I was six when I noticed my first dandelion. We had gone on vacation, as we did most years. I yanked it up with my fist. The brittle stem snapped off in my eager fingers. Bright yellow it beamed at me as I ran all the way back to the cabin. The stem had split, and was curling, by the time I got there and I put it in a blue chipped cup of water. By the next day the stem had curled all the way up to the flower. Tight little spirals that you couldn't get a fingernail between without unrolling it. That year was all about those dandelions, especially once they became white and puffy and let their seeds fly to all corners of the meadow.

...

The next year I found a big patch of daffodils behind the garage. Yellow, white, and orange. I filled vase after vase, putting them all around the cabin. I must have picked about fifty of them before Mom sat me down and explained that flowers die when they get picked. I was horrified. I tried to put them back together but they wouldn't stick. My dad tossed them all out in a heap, where they turned dull and brown and droopy. I kept running cups of water out to them from the kitchen but they faded all the same, and he laughed.

...

Then I explored the apple trees with their sweet strong scents but only picked one sprig of flowers. I tucked it behind my ear, ignoring the pang of guilt for its death. I built a platform in one of the trees to just sit on, to watch the trees, and to breath in the sweet scent of secluded happiness. I would dart outside when my father opened a bottle, and go curl up on my platform. It was too small for me to lie out flat and not quite stable enough to stand on for long. I listened to the wind as it swept the branches to and fro, a quiet susurrus that somehow managed to drown out everything else.

...

There was a year we didn't go. I would leave the house when dad came home and clicked down his badge for the day. I walked a lot, mostly around the neighborhood. I found the tenacious California poppies that pushed their way between the cracks, fighting for every scrap of sunlight. I snuck past my parents and got cups of water for them. I watched as they got healthier and brightened from brown to orange. They could spring back from almost anything.

...

The year after that I brought along a pot. I had a plan. I searched around and found a pink tulip. I filled the pot with local dirt and horse fertilizer from the landlord's stable. I dug up the bulb and patted it in. It took sick but I thought it would recover. The morning we were to leave I woke to find it drooping over the edge, all the petals fallen off. The transplant must have done it in. With just hours left, I ran out and found a baby lilac to put in the pot instead. Since I'd neglected most of my packing, Dad made me leave behind a good half of the clothes I'd brought.

...

That was the last year we went to the cabin. Always a reason, not enough money, or my grades weren't high enough, something. I used scraps of wood from the old porch to prop up my lilac as she began to tip her pot over. I wondered if she missed her home. Missed being a little shoot without anything keeping her small. Missed room for roots. Room for leaves. Room for flowers.

...

When I was fourteen I was informed I needed a job. The only places with openings were a local florist and a few fast food restaurants. My hands were trembling when I gave the florist my resume, but my voice was steady when I went in for an interview. They took me. I came early and stayed late, eventually Melonie let me handle the flowers. Before school began she offered me a weekend job, and I bargained her up to floating week nights as well. I used some of the money to buy a bigger pot for my lilac. It was a beautiful dark green with blue swirls, but dad broke it before I could move her over.

...

I'd gone to bed early one night, nursing a split lip. It was well after midnight, when my door opened. That always wakes me up. I stayed still as possible, pretending to be asleep. The footsteps where soft however and I slipped out of bed to give Mom a hug. She clicked on the lamp and handed me the tube of Neosporin, a dark purple bruise overlapping the faded yellowish one on her cheek.

"Can we go?" I whispered it aloud without realizing.

Blurry eyes met mine and sharpened to an uncomfortable intensity. "Yes." And she flew.

Mom grabbed all the money, clothes, and food, she could find, and I grabbed my lilac. She pushed things into my other arm but didn't have time to do more then look at the plant and sigh. We packed as much as we could grab in ten minutes into the back seat. We pushed the car for a block before we got in and she turned it on and broke several traffic laws. Over my shoulder, my tough little lilac bounced, bumped, and bent, but didn't break anything it couldn't live without.

...

The new town didn't have a florist, I suppose I couldn't have used my first job as a reference anyway. Mom and I applied to all the retail and food service jobs she saw, but none of them needed workers. So we set up a long table out in our yard. A cardboard sign named us "Kate and Katie's Florist and Nursery." It didn't make a lot of money but it made us enough. It was worth it as I saw a smile touch her eyes, for the first time since I had filled a cabin with daffodils.

...

Two months after our first sale one of our neighbors mentioned that a man had come by while we were out. We left that night. Didn't even get a description, but she said we couldn't take the chance that it was Dad or one of his friends. We had more time to pack, but not much more stuff, so we packed most of it in the trunk. In the end we got in some seedlings in the backseat. Didn't find out until later that every last one was a sunflower. When we got to a bigger city we got an apartment in a big building. We set up a sign in the parking lot, this time it said "Sunny Seedlings." It was nice, mostly it was our neighbors who bought them, but still. Then Mom started getting jumpy, although she could never explain why. We left again a few weeks later. As we were leaving the sweet boy from down the hall bought the rest of our sunflowers. When I tried to thank him he blushed and scuffed the asphalt with the tip of his sneaker.

...

Driving down the highway we pulled over and picked up a load of poinsettias someone had just dumped there. They were sickly and needed new pots but most of them survived. Christmas was coming, so we set up a table by the strip mall and painted "Jenna's festive bouquets" on the side of each pot. One of the shop owners complained, so we moved to the other side. Security kicked us out anyway. We only had about a half dozen left at that point, but Mom didn't want to risk drawing too much attention, so we spent the next few days selling them on a street corner a couple blocks away. Luckily, by the time they were gone I was a cashier at a MacDonald's. My boss called me sweetheart. He touched my hair and hands when we ended up near each other. I was glad when Mom said we were moving again. I tossed my red and yellow hat out the window as we headed for the state border.

...

Once I found a thicket of poppies behind an old shed on the outskirts of the trailer park we were staying at. Brilliant reds and oranges. I picked a few and sold them for 75 cents each off the hood of our car. I had to keep an eye on the car while mom worked at the gas station anyway. They sold well and I made sure to keep about a half dozen in stock. I jumped when I saw the cop the first time round, he looked nothing like Dad but the uniform... He noticed. By the third time he wandered subtly by I was a nervous wreck. He noticed that to. Fourth time round he pretended to notice me and walked over.

"Poppies, huh? Pretty." Yessir.

"Where'd you get them?" Picked'em.

"You aren't in trouble." Nosir.

"Can you tell me where you picked them?" I pointed.

"Thanks kid." Yessir.

He walked off.

My Mom got back not long after and I told her about it. She went pale. We had just left when the sirens split the night and red and blue lights faded behind us.

...

This one time I bought a packet of pansy seeds on sale at Ace. Mom had found us work as live in maids for this family and they said I could grow them in a corner of the north garden, as long as I didn't track dirt into the house. We were doing well and they were just beginning to bloom. Then mom started coming back late, moving tenderly like her ribs hurt. The first time she got a black eye I pack us up that night. She protested, we finally had a good income and more things then would fit in the car, but she didn't stop me. I filled my apron with dirt and as many of those pansies as would fit. The bleached white cloth turned brown and the starch stiffness sagged as I tried to keep from knocking too much of the dirt on the floor of the car.

...

Each time my name changed it took so much time to get used to, it would be barely broken in by the time we had to go once more. Every time we packed up to move we would bring as much as we could fit in the car. Just enough to start again in a new town. Sometimes with new ages, religions, and details that couldn't possibly matter. I went through more boxes of hair dye then I care to count.

...

In the end none of it even helped. It was the day after my eighteenth birthday. Mom had bought me a cupcake and we pretended a match was a candle and the park was a private garden. He must have come in the back door while we were out. He was waiting for us when we got home, the bottle already half empty. Mom stepped in front of me. Her blood mixed with the broken shards of glass and soaked the petals my of lilac, already spread across the floor. I couldn't breath. I looked up into bloodshot eyes, the same forget-me-not blue as mine.