"I can't believe this..." Dan grumbled to himself as he stormed down the hall, visibly pissed off. The dark-haired boy was stewing, and for a good reason.
According to the vice principal, being out of school four days of the week was "violating the school's strictly enforced rules" (or something along those lines).
So now he had detention for an entire hour, doing what Dan thought could be the worst punishment ever- gardening.
The school had a garden near the football field that Dan had never taken interest in, and in fact had never seen.
He learned everything he needed to know about it from other students- it had started out somewhat nice,
and had been maintained for about a month by some Girl Scout troop that kept migrating onto the school grounds.
But after a while, the troop stopped showing up, and no one in the school bothered to maintain it.
So as far as he knew, it was basically a patch of weeds and crabgrass that took up a third of the grass area in back of the school.
Dan had no idea why they were making him deal with it- within a week the whole thing would be dead and wilted again.
Dan eventually reached the back door of the school that led out to the grassy area and saw that there was a note taped to the handle. Curious, he picked off the tape and examined the note.
He instantly recognised the vice principal's loopy handwriting in thick black ink- /Another student will be watching you while you serve your detention.
Listen to what he says and take an example from him. /
Dan promptly crumpled the note in his hand, letting out a quiet sigh of frustration before opening the door and walking out into the bright sun, squinting slightly.
When his eyes finally adjusted to the light, he was surprised to see that the garden wasn't completely dead- although most of it consisted of wilted plants and patches of dandelions,
some parts of it were seemingly erupting with life. There were colorful, blooming flowers, and small shrubs sprinkled with blueberries and other types of colorful fruit.
But the next thing noticed was that there was no other people to be seen.
Sighing, he placed his backpack on the ground and looked around, trying to see where this mystery person who was supposed to be watching him was.
After a few minutes of seeing no one, he tentatively opened the gate of the rusted chain-link that surrounded the garden, wincing at the loud squeak it emitted. "Hello? Anyone here?" he called.
"Dan?" he heard a voice call from somewhere within a patch of tall flowers. Dan raised an eyebrow, stepping over the weeds and dead plants as he made his way towards the voice.
Just as he reached the flowers, someone who had been hidden in them popped up, seemingly out of nowhere. Dan let out an embarrassingly girly screech, jumping back.
"Sorry!" the boy who had emerged from the plants exclaimed. "A-are you okay?"
Dan exhaled shakily, trying to calm himself down. "Yeah, I'm fine... you just scared me, that's all..."
"Okay..." The boy held out his hand awkwardly. "I'm Phil... and you're Dan, right?"
"Yeah." Dan tentatively shook Phil's hand, taking in the other boy's appearance as he did so.
The first thing he noticed were Phil's startlingly blue eyes, which stood out even more when paired with his raven-black hair and pale skin.
The clumsily made flower crown perched lopsided on his head, as well as the few petals and leaves stuck to his yellow hoodie,
made him seem as though he had erupted from the ground like a plant himself. Dan couldn't help but stare at him for a few seconds before managing to tear his eyes away.
"So, what am I gonna be doing?"
"Well, I just finished this patch over here, so we're gonna be getting rid of some of the weeds and stuff in the other parts." Phil grinned.
"It's the most tedious part, but it's worth it once stuff starts to grow in it.
" He gestured to the other parts of the garden and the short, slightly underdeveloped plants before bending down and picking up a pair of work gloves and couple of trowels,
already covered with splotches of dirt. Dan smirked and pointed at the rubber handle of one of them, which was pink with Hello Kitty faces. "Really?"
Phil pouted and looked down. "They were the only ones I could find. I mean, it doesn't matter as long as it gets the job done, right?"
"I guess you're right." Dan tugged the gloves onto his hands before grabbing a trowel and kneeling down in a patch of crabgrass, frowning. "The dirt's gonna get all over my jeans..."
"It's fine. It'll wash out anyways." Phil knelt down next to him, already starting to dig up a weed by the roots. "Once you get it out, just chuck it in that bucket over there.
" For about thirty minutes or so, neither of them spoke as they worked,
the silence only being broken by the twitter of birds and the faint yells of the football players practicing on the field atop the nearby hill.
Eventually, Dan decided to speak up- the silence was driving him nuts. "So, um... I bet you're not appreciating having to look after me... gardening all afternoon must be pretty boring."
Phil shook his head. "I actually love working here! I spend most of the school day here, which is why most people don't see me in any of their classes..."
"Why?" Dan grabbed a weed by the roots and attempted to pull it out, but it was firmly stuck.
Phil seemed oblivious to Dan's struggle, crossing his legs and looking up at the sky as he continued to talk, more to himself than Dan.
"I actually agreed to help the school with the garden to pay for my scholarship...
my parents don't have a lot of money, so they talked with the school and said that this could be a way to help pay for it...
" He let out a small sigh that could have been from contentment or sadness, looking around the garden at the half-grown plants.
Dan finally managed to yank the weed out of the ground, the force of his tug causing dirt to fall down from the roots of the plant and land on his clothes. "Shit...
" He chucked the weed into the bucket before attempting to brush the dirt off; however, his filthy gloves just ended up making the situation worse. "For God's sake..."
Phil giggled quietly, tugging off his gloves. "Let me help you with that..." He gently began picking the bits of dirt off of Dan's thin grey t-shirt.
Dan flinched slightly as Phil's hands brushed against his torso through his shirt, his heart pounding quickly. He didn't move a muscle until Phil had finished, lifting his hands away.
He quickly picked up his trowel and kept his eyes on the ground, his face feeling slightly warm.
Phil frowned. "Are you okay?"
"Hm? Yeah, I'm fine..." Dan pretended to be extremely interested in a patch of dandelions. All of them were a bright yellow except for one, which was now a fluffy white sphere.
He poked the stem of the white dandelion with one finger, causing a couple of the fuzzy white seeds to drift off and float up into the sky.
Phil noticed the dandelion too and smiled, reaching over and picking it.
He stood up with the stem of the flower pinched between his thumb and forefinger, gazing at the hairy white bulb as though it was a precious diamond.
Dan stood up as well, smiling as he watched Phil. "You really like that dandelion, huh?"
"It's just so tiny and fluffy..." Phil grinned and raised it up in front of his face. He closed his eyes and blew on it, sending the fuzzy seeds scattering into the air.
He opened his eyes, a content smile still on his face as he watched some of the seeds scatter around on the grass outside the garden,
the rest of them drifting up into the air and eventually becoming too tiny to watch.
"Did you wish for something?" Dan asked.
"Yep." Phil tied the bare stem in a knot and stuffed it in his pocket. "But I can't tell you, otherwise it won't come true."
Dan chuckled softly. "You're funny..."
"Oh... thank you!" Phil chirped.
"You're welcome..." For a few seconds, the two stood in semi-awkward silence, looking into each other's eyes. Suddenly, the silence was broken by the buzzing of Phil's phone in his back pocket.
Phil pulled out his phone and looked at the screen. "It's been an hour already?"
"Wait, really?" Dan asked.
"Yeah..." Dan noticed that Phil sounded slightly disappointed for some reason. "Well, I guess I'll see you tomorrow... actually, I probably won't. Sorry."
"It's fine." Dan said, shrugging. "I'll try to find you and talk to you if I get a chance."
"Thanks." Phil smiled as the two walked out of the garden. Even though it was only four in the afternoon, the sun was already beginning to set.
Dan admired the sunset for a few seconds before picking up his backpack and opening the back door to the school. He turned around to see that Phil was walking up the hill.
"What are you doing?" he called after him.
"My house is just over the hill," Phil replied. "I always just walk to and from school..."
"Oh, okay!" Dan shrugged. "Well, see ya!"
"Bye, Dan!" With that, Phil practically skipped up the hill and disappeared over the top of it. Dan smiled to himself. /That kid's actually pretty nice...
I hope we get to see each other again soon./