Wildflowers Grow in the Sun

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chapter twenty-three.

“It’s just weird, you know... to see you with him. I’m not used to it.”

Jovie’s voice broke through the silence as we stood waiting for Harvey to get changed. I don’t know how long we’d driven before pulling over to get out of wet clothes, but it seemed like a while because when I stepped out into the cool air, my clothes were sticking to me uncomfortably. Jovie and I had changed into dryer clothes first and now we leaned up against the hood of the car while Harvey changed on the other side. There was a hint of tension in the air between us and I’d been waiting for Jovie to say something.

“I get it,” I responded, nodding my head.

“I’m not jealous,” he stated a little too quickly.

“I know,” I smiled, looking up at him.

“I mean I’ve got no reason to be, but I just wanted to clear the air with that... just to make sure... I didn’t want there to be any-”

“Jovie, I know. It’s all understood. I promise,” I squeezed his shoulder before peering around to see if Harvey was almost done. I was mainly making sure he didn’t run away again.

“Okay, thanks,” Jovie said quietly.

“It’s weird for me too, you know?” I turned back to him.

“It is?”

“I mean, besides the part where I thought he was dead... It’s weird to be with someone you knew so deeply for so long and feel...” I trailed off, searching for the right word.

“Different?” Jovie offered.

“Yeah... it’s different...” I nodded. “In an odd sort of way, but also in a scary sort of way. You know, he’s so familiar to me and he hasn’t changed. It’s like he’s been in a time capsule here and I’ve been letting the world move around me. I’m terrified I’m someone he doesn’t know now. I still love him though. I think that part of me was locked in here with him. I couldn’t change that even if I tried. Have you ever-”

I was cut off by a rustling in the grass, signaling Harvey’s return.

“They still fit,” Harvey said, coming into view.

He wore one of his old sweaters I’d fortunately packed last minute. I smiled, thinking of how I used to hold that sweater and cry at night but now I was looking at him wearing it right in front of me.

“What?” Harvey asked, noticing I was staring at him.

“It’s nothing,” I replied.

We all loaded back into the car and pulled back onto the road for what I could only hope was the last time. As we pushed onward, I began to notice something strange: the air- or atmosphere- seemed to change every few miles. It was cold, rainy and windy earlier and then it was calm and cool. It was like we were driving through a season every hour. I could feel the temperature change through the glass on the windshield.

“What are you doing?” Jovie asked, looking at my hand pressed to the glass.

“Do you not notice it?”

“What?”

“The weather in here is crazy. Like every turn is something different.”

“I did notice that... It’s normal in here. Everything is changing constantly and like Lilah said, we’ve upset the balance. We just need to get out of here as soon as possible,” Jovie explained.

“It wasn’t like this before,” Harvey mumbled to himself, just barely audible, looking out the window.

“Are we going to have to stop again or is it a straight shot?” I asked.

“It depends. If the sun goes down we should stop and rest, but if it doesn’t, we should just keep going,” Jovie explained.

"If the sun goes down?” I wandered aloud.

I stopped asking questions and looked out the window, the beautiful ocean view finally coming into view again. This time, the waves were a little bit more wild and I could just barely make out white flurries falling from the sky and placing themselves on the road.

“Goddamnit,” Jovie said under his breath.

“It’s never snowed here before,” Harvey remarked, pressing his face up closer to the window.

I felt myself get a little panicky. Something had felt off from the moment we got here, but it was getting more and more intense the further we rode along. It was this feeling of strain between Eroda and the real world. I understood why Lilah was nervous... I could feel myself getting stressed, but I tried to think of Jovie’s words- how he said this place changes people- and I wouldn’t let it change me. I had one goal: to get the three of us out of here.

“If this ice sticks to the road we’re fucked,” Jovie said, intensifying my anxious thoughts. I must’ve given him a nervous look because he quickly recounted. “I mean, we’re going to have to pull over, but hopefully it won’t stick because the weather is changing so much.”

“It’s going to be fine, Maeve,” Harvey’s voice, firm and calming came from the back seat as he placed his hand on my shoulder.

The warmth of his skin through my clothes made the air return to my lungs. It is going to be fine. We’d already done the hardest part- finding Harvey. Now he was with us and we just had to go back the way we came. I couldn’t wait to get home... whatever that looked like for us. Would he want to move back to Briar Creek? Would he stay in London with me? Was it wrong to hope that he’d want to stay in London? He had friends back home, but he wouldn’t know anyone in London... I didn’t want him to feel like he had to pack everything up for me. What would make him want to live there? What if he changed his mind about everything after all of these years? My mind flashed back to the ring I’d found in the chest when I went through his things. He didn’t think he was going to change his mind then... but I couldn’t help but acknowledge that I was different now. Life without him changed me. Learning to cope with that much loss usually makes a person have a harder exterior and I can’t deny I built my walls high, but they’d been taken down over time and I was something a lot freer than he knew before. What would he think of that? Would he still love me like he used to?

I felt his fingers tracing patterns on my shoulders, silently reading my thoughts and telling me everything was going to be okay. We were going to be okay. I repeated to myself for the hundredth time. I turned to him, looking for some kind of answer, but was unsure as to how I would find it... or if I would find anything at all... But there it was, staring back at me in a wash of light green hue. The familiar color I wanted to paint my whole life with. Those colors held secrets only he and I knew... the curve of bodies in the night, the light flickering through when laughter ensued, words written on paper only to be shown to the other and then erased forever... Even after all these years, I found myself wanting to die looking into those eyes. As long as he was stared at me the way he was right now, I would be alright. I could live in his gaze for the rest of my life. A smile crept onto his face as I waited for him to ask me why I was staring at him, but I think he knew why and we sat just like that for a while.

After a few miles, the snow eventually stopped falling, leaving the air still and damp. I rolled the window down and noticed the sun beginning to dip in the sky, threatening to make us stop one more time before we left. As if reading my mind, Jovie yawned in the drivers seat.

“You tired?” I asked, remembering he hadn’t slept since the night before we came here.

“A little... I won’t get really tired until it gets dark. I’ll be fine,” he stretched his fingers along the steering wheel and I could make out just a hint of sleepiness in his eyes.

“What if we just switched out and I drove all the way so we didn’t have to pull over,” I suggested.

“Driving through the night here isn’t exactly safe. If we have to stop once, we’ll be okay.”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Yes,” he replied with just the slightest hesitation.

I didn’t press him any further and just accepted the fact that we would have to stop for one more night. It was just one night anyway. The ocean waves pounded against the cliffs next to the road and every so often, some mist would spray over the side. In the approaching darkness, I could still make out the wildflowers on the side of the road, but this time they weren’t vibrant colors. They had died in the changing weather- blues and purples replaced by a muted brown now.

“We should pull over now,” Jovie said with another yawn. “One of us should stay awake.”

“I can,” Harvey offered. “I’m not tired.”

“You sure?” I asked.

He nodded.

“I can stay up. Honestly, I’m fine,” Jovie said. “And I don’t want him running off again.”

“I’ll be fine,” Harvey said a bit too defensively.

“Okay,” Jovie bit his lip and looked at me, wordlessly asking me to stay up for a bit too. “I just need a few minutes and I’ll be fine.”

Jovie pulled the automobile to the side of the road and almost immediately curled up in the most uncomfortable position I’d ever seen. Harvey stayed with his eyes glued out the window before sensing my eyes on him.

“I’m okay, Maeve. I’m not going anywhere. You can sleep,” he whispered, turning to me.

“How do you know?”

He thought for a moment before answering me.

“Lay your head in my lap and if I try to go anywhere it’ll wake you up.”

“Okay,” I agreed, quietly climbing in the backseat as to not disturb Jovie.

I sunk into the familiar feeling of Harvey’s side, letting his arm drape over my waist and allowing my head to rest on his lap. I closed my eyes for a moment, but before drifting off to sleep, I turned to face him. He didn’t notice at first and I watched him as his eyes glistened, his mind obviously somewhere across the ocean. The moonlight appeared in his eyes and cast shadows across his face, illuminating his cheekbones the tip of his nose. He slowly realized I was watching him and turned to face me, curls falling in his eyes as he peered down. He gave me a small smirk before asking a question he already knew the answer to.

“What are you looking at, Peterson?”

“You,” I replied softly.

He let his fingertips trace the high points of my face, falling over my lips and finally landing on my chin.

“I should be the one looking at you, but I was going to have some decency and at least wait until you were asleep,” he raised his eyebrow.

I laughed and we fell into a comfortable silence as we took each other in. It was different than before. Because before, I felt like Harvey and I had all the time in the world, but now... I’d lost him once and I’d never forget what it felt like because it felt like forever. Looking into his eyes, I was making up for lost time.

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