Releasing February 7 , 'The Flower Box'
Alice longs for love. Oliver wants to give her flowers and candy until he thinks she has another lover. Will his jealously drive him away from Alice or straight into her arms?
As usual, the shop started to get busier Thursday lunchtime. Alice finished hand tying the bunch of Ranunculus. The flower heads varied in size and tone of pink, but all were sumptuous. She’d mixed in an occasional looped bright green broad leaf and tied the distinctive bleached hessian string the shop used on all its hand tied bouquets. She sighed. It was less than two weeks to Valentine’s Day. All the shops displayed advertisements for perfume, candy and other gifts for a sweetheart.
Alice didn’t have one. Her sweetheart had left her three years before and since then she’d remained alarmingly single. That morning she’d received her own posters to advertise flowers and gifts. She was going to put them up and change the display in the windows when the shop closed.
Alice took payment for the flowers and watched as the man left with them. She wondered who they might be for, girlfriend, wife, lover? Although she sold flowers and candies, she never received them. Her small circle of friends gave her odd little presents for Christmas and her birthday. A strange gorilla key chain, a mug labeled ‘Do not disturb’, it was as if they didn’t know her at all, and maybe they didn’t. They didn’t know she perused the dating sites online. They didn’t know she’d recently bought a vibrator. It was delivered from the store advertised as the best sex-toy shop for women on the web. The package was anonymously brown on the outside, but the next layer of wrapping was shocking pink.
The shop emptied for a few moments. Alice walked to the window and switched on the extra fairy lights. This year winter brought darkness much earlier in the day. There seemed to be less daylight than other years. Maybe it was the rain, but it was time the weather cheered up a little in Alice’s opinion.
The window display was always lit with a string of tiny white rose lights, joined now by the fairy lights Alice added each October then left there until March. The standard trees on either side of the door outside were decorated with silver–white fairy lights too and customers often commented on how inviting the shop was. Alice served another two people before her assistant came back from lunch and then as one o’clock hit, the shop became busy.
One side of the shop sold boxed and bars of candy. Alice sourced it from all over the world. She spent more on airfreight sometimes than she might recoup from the sale of the candy, but she liked to have this array. Customers would come in especially from all over the city for their favorite treat. On holidays like Christmas, Easter, and Valentine’s Day, they would buy both flowers and candy. Alice loved her shop and her work. The hours were long, but worth it. She travelled to the flower markets before dawn once a week and had some flowers delivered by local growers.
When there was a short lull in business at two-thirty, before the afternoon became busy again, Alice took her own lunch break. She always did the same thing. She’d walk to the park at the end of the street and eat some of her sandwich, but feed lots of the bread or roll to the ducks on the pond there. All year round, in any weather, Alice did it. Then she walked around the park to travel back to her shop on the back street. There at the back of the park was another pond. At this far end of the park, there were statues. They lined the last part of the path around the pond in a mock Italian garden style.
Since Christmas, Alice stopped and fed a swan there. It never ventured from the thick reedy pond to the well-populated duck pond, and Alice thought it could be lonely. She’d read that swans mated for life. This swan was solitary and had an air of sadness as it glided to Alice for her offering of bread. Alice brought an extra piece of bread especially for this swan.
As she fed it, she talked to it, about their solitary status, their lack of a partner in life to love, and who loved them. The swan got up onto the path that day as Alice talked to it and fed it the slice of super seeded bread. Alice told it about Valentine’s day approaching and how as usual she’d sell flowers for other girls, knowing she’d not be getting any. I wonder why you’re alone, Swan? She left the swan eating the last piece of the bread and went back to work.
Talking to the bird helped her deal with the loneliness that was becoming acute. She looked back at the swan as she exited the huge wrought iron park gates. It was hopping into the pond. Alice hurried back to the shop feeling refreshed.
Copyright Elodie Parkes 2014 Hot Ink Press 2014