For Iris, weekdays were an eternity of hell. Before the sun rose she was shuffled into a windowless, stuffy building of concrete and glass. Trapped in a plastic desk with her only relief a quick sprint to her rusty locker for musty books that were about as worthwhile reading as compost, Iris simply wilted until three o’clock. Once the bell rang, she was swept among the dank halls through the old steel doors, gasping in the fresh air and sunlight like a starving prisoner on death row.
Actually prisoners on death row had it better, she reasoned. They got cable television and food a few times a day. Wary of the wilted greens and colorless tomatoes in the cafeteria line, Iris survived on baggies of sunflower seeds, squished almond butter sandwiches and tupperware of salad hidden in her backpack.
But today was an exceptionally fine day to waste in the soul-crushing institution of high school. White clouds streaked across endless baby blue, the warm sun tinged with the tease of the cool winds of fall. Iris glanced at her watch. Jazz wasn’t until 4:30. Plenty of time.
Iris looped around the school, marching straight toward the woods. There was a meandering path along the creek Lilly loved to dip her paws in. If she didn’t dawdle at the old oak and didn’t stop to visit with the family of baby owls she could make it by–
“It’s dangerous in there.”
Iris skidded to a stop, nearly colliding into a worn denim shirt. She glared up at the green eyes twinkling down at her. ”Excuse me.”
He blocked her as she tried to pass around him. ”You shouldn’t go in there alone.”
“I’m not a freshman,” she growled, ducking into a cluster of twisted oaks. ”You can’t scare me with tales of witches and monsters. I’ve heard all the rumors.”
“Have you?” His lips twitched as he slid along, keeping in step with her.
“You can’t live in the Isles and not know.” Her stomach fluttered with every step. ”Listen, I appreciate the concern but I’ll be fine.”
“Worried I’ll interrupt your daydreaming, Iris?”
The flutters turned to frenzied flapping. She hated boys. Loathed boys. Why couldn’t all children be girls? ”How did you know my name?” She narrowed her eyes. ”Are you a senior?”
“To you, I am.” Brushing her chin with his thumb, he smiled. ”You have iris eyes. Not quite blue, not quite violet–a burst of gold in the center.”
She blinked. Her backpack slid off her shoulder and she caught at it, blushing. ”Please. I need to go to dance class.”
“Your mother’s right, you know. You shouldn’t talk to strange boys. And you shouldn’t spend so much time alone.”
Iris sucked in her breath, twisting around. ”You know my grandmother don’t you?” Her brow wrinkled. ”Or are you one of my mother’s friend’s sons? I’m not a pity date and I’m not interested in dating at all.”
“I’m not looking for a date, Iris.” His smile dropped, his face serious. ”I am looking for something though. Perhaps you can help me?”
She was surprised her stomach hadn’t flown through her skin. The sunlight dappled through the cluster of leaves, searing her skin. She strained toward the burbling brook, her breath in short spurts. ”Please–please”–
“Calm down, Iris.” Smoothing back her hair with one hand, he tucked a stem behind her ear. ”I’ll find you another day, then.”
“Another day?” She ducked her head behind a curtain of dark hair, so raven black it was nearly blue. Fishing the stem out of her hair, she stared at the iris in her palm. The only irises in town were hers. Everyone knew irises couldn’t grow in the Isle hard soul. Her grandmother’s land was the only land moist enough to support it, even with the help of compost. ”But I don’t ever want to”– She trailed off. The boy was gone.
Perched on a stump was a pair of golden high heels, the toes and heels carved with an intricate metal filigree design.
Iris started toward the shoes, then stopped herself. Dropping the flower, she turned and ran.
Stay tuned, Invisible Friends! We have a new week of whimsy coming up!
For more fun, visit my sister blog, Words n'Whimsy or sign up for my newsletter (both buttons on sidebar!)