“Christine, where are you off to now?”
“No where you should be worried about Ayu,” Christine sing-songed as she winked at her roommate who only sighed deeply and looked back at her computer, pencil in hair in a haphazard bun, glasses on her face. “Are you going to stay at home and code all day my little turtle?” It was Christine's nickname for her because like a turtle, Ayu spent days upon days in this shell that was their apartment.
“Yup, gotta solve cancer with this program after all!” Ayu grinned back at her widely throwing her an extremely fake smile with a peace sign to boot.
“Just because you’re an awesome computer programmer it doesn't mean you need to fulfill the stereotype so perfectly to a T.” Christine said as she came over and ruffled the hair of her barely older roommate. Though it was obvious by appearances that Ayu was far more immature. “Don’t be so sarcastic, someone naïve may take you seriously one day.”
“Well you know the site's been driving me mad anyways.” Christine pitied her she really did, but sometimes she pitied herself more when she heard Ayumu’s heavy typing echoing in her ears all throughout the night. “I’m just glad I’m interviewing that guy today. I’m going to need all the help I can get and I’m sick of doing everything. It’s getting way too big to handle.”
“Just hire me.” Christine pressed a quick affectionate kiss to her temple as Ayu grumbled and scratched away at her, while scowling at her face much like an angry kitty would. “Sometimes I think you were a cat in a past life.”
Ayu scoffed. “If I hired you you'd be useless. The only thing you could do for me was take better profile pictures for people, I swear I saw one guy who thought his nipple was going to get him popular on the site, it had a hair on it too.” Ayu shuddered silently. “Sometimes I think you’re hiding things from your past life.”
“I was the wife of Louis XVII its true.” She sighed dramatically. “I was Marie-Antoinette. It was a great love we had you know despite the fact I cheated and his head was chopped-“
“Shut up Christine and go wherever the hell you've been going dressed in all black except for your boots on May 9th of every year I've ever known you.” Christine gulped a little when she heard the words seep out of Ayumu’s mouth. She’d never realized she’d been that obvious, but then again would it be that obvious or was Ayu just that damned observant?
“See you for dinner?”
“Yeah. I’m going to use your profile to test some things. Hope that’s okay.” Ayu muttered though Christine huffed at the door, idly twisting her foot inwards.
“You know I never gave you permission to set up a profile on your site for me.” It was a little creepy when she thought about the fact that complete strangers on the internet had personal information about her that was supposed to be reserved for Ayu only, but then again Ayu had never been a very conventional roommate.
“You’ll be happy about it one day when I set you up with the dreamiest guy on the site!”
“Then why don’t you set one up for yourself too?” Christine stuck her tongue out and saw Ayu get flustered. Christine actually wondered why she didn’t. Didn’t it make sense for the owner of the website to have a profile on her own website? Kind of like that guy on Myspace? Tom or whatever his name was?
“I’m not going to date someone from my own site. Geez Christine.” She rolled her eyes and Christine shook her head.
“Good luck with the new kid!”
“I’m going to have to hire him because he’s the only one who applied but he doesn’t know it yet.” Ayu sang back as Christine shook her head smiling as she left their apartment locked the door, because god knew Ayu would never get up from her spot on the couch, and stepped towards the elevator.
She still couldn’t believe Ayu had noticed through all these years. She tucked a hair behind her ear and looked at her phone, her boss had messaged back.
Good luck with all your family matters, we don’t need the car today so you can take it no need to drop it off. We’ll talk about the One Direction outdoor shoot tomorrow too, come prepared with notes.
She quickly replied back so he wouldn’t be worried and that was that. She was all done with her work. Now she could focus the rest of her day on the task before her…and she had the company car too, that was like its own godsend.
She always kind of dreaded this day every year, because it didn’t make much sense to go around making such a big deal of something that she should put behind her. Yet as the time for May 9th rolled around, there she was sitting in front of her window staring outside at the life around her and finding herself guilty all of the sudden for no reason.
She went to the flower stall first. The owner was the same year after year, an old Japanese lady who smiled brightly at her and nodded understandingly. Christine just thanked that she never asked any questions and just gave her the dozen sunflowers stuffed in the cracks with Baby’s Breath. The bouquet was about $30 overpriced but it was the one time in the year where Christine didn’t scrape on anything. After that she went to the cake shop and picked up a large, overly huge chocolate cake, and a bunch of eclairs. No one was even going to eat them she was sure but it still felt kind of nice to grab the extra pastries so she went along with it.
Then she found an ice cream truck managing to run with the cake and flowers in her hand. She asked for an extra-large blue-berry slushie. It was her favourite, so she picked up two and thankfully the guy had a cup holder tray, so she could actually carry all of this and not drop any of it.
After grabbing everything she got back into her car and sighed deeply, turning the radio on as she checked her phone briefly. There was only a message from Talia asking whether she was doing okay and they hadn’t spoken for some time still.
Of course she was doing okay. What a peculiar question to ask.
But was it?
Even though she didn’t want to reply right away she did. Which probably meant the message came off catty but Christine couldn’t help it.
She knew she shouldn’t have checked her phone till she finished everything, she checked the time, 2PM. Plenty of time still, but it would be better to get there early and get it over with.
Turning on the engine she started on the long and windy road back to where she’d studied in University. A lake in particular that was beside it, it was about thirty minutes away when she pushed 140 on the highway, and the music she was listening to was helping her get through the ride but she still felt it.
Just as she did every year.
The beat of her heart getting faster, the flashbacks in her mind to the way everything had happened. It had all been over in a little more than two months. Sometimes it felt like that part of her life was like a dream, or something out of a novel. It couldn’t have really happened.
But every time she found herself back here at this lake, she knew it had happened. She'd never be able to ignore the event, no matter how much she wished she could. She slowly made her way out of the car. She was starting to get scared about putting stuff into the lake now because well- to be honest it was kind of like littering but she’d heard of people in various religions doing this so maybe- maybe it’d be okay? She managed to struggle with everything in her hands and made her way towards the lake. She sat down in the same spot she’d sat in close to 5 years ago now. Then she sighed and looked up at the sky.
It was a simple process this honor she paid to something she wasn’t supposed to miss. At least not really, she didn’t miss this thing, she really didn’t, but she did wonder a lot about it. The light from the sun hurt her eyes so she chose now to look back at the sunflowers beside her. They smiled back at her happy about the attention.
“I never really know what to say.” She muttered to herself. She folded her hands together and took a deep breath as she stared out into the horizon. “I guess I want to say as little as possible. I never really know why I come back every year.” This was another strange May 9th tradition.
She picked up one of the slushies she’d bought for herself and sipped it a little. “I bought these today, they’re a new addition…and the eclairs.” Sometimes when she spoke out loud like this, and really this was the only time she spoke out loud ever, she thought she must be crazy.
But it helped to talk out loud and sure it looked like she was talking to herself and she probably was.
But other times it felt like she was talking to- well-
“You know you would have been like five. So I figured I’d have let you start drinking stuff like this. I mean if I kept you. Jesus I hope I'm not doing this when you're 21...I might bring wine then and get sloshed by myself.” She pulled her hair back behind her ear and gulped back the knot that was very quickly growing in her throat. “There was nothing wrong with you, or me but it just wasn’t the right time for you and you weren’t-“ She paused for a second and placed a hand over her eyes. The heels of her brown leather boots digging into the darker brown mud, “I mean it just wasn’t right the way it happened. So I had to do what I did.” For a second her mind flashed back to her ex-boyfriend. She hated thinking about him more than anything.
She was silent for a few seconds, simply hearing the sounds of nature around her, water gushing, the sound of crickets, and it felt like even the glare of the sun had its own noise today. “I hope you understand, I know it’s a bit crazy to come here every year. It’s really stupid. I should stop doing it. I mean for gods’ sake you didn’t even really happen and this is not even where I ended it. I ended it in the clinic two highways past this place…but this is where I mourned you for the first time. So I thought I’d come here.”
She wondered if her child would have even cared about things like this. “I always kind of thought you’d like sunflowers. I like sunflowers…I mean I’m sure it’s might selfish of me to just shove my favourite things on you but I don’t know what you like…so I’m hoping you like what I do. It would have been cute to name you Sunflower, I would have called you Sunny for fun. That’s not a proper name though. It would have been better to call you Lily, or Rose or something more normal floral. Maybe even Peony, but doesn’t Sunflower sound cuter?” She giggled a bit to herself. “Look at me, you could have been a boy and here I am naming a boy Peony.”
“I just want to say I hope you’re okay. I hope you forgive me. I hope that one day if we see each other again and heaven really exists I can see you. I- I wonder sometimes what if. I know life is probably better the way it is now but I still wonder. You would have been a good child. I'm sure of it.” She grinned happily as she stood up and brushed her hands off. “I’m sorry I didn’t give you the chance to be one so all I can do is this.” She picked up the flowers and the cake and the other slushie in her hand leaving hers by the spot she’d dented with her bottom. She walked closer to the water feeling the wind pick up in her hair, the curls flying all over probably mussing up the products she’d put in them to keep it from getting frizzy. She felt the tips of the water wash over her covered feet and smiled lightly. She liked to think when that happened it was kind of like she was touching her.
Or he. She always forgot to remain gender neutral. In her mind, it was always a girl she supposed. “I love you, in a very strange way. Which is why to this day you still haunt me a little.” She smiled back down. “No one in my new life really knows about you, and I know one day I may have to tell some of them…but until then I’ll keep coming here alone okay? Every year, no matter what.” She took a deep breath and picked up the flowers un-wrapping the cord around them so she could place the bouquet into the water and she watched the stems disperse and follow their own path in the water, sunflowers glimmering under the light of their own mother, the sun itself.
Then she picked up the chocolate cake stuffed on the sides with eclairs and placed the box whole into the water shocked to see it float initially which was just as well. Though sometimes she felt a bit bad about wasting the food, it was really the only time of year she did it. She felt like she had to give up some food as well, and cake well all children liked cake right?
She picked up the blue drink from the tray and looked at it sideways it was such an unnatural colour, it probably wasn’t good for children to drink but since she’d loved it as a child how could she hold it back from anyone else? She’d turned out fine. She looked out into the horizon one last time as she poured the slush into the ocean and then took one last breath. She felt free now, like she did every time she finished her silent tribute to the baby who had once lived inside of her. It always sounded so dramatic to put it like that but really it had been quite the opposite when she had been there.
It had been an easy decision for her, she had said no he had insisted and somehow it had happened anyways. It probably had a lot to do with the fact that her boyfriend wasn’t the greatest lover and so it all ended rather quickly. She had been in the wrong technically but she’d been high on her new found freedom away from home so at the shot to move in with her completely new boyfriend who she knew nothing about she took it.
She picked up her slushie from the spot she’d sat at and raised her glass up as if she was silently giving her a toast and could swear she heard a laugh through the wind, but that was probably just her mind personifying nature for her. “See you next year.”
She walked back into the car and started the car, taking one last look at the horizon that looked like it was smiling back at her and she smiled back at it making her peace with her past as she turned the car around and drove back to her present.
Once upon a time Christine Pierce had loved a boy, he had misused her, she had ended up pregnant, she had cried a lot, until she told her friend Talia who caressed her back and told her it was nothing to worry about. It was a mistake a lot of people made, but that was just it. It hadn’t been a mistake she’d made, it had been a mistake forced upon her.
Was it fair to expect her to bear the burden of it all?
So she’d decided to hell with telling him anything, she broke up with him. If she was no longer with him he had no choice and then she went to the clinic filled out all the right forms and then bid good riddance rather happily to something she had thought was going to pose a huge problem for her.
So then why had life started feeling empty soon after the relief dissipated?
She’d heard some people experienced depression but it was more than that, or maybe less than that. It was more that she was happy she had kept her life the way it was, but she was sorry that she had lost what it could have been. So six weeks later after she’d done what she needed to do to get her life back, she came here to this lake off the road, a spot no one really frequented ever and cried her heart out with only the ocean to hear her rather complicated pain.
She still didn’t understand why she kept coming back but she did it anyways. Sometimes it wasn't important to understand these things.
And she would probably continue to come here as long as she lived.
The rituals of buying things had begun after that first year. Always a bouquet of sunflowers and a cake but slowly as her own standard of life was improving so were the things she offered to her.
She sighed and sped up turning the radio back on as she saw the sign telling her she was now entering Los Angeles again. She checked the message she’d sent to Tali at a stop light.
Of course I’m fine. Don’t worry. I’m looking forward to seeing you soon.
As she took another deep breath and put a smile on her face.
She couldn’t think about this again until next year.