Morning Glories and Dandelions
By Krya Skye
“You’re like a morning glory.”
Those were the words that slipped from her mouth, accompanied by thick, skunky smoke. They rang out in the quiet air.
It took Carter a minute to hear it, and another to try to process it. Two minutes had gone by and he still didn’t know what she meant.
She turned to him. “Y’know. Morning glory. The flower.”
Carter looked at the girl beside him, confused. He had heard her say strange things out of spontaneity before, but this one was really out there. He propped himself on his elbow, the sleeve of his flannel digging into the dirt. “You’re comparing me to a flower? You can’t be that high already.”
Yarra laughed mid-exhale, the joint still wedged between her fingers. A wry smile was on her face. Her eyes, usually bright and erratic, were hazy and relaxed.
“Hear me out,” she breathed before passing Carter the joint. He took it and placed it between his lips. The bright ember illuminated his face, showing off his blond scruff.
Yarra’s mouth curled up into a grin as she sat up.
“Okay, so,” she began, “morning glories are stunning. They’re flowers that open and close — like, the actual petals open and close depending on the time of day! How freaking cool is that?!”
Carter watched the smile start to spread across Yarra’s face and knew that this was only the beginning of her tangent. She’d always get so passionate and excited about the simplest things. She’d do it when they were kids and she still did it now. Whether it was how the asteroids that make up Saturn’s rings look like giant sparkly hula hoops or that the churro is the most underrated dessert of all time, she always had a way of making everyday things seem whimsical. It was one of the many things he loved about her.
“They only open in the wee, early mornings when the sun first comes up,” Yarra continued. “They look like squashed-in umbrellas when they’re all curled up, and then they start to unfurl when the sun rises, like this.” Yarra demonstrated with her hands, tightening them up into fists before slowly uncurling each finger. She extended them until her palms were flat and spread apart. Carter watched her slender fingers move and tried to imagine the petals untangling one by one in front of him.
“Alright, so, what does that have to do with me?” Carter asked as he passed the joint to her. Yarra took a long drag, letting the heat fill her lungs. She shut her eyes for a moment before exhaling and pressing the stub into the damp grass.
“For starters, you are the earliest riser I have ever met,” she began. “I’m trying to sleep in until noon on the weekends and you call me at 8 a.m. as if I’m awake. Not to mention, you curl up and go to bed at like, 7 every night. The sun is still out at that point. I don’t know how you do it.”
Yarra wasn’t talking directly to him; her gaze was focused on the glittering stars above them. The evening air was still humid and her brightly-colored tank top stuck to her skin. She only encountered the Georgia heat once a year when she came to the summer camp they had been going to since she was nine. It was the one time when she got to leave the concrete jungle of New York City and free herself from its cement blockades. It was what she looked forward to every summer, counting down the days to when she could see the other campers who came from all around the country. During that in-between time, Carter’s voice kept her company. Although she complained, she rather liked when her slumber was interrupted by her cell phone’s ring and she heard Carter’s voice through the receiver. His morning greeting tasted like syrup on fluffy pancakes. It was one of the sweetest sounds she’d ever known.
“When they open, they look like they have these beautiful white stars in the middle,” she continued. “You only really get to see it when they fully bloom. It’s such a stark contrast against the blues, purples, and pinks the petals usually are. You really get to see how special — how beautiful — the flower really is.”
Carter watched Yarra intently, holding on to her every word. The moonlight cast its glow on her like a spotlight, illuminating her dark skin. It was the first time either of them were out this late together. Now that they were both camp counselors instead of campers, neither of them had curfews. It was the first time they had lain together like this, inches away with only the freshly-cut grass between them. They had spent nearly every summer here together. So many days full of laughter with other campers, running around with mouths filled with sweet cream and salty popcorn underneath the sweltering sun. Now, he saw her beaming beneath the moon, the heat settled into the soil. It was quiet, except for the soft creak of the crickets. Two planets, alone together in orbit for the first time. It had never been quite like this. Not this close.
“I still don’t get what that has to do with me,” Carter joked, his southern drawl a stark contrast against Yarra’s Manhattan cadence. He thought about when they first met and the way Yarra’s eyes reminded him of his mother’s daily cup of coffee, steaming from her chipped mug every morning. Now, nearly a decade later, they were lying next to each other, his sunburned arms brushing against hers.
“Well, if you’d shut up and let me get to that, I think you’ll find out what it has to do with you!” Yarra laughed, making eye contact with him again. Carter felt the butterflies rise up in his stomach. Her eyes reminded him of the endless vastness of space, filled with innumerable stars. So many that he would never encounter — except for the one right in front of him. Yarra smiled lightly and rolled onto her side. Her face was now inches from his, but she made no indication of backing away. The closeness made the hairs on Carter’s arms prick up.
“When I first met you when we were nine, you were curled up like the morning glories. You were shy, closed off. You barely spoke to anyone,” she started. Yarra raised her hand as she spoke and placed it gently on Carter’s chest. She felt his breath hitch and his body stiffen at her touch. It was only for a moment, but she noticed it.
“Look at you now,” Yarra whispered. Her fingers tapped Carter’s chest lightly. “Slowly but surely, you’ve unfurled and blossomed. Your colors are bright and shining for everyone to see. It’s always been in there, but … now it’s so much easier to see. It’s so much easier to see how beautiful of a person you are.” Yarra’s words began to trail off as she continued, her exuberance fading into a whisper. She didn’t know if it was the weed, the closeness between them, or a messy mixture of both, but it suddenly became easy to talk so candidly.
She had been staring at her fingers drumming his chest lightly to avoid eye contact, but now the words were out and she couldn’t take them back. She raised her eyes to gauge his reaction.
Carter’s face was flushed. He could have defended himself and said that it was the heat or the drugs, but he didn’t even bother. Having Yarra simply touch his chest was one thing, but hearing those words from her mouth was another thing entirely. Carefully, he lifted his arm and wrapped it around her, pulling her closer to him. She eased into him, resting her head on his chest. It was quiet for a while. It was warm.
“You’re like a dandelion.”
Yarra scrunched up her nose at his words and laughed. “What? A weed?”
Carter rolled his eyes and smiled. “No! Well — I guess technically, yes, but that’s not what I’m getting at. Let me explain.” Yarra shifted against him and made herself comfortable against his chest before looking up at him. She was listening.
“For starters,” Carter began, “dandelions are really beautiful. Have you seen the bright yellow of them against the grass? They’re like little rays of sunshine for the ground. They’re so exuberant and they pop out, begging to be seen. And that’s not even when they get ready to spread their seeds. Y’know, when they fuzz up and kids pull ’em out of the ground to make a wish? That’s the most universal and nostalgic thing that I think everyone can relate to.” His words came out effortlessly as he gazed up at the stars. His hand trailed from Yarra’s shoulder blades to the small of her back. Yarra relaxed against him, taking in the rustic scent of his skin.
“That’s all nice and dandy,” Yarra said. “But I don’t get what that has to do with me.”
Carter kept his eyes fixated on the stars and bit his bottom lip. He faltered for a moment, wondering if he should tell her, if this was the right time. He felt the air in his chest tighten. If this wasn’t the right time, then there would be no other time.
“Yarra … you are the light of my life.”
His voice came out raspy, hitting the back of his throat. Yarra recognized the sound, having heard it over the phone when they’d talk for hours until 2 a.m. She had never heard it in person. She tensed at the vibration in his chest.
“You are the ray of sunshine against the grass. You brighten even the darkest days with your energy, your passion, and your optimism. You are beautiful, yet also the strongest person I have ever known. Dandelions don’t just disappear, they’re called weeds for a reason — they are resilient. You are resilient in ways I could never fathom — whether it be taking care of all your siblings at home or finishing up your semesters at college, I’m never short of awed by your tenacity.
“And just like dandelions, you continue to bloom even after you’ve shown your beauty and brightness to the world. Dandelions fuzz up and people make wishes on them. They inspire people. You inspire people. You make people dream and believe in themselves. You spread your energy, your strength, your positivity with everyone you meet. You’ve made me dream and wish for things I would have never even considered.” Carter was breathless. Words that he had held back for so long were flowing out of him. He wasn’t done yet.
“Yarra, I only get to see you once a year. Once every summer; it’s been that way for so long. You live in New York, I live in Kansas — it’s not like I can just hop on a plane whenever or take a nine-hour drive to come see you. And when I do, it’s for a week at this camp. We can talk on the phone all we want; it’s great that we’re able to talk almost every day. But it’s not the same as seeing you and being here with you physically. We’ve grown up together, but we’ve also grown apart. And it’s not fair. I wish — I always fuckin’ wish that I could be growing with you instead of away from you. I wish that it could be like this, all the time, every day.” Carter was gasping at his words, all of them flooding out with no barriers to stop them. He felt the pang in his chest as he spilled what he had been holding in for so long. He still had one more thing to say.
“Yarra, every time I see a dandelion, I pick it and hold it in my hand. Everytime I make a wish, I wish for you.”
His words hung in the humid air above them, thick against the cloudless sky. They were out and he couldn’t snatch them back. The gravity of his words began to sink in and he realized that Yarra hadn’t said a single word. Nervously, he looked down at her.
Yarra was crying. Her eyes had begun to sting when he said she was the light of his life. Her vision became blurry as he spoke, until Carter’s shirt became damp with tears. She had longed for a moment like this, but never anticipated the heartache that would come along with it. Distance made things impossible and they both knew it, but it didn’t stop either of them from feeling the way they did about each other.
Yarra looked at him. The moonlight illuminated his features that she saw shift more and more each year. A small, teary smile emerged on her face as she reached up to caress his cheek. His stubble felt like soft bristles against her fingertips. He smelt rustic, like his barn back in Kansas. Carter closed his eyes at her touch and pulled her closer to him. It felt like home.
When he opened his eyes again, her face was inches from his. His hands were at the small of her back, hers still resting on his cheek. It was quiet. It was warm.
Yarra leaned in and softly pressed her lips against his. It was a kiss that was long overdue. It tasted sweet.
Tomorrow morning they would be heading back to their homes, Carter to Cottonwood Falls, Yarra to Manhattan. But in that moment, it didn’t matter. He was her morning glory, she was his dandelion. She watched him bloom and he wished for her.