The lilies came in mid-June, bright slashes of orange coming through a thick canopy of hydrangeas. Neal liked the lilies best and would pointed them out daily to his mom, who smiled and kept weeding the garden, kneeling in the dirt. Neal didn't like the dirt so much but he liked watching her pale hands work.
At the beginning of July, his mom broke her leg. He wasn't sure how it happened and she wouldn't talk about it so he didn't ask. They weren't able to go to the Fourth of July events at the park that year, because his mom's cast went all the way up her thigh, so they ate popsicles on the porch in the scorching heat, licking the sticky runoff from their wrists.
That night, as she lay stranded in bed, Neal brought her some lemonade, the book she'd been reading, and a fistful of orange lilies stuck in a glass of tepid water.
The next day his dad had gotten rid of the flowers along with his mom's smile. That was the first time Neal ran away.
He turns to Sara, pulse tripping. He'd been deep in thought, too deep, remembering things he'd condemned to the recesses of his mind in the interest of self-preservation.
"Yes? Sorry,” he says, disoriented.
Sara smiles, chuckling. "I said thank you. These are lovely." She smells the bouquet he just gave her, delicate fingers touching the speckled orange petals, the colour vibrant against her skin.
Neal's breath catches again, the itch to run prickling at his skin. He remembers the promises he's made Sara and Peter and himself and he just smiles back instead.
She kisses his cheek, then his mouth, then his mouth again when he slips both arms around her waist and holds on for dear life.