I also wrote this one for my fiction writing class. Enjoy

Day 18 ~ hanahaki disease is a fictional disease in which the victim coughs up flower petals when they suffer from one-sided love. the infection can be removed through surgery, but the feelings disappear along with the petals.

Have you ever heard of the flower disease? The one where a person who suffers from one-sided love coughs up flower petals. If you haven’t heard of it, you probably live under a rock. Or maybe you’re an alien from another world. That would be cool. If you’re reading this and you’re an alien from another world, hit me up. I have some questions. Back to this disease. Ever since we were young, we’re told it’s what happens when you fall in love. The movies tend to go something like this: girl finds boy and falls in love. She started coughing up petals, but tries to hide it around him. The petals are usual his favorite color or something tragically romantic. The coughing is affecting her life, something unrealistically dramatic happens like she loses her job and someone in her life, usually the no nonsense friend who has sworn off love, has to sort her out. She decides to go in for surgery to get the petals, and more importantly, the feelings, removed. As this is happening, boy finds best friend and confesses how much he loves girl. They race against time, and hospital protocol, to confess to girl and there’s a dramatic last cough of petals before they embrace in their newfound two-sided love, happily ever after. This is what I grew up seeing in movies and on television, so I can only assume that is how it always goes. My mom said that isn’t how it went for her and dad, but I’m not convinced.

Medically, they call it the Hanahaki Disease. Around the house, though, we tend to call it petal pushing. My mom’s friends love to gossip and you’ll occasionally hear their voices lower as they whisper about neighbors and coworkers. Like, for instance, during today’s book club meeting.

“Is she, you know, petal pushing?” I paused in the shadows of the doorframe to listen them talk about the newest victim.

“No, no.” I heard my mom say quite flippantly. I could hear from her tone that she didn’t like either the person they’re discussing or the topic of conversation. “But I heard that Lucy’s daughter finally went in for surgery the other day.” She changed the conversation easily, avoiding the topic. I moved on, returning to my room. I had also heard about Lucy’s daughter. Layla, I think her name was? She had been suffering for a while, two whole years, I had heard. I suspected her mother must have insisted on surgery. Most people didn’t let it last that long.

Layla’s surgery was all anyone could talk about for a whole week after it happened. I didn’t really care, although I was, of course, glad to hear it was successful. I was very relieved when my best friend came over and seemed to share my feeling about it.

“Hey, babe!” Ash said, busting into my room and startling me.

“Hey.” I said, pausing my video and taking off my headphones. “How did you get in here?”

“Your mom let me in.” She said, sitting on my bed and bouncing me. “I brought you coffee.”

“Ew, I hope not.” I wrinkled my nose as she pressed my usual not-coffee-coffee drink into my hand. “So?”

“Eh, I don’t want to talk about it.” She waved my question away. “It’s all I’ve been hearing about.” My relief must have shown on my face because she laughed at me. “I guess you’re sick of it too.”

“You know I don’t understand it.” I said, shaking my head. She nodded. I changed the subject to something more relevant to Ash. “Anyways, what did you think about the soccer team’s win?” I nudged her, a sly, teasing smile on my face.

“Ugh, don’t even get me started.” Ash flung herself back on my bed. “I need to find out if Quinn is into girls because I’m beginning to think I am.” I chuckled, sipping my drink. On the inside, my stomach turned. I didn’t want to imagine Ash pushing petals. Again.

I found myself suddenly riding a runaway train of thought. What if Ash did fall in love with Quinn and it was one-sided? She would start coughing up petals. I imagined they would be black and white, like a soccer ball, or maybe royal purple and golden yellow, our school colors. At first, it would be benign, like the cough you get when there’s a tickle in your throat. Then it would get worse, until it was guttural and the petals came out with a tint of red to them. She could confess her feelings to Quinn. If she was accepted, she would be fine. The cough would go away completely and Ash would have herself a girlfriend. If she was rejected, the cough could go away over time, with the emotions. But if the emotions didn’t go away? Ash would have to go in for surgery. She would have to get that feeling removed so the petals didn’t kill her. My mom assured me it was a safe practice, perfected to precision from eons of this happening to people. But my train started down a hill, picking up speed. What if, this one time, it didn’t go right? Ash could lose all feelings, or die, or be cursed with the petals forever. She would forget her friends and her family, even her dog. She would be an unemotional husk of a person, coughing up petals until the day she passed from this plane.

“Natasha?” I jumped again as Ash poked my knee. She said my full name, which meant that she had tried more than once to get my attention. “Hey, you there?”

“Oh, what? Yeah, sorry, I just got lost in thought.” Ash looked at me seriously.

“Nat, I’m not going to die from petal pushing.” She could see right through me, of course. We had only known each other for twenty some years. “If I start coughing, I’ll go talk to her. If she rejects me, I’ll move on. I’ve done it before.”

“I knowwww…” I sighed. I pulled my knees up to my chest. “It just scares me.” My cold drink was forming a circle of wet on the knee of my jeans and the chill grounded me. “But I know you can handle it.”

“Let’s talk about something else?” Ash offered gently. She knew how I felt about the disease. I nodded.

When Ash left that evening, I was left contemplating something she had said earlier.

I’ve done it before.

She had done it before, I was there the first time it had happened and every time since. I was the only one I knew that hadn’t experienced petal pushing. Usually, by my age, a senior in college, everyone had fallen in love at least once or twice. Not me though. Sometimes, I wondered if I was missing out on something. Was there something wrong with me? Was I born without emotions? Did I just have ridiculously high standards? On top of that, nobody, as far as I knew, had ever pushed petals because of me. Was I ugly? Unlovable? Disgusting? Heartless and cold? Despicable?

In a world where painfully coughing up flowers proved love, I was like a barren wasteland where nothing could grow. Most of the time, I was okay with that. Didn’t really care. But every once in a while, when everyone around me seemed to be in love, I returned to the dark corner of my mind where I told myself I was unlovable. That there was something wrong with me. That maybe I just hadn’t found the right person yet and never will. It was a dangerous corner, hard to get out of.

Quinn came and found Ash and I during our usual lunch meeting the next Monday. We always met at the same time in the same place to eat lunch together, since our class schedules conflicted and we wouldn’t see each other otherwise. Quinn must have picked up on it. She came over, looking her sporty yet fashionable self, yet slightly less confident than usual.

“Hey.” She said. I thought she sounded nervous, or maybe hoarse.

“Hey!” I took charge, since Ash was already blushing. “Sit down, stay a while.” I kicked Ash and she scooted over in the booth to allow Quinn to sit next to her. I was a great best friend. “Good game last week.”

“You were incredible.” Ash agreed. Quinn smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. We weren’t close, Quinn was a friend of a friend, but we had met at parties before and she lived in the same building as us. Still, we had hung out enough that I could tell something was wrong.

“What’s up?” I asked. Her pale face and the fact that she was trying not to speak made me suspect I knew what was wrong. Sometimes, when your brain thought the feelings were one sided, you started coughing up petals too.

“Do either of you know someone who likes tiger lilies?” She almost whispered. “I found one on my pillow this morning.” Ash’s eyes widened. I kicked her again.

“Ow!” She glared at me. Quinn looked at her and she blushed again.

“They’re my favorite flower.”

“Oh, thank god. I was hoping it was you.” It seemed to slip out and now Quinn was the one blushing.

“I’m going to go get some fruit.” I announced. “Either of you want something? No? Okay.” I didn’t give them to chance to respond before walking away. I was a great best friend.

I may not push petals like the rest of the world, but I was okay with that. I knew deep down that I would find someone or I wouldn’t, but either way I’d have people like Ash in my life forever. And it would always make me happy to see her happy.


Cover image from Google