The Dandelion Smile
Jenna Woodlan’s stories always made me smile... even when her passion made her cry.
I read every word she gave me, delighted or impassioned line by line, praising and cherishing these products of her mind. She and I talked often, but I knew her truly by reading her words. I knew her brightest joys and deepest despairs by the things she poured onto page that she would not normally articulate.
“This one’s fine,” Jenna said, sliding one of her papers across the coffee table, “and this one. Mm, don’t touch that one yet.”
I sat back on the couch as she sifted through her pile of hand-written short stories and poems. Her almond brown hair was unpinned, tucked behind her ear, and she had dressed simply, black longsleeves and leggings, her feet bare. The longer I watched, the more I fell for her.
“Here,” she said finally, and slipped back onto the couch. She pulled her feet up and settled into my shoulder, holding the page she’d chosen. “What do you think of this one?”
I took the page and shifted, holding her gently. It was a poem, written in her half-cursive hand in the very middle of the page. She rested her head, intent, so I began to read aloud.
Soft her steps on wooded floor
Soft her voice above
Dry her eyes at every door
Cry her little dove
Wilting flower upon the sill
Wilting whisper of
Mild and melancholic ill
Child she couldn’t love
I read it a time or two over to make sure... it was about her grandmother.
Jenna was watching me, her eyes searching. “What?”
I brushed my fingers through her hair, lost in her. Her eyes drew mine in, and I could do nothing but comply. My chest falling slow but deep, I breathed in her rose-petal-salt smell. Where... where did you come from?
“I love you,” I said simply, the words drifting out, a feather on the wind.
Her eyes lined with involutary tears and her breath pulled in deep. She slipped her arms around me and clung harder, burying her head in my chest. “I love you,” she cried, her breath rising and falling with mine.
“Jenna Woodlan,” I said. “From whence did she come?”
“Stop it!” she laughed, slapping my shoulder. “That’s mocking me.”
“Yes, madame. I’ll keep my Shakespeare out of my next compliment.”
She laughed and hugged me tighter. “You’re so pathetically clueless.”
“I know,” I said, reading through Jenna’s poem again.
Wilting flower upon the sill...
I sighed and set the paper down, then held her tight. I held her as she bundled in my arms. Even with tears she could smile.
Her dandelion smile.