Made of Lilies
Her name was Lily, even though everyone always told her she was the essence of a rose. But James? James knew that she was a Lily from the start; he even said that she was made of them.
She was six years old when they had first met, back when their thoughts were full of wishes and fantasies, back when everything that mattered was within their reach. She didn't love, or even like him then, but he had admired her easily.
She could feel his gaze lingering on her; it had been for days now. She was getting tired of it. All she wanted to do was play in the flower garden in the park. So naturally, she did what any confident, stubborn six year-old girl would do when a boy stares at her for no apparent reason; she confronted him.
"Why are you staring at me?" Lily asked. The boy's cheeks turned red, a feat she had believed to be impossible due to his clearly prideful demeanor.
"I wasn't staring," protested the boy. "I was just... I wasn't staring, okay?" Lily cocked an eyebrow.
"Well, whatever you were doing, stop. You're very distracting. I finally found actual lilies in an actual park, and I was trying to make a chain." He looked at the lopsided, tangled lilies strung together laying atop her head. "I never said I was any good, did I?" She defended herself.
"What's your name?" He asked curiously. She told him, and he immediately smiled.
"What?" She asked, thinking he was going to tease her.
"Nothing," he said, his smile never fading. "It's just that everything about you is... Lily. Like you're made of them or something."
She frowned in confusion, then heard her mom calling her. "I have to go. And just so you know, people say roses suit me better. Because of my red hair," she added before walking away.
"Nah. You're a Lily through and through. My name is James, by the way!" He called out. She didn't know why it made her smile, and she didn't see him do the same as he watched her go.
It always seemed as though James knew Lily better than anyone else did, including herself. It was a warm feeling, to have someone understand you so deeply. She hated remembering their battles and fights over the years, but he claimed that they fell in love, not despite all of the arguments, but amidst them.
"What is your problem?" Lily hissed, leaning in towards James, who had donned his usual smirk.
The library was quiet, yet filled with noise: eyes flitting back and forth, secretive smiles exchanged from behind shelves, whispers and gossip, most of which Lily knew were about them. Him and her.
"I don't have a problem, Lil," said James, shrugging nonchalantly, his lips curving up slightly at her scoff. James was only thirteen, but somehow held all the confidence of an Olympic gold medalist. "Hey," he remarked, smiling widely, "your necklace is a lily."
"Yeah, I know."
"Fitting. You're made of them, of course." He seemed distracted as he fumbled with the buttons on his shirt.
"James," Lily interrupted impatiently, "how long have we known each other?" James shrugged again, inciting an irate exhale out of her. "We've known each other for more than half our lives. You know me well, better than a lot of people. So why on earth would you think I would ever go out with you?"
James opened his mouth to protest, but she raised a hand and he closed it, his boyish smirk remaining on his face. "James, please get this through your head: I will never, not even if you're the last person on Earth, or you buy me a dozen lilies, go out with you."
His smirk faded slightly, and everyone saw it clearly; he lost all of that arrogance in the blink of an eye. "But - I - why not?" He asked rather stupidly, his disappointment written broadly on his face.
"I don't think you even realize how arrogant you are!" Lily exclaimed. "You strut around town, thinking you own the place and everyone in it. You carry around a soccer ball everywhere you go, doing tricks just to show off. And worst of all, you tease people - and not in a funny way - just for the heck of it, for a laugh. You disgust me."
With that, she stood, gathered her belongings, and exited the library, without looking back to see his look of utter dejection.
Even so, the next day, a dozen lilies sat on her doorstep.
But then, Lily thought, with everything that happened, all the drama and the arguments, at least there were good moments, too.
She couldn't put her finger on it, but something about him was different. Maybe it was the pressures that came with being soccer captain, co-student body president (opposite her, of course), and a seventeen year-old boy, but he seemed weirdly mature.
Maybe that's what was so compelling about him, compelling enough to make her forget all of their screaming matches. Maybe that's why she had this swooping feeling in her stomach every time they spoke, which was often now, seeing as they were friends. Maybe that's why she was standing frozen in an empty chemistry lab, unsure as to whether or not she should awake this tired, overworked teenage boy.
She walked forward hesitantly and prodded him gently. "James, wake up," she whispered softly, He made a groaning sound and lifted his head slightly, looking up at her, then jumped up, as though electrified.
"Lily!" James exclaimed, running a hand through his messy hair. "What are you doing here?" He seemed nervous, which only made her smile.
"It's after hours, James," Lily told him. "It's eight thirty. I was here for debate team. What are you doing here?"
"Oh, God," he sighed, wincing. "I must've fallen asleep after helping Matthew with his chemistry project." Lily bit her lip. "What?" He asked, noticing the small movement.
"You stayed and helped a sophomore with his chem project even though you have your physics final to worry about, then caved into exhaustion and collapsed," replied Lily, her smile broadening. "That's kind of cute."
James blinked several times, miming shock. "Lil, am I imagining this, or was that an actual compliment?" She laughed.
"No, I promise you; this is real."
She wasn't sure how it happened, but suddenly, he was walking her home. As they walked, they discussed everything: school, family, failures, successes. Lily could've sworn that his hand was inching towards hers at one point, but instead of waiting for him with bated breath, she confidently intertwined their fingers.
He paused in his gait, a small smile dawning on his face, then continued walking, even when they arrived at her house. "Where are we going?" She asked as he dragged her with him.
"Do you really have to ask?" James responded.
He was right; Lily could have slapped herself for not realizing it sooner. The flower garden. The lilies. "Well?" He asked. "Aren't you going to sit?" He plopped down onto the grass. She sat next to him, and they both gazed up at the tragically star-less sky.
"I would tell you that you're more beautiful than the stars, but I can't see a single one."
They both burst into laughter, going on and on, until suddenly, they made eye-contact and their laughter slowed. They looked at each other, unsure and uncertain. Then slowly, as though time had reached a yellow light, their lips met, and all of the lilies she was made of came to life.
She remembers it all as though it had happened seconds ago. She looks around her home, filled with love, laughter and happiness. She reminds herself that with good comes bad, with laughter comes tears, and with love comes war. With love comes screaming, fighting, kissing, and sobbing. With love comes defeat, and with love comes victory. With their love, she concluded, comes all of that and one dozen lilies.
She knew it would be foolish to assume her life would be a golden path lined with them, but maybe, just maybe, it would be okay to fight one battle at time without not knowing what's ahead. Love itself is a battle, she decided. At least, it was for her and James.
He had filled their house with lilies the day they moved in, claiming they were an infinite good luck charm. He pecked her cheek, and told her she should embrace them; she was made of them.
She reckoned she should let him win that battle. Even though he occasionally used romantic, heart-melting strategies in order to win: slow kisses, exquisite compliments, corny jokes that somehow made her stomach swoop, even after all these years. Still, she supposed, all's fair in love and war.
The key turned in the lock, and the door swung open. "Lil?" He called. "Are you here?"
"Yeah, James," she smiled gently. "I'm home."