Kelly Quintana is a 21-year-old student at Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta. She is studying to get her bachelors in writing. She has been writing fiction since she was in middle school. Kelly was born in Pasadena, California.
She remembers the sunflowers. They were stars to her when she’d lay on her back in the center of the field behind her house. She remembers how they would wither away when the wind grew teeth and the sun set too soon. She hated the field during the winter. Most winters the field would become coated in snow until it looked like another layer of earth. Winter meant having to stay inside because the cold made her skin feel like dried-up paint, ready to crack and fall apart at any moment. Her mom would take petals and make necklaces and crowns for them. She watched as her mom cared for the field as if it was another child. She never minded; her mom called her the queen of the sunflowers. But winter came and her mom tucked herself away into her room; the cold made her depression worse. But her mom would survive it, because winter always came to an end.
Winter is ongoing now.
The sun sets too soon; the wind’s teeth can draw blood if one stands outside past sunset. The worst of it is that the sunflowers have stopped growing. It started slowly, when she was in middle school they started to take longer to bloom. Then, they started to bloom smaller, too small. A sunflower is more than rose. Now, she has her own daughter who asks about the summers that used to be. Her daughter can’t imagine them; she’s always had to wear coats to leave the house. To leave the house without gloves is to risk losing a finger.
Life goes on but the sunflowers are gone.
Disaster is all over the globe. People lost rivers and forests. They saw landscapes turn on their head and become decay. The earth is filled with ghosts. She named her daughter Sol, because she fears that soon the sun will disappear too and all that will remain will be her daughter in darkness. She hopes her name will be a reminder of the light that once was.
Sol is sitting in the living room setting up her paints. Art thrives even now. She’s never been able to draw, but her daughter has a way of capturing things and making them real with paint. She moves away from the window. She’s stared at the empty field long enough to visualize it’s past, until she almost tricks herself into believing the sunflowers are back.
“Mom.” Sol doesn’t look up from her work; she continues mixing her paints with a softness that reminds her of her mom.
“I’m not staring,” she says sitting down on the couch.
Sol turns back to look at her. “Did you leave the house today?”
“I went to get our rations.” She picks up the cup of coffee she’d made herself twenty minutes ago and forgot about; she slowly swirls the cup and takes a sip. “I saw Jason’s mom. She asked me if I would let you go to his birthday party.”
Sol dips the tip of her paintbrush into the wet paint. “I don’t want to go.”
“I told her I needed your help with organizing some new supplies.” Before winter become year around, she used to take house calls for her tailoring company. Now people come to her.
“What do you think?” Sol asks. “Is this yellow good?”
She peers over her daughter’s shoulder. On the page there is a faint sketched outlined of their field but sprouting from the snow are sunflowers blooming at different rates. Only part of a petal is painted, with the yellow Sol has just finished mixing.
“Too bright, they have an under tone of brown,” she says. “It’s faint.”
Sol pulls out a brown from her art box.
“Your grandmother used to grow them. She showed me how—I was going to show you.”
Sol squirts a pinch of brown paint onto her pallet. “Well, you can show me how to paint them properly. You always say that my paintings look really realistic.”
She smiles at the back of her daughter’s head. Sol doesn’t have the memory of birds soaring through the clouds, doesn’t know that coffee is not meant to taste like metal and man-made sugar. She thinks of them all as dreams.