Sarah Daltry’s Flowering Series
18+ New Adult contemporary
This is a coming of age story, but it isn’t always sweet and innocent. If dirty talk, bedroom toys, and threesomes offend you… this is not your book.
“No one tells you when you start school just how homesick you will be, or how hard it will be to start life over with no direction and no friends or family. No one says that becoming your own person is terrifying.”
I never wanted anything but Derek, my brother’s best friend. When I chose a college, it didn’t seem to matter that he would be an hour away. We could survive it. After all, we were in love. But almost immediately, things change between us. I blame myself. Maybe I’m just not sure how to be a girlfriend and independent.
Life seems to be getting away from me – and then there’s Jack, the guy down the hall. He’s rude and vulgar and my parents would be shocked by him, yet every single time I see him, I feel like I’m being pulled toward him. It’s physical, sure, but there’s something in Jack’s eyes – and I want to know him.
I know I don’t always make the right choices, and I’m the only person at fault when everything falls apart. How do I tell Derek, the guy who was supposed to be everything, that I don’t feel like fighting for him anymore? And do I run to Jack, when I know his past is way too much for me to handle when I’ve just turned 19? Finally, where do I end up in all of this? Can I be more than just someone else’s idea of what I should be?
The movie is awful, but it’s fun spending time with people who are easygoing and, when Don suggests going to Denny’s afterward, I agree without even
asking Derek. When we get in his car, I worry that he is disappointed, though.
“Are you mad?” I ask him.
He shakes his head. “Of course not. Lily, I love you and I’ll be there for you, but you need to have other people. I wouldn’t expect you to demand that I have no one at school.”
“Do you have a lot of friends at school?”
“Yeah,” he admits. “There’s a group Jon and that I spend a lot of time with. If you come up sometime, I’ll introduce you. Although, if you stay with me, you know what that means…”
“Yeah. Hands off all weekend – under penalty of death by older brother.” I laugh. Jon would obviously never hurt either of us, but I still don’t think it would be kosher to get too frisky with Derek in his room.
I debate about asking the question I know I shouldn’t, one I have never worried about, but for some reason need an answer to now. I survived my entire senior year by not asking this question; now that we’re on the same page, I feel like I need to know. I have to know what I’m facing.
“This group. Are there girls in it?” I ask.
Derek pulls into the parking lot at Denny’s, puts the car in park, and turns to look at me. “Three. Alyssa, Maya, and Jodie. Jon had a thing with Alyssa for a while, but nothing serious came of it. And stop it. I see the jealousy brewing. They are all homely and hideous and you’re the only girl I’m interested in.” He kisses my forehead and I know it’s supposed to make me feel better, but it only makes me feel like a kid. I had moments over the past year when I worried that Derek would think I was too young, but now I have these three women to picture and I don’t want to picture them.
Although I was a virgin when I slept with Derek the first time, he wasn’t. I don’t know what he did at school before we got together, but he had plenty of girlfriends in high school and I can’t imagine he was celibate for those first few months last year. We’ve never talked about it; although I know how many people he’s been with, I don’t know for sure who they are or when he was with them. I can’t bear to know. I hate thinking of him with another girl so close to when we started dating.
I’ve managed not to be the jealous type for almost a year, despite him being away, although I can’t pretend that it doesn’t bother me if I think too much about it. I know it’s hypocritical, since my new group of friends includes guys, but I can’t help it. I feel like Derek’s going to realize sooner or later that I’m not enough for him.
We go into the restaurant, because I don’t want to think about Alyssa, Maya, and Jodie; it is easier to fake it with company. Everyone is in high spirits and I try to let the worry slip away. There is not a lot I can do anyway. I’m pretty sure that Derek has been faithful. Right now, all I can do is trust him. As hard as that is, I have no reason to think that he would cheat. Still, I can’t stop picturing him in bed with someone else.
Lily of the Valley (Jack’s story)
18+ New Adult contemporary
Jack’s story isn’t pretty. He’s suicidal, depressed, and he uses meaningless sex and alcohol to survive. However, the story is about finding light in the darkness, but sometimes the road there isn’t always easy to walk.
“No one tells you about pain. They tell you that it hurts, that sometimes it’s consuming. What they don’t tell you is that it’s not the pain that can kill you. It’s the uncomfortable numbness that follows, the weakness in your body when you realize your lungs may stop taking in air and you just can’t exert enough energy to care. It’s the way taste and color and smell fade from the world and all you’re left with is a sepia print of misery. That’s when the shift starts – the movement from passive to active. I fall asleep, hoping that the morning will bring back the pain. At least the pain is a thing.”
I’m a plague, a cancer. My mom is dead – and my father is in prison for it. I survived high school because college was my way out. I needed to escape, to get away from my family and the people who tortured me, but it hasn’t grown any easier.
I don’t pretend that I’m a good person. I drink far more than I should, and I use my best friend, Alana, because together, we thrive on destroying each other – as well as the parts of us we hate. I don’t believe in love, but sex is fun and it also makes me feel something.
The morning I see Lily, the beautiful princess who smells inexplicably like strawberries every time I see her, I realize I’m in trouble. I should hate her. I want to hate her, because the alternative terrifies me. However, as she continues to crash into my life (often literally), I can’t avoid feeling something that is the one thing I swore I would never feel. I can’t fall in love, because people like me don’t live in a world where love saves anyone.
She just won’t go away, though, and I don’t know if I can keep running. The voices and the darkness hover over me and they threaten to bring me back to the safety of my hate, but the stupid scent of strawberries lingers on the horizon, as something like hope.
My grandmother is so happy that I agreed to visit with my father on my way back to school that I almost feel okay with the decision. Until we reach the prison and the familiar sickness returns. I can’t turn around now and say I don’t want to go in, but the sky is steel grey and I wonder why it’s never sunny when I come here. Even the weather hates me.
She has a hat on, because it’s a prison day, and I don’t have the heart to tell her that she tries to look nice for a group of lowlifes. I feel like somewhere in her head she convinces herself that she looks like she’s going to church or something and that people will think that’s what she’s doing. She seems to believe that if other people assume she’s not the mother-in-law of a killer, then she’s not the mother-in-law of a killer.
The security check is backed up today because some guy is arguing with the guard about his belt. They want him to leave it at the entrance, since it keeps setting off the metal detectors, but he’s apparently really attached to the stupid thing and doesn’t want to give it up. They argue back and forth and it’s the dumbest conversation I’ve ever heard. And I go to college with frat boys.
“Buddy, you have to take off the belt and leave it, or you can’t get in,” the guard explains. “Unless you can pass through here without setting off the machines, you aren’t going to see anyone.”
“You’re just trying to rob me. You’re all part of the system, man, and I ain’t giving you shit.”
“You’ll get the thing back,” the guard tries to reason.
“Fuck you. You’re just trying to keep me down.”
The guard sighs. “Look, just put the belt right here on this shelf. I will personally watch over it and make sure it’s safe.”
“Why should I trust you? You work for them.”
“I do and I make less than twenty bucks an hour. I don’t care about your damn belt.”
“More than I make. Think you’re so special, judging me, acting like you’re too good for something that belongs to me-”
“Holy fuck, just give him the fucking belt,” I yell. The guard, the random dude, and my grandmother all turn to look at me. “What? This is fucking stupid.”
The guy seems so taken aback that he quietly removes his belt and hands it to the guard. He goes through the metal detector, this time without setting anything off, and turns back to look at me. He shakes his head and mumbles, “Crazy ass motherfucker.”
The guard just stares at me. I walk through the machine and the thing goes insane. It’s my belt ironically. He raises an eyebrow and just holds out his hand. “I need you to leave your belt here.”
I don’t care about the belt or this visit and the sooner we get in, the faster we leave. I hand him my belt and then my grandmother is through. The guard buzzes us into the next area, where a few more guards are sitting in a small office. I wait for them to lead us to the room where we’ll meet my dad. The metal table shines in the fluorescent light. If I stare at it long enough, maybe I’ll go blind.
“No outbursts,” my grandmother warns.
“It wasn’t an outburst. He was wasting time.”
“I don’t care. Your actions impact your father.”
“Yeah, well, his kinda impacted me,” I point out.
She shakes her head and turns to face the door through which my dad will enter. I hate it here. I hate the way the lights are covered in weird metal mesh grates that make it always feel like five o’clock on a winter evening. I hate the way that the voices of other visitors and prisoners bounce off the walls, disembodied and incomprehensible, but invasive enough to remind you that you’ll never be alone in here. I hate how the guards try to treat me like their own kid, as if by being sympathetic it will fix anything. And I especially hate the stupid look of hope that refuses to leave my grandmother’s face no matter how many times we come here. Sometimes I think maybe it’s that look that makes me limit my visits as much as I do, more so than even hating my father. Because the fact that she believes someday things can be okay? Well, there is just nothing I can say about that.
Blue Rose (Alana’s story)
Warning: This book deals with topics of abuse and may trigger reactions in people who have experienced those things in their own lives. It remains a story about healing, but it’s not always an easy journey.
“Four. My life has been shaped by four people. Four men, to be more specific. My father, my stepfather, my best friend, and my boyfriend. The first two shaped it in horrible ways, but what I am, who I am, is all because of four men.”
Over the last twenty years, I’ve learned how to keep secrets. It doesn’t really matter, since everyone already seems to think they know everything about me. So I hide. I avoid confrontation, I treat Xanax like a magic pill that will make it all go away, and I become everything they think I am. A slut. A whore. Nothing but trash.
I can only name two guys who have ever made me feel like I was more than that. Jack is my best friend and I’ve loved him since I met him. Now, though, he’s in love… with someone else, and I guess I need to get over him. Somehow.
And then there’s Dave. The guy I never gave a chance. The guy I used almost as much as people used me, because I wanted to pretend I was someone worth loving. Two years have passed since we last spoke, but I don’t know how to stop thinking about him.
My new therapist is making me face my past, and she tells me that life inevitably changes without our permission. I believe it, but I know what I am. I hear what she’s saying to me, and I want to try again with Dave, to help Jack find joy, to love myself, and to move on. I just wonder if anyone can do that, really.
Later that day, at lunch, I had just found a seat by the window when he sat across from me. I was used to sitting alone. He didn’t say anything, and he had nothing to eat. He looked up at me, though, after a few minutes, and his eyes did it again. I hated my body, hated the way I looked, hated that somehow I owed my body and my looks to everyone else. But when Jack looked at me, I wanted to let someone touch me. I wanted him to hold me. He felt like safety.
It didn’t even make sense. He was just a broken kid, like me. He always wore the same threadbare hoodie. Most days, it covered his head. He was cute, but awkward. His hair was too long and usually greasy. His Chucks were a little too big, so they looked a little like clown shoes. Yet those gorgeous eyes were all I cared about. I hadn’t considered guys at all. I didn’t find them attractive, and I certainly couldn’t see the appeal of sex or of intimacy. With Jack, though, the thought of him near me didn’t make me nauseous.
“Do you want my orange?” I asked him.
“Are you sure?”
It wasn’t a groundbreaking question. But it was how I knew that what I naturally felt for Jack was right. Because no one had ever asked me that. No one had asked if I minded, if I was sure, if something was okay. They just took things.
He took it and I handed him my knife. It was flimsy plastic and wouldn’t even pierce the rind, so I took the orange back and peeled it with my fingernails. Jack just watched me and, when I handed him the orange, now peeled, he smiled. His upper lip curled more than it should have and he looked silly, smiling at an orange. But he drew the same smile from me.
“Thank you,” he said, and he pulled two slices free from the whole and handed them back to me. I didn’t eat them right away. I just watched him eat his part. He was messy and he ended up covering himself in the juices. He unzipped his hoodie after the orange squirted down the front. Underneath, he was wearing a washed out blue T-shirt with a train on it. He looked ten.
“Nice shirt,” I teased.
He looked down. “I live with my grandmother. She has no concept of clothes.”
He smiled again and it was less awkward this time. “Do you live with your grandmother, too?”
I was wearing a huge black sweater over baggy black pants. “No. I just… I don’t like people looking at me.”
“Yeah. I get that.”
He didn’t tell me that I was too pretty to dress the way I did; he didn’t say my body was too good to hide. He just went back to eating his orange, letting the juice spill all over the train shirt. We were fourteen, but I already knew Jack would always be the only thing that mattered in my future.
Star of Bethlehem
This is a holiday novella-length story that follows Forget Me Not and Lily of the Valley.
“With you, Jack, it was the first time I ever felt real. It was the first time anyone looked at me and saw substance. It was the first time I wanted to make someone see me.”
Jack: New Year’s Eve. I’ve somehow managed to get here, and now I’m wearing a hideous and unreasonably itchy sweater, because I want to impress Lily’s family. I want to do anything for this girl who has made me believe in second chances.
Lily: The house is beautiful and shining with light, but it feels empty. At least until Jack gets here. I know how desperately he wants this – a family, love, a home. If I can be the person who can give it to him, it’s all I need, but I hope I can keep him from seeing how hollow it all really is.
I take his hand and pull him down beside me on my bed. I feel so complete in his arms, as if nothing can go wrong when he holds me. It’s all the other stuff. The world, people, pressure. Maybe it’s a little fear that things just ended with Derek. That one day, as quickly as I fell for Jack, I also fell out of love with Derek. I don’t have enough experience to know if that’s normal. What if it happens again?
“What? Tell me,” Jack whispers.
“Have you ever felt like your entire life is some surrealist’s joke? That you think you’re in control of it, while really, you’re probably just…”
“A melting clock?” he finishes and laughs. I look at him, disappointed that I can’t explain it, but also relieved that he doesn’t care.
“All the fucking time,” he says. “I know you’re scared. I know I’m scared. But I seem to remember you telling me that I should remember what matters. I made you a promise, princess. Yes, your house intimidates me. Your life intimidates me. Hell, loving you intimidates me. But I’m in this. I’m here. Present. Entirely. I’m looking only forward. And all I see is you.”
“Take the damn book,” I tell him. “I just wanted to show you that I have faith in us. It was a conscious decision to give you something that was a very special gift to me, to tell you that I trust you with it, because I trust you to be there. Long term.”
He takes me in his arms and kisses me. I decide I won’t stop him if he goes further, but he doesn’t. Our bodies crackle with the energy between us, but as much as the sex thrills me, Jack does so much more for my mind than his body could even do. I can’t believe how alive I feel when he’s near me. Perhaps it’s selfish. Perhaps it’s desperate. But I want him here in my life; I want him with me, because I love being this aware.
I speak against his cheek, while his hands slowly explore my body. It’s sensual but not sexual. He’s studying me like a work of art. “I don’t want to fall out of love with you. I thought Derek was all I ever wanted. I don’t want to be in the same place with you a year from now.”
“You won’t be,” he tells me.
“How do you know?”
He kisses along my face, brushing his lips against my cheek, my forehead, my nose, but never reaching my mouth. “I don’t know how. But I do.”
I love that he can put aside his doubts to ease my own. I know Jack’s had so much trouble in his life, and the fact that he can comfort me, when my problems are so petty and stupid in the scheme of things, is one more thing I love so much. “I know I’m shallow. But I don’t want to be, Jack.”
“You’re not shallow. You’re not empty. Anything you think of yourself – it’s crazy. If you want to talk about surreal, it’s the fact that you think you’re less than something. Maybe you didn’t get shit on the same way I did in high school, but clearly, people have underestimated you. They missed out on you. And you have every right to be hurt. But, Lily? No one will ever hurt you again.”
I smile. “Thanks. I’m sorry I’m being so moody. It’s probably hormones or something. I think I’m just frustrated.”
“Yeah?” He laughs. “Well… I mean… I can help you relieve some of that.”
He’s on top of me and I don’t care that it wasn’t exactly what I meant. I don’t care that someone could walk in. Someone probably will walk in, since eventually they’ll come looking, but I don’t care at all. I want to belong to Jack, and I don’t know any other way to do so.
“I’ve never understood a year. A year was always a measurement of something bad for me. A year in my father’s prison sentence, a year since my mom’s death, a year left of school before I could get far, far away from here. Now, as I look down the end of my college career, with only a little more than a semester to go, a year seems like something magical. It has been a year since Lily chose me, since she sat with me on the old swing set and made a decision that I was worthy of her. And every minute of the entire year has been better than the last.”
You already know their stories: Lily, the perfect princess, always living someone else’s life. And Jack, the broken boy, who had stopped believing in hope. Somehow, though, they found each other and what was one night blossomed into a love story.
Now, a year later, Jack and Lily are dreaming of the future. Despite all of his promises to himself that he would never be indebted to anyone, Jack makes a new promise – this time to Lily – that he will be there for her forever. But when life unravels for them, he starts to pull away, and Lily worries he’s out of reach for good.
When Jack does the unthinkable, Lily is left destroyed. Is it possible to have a happily ever after? Does love ever really save anyone?
“I don’t have a ring, and I don’t have anything planned. I was going to plan something. It was going to be big and special and important, but I can’t. I can’t wait to tell you. I love you, Lily. You make me happy, as if that’s something that can even be real for me. I know you can probably think of a million places more romantic than the cemetery, but this is my family, and this is me, in all that I can offer. It’s nothing much, but you’ve made me believe that it might be good enough for you. You’ve changed my life, Lily. And I want to make you a part of the rest of it. Forever. I want you forever.”
She’s crying as she looks down at me on the ground. “What are you saying, Jack?”
“Marry me, princess? Not now, or really anytime soon. I don’t know when. I have very little to give you. I don’t even know when I can afford a ring. I was going to go look for one this week, although it will probably be tiny and nothing that can represent how much I love you and how much you deserve. I know I’m not what you pictured when you were a little girl and you wanted a husband or whatever, but Lily, I love you more than anyone else can. And I want you to be my wife, whatever that means, because I can’t imagine one day of a future that doesn’t have you in it.”
She lifts me to my feet and hugs me. “Yes, of course. I don’t care about a ring or even a wedding. I just want you. Forever. Nothing else is important to me. I will never not love you. Whatever you want to call that, I’m happy to be a part of it. I have two years left of school, but I can promise you that, in two years or fifty, at the end of it, you’re the future for me.”
We kiss and I wish it was epic and fireworks shot through the sky, but it’s not. It’s just me and Lily, holding each other like we do most nights, but I’m kissing my fiancée and that has some kind of importance to it. I believe my mom would be happy for me, because I need to believe it. The whole night, the holiday, the setting, the awkward proposal even, it’s all how it should be, because, although it’s not something people tell their kids twenty years down the road, it’s so real to us.
Four years. One night that was supposed to be an escape turned into four years. And now, four years is about to turn into forever.
Lily was never anything special. A perfect girl from a perfect world living an empty life. She was lost, thinking she knew who she was and what she wanted. She thought she knew love, but then there was a boy.
Jack has been through Hell. Watching his mother die – at his father’s hands – will never leave him. He had given up on living a life, figuring he would drink himself to death, if he didn’t give in to all the voices telling him to kill himself first. And then there was a girl who smelled like strawberries.
Two years have passed since Orange Blossom. Jack and Lily are only months away from their wedding and their journey is about to come to an end. Join them in the final title in the Flowering series, a story of growing up, of finding yourself, and of “blooming.”
After driving for two hours and a three hour seminar session, I’m exhausted. I take out my cell to text Jack and ask if he wants to order dinner tonight, because there is no way I even have the energy to go through a drive-thru. I notice as I look at my phone that I have twenty-six texts. That’s right – twenty-six. All sent between nine this morning and noon. All from my mother. They grow increasingly frantic, as if texts just shoot directly into my brain and notify me that she has something “very important” to ask me. I wish I had never given her my number. More, I wish I had never taught her how to text, because she seems to think it’s the same thing as actually speaking, and then she gets agitated when I don’t reply.
The last one she sent is incoherent. Just a lot of random letters and punctuation. I would worry that something was actually wrong, but my dad and Jon didn’t text. If something had happened, they would have as well. Instead, it’s just endless streams of urgency from my mother.
I leave my stuff in the library and go back outside to call her. She answers almost immediately. “I have been trying to reach you all morning,” she says.
“I had class.”
“But I texted you.”
“Right, but I still had class.”
“Okay, well, two things. First, we need to confirm the DJ. Have you done that yet? Did you meet with him? Do you know what time he’s setting up?”
“I’ll call him when I get off the phone with you. Sorry. It slipped my mind.”
There is a lengthy pause. She’s trying. I keep telling myself that, because it keeps me sane. A few years ago, I would have gotten quite the tirade about forgetting to call the DJ. Instead, she’s practicing deep breathing, which she learned about in yoga. My existence has led her to yoga.
“I promise. I’ll call,” I tell her.
“Okay. The second thing is that your father wants to put down a deposit for your honeymoon this week. Gail has been checking in and we don’t have an answer for her, so you have to pick something. I don’t like having to keep making Gail wait.” Gail is the travel agent my parents use. Everyone in my parents’ life is a long-lost friend; there is no such thing as Expedia.
“Can I let you know tomorrow?”
“I suppose, but haven’t you talked about it?” she asks.
“We have, but Jack feels silly taking your money. Maybe we’ll just do a weekend away at the Cape or something.”
The deep breathing resumes. People in my mother’s life don’t do weekends away at the Cape; they own houses there.
About Sarah Daltry
Sarah Daltry is a girl who writes books. The books are in all genres, because Sarah’s not so great at committing to things. She’s happily married and she and her husband live with their cats in New England. Sarah is painfully shy and, if you are able to find her, she is probably in a corner, hiding. She has also written the urban fantasy romance, Bitter Fruits; the YA gamer geek comedy, Backward Compatible; the literary reimagining, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock; historical erotica, The Quiver of a Kiss; and a variety of erotica and short stories.
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