The Sunflower

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Lydia's journey through emotional abuse. Based on a true story.

please give me criticism! I am a college student studying PR who writes on the side.

Submitted: September 01, 2019

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Submitted: September 01, 2019




Lydia stands by herself in an empty parking lot, staring into the stagnant air. She suddenly feels the pain of the rock bottom she hit a few months ago, but never truly felt because he was beside her. She feels incomplete, lost. Lost, and like there’s no way in hell she can take the next step without him. But she does, and for a moment she glimpses reality, and sees the monster behind his façade. She is in complete denial and before she knows it, the fog returns. She’s content with that, its better that way. Thoughts of how much she loved Geoff and how much she’ll miss him fly around her mind like clouds of gnats. She doesn’t mind it at all, she doesn’t know anything different. She knew he would have to leave one day. Eventually he would leave her for 2 years to be a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints. Eventually he would have to hold onto her heart from afar, writing as often as occasion would permit. But eventually he would come back and they would be together forever.

But that meant she would have nothing to distract her from the cold depression she had been in since January. Eventually she would have to acknowledge reality.

Even the happiest, the most confident, and the most enthusiastic people hit rock bottom in life, though no one seems to notice. They’re like sunflowers. They face the sun, soaking up all of the goodness that they possibly can. Their yellow petals seem to dance every time they say “hello, how are you?” and smile. Beneath these flowers, deep down in their roots, lie their greatest secrets. In their slowly rotting roots we find the heartache, the depression, and the yearning for something, anything, to bring true and lasting happiness. Through their teeth gritted together in a smile and their jovial attitudes, they seek simple happiness because it’s the only way they know how to. However, they can’t find it. Therefore, they remain a dying sunflower, slowly rotting bit by bit until they fall, and their happiness no longer shines through them. Those who pass by this dead sunflower simply see the yellow petals still intact and the beauty that still lies within. They see a façade, yet, they do not see beneath the yellow petals. They do not see the depth of the depression, the numbing void, the melancholy, and the despair. They only see yellow.

Her whole life, Lydia was compared to a sunflower. Her honey blonde hair and brown eyes sparkled with wonder from the day she could crawl. She was always there to brighten a day or make someone feel joy. She was energetic, confident, and trusting. She was ever curious about the world and was almost naïve to the dangers that lied within. She enjoyed people and seeing them enjoy the world. In her eyes, the world was a place that was filled with color, beauty, and perfect people. People who were worthy of loving, people who mattered.

At least until she started dating Geoff.

Lydia had been best friends with Geoff and his twin brothers since they were twelve and thirteen. There was never a dull moment, whether it was talking about their upcoming band and choir concerts or just eating pizza at his house. They hung out at their church’s youth group, and lets be honest, everyone knew they would date eventually. She thought he was awesome, and she knew she wouldn’t be closer to anyone else.

But it’s the closest people who are able to hurt the most.

One random day, Lydia realized she was looking for something to fill the increasing void in her soul. Since the beginning of her senior year of high school, something felt off. It was almost like she felt numb and no emotion. The thought of that made her shudder because she was not a “depressed” person. She was happy and joyful all the time, after all she had been told that since birth. She was determined to keep it that way. Yet, as the year progressed, more pieces of her life fell out of place with no explanation or reason as to why. She pushed the broken pieces aside, and tried to be the only person she knew how to be: a perfect, upright sunflower whose job was to bring happiness and perfection to everybody else.

Weeks and months went by and by January, Lydia felt nothing. Christmas with its colorful reds and greens and its jovial tunes felt grey and black. She no longer saw the world in color. She only saw bleak grey. Until Shane came into her life. Finally she was happy. Finally she was with someone who made her feel like sunshine. Yet that stupid void would not seem to leave, or at least disappear! No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t make it go away. All she could conclude was that she was doing something wrong, but she didn’t know what. Then Geoff came into her life again like a wounded animal. An animal hurt by his twin brothers leaving for LDS missions, hurt by having to stay at home to go to college and work alone. Hurt that he didn’t feel perfect and that his self esteem was shot. Simply, hurt. She couldn’t be selfish, after all that’s probably what she was doing wrong with Shane! Geoff needed her to be happy!

She ran back to him. She had loved him before, but never like this. At last the void was gone, or covered at least, and there was instead endless happiness. Sure, there were times when she felt like a compliment machine, constantly building up Geoff’s self-esteem. Sure, there were moments she felt the void inside her grow massively, but it was easier to suppress when she was helping Geoff be the man she knew he was. Yes, there were moments where she asked for bolstering and he accused her of being too needy. Sure, there were moments she wished life would just come to a screeching halt. Yes, she was always the one to apologize after a fight, even if she had done absolutely nothing wrong and it annoyed her. Sure, she was a fallen sunflower, but that didn’t matter.

That was the thing. Nothing she did seemed to matter to Geoff, yet he claimed to love and adore her. “How was your day?” He would text. “Amazing, in Cross fit I was able to increase my bench press by ten pounds!” she replied. Or “Oh my gosh I feel like I have no friends at school.”  “Fun.” He would reply, or “at least you have name of person who she rarely associated with” followed with “Why do you love me?” While most people would take this as a red flag, Lydia took this as a challenge. What other choice did she have? Her life felt completely empty, and she needed him to fill that. She was obviously failing in their relationship, otherwise Geoff would be happy and grow to love her more. She continued to spread her petals towards the sun until the day he left, and she realized she couldn’t do it anymore.

The day Geoff left is a blur in her mind. She has an image of herself standing there watching his car drive away, knowing that with her plans in life, she wouldn’t see him for at least 3 years. She remembers the painful, sudden numbness, and the bottomless void that had been developing for months knock her to the ground. And she felt bitter, bleak, loneliness.

However, life moved on, and after that first week of him being gone, she felt better. Yet the void never left. She learned to live with it and live her best life. She felt real, genuine love and happiness! She still felt as if she were walking along in the fog side by side with Geoff as his mission in Texas progressed. But as hard as she fought to keep the fog there and ignore the reality of who he was, it was ripped away when she was staring at her computer screen in late January of the next year.

People say the truth will set you free. This saying could not have been more true for Lydia at this moment. She realized she could not stop thinking about Geoff, no matter how hard she tried. It was unhealthy. She knew in her heart he was bad for her, and what they had wasn’t love. But she could not accept it. She knew she loved Geoff, but wasn’t so sure why, or if it was the kind of love she wanted to keep pursuing. On a cold, night in her apartment in Idaho, Lydia finally started to fill the void that had been created a year earlier.

She sat down, and she wrote, “Love is…”. After a few sentences she wrote “Love is not…” and then the words flew onto the screen as if they had been there, just waiting to be revealed. The fog then evaporated, and she was left alone with an image of a boy who was mentally and emotional abusive, who could care less about her. A boy who only took, and never gave. A boy who was too afraid to admit to himself he was struggling, so he took it out on a lifeless sunflower. If he had listened, he might have figured out that under all of the beautiful yellow petals lying on the ground, there was dirt. There was depression. There was a need to hide all of it because she cared. Maybe if he had tried, he would have seen the void that was lodged in her soul.

 As she admired the finished product, she couldn’t help but cry as she faced the mess he had created.

Years went by, and although the void in Lydia’s soul was smaller, it remained. She had freed herself from her abuser, yet there was still something he left. Then, after a long counseling session during her LDS mission in Washington, she realized that she was free, but her mind was not.

 The months go by and as she acknowledges the void, she finds the happiness she had been seeking years ago. She forgives Geoff and chooses to focus on the positive while accepting that a void still penetrates her life. And she’s okay with it. She sees the void as a chance to grow, a chance to help others with the same dilemma. Yes, the pain he left still haunts her, and it occasionally makes her cry. But she isn’t afraid of it anymore, and she no-longer avoids it. The once fallen sunflower’s roots are strong and each day she stands a little bit taller, turning towards the sun.

© Copyright 2019 Mary Sequim. All rights reserved.

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