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Sunflower Boy

He is sunlight on steel; blinding and sturdy. Sunflower petals blooming from his head. Eyes filled to the brim with the bluest ocean water. His smiles, mouth wide and filled with pearly teeth, shimmering like stars. Beautiful, but distant.

Her lips are long worn by the salt of his tears, his cries are such a foreign motion now, one that had been so frequent, so heartbreakingly beautiful in their youth. He swallows his sobs now, throws on that smile of his, and keeps walking.

Even as he leaves tracks of crimson in his wake.

These days she watches an unfamiliar once familiar figure. Her golden boy must be made of stone now. He cannot falter, not once, he is not allowed, will not allow himself to stumble. To lean on her or anyone else for support. He has taken Atlas’s place, convinced he can carry the world on his shoulders.

And the world, the people, do not tell him otherwise.

She watches as the years pass. Her boy cracks, pieces easily chipped away by the darkness, the cruelty he fights. He is too kind, her sunflower, too willing suffer for the people. He lets the punches land, a shield of meat, and laughs through the pain, unwilling to sacrifice the people’s awe, their hope-filled gazes.

Their happiness and adoration is all that keeps him standing.

Still, even as she watches him wobble — scars growing into deep menacing gouges, his skin hardening, his bones healing stronger and yet more brittle — he gives. Gives and gives and will always give — until he is nothing but dust, scattered and forgotten on the winds.

And he will be forgotten. Heroes and Gods had been forsaken before.

But worst, worst is the red on his lips, his pink-stained teeth, forever stretched in that terribly happy and bright smile. The heavy scent of iron and copper on his breath, his deep ragged breaths, lungs torn from inhaling so much dust and smoke, left untreated, unpatched, because there was always more to do. Faults only she seems to notice.

But then again, when has he ever let someone close enough to notice?

She hates that color now; crimson, and all it’s sister shades. For how it stains her skin and clothes, leaves tracks she’ll never be able to scrub clean on her soul. How it stains his entire being, how every drop weighs down his broad shoulders, tarnishing his waning shine.

Such a terrible color to be stuck with, she thinks.

Yet, all the while, she remains. Dutifully caring for her sunflower boy. She stands at the sidelines, watching, waiting for the moments he comes to her, lets her scrub the red from him, soothe his scars, weep with him — only to watch the cycle repeat.

She’s learned so much from him, how to heal, how to break, how to fake a smile. How to stand before a crowd and not feel a thing.

No one told her it would hurt so much to love so fleeting a life. 

Some days she wishes she could leave. Could just stop, drop those rolls of bandages, those bottles of water and handmade packaged meals, and walk away. Leave her boy to fix himself. But she’d promised, both him and herself. She can’t leave him to fade, to wither and die alone. If she does, he will not seek out another.

She supposes their both gluttons for punishment now.

So she waits.

And waits.

And waits.

Until the day she can lay her sunflower to rest. The day they both crumble and fall.

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