Not everyone could say they lost their virginity on a mountain. Nope. But I sure could. It had been exactly one month since and now I was stuck, sitting in a stuffy doctor’s office that smelled of musk and hormonal body odor. I waited silently. Women that had many years on me, stared at me as if I was some kind of Cyclops. I knew I didn’t belong but who said they belonged either? My shoulders were up to my ears and my breath was short. I couldn’t quite grasp a full inhale. My stomach released a loud growl that drew even more attention toward me. But the last thing I wanted was food. Even the thought of water made me regurgitate in my mouth.

The receptionist, young but not as young as I, filed her nails, occasionally taking a bite out of her lunch. I envied her. She was just an innocent bystander watching pregnant women come in and out all day long while she carried on without any responsibilities. Maybe she lived with her handsome boyfriend and they conscientiously decided that they would save children for marriage. Maybe she lived with her strict, Catholic parents who watched out for her. Maybe she chose to live on her own, away from anyone that could get her into trouble.

When her gaze caught mine, she half-smiled. A part of me felt judged, but I mean, it might have been me, overthinking as usual. Though, I couldn’t help but wonder what she saw when she looked at me; was I just another young girl wandering through a doctor’s office? Or was I the only teenage girl that had ever stepped foot in a gynecologist’s waiting room? I didn’t want to put myself on some sort of twisted pedestal, but I felt like I was the first and only teenager to deal with this.

A nurse dressed in scrubs walked into the waiting room and called a name that wasn’t mine. It was Amy or Allie or something like that. My leg incessantly bounced, my foot brushing the floor as butterflies fluttered through my stomach, tickling my colon. These weren’t exciting butterflies though—not like the kind that I experienced on the mountain. No. These were the angry kind that served as a warning.

I stared at the floral wallpaper that caked the walls. A brown stain covered one of the roses, leaving me to wonder, how did it get there? Did someone spill their coffee? Or maybe it was chocolate?

The flowers reminded me of mom. Dandelions were her favorite. She always said that, they were “proof that sometimes wishes are disguised as weeds—but it all goes back to your own perception and how you choose to see it.”

Oh, mom, I spoke to myself. Out of all the lectures she fed me as a child . . . 

I felt a pit forming in my gut. Or maybe that was a kick. I redirected my anxiety ridden thoughts back to flowers. Flowers were beautiful and calming. Maybe that’s why the doctor chose that as her wallpaper. They had all different meanings. For example, a red rose meant passionate love where as a pink rose meant friendship. That’s why men always gave their sweethearts red roses on Valentine’s Day. Fletch and I were somewhere in between the pink and red rose. Like a hot pink on the verge of red. But then again, if that were so, why wasn’t he here?

The thing about a flower is that not only are they symbolic of how you care about someone, but they can change your mood. Their sweet scents and vibrant colors can make a dull day just that much more worth living. You can give them as a gift or even name your child after them. People wear them to proms and weddings. Flowers are unisex. They are metaphors, like the one my mom once used. She said that true friendships blossom into something beautiful just like flowers. She was right. The only thing is, she left out that sometimes they could prosper into something even deeper. Things my teenage self was way too young to handle. Thinking of flowers got me to thinking about more floral metaphors like being “deflowered” and—

I stopped myself and wondered again how that damn brown stain worked its way onto the wall.

“Megan?” I jerked my head toward the door where the nurse, again, stood. A woman, around 30 I’d say, with perfect brown curls that bounced when she looked up, rose, setting the parenting magazine back down on the table in front of her. At that moment, I wished she had been my mother. I wished someone could help me. But, the only people old enough to contribute any solid advice on the matter, would be livid and I wasn’t looking for a lecture. I already knew I was fucked—pun intended. But that’s what parents do. They lecture. And God forbid they'd give me the same answer they'd give the neighbor kid down the street. They’re always harder on their own because when a child fails, they feel that they have failed as parents. It has nothing to do with “what’s best for your own wellbeing.”

At this point, my stomach was twirling with nerves. Suddenly a couple exited through the doors from the exam room area. I recognized the man . . . it was Fletch's brother. He was with his wife, who seemed upset. Her eyes were puffy and glassy with expired tears.

I sunk down in my chair and threw the hoodie from my coat over my head, hoping they wouldn’t spot me.

“It’s going to be alright,” he consoled her, rubbing her back.

“I’m beginning to believe that we just weren’t meant to have a baby,” she sniffled as they exited the building.

I sat back up in my chair, wishing I could switch places with them. I couldn’t help but acknowledge the irony that Fletch could potentially be having a baby but his own brother who was married and actually ready could not. It almost seemed unfair. Why did life have to constantly throw these unfortunate paradoxes at us when we least expected it?

I checked the time on my watch. The watch my dad had sent me from Paris. He was currently stuck in a mid-life crisis with his sugar-baby girlfriend who was closer in age to me than him. But my mom insisted that, “once a cheater, always a cheater,” and dad would eventually leave his new girlfriend too. Even though I couldn’t stand her, I wished that my mother’s words weren’t true. It struck me with the idea, were all marriages doomed from the start?

Flowers—I looked at the wallpaper in depth. There were roses and violets and daisies and tulips. It was as if I could smell them. I assumed the doctor had been running late since my appointment had been scheduled for noon and it was already twelve thirty. I was going to miss sociology—the only class I semi-liked, mostly because it made me realize how humans are really not that different from another. Or at least not as different from each other as we think. In this moment, it was hard to remember that.

I picked up one of the magazines sitting on the coffee table in front of me. On the cover was a photo of an infant with big, sparkling, blue eyes and very little hair. I started to imagine what my baby might look like. I pictured her—or him—with Fletch’s eyes. My hair. Fletch’s smile. My subtle freckles.

The same nurse that walked into the waiting room multiple times before, returned once again, a chart in her hand. She looked down at the paper on the chart.

“Demetria,” she called my name but I stayed silent and seated as if the name belonged to someone else. She gazed around the room, waiting for someone to claim the title.

“Demetria?” she said again. She shook her head, when I once again stayed silent, and proceeded back to the exam room area. A part of me wanted to believe that maybe, just maybe, if I didn’t go in to see the doctor, then none of this would be real.

I looked around for a moment. My mind said to stay seated but my legs refused to listen. Next thing I knew, I was standing outside the office. I hadn’t realized how chilly it was inside until I was standing underneath the Sedona sun surrounded by the red rock mountains—a painting that fenced the entire town. No matter where one wandered off to here, they could see these scenic mountains. With layers of cracked orange and speckles of grey intervening, they sat underneath pure clouds.

The sun’s rays basked me in temporary relief, allowing me to forget for just a slight moment the circumstances I was living. I started to walk with no particular destination in mind. Couples hand-in-hand. Mothers with their babies. Loners like me, wandering aimlessly.

Musicians played their guitars to make ends meet. The town was lively and full of tourism that came from eastern states still enjoying their break. Sedona summers seemed to be known for touring—for mountain climbing and meditating and picnics by Slide Rock. It stimulated a déjà vu of that night. But August felt something like a Monday with the transition back into school. And Mondays, quite honestly, felt like hell.

I continued down the sidewalk but decided to rest when I felt my legs withering out in tensed up soreness. I sat down at a bench, leaving a comfortable distance of room for the man who sat beside me. He was an African American man dressed in a decent looking suit. He smelled of urine and rum and held a sign that read, “Handsome, Hungry, and Homeless.” It kindled some sort of comedic relief inside me as I suppressed a giggle. He looked to me, his face scruffy with black and grey facial hair.

“Shouldn’t you be in school?” he questioned, his words slurred.

 “Shouldn’t you be at work?” I answered back. After I pondered my own response, I realized how harsh it came off. But he bellowed a happy, heavy laugh.

“Touché. What’s your name?”

“Demi.”

At first, I thought he was shaking his head at me until it became relentless—as if he was dancing to a song only he could hear. Maybe it was the whistle of the refined wind mixed with chitter chatter and car engines. It was life’s melody that only moments like these forced one’s self to acknowledge.

The silence between this hungry yet “handsome” homeless man and I was deafening and I wasn’t an expert in small talk—so it lingered until I decided to ask, “What’s your name?”

“Darian.”

I nodded.

“Why aren’t you in school having fun with all of your friends?” he spoke with alcohol-stained breath that overwhelmed my already coiling stomach.

“It’s kind of a complicated story.”

“Well, I’m not going anywhere anytime soon . . .”

I took my stare to the road—cars coming and going as a reminder that time hadn’t stopped, although it felt like it—before I returned my eyes back on him. And I sunk into the bench as the story seemed to fall out of me of the night Fletch and I became more than budding flowers in the same garden. We were suddenly a seed, growing together.

Fletch—whose real name is Dallas Fletcher—was my first friend here. My first friend when my divorced mother lost her mind and decided to find herself in a small town known for its holistically healing benefits with merely 10,000 others residing. Spoiler alert: she didn’t. I lent him a pencil in math and the rest is history. But Fletch quickly taught me of the ruthlessly hot summers here and how to spend them. His spiritual side rubbed off on me as he took me high up to the peaks of Bell Rock to meditate and to the vortex where the world’s energy is said to be powerful enough to balance out our own energies. He intrigued me and I found comfort in his admiration for this planet. It helped me accept the madness that bled through time and again called “humanity.”

But one trip, something changed. Somewhere in between holding hands up the mountain and departing with only half of myself on the way down, was a kiss in the dark lit up by a starry sky. We had gone to see the strawberry moon that was said to come alive that night. It was just us two and a bottle of wine that Fletch had convinced his older brother to buy him.

Half a bottle in, we laughed with drunken giddy at nothing but “remember when . . . ” and other intimate memories. It was the first time I noticed Fletch’s tipsy smile was completely different from his sober one; it was imperfect and crooked and flawed and suddenly I was attracted to him. He looked at me, his face partially lit up by the elusive light that could only live for the nocturnal creatures—and us. I took my gaze to meet his, my eyes heavy with wine.

“I’m going to kiss you,” he spoke softly. My body froze up in surprise as a lotus flower emerging from a murky pond harbored inside of my stomach with feelings I wasn’t aware I could feel. And then our lips met for last first time.

Fletch tasted like wine. I wasn’t sure if I was any good, given that I had never been kissed before. But then, as if it happened all in one motion, he was on top of me, both of us pants-less. My mind was full of fog but I do remember how it hurt at first. A tear escaped my eye. I wiped it before he could notice. I didn’t want to seem as inexperienced as I was.

“I love you,” he whispered in my ear. Again, I was taken off guard, the world around me seeming to spin as I fell drunk in love.

The night ended around midnight. We headed back home, leaving the empty wine bottle to fend for itself on the mountain, memories filled to the rim.

 

The Handsome, Hungry and Homeless man nodded his head as if he was thoroughly into the story. But his eyes were vacant of any emotion.

“What should I do?” I asked, although I questioned myself why I found confidence in him—or his opinion.

“Hm,” Darian sounded. I remained in my seat, hoping for an answer. He took his gaze forward to the road before continuing to say, “You need to tell him.”

“Why?” I cried. I didn’t want Fletch to know. Since that night, things hadn’t been the same between us. Morning texts had evolved from “Good morning my beautiful friend” to “hey.” Along with the fact that he just asked Josie the cheerleader to the dance—who also lent him a pencil in class once before. He'd always blamed his inconsistent ways with girls on being a Gemini, but now I was on the receiving end of it, I realized maybe it was just his excuse for being an asshole.

“Because. That’s the only way you can make a sane choice.”

I swallowed down the ball in my throat wanting to burst into hysterics.

“How do you know so much about this?” I asked.

He chuckled as if he was suddenly in his own head, recollecting.

“Experience,” his words were short in between sips from a flask he pulled out from his suit pocket. After chugging down the rest, he tucked it back in, replacing it with a tissue, used to dab the sweat from his forehead. “Maggy Mayfield.”

“Who?”

“My high school sweetheart,” he broke down into such a loud cackle, the onlooker’s crossing our path couldn’t help but turn their heads. “Maggy and I had a damn good time together. Got her knocked up but—I was in prison by the time that kid was born.”

He smiled as if he was watching memories rewind through his head.

“Y’ever been to prison?” he asked me and I was suddenly exploring the idea, did I appear to be the criminal type? In this moment—this situation—I felt like one. I felt responsible. Culpable. Guilty.

I shook my head, assuring him that I was clean.

“Wish I was back there. Three square meals a day. No worries. Nowhere to be. Everything taken care of.”

I felt my eyebrow rise, questioning this man’s sanity.

He opened his mouth to speak but no words came out—instead, staring off into space and into a world I wasn’t sure I could see. A pedestrian passing by handed him a five-dollar bill. They revived him from whatever planet his mind currently resided on and brought him back to reality.

“God bless y’ur soul,” he thanked the person.

I stood up, taking this as my cue but I was just as lost and confused as I was twenty minutes ago. As I started down the sidewalk, with little direction of where to go next, it hit me; Darian was right. I had to tell Fletch.

“Where you goin’, pretty lady?” he asked before I crossed the street.

“To tell him.”

“Best of luck.”

I continued down the pavement, my legs still aching. I paused and turned around to see Darian one last time.

“Thanks,” I smiled to him.

He bowed his head and threw a wink my way.

I walked the mile to Fletch’s house that sat across from mine. My mother was probably asleep. She had worked the night shift.

I waited on his front porch and a half hour later he walked up, his school bag slung around his shoulder.

“Hey, Dem. What are you doing here?”

I sat silent, my eyes on the ground, pooling with tears. He approached me.

“What’s wrong? Why weren’t you in class today?”

I sniffled, trying to hold back the tears from exploding. This was harder than I thought it would be.

“Did you mean it that night?”

There was no response. I took a breath, forcing myself to find the strength to do what I needed to.

“When you said you loved me,” I finished and finally looked up at him. He looked at me, his head cocked to the side, his eyebrows furrowed in confusion. His eyes had dark circles hanging underneath them and his hair was a shaggy mess on top of his head. He brushed his hand through his hair, sighing out a chuckle full of nerves. His hand worked its way down to his neck, scratching behind it.

“Well, I mean, I was kind of drunk but—”

“It’s a yes or no question, Fletch.”

His smile faded into emptiness, only able to keep my stare for a moment before allowing his eyes to fall to the ground.

“Of course I love you . . . as a person. A friend—”

I shook my head.

“What?”

“I’m pregnant,” I spoke softly yet bluntly when I realized there was no gentle way to say it.

His jaw dropped, his big round eyes now shaped like almonds.

“Dem . . . ” He found his way to my side, now seated next to me on his porch swing. The swing we had spent so many nights, talking and dreaming and laughing about nonsense. But now . . . it was covered in salty eye water.

He wiped the tears falling down my face.

“I—I’m,” his words stammered, searching for an adequate response. “I’m not ready to be a dad.”

I looked to him, his gaze focused in on mine. I could see my reflection in the pupils of his eyes as he continued to say, “And you’re not ready to be a mom.”

I nodded my head, thinking my question had been answered and my decision finalized. We sat together, breathless. Silent. My mind was blank like everything I’d ever known was lost. Gone. I realized that heartbreak didn’t always stem from romance . . . friendships could shatter you into pieces too. Like a flower that was picked before reaching full bloom.

“But,” he started. I redirected my glazed over stare back on him. “I think I know someone who might be.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. My older brother and his wife are struggling to conceive. We should talk to them.” When he spoke, his voice trembled. And for the first time, I knew what it sounded like for buoyant Fletch to be unsure of himself. Of his words. Of his thoughts. Vulnerability hemorrhaged through his glow. This frightened me even more.

I thought back to just a couple of hours earlier, seeing his brother and the way he held his wife in the doctor’s office. For a moment, I convinced myself that everything happened for a reason . . . even the night Fletch took me to the mountain.

My eyes wandered the yard. Grass and trees and mountains and flowers. Flowers blossom and grow in order to give us oxygen. Maybe I was meant to bloom and grow earlier on in order to give someone else a gift. If nature could find a way every day to survive . . . so would I.