You sprawled across the rug of lush grass and vibrant flowers beneath you, stretching your arms and legs out as far as you could. The sweet fragrance of spring lingered in the air, surrounding you with warmth and peace you haven’t felt in a long time. You closed your eyes and sank deep in the sunlight’s embrace.
“I’m glad we came out here. I tend to forget how refreshing spring is after winter. Especially in these times,” a voice spoke out from next to you.
You opened half an eye and turned your head just slightly to look up at Harry, the boy sitting next to you. He propped his head up with one hand, fiddling with a golden flower in his other one.
“Do you like it?” you asked, although you could already tell the answer from his mellow smile. He responded with a nod only.
Spring suited him much better than winter. His crown of silver hair was reminiscent of a halo in these bright lights, and his violet eyes reflected the colours of the pansies, buttercups and daisies below. His usual paleness was starting to let up, replaced by a healthy glow. Looking at him, any person would think he’s from out of this world.
“We didn’t get to talk much in the last few days,” you looked him in the eyes, but he could tell you weren’t trying to condemn him.
Life got quite busy, as both of you did plenty of volunteer work around the safe zone. Sometimes you would only meet at meal times, or when passing by eachother with a box of rations, tools, or medicine. In these times you would exchange a brief but encouraging smile, and then go on your ways.
“Yeah, it’s a bummer,” he nodded. “How are you feeling?”
“Pretty good. I stayed up with Judy yesterday, we played cards.”
“Really? Where did you get them?” he asked with a hint of surprise. It wasn’t as common to play games nowadays.
“It’s Judy’s. She bought it from some guy who’s been selling stuff like that. Dice, cards, some board games even I think. But those are probably pretty expensive.”
“It sounds fun.”
“It is!” you nodded enthusiastically. “Will you come play with us sometime? I’ll get the others too.”
“Oh, sure, I’d love to. Although it’s gonna be hard to coordinate for everyone to be there,” he said, a glint of skepticism in his eyes.
“They can’t all be working at the same time forever! I’ll make it happen, don’t worry. Just come,” you reassured him.
“I already said I would, didn’t I?” he nudged you with a smile.
“I’m just making sure.” You grinned, then stretched and turned to your side, propping yourself up as well. “And how are you doing? Still have trouble sleeping?”
“Mm, yeah, sometimes.”
“How come though?”
“The gears in my brain just won’t stop turning, I guess.”
“Ah, you can’t stop thinking?”
“Pretty much. I try to think of relaxing things, good things, but I still unintentionally have these… Sharp, painful moments coming to my mind. These horrible memories. And once I think of them even for a split second, it’s like I spiral down. I just don’t understand why I can’t… I can’t just be normal, go to sleep, and forget about these awful things,” he slightly furrowed his brows, looking like he regretted giving such a long-winded answer to such a simple question.
You pressed your lips together, your guts churning at the sound of him sharing his burdens. These things have probably been bubbling inside him for long. You felt so helpless, but still, words started spilling from you.
“It’s understandable. Even though your mom is back and we’re all safe together… We went through some horrible things. And I’m guessing you also think a lot about your father, right?” you asked, and he nodded solemnly.
“You shouldn’t be expected to get over these memories, these—” you grasped in the air, trying to think of the correct term, “these traumatic things. You went through so much pain, so many hardships. It will take time to heal.”
You looked at him, but couldn’t read his expression. Your sentences felt jumbled and senseless, but this was familiar. It was the universal human experience of talking about something complicated and trying to comfort someone.
“What I mean is” —you continued— “that it’s not your fault. Brains were not made for people to deal with things like these. And you can’t be expected to just, process and rationalize such things, then forget about them. It’s just too much. So please and try to remember this. It’s not your fault, and you’re just as deserving of some good sleep as anyone else.”
“You’re right,” he sighed, and a sheepish smile appeared on his face. “Yeah, yeah, you’re right. Thank you. I think without talking to someone about this, it’s really easy to slip into this awful mindset.”
“Get lost in the sauce,” you commented in jest, earning a laughter from Harry.
“Exactly,” he grinned, then stayed silent for a few moments, seemingly gathering courage to talk. “I was actually thinking about… Maybe checking in with the psychologist who moved in nearby the other month. But it’s super nerve-wracking for some reason and I haven’t talked to her yet. I think I got used to these feelings. The meds help with the migraines, and I drown out the negative thoughts. I’m kind of scared to make an effort to change, but I think I realized sometime ago that I can’t live like this forever,” he scratched the back of his neck.
“Oh, I completely understand. But still, I’m really happy that you thought of it! I think facing your deepest problems and recognizing that you might need help is a big step in the right direction already. I mean, I know that sounds cliché, but it’s definitely true. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m really, really proud of you,” you smiled, putting one hand on his knee and giving him an encouraging shake. “Also, if you want, I can pester you with getting an apointment.”
“I’d actually really like that,” he laughed again. “Thank you.”
“But also, for the time being, if you want to talk about these things, you know you can count on me. I’m not the best at giving advice, but I want you to know that you can share anything with me. Or like, even if you have trouble sleeping, you can sleep at my place! Just don’t bottle it up. I want to know how you are,” you said warmly.
“That means so much… I’ll keep it in mind,” he nodded, although at the mention of a sleepover, he seemed somewhat flustered. “Sorry I ruined the mood with all this sad talk.”
“Please don’t ever say that. You couldn’t ever ruin my mood, Harry.”
He didn’t respond, instead he ripped a handful of grass out from the ground and placed it carefully on your arm.
“How about now?”
“Okay, nevermind. This just absolutely ruined my day,” you snorted, gripping the grass and throwing it onto Harry’s lap. He laughed and brushed himself off.
After some comfortable silence, you decided to sit up as well, facing Harry with your legs crossed. You ran your hand across the variety of flowers surrounding you, stopping at a daisy bigger and brighter than the others. It took only a second of thinking before you tore it down, now examining it in your hand.
“I didn’t think there would be so many flowers here,” Harry commented, looking at your hand as well. The ring he gifted to you was hugging your finger neatly, and it filled him with a sense of ease.
“I told you it was an amazing place,” you answered, looking up at him with a soft smile. Without hesitation, you raised the daisy up to his face, gently tucking it behind his ear. It was a little crooked, but perfect. You noticed his cheeks and ears seemed a little red. He didn’t dare touch the flower, fearing it would break or fall from even the slightest motion. You couldn’t help but grin at him.
“Would you like to learn how to make a flower crown?” you asked after some time, already reaching in the grass yourself. You were looking for flowers with the perfect size, shape, colour, and stem thickness.
“That would be lovely, yes,” he answered, still in a haze from your previous gesture.
“Alright, hold on.”
You kept on collecting flowers as the two of you listened to the choir of birds singing nearby. A couple months ago neither of you could’ve imagined that such peace could be left anywhere in this world.
“Okay, I’m gonna show you nice and slow,” you said after a while, giving half the flowers over to Harry, who nodded with bright eyes.
You began weaving the stems together, being careful to show a good demonstration. You haven’t done this in quite some time, but you still did a pretty good job. Harry on the other side didn’t seem to get the hang of it yet. He focused so hard on his own piece and yet, the stems and leaves sticking out in every direction made for a somewhat funny looking crown. You let out a soft laughter.
“Wait, let me help you,” you scooted closer to him, feeling sorry for the messy circlet he created. You put your hand on his and gently guided it through the process, hoping he wouldn’t notice your quivering fingers and flushed face.
After a couple minutes of silent weaving, the final motion of the craft was done. Half of it was rugged and more reminiscent of some sort of bird’s nest, but half of it turned out pretty decent. You let go of his hands, already missing the warmth of his skin against yours. These small moments of familiarity always made you weak, and you felt like your insides turned into syrupy honey. Even the air was stuck in your lungs for a moment. You didn’t even notice that Harry was going through the same torments.
“Okay, not bad! You’ll get better at it,” you spoke, mustering some strength.
“Thank you, this is beautiful. Can I wear it?” he asked.
“Of course, that’s the fun part!”
You both carefully placed the crowns on your heads, then looking at eachother, you both laughed out heartily. He looked heart-melting of course, but it was an unusual sight.
“It looks really good on you,” Harry beamed, and you felt your bones become jelly.
“Thank you. Flowers suit you well too,” you said, giving him a wide grin.
After that and until the sun started setting, you talked about everything that came to your minds. Food, music, movies, the life before and after the virus, the future (both the week ahead and the distant years), and about yourselves. For the time you spent with him, your sorrows and anxiety about the world faded into the background. As the sky shifted to a beautiful orange and the meadow was painted in gold, you knew it was about time to get home. Better not make the others worry.
“Hey, I was thinking and… I’d like to take you up on that offer,” Harry spoke as he stood up and brushed himself off.
“The sleepover. I can make dinner for us and everything. Of course if Judy doesn’t mind,” he got a little unsure at the end, but looked at you with a glimmer of hope.
“Oh, wow, of course!” you grinned after a moment of surprise. “She’s staying at Hailey tonight anyway, but I’ll ask if she’s cool with it. This is so exciting!” you exclaimed, a surge of happiness rushing through your body.
On the way home, you couldn’t stop chattering about all the fun things you were going to do, how you were going to borrow Judy’s cards and even break out your stash of highly-prized snacks, while Harry couldn’t stop thinking that despite everything, life may be pretty good sometimes.