that Tyler must have been crying.  “Just leave me alone or I really will pound you.  Can’t you tell I want to be by myself?”

“I’m sorry, Tyler, if something’s wrong, but maybe if you didn’t threaten me I could help.”

Tyler continued down the path, seeming to ignore Zack’s inquiry, and then suddenly turned.  “I don’t know why I’m telling you, but Catlin saw me talking to Brenda and wants to break up.  That’s all it was.”  Tyler continued to look down for a minute in silence.  He then looked up and said, “Oh God, what am I going to do?  I’m doing terrible in school this year.  I’m failing English.  My game is so on, I don’t want to give it up, I don’t want to let the guys down.  They say that if I don’t improve on midterms I’ll be off the team and no wrestling this year.  My dad’ll kill me.  He keeps bringing up how well I’m doing on the field like every freaking night.  And mom, what’ll I say to her?  And the guys, how about them?  You always do so well, you practically show up and get an A.”

“Well you practically walk into the room and every girl jumps your bones but I don’t threaten you over that.”  Zack looked at Tyler.  “Of course, you’d only laugh if I did.”

“How about your new ugly girlfriend?”  He was grinning.

“Melissa’s not ugly…”

“Ha! knew it!”

“…and she’s not my girlfriend.  Anyway, what you need to do is practice, just like in football.  Go over all the difficult plays and work on things that give you trouble.  Do drills, reps and stuff.  Ask the English Coach for help, get feedback.  You may even look for a personal trainer.”  He could see the question in Tyler’s eyes.  “Of course some people might call it ‘studying’ instead of ‘practice’, or might call, who do you have, Miss Grover? an ‘English Teacher’ instead of a ‘Coach’, but they’re just nerds anyway.  I know Haley Green offers tutoring in English as do others; you can see posts on the bulletin board.  Anyway, you should think about it.”

Tyler grinned.  “You may have something there.  I’d never study, but practice is something I can handle.  And talking to the coach…  Hey, see you around.”

Zack watched him out of sight before heading for his secret spot.  He wasn’t surprised to find Melissa there ahead of him, sitting on his rock.  Without a word he walked down and sat on the lower rock, back to her.

After a few minutes Zack broke the silence, “Were you really raped?  Did you try to commit suicide?”  He found it easier to ask such questions if he wasn’t looking at her.

Melissa let out a short humorless laugh.  “What, did my step father really sneak into my room late one night and violate me?  Did he put his filthy hands all over me, threatening to choke me to death if I let out a peep?  Did he really poison my flesh and did I continue this poison with a bottle of pills a few weeks later?  Did they wheel me into the emergency room, worried expressions not for me but for the mark against them if they lost me?  Did they treat me like trash for trying to end my own pain?  Don’t turn around!”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“Why would I want to talk to you, what do you know?  You seem so smug yet you didn’t get any of it right, you didn’t understand one line.  I had a dream that I was dead and my spirit walked around.  Nobody who should’ve cared seemed affected at all by my death and I found it was easier to be dead with the uncaring than living amongst them.  When I woke up part of me couldn’t wait to ‘shuffle off this mortal coil’, to lose my skin, so I wrote “Forgotten Flesh”.  Only a guy would think it had anything to do with being ugly or with beauty.  And only a guy who can only think with his dick would relate everything to sex.  OK, I did make a play on words about my vagina with “Dark Rose”, but it’s really about my essence, my soul, that part of me that is really “Me”… about my being.  I’ve always called myself a dark rose, midnight’s flower.  That’s what it’s about, not some perverted sexual fantasy.  And so-called family…”

They sat in silence for a minute before he heard her talking softly, as if to herself, “And I thought you were different.  I thought I could make you understand.  I thought…”  After another minute of silence Zack turned around.  She was gone.

Zack didn’t see Melissa on Monday, the morning going by with little of note.  Tyler nodded his head at him, but didn’t say anything.  He continued to sit in Billy’s seat at lunch, but everyone else returned to their seats only Billy moving down to the previously empty seat on the other side of Matt.  Melissa wasn’t at the table of freshman girls.  After lunch he thought he saw a grateful look from Brian and Josh, both of them spared Billy’s ranting.

On Tuesday there was still no Melissa.  At his locker before third period one of the football players started to tease him, but Tyler stopped it, saying he decided he liked him.  Zack was sure that was the closest he’d get to a public apology and was content.  At lunch he continued in Billy’s seat.  Brian and Josh’s talk seemed more natural.  Zach made a pact with himself that he would sit there for the rest of the semester.

The week went along without any changes.  Finally on Thursday he asked Kyle if he’d heard any news about Melissa.

“Oh, you didn’t hear?  She left her aunt and uncle’s house and returned home.  Nobody was surprised; she really didn’t fit in with anyone.”

“Haley, wait up a second.”  Zack was half a block back.

“I really hate Thursdays,” she was saying as he came up.

“Why, what’s up with Thursdays?”

“It’s the one day I don’t have an activity or ride and have to put up with the other kids walking home.”  She smiled, letting him know she was just teasing.  “So what’s up?”

“Did Melissa really leave?”

She rolled her eyes.  “Yes, she went back home.  Thank God.”

“Home to a step father who abuses her?”

“What?!  There’s no step-father.  Her parents are together and her father dotes on her.  She’s constantly calling and texting him.  He drove 50 miles out of his way to see her every time she felt put upon, which meant every other day.  If there’s any problem it’s with her mother.  They’re exactly alike and extremely jealous of each other.  Melissa would rather cool her heels at a relative’s house than face her mother, leaving every time there’s the slightest argument.  Did she tell you she was abused?”

Zack thought for a minute.  Did she ever say it?  She asked him facetiously if he thought she had been raped, but she never said she was.  And if her “dark rose” was really her soul, then was the poem Midnight Flower really about a physical rape or some mental anguish?  “Um, I guess not.  She kind of hinted and insinuated, but she never came out and said it.  I guess I jumped to conclusions.”

Haley nodded.  “Yeah, she has a way with manipulating the truth.  She won’t lie, but she’ll say things in ways that’ll mislead you.  You have to be careful around her and take every word with a grain of salt.  The first time she stayed with us she left as soon as we were no longer fooled.  Usually, though, she leaves a place when she starts getting too close to someone.  She purposefully alienates everyone and doesn’t seem to feel comfortable if people know or like her.  This time I think you have the honor of driving her away, I think she was beginning to like you.”

“She sure had a funny way of showing it.”

Haley laughed.  “Don’t take it personally, she has a black heart.”

Without a thought words started to flow from Zack:

She’s a dark rose
Midnight’s flower
She’s locked her soul
In a tower
To live alone
To stay unknown
From man, woman and child
Untouched by love
Coldness gone wild
Self-imposed loneliness
Only grows
She’s a dark rose
Midnight’s flower
Her soul
No one knows

Finished with his impromptu poem Zack looked glumly at his feet.

“Exactly! I guess you know her better than I thought.  Anyway, don’t worry too much about her; she’s just living her life the way she wants.  I’ll see you around.”  With a warm smile and a quick pat on his arm Haley turned and headed towards home.

All of the words of the last week swirled in Zack’s head before crystallizing into an image of Melissa.  He saw her in a totally new way, a new light.  He understood.

“Haley!”  She turned back towards him.  “Do you have her cell number so I can text her or something?  Email?”

Haley’s smile vanished in a huffing pout.  She walked up to him shaking her head.  “I think you’re making a big mistake.”

He nodded.  “You may be right, but I gotta try, don’t I?”

She nodded in turn and paraphrased his words:

She’s midnight’s flower
Shut away
A top her tower
Hidden from sight
Unknowingly waiting
Awaiting
A white knight

 She took out some paper and a pen and wrote two numbers.

“That one’s mine.  Give me a call and let me know how it turns out, OK?  Any time you want.”

“Sure.  Thanks Haley.”

Haley headed towards her house.

Zach looked at the paper.  He wasn’t sure if the “dark rose” would react well to some sun light, but he knew he had to try.

He walked home, feeling better than he had in ages.

6 thoughts on “Midnight’s Flower

  1. Corina

    I’m not sure I buy Haley’s account of the cousin. I’m more inclined to believe Zack’s suspicions about Melissa. This was an interesting read. Long but worth the four sittings it took me to read it.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Thanks Corina. I know it is very long for a blog post. Glad you enjoyed it.

      Haley’s account is accurate as far as details, but off as far as intent… Melissa stretches the truth, manipulates people, plays games and drifts from one relative’s house to the next mostly because she doesn’t/can’t get along with her mother. But Zack saw past that, to what those “undesirable” traits hid. He understands why Melissa runs when she fears she is getting to close to someone – the fear of being hurt. Haley sees the surface, but Zach sees deeper. If I remember my intent from 8 years ago, I think that is what I was shooting for…

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      Reply

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