Flowers and Traditions
Taryn left daisies this time, four perfect flowers tied together and tucked between the thick covers of one of the hundreds of books in the shop. She browsed for a bit longer, wondering if she should leave yet another gift; the daisies were the third this week. She thanked whatever deity would listen that the shop was so successful. That even if she came by every day for a month she wouldn’t be recognized among the hundreds of people that stopped by each day.
She would buy books more often, maybe then she’d have a reasonable excuse to visit the shop, or to strike up a conversation with the owner. But the flower shop did not bring in much money, certainly not enough to satisfy her need; weather that was for books or for the shop owner, Taryn was afraid to answer.
Something caught her eyes just as she decided to leave the shop. It was displayed predominantly on the counter, beside the cash register. The cover was worn brown leather; the edges were clearly worn ragged from use. The pages were cream colored and tattered. It sat on a stand that held the pages of the book open, the page covered in a beautifully detailed drawing of a calla lily. The sight of this made Taryn stop in her tracks, she barely notices the way other customers stopped short to move around her.
A woman shoves past her, oversized bag nearly knocking her over in the process. Taryn glared at the back of the woman’s head, something about the city she wasn’t sure she liked getting used to. But the shove was enough to get her feet moving again. To the dismay of Taryn’s pounding heart, she was not moving towards the door, she was moving towards the book.
She didn’t see the quizzical look from the boy at the register, who somehow managed to watch Taryn while simultaneously ringing up customers. All she could see was the book, her fingertips itching to turn the pages, to feel the way old paper felt on her skin. Her hands gripped the counter; it was the closest she would allow herself to actually touching the book.
“I’m not surprised this caught your eye. You own the flower shop two blocks down, right?” Taryn was proud to say she didn’t jump when her concentration was broken. She could hardly peel her eyes off the floor but she managed to nod.
“I’m Mia; I took over this shop from my grandfather.” Mia held out her hand, Taryn started at the outstretched hand, dark skin looking so soft. Hesitantly, Taryn raised her hand to Mia’s.
“Taryn.” Her voice shoot as she glanced up at Mia’s dark eyes before they darted back to their hands, Taryn’s hands were stained, no matter how often or hard she washed her hands there would always be faint green stains and dirt under her nails.
“Taryn?” Mia’s voice was smooth and swirled in the air between them.
“Y- yes?” Taryn chanced another look at Mia’s face. Her deep brown eyes were warm and soft, her lips pink and curved into a small smile.
“Can I show you something?” Mia’s voice is suddenly higher, excited, which only made Taryn’s pulse racing faster. Taryn could do nothing but nod again. She hadn’t noticed when their handshake ended, but now she felt her hand in Mia’s once again. Warm and smooth against her rough callouses. Mia led them into the back room, a small grey room with mountains of books stacked nearly to the ceiling. The whole room was a clutter, except for the desk that sat in the center.
“Here it is.” Mia gestured towards the thick binder on the corner of the desk. She sat at the desk, leaving Taryn lingering beside her, looking over her shoulder. Mia opened the binder delicately, revealing a photo album. Taped to the inside cover was a photo of an older man in front of the bookstore.
The man was younger in the photo, holding a small girl with a thick braid. Taryn had only seen the owner as an old man, more crotchety but the same liveliness in his eyes that had always been there.
“I only keep two actual photos in this album.” Mia said, more to herself, fingers tracing the arch of the doorway in the photo. “This is my grandfather the day he opened the bookshop.” She told Taryn. “And this one, she pointed to the picture below the first, “is of my grandfather and I, he always used to read with me, but he never read to me.” She sighed, remembering fondly the summers spend in the back room of the bookstore, her grandfather helping her sound out the words.
This photo looked more like the man Taryn remembered from the times her brother would bring her to the bookstore. Her brother probably didn’t remember the bookshop; he was always too preoccupied with studying for his ASVAB. The military test had landed him a job in the navy and Taryn’s only family had been at that Navy base ever since.
“You two must have been close.” Taryn commented, her shyness fading a bit as their conversation drifted, oddly comfortable for how personal this moment felt.
“Yeah, we really were.” She mused, smiling softly, “but this is what I wanted to shop you.” She turned the pages excitedly, flipping through pages and pages of color, Taryn could only catch glimpses of vibrant purples and yellows, pastel reds and pinks, deep blues. She stopped at a page with a brilliant blue pressed iris.
Taryn remembered that one instantly, the customer had wanted only purple but a few blue came with the order. She’d immediately brought the beautiful extras to the bookshop, leaving the flowers on the top shelf of the travel section. She felt her cheeks getting warm.
“You’re blushing.” Mia commented, turning in the chair to face her, Taryn’s cheeks getting even redder. Mia thought Taryn looked adorable when she was flustered, but she allowed the green eyed girl to calm herself while Mia lost herself in memories.
Saturday mornings she’d spend in the shop with her grandfather, but around lunch she’d go with grandma to get dinner and buy flowers. By the time they returned grandfather was locking up and the three would walk towards the hospital, spilling sandwich crumbs over her mother’s hospital bed. Mia didn’t remember the disease that stole her mother but she remembered how much her mother loved the flowers, and how her eyes would water whenever Mia read to her. She remembered how the flowers were wilted at the next visit; Mia thought they must be sick as well.
Mia was meeting Taryn later that day, but it was Saturday and she had something to do before then. She walked alone this time, not to the hospital dripping with the scent of antiseptic and illness. The cemetery was close by, this had been her Saturday ritual for so long; she didn’t know how she felt about the standing Saturday lunch date she had with Taryn, felt strange to have a Saturday tradition she looked forward to.
The first thing she noticed was the flowers, planted above each stone was a small plant. She recognized them as irises, pale blue and purple and yellow. They brightened the bleak cemetery; Mia smiled as she knelt down by the graves, the smell of flowers calming her as she traced the carved letters in each grey stone.
Story by: Hailey
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