By William Sharon

“Jacob, where are you?” Mama caught me sneaking out again. Or rather, she found my bed empty and my pajamas strewn on the floor. I fled too far away to be caught. My breath shook, my pulse raced, my feet pounded the grassy ground as I ran. She wouldn’t find me, not where I was heading. By morning I will drag myself home to get another earful from mama, but for now, I’m free. I love my mama, I do, but she never understands. Almost nobody understands. And why should they? Walking around every day, muttering the words in my head, letting the craziness leak out slowly to save face and sanity. By night, I can never keep it under. I have to run, I have to leave, I have to scream. Nothing matters when I’m like this, no person or dog or cat or other living thing can stop me from sprinting, panting, snarling my way through.

When I make it there, everything stops. The muttering, the panting, the whining, all of it stops. I have found it—my space. I lay down among the shrubs and trees, and the clouds part high above, permitting the stars to shine down onto my most precious treasure. A flower. Multiple layering pearlescent petals of white and sky blue, the center a bulb of beautiful curved faerie blankets. The stem is sharp; I never touch it, but the leaves beckon me to approach. I do not however, I stay where I lay, and slowly this beautiful sight transforms.

She appears as if she were birthed by the flower itself. Her dress emerges a deeper blue than the petals, yet a magnificent contrast against the starry sky. She remains aloft, whispering among the other blooms surrounding me. One by one, as she speaks to the buds within, more appear. Most are female, few are male. They pair up, any combinations of gender and color, and they rise to dance with the stars. Some don’t come out; they are shy, tenacious, bitter. It takes her a little more time to bring them out. She pairs them up and sets them to dance lower than the choir that have begun to sing with the wind. Slowly, their angry and wary expressions melt, and they start to dance higher and higher until they, too, can sing into the sky.

She approaches the last bloom. It is me. And I am quite the stubborn bud for her to coax! She whispers niceties, pleasant promises, future dreams, but I still do not budge. Then she reaches for me, takes her hand into mine, and we rise, slowly, dancing together in the chilled air. We just dance, gently, lazily, below the singers. She knows I cannot sing, I can barely even dance, yet she entices me to try each time. She says I’m improving; I do not believe her. After a time, she leaves me to settle back to the cold, soft grassy ground. As I fall, she ascends to join the multicolored singing canopy above. Her mouth opens, and her voice pours forth. The last piece in this soothing, entrancing lullaby fills the air, enters my ears, swirls through my brain, and completes the scene.

Then my eyes open, the blooms are closed, the rose is gray and shriveled, the green stems and grass appears yellow and dry. I arise and begrudgingly trudge back the way I came. I reach for the handle and push the front door open. “Oh, Jacob!” Mama is waiting at the table. “Thank the heavens!” She rushes to greet me, bends down, and wraps me in her arms. “My precious Jacob, where do you go every night?” I do not reveal where. Instead, I tell her it’s someplace safer than home, someplace I can learn, someplace I can belong. She doesn’t understand, but she accepts the answer. She picks me up, envelopes me in her flowery dress, and we move to the living room. As we lay on the couch and rest together, words begin to fall out of my mouth. She does not scold me, and for this I am glad.

Sunday passes in a blur. I do not visit the circle of flowers that night, for my mother’s sake. I awaken early in the next morning, feeling refreshed and ready to face the day. One apple and some cereal and milk later, I’m walking to the bus stop. On the way, I steal a peek at my forest trail, I see her beautiful face smiling at me from between the trees. But she’s not there. I step onto the bus, the noise of chatter and laughter drowning out the hum of the surrounding machinations. I take my seat and begin mumbling my thoughts out the window. It keeps me calm during the ride. At school, classes are the same as usual. I almost explode during writing. I’m not allowed to mumble during writing sessions, and it makes me want to scream. I did scream once, and everybody looked at me confused and angry. Then the teacher came over and sent me out to sit in the hall.

At lunchtime, I step over to my table. There are a few others sitting there, but I do not mind; I just keep my head down and eat my mashed potatoes. Somebody sits across from me and starts chatting with those around him. He tries to talk to me, and I glance up. He’s wearing a fine, navy-blue striped shirt, tight jeans, and his hair is on fire in the sunlight. I don’t respond at first. He’s already intruded too much. I turn my head back to my food. I think he gets it; he backs off a little and asks my name. I hesitate, but I give it to him. He responds; his name is Coda. He’s new to the school, transferred mid-semester because of family problems. He tries, gently, to start a conversation with me. I’m resistant, but the more he asks the more I feel I need to respond. I start mumbling answers to his questions, and my speech relaxes as we talk together. As we end our conversation, I suggest we meet up sometime. On the way to my last classes, I think I see something above me. It’s her, and she’s beaming at me, but she’s not truly there.

Back home, I’m writing in my journal. “She has finally given me a gift. My first friend, Coda. He didn’t seem to mind my muttering. That’s a first. I hope he doesn’t mind how much I like to read. Nobody else seems to like it at school.” I hear her tsk tsk from outside, but when my head swivels from my desk, my window open to the nighttime wind, there is no trace of her. I put on my shorts, take off my shirt, and follow her out to the forest.

This time, I’m early. The circle of blooms and the majestic rose are still dead, the grass is dry, the light of day still barely lingering through the trees. I sit down in the center and close my eyes. And I hear her. She’s proud of me for finally opening up to another. I tell her it was very hard. She tries to tell me I could have made it easier; I don’t fully listen. Instead, I silently wait for the proper time…

My eyes open. The sun has fully set at last and the forest circle is brought to life again; the grass is moody green, the blooms a glittering rainbow pattern surrounding me. This time, she’s already out of her flower. She’s sitting in front of me, smiling proudly. She beckons to the others and they one by one leave the safety of their cozy homes to join, all of them sitting in a circle around us. The ground becomes a rug of their intricate colored dresses and clothes. Each of them look to me—some expectantly, some apprehensively, and others excitedly. They begin chatting, praising my bravery in finally talking to someone else. I don’t have the blackened heart to bring up the last time I tried talking to other people. She picks up on my empty stare. She tries to reassure me it wasn’t my fault, that they just had to leave, to move on. I listen to her this time and I nod, understanding but nonetheless hurting inside. She moves to embrace me, as do all the others. Their forms wrap around me, arms and bodies pressed close. A burning, warm feeling fills my body as I accept their touch, it’s almost too much for me to bear, yet I still sit calmly within this rainbow-colored warmth that they have given me; their pretty forms fade into beautiful quilted patterns upon cloth and my eyes close.

“My sweet, sweet Jacob. I’m so proud of you.” My eyes open. Mother looks down at me as my head lies in her lap, surrounded by her multi-colored flower dress. Where they were hugging me with their forms, now my mother, her beautiful dress, and the living room in my home are. I look into her eyes. She knows about my new friend; I told her. She’s caressing my head now, letting me relax after such an eventful day. “I know how hard it has been for you to speak with others, Jacob. But today you took a chance and you made a new friend. You won’t be alone anymore.”

William Sharon

As a budding young writer growing up with mild autism, William Sharon seeks to let his unique perspective into storytelling inspire others. William began his writing endeavors from an early age, spurred on by the encouragement of teachers, friends, and family. Since then, he remains focused on sharpening his skills over years of personal practice. While somewhat introverted, William loves interacting with others and will not hesitate to talk about his hobbies and personal views on writing and other forms of art. William believes that art can be used to express deep thoughts and emotions that normal interactions with other people cannot reach. This can be seen in his story Jacob, an interpretive story centered around feelings of loneliness stemming from his own experience as an introverted high school student.

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