10 - Where the Explanation Begins

Start from the beginning

         I closed my eyes and sighed contently. I leaned my head back and rested it against the wall, taking a deep breath. Their garden really was beautiful, and I’d only smelled fresher air at Iliadys.

         There was a rustling sound beside me, and someone sighed before they sat down on the stone next to me.

         “Hey,” said Jacoby. I assumed he had leaned back too, for the fence creaked.

         “Hey.”

         “I’m sorry if I scared you,” he said, while adjusting his position.

         I cracked an eye open and glanced at him with that one eyeball. He was looking back at me, hesitantly. Then I noticed his shirt. He had changed into a plain black short sleeve. If the sky got any darker, he could pass as a ninja.

         “That’s okay,” I replied just as quietly. “Why did you run?”

         He swallowed and closed his eyes briefly. “I wasn’t expecting you…you and—” He sighed and shook his head. “Can you see?” he whispered. His eyes were wide and he stared at me, giving me his rare, undivided attention.

         Flowers were curling around his feet, ones I had never seen before. They were thin and transparent, feathery, weak-looking things, like they would crumble into dust if I so much as touched them. I reached out anyway and brushed my palm against them. They jerked away from me.

         Jacoby let out a shaky breath. “Have you always…?”

         I continued brushing the flowers until they shrank to a tiny height. Dandelions began sprouting up, miniscule two-inch ones. I looked up at Jacoby and nodded.

         “Always?” he asked, frowning now.

         “Always.”

         “Why didn’t you ever ask me about them?” he asked, baffled. The crease between his eyebrows deepened. “How could you stand not to ask?”

         I laughed a little. “I used to ask your mom about them, way back when we first met. She just told me I had a really good imagination,” I said. “After that, I really thought I was hallucinating. And you acted like there wasn’t anything wrong with you, too.”

         He scoffed. The feathery flowers shrunk even further while the dandelions grew. “There isn’t anything wrong with me. I’m just…special. Different, in a way,” he mimicked, making his voice squeaky.

         I rolled my eyes. “That was a terrible impression. I don’t recall having the vocal chords of a certain boy named Jacoby when he was twelve years old.”

         He looked offended. “I didn’t sound like that,” he protested. He fell silent, perhaps thinking back when he hadn’t hit puberty yet. He frowned and repeated, “I didn’t sound like that…” in a voice that was much less assured.

         I smiled while the frail flowers disappeared completely and were replaced with dandelions. A few pansies even popped up.

         I decided we were both comfortable enough for me to ask the million-dollar question. “How come you’re like this?”

         Jacoby sighed and rubbed his index finger and thumb over his eyelids. “It’s a really, really long story.”

         I pulled my cell phone out. “We have half an hour. Think that’s enough to cover everything?”

         He leaned in closer to peer at my phone. He sighed again. “Come with me.”

         He offered me his hand and pulled me to my feet. I dusted off the back of my dress and slipped my shoes on again. Jacoby grasped my shoulders and turned me around, so I was facing away from him.

         “The price tag’s still on here,” he mumbled, reaching towards my back and grabbing it.

         I gave a start and felt my face burn.

         “Is it really? This isn’t a prank of yours, is it?” I squeaked.

         “Yeah. I mean, yeah, it’s on there, but no, not a prank. Don’t worry about it. Your hair was covering it a minute ago. Here.” He pushed past the guests and led me into the living room. “Let’s cut that off before someone else notices it.”

         I smiled a faint smile. “Sounds good.”

         I heard him open and close a drawer. He carefully pushed my hair to the side, tickling me when he brushed the nape of my neck. “Sorry,” he said with a small laugh. I couldn’t tell just from his voice whether it was a nervous laugh or not.

         Snick.

         “There we go.” He handed me the tag and put away the scissors. “Let’s go out to the gazebo. I don’t think anyone’s gone over there yet.”

         We walked through the back door again and down one of the paths. There were the occasional couple of people standing on the side of the path, sipping coolers and chatting.

         I stared at the trail of flowers Jacoby left in his wake. There were pansies, smiling, not laughing, and dandelions. And as we got closer to the thankfully empty gazebo, a couple orange, star-shaped flowers cropped up amongst the others. I gave it a small nudge as I walked, making Jacoby jump and clap a hand over his heart, like he was about to recite a boy’s scout pledge.

         “Don’t,” he said, twisting around to look at me and nearly tripping over the first step of the gazebo. He righted himself on the wooden frame and straightened. “You didn’t see that,” he mumbled.

         I laughed, but sobered immediately when I saw him rubbing his chest. “Does it hurt or something, when someone touches your flowers?” The question sounded ridiculous, but Jacoby answered seriously as he took a seat on one of the benches.

         “Not really. I can feel it, even though they’re disconnected. But it hasn’t hurt me so far.”

         I frowned. “So far. So that means you can potentially be injured because of them?” I asked. Jacoby stared at me with wide eyes and raised a fist to knock loudly on the wooden post. “Sorry, it’s just…if someone just say, completely stomped on your flowers, would it hurt you?”

         He sighed. “I don’t think so. Normal people just don’t notice my flowers. They feel it, but I sometimes think they’re too busy or ignorant or out of it to really see them.”

         “That can’t be right,” I said. “It isn’t the case all the time, is it? It can’t be. What about at school?”

         He shrugged wordlessly.

         I accept his lack of an answer, but think of another question. “Even if people don’t see your flowers, they can still accidentally trip over them, right?”

         He shook his head. “No, they don’t. I mean they feel it, but they don’t trip; my flowers are careful enough to avoid getting in the way. And even if people do feel something against their feet, they don’t notice that they’re flowers. I don’t know what my flowers look like to other people. They could be invisible. Camouflaged. Blurred.” He shrugged again.

         “How come I can see your flowers?”

         Jacoby stared straight at me. “This is where the story begins.”

(**A/N: I had a nine-page update up for about ten minutes, but I realized it was too long. Stay tuned for Jacoby's explanation!)

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