I met a girl when I was seventeen. A girl who slipped into my life and wrapped me around her finger.
Room six in Deus Christian High is where she found me. Literature class taught by Miss Clark, a woman who decorated her walls with cat posters and photos of the Messiah.
It was March, and spring still had yet to show up. Grass peaked from underneath the half-melted snow and ice-ridden streets became slush. I could only see it from the window.
It’s a habit of mine to come to school early. I sat alone in my first period classroom, eating a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich and humming to the tune of “To God Be The Glory”.
A voice made me gag on my food, my ability to speak taken by the embarrassment of singing to myself. My back was to the door, and I couldn’t turn.
“This is literature?”
Footsteps approached and stopped next to me. I turned to see a girl drop her bag and sit in the neighboring desk.
Her skin was tanned caramel, a silver cross against her chest. She had freckles sprinkled like stars. Plump lips, a button nose, and pink cheeks. Her complexion complimented her hair, which was different shades of gold. It hardly went past her shoulders and I bet it felt like silk.
She radiated light,
And I was utterly intrigued.
“You a senior?”
“Me too, it’s my first day here. Do you like it?”
“Do you have a voice?”
“Yes. . .” I muttered.
Her face lit up, her smile revealing braces. Behind them her teeth were small and pearly white. She emanated a sense of innocence no one in Deus had.
A new kid. An outsider. Someone who had yet to experience the reality of Deus, Wyoming. It won’t take long for the people to taint her. It’s a small town, word of newbies will spread fast and the rumors will spread faster. I felt pity for her.
“April,” I responded.
Her smile returned as she shoved my arm.
“We’re month-name-buddies!” Her energy seemed far too high for so early in the morning, but I had no complaints. I didn't have a single friend at school, and if the new girl wanted to talk to me, I wouldn’t turn her down.
“Hm? What about it?” She ran her hands through her golden locks.
“It’s supposed to be up. Dress code.”
“God loves me, He wouldn’t judge me for such a silly thing,” her words were so simple yet so insightful—a girl who loves God because He loves her, not for what adults tell her of Him.
May spoke until class began.
I learned that she’s an actress and singer—the theater nerd in the family. Of all eight shows she’s been in, The Wizard of Oz was her favorite. She was Dorothy.
She has a little brother named Peter, who started at Deus Christian Elementary. They didn’t go to Christian schools before coming to Deus, but their family has always been religious.
May and I only hung out during school at first. We sat next to each other in class and ate lunch together, discussing anything and everything. She did most of the talking, and I liked it that way. Her voice could make the most mundane event seem like a bestselling novel. Her energy was unmatched.
The first time we met outside of school, we went to her house. It wasn’t far from mine, but nothing is far from home in Deus.
I met her parents and her brother. They welcomed me the moment I stepped inside, offering me a meal and complimenting my appearance. Her mom tried to style my hair, but May shooed her off and took me to her bedroom.
The decorations in her room were very May: pastel pink walls, a cross above her bed, and scribbles of proverbs taped to the door.
“You like it?”
“Yeah, it's very you,” I took a seat on the bed.
“Hope that’s a good thing,” she laughed.
We spent hours doing nothing in particular that night. Memories made at May’s house will live with me until the day I die. Her mother and father maintained the most outstanding facade I have ever seen.
That night was when I realized that my interest in May was more than curiosity.
I liked May.
I like-liked May.
As we laid in her bed, she looked at me. Her pupils were hazelnut rings with flecks of olive, reminiscent of a well-loved pond with vibrant lily pads.
The feeling that rushed through my chest could only be described as sinful.
I liked a girl.
I liked May.
From that day on, I couldn’t be around May without guilt.
“What’s going on?”
“What do you mean?”
She rolled her eyes and clicked her tongue.
“You know what I mean. What’s bothering you?”
She stuck out her bottom lip and it took all of the strength I had not to kiss her.
“Nothing in particular, just feeling down.”
She believed me—or at least pretended to.
A month had passed since May arrived in Deus, and somehow her innocence hadn’t yet been ruined. Every morning she greeted me with a hug.
May became so much more than a crush. I thought of her as I lay in bed at night and when I woke up in the morning. I felt blissfully nauseous every moment we were together—I don’t think she realized how much the sensation of her hand in mine affected me.
I fell in love with May,
And I was simultaneously thrilled and terrified.
It was a night in April that sealed May and I’s fate. Everything that we had become turned into individual grains of sand among a magnificent beach. Small, insignificant, yet part of something greater than ourselves.
May landed a lead in the musical, and I went home with her to help run lines. She promised I wouldn’t have to do more than read, so I obliged.
I should have known to be mistaken. Her furniture ended up scattered, setting up a model stage. We danced around the living room with no shame.
Hopping from couch to couch, her cross bounced against her chest. We slid across the floor in our socks, shouting the words to cheesy pop tunes.
She pulled me toward the center of the room and dropped to the floor, taking me with her. We laughed as we ignored the ache in our legs and the sweat dripping down our temples.
Her laugh is what I remember most from that night,
The sound of pure joy.
We sat on the rug, her hands still in mine.
My gaze drifted to the window, but she squeezed my hand, and it brought me back to her. Nothing else existed. We lived in our own world protected by invisible walls—I thought that we were untouchable.
It was soon after May leaned in and kissed me that I realized we weren’t.
Her lips were soft, full, peppermint. My hand slipped into gold.
People would try to call us sinners,
But I had never felt closer to heaven.
It was when we realized we weren’t home alone that our walls collapsed. Peter walked in with action figures in hand. He wanted to play, but he found us lip-locked instead.
I went home immediately. The last thing I remember is May’s pleading voice:
“Don’t tell mom and dad.”
May wasn’t at school the next day.
I came home to find my parents’ cars in the driveway. Typically, they only come home early because we’re driving to Afton to go bowling.
That wasn’t the case.
The slam of dad’s hammer echoed from my bedroom. Boards covered my window and mom’s power drill removed my door. Their voices screamed so loud the house shook around me. I expected it to collapse—in a way, it did.
Peter told May’s parents, and May’s parents told mine.
I didn’t blame Peter. At his age I had no independent thought. I believed what adults taught me. Nothing else. I was told that homosexuality is unnatural. Peter saw something he’s learned is wrong. How could I blame him?
Unlike May, my parents allowed me to go to school.
Word spreads fast. It took two days for every student at Deus Christian High to know about May and I.
My entire life crumbled to dust around me. My gift from God was taken from me. My May. The girl made of gold.
I found out the news from my mother. May’s parents were sending her to conversion therapy in Texas—but not until June. The director for the musical caught word of the news and begged her parents to let her stay until the show ended. It was too late to replace her role, and no one could do it like May.
So her parents obliged.
May hadn’t left Deus. She was locked up, a prisoner in her own home, and her parents were the wardens. I could leave my house to walk to school and back, and even that became a luxury.
I began to weep into my pillow every night, cries muffled out of necessity. If mom and dad heard me crying, they’d make me pray until the sun rose. Speaking to God became a punishment, when it once was my only form of appeasement.
The space between that night in April to June felt like a lifetime. Never had I experienced what genuine hatred felt like, nor complete isolation. My parents refused to speak to me. Every person at school became an enemy.
A summer night in June was the only hope I had left.
Closing night of the musical.
I went out the back door. Everything in Deus is out in the open, I’m sure half the town watched me sprint to school that night. I didn’t care. I needed to see her one last time.
All that I could hear was my own breath. I heaved with each step I took, but my adrenaline fulfilled my need for air.
I only stopped for three pink lilies in the church garden, pulling them from the ground.
At the entrance to the theater, Miss Clark stood collecting tickets, smiling at everyone.
When I approached her, she smiled at me too.
She ripped the stub off of my ticket and patted my shoulder. Strangely, that small action gave me all of the hope I needed.
I sat in the back of the theater. The show began, and when May stepped onto that stage, my heart fell through my chest. That pleasant seasickness returned and I smiled like a toddler.
How I missed her.
She claimed the stage. No matter what, attention was on her. I adored the way everyone was drawn to her when she spoke. A couple of people booed, but it didn’t phase her. She held her head up high and did what she was born to do—perform.
Once it was over, I disappeared into the lobby before the audience stopped their applause. I needed to see her before anyone else did.
I stood in the lobby while everyone exited the auditorium. My back was turned, yet I could feel their stares. Judgement clouded these people’s minds and caused them to whisper hateful things as if that’s what God’s word taught them to do.
I clutched the stolen lilies to my chest. Before she left, I had to give her something. I knew God would understand, He’s generous and kind.
Time froze as the actors entered the lobby—hugging family and glaring at me. Love and hate clashed that day. The attendants couldn’t decide whether to be happy for the performers or to be disgusted by my presence. Their anticipation was the same as mine. They wanted to see May walk out. They wanted to observe us for themselves—like an exhibit in a museum.
Minutes passed. No May. My heart raced. Perhaps she was nervous to face the crowd on her own. She doesn’t know I’m here, after all.
I worked up the courage to speak to the performers. I asked if they had seen her, and they either ignored me or shook their heads.
I waited in the lobby until it was empty.
She never came.
I held the lilies by their stems as I walked home The petals dragged against the cement.
She was gone,
I didn’t know what to do next.
Luckily, I didn’t have to decide for myself. The streets suddenly were illuminated. I hardly registered it as a car turning toward me until it stopped. The doors opening were merely white noise.
I fell to my knees. Sobs echoed throughout all of Deus. I couldn’t hide it any longer—I was broken. I screamed her name into the open air as I clenched the lilies in my fists.
It didn’t matter, she was gone.
April showers bring May flowers.
But what happens when May leaves April behind?
All that is left is showers.
Mom and dad cupped my arms as they dragged me to the car. I didn’t fight them.
They pushed me into the backseat and had to lug me into the house. I refused to cooperate with them, but I had lost the energy to do otherwise.
I felt numb, every sense taken from me. But through it all—from being stared at like an animal to dragged like a doll—I never let the lilies go.
When I woke the next day, the lilies were lying next to me. The edges of the petals had browned. I reached out to caress each one.
Delicate, velvety, smooth.
As my fingertips kissed the last petal, it broke off despite my gentle touch. I held it between my fingers, until I found myself plucking each one.
I fell in love with a girl.
In my senior year of high school, I met a girl named May who made my life heaven on earth, then hell.
She was made of gold and fairy dust and everything good in the world,
And she was taken away.
I haven’t stopped thinking of her. Everyone told me that she’s a phase I’d grow out of, but I never did.
May means the world to me. My heart has been saved for her, and the walls are unbreakable.
After all these years, I couldn’t forget about her. A day hasn’t gone by where I haven’t mentioned her in my prayers, asking to see her again.
Now I’m in a cafe, observing the people around me. A bell rings incessantly, customers coming and going. I look up each time.
My thumb brushes over the paper in my hand. The texture soothes my anxiety.
I glance down at the bookmark between my fingers. Against the paper are purple flower petals with browning edges, a gift I meant to give to her a long time ago.
A bell rings, and I look up. It’s then that I see her.
My golden lily.