Chrysanthemum
A Short Story

In the summer of 2002, I fell in love. He was slouched in the corner of the library, his mop of curly black hair covering his eyes. I would later learn how much he hated his hair, but he didn't cut it because he thought it looked cool. I wondered how he could see, so I walked right up to him and asked him how he could read when his hair was covering his eyes. He pushed his hair away from his face and frowned at me.

"It's none of your business," he growled.

But of course, he didn't know me, so he didn't know that the moment I realized he thought that would send me running with my tail between my legs, I was going to make him like me, even if it meant making a fool of myself.

"I want to take you out for a coffee," I said boldly, crossing my arms in an attempt to look formidable. It's not like I had shocking good looks or anything. I wasn't very short or tall, and my figure wasn't particularly thin or chubby. My hair was a normal shade of brown, and I usually pulled it back in a severe bun otherwise the strands poked my eyes. I was actually surprised at how easy it was. At first he shook his head and scoffed, like he didn't believe me.

"Yeah, right," he said, and rolled his eyes. Or at least I think he did. His hair was falling in front of his eyes again, so it was hard to tell.

"Really," I insisted, sounding more threatening than I meant to.

"I don't want you to take me out for a coffee," he replied. "I have a girlfriend."

"No, you don't," I said, sounding like a total idiot. "And anyway, who said I was asking you out? Coffee between friends."

"You're not my friend."

"Yet."

I won. He gave me his cell number, which I called right then to make sure he wasn't lying, because I was feeling particularly creepy and stalker-like today, and he promised not to block my number. I called that night, deciding that waiting for three days, or whatever the rule was, was a useless rule. He'd probably forget about me if I waited three days. He laughed when he heard my voice.

"Seriously?" he said, sounding surprised. "I thought you were a joke. Like, I was even waiting for the camera crews to pop out and be like, 'Gotcha!' or something. By the way, my name's Nate."

"I'm Abbie, and just so you know, today wasn't just a mood swing, I'm always like that."

Nate laughed. "God, then what are your mood swings like?"

We were obviously a match made in Hell, but somehow we worked. We found out we went to the same coffee shop at different times. I went every day at ten in the morning, and he went at eleven. We'd probably brushed by each other hundreds of times. Nate would get up an hour earlier to meet me at ten, and then we'd go our separate ways. Nate went to the university in the center of town, and I went to an art school about ten minutes outside of the city.

I found out he really had been lying when he had said he had a girlfriend. In fact, he hadn't had a girlfriend for around five years or so, and he'd given up looking. I laughed when he said this, because he also told me he was only twenty-five.

"You're giving up on love already?" I smirked. "How pathetic."

"Shut up!" Nate looked genuinely hurt, but I didn't feel guilty. In fact, I never felt guilty. I wonder if that made me a bad person? "I'm not pathetic. You don't exactly look like the cream of the crop either; what's so special about you?"

"I never said you weren't special." I rolled my eyes and reached forward to push Nate's hair out of his eyes again. I'd been doing it for the past twenty minutes because it drove me crazy. "I'm just saying you're too young to say you're giving up on love. When you're single, dying, and eight-four, then I'd say give up on love, but then again, you do hear those miracle romance stories about couples who meet in the hospital when they're dying and stuff, and then they fall in love and their love miraculously saves them both and they live till they're like, three hundred or something, so I guess you should never give up on it."

"Right, cause you're such a hopeless romantic." I could hear Nate smirking at me, but I couldn't actually see it because his hair had already flopped in front of his face again.

"I guess I don't seem the type?" I laughed. "You're right, I'm not. But still, like I said, you're only twenty five. You've probably only been in love once, and since that didn't work out, you figure it never will. Doesn't that sound pretty pathetic to you?"

"No," Nate lied.

I smirked. I'd won. Again.

We were walking together, and I felt awkward suddenly. The playful banter had faded and suddenly we felt more serious. I wondered for a moment if this had become a date, when I realized Nate was looking at the flower boxes lining the street. He picked a dark pink chrysanthemum and studied it for a moment, then embarrassedly offered it to me. I bit my tongue to stop myself making a comment that would make him nervous and instead kissed him lightly on the lips.

"Thanks for not blocking my number," I said, and I left him standing there, tucking the chrysanthemum into my shirt pocket. I kept the chrysanthemum there all day, proudly displaying the successful date via my chest pocket. Every time I caught someone looking at it, I pounced on the opportunity.

"Oh this? Isn't it lovely? This guy picked it for me today." Complete with blinding, sparkly smile and little cartoon hearts floating around my greatly inflated head...er, I mean...ego. It was love, of course. I was in love with a messy, grungy guy with long, unbrushed hair, unwashed clothes, and a stutter. But hell, his name was Nate and he'd given me a chrysanthemum, damn it, and that was enough.

That night, Nate called me before I called him, and I told him about how I'd worn the chrysanthemum all day. He laughed and said he was glad I liked it so much.

"I figured you wouldn't like roses that much," he said. "Plus you like big words, don't you?"

"Who, me?" Wait, was I playing stupid? Oh my God, someone shut me up. I hate love.

"So, are you my girlfriend?"

"I don't know. Ask me out. I'll consider it."

"Abbie, will you be my girlfriend?"

"I'll consider it."

I hung up on him. I considered it. Two seconds later, I called him back.

"I guess so."

"Score."