Highly Commended Story - The Red Flower
“The Red Flower” by Nehir Naz Bekdemir, MEV Ankara Private Secondary School, Ankara, Turkey, is the Highly Commended story in the junior category of the first biannual Short Story Contest 2019.
The Red Flower
“Bad boy!” she fumed on the verge of tears. Tears that she wasn’t sure if they were caused by the extreme anger she had right then or her jaw-dropping low point she scored in her last test. She, for sure knew her parents would send her to summer camp if they knew about it so they weren’t going to find out hopefully.
Her anger on the other hand was because her so-called best friend turned out to be keeping a secret from her. “Dumb Ryan!” she kicked the dust bin that stood under her desk, making trash go everywhere on her bedroom floor. One paper captured her attention. It was crumpled into a ball and had glitter on it, she hated glitter. She would never, in a million years, buy something glittery let alone allow someone bring glitter into the house.
“EVAN!” she screamed at her brother. Footsteps pacing through the hall were soon heard. “Yes?” said the younger, fear in his eyes. The last time Wendy screamed like this, their younger sibling, Andy, was hit by the TV remote. “Did you get this in here?” she groaned as she held the paper decorated with pink glitter in her left hand. “No, actually, I’ve never seen that paper before”, he sighed in relief. “Is Andy home?” she mumbled, opening the paper to read it obviously. “Nope, he’s at soccer training.”
He was concerned about the person’s mentality, which would dare bring glitter into her room…into the girl’s room who shouted at her parents for adding glitter to her birthday card. Her eyes widened as she read the piece of paper. “What?” Evan questioned her sister’s actions. She wasn’t moving nor was she talking. “Hello?” he waved his hand in front of Wendy’s face “Earth to Wendy?” she handed him the note. The first word he saw was ‘prom’ and soon his face fell. He grimaced as he both felt anger and sadness just like Wendy did a few minutes ago. Now she was utterly shocked and a little confused. “It..It is signed by Andy”, Evan stuttered. “I know, I read it too”, Wendy bluntly responded. “My dude got rejected”, Evan talked to himself.
On the note was…
U wanna go to prom w me or smth?
“I have to admit this is AWFUL, no girl would accept this”. Wendy took a glance at the paper before grabbing it from her younger brother’s hand to throw it back into trash.” That idiot couldn’t even spell you!” Evan said, slowly getting out of his confused state. He watched as Wendy walked towards the trash bin but she stopped. “What? Just throw it away”, he blurted out. He really pitied that girl. “Can I scold him about this? I mean, look at it. The poor girl must’ve had her hopes high until she received this. I would’ve been deceived”, Wendy complained and Evan shook his head in agreement.
Andy didn’t show up until supper. At first they didn’t worry since they thought he went to his friend’s house until their dad asked them if they knew where Andy was. “You don’t know?!” Wendy shouted as a chill ran up and down Evan’s spine. Chaos took over the house. Their dad calling every single person Andy knew to find him, mum trying to shut Evan up helplessly while shedding tears of frustration, Evan pacing back and forth occasionally mumbling unclear things, sometimes shouting…
What was it that made them so worried you may ask. Well, the last time Andy came home late he had brought 32 packs of apple juice; each had 8 boxes in them. They still had apple juice from that day, even though it was a year ago.
“HE’S THERE!” They all heard dad shout. They found him at the school’s soccer field; he was practicing for the match. Wendy had none of it. She was on the school’s cheer team and there were no matches sooner or later as Andy claimed it to be. But she decided it would be the best for everyone to keep silent until Andy got home, then she could confront him in private; both for worrying the whole family and the glitter.
When Andy arrived home, Wendy had already drifted off to sleep. Next morning, Wendy was grumpier than ever. She kept complaining about how she had a headache and that her left arm was numb from sleeping on it and it wouldn’t go away. Plus that, her best friend kept secrets from her-she didn’t stop talking until Evan shoved a toast in her mouth. Guess what? She groaned as she chewed it then started to grumble about how dry and unappetizing the toast was. “It’s also burnt, you want me to get cancer or something?” She ranted until Evan hit her on the head with a juice box. “Does this work?” he handed her the box. She grasped it with both hands and started sipping it while furrowing her eyebrows. Evan couldn’t help but smiled at his older sister, she was even more immature than a toddler sometimes.
“Ready?” he asked still smiling. “Isn’t Andy coming?” Wendy swings her backpack on her shoulder, hopping to the front. “He’s grounded; he won’t be leaving the house for a month”. He came next to her opening the door for her. “That’s just cruel”, she pouted when she walked out. “I know”, he replied shrugging lightly.
When they arrived at college, a 6 foot giant bolted next to Wendy. “For your information, I’m not talking to you until you tell me your secret”. She crossed her arms in front of her chest. “What if…I tell you later? Because right now I’m not even sure if it’s true.” He scratched his chin as if he was thinking. “Well sis, secrets are supposed to be kept anyway”. Evan blurted, he then put his hands on his mouth, waved and walked away.
Wendy shrugged as she turned to see her best friend smiling with all his teeth. “You’re temporarily forgiven”, she joked pulling him to their classroom’s direction. “Now let’s go learn, shall we?” she fake cheered throwing her fist randomly into the air as Joe grinned at the five year old trapped inside of a 19 year olds body who was also his best friend since first grade. Class was overall boring. What would you expect? The teacher hated his job, the students their lives…His only muse was seeing kids miserable after their unfairly low points. Wendy elbowed her seatmate, pointing at her wrist, asking for the time and just then the bell rang. She lunged herself to Jae’s seat and saw papers. “You take notes in class? Since when?” she laughed reaching out her hand to grab one but Jae slapped it away. “Mine!” he hissed then smiled. “You’re weird, but I still love you”, Wendy rubbed her hand.
The rest of the day went as boring: Jae not letting her touch his ‘notes’ which she had started doubting someone; teachers explaining hard subjects with their monotonous voice as always; her seatmate offering her gum every five minutes or so; Mina, who was sitting in front of her not being able to borrow a pen….Everything was going just the same until their teacher stapled a bunch of papers on his desk. “Pop Quiz” he chimed in an evil way grinning and wiggling his eyebrows. The whole class grinned in dissatisfaction.
Soon school ended as the bell rang and dismissed them. Wendy flew over to Jae in hopes of seeing his ‘notes’ but he had already packed up. He linked his arm with hers and they walked out. “What’s on your mind?” she tugged at his arm. “Just come with me”, he warmly smiled at her. They walked past a few blocks in silence until Wendy broke it. “Jae”, she cooed drawing all his attention to her. “I’m a little exhausted”. She bent down holding her knees, trying to catch her breath. Her short legs couldn’t compete against Jae’s really long ones. “You’re 90% leg and you have to empathize”, she smiled getting back up. “We’re close”, he laughed as she grabbed his arm once again. Jae was right; they walked a little more and saw the tube station’s entrance. “Jae..um..I don’t have money with me”, Wendy looked down cutely. “It’s fine, I’ll pay”. Jae pulled her to the stairs before she could thank him. They plopped onto two seats next to each other and not much later, the tube started moving. Wendy got bored so she bumped her shoulder to Jae’s who was busy looking for something in his backpack. He looked up at her and pushed her, taking revenge. They kept playing around until the tube stopped and they got out.
“Are you hungry?” Jae asked patiently waiting for her to think. “Hmm yeah, what about you?” They walked out of the station. “Yep”, he admitted quickening his pace crossing the road. “Let’s go eat”, he added turning left. After a 10 minute walk, they proceeded to a convenience store and bought some snacks. They strolled around eating and chatting. Time went by fast and the sun set. “It’s getting dark, we had better head back”, Wendy said chewing the last gummy worm. “Not yet”, Jae smiled as they hiked back to the station.
They got on the tube and settled down. The whole ride was silent except for a baby’s loud crying though it wasn’t that bothering. Wendy was exhausted; her legs hurt, her arms ached. All she wanted to do was sleep or read a book. But she was having so much fun with Jae that it almost healed her. She forgot about the pain. “We’re here”, Jae shook Wendy. They made it back to their college and got his car. “So will you tell me where we’re going or..?” Wendy murmured as she struggled to buckle her seatbelt up. “Don’t even try”, he advised in a cheeky voice. Wendy reached her arm out to turn the radio on, giving up on the seatbelt. “Let me help you out a bit”, Jae grasped it and easily fastened it. “Thanks”, Wendy smiled managing to turn on the radio. It was pretty calm and the music made it even better.
They got off the main road and onto a road with tons of trees and there was a narrow path ahead of her. “Come on”, Jae encouraged her to follow him. “Maybe you should leave your backpack in the car”, she suggested. He shook his head no and started running. “Wait, what? What!” she shouted following him. He stopped so she stopped as well. “OK, that wasn’t nice, you could at least give a clue”- she shut up when she saw the beautiful field filled with white flowers. “Jae this is…” she walked next to him and admired the gorgeous view ahead-“..breathtaking”, she finished her sentence. Besides from the fact that their only light source was the moonlight, everything was perfect. Even if they didn’t have flashlights, it was full moon and they could see well.
Wendy came back to reality when Jae walked into the field. He took out a piece of paper, handing it to Wendy. “It might not be brilliant or good at all, but I tried”, he explained. It was a drawing of Wendy, and let me tell you it was really accurate. Her eyes shone when she saw it.” The main reason I invited, or took you here is that,” he hesitated as Wendy was looking in his eyes, smiling. “I’m-” he stopped again. The wind was blowing gently, making her hair flow in the air elegantly. “I have brain tumor”, he broke it down. Wendy’s face fell, her eyes watered. “I’m going to get surgery tomorrow and the chance of my survival is 30%, which is really low. So, I wanted to thank you for all these years you’ve given to me, since grade 1”, a few tears wetted his cheeks. “When I’m gone, please move on easily. Don’t waste your precious tears on me and damage your beautiful eyes. Go out find new best friends, meet people. And please remember, I’m happy when you’re happy”, he ended his sentence hardly. He couldn’t achieve his goal. His no.1 priority was to make her happy. Instead he made her miserable.
Wendy couldn’t believe what she had just heard. She couldn’t think of doing anything else but hugging him so she did. The next day, Jae didn’t come to school. Wendy had prayed all night for him to survive, she couldn’t let him go. She wasn’t ready. A few days went by and she got the bad news; Jae had passed away. Her tears fell like the ocean. She already missed him. Her mum hugged her from the side and patted her back. “It’s going to be all right”, she softly said.
Wendy escaped her embrace and ran upstairs. It hurt both mentally and physically. She slammed the door shut and looked at the drawing Jae had made for her. She remembered his words. He didn’t want her like this. She took her coat and walked out the house. Breathing in the fresh air she slowly wandered around the streets. She then called her dad to tell him she needed to go somewhere….
She roamed the narrow path that the last time she came with her best bud. The sight of the flowers made her heart warm. Then she realized, among all the white flowers, stood a red one. It had bloomed just where Jae had sat on his last night….