By Jeremy Scott -
Sunflowers grew out of Virginia’s head and no one in her family ever thought to tell her that this was strange. She went about on that first day to school thinking that she had the most beautiful head of hair that anyone had ever had, since that is what her mother would tell her every night as she laid down to sleep in the green house the family had built out behind the house. She required planting every night in a large clay pot with enriched soil. They made sure to never use anything but organic fertilizer, since the artificial kind was bad for the skin.
The first day at school ended up being a nightmare. The teacher screamed upon seeing Virginia and dropped her mug of coffee, making a great commotion that caused the rest of the class to join in. Virginia ran out of the room, tears hot and streaming down her face. The principal called in Virginia’s family to a conference. She said that Virginia would have to be placed in special education.
“But you don’t understand,” her mother said in protest, “my daughter is gifted.”
“It’s not because of her intelligence, ma’am,” said the principal.
“Then what is it?” asked Virginia’s mother.
“We can’t in good faith have a student running around our halls with sunflowers for hair, can we?” asked the principal in response.
“Then we will just have to remove our daughter from the school system and teach her ourselves,” said Virginia’s mother as she stood and escorted her husband and Virginia out of the room in a great harrumph.
Homeschooling worked for at least the first few years, but eventually, Virginia became lonely, craving the interaction that she sorely missed from not being in public school with the rest of the students.
Around that time, a man in a swell tweed suit came knocking at the door. Virginia and her family had become the talk of the town, and as rumors do, the gossip spread to the surrounding area. The man was a representative for a private academy for girls in unique situations such as hers. He explained with a dapper grin on his face to Virginia and her mother that she would be welcome, that they in fact had many girls who would love to see the radiant sunflowers that blossomed from Virginia. That they would welcome her with open arms and she could plant roots there, be a part of a community of like-minded and bodied peers.
After protesting that there would be no way that their family could pay the tuition, they were after all simple, humble farmers, Virginia’s mother went to shut the door on the man from the academy for special girls. However, he stuck his foot in the doorjamb and stopped her as she spoke, explaining that a private benefactor who had a vested interest in the academy would pay her tuition. Virginia’s mother was overjoyed and began crying, hugging the mysterious man and apologizing for being so quick to assume.
Virginia went on to the academy where she found that she wasn’t so different after all. There was a girl with carrots for teeth, one with great black wings, one with golden reptilian eyes, and one with flippers for feet. She made fast friends with all the girls, playing the days away after lessons were complete. Each night the groundskeeper would plant her in the vast garden that was on the academy’s estate.
One morning, the groundskeeper wasn’t able to dig Virginia up. As was promised, she had finally taken root and there in the rich earth had transformed into a multitude of sunflowers that took over the garden. Her parents mourned the loss of Virginia, but were promised that she would never be dug up again, that she would be preserved in her natural state for as long as the ground held firm, that she would be able to turn her face upon the shining sun from now until the sun refused to shine.
Jeremy Scott (he/him) is from Albany, Georgia. His debut novella, Marginalia, will be published by Alien Buddha Press. His work has been published or is forthcoming in All Guts No Glory, Angel Rust, BOMBFIRE, Fifth Wheel Press's flux digital anthology, Selcouth Station, Versification, and others. You can find him on Twitter @possiblyarhino.