In That Place She Grows a Garden

All the students at Queen Mary Catholic High School knew about Principal Vargas’ death before the first bell.

To Rayven James, it was welcome news.

The entire student body swarmed through the hallways like a many-headed ocean, with straight brown, blond and black hair coloring the seas. An occasional pop of red floated past like flotsam, but one thing as rare as finding a perfectly formed pearl within the tight clasp of an oyster’s shell was any hair that didn’t flow in silky sheets, that didn’t bounce like those no-rhythm-having girls trying to twerk in the restroom, that didn’t accept a fine-toothed comb as readily as a mother’s hand opening for her child’s.

Rayven was that rare pearl.

Her locs, four years in the making, trailed down her back that Tuesday morning, the tips grazing her waistband. A shortage of time had prevented the usual adornment, a green-and-white ribbon to match the green-and-white plaid skirt. No, that morning had been a blur of three snooze alarms, a two-minute shower and a single slice of dry toast snatched out of the toaster as Mama’s horn blatted with impatience from outside.

“Rayven!” had come the call, for the fourth time, right before the high-school junior had bolted out the front door, sure that the neighbors were cursing the early-morning chaos that routinely got them up and moving. Barely had her butt touched the seat before Mama zoomed the car into reverse, shaking her head and flicking a cigarette at the same time, her hold on the steering wheel not extending past two fingers of her left hand.

So there was no time for ribbons that morning.

Rayven tossed her head, the sheet of her locs shifting like a curtain with a curious neighbor behind it before twitching back into place.

“Did you hear about Vargas?”

Rayven glanced to her right, where her friend Sonia Williams matched her step for step, like they were the Rockettes of Radio City Music Hall or something. They might not be high-kicking chorus girls, but according to the majority population of Queen Mary, it was hard telling them apart anyway. Although Sonia was several shades lighter than Rayven, wore a completely different hairstyle—short, relaxed bob—and stood two inches taller. And yet, to the white kids they attended school with, these two Black girls had practically shared a womb.

“I heard something,” Rayven said, twirling around the dial on her locker. “Is he really dead?”

“Yep.” Sonia leaned in closer, though any fear of being overhead was unwarranted, considering the loud chatter going on around them. “I heard he shot himself.”

Rayven shrugged. “So?”

“So that’s a grave mortal sin. He can’t go to heaven.” The white around Sonia’s liquid brown pupils seemed to pulse. “You know that, right?”

Rayven nodded, mainly to stem the tide of any religious teachings outside of Theology class. Sonia was, like almost every other student there, Catholic, so she knew all the ins and outs. Sonia also wasn’t on scholarship, like Rayven. Although her friend didn’t live in a three-story mansion like some of their classmates, Sonia’s upper-middle-class background was still quite an upgrade from Rayven’s lot.

“Why would he kill himself, though?” Rayven asked as they walked to first period, hers being English Comp and Sonia’s being World History, across the hall from each other.

“I heard he was having family problems.”

Throughout the rest of the day, rumors and gossip flew through the air like invisible bullets, propelled by little more than breath and boredom. By the time Rayven made it to lunch, the late principal’s death had been attributed to everything from poison, hanging, gunshot, and carbon monoxide in the garage to his mistress’s fury that he wasn’t actually going to leave his wife. To Rayven, that was definitely the best one.

However he met his maker—and Rayven didn’t know which that was—he was definitely dead.

Good riddance.

“You can’t stay mad forever.”

Mama’s words danced in Rayven’s head, one of Cathy James’ mamaisms, as the girl thought of them.

How did she know what Rayven could do?

But Mama had issued that mamaism after Rayven’s father had left to live with his baby’s mama six years ago; after she had grounded Rayven for a week for wearing lipstick when she wasn’t supposed to five years ago; and after Principal Vargas had suspended her for skipping class and therefore preventing her from playing in the girls’ varsity basketball quarter finals last month.

Queen Mary had lost without Rayven’s handles on the court.

Unknown to Mama, Rayven could stay mad and she’d certainly hold onto that rage forever if she could.

Trouble was, her rage was soon to have a brand-new target.

Mrs. McGee replaced the dead Richard Vargas as principal at Queen Mary. The student body reserved opinions publicly, although privately, text messages and DMs had already sized the woman up.

Rayven had no opinion, one way or the other, until one week after McGee’s appearance.

“Mr. Holloway?” The mechanical voice filled the Chemistry classroom. “Can you send Rayven James down to the principal’s office?”

Silence, heavier than noise, pressed on her skin as she made her way to the door. She imagined everyone’s eyes shining in her direction and, once the door clicked behind her, a rush of voices would break out from every corner of the room. Walking down the steps, Rayven wondered what this was about. When she made it to the main office, the principal’s secretary ushered her inside Mrs. McGee’s room.

“Good morning, Rayven.”

“Good morning, Mrs. McGee.”

Thus far, Rayven had only heard the woman speak at the morning assembly where she introduced herself and went into a rambling monologue about her experience, her past positions and what she hoped to bring to Queen Mary. The leather seat sank miserably under Rayven and she glanced at the woman on the other side of the big oak desk—a picture of unflattering bangs and milky blue eyes that just missed the boat of prettiness—before settling her gaze on the potted plant in front of her.

The only other time Rayven had been in this office was before Mr. Vargas had either killed himself or been in a grisly car accident driving home drunk from a late-night poker game, according to the latest rumor passing from mouth to ear.

“I hope your classes are going well. Although, I am aggrieved to come in and replace Mr. Vargas under the circumstances.”

Aggrieved? Rayven’s mind stumbled around in the dark, looking for a light switch. That had been a vocabulary word a few weeks ago, but she’d never heard anyone use it in regular conversation. She nodded, unsure what to say.

“Well, as your new principal, I have reviewed some of the school’s policies.” A clearing of the throat which sounded completely unnecessary. “And one of those policies regarding dress code had been rather lax under your former principal.” Another cough-cough coming through a clear passageway. “It’s about your hair.”

Rayven’s attention, which had been teetering on exiting stage left, made a quick about-face.

“What about my hair?”

Here, Mrs. McGee consulted a paper on her desk. Gone were the uncalled for ahem-ahems as the woman settled into more comfortable territory.

“I’m now enforcing the policy of Queen Mary School that no student sports any extreme or distracting hairstyles, which includes unnatural colors, shaved images or words, or dreadlocks.” Brown eyes locked into blue ones as the bobbed head gave a brief nod. “You’ll have to cut your hair, I’m afraid. You have until Monday.”

Later that night, when Rayven was finally able to think about the day without an excruciating buzz drowning out everything else, she tried to replay the rest of her conversation with the principal. All she recalled were perfunctory words and phrases: if you don’t cut your hair… expulsion… school policy… changes.

“We’re gonna fight this, baby,” Mama had said as soon as Rayven told her. “I’ll call the news station.”

Even as the words left her mother’s mouth, Rayven felt no conviction there. Because if Rayven left Queen Mary, what were their options?

Mama worked two jobs—one as a teacher’s aide in a preschool and the other as an after-hours office maid—to make up the difference that Rayven’s scholarship didn’t cover. It was either that or their neighborhood high school, R.G. Franklin. The “R.G.” stood for Rupert Godfrey, but these days, everyone called it “Riots and Guns Franklin.”

Rayven’s tears stopped long enough for her to speak clearly.

“Mama, I’m almost done with my junior year. I don’t want to go somewhere for just my senior year.”

The truth was, Rayven had no other school to attend. And they both knew it.

It’s just hair. It will grow back. You might like a short ‘do.

Rationalizations tiptoed in before Rayven blasted each of them aside. She spent the entire weekend riding one emotion after another, sometimes one coming so quickly on the heels of the last that processing anything was impossible. Tears—sad ones, angry ones, frustrated ones—each took their turn. With her mother’s emotions mixed in, Rayven wondered how they’d survived.

By the time Sunday night arrived—insistent, swift—Rayven felt like an abandoned water bottle lying on a beach somewhere. Flattened and empty.

“You want me to help you?” Mama’s voice, thin and young all of a sudden.

“No. I’ll do it.”

“I can help you shape it up, a little, if you want.”

“Mama, I’ll be fine, just let me do it.”

The bathroom door clicked, a barrier of wood between them.

Rayven picked up the black-handled scissors and faced herself in the mirror, squaring her shoulders.

On Monday morning, heaviness pressed on Rayven’s eyelids, the weight of unending tears. Mama asked her if she wanted to stay home from school that day, and while the idea had tantalized her, Rayven decided to go.

What was putting it off for another day going to do? She already felt ugly, she may as well share it with everyone.

Quiet hummed in the car ride, tardiness nonexistent.

Mother and daughter stared through the windshield, eyes haunted and hollow.

The whispers were worse than outright insults. She couldn’t tell what the whispers held, the words swirling on the edge of her hearing before breaking into pieces of silence. The not-quiet hung in the hallways, parting for her as she passed.

“Shhh.”

“W.T.F.”

“…glow down for sure.”

Even Sonia’s eyes couldn’t hide the shock and despair, though her friend made a valiant effort. Rayven imagined she could see the lump working its way up Sonia’s throat.

“I hate it,” she hissed as soon as they made their way into the restroom.

“Ray, it’s not that bad. Really.”

Sonia’s hand crept up before falling under the shame. Even she wouldn’t touch it.

Rayven’s reflection scowled back at her.

“It is that bad. And it’s all McGee’s fault. I hate that bitch.”

Anguish had prevented her from doing anything with her locs the night before except place them in a bag. Rayven had no idea what to do with them. She wanted to keep them, memorialize them in some way, but grief had to wane before she could think clearly.

When Rayven entered her bedroom that afternoon, ready to flop onto her bed while her mother made a quick dinner and changed before her night job, her eyes traveled straight to her small desk, where she’d left the bag.

It wasn’t there.

What the?

Under the desk, around the desk, on and under her neatly made bed, in her closet and then a search of the entire three-bedroom house. All twelve-hundred feet of it. Outside to the carport.

No bag. No locs.

“Mama, did you throw that bag away, the one with my locs in it?”

Mama was tying her maid apron behind her and reaching for her car keys.

“What, Ray?”

“Did you throw my locs away?” The shrillness in her voice threatened to crack and break.

“No. Why would I do that? Where’d you leave them?”

“In a bag in my room. They were on the desk when I went to school this morning.”

“Girl, I’m gonna be late if I don’t leave right now. Dinner’s on the stove, so you eat. You’ll find them, you just forgot where you left them.”

“I didn’t!”

In the silence that followed, Rayven could almost feel the charge in the air. Mama’s gaze was level and unflinching, driving Rayven’s down to her shoes. Clearly, her mother sensed her distress and was giving her a break, letting that one white-girl-drama moment fly. But she knew Mama wasn’t going to allow another.

“I’m sorry, Mama.”

“Mm hmm. We’ll talk later, I have to go.”

A moment later, the car’s engine roared before fading away into a diminishing growl.

On the closet floor, pushed behind a spare quilt, sat the bag. Rayven didn’t remember tossing it there, but she must have. In all of the heartache of the night before, she had no memory of most of it.

Except each snip.

That small sound had echoed in the tiny bathroom. After the first one, she couldn’t look any longer—she continued cutting by feel. In the end, a two-inch Afro remained. Shorn and weary. Had she shampooed her hair next? She must have. She must also have rubbed coconut oil throughout it and twirled what small pieces she could in an effort to make it look…different. At some point, Rayven assumed she’d given up on all of that and just gone to bed, where sleep welcomed her into its embrace of forgetfulness.

The bag’s mouth gaped, a stray loc poking out as if to test the air. Rayven pulled it out, then the next, and all the rest. They were so long, she thought. Four years of life resting on her lap.

Gone.

Gathering them into a bouquet, she tied a thick white ribbon around one end to keep them together and snagged a white carnation from the short vase on Mama’s nightstand. The flower peeked out from the ropes, nestled within them. Rayven carried the arrangement, the same way a parent might carry a dead child pulled out of a river, and placed it on her bedroom windowsill.

During the day, the sun would shine on them and at night, the moon would tell them secrets.

One week later, the student body chatter had moved on to a new target, to Rayven’s relief. She’d resigned herself to her short haircut but not actually accepted it. Thin headbands that matched her school uniform did nothing to assuage her ongoing sorrow.

Kids milled around her, some grabbing books out of their lockers, others walking to class. She peeked at her reflection in the small mirror stuck inside her locker door, wondering why she continued to look for something hopeful.

A pop of yellow caught her eye.

Rayven reached up, expecting the worst because it wouldn’t be the first time one of Queen Mary’s finest had snuck an object into her hair—the end of a broken pencil once, a hermit crab shell another time.

“Ow,” she breathed. When she’d pulled on the yellow thing, whatever it was, it stung, as if she pulled her own hair.

Rayven rifled through her bookbag until she found the compact. She held its mirror behind her as she gazed into her locker door reflection.

A yellow flower poked from her ‘fro.

Even the shrill bell went unheard.

She tugged at it and again, felt that sting. Her fingers burrowed deeper, straight to the roots. And indeed, the base of the flower felt like roots. Plant roots. Growing from her head.

“Miss James,” a sharp voice clapped from behind her.

The locker door slammed.

“You’re going to be late, you better get going to class,” Mr. Baxter said.

Rayven looked around and indeed, the hallways were mostly clear, except for one boy racing to get somewhere.

“Yes, sir,” she managed to say. Rayven completed the walk to Chemistry by memory alone, because the odd yellow flower consumed her entire mind.

She pulled Sonia into the restroom at lunch.

“Do you see it?”

“Yeah,” Sonia said.

“It’s growing out of my head.”

Sonia looked at her.

“I’m serious. Dig down in there, you’ll see.”

Sonia’s fingers gently obeyed and after a moment, a small gasp escaped her lips.

“What is that, Ray?”

“Don’t pull it!” Rayven hissed, but it was too late. Sonia jumped back, her hands in the air. “I don’t know what it is.”

“It’s growing there just like it would grow out of the ground. Hang on, I’ll take a picture.”

As Sonia dug around in her bookbag, she described the petals and the small green stem emerging from Rayven’s scalp like the hair around it.

Rayven heard a series of quick shutter clicks.

“Here,” Sonia said, handing over her phone.

In the photo, the small yellow carnation contrasted with Rayven’s dark hair. She zoomed in on it to get a better look. Nothing seemed extraordinary about its curled petals and circular shape, except, of course, where it grew.

The girls looked at one another in the mirror over the sink, wearing matching masks of confusion.

The next day, two more flowers had sprouted in Rayven’s hair. White and pink, their soft petals just poking out against the black coils. She showed them to her mother, who shared her silent puzzlement.

“I’ll take you to the doctor,” Mama finally said.

“But I’m not sick.”

Mama’s mouth worked. “Well, what else are we supposed to do? This ain’t normal, Ray, to have flowers growing out your head.”

“What’s the doctor going to do?” For some reason, she feared him snipping the flowers away. She wouldn’t let him. Her fingers trailed over the petals. They weren’t hurting anything, the flowers. They were just… growing somewhere they weren’t supposed to grow.

Plus, someone at school was sure to say something.

And they did.

“Miss Clarke, can you send Rayven James down to the office?”

Again, those milky blue eyes that Rayven imagined spitting into. The cough-cough through a clear throat.

Just get to the damn point.

Rayven, I can’t help but notice your new hairstyle.”

“Why, thank you.”

The pink lips downturned at the smooth sarcasm, wrinkles standing out against the lipstick, just outside of the lines.

“While hair bows, ribbons and headbands are acceptable for girls, flowers are not.”

“I’m aware, but I don’t exactly have a choice here.”

“Pardon?”

Rayven exhaled. The cat was out now, she may as well send it running down the street. “The flowers are growing out of my head, Mrs. McGee.” After a beat, she continued. “I tried pulling on them and it was just like pulling on my hair. It hurts. So I can’t take them out.”

Disbelief shone in the principal’s eyes. Of course. Why would she believe something so fantastical?

“Let me see.”

Rayven shrugged, standing. What was the old bat going to do? She wouldn’t let her touch her or put her fingers on the flowers. Mrs. McGee came from around the desk and stood beside Rayven, her eyes fixated on the petals. Her hand began to raise.

“Don’t touch my hair,” Rayven warned.

“Now, young lady, I’ve already told you—”

“And I told you that they’re growing out of my head! You can’t just pull them out.”

“Okay.” A change in tone, like a thick coat of honey poured over a slice of lemon. Rayven didn’t trust it. “We’ll have the nurse take a look at you, will that be all right?”

“That’s fine. My mother’s taking me to the doctor to get looked at anyway, but I’ll go to the nurse. You’ll see.”

“Perfect.”

They entered Nurse Bennett’s office a few minutes later. Rayven stood silently as Mrs. McGee went into an explanation that dripped with derision. She may as well call me a liar, Rayven thought. The nurse didn’t ask any questions, as if she saw students every day with odd things growing from their scalps.

“Do you mind if I take a look, Rayven?” she asked.

“No, ma’am.”

Rayven sat in the chair and the nurse slipped into plastic gloves. She felt a gentle prodding across her head.

“Ouch!” she hissed.

“I’m so sorry,” the nurse said, her hand over her mouth. She’d tried to pull one of the flowers away. She turned to the principal and stammered for a moment before getting the words out. “Mrs. McGee, they’re really growing out of her head!”

Each morning, more flowers bloomed in random places. Once, three small morning glories curled behind Rayven’s ear, but otherwise, they showed up in singles: a red snapdragon at the crown, an orange poppy at the nape. Within a few weeks, only half of her hair was visible. The rest of it was a garden of colors. Purple violets, pink meadowsweets and white doll’s eyes nestled next to blue forget-me-nots. On occasion, a single petal or bud fell off on its own, to be found later on a couch back or pillow, its replacement already filling in the gap it left behind.

Her mother had taken her to a doctor, who’d been just as puzzled. He’d wanted to cut one flower away to study it, but Rayven had refused to let him.

What if it was like cutting a piece of her? Would she bleed, feel real pain? She didn’t want to find out.

The doctor suggested a specialist, but for what? What were they going to do? The flowers weren’t harming her, they were just… growing. So that’s what he wrote on a note that she took back to school. Not that it did anything to calm Mrs. McGee down.

The threats started. Expulsion was tossed out. Rayven eavesdropped on the conversation between her mother and the principal one afternoon as Mama dared the woman to expel Rayven.

“It’s a medical condition,” Mama snarled into the phone.

“It’s also a distraction, Mrs. James,” came the voice from the speaker. “Students aren’t getting their work done because everyone is so busy talking about Rayven’s hair and the flowers. We simply can’t allow it.”

“Then maybe you need to teach your students how to focus! You expel my child, you better expect to get sued.”

If Rayven thought her mother’s counterthreats would get her off the hook, they didn’t. The principal seemed to take the entire weird situation as a personal affront, as if Rayven grew the flowers herself.

She didn’t know how she felt about them. On one hand, they drove Mrs. McGee crazy, which was incredibly rewarding. But they also made Rayven stand out in a way she didn’t want. Girls staring at her as she walked down the hall, conversations stopping when she walked into class, even teachers tearing their eyes away. If she could have her original hair back, she’d gladly take it.

Brody Tatlinger wasn’t the brightest student or the nicest or the handsomest, but he was a varsity football player so at Queen Mary—that made him a god.

Prior to Rayven sprouting a flourishing garden from her head, he’d never paid attention to the girl. She was one of the scholarship kids and he didn’t want anything to do with her, her people or her world. But now everyone at the school knew Rayven. Their feelings ranged from wonder to confusion to jealousy. Mostly, however, they kept their distance.

On that Thursday afternoon, when she passed him on her way to World History, he didn’t know why his interest was piqued. He’d seen the flowerhead dozens of times by then. According to school lore, the weirdo really did have plants growing out of her scalp, some kind of strange medical condition.

Rayven passed and without thinking about why he did it, he followed, although his next class lay in the opposite direction.

Rayven stuck to the right side of the halls, though the occasional rulebreaker fought against the flow of traffic and forced the pack to separate briefly before blending back together.

Two things happened almost at the same time: a violent tug at the back of her head and Brody’s loud curse ringing through the hallway.

“Oww—shit!”

All heads turned toward him, including Rayven’s, though her hand went to where the pain hummed.

Brody’s eyes were fixed on his thumb, from where a small black stinger protruded.

Only Rayven saw the bright yellow flower fall from his palm and the dying bee beside his foot, a coil of black hair wrapped around one of its legs.

It had hurt, but it seemed that Brody snatching a flower from her head didn’t leave any lasting damage. There was no bleeding and the spot didn’t feel empty, what with Rayven’s thick hair and remaining foliage. The anger simmered for a while, but at the same time, he’d received his just desserts.

Let that be a lesson to all of them, she thought.

But McGee proved herself to be a hard sell.

Rayven kept her head down and laid low as much as she could. She knew the principal was just waiting on her to slip up, to give her any reason to put Rayven out of the school. To prevent that, Rayven made the honor roll during the third quarter, excelled in Debate Club and participated in class without being obnoxious about it.

So the fourth-period call, “Mr. LaSalle, please send Rayven James to the principal’s office,” came as a complete surprise.

What now? drummed through her mind as she walked downstairs.

The same unpleasant air hung heavily in the room as the two squared off across the desk.

She can say what she wants, Rayven thought, she just better not touch me.

The glint of the scissors caught her eye. Mrs. McGee’s fingers tapped next to them before she picked them up.

“You’ve proven yourself quite formidable, Rayven.”

What? Bewilderment held Rayven’s tongue in place.

“At every turn, you’ve fought against me, even had your mother threaten to sue me. All I’m trying to do is run a school and running a school is a big job, young lady. I want everyone to excel and do well here. After all, we’re preparing young ladies and gentlemen for the next phase of their lives.”

The principal rose out of her seat, scissors hanging from her right hand, the pointed end punctuating the air as she spoke.

“We cannot have major distractions such as yourself when we’re trying to do our jobs. We cannot have one student wreak so much havoc all on her own.”

“I’m not doing that, Mrs. McGee, I have no control over—”

“You may not,” she cut her off, “but I will.”

Rayven rose slowly, her eyes never leaving the scissors, which seemed to float toward her as the principal made her move. A surprising swiftness propelled the woman, more quickness than Rayven had given her credit for. She turned and reached for the doorknob. A hand clamped on her shoulder. The hiss of scissor blades opening rasped in her ear.

No…

Rayven turned back, too focused on making a fist to register the tingling on her scalp and the rush of air over her. If this meant getting expelled, she’d gladly accept it.

A thick wall of bees, wasps, hornets and even hummingbirds hung between her and Mrs. McGee. Their buzzing overwhelmed everything, but Rayven did pick up a weak “Oh my God” underneath it all. The cluster of creatures hovered for a moment, a riot of swirling color, the beat of many wings flapping noisily in the small room. Rayven was too transfixed to feel any satisfaction at the fright pasted all over the principal’s face. The mass of insects and birds—wider than the big desk—rose almost to the ceiling before driving down toward the principal. Mrs. McGee had two options: remain there and be assailed by hundreds of stingers and sharp beaks or flee her own office.

She chose the latter.

The last Rayven saw of the principal was her pumping legs heading away, a huge knot of insects and birds trailing behind.

Queen Mary was cursed.

At least, the principal’s position was, according to the latest school lore. For the remainder of the school year, Vice Principal Lozado acted as interim principal, an unwillingness to accept the top job forcing the school system to begin a search for a replacement.

Soon after, Rayven woke to find several flowers pressed into her pillow. When she reached up, she dislodged a few more and they drifted down onto her bedspread.

Oh no, she thought. Just when she’d more or less accepted that she wasn’t going to have hair like everyone else. If not for the cloud of insects and birds that had driven McGee out of the school, where would Rayven be right now? Of course, her old principal had caused all of this to begin with, but Rayven couldn’t help the conflicting emotions churning inside her now that the flowers were dying off.

It continued over the next couple of weeks. Each morning, more flowers rested on her pillow, fewer growing from her scalp. Her hair filled in the spaces the flowers left and by the beginning of May, her slightly longer Afro showed no hint of the garden.

Sadness mingled with relief, with both tussling for the top position. She wondered what would happen next year, with the new principal. Would that person allow locs?

Rayven decided she’d begin cultivating them over the summer. Without the distraction of the flowers, as long as she did her work and stayed out of trouble, surely they’d leave her alone for her final year.

In the fall, on the first day of her senior year, Rayven sat in the auditorium for a special session. Budding locs sprouted from her head, a green-and-white headband holding them off her face. Absently, she twisted one as the new principal, a Mr. Abbott, introduced himself. Like most other adults Rayven had interacted with at the school, he sat firmly in the camp of The Others, no matter how affable he tried to make himself. She didn’t care about his vision, mission or goals. This was her last year and her sole priority was marching across the graduation stage next summer.

And seeing her locs grow back.

Three days later: “Miss Simmons, can you send Rayven James down to the principal’s office?”

The office was the same, although Mr. Abbott’s demeanor differed from his predecessor’s. He smiled a lot, for one thing, although the mirth didn’t exactly reach his green eyes. He attempted some little jokes and posed a few introductory questions, until time for small talk ended and he finally presented the reason for the summons.

“As you know, Miss James, we have a strict dress code policy here…”

Rayven stared out the window of Sonia’s three-year-old BMW, a recent birthday gift from her parents. She’d told Sonia about the meeting with Mr. Abbott on the drive to her home.

“Well, you can comb them out, right? Since they’re still so new?” Sonia asked, hesitancy dragging out her questions.

“I guess,” Rayven sighed, running a hand over her head. Sure, it wasn’t a four-year commitment, but it was still her hair. One welcome day in her future, no stupid rules and restrictions would dictate how she wore it.

“Thanks for the ride,” Rayven said as she exited the car. “See you tomorrow.”

Before she shut the door behind her, Sonia’s voice pushed out: “Wait, you have something on your shirt.”

Rayven looked down and, seeing nothing, turned her head to her left shoulder.

A spot of pink.

 

 

Del Sandeen

Del Sandeen is a speculative fiction writer. She is the recipient of the 2019 Diverse Writers Grant and the 2019 Diverse Worlds Grant from the Speculative Literature Foundation. Her work has appeared in Magnolia: A Journal of Women’s Socially Engaged Literature Volume III, FIYAH Speculative Literary Magazine, and Gay magazine, among others.

One Response to “In That Place She Grows a Garden”

  1. Myschyf

    That was fabulous. Thank you.

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