F is For Flower by Patti Jurinski

My reflection in the flower shop window startled me. The scowl, five o’clock shadow (now more hobo than hip), and bags under my eyes weren’t mine and were not a good look. But, neither was the window display. Aluminum buckets draped in pink and red ribbon overflowed with flowers. Long-stemmed roses whispered I love you or begged for forgiveness. Bouquets of tight tulips promised a bright future. And, pert, too-sunny, sunflowers stood at attention in the corner. A blossom for every occasion and mood.

Except mine.

A knock on the inside glass scared the crap out of me. A woman’s face popped into view, thankfully distorting my own pathetic image. She looked to be about my age though it was hard to tell behind her nineteen fifties cat-eye glasses, rhinestones included. A pencil stuck out of her messy bun. She mouthed the words ‘Sorry’ and motioned for me to come in.

An ivy archway camouflaged the front door. Vines tangled around the sign with only a handful of letters shining in the streetlight. A bell jingled off-tune when I stepped inside. Instead of the usual suspects–jasmine, freesia, and lily–humidity hit me, so thick and surprising, I stopped and caught my breath. Evergreen, palm, and moss danced on my tongue. I licked my lips and tasted the color green.

To my left, a boxwood tree rustled and swayed until the woman, tiny leaves in her auburn hair, emerged. She ignored them and hopped over a bucket of pine cones.

“I’m so sorry I scared you out there,” she said, slightly out of breath. She tugged me into the middle of the store. A tingle ran up my arm where her hand lingered. The light exposed a scattering of freckles across her nose, and the tingle sharpened. “I’m Sandra, the owner. Is the window that bad?” She laughed, and I leaned in, a plant desperate for sun. “We have a lot more stock in cold storage if there’s something special you’re looking for.” Absently, she plucked the leaves out of her hair and tucked them into her pocket.

“Um.” I tried to remember my original goal. But, like my tongue, it felt fuzzy and useless. A morning dream recalled at bedtime. “No, nothing specific,” I muttered.

“Window shopping?” Sandra teased with a raised eyebrow. “I don’t buy it. Nobody wanders in here just looking. Especially today.” She pulled the pencil out of her bun, dislodging a few more leaves, and snatched a pad of paper off a nearby shelf. “What’s his or her name? I’m sure we have the perfect thing.”

I’d had enough of perfect. Her perfect penmanship in the goodbye note. The moving van perfectly parked between the lines in front of our building. The perfectly clean and empty apartment.

“Unless you have a flower that says fuck you, I don’t think you can help me. Sorry to bother you.” I turned to go.

Sandra’s laugh drew me back.

“How much do you want to spend?” she asked, and the rhinestones in her glasses twinkled.

Patti Jurinski writes flash fiction and is working on her first novel. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in SickLitMagazine and formercactus. She lives in Florida but will always be a New Englander at heart. Follow Patti via twitter @PLJWrites

Image: John-Mark Kuznietsov