Short Story Contest #187 Theme: "Daffodils" courtesy of @Fernando.C Congratulations @GeoffreySmith for an emotionally poignant entry Pale Daffodils __________________________________________ Pale Daffodils  Kirk stepped out of the car and felt the chill of the morning air and the sun’s warmth on his face. A flickering OPEN sign hung on a metal chain and blocked stacks of newspapers and shelves of candy bars. Behind the small gas station there was a grouping of trees with big green leaves that danced in the breeze, shimmering. Gravel had been shoveled carelessly around their trunks, and Kirk could see hearts and penises left in their bark by the dull knifes of careless vandals. The door chimed as Kirk walked in, and Kirk’s shoes squeaked on the warped and grimy square tiles. The cashier silently handed Kirk the key to the bathroom. “Just drop it back here when you finished,” he said, not looking up. As Kirk stepped outside, he heard a subtle chirping behind the station and noticed a few clouds dotting the sky that extended over the pale blue mountains to the north . Kirk walked around the station both to sneak a look at the tree and search for the bathroom. He had to crane his neck to see over the propane tanks and, once at the side of the building, couldn’t hear the birds over the ice-container’s incessant humming. Kirk also couldn’t find the bathroom. He walked to the other side of the station, crossing the crumbling asphalt as he did so. The highway, which sprawled to the east, was motionless and the sun traced broken mirages down its winding black trial. As Kirk walked up to the grimy bathroom building, he noticed a yellow patch of wildflowers tucked carefully between the road and the wire fence that separated the road from the field. Everyday driving to work he’d seen the gas station but never the small cluster of pale yellow flowers. At the bathroom door, the key stuck as Kirk wiggled it in the keyhole. It took Kurt a moment to realize that the door was already opened a crack and the silent darkness inside peered out. Kirk pushed the heavy blue door open carefully. As he did, he heard a rustle in the back of the room.. He ran his hand up and down the cold wall but couldn’t feel a switch. Kirk began to panic. Where was the switch? He heard something move again. Kirk kicked the door open to let in more light. Finally, he saw the switch. The lights flickered on slowly, gradually getting brighter. The rustling stopped. Kirk could see something curled up on the stall floor, like a bundle of matted fur. But, as the room lighted up Kirk could see it was a torn quilt in a messy pile. “Hello?” Kirk said into the silent bathroom. Rustling came from behind the stall wall. Kirk stepped in. “Hello?” A cough responded, like someone was clearing his throat. Kirk peeked his head around the open door and saw what had been making the noise. Huddled against the wall a girl in a tattered shirt looked at him, her pretty eyes narrow. Dirt streaks ran along her foot, contrasting the chipped pink nail polish painted on her toenails. Her pants were torn from the knee down and only small strands of fabric covered her dirty ankles. Her thin hands clutched her quilt, and she glared at him. “Blowjobs are ten, sex twenty five. I got condoms,” the girl said coldly. She had small blue eyes, frayed brown hair, and pale skin. Despite her tattered appearance, she had a pretty face with high cheekbones and deep socketed eyes. There was silence. “Well?” The girl asked impatiently. “No thank you. I came here to use the restroom.” “Fifteen,” the girl said, “for sex.” “Um, I don’t…” “Ten for sex. Fifteen for both. I got condoms,” she said, reaching under her blanket. “No, I’m not interested.” The girl looked at him and sighed. “Ten for both.” She ripped open the condom wrapper and began pulling out the pale yellow contraception. “Look. I’m not interested. I’m going to work. Uh I’m not going to do anything,” Kirk began to step away and considered using the stall. The girl clenched her jaw and stuck her hand into her blanket again. “Last offer,” she said. She seemed embarrassed as she revealed the small knife. Kirk glanced at the dull blade and looked back at her. She stood painfully, leaning against the wall to get up. “I can’t let you go without an offer,” she said, sternly. Kirk took a step back. She was a thin girl and her hand shook as she stepped toward him. “Ten to use the urinal?” He asked, almost jokingly. “No,” she said, not looking at Kirk. Her voice hid a distinct frustration. “I need…” she paused, “Gimme your wallet.” She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, passing the blade inches from her nose. Kirk sighed and nodded. He tossed his thick leather wallet on her blanket pile. “Don’t use the cards after today. I’m going to cancel them. Get some food.” She held the knife loosely and pointed it away from Kirk. She sat back down heavily and stuffed the wallet into her blanket. She looked up at him and muttered: “blowjob if you don’t tell no one I’m here.” Kirk tried to catch her eyes but she avoided his. “No,” he said, shaking his head. “No. No.” He walked to the stall and pissed. She rustled again to get comfortable. He tried not to think of the poor girl as he flushed and walked out silently, listening to the water hiss down the drain. Kirk straightened his tie as he walked to his car once again forced to cross the crumbling asphalt. He’d forgotten the key. “Shit,” Kirk murmured under his breath. If he left it in the bathroom, the cashier would go retrieve it and discover the poor girl. As he turned to return to the bathroom, he noticed the cluster of yellow just off the road and decided suddenly, as if on an impulse, to walk to them. He stepped out onto the highway’s shoulder and walked a ways. The gravel ended abruptly at the base of the petit yellow flowers. The ground looked cool and lush around the little strands of green grass that had sprouted between the pale daffodils. In the bright sunshine, the small daffodils were almost white. Kirk picked one, a small and delicate looking one. As he walked back to the bathroom, he twirled the little flower between his fingers and felt the toughness of the asphalt beneath his feet. As Kirk approached the bathroom, walking intently toward the pale blue door. It opened easily this time and Kirk strided into the dimly lit room. He stepped in front of the stall and looked at the girl who had wrapped herself in her thin arms and curled her knees to her chest. “The card has a $300 dollar limit. Get yourself some food. I’ll be back tonight, around 6. Keep an eye on the time. Look, here’s my watch,” he unlatched his silver watch and tossed it to her. “Don’t get found until then. I’ll give you a ride to the city and we can work on getting you some clothes.” Her small blue eyes widened. She looked confused but nodded intently. “If anyone comes in, ignore them. Keep the stall shut and lock the door when I leave.” She nodded again. Kirk bent down and grabbed the bathroom key and set the daffodil on the ground, careful to rest the yellow tube upwards. She smiled, and little wrinkles spread by her eyes. Kirk, not knowing what to do, turned away from the stall and began to walk for the door. “Wait,” she whispered. Kirk returned to the stall and looked at the girl. “What’s your name?” Kirk looked at her and rested his hand on the stall door. “Kirk.” “Heidi.” Kirk smiled. “Wait for me,” he said, looking at her one more time before turning away from the stall. Kirk stepped out into the sun, slammed the door shut, and flipped the lock into position. He then clipped the bathroom key off its chain and exchanged the the bathroom key with an old house key he carried. Kirk slid the bathroom key into his pocket and jangled the fake bathroom key set as he walked to the gas station building. Kirk handed the keys to the cashier. “‘Ave a good day,” the cashier said, not looking up. As Kirk stepped out of the building, he noticed the weather had shifted slightly. It was later morning; the wind had settled, more clouds had formed, and the sun had gotten warmer. It wasn’t long before Kirk was whizzing down the highway on his way to work, as usual. Disappearing in his rearview mirror, however, was a pale, almost blue dot on the horizon. Now, finally, he had something to come back for.