A/N My cousin gave me the writing prompt "flowers" and this is what came out of it. I don't know if I want to do anything more with it or just leave it as a one-shot for now. So. Until I decide. Here.
I hate flowers.
I count the amount of them I've seen in the past few days and it's way too many, there are way too many. Our house is covered in them, bouquets everywhere and the smell is stifling. It makes me want to vomit. Everything makes me want to vomit.
As though the flowers make everything better.
As though the flowers make anything better.
They're sympathy flowers. God, I hate sympathy flowers. I hate sympathy. I hate the way all the people I've barely ever spoken to in my life now decide that I'm important enough to hug, important enough to ask, are you okay, important enough to give a shit about. I hate the way all my friends are walking on tiptoe around me as though I'm going to explode at any moment. I hate the way my parents want to hold me and sit with me and cry to me because all I want right now is to be alone, absolutely alone.
I am right now, alone in my room, sitting cross-legged on my bed and staring out the window and I see trees and more flowers and, expressionless, I stand up, go to the window, pull down the blinds, and it's dark even though it's midday. I go back to my bed and sit down again, cross-legged again, hands in my lap and I stare down at them, intertwining them for a moment then pulling them apart then clasping them together then pulling them apart then twiddling my thumbs for about a minute and 37 seconds and then I stop, just let them rest in my lap.
There's a picture of us up on my wall but I haven't looked at it yet, don't know if I can. I count silently in my head, trying to muster up the courage (pathetic, pathetic), and when I finally look up, there's nothing there. It's gone.
I'm just unsettled for a moment, a little surprised, then I'm suddenly furious and I pull my door open so hard I may as well have ripped it right off its hinges and I storm downstairs like a madman and there are some people I vaguely recognize talking to my parents but I don't give a shit, I just say, "Where is it?" and my voice is calmer than I expected but even I can hear the dangerous edge beneath it.
My mother gives me a slightly scared look and says softly, "Where's what, darling?"
"I'm not your fucking darling, where is it?"
"Ben," I hear my father say a bit sternly. "Calm down, bud, we have no idea what you're talking about."
Bud. Bud. I'm not his fucking bud. "I'm not your fucking bud."
"Where the fuck is it?" My fists are clenched and I think I'm shaking and our guests look slightly nervous but I couldn't care less.
"Where is what?"
"The – Eric," I say. My voice cracks. "You can't just – take my fucking – things – just because you think – "
"Ben – Ben, baby – " My mother hurries over to me and pulls me to her and I don't even react, just let her do it and she's holding me so tightly that I stop shaking and my fists unclench and I just melt into her, my head pressed into her hair because even if Eric was always shorter than her I'm still taller.
"Sorry," I mumble. "I'm okay."
"Ben, we just took it for the – " she pulls away from me but she's still holding my hand, and she leads me into the living room. "I'm sorry. We should have asked first."
I look over and on a little stepstool next to the wall there's a lit candle and pictures and flowers, fucking flowers, and I shake my mother's hand off and walk towards it, sitting down in front of it, cross-legged again, and I just stare for a while. I stare at the pictures, all of them. There's one from the hospital when he was born, and he's all wrapped up in blankets that are way too big for him and you can barely even see his face but it's there and it's him. I remember because I was there and I got to hold him and I didn't want a little brother so I pretended I was going to drop him and everyone was so absolutely pissed off but he turned out just fine.
And there's one from his first day of kindergarten where he's grinning like the cheeky bastard he always was except his haircut was ten times worse back then, some kind of obnoxious bowl cut that wasn't even a bowl cut, but he made it work.
There's one from the pumpkin patch in his third grade and I'm photo-bombing in the background, of course, because I remember I would rather have been anywhere else but there, and one of us on a rollercoaster when he was in sixth, his face a mixture of horror and amusement, me just laughing, and one of us on the beach when he was in eighth grade and I was a senior and we're standing on a rock, flexing, and I had more muscles back then and did until the day he died.
There's the one that belongs in my room, from last year, when I took him out to a party and my parents still don't know where it was really taken but the background is faded, anyway, and we're just laughing, my arm around him and my face bent, top of my head pressing into his cheek.
Whenever you see these in movies there's always the senior picture, but Eric never got to take his fucking senior picture. He died the day before it was scheduled.
I was supposed to drive him there and we were supposed to go out to celebrate his seniority and maybe we would have gone to the amusement park today but instead I'm getting ready for his fucking funeral.
I see the flowers again and I pick one of them up and I just want to fucking burn it. I don't want a flower, I want Eric, but that's one face I'm never going to see again.
The doorbell rings and it actually hurts and I turn around and look at the door and my friend Joel is standing there in a suit with his parents and his mom has flowers in her hands and I can't deal with it anymore. I just stand up and walk over to them and take the fucking flowers from her and throw them on the ground. I step on them and my mother inhales sharply and my dad says, "Ben," and Joel's mom looks like she doesn't know what to do but Joel says, "It's fine."
"It's not fucking fine," I say, looking at him. "You can take your fucking flowers and shove off."
"Ben, I think you should – "
"They don't actually help, you know? The flowers?" I glare at everyone, I glare at everything. "They're so fucking pretty, sitting there so fucking pretty and I'm just thinking, Eric should be sitting here so fucking pretty, not the fucking flowers. I don't give a shit about the fucking flowers."
"They're not for you," Joel tells me calmly. "They're for Eric."
"Eric hates flowers."
Joel pushes me inside lightly and pats his mother on the shoulder as he passes her and drags me into the kitchen. "Hey, you need to stop acting like an asshole," he says.
Is he shitting me right now? "Are you shitting me right now?"
"No, I'm serious. Just because Eric's gone doesn't give you the right to act like a little piece of shit – "
"Newsflash, I am a little piece of shit."
Joel just shakes his head. "Yeah. I know."
I swallow hard and look down and I bet there's fucking flower residue underneath my shoe, but I don't bother to check. "It's stupid how it feels like something tore one of my fucking lungs out and I can't breathe properly ever and then there are moments when I feel like some fucking – animal or something is just fucking clawing at me from the inside and it hurts so fucking bad, Joel, I don't know what to – "
He's pulled me to him and he's holding me tighter even than my mom was earlier and I just want to die.
"It's all really stupid," I say into his shoulder.
He only says, "I know," again. I push him away and wipe my face even though there are no tears and shove my hands into my pockets. Joel gives me a once-over and says, "Weren't you wearing the same thing when I came to see you two days ago?"
"Yeah," I mumble. "I just."
"Have you even showered?"
Joel is terrible, but I need someone like him to knock some sense into me.
I don't even say anything, just turn around and shuffle upstairs and grab the stupid suit my mother set out for me and go to shower only I end up vomiting into the toilet and not even two seconds into it Joel's hand is rubbing my back and I finally stop, leaning my head against the toilet.
"I'm okay," I say a little hoarsely.
"You're okay." He stands up and ruffles my hair softly and says, "I'll be downstairs."
He flushes the toilet before he leaves.
I clean up, shower, put on the stupid suit my mother set out for me, go downstairs, and I only manage to catch a glimpse of Joel's parents and my parents and the other couple talking in the living room before Joel pulls me into the kitchen.
"Ben, is that you? Are you ready?" I hear my mother's voice come softly from the living room.
I open my mouth to say something, but nothing comes out. Joel calls, "Yeah, we'll be a minute."
"Why will we be a minute?" I ask him.
He reaches into his suit jacket and pulls out a flower. It's an orange rose and absolutely hideous and he holds it out to me, saying, "This one's for you."
"What the fuck am I supposed to do with this?"
"It's Eric," he says.
"You put it in water and a vase and you mope for as long as it's alive but when it's dead you gotta move on."
"Not like – move on move on, just move on. With your life. You are entitled to being a little piece of shit for as long as this is alive. But then it needs to stop."
"Fuck off," I say, but I take it anyway. I pour water into a fucking cup and I walk into the living room with the stupid flower and I go over to the stepstool and I put the cup down and I put the stupid flower into the cup.
I notice that everyone's watching me but I don't really care. Joel graces me with a rare smile from the doorway and I straighten up. "Ready," I say, and we leave. I say nothing the whole car ride, I say nothing the entire ceremony, I say nothing the car ride back and nothing as I collapse into bed still in my suit but it's okay because the flower is still alive.