For your reading pleasure
“Mama, Papa, I’m home,” Himawari called.
She glimpsed the backpack in the closet for the last time, as she slipped off her shoes. Graduation was over. High school was officially a part of her past. She smiled at the thought. She had big plans for the summer.
The last few months had been extremely stressful as class president. There was also college applications, recommendation letters and essays, volunteering, SATs, writing her valedictorian speech and tutoring. In a few hours her graduation party would begin and then she would be free from any and all obligations.
At least until college.
She wandered to the kitchen, knowing there would be a note there if they were not home. It was on the fridge.
A problem came up at the store that needed our attention. We’ll be back in time for the party. Call us if you need us.
Mama and Papa.”
Himawari’s parents owned an antique shop about thirty minutes away. When they furnished the house, the majority came from the store’s stock. Himawari grew up in a beautiful home that she could not touch. There were only two places in the house in which she could truly relax; her bedroom and the garden.
Himawari always felt most comfortable when surrounded by greenery. She seemed to need the same things as her garden; sun, water and good earth. Just thinking about her garden improved her mood, no matter what had happened that day. She made her way to it after changing into a comfortable pair of well-worn jeans and an old Supernatural T-shirt.
The garden had started out with one sunflower that she has grown as part of a science project in third grade. Thinking it looked lonely, she slowly added to it. The garden had grown considerably since then. It sprawled out with no real order to it. With so much structure in her life, Himawari enjoyed coming outside to a little chaos.
She had always wanted to be wild and carefree. Aurora, her closest friend, was a rebel. She had pierced her own ears at the tender age of nine, using a potato and a sewing needle. Young Himawari had admired her bravery, even when the piercings later became infected.
Himawari’s parents had always been a little wary of the girl. Still, she was involved in all the same activities as their precious princess and was always polite. They did their best to hide their shock at her rainbow hair and eyebrow piercings. They were a little worried when Himawari came home with dyed hair but decided not to complain as it was a color found in nature. Besides, it was her one and only rebellion. Himawari had always wanted to be like her but she was too afraid of facing her parents’ disappointment.
Out in her garden, Himawari felt free. She felt like herself. Besides her hair, the garden was the only thing in her life that she had chosen for herself. Even without them speaking, she always knew what they expected of her and did her best to give it to them. She felt she owed it to them. It was only in the last couple of years that things had gotten easier. Most of her life, they had struggled to get by. And it was all her fault.
At the age of three, she had been diagnosed with a rare blood disease. It had nearly killed her. It was nearly 5 years before the cycle of improve, deteriorate, improve ended and the tests came back clear. It took a toll on her parents, financially and emotionally. They maxed out credit cards, took out loans and held fundraisers to pay the medical bills. They were considering selling the house when an experimental drug began to work.
Nearly nine years later, they were just paying off the last of the bills. She had wanted to get a job but her parents would not allow it so she focused on school instead. With her grades and extracurricular activities, college was entirely paid for.
Before that began, however, she was going to have some fun. A road trip was planned. She was going to drive Route 66 with Aurora, Miranda and Topaz. She could not wait to leave behind the knee-length skirts and blazers, and let her hair flow free. She imagined late nights spent dancing and eating junk food, maybe even meeting a boy. There had been no time for boys before. Maybe there would be this summer.
Now, however, she was running out of time. Her graduation party was starting soon and she had to get ready. She wore a black dress, knee-length with a cowl neck and sleeveless, keeping her makeup understated. She had pulled her hair up into an elegant chignon. She was the perfect hostess, making sure everyone had a good time. She made sure the spinach puffs did not run out too quickly and the music was not too loud. She was in the kitchen checking on the ice when suddenly she was cornered by Aurora and Topaz.
Aurora was in a pink dress that brought out the blush tones in her complexion. Today, her hair and eyes matched. “Topaz, what is our little Sunflower doing?”
Topaz was dressed in gold, which went well with her caramel skin. “It looks like she’s checking on ice but that can’t be right.”
Himawari rolled her eyes. “I think we’re getting low. Maybe I should-”
“Himawari Saito, you are not going to leave your own party to buy ice,” Aurora declared.
“Especially not when there’s so many hot guys here,” Topaz added.
“Exactly, so why aren’t you out there flirting with your honeydew?”
“Because I don’t have one,” Himawari answered.
“Right!” Topaz said. “And you won’t get one if you’re stuck in the kitchen all night.”
Aurora put a hand on her shoulder. “I mean this in the nicest way but you need some fun in your life. Some innocent flirting would be a good start.”
She sighed. “Maybe you’re right. Let me get some air and I’ll be in there.”
Himawari walked outside to her garden, immediately feeling at home among the greenery. Reaching up, she began pulling the pins from her hair. She inhaled, breathing in the scents of nature, feeling her body relax. It felt as if she were stepping off a stage. The show was not over yet, however, this was just a brief intermission.
She looked around at her garden, noting how the colors changed as the sun began to fall. The whole personality of the garden changed at night. Moonflowers bloomed and jasmine began to scent the air.
This summer was a bit of an intermission. She was free for the next twelve weeks but once she started at Stanford, her life would once again become ordered and routine. She wondered if there would ever be a time when she did not know what everyday would look like. As she studied the plants that surrounded her, she considered making some changes. Maybe she would add a vegetable garden. She could fit a small one in the East corner next to the-
“Oh.” Himawari stopped, realizing she was not alone.
The girl’s skin was so pale it seemed to glow in the dusk light. Her hair was blacker than midnight and longer than Himawari’s own. Her dress would have looked at home at some medieval fair.
The girl straightened her shoulders before taking a step forward. “Hello. My name is Sirena, Maiden and Water Elemental, sent by the Mother and Crone to find you, as well as the other Elementals so that we might save your world as well as mine.”
Himawari stared a moment before speaking. “You’ve got to be kidding me right?”
“I assure you, I am not joking.”
Himawari wondered if this was some kind of prank set up by Aurora. It seemed like something she would do. She took a step back towards the house, just in case. The girl, Sirena, did not look particularly strong but looks could be deceiving.
“You said ‘my world’ as if you come from somewhere else.”
“My home is in a place called Saldiavya. It is a beautiful place. You will see it once we find the other Elementals and return.”
“What is an Elemental?” Himawari asked, thinking it would be good to keep her talking.
“An Elemental is one who has complete control over a particular element. Water is my element and I believe Earth to be yours.”
“Uh-huh.” Her skepticism was plain. “Okay, well, we’ll have to talk about this another time. I have people waiting for me inside. Bye now.”
“You don’t believe.”
“Oh no, of course I do. I’m just busy and-”
“I’ll show you.”
The dark haired girl reached down, grabbing a bag that had gone unnoticed until then. She pulled out a bowl and a bottle of water. She placed the bowl on the ground, pouring a little of the water into it. Sitting down behind it, she closed her eyes, placing her hands over the bowl.
Himawari paused in her retreat, curiosity getting the better of her.
The air suddenly seemed charged, the air around them expectant. She got the impression of an animal, patiently waiting instructions. She stared down at the bowl. She thought she saw a ripple on the surface and then… nothing.
Himawari felt disappointed.
“I-I-I don’t know what’s wrong.” The girl sounded genuinely perplexed. She stared at her hands as if seeing them for the first time.
“Okay, yeah, I’m going now.”
“Wait,” she said, scrambling to her feet.
“Sorry, I can’t.”
“Sunflower, where are you?” Aurora called.
Himawari turned toward her voice. “Over here! I’m coming.” When she turned back, the girl was gone. The bowl, however, was still there. Inside it, though, the water was covered with a layer of ice.