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The Field of Sunshine

A Story based on 'Sunflower Girls' painted by IngridPaintings (Etsy)

By Alexandria StanwyckPublished 12 months ago Updated 12 months ago 8 min read
"Sunflower Girls" ingridpaintings on Etsy

Mentions of depression and potential suicidal thinking. If you or a family member is struggling, don't be afraid to get help.

A young woman stands in front of a crowd, wringing her hands. She takes a deep, wavering breath as she looks to the side before facing the sea of people. Her hands shake slightly, something she knows only one person would have seen if they were there. Another shaky breath passes through her lips before her eyes meets her father's in the front row. He nods his head reassuringly right before she opens her mouth to speak.

"I didn't get close to her until a couple of years ago. Before, I only knew her as the woman who was distant most of the year and as the woman who I thought for a time hated me. I don't have many good memories of her. But there is one, one that involved a sunflower field and a white dress."

***

By rehan shaik on Unsplash

"It was an unseasonably warm October morning and because I wasn't old enough to join the older neighborhood kids in a stuffy classroom for eight hours, I was at home with her. Back then, even as a snotty nose three-year-old, I hated to stay home with her. I knew it meant loneliness, despite her being there. Truly, her body was there, usually hidden underneath a mountain of baggy sweats and bed sheets, but her mind was elsewhere. I like to think it was trying to escape in a field of towering sunflowers so vast you were cut off from the rest of the world.

Usually, I was up with the first trace of color in the sky, and on the rare occasion I wasn't, my dad’s thundering voice or footsteps woke me up soon afterward. This day it wasn’t my internal alarm or my dad waking me up. It was her.

I knew it was her by the gentle and tentative way she nudged me awake, a welcomed change to Dad’s unintentional way of rousing me awake. At first, as one of my eyes started to open, I just saw white. Not like the cream color poorly painted on my walls, no, this was wedding gown white.

Both of my eyes blinked in confusion as they took in the sight in front of me. There she was in front of me, free from the clutches of her shapeless garments and darkness. At least, I assumed it was her, because the woman in front of me looked younger than the one trapped in the bedroom. Her dress flattered her figure and her seldomly shiny hair was pulled into a ballerina bun.

She bent down beside the bed and gave a small smile. 'Fina,' my name is Josefina, 'do you want to go on an adventure?'

I was suspicious and angry. She didn't do 'adventures.' She barely noticed me when we were in the same room. But she seemed so eager. And she was all there. There was a spark in her eyes, small, but noticeable. I had never seen that before. So, I pushed my worries, my suspicions, and my anger into a little box deep into my mind. I would leave them for another day.

It didn't take much time at all to get changed; my favorite dress at that moment, a white dress with purple flowers, had already been taken out. Plus, the promise of adventure and her complete presence stirred an urgency in me.

When we came out to the living area, my father stood there with a smile that illuminated the room. I had seen my father smile before, but it was never so, well, happy. There was usually a touch of sadness in his face when he smiled. That day, I learned where my dimples came from and deep inside, I already wished for the day to never end.

We walked out the front door. I eagerly and nearly tumbled down the stairs, with my parents behind me. When I turned around to demand they hurry up, I stopped short, because how could I interrupt such a moment as the one before me? My father held a picnic basket in one hand and my mother close to his side with the other. I swear I could see hearts in their eyes before they leaned in close and engaged in a chaste, but tender kiss. For a moment, we were the picture of a family, happy and in love with one another in our own ways.

As we made our way to the first stop of our day, I often wondered how many people wished they could stop and join the picturesque scene they passed on the road. A young, joyful girl skipping about with her parents trailing behind her, connected by the hands grasping each other tightly. It was something I only dreamed of."

***

By Yousef Espanioly on Unsplash

"We made it to the beach as the first hint of color appeared in the sky. The rest of the morning was a blur of splashing in the water, building sandcastles, and squeals of delightful laughter. After a delicious lunch, my dad packed up everything and offered his hand to me.

I grabbed a hold of two of his fingers in my small hand. 'Where are we going daddy?'

All he said was, "your mother's favorite place.'

'Which is daddy?' I begged.

My mother came to my other side and ran her fingers through my wet and sand-covered hair. 'A field of sunshine.'"

***

By Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

"I saw them from miles away, first as a blob of yellow and brown, then as individual flowers. They were statuesque, towering over my six foot father and reaching for the heavens. Because the sunflowers grew closely together, it was impossible for us to avoid bumping into their fuzzy stems and leaves. I was in awe of their beauty and their height.

Then I looked at her. She was dancing in the packed space as if the sunflowers were playing a song only she could hear. Her laughter filled the air as she spun around and I couldn't help but join her in her contagious cheer.

The two of us spent hours chasing each other in field as my father watched. Every so often one of us would pick one of the shorter sunflowers and gave them to Dad, who warmly accepted each one. The really tiny ones encircled her bun, creating a halo of sunshine.

At one point, she bent down and placed a sunflower behind my ear. She then told me, 'Fina, you are a sunflower, always reaching for the sun. Don't ever stop.'

When we were about to leave, she carried the small bundle of sunflowers and gently guided me toward Dad. I was exhausted, but still felt like I was on a high that was never going to end. I sleepily stumbled over to Dad and reached my arms up, silently asking him to pick me up. As he did so, I noticed tear tracks running down his face.

'Daddy. Why are you crying?' I asked out of concern.

He smiled sadly, the way I was used to. 'Because your mommy is happy today, little sunflower.'"

Josefina looks out into the sea of sobbing faces and black outfits, with tears of her own streaming down her face. She wipes them away aggressively; she thought she didn't have any tears left. After grieving almost non-stop her mother's death two weeks ago, Josefina thought there wouldn't be enough water left in her body to cry now. How wrong she was.

She turns and looks to the side again, taking in what she has recently learned was her mother's forced smile. This public smile, as her mom called it, hid the truth from so many people.

"It took me so long to realize what he meant. It wasn't until my mother reached out and explained she was diagnosed with depression days after giving birth to me it clicked.

I have to admit I was angry at first, and for a long time. How could the people who are supposed to protect me keep something so big from me? Then, my mother got sick with only days to live. Something told me to go see her before it was too late. I'm glad I did, because I got to say goodbye and that I loved her. I only wished I had came back sooner. Maybe then, I wouldn't be so heartbroken."

***

Josefina walks to the grave alone after everyone else paid their respects. She didn't want to deal with any more pity looks and crappy condolences. It only fed the gnawing monster festering inside of her, the guilt of waiting to too long.

The worst part of losing her mom, was the all the things she left unsaid. All the 'I love yous.' A thank you for staying, for protecting her the only way she knew how. How proud she was and is of her mom for being there the very few days her mom was stronger than the demons inside.

Josefina chokes on a sob, as she looks at the sunflower in her hand. She would never be able to tell her mom that her favorite color is yellow because it reminded her of the sunflower field from that day.

Heavy footsteps in the grass alerts her to someone behind her. She places her hand on her mother's headstone and tightens her grip. "Whoever you are, I just want to be left alone."

"I'm sorry, little sunflower." Dad.

Her father comes up beside her and looks at the craving on the stone. "She would be proud of what you said."

Josefina bitterly chuckles. "Would she?" She turns to her father, face twisted in sorrow. "I was a horrible daughter."

"No, Fina. You didn't know. All you knew is what we showed and told you. You showed respect and love to your mother every way you could."

"Not, not-t that." Josefina hugs herself, trying and failing to calm herself. "I made it worse. She had-d me, and I made it worst!" With that, she collapses by the fresh dirt covering her mother's casket, weeping.

Her father joins her and wraps his arms around her, pulling her close. "No, sweet sunflower. You saved her. If it wasn't for you, she would have been dead way before now."

Josefina's cries stops abruptly. "What?"

Tears flows down his face. "You gave her something to fight for. And some days, your daily sunflower was the only light she saw." He gently takes the sunflower from Josefina and guides her to her feet. "I know we hurt you in so many ways when we didn't tell you the truth, but we never wanted you to feel like it was your fault. We thought we were protecting you. I am sorry you if we made you feel that it was your fault."

Josefina takes the sunflower from her father, and places it on her mother's grave. Wrapping her arms around her father, she whispers forgiveness and 'I love you' in his ear. They hold each other tightly, never wanting to end the moment. No, it didn't change anything. But it was a start of healing and growing for the both of them.

In time, Josefina and her father did separate, allowing the young woman a chance to say this.

"Dad, I think Mom would have been happy if she saw this." She motions to behind the grave, for they had buried her mother by her favorite field of sunshine.

Her father pulls Josefina close again and gives her a gentle kiss on her forehead. "I think so too, little sunflower. I think so to."

***

If you enjoyed this story, let me know with a comment or a like.

To those who are struggling with their mental health or who have family members who are struggling, know you are not alone.

PaintingFiction

About the Creator

Alexandria Stanwyck

My inner child screams joyfully as I fall back in love with writing.

I am on social media! (Discord, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.)

instead of therapy poetry and lyrics collection is available on Amazon.

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Comments (1)

  • Kendall Defoe 12 months ago

    Is someone cutting onions in my room? A rather beautiful tale well told... 🌻

Alexandria StanwyckWritten by Alexandria Stanwyck

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