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The inspiration for this piece was my own experience of having feelings for my best friend. Instead of embracing the realization that I wasn't straight, I snuffed out my own feelings and, in a way, killed that part of me.

The door jingles merrily behind May as she exits the flower shop, a single tulip in hand. Her heeled boots clack against the sidewalk, her wristwatch ticks incessantly. She has a meeting in an hour with an important client, but today is a special day. May hastens through the city, past an old Episcopal church whose curved architecture clashes with the art deco skyscrapers.

May finally arrives, stone giving way to grass, where she meets June.

“It’s been a while, hasn’t it, my love?” May tells June, a rueful smile tugging at her lips. “Running a law firm isn’t easy, but you supported me every step of the way.”

June doesn’t answer, but May expects that.

“Do you remember what today is? It’s our anniversary. Ten years, to this day.”

They met in a coffee shop during their senior year of college. May, a political science major, hunched over books in her corner seat she hadn’t left in hours. June, a fiery-haired art major is working part-time as a barista. Their spheres never crossed outside of the intimate atmosphere of the coffee shop. June’s sly smile and the phone number written on May’s latte changed that.

“On our first date, you gifted me a bouquet of red spider lilies. To this day, I can’t figure out how you knew they were my favorite.”

June escorted May to her dorm, an elaborate flourish of her arm as she opened the door for May. Joy hung in the air, bringing the two closer. There was freedom, a taste of rebellion, in their love. It was perfect for a time, as all temporary moments are.

The afternoon sun has melted the dew, and May sits in front of June.

“I’m doing well. I have my ups and downs, but I’m happy”—May’s hand absentmindedly comes to rest above her heart. The hollowness persists—“I miss you, still.”

Red paint splattered on canvas, a brush in June’s right hand, her left intertwined with May’s. Stolen kisses, soft touches, all-nighters with splotches of paint on June’s brow, May’s muffled laugh as she wiped the color away.

There is nothing but the ever-present emptiness lodged in May’s chest, the hole she has survived with for the past 7 years. May has adapted and learned to live with half a heart but not to love. Never to love again.

May’s eyes are dry. She only cried once, surrounded by shattered glass and heartache, hot blood seeping into her jeans (how it reminded her of paint—if only it painted) with June’s cold, limp hand grasped in her own.

The ticking of her watch drags May to the present. She stands, brushing stray blades of grass off of her slacks. “Time to go. Happy anniversary, my love. Know that I’ve always loved you, even when you couldn’t love yourself.”

May leaves, the clacking of her heels blending with the clamor of the city until she is forgotten in its enormity. Far behind her, a fresh tulip adorns a gravestone.

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