Three Flowers in a Garden

***Based on True Events*** America, Athena and Blythe have been friends for years. As their journey in life progresses, they are faced with obstacles that will be the ultimate test of their friendship. Seventeen-year-old America Gil has one goal in mind before starting college: to lose her virginity. At the heels of high school graduation and summer about to start, she decides to date Luis. Blinded by her caprice, America is unable to see the signs. When she and Luis are faced with an unforeseen revelation, America soon finds out that not everything is as it seems. Growing up without a father has been difficult for Athena Gil. When she was ten years old, she was forced to leave everything she had known behind to meet her dad. Athena loathed him ever since. Even though they have lived together for many years since then, the hatred has not been banished. She wants answers. She wants to know why it took him eight years for them to become a family again. But when her father begins to confide in her his deepest secrets, she uncovers the story of a man she had no idea she has been living with. After her boyfriend of three years breaks up with her, Blythe Wright finds herself lost. Willing to do anything to forget him, she goes out on a date with a stranger. After the one-night stand, Blythe swears never to do such thing again and goes on with her life, not realizing that the stranger has left her with something she never wanted.


2. 01. America

"America, America!" At the sound of my name, I turn around. Katy is jogging towards me, and even though she is a few feet away, I can see the worry dancing in her emerald eyes.

As she gets closer I ask, "Hey, Kat, what's up?"

She comes to a halt, attempting to catch her rapid breath. "Is it true? Is it?"

Katy and I met our freshman year when we auditioned for the dance team in our school. She is the only true friend I have, but outside from school, we rarely socialize. I don't know why, but I have never had a best friend, someone to talk to about my dreams, failures and aspirations. I have always thought they would judge me or tell my secrets to other people. Trust issues? Yeah. Maybe.

"Is what true?" I furrow my dark eyebrows as we mix with the rest of the students getting out of class and heading to the cafeteria.

"Kimberly told me you are going out with Luis on Friday."

Oh, that.

I have had a crush on Luis ever since he came to school last year. We've never had any classes together, but my friend Sara went out with Ryan, Luis's best friend, and that's how we met.

"We've been texting for a while, and he asked if we could meet up," is all I say, because it's the truth. Luis and I only interact through text message, and he pretends he doesn't know me around school. I still think he is cute, and perhaps everything will change after our date, after graduation.

"I...I don't know if that's a good idea, Mer. Do you know what people say about him?" Katy questions when we reach the cafeteria. She holds the door open for me to pass. I know exactly what she is thinking. Another dumb girl falling for a guy who doesn't give her the time of day during school. That I deserve better.

But to be honest, I am tired of being the girl that goes from school to dance practice and then home. I want to go out, have fun, and experience life.

I am seventeen, about to graduate high school in three days, and still a virgin. In high school, if you a virgin, you are laughed at and thought as less of who you are. Just imagine if they find out I have never had a boyfriend. It is not because I am ugly. At least, I don't think of myself as ugly.

I have grown into my womanly figure, and even though I am Cuban, I am fairer than most. My light brown hair hangs in the middle of my back, I always have it straightened. Though, it used to be curly, but ever since I started high school, I began flat ironing it. Now, I can't stop because it would look like a worn out broom otherwise. I'm dead serious.

Anyway, I want to start college a non-virgin. I'm tired of being a young girl. I am tired of people talking about how amazing sex is and how good it feels.

And I know all the rumors about Luis. That he is a bad boy, he fucks girls, doesn't even care who he has sex with. Luis had sex with his friend's girlfriend and finger-fucked Sara. Yep. He has no morals. But when we text he seems different, and I feel like he really likes me. No, I know he likes me. Plus, I think he is attractive, and maybe I can be the one to change him.

This, of course, I don't say to Katy. Instead I go for, "I know all the rumors. That he has sex with anything that moves and he smokes weed."

Katy looks at me wide eyed, "And you still want to date him?"

We leave our bags on our usual table in the cafeteria and begin making the line to get our food.

"Hey, Paul," I say to one of my friends in our group and skip the rest of the students to talk to him.

"What's up, Bitches?" Paul says.

I see Paul as an example of someone I would like to be. He is proud of who he is. I admire his courage and can only imagine what it would be like to be openly gay in high school. He is the sort of person who literally doesn't care what people think of him. You don't like him? He keeps on living his life. Paul is funky, bubbly and funny. Freckles scatter on his face, not a lot, just a few around his cheeks and nose. He has black curly hair.

"Nothing, just having girl talk here with Kat."

"Anything interesting I should know about?" he asks with a wink.

Kat's green eyes land on mine, and I shake my head left and right to indicate not to say anything. I don't want people knowing my business, especially Sara.

"Nope." Kat smiles. "Just tampons and blood."

Paul wrinkles his nose and lowers his eyebrows, an expression of disgust on his face.

"Ew, Kat! We are about to have lunch. You girls are nasty," he points a manicured finger in our direction. Kat and I just laugh.

"What can I get you guys?" says the lunch lady with a spoon in her hand, ready to scoop food on our plates. I look at our choices, and there is congris, white rice, picadillo, ropa vieja, french fries and platanitos fritos. Living in Miami, especially going to a public high school, means lots of Cuban food.

"Congris and picadillo for me." I love congris. It is made with black beans and brown rice with pieces of bacon in it. Yum. Picadillo is pretty much ground beef with green olives, tomatoes and diced potatoes.

Katy and Paul get the same food as me, except they both ask for platanos fritos, or fried plantains. I hate those.

We get our food and walk to our table. The front door of the cafeteria opens, and in walks Luis with his friends. I try to look away, but my light brown eyes are glued on him.

Luis has olive skin and ebony hair in a Mohawk. He isn't that tall, maybe 5'7. His dark eyes lock on mine and give me a wink. I almost trip on my feet and land face flat on the floor with picadillo and congris all over me. Almost. But Katy grabs my arm and leads me to my chair.

"Jesus! Get yourself together," she admonishes.

"Sorry," I whisper, get in my chair and start eating.

Sara walks in and says, "Hey! Why didn't you guys wait for me?" She pouts her lips. I have known Sara the longest, ever since middle school. We started hanging out during sophomore year, though.

"Girl, you take too damn long to get your ass here. If we were to wait for you, there would have been no food left for us to eat." Paul says.

Sara sticks out her tongue and walks off to the cafeteria line, her auburn ponytail bouncing in all directions.

A pang of jealousy runs through me at the thought of how close she and Luis will be. I tell myself not to turn around and see if they are talking.

"I heard she had sex with Jordan from band, and he took pictures," Paul continues. "That girl is looser than a first graders tooth."

Katy snaps her fingers in a Z motion and puckers her lips. Our laugh filling the cafeteria.

I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket and reach to get it. A text from Luis.

Hey beautiful, we still meeting tomorrow, right? He always calls me beautiful. It makes me smile.

Yes, at 9:00am, I reply. I have overprotective parents, they told me that if I wanted to go out with a guy, it had to be during the day. Luis seems fine with it, so it is okay with me.

Cool. See you then, he texts and with that, our conversation is over.

Sara sits in front of me. "Are we all sitting together on Friday? I feel like I am going to get lost."

"I can't, all the Cum-Laudes-" I get interrupted by Sara and Paul both shouting "Nerd!"

"Haha, funny. Anyway, like I was saying we have to sit in the front. Don't we get seated by last names though?"

"Oh yeah. I forgot. We could still meet up for pictures and stuff, right?" Sara asks with a mouth full of white rice.

"Yeah, that sounds good. Can you believe we are finally graduating?" Katy squeals. "It kinda sucks that Kim and Sally didn't come today."

"I know, but we are all going to the same community college. I bet we'll see each other. No biggie," Paul smiles.

We have all been friends for a long time, our entire high school career. We are everything to each other, and now, things are inevitably going to change.

"Yeah, I bet we'll still see each other," I say, a smile grazing my lips.

The bell alarms it is time to go to our last period. We all stand up with our trays and throw them into the garbage. We say goodbye and go our separate ways to our classes. I don't know why, but this is how I feel life will be after graduation. All of us heading our different ways, not looking back.

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