HONORABLE
MENTION
Gemini Magazine
2010
Flash Fiction
Contest
He stood in the doorway of my flower shop for
some time, looking shy, his boyish teddy-colored
hair sticking up all over as he mussed it nervously.  
I had many years on him and considered myself
wise and patient, so I busied myself at the desk
until he worked up the nerve to approach me.  “I
need some help,” he said.  Of course you do, I
wanted to tell him.  You’re a man.  But instead, I
gave him a sympathetic smile.  “That’s my job,” I
told him.  “What do you need?”

He explained that there was a girl in his class at
the university that he’d like to take to dinner.  Her
name was Summer, he told me, and she absolutely
adored flowers.  “Well, you’ve come to the right
place,” I assured him, and I set about doing what I
loved best.  As I worked, the boy relaxed a little
and started chatting with me.  He described
Summer in the hyperbolic, obsessive detail of an
infatuated child.  There was an eager glow in his
eyes.  Lucky Summer.

I thought I’d seen the last of the boy when I sent
him away with a bouquet of pink and orange
daisies.  However, as I was filling Valentine’s Day
orders, frustrated that I needed my spectacles to
make out the words, I came across a unique
request for fragrant lilacs addressed to a girl called
Summer.  Only a few months after that, the boy
dropped by to order tulips, then sunflowers, then
an obscure tropical flower we had to ship in from
Fiji.  The boy became a regular customer, though
he wasn’t much a boy anymore.  He was a bit
taller and less soft, with the wild glow in his eyes
refined to a responsible sort of ambition.  He told
me all about his career and his family, but mostly
he talked about Summer.  He could go on for ages
as I worked with a particularly finicky bouquet,
never running out of wonderful things to say about
her.  He was cross in love, the poor soul, but he
was amiable company, and he didn’t seem to mind
the slight shake in my hands or the fact that I had
such trouble hearing him.  We simply enjoyed each
other’s company.

It was only a matter of time, really.  The crisp day
in September when the boy sidled into my shop in
a pressed suit and ordered a vase of white roses,
I knew.  Sure as my achy knees could predict the
weather, mere weeks later we were filling a
gargantuan order for an orange blossom-covered
wedding reception.  It was bittersweet; I was
finally forced to hire a few college students to help
me keep up.  But my joy was not at all dimmed
when the boy stopped by after the wedding, simply
to show me photographs and spread his happiness.

Over the years, the boy’s visits did not cease.  
There were bouquets of lavender for anniversaries,
chrysanthemums and gardenias for
congratulations, poinsettias for the holidays, and a
whole display of peonies on the birth of their first
child.  As I was getting older, the boy seemed to
be getting younger, brimming with satisfaction each
time we met.  Even as my fingers ached and
stiffened when I arranged, I had the thought of my
boy and Summer in my mind, and somehow it was
a comfort, a promise that there was good left in
the world.

Business suffered.  People didn’t want to buy
flowers anymore.  Except the boy, but he had
changed.  At first, I thought the sadness of the
shop unnerved him, but I began to wonder if
maybe something was wrong.  The light still shone
from his eyes, but he looked weary, and some
days the chatterbox said almost nothing.  He
noticed my problems, though, and he put a great
effort into trying to cheer me up.  With no warning,
he stopped coming.  There was an abnormally long
period of no contact, no word, no orders
addressed to Summer.  Oddly, I missed him so
much it became another ache.

I couldn’t help it.  I desperately hoped the boy
would come back, but he did not.  I waited, but
soon it came time for me to retire.  My own bones
protested each time I took a step.  I sold the shop
and stayed for only a few more weeks, drawing it
out, irrationally hoping that the boy would return.  
Still he did not.  On the last day of my time at the
store, it was raining.  In late afternoon, the bells
over the door chimed, and I looked up eagerly.  
But it wasn’t my boy.  It was a woman, aging but
beautiful, with raven-black hair and dark eyes.  Her
face was solemn.  Behind her was a small girl,
cowering in her shadow.  They were both dressed
in black.  It wasn’t funny, but I felt an odd
amusement at the irony.  The last order I filled
would be for a funeral.

At the counter, she explained that she wanted a
wreath of white lilies, modest but beautiful, to
display on a tombstone.  “Of course,” I said.  
“What is the name on the order?”

“Summer.”

At the name, the little girl looked up, and her wide,
trusting, sad eyes met mine, glowing.  Though we’
d never formally met, I knew her.  Caroline.  My
boy’s daughter.  She was prettier than her pictures.

I knelt down to her level, ignoring my pains.  
“Caroline,” I told her, “your daddy was very
special.  I’m sorry.”  She nodded earnestly, glad
someone understood.

Summer peered at me closer, comprehension
dawning on her face.  “You’re the flower woman!”
she exclaimed.  Then she sobered, glancing down.  
“My husband loved you very much.”

I swallowed.  “I loved him also,” I admitted, my
eyes pricking.  “And he loved you more than
anything.”

Summer lifted her daughter and cradled her in her
arms.  Tears choked her voice as she said, “I
know.  Your flowers just kept coming.”
FLOWERS
by Kelley Gregg
Kelley Gregg was born in
Dayton, Ohio. She is currently a
student at the University of Notre
Dame and writes in her free time.
This is her first published story.