When I turned ten, I refused to wear the dorky apron Dad had forced upon me every day. I insisted that I wear whatever I want at all times. The argument lasted ten minutes, but the silent treatment I gave him lasted nearly a week. Finally, on the first day off after my birthday, we reached a compromise: during store hours, I must wear something floral. I don’t remember which of us came up with that idea, but I don’t mind. My floral thing today is my scarf, a pretty, rose-patterned thing over my crisp white dress and peep-toe pumps, my mahogany waves swept up in a messy side bun. Best uniform ever.
The only customer to come in today was an old lady (what a waste of an outfit). She looked cold and fragile and sad, both probably results of the tremendous downpour last night. Despite it all, she walked with grace and confidence like she was a quarter her age.
“You must be little Abigail,” the lady said with a smile. I smiled back, praying my father would come out front to the store to help me. I had no idea how to talk to this woman who already seemed to know me.
My prayers were quickly answered. “Eleanor,” my father’s smooth baritone said questioningly when he waltzed out, apron still untied like he just threw it on. “I didn’t know you were coming to visit today.”
“I found myself in the neighborhood, figured I’d tell the old girl good-bye.”
Dad must’ve noticed my confused disposition. “Gail, this is Eleanor King, the woman we bought the shop from.”
“Oh, hi. You can call me Gail if you want, Missus King.”
She smiled again. I wondered if she’s ever frowned in her life. “Such a sweet girl. Would you mind fetching me a single rose, sweetheart? A yellow one, please, to signify this new friendship.”
Thankful to escape that long, awkward moment, I walked around the counter and planted myself in front of the rose section, our biggest. I looked for one with as few thorns as possible, counting in my head. Another voice made me jump.
“Grandma El teaching you a little floriography, am I right?”
I spun on my heel. Whatever breath was left in me was quickly stolen by the boy in front of me. My age, honey-tone curls, the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. He was positively gorgeous. I stared doe-eyed for a moment before I had enough sense to speak.
Wow. I’m a genius.
“Floriography, the messages flowers carry, like—”
“Like that the buttercup stands for riches, and that the dahlia stands for elegance. My father taught me when I was younger. Who are you?”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Eleanor beckon me over. I hurried to the counter, rose as gold as the sun in hand. She touched the petals with her wrinkled hands once. Dad reached under the counter and brought out a second rose, this one blood red.
“No charge for either, Eleanor. Wouldn’t dream of it. Give that red rose to someone special.”
“I know just the man. I believe he'll put it to good use, too.”
Eleanor thanked us both and opened the door wide, then leaned towards the guy. “Are you coming?”
“In a minute,” he said, and I jumped again, realizing he found his way right next to me a second time. “I want to talk to Gail a little longer.”
My father wordlessly retreated to the back once more, and I was alone with him.
“How do you know my name?”
“I’m sorry,” he said with a half-smile, as if he’d known me all our lives. “My grandmother hasn’t stopped talking about you and your dad since you bought the flower shop, saying she couldn’t have sold it to nicer people. My name’s Brian.”
He stuck his hand out, an offering. I took it. It took all my might not to snatch my hand back when I felt a zing of electricity pass through the both of us.
“I have to go. Nice meeting you, though, Gail.”
Without even glancing around, he plucked a mayflower from its vase, tossed it on the counter, gave me a wink, and left.
A mayflower, meaning "welcome."