Dandelion Dreamer - Uncharted

Dandelion Dreamer

By Ashley Wilda

Dandelion root. Pulled up from the tired grass. Shake the dirt loose. Rinse in the creek. Chew. Bitter. So bitter. I wonder why I did it… maybe I thought it would taste like the rest of the plant. Like the milky, squeaky stalks that taste like spring green. Like the silky, fluttery heads that peel apart between your teeth like pieces of sunshine velvet.

I thought, there had to be something more, after this. After the flower and stem. Below what you can see. There has to be something else, when the world is dormant, when yellow petals become see-through fluff, gone to seed.

Tell me.

We were kids, riding our bicycles down the hill too fast. He’d begged to come along, so small. I was embarrassed to be seen with him, with his little red tricycle and helmet with rocket-ship stickers, cans tied to strings rattling out behind him. Every bounce sent a ricochet echoing off the asphalt hills. Piercing the lazy peace of the thick summer evening air. He begged me, he wouldn’t let me be, uncrossed my skinny twelve-year-old ankles, yanked out those hot-pink earbuds—dang, I was so mad when they broke. The book in my hands jiggled with all his pushing and prodding, and finally I hauled myself to my feet to find the bikes.

Eight years old. I found him so annoying. Little hands, always slimy. Feet always dirty. Always getting into things, usually my things. I found any excuse to hide from him, push him away, ask my mother a million times, why couldn’t I have been an only child?

But here we were, rushing way too fast, clouds streaking purple and mahogany and baby-bird-shell blue. And somehow, somehow, the way that only happens on those liquid, almost too warm near nights, we reached the bottom unscathed. I was laughing. Laughing. In spite of myself. He was laughing so hard, he couldn’t breathe. Fell right off that little red tricycle into the scrawny, burnt sidewalk grass.

We sat there, and picked dandelions. Blew raspberries through plucked grass, whistles pinched between our fingers. Braided bracelets from the supple green stems. Ate the yellow tops, surprised at how they tasted like gold, like the smell of honey, like summer. Like childhood. We lay back and watched the clouds go by, guessing at their shapes, arguing over who was right, octopus or toaster? The clouds turned into stars, turned into flashlight beams and parents calling us home. We dragged our feet. Pulled bikes up the looming gray hill. For once actually feeling like we just might belong together. That perhaps, people don’t get born into the same family by accident. Not for sure, just… perhaps.

I miss the luxury, the magic, of perhaps.

But now, the wood floors just creak, without ecstatic, oblivious feet wearing tracks in the hallway. The carpeted steps are too smooth—no belly-slides here. And my heart echoes, echoes, like that navy-blue, too-neat room hulking empty across from mine.

I twist my sheets, four years older now, one of those years just a sterile blur of chaotic beeping and too-bright tile floors and the smell of rubbing alcohol and sleeping gas and the wrong feel of a too-limp, too-small hand and heartbeat charts that scrape their erratic peaks and plunges and won’t let me sleep.

No use. Stand up. Ease the lock. Out the door. Bare feet on canted concrete, still warm from yet another molasses summer. A single cricket chirps. The thick air breathes, puff, puff, silence. The sound of soles slapping in the dark. One set of footsteps. One wandering body. A single beating heart.

I know it now–

There should be two.

I wander downhill. No bike. Walking too slow. Looking for dandelions, like little fallen stars. I cup one close. Petals a merest caress on my cheek, a whisper blowing in the warm, slow wind.

And I could have sworn, in that fragile touch—you hover there. One more thick, slow night where time does not rule.

One more time your sister, your home.

About the Author

Ashley Wilda is a writer living in eastern Virginia. They particularly enjoy writing young adult fiction and poetry but love reading any work whose words sing and whisper magic to the reader. Their debut novel The Night Fox, a YA magical realism tale written in poetry and prose about mental health and nature, was published in 2023 with Penguin Random House, and her following YA contemporary novel, Cleave, will be published by Penguin in 2026. They hold an MFA in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. In addition to writing, they love rock climbing, exploring the mountains, creating art, and adventuring with their husband, Ethan, and rescue pup, Phoenix. Find Ash on Instagram: @ashleywilda_ or at www.asheywilda.com.

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