Have you ever felt a sense of impending doom when waking up in the morning? The feeling of waking up in the morning to realise that you haven’t woken up from a nightmare, instead finding yourself waking up to a nightmare? Sort of like waking up in the morning to realise that the millions of dollars you inexplicably won in the lottery despite not buying a ticket was in fact just a part of a cruel, sweet dream? Well that was the way i had felt when i woke up this morning, for it was the morning that i would finally try and confess my feelings to my childhood friend.
It’s been 8 years since i met her, and 3 years since i’ve realised that i fell for her. Those 3 years i’ve always searched for an opportunity, anything i could do to finally tell her how i felt, yet nothing has come from it since i was such a coward. I’m more or less a natural born coward, a person who always shied away from any challenges or any threats, and did nothing that had so much as a slight chance of a risk. There were so many times and chances given to me to tell her how i felt, or a hint of some kind, like last Thursday in the cinema, or during lunch break when we were left alone by our classmates on Tuesday, or even when we were walking home together yesterday, i’ve been given far too many chances that i’ve never took advantage of. It’s not like i was good at hiding my feelings either; If i was then maybe everyone in class wouldn’t already know about how i felt, at this point i’m sure that the only person that’s blissfully unaware of my love is Vonix herself. She was always laughing at my silly antics, my clumsy nature when i stumble over nothing while carrying my tray from the cafeteria, my forgetfulness in bringing my lunch in the first place, even during my embarrassed stuttering when talking to her at times even after 8 years. In fact, i can’t think of many moments where i’ve seen her not smiling, maybe except that one time of course.
When we were 14, which was about 4 years ago, i was always getting bullied in class for my short stature, as everyone around me towered high above, sometimes even 30 centimetres or so. Everyone loved to make fun of me because they knew i couldn’t fight back, and i didn’t put up a fight. This went on throughout the school year, until it got out of hand one day when the notorious class bully tried to hit me for accidentally knocking into him while i was dashing for the toilet. “Have you no eyes? Could you not see me here, or are your eyes just as small as you are?” I didn’t have time to argue with him as i really needed the toilet, so i gave him a half hearted apology and tried again for the door, but he didn’t let me pass. As he raised his fist in a fit of anger, i braced myself for the impact that would probably have landed me in the hospital should it connected. As i stood waiting for the imminent right swing, i heard someone rushing to my defence. “He’s already apologised, it’s not like he did it intentionally either, so just let him go already!” It was Vonix, as she placed herself between me and the bully. There was a different air to her this time, not the usual calm and playful aura i was used to. I couldn’t put my finger on the difference, until she managed to chase the bully away and turned to face me. She was not smiling.
‘Today’s the day!” Trying to psych myself up to do something, i realise that today’s the perfect time to confess my feelings to her, it was the 14th of February afterall. Motivated, i put on my shoes and stepped outside. That was when i realised, the moment the warm rays of sunlight touched my skin; What do i even get her? I’ve tried so hard to convince myself to finally muster up the courage to do something, that i forgot to plan what that something was. I strolled aimlessly along the asphalt pavement, trying to think of a suitable plan to confess. I must have passed several blocks by the time i realised where i was headed, as i was slowly but surely making my way to the shopping district. “Wow,” i wondered, “Even my legs and my subconscious mind knows more about confessing and what to do than me, maybe i should just perpetually stay in that trance…” The echoes of people trying to market their products and middle aged women trying equally as hard to bargain with them filled my ears as i entered the district. There were many items on sale, ranging from an assortment of coloured towels and pretty keychains. There was everything in here, from people selling cotton candy and popcorn to stores selling wooden furniture. There were also many stores selling Valentine’s day themed items, such as boxes of pretty chocolate and pendants that you could engrave your significant other’s name on. I was jolted out of my daydream, as i realised that i was just staring at the plethora of items on sale, and that i had long forgotten my purpose, getting a gift for Vonix. It was hard to think with all the noise, but i had to come up with something, anything that i could give so that it’ll be easier for me to confess. As i reached out for the box of chocolates that was on Valentine’s sale, i was pushed along by the sea of people. “Hey!” i tried to squeak, but it was no use, i was too far away from the shore. Further and further i drifted away from the pretty pink shop that sold Valentine’s day items, and i stopped struggling to fight the current as i decided to let the massive crowd of last minute shoppers take me wherever they wished. As i found myself washed up on a quiet deserted island where nobody inhibited, i stumbled upon a lonely floral shop.
This is the one.
A wave of cowardice hit me again, as i found myself nervous to enter the store. Pacing back and forth, worrying thoughts filled my mind. ‘What if she doesn’t like it, what if she has a flower allergy… what if…” I was all too confused with what to do as a fresh wave of anxiety hit me. The sun was already high up in the air, and i hadn’t a moment to waste if i wanted to confess to her by today. With new-found conviction, i entered the beautifully decorated store. Flowers were everywhere, gorgeously arranged and placed neatly in clear glass vases. The entire rainbow was represented in the store, and the bewitching scent of flora pleasantly wafted into my nostrils. It was then that i realised; What flowers do i even purchase? I haven’t an inkling of knowledge regarding flowers, as well as what Vonix might even like when it came to them. That was when i heard the voice of a woman in her twenties call out to me.
“Hello, how may i help you?”
As i turned to face the woman, i realised that it must be the florist that owned the store. The florist smiled warmly at me, as she picked up a rose from one of the vases around. “Sorry for standing around without saying anything, i was just dumbfounded by your selection of flowers here...” I found myself muttering, as i hung my head in guilt. How long have i been standing there without saying anything? She approached me with the rose still in her hand, probably assuming that i was trying to buy a rose for my beloved. ‘If you’re looking for flowers for your Valentine, i have a wide array of them, however i do think this rose would probably be the most foolproof item you could get.” I shook my head in disagreement, as i stared at the variety of flowers behind her. I was spoilt for choices as there were as many flowers in this tiny store as the stars in the night sky, but i knew that the rose would be the wrong choice. “I’m looking for a flower, but i’m afraid the rose may not be the one. I’m afraid the thorns might cut her so i’d prefer something else…” This came out no more than a mumble, as i was afraid she might try to educate me on why the rose was the best choice for this special day, and i haven’t the time to discuss it with her. She tensed up, almost dropping the rose, as if i had said something horrible. Gesturing me to follow her, she paced away from me until she was standing in front of the back door of the store. “In the many years i’ve worked here, that’s the first time i’ve heard that. Come here, i’ll show you a secret!”
What awaited me was a well kept garden, possibly filled with an even larger variety of flowers than the shop. As i was careful not to trample on any of the pretty things, she sat down beneath a small tree, as if she’s done so many times before. “Well, of course the garden isn’t a secret, everyone around here knows i’ve got one here. The secret i was talking about is this flower right here, the Salvia.” It was an azure blue flower, as big as her palm. The flower stood out amongst the rest, as if the garden was constructed to compliment the sole cluster of Salvia flowers. “The Salvia symbolises modesty, sensuality, and most importantly, love. It was a gift from my boyfriend, whom is now overseas, working hard to master his passion.” Those words seemed distant, as if she was longing for his return. She was careful not to look at me while uttering them either, as she looked to the sky, as if searching for him, somewhere. “He wanted to pursue his career in medicine, and decided that the best way was to further his education somewhere far, so he went to Germany. He gave me those flowers as a parting gift, saying he would return eventually. There is also a phrase that’s linked to the Salvia, being the phrase “I’m thinking of you”.” While she kept up her smile, it was clear that she was heartbroken. She clutched her flower tightly to her chest, now staring right at me, her clear hazel eyes shining with resolve. “When i heard what you told me earlier, i saw the determination and love you had. Even though you were unsure about yourself, you knew not to harm the one closest to you. With this flower, i want you to cherish her, as i’m sure she’s important and very dear to you.” She stood up, handing me a pink and white flower from beneath her apron. On the plastic wrapper that bunched up the enchanting stalks of Marjoram’s, there was a label that read, “Joy and happiness”.
It was clear what i had to do then.
I paid for the flowers, and left hastily for her house. There was a sense of lingering loneliness that i felt from the florist, and i was determined to help her out when i was able to, but i didn’t want to lose the determination and the guiding light i had received from the florist. Why had i been so convoluted with thought before? The answer i needed was never in the gift, the answer was what i was able to give. I will make her happy, i will be the reason she smiles in the morning. The present wasn’t important, it was what i gave to her afterwards that mattered. I ran, as fast as my legs could possibly take me, towards her house. It was a long distance from the shop, but that didn’t matter to me as the adrenaline in my body spurred me forward. She’s always been there for me, always smiling and helping me out whenever she can, never with a complaint. This time, i want to be the one to be there for her, always supporting her, always caring for her, always loving for her. I will provide her with the present, but i will also be there for her in the future.
“Is Vonix here?”
As she opened the door, i was speechless again. Her long jet black hair cascaded behind her back, with her dark eyes widening at the state i was in. Perspiration dripped from my brow, and my shirt was soaked through. There was a sudden ache from my legs, but at least the flowers were safe. “Are you okay? Have you always went for an evening jog? No fair, you should invite me along next time!” She teased as she gestured for me to enter her home to rest. Evening jog? I was sure the sun was still up a moment ago, just how long have i ran for? Looking at her concerned face as i didn’t react to her kindness, i realised i had so much to say, so much i needed her to know. Unable to bear the weight of my own crushing heart, i blurted out my feelings in their entirety.
“I’m so sorry for always causing trouble for you, Vonix! All those times i’ve made you worry, all those times i’ve made you sad, all the times you’ve had to help me out, like that time with the bully… I don’t know what i’d do without you, Vonix, i just want you to stay by my side… “
With all the remaining courage i could conjure, i found myself raising my voice as i told her the final piece of the puzzle still left empty;
“I love you, Vonix!”
There wasn’t even a seconds delay. She embraced me, taking the Marjoram’s from my hand and giving me something i had not expected in the slightest; A kiss.
“AiShou, I love you too…”
AiShou stalked around the front of the store, pacing nervously back and forth. “What if she doesn’t like it… What if it doesn’t look good…. What if…..” So many thoughts swirled around in his head, it was all too confusing for the 15 year old. He had been loitering around the shop, unsure of what to get her. She was so precious to him, helping him when he needed it the most, always being there for him, always guiding him whenever he did something wrong. This time, he wanted to be there for her, to be able to make her smile, just like she always made him in the most downcast of days. “I want to be able to make her laugh, make her smile, make her happy,” and with these thoughts in his head, he finally entered the store.
“Hello, how may i help you?”
He stopped cold in his tracks. He had finally mustered the courage to enter the store but he still had not an inkling about what he wanted to get her. Staring blankly at the plethora of flowers around him, he was spoilt for choices. “I’m looking for a gift, but i don’t know w...what to get…” AiShou stammered, tearing up just a tiny bit. The florist stared at him for a brief moment, and then got up to pat him on the back. “In the 10 years i’ve ran this store, i’ve seen that face many times. Come here, i’ll show you around!”
AiShou followed the florist to the back of the store, his curiosity piqued, and to his astonishment an enchanting garden was what greeted him. Why was there a garden behind the floral shop? More importantly, why was she bringing him here? As if she heard his questions, she replied calmly, “This garden wasn’t always here you know, i was inspired to create this flower bed because of one flower here…” As she spoke she gently caressed a blue flower, as if she was recalling fond memories. “This is a blue Salvia, it was here by its lonesome before i constructed this garden. Do you know what it signifies by any chance?” AiShou shook his head, as he gazed at the Salvia. The azure blue colour of the flowers really stood out amongst the other vibrant coloured flowers, as if the florist arranged the flowers to compliment the cluster of flowers. “Salvia’s significance is in the phrase, “I think of you”.” She smiled at him warmly, continuing her monologue, “My boyfriend was sent overseas by his parents, since they wanted him to become a doctor, and he slowly started to forget me here. I’ve never forgotten him though, and i prevented the Salvia’s from wilting away, as a way of preventing my memories from fading.”
All this time he was trying to find the right flower, trying to find the right answer through his gift. Why was the present important? What he wanted was to provide for her now, to be able to support her in her time of need, to be able to see her smile….. To be able to love her. He was worrying too much about what to give when the answer was right there to begin with. He would give her the present, but he will also make up her past, and provide for her future. “You know, even after all this though, you still need to get something for her… How about these Marjoram’s?” Written below the Marjoram’s were the significance of the flowers, which wrote, “Joy and happiness”. No need for sappiness, no need for sad feelings, no need for intense feelings of romance, for he would provide that for her; This flower was the one.
Making his purchase, he thanked the florist profusely and ran out of the store in search of her. He needed to see her, he needed to tell her everything. How could he have been so blind? She was everything to him, and she really needed to know this. In a flash, he arrived at the doorstep of her house. Guilt coursed through his veins as he clutched the Marjoram’s tightly, bracing himself for the moment.
“Excuse me, is Vonix here?”
As she opened the door, he was left speechless again. Vonix, seeing his brow dripping in sweat, felt that something was off. “Are you alright? Why do you look so flustered?” She inquired. Hearing her voice, he felt the need to say it, and to say it quick. Here goes nothing……
“I love you vonix! I’m sorry for all the times that i’ve made you sad, all the times i’ve made you worry, all the times i’ve made you angry. I just… i feel i need you with me! Without you i don’t know how i’m supposed to feel anymore…… Who would go out with me to catch a gory movie? Who would be with me till it was 4am in the morning, laughing about silly and dumb things? Who would care for me the way you do? Who would……”
She stopped him from talking, putting her finger on his lips. It was as if the world had stopped revolving, and everything came to a halt. They both gazed into each other’s eyes, his brimming with tears and hers with motherly tenderness. She took the Marjoram’s from his clammy hands, and proceeded with something AiShou had never expected in the slightest; A kiss.
“AiShou, i love you too…”
Ray woke up alone in a desolate room, the feeling of loneliness creeping up to him slowly, but surely. This feeling was nothing new to Ray however, as he's been accustomed to being alone for all his life. Getting up from the cold bed that knew no warmth, he staggered towards the bathroom to get cleaned and dressed. Gazing at the mirror, all he could see reflecting from it was a disheveled young man that had no purpose in life. It was always the same story in the morning; After seeing such a pitiful state, he vowed to change, but yet he was not resolute enough to do anything about it. No one could blame him, what else did he have to live for? He was alone in this world, with no one to enjoy the greatness and joyous thing we all have come to know as life. “I’ve long since given up….”
“Ray? Let’s go for breakfast!”
That’s right, the only thing he had in life anymore, that prevented him from doing anything foolish, was his friends. Keith, his schoolmate and best friend, was always trying to get him to do things other than staying at home rotting away. Sometimes shutting himself away from the world was the easiest way to continue surviving, nothing that can bother him, nothing that can remind him of the suffering he once felt…. Escaping was the easiest route to take, but also a most cowardly one. Getting dressed, he went to get the door where Keith had been patiently waiting. “Geez, you should at least comb your hair, you look like you just woke up!” Keith mused as he tossed Ray a peculiar black bag. Upon opening and inspecting the bag he found that it was full of daily necessities, and with them a little note which read “Please use all of it.” He carefully placed down the bag on the nearby table before coming back to ask Keith.
“Why are you doing all this for me?”
The simple question cut through the still air, silence permeating the surroundings. Keith took a deep breath and simply whispered something inaudible, almost as if he was embarrassed to speak of it. “I thought you needed some things in that old fridge of yours, you know? I don’t wanna always eat instant ramen everytime i come over~” The sudden change of mood caught Ray off guard, leaving him in shock. "I could have sworn i heard something different…"
As they walked along the asphalt pathway towards their favourite cafe, Keith tried to lighten the mood by telling jokes and short stories that have happened in his club meetings. Nothing seemed to work though, as Ray remained stoic as ever, managing to scoff at one of the stories of a club mate being unable to get out of the club room due to leaving the key behind in the main office. This continued until they were standing outside their destination. rose blanche, the huge signboard read, looming above them. The waiters here were nice enough to leave Ray alone, letting him savour his meals in solitude, which was something he really enjoyed. Today however, he was joined by Keith, who seemed to never stop talking. Sometimes Ray wished Keith would be able to perceive that he did not want to continue talking, and that he just wanted to silently sit and rot away. “I’ll have a Lemon Cheese cake, thanks.” Keith always ordered the same thing, without even looking for new specials in the menu. Ray ordered a Red Velvet cake, and they sat in absolute silence, patiently awaiting their orders to arrive. The suffocating silence became too hard to bear, and Ray could not hold his confusion in anymore.
Ray blushed knowing it was a strange question, his cheeks stained red with awkward embarrassment. The words came out louder and sharper than he anticipated, and he immediately regretted his decision. He did not expect an answer, rather he did not even expect to blurt out his question. “Here’s your orders, enjoy!” The waiter chimed as she brought the two dainty pastries towards the both of them. Keith was still stunned by the sudden outburst, and he did not know how to reply. He took a small nibble of his Lemon Cheese cake, and he just gave a small grin in return…
Because i like you.