Echo

On a rainy Wednesday in April, a young man took shelter inside a flower shop. He wanted to visit the shop before, but flowers were outside his interest and going inside was awkward. With the rain, he had a perfect excuse. He rushed inside. The shop was bigger than he expected. It looked tiny from the outside, but the space within was more than double what it appeared to be from the streets. The walls and floor were a rich, dark wood and the lights had a soft, yellow glow that gave the entire place a warm, safe feeling to it. Where there weren't potted plants, seeds, and cut flowers, paintings and photographs of flowers decorated the walls. The florist didn't notice him come in, being busy organizing something from behind the counter. He was glad to be unnoticed. The young man loitered around in front of the bouquet display. Now that he was finally there, he didn't know what to do. The florist finally noticed him and sensed his growing anxiety. The florist walked over to the new customer. "Do you need any help finding something, sir?" "Ah...well, I don't know...um..." He scratched the back of his head. "I'm not really sure what I'm looking for." "Perhaps I can help you. Is there a particular occasion?" The florist asked. "There's this girl I've been hanging out with lately and I like her a lot...we're friends right now and I don't want to rush things...but I want to give her something, to you know, give her a hint I want to get closer?" He stuttered through his words. As he spoke, he thought of her. Her kind smile reminded him of sunny days and her voice was like a light rain, gentle and calm. Thinking about her only made speaking harder for him. "She really loves plants. I actually met her at a research club meeting....She wants to study them...uh, I thought a flower might be a good gift, but I've only ever given girls bouquets. Plants aren't really my thing...Um..." "Hmm, does she have a garden or room to grow any plants where she lives?" The florist looked around the shop at his stock. The florist wanted to laugh, but kept his amusement at the young man's awkwardness a secret. "She has a garden. She takes care of her grandmother after school, so she lives at her house." "I see." The florist walked over to the miniature roses. He picked up one of the yellow bushes and one of the pink roses. "Roses are always a popular gift. Since she loves plants and gardening, she may enjoy a living plant more than a bouquet. As for the color, that depends on the message you want to convey to her. Do you still want to be friends at this stage or hint to her you're interesting in dating?" The young man thought it over. He did want to start dating, but he was too nervous to ask her out yet, and the idea of even hinting at it only terrified him. "I think...right now, I still want to be friends." "I would give her this one then." The florist handed him the yellow rose bush. "Of course, if you know of any flowers she likes..." "I can't really remember. I'm not good with names either..." She mentioned a few to him, but he was too busy staring at her to pay attention to what she said. All he could remember was the word "gold". "This should do just as well. Is there anything else you'd like help with?" He went back behind the counter to ring the customer up. "No, that's all." The young man stood in front the counter and stared down at the tiny rosebush he'd just placed on it. He was already nervous about giving it to her. The florist smiled at him. "I'll ring you up then. That'll be five fifty." "Thank you, uh..." The young man looked down at the florist's name tag. He stopped himself before attempting to say it. "I'm sorry, I think I'll butcher your name if I try to say it." The florist looked down at the name tag and gave a half-hearted smile again. This was nothing new. "The J is pronounced like an H, if that's what you were wondering." "Oh, okay. Jacinto. Is that a Spanish name?" The young man asked as he handed the florist the money. He hadn't heard the name before. "Yes. I wish you luck with your lady friend." The florist took the money and bagged the plant for him. "Thanks." The young man took the bag and went back out into the rain. Once he was out of sight, the florist wondered if the man would return. So few of his customers did these days, and his income was dwindling. He was considering closing up shop for good if it continued on for another year. Cut flowers were more popular than garden flowers, and most supermarkets sold what he had for cheaper. For the average customer, there was no use in telling them there were differences in quality and conditions kept in. They didn't care. Money ruled in the end, as it was ruling over him then. Jacinto got out the sale stickers and put them out in silence. A month later, the young man returned to the little shop. This time, he was determined to buy a bouquet. He picked out one of red and pink roses and went over to the counter. Jacinto was surprised to see the man again since the man didn't have any interest in flowers. He was glad to see anyone walk through the door, and even more to see a face he recognized. "We meet again." Jacinto greeted him. "Yes, we do." The man had a big grin on his face. His return to the shop was not from interest in the quality of the plants there. He thought if he bought flowers from the same place, it might bring him luck on the date since she loved the roses he gave her before so much. It was superstitious, but he couldn't help himself. "I take it things are going well." Jacinto rang up the bouquet. "You could say that. We have a date tonight." The aura the man was projecting was so warm Jacinto didn't want him to leave. Jacinto silently wondered if the plants could feel it too and might grow just a little bit more from it. "I see. Good luck to you." "Thanks!" After he paid, the young man cheerfully picked up the bouquet and went on his way. Once he was gone, the store felt a little dimmer. Jacinto looked over the previous week's profit. He sighed. He rearranged the paintings on the wall in hopes of making his surroundings a bit warmer again. In appearance, the store looked cozy to him, but the warm was draining out. If his store was the earth, he want planting in the wrong kind of soil. Everything was withering away. The following week, the young man was back again. His nervousness about the girl and the store had both left him now. The store was a familiar place now. He said hello to Jacinto when he walked into the door and went straight to asking for what he wanted to buy. "Uh, do you have..." The young man pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket. "Marigolds or dahlias?" "Let me see." Jacinto typed on the computer behind the counter. "I have marigold seeds and dahlia bulbs, but I don't have any young plants if that's what you're looking for." "That's fine. She'd probably like it more that way." The young man said. Jacinto gave him a sly look. "So, this is for that girl again, huh?" "Her birthday's in a few days. Marigolds are her favorites and I know she mentioned liking dahlias." "Which would you like to purchase?" Jacinto walked to the back of the store to get the marigold seeds and dahlia bulbs for the man. "Actually, I think I want to buy them both. Do you have any of those miniature roses in orange? She loves orange roses. Oh, with the marigolds and dahlias, do you have those in orange too?" Since they started dating, he made a point to write down everything she liked so he could keep surprising her with gifts. He couldn't pamper her enough. It hadn't been that long since they met, but ever since that day, she was always in his thoughts. She was beautiful, but more than that, he found himself entranced anytime she spoke about her passions. She had a commanding presence in spite of her soft voice. He always found himself swept away in her current. "Hmm...let's see...Looks like you're in luck." Jacinto grabbed one of each plant, the healthiest looking two he could find. He handed them to the young man. "Here." "Thank you." The young man thanked him. Jacinto pointed to the front of the store before heading back behind the counter. "And the miniature roses are over there. There should be a few orange ones left." The young man grabbed the biggest one and paid for the plants. He left the store with a big grin on his face. As the man left, Jacinto felt his store grow dimmer again. Business was slow that week. He marked down some of his rarer items in the store. Two weeks from then, the young man returned again. He bought another bouquet, this time of only red roses. Jacinto rang up the flowers. He gave the young man a sideways glance and a smirk. "Back again. Big date?" "We're going out somewhere special tonight." The young man's energy shined brighter than anything in the store. Jacinto hoped his flowers would grow more from that invisible light. When the man left again, the sharp contrast between that young man's radiance and the fading warmth of his store hit him harder than before. He changed out the paintings on the wall again, cleaned the storefront windows, and replaced all of the light bulbs. Afterwards, he put out more sale stickers. A month passed before the young man came to the shop again. The moment the young man walked in the door, all of Jacinto's attention shifted to him. He greeted him. "It's been a while." "Yeah, I've been really busy lately." The young man said. "What can I do for you today?" Jacinto stepped out from behind the counter to meet him in the middle of the store. "She wants to grow a willow tree in the garden." "I don't have any small willows in the store, but I can place an order for you to get one. It should take about a week to get here." Jacinto went back behind the counter. The young man followed him over to the counter. "That's fine." "Alright. Let me to do that real quick." He started up the order. A part of him was secretly excited about this. He kept his excitement hidden. "Okay, I need a name and phone number. I'll call you when it arrives." The young man wrote his name and cell number on a piece of paper. "Here you go." "So, your name is Haul. Well, expect a call around next Wednesday. I'll probably call you between ten and noon." "Thanks." Haul paid and left. The following week, on Wednesday, Jacinto called at eleven. Haul arrived thirty minutes later. Today, he didn't bring any warmth with him. His shoulder slouched and his eyes were dull. "Here it is." Jacinto presented him with the young willow. He kept his voice soft. "Is something wrong? You look a bit down." "My girlfriend's grandmother was admitted to the hospital last night. She's stable right now, but she's a very old woman." Haul said. The old woman had been in his life in less time than his girlfriend, but the two had hit it off and she approved of their relationship. She jokingly started calling him "grandson" not that long ago. His girlfriend hadn't left her grandmother's side since she was taken to the hospital. He worried how her heart would break when the inevitable time came. Jacinto didn't know how to comfort him. His only connection to Haul was selling him flowers. He gave him a canned response. "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. I hope she gets better." The two parted quietly. Two weeks later, Haul was back. His mood was even lower than before. Jacinto could read exactly what had happened. Haul's voice was low and somber as he spoke. "I want to order some lilies. Her grandmother didn't make it." Jacinto paused for a moment. He looked away. "I'm sorry to hear that. How is your girlfriend handling it?" "She's taking it pretty badly. She was really close to her grandmother." Haul found her every morning crying in the bathroom. He tried holding her, but she kept him at a distance. "Poor thing. You must be there for her while she grieves. The pain will heal in time." "I know, but I hate seeing her like this. I wish I could make her happy." Haul sighed. "Now's not the time for that. She needs to properly grieve. That's just part of the process." Jacinto wanted to put his hand on Haul's to comfort him, but he didn't think they were close enough for that. "I know...sorry, you probably don't want to hear about any of this." Haul stepped back from the counter and stared down at the floor. "No, it's fine. I don't get many customers here. Sometimes, it gets a little lonely." Jacinto said one thing more than he intended to. There was no taking it back once it was there. He was a little embarrassed at the omission. "You work a lot of days?" Haul asked. "I'm the owner. And currently, the only employee, so yes." When the store was doing well, he had four other employees. That was around when he first opened up the shop. The neighborhood was different then. He received a lot of business from tourists wanting to start their own garden after visiting the botanical garden that used to be two blocks over. The following year, many of the businesses nearby changed frequently and the year after that, the botanical garden shut down due to lack of funds. He had no choice but to let go of the other employees when business dropped to its lowest point. He simply couldn't afford it. Right now, he was barely making ends meet. "That's rough." Haul didn't need to know the full story. He could already guess. Finding his current job had been difficult, and he didn't have enough money to live on his own. He moved in with his girlfriend not long ago and helped pay the bills. Before that, he'd been renting with three other guys. He wasn't too worried about his situation though. His parents were always supportive of him. If worst came to worst and he couldn't find a place or lost his job, he knew they'd put him up for a while until he could. "I hope things start getting better soon. This recession feels like it's been going on forever." "It pays the bills." Jacinto wanted to add "for now" but left that out. He tried to steer the conversation into a more professional tone. "Is there anything else I can get for you today?" "Not right now." Jacinto finished up the order and set the flowers to be delivered to Haul's girlfriend's house, as requested. Three months passed before Haul returned again. In that time in between, he had the roughest weeks of business he had since that last time when he had to lay off his employees. For three of those weeks, he was in the red. He negotiated to get an extension on rent bill and put everything in the store on sale. On a Wednesday, Haul returned. His energy was completely different from the last time. The sun couldn't have outshone him was how Jacinto felt. Haul went straight to the counter. He had a goofy smile on his face. "I need to order a special bouquet." "What's the occasion?" Jacinto's mood was immediately elevated. Haul cleared his throat and grinned. He said in a smug tone, "My wedding." "Congratulations!" Jacinto took in all of Haul's joy, as if it were happening to him instead. "Excited?" "More nervous than excited at this point..." Haul scratched the back of his head. His face was bright red. "I'm sure everything will work out fine." Jacinto reassured him. For the next several months, Haul stopped in regularly. He didn't always buy anything, sometimes coming just to see what new plants Jacinto had in stock. From living with his wife, he learned a lot about plants, what their names were and how to grow them. The language of flowers was still foreign to him. He was starting to understand what his wife and Jacinto found so interesting about them. The conversations between customer and shop owner shifted away from plants and gardening to more personal matters. Haul always had plenty to share about his wife and their plans together. Jacinto found Haul's adoration of his wife endearing. His eyes lit up whenever he mentioned her. As for Jacinto's personal life, he kept quiet about that, choosing to listen attentively to Haul's stories rather than contribute his own. Haul didn't notice, as he was always caught up in whatever story he was recounting. One day, on a Wednesday in July, a thunderstorm rolled in over the town while Haul was visiting the shop. He only came to browse that day and ended up chatting with Jacinto at the counter for a while. Jacinto looked out the window. The rain poured down in sheets. One gust of wind slammed the door open. Jacinto ran to close it and locked it shut. "It's really coming down out there. You might want to wait before going back out or get a ride. You can use the shop's phone if you can't get a signal." "How long do you think it's going to last like that?" Haul watched the rain. If he went out there now, he would be completely drenched with his umbrella. His wife wasn't home to give him a ride and he didn't want to bother any of his friends for something like that. Jacinto checked the weather through the store's computer. "Hmm, looks like it's supposed to clear up in about an hour. I'm about to go on break. Would you like to stay a while? I was going to make tea." "Well, I guess so...I don't have work or class today. You sure that's fine?" Haul asked. "Trust me, I'd die for any company. I don't have the money to hire more people right now, so it's always just me here, every day, and I don't really have many regular customers. It gets a little lonely." Jacinto laughed it off, but he really did want Haul to stay a little longer out of loneliness. He loved the plants in the store. Being around them made him happy, but it didn't compare to being around another human. Jacinto led Haul into the back room of the store. Haul was surprised by its appearance. Much like the customer end of the store, it had a warm, yellow feeling to it. Dark wood and a faded floral wallpaper decorated the walls. The floor in this room was carpet instead of wood. An odd choice, but his feet appreciated the softness of it. The room's lights gave off a soft glow, the room neither bright nor dark. He sat down on a light brown couch and watched Jacinto work at a counter at the other side of the room. "What are you doing?" Haul asked, curious why Jacinto was pulling petals off of several roses. "I'm making rose tea." Jacinto dropped the petals in the pot. "I've never had that before." "You want to see something neat?" Jacinto waved for Haul to come over. Haul got up and walked to the counter. When Haul was close enough to see, Jacinto showed him the inside of the kettle. "Watch as they boil. The red bleeds out into the water and all that's left behind are white petals." "White?" Haul looked closer. He saw the red petals in the pot floating along the surface of the boiling water. Beads of red formed on top of the petals, then slid away until there was no red left. "Look. The red is gone." Jacinto put the top back on. When the tea was done, Jacinto transfered the liquid to a small teapot and then filled two porcelain cups. Jacinto handed the cup to Haul, tilting it slightly to expose the rich color of the tea. "And here it is, the red." "That's interesting. I didn't know the color would come out like that." Haul took his cup and added cream and sugar. The taste was pleasant and the tea carried the distinct aroma of roses. He wanted to show this to his wife some day, since she loved teas as well. He sat back down on the couch. "That's a daffodil, right? You have another picture of them up front by the register too. Is that one new? I don't remember it from the last time I visited." "It's new. I wanted something new up there. I change the pictures out every so often to liven up the place." Jacinto sipped on his tea, his back turned to Haul. Wanting to make conversation, Haul asked, "Daffodils, is there any kind of lore behind those?" "It's said that you should never give a single daffodil, but many, because to give only one invites bad luck. The flower is also associated with unrequited love." Jacinto looked through the cut roses laying out across the counter. He picked out one. "Oh? Why's that?"it "The genus the daffodil is part of, Narcissus, is named for the greek hunter Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection. Narcissus was loved by the wood nymph Echo, but her love could never be reciprocated, nor could Narcissus's love for his reflection. It's a story of unrequited love. Though Echo was a later addition. Narcissus had a different suitor in the original tale, and Echo...well, she meets a different fate in the story of her and Pan." Jacinto trailed off his story. If he didn't stop himself, he could go on about old myths and lore for hours. "Greek mythology's never been a strong point of mine, or flower lore it seems. Between you and my wife, I hear a new story for every flower." Haul finished off his tea. "Flowers have been the subject of folklore since the dawn of time. Ones for love, ones for death, ones for healing, ones for eternity. Every plant has a story." Jacinto presented Haul with a single yellow rose. "My loyal customer, this gift is for you. Do you remember the meaning behind this one?" Haul thought back to the first day he came to the store. He knew this meaning. "Friendship?" "You've been my customer for a very long time. I said earlier I don't have very many regulars. Most customers just come here and complain they can buy flowers cheaper at the grocery store. Thank you for being so loyal." Jacinto glanced out the the door at the front windows. The rain had stopped. "It's cleared up now. You might want to head out before it starts up again." "Really?" Haul got up from the couch and headed for the door. He looked down at the flower and then back at Jacinto. "Thank you, for the gift and the tea." "It's nothing." Jacinto unlocked the front door and waved goodbye. He watched Haul until he was out of sight, then went back inside. Business was improving again. It wasn't to the degree it was when the store's profits were at their highest nor in the middle range, but it was an improvement from the last couple of years and he was grateful for that. He jokingly spoke to the plants. "Looks like the sun is finally shining down on us again." Three years passed before Jacinto revealed anything more about himself. On that day, it was raining again and Haul was hanging around, waiting for the weather to change. They made idle conversation for a while. Haul leaned against the counter. "You changed the flowers again. They're all different ones now." "Yes. I thought it might look nice if I displayed several very distinct flowers at once." Jacinto pointed out some of the new pictures on the wall. "These are amaryllis here. The ones by the door are snowdrops. Unfortunately, I can't sell those in the store. These are harebells. I have a few of those in the back. And those just across from us, one of my favorites, bleeding hearts. Aptly named for their beautiful heart shape." The colors reminded Haul of the fuchsia flowers hanging on the front porch of his house. His wife loved the colors. He wondered if she would love those too. Haul realized his penchant for gushing about his wife at this point, and changed the subject to Jacinto. "They're very pretty. So, what is your favorite flower?" "Roses, of every variety. My grandmother used to have many wild roses growing behind her house. I'd spend hours out there playing, pretending to look for fairies and dragons." Jacinto said. That was the first time Jacinto had mentioned anything about his personal life to Haul. He wasn't going to make light of the opportunity. He pressed for more details. "You spent a lot of time at your grandmother's house, huh?" "My father died in combat shortly after I was born. My mother was always working long hours. She'd leave me with my paternal grandmother most days until she died when I was a teenager. She lived a short walk from the house so it was really convenient. I lived overseas then. After my grandmother died, we moved back to the states where most of my mother's family lives." That move seemed like a distant memory now. He always had one foot in both cultures, never fitting right in either country. He was bothered by that as a child, but it didn't faze him now. "You miss her still?" Haul asked. "I do, at times. She died peacefully in her sleep. I remember before she passed, she told me to plant some asphodels for her by her window. I didn't pick up on then what she was trying to tell me." Jacinto said. Like most flower lore, what Jacinto was implying flew over Haul's head. "You're going to have to explain that one to me." "Asphodels are the flowers of the underworld. It was said Persephone wore a crown of them. My grandmother was quietly trying to tell me her time was coming." Jacinto's last memory of her was placing asphodels on her coffin. "For her, I've been embarking on an impossible journey since then. She loves roses too. She used to always tell me stories about blue roses. I promised her I'd show her a real one, but blue roses are a natural impossibility." "Really? I've seen blue roses before." Jacinto explained. "Those roses have dyed petals. The closest anyone's actually gotten to making a "blue" rose are more of a purple shade than being truly blue. It's foolish, but I've been attempting it myself. I know even if I succeed, I can never show them to her. She's gone. But the her alive in my memories hasn't faded. I know how she would feel if I completed that goal. For that, I keep trying." "Have you had any luck?" Haul asked. Jacinto walked out from behind the counter and led Haul to the back room. He opened up another door into a much smaller room. It was a growth room filled with lavender colored roses. "This is the best I've done. Still purple." Jacinto felt over the petals of his failure. "A Herculean task. I should have promised her amaranths." "It's still a beautiful color. I think she would be proud of this." Haul knew his wife would find Jacinto's work interesting. She would probably tell him it was an impossibility too, but she was also a hopeless romantic. The impossibility of the whole affair would only pique her interest more. He wanted to show the flowers to her. Perhaps in time he could convince Jacinto to let him have one of the plants. "Yes, I know she would be." Jacinto closed the room up and looked though the doorway that connected the back room and the main store. "Oh, the rain's stopped. You're free. I suppose I should get back to work." "I'll see you again soon." Haul waved as he went on his way. In late December, Haul came into the store pale and with a look of terror in his eyes. Jacinto immediately went over to him to see what was wrong. "Are you alright? Did something happen?" He asked. Haul tried to hide how afraid he was, but it kept slipping out in his facial expressions. He nearly choked on his words. "My wife's been sick lately. I've been planting flowers for her. She wants lilies, as many colors as you have." "Lilies. I'll see what I've got." Jacinto finished up the order quickly. "Will you be alright going home alone? You look sickly yourself." "I'll be alright, but thanks." Haul didn't stay around to chat that day. Jacinto wouldn't see Haul again for three months. This time, he came in with empty eyes. All the warmth that used to radiate from him was gone. This time, Jacinto did not rush over to him. He was afraid what his friend was going to tell him. Meekly, he said, "It's been a while. How are things going? Is your wife better?" "She's been in and out of the hospital for a while now. Nothing's working anymore." Haul faced the floor. "Oh, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked." "No, it's alright. We've decided to have her stay home at this point." What he couldn't say hurt Haul more than the words he managed to push forward. Jacinto's voice was barely above a whisper. "I see." Haul looked up at Jacinto. No one else would understand the meaning of what he was going to say, and he was grateful for that. It spared him from having to explain the painful inevitability awaiting him. "She wants asphodels. She wants me to plant them by her window so she can watch them grow." "I have some in stock." Jacinto understood and didn't ask any further questions. He offered Haul another plant. "Take this too. These are on me." "What are they?" Haul asked. "Amaranths. Amaranths stand for eternity. She will know their meaning." Jacinto placed his hand on Haul's to comfort him. "Thank you." Haul felt a knot in his throat. He swallowed hard. "I'm not sure when I'll be back next." "I understand. Take this as well." Haul took a cut yellow rose from behind the counter and handed it to Haul. "My thoughts go out to you and your wife, my dear friend." Haul accepted the flower. "Thank you. Goodbye." Jacinto assumed that would be the last time Haul would visit. A little more than a year passed by quietly without Haul's presence. Business picked up, but the store remained lonely. With his current income, he was at a point where he might be able to hire a part-time worker. He wrote up the ad. When he went to put it up, he kept hesitating and sunk back into his seclusion. He knew he wasn't entitled to know. Jacinto debated with himself about calling Haul to check on him, see if anything ever improved with his wife, but he always stopped himself. He didn't belong in Haul's life in that way. While he called Haul his friend, he doubted Haul seriously thought of them as so. They were customer and store owner, a relationship built upon by business. The talks they had were only typical interactions between loyal customers and employees, nothing more. All the paintings in the store were taken down. There was no flower that felt right upon the walls of the store. Though he knew he may be waiting in vain, Jacinto always watched the front door for that familiar face. On a Wednesay in April, during a light rain shower, that familiar face returned. Jacinto couldn't believe it. He met Haul halfway from the counter. "It's been a long time, Haul." "Yes, it has." Haul was still pale. Heavy bags lined his eyes. "How are you?" Jacinto asked. "I'm doing...alright..." Haul forced out his words. Tears welled in his eyes. "We did a cremation. We held a service three months ago in the garden." "I am sorry for your loss." Jacinto stood awkwardly. He wasn't sure what he should do. "I just...wish she would have told me sooner about her condition. She was suffering more than she let on. If I had known...I would have stayed with her more...I would..." A tear slid down Haul's face. He quickly wiped it away, embarrassed he cried in public again. "She probably wanted her remaining time to be as normal as possible." Jacinto hoped his words might ease Haul's pain, if only a little. "Yeah...you know, even near the end, she would still ask me to take her out to the garden to sit or try to prune the plants." Briefly, a kind smile appeared on Haul's face. It faded as quickly as it appeared. "She asked me to spread her ashes out in the garden, like she did with her grandmother. I haven't done it yet...it's still too painful for me." "In time, it'll fade. You don't have to rush it. She would understand you putting it off." "I know." Haul wiped away another tear. "I'm not...really sure why I came here today. I don't want to buy anything. For some reason, I felt like...I needed to tell you what happened." Jacinto knew this was coming. He didn't want it to end like this, but it was better than waiting forever without any closure. He gave Haul a half-hearted smile. "This is goodbye, isn't it?" "I don't know...I never brought her here, but...when I think about this place, my mind is filled with her. They're mostly happy memories, but all thoughts of her hurt right now." Haul couldn't bring himself to set foot in their garden. A heavy guilt at neglecting the plants weighed on him. He was shutting everything away related to her. Since she passed away, he began sleeping in the guest room. His own home was pain. "It's alright. All things come to an end, my friend. That's how life is." Jacinto kept a strong face in front of Haul. He took a cut rose from behind the counter and handed it to him. "Here. Take this. My parting gift to you." Haul took the yellow rose. He twirled it in his hands, the color making him nostalgic. The pain of the past being gone filled him, but in those petals, he found a warmth that rose just above that pain. He held back his tears. "I remember the first time you gave me one of these as a gift. That was the first time you called me your friend." "You remembered..." Jacinto smiled again. That was a special memory for him too. "Yeah. She teased me about me getting a rose from a guy." Haul gave a little laugh thinking back on her reaction. "She asked if you gave me a discount and laughed. Thank you. I think I'm going to go now." "Take care." Jacinto's mask was starting to crack. He did his best to keep his composure. "You too." With that, Haul left the store. He started walking home, wondering if he would ever come that way again. That was the only store on that street he visited. His heart was still debating over whether to move into a new home or not. Haul intended to keep his promise to his wife to scatter her ashes into the garden, and that promise kept him bound to the house. He didn't want to be apart from her. Living there without her warm presence wasn't the same. She was the one missing, but he felt like a ghost in his own home. He was endlessly haunting, searching for a vision of the world that no longer existed. Haul stopped and looked down at the yellow rose in his hand. The edges of the petals were already starting to wither away. He remembered his wife's joke and laughed again. With light feet, he walked back to the shop. Jacinto jumped at the door opened. He turned away for a second to wipe his face and greeted Haul. "You're back. Did you forget something?" "The rain's coming down really hard. It'd probably be a good idea if I waited here a while before leaving." The rain wasn't any heavier. It was barely a drizzle. Haul lingered by the door. "Are you busy right now?" "No, why?" Jacinto asked. "Do you remember when you made rose tea for me? I think that might be nice right about now." Haul smiled at him. The warmth he felt when he looked into the flower earlier was spreading. Jacinto returned his smile. "Let's go to the back." The two walked side by side into the back. Jacinto picked out several dark red roses to use for the tea. He pulled away the petals and boiled them. Haul watched beside him. When the tea was done, Jacinto poured them both a cup. Haul looked at the petals floating in the brew. "The petals are white now. It's strange to think they were dark red before." Haul poured a little bit of creamer and sugar into his cup. He slyly asked Jacinto a question. "Can you use any kind of rose for this?" "Yes." Jacinto replied. Haul set a trap for the lore obsessed florist. "Why do you always pick red?" "I think it makes the tea a very beautiful shade, don't you?" Jacinto stirred his own tea, not making eye contact. "Yes, it does." Haul took a seat on the couch. "When you perfect that blue rose, I want to try tea made from those petals." "That's quite the thing to ask for. I don't know if I'll ever be able to accomplish that." Jacinto joined him. "Does that really matter?" "No, I suppose it doesn't." Jacinto put his cup of tea down on the coffee table in front of the couch. He turned to face Haul. "I thought you were saying goodbye." Haul looked away at a plant growing in the corner of the room. The last two times he was in that room, he didn't know the name. "Hyacinths. That's the flower you're named after, right?" "Yes. My mother was fond of them." Jacinto said. "They're very beautiful." Haul took another sip of his tea. He looked down at his reflection in the cup and said, "You know, I've been looking for a second job to earn some extra money. Do you have any openings?" Jacinto's eyes lit up at those words. He hid his true feelings and kept his response humble. "I could use some help actually, but I can't pay you much." "That's fine. I don't need much." Haul drank his tea slowly, taking in the sweet red taste and perfume-like scent. The rain against the old roof lulled him into a calm state. He watched Jacinto out of the corner of his eye. Haul doubted the man would ever be able to create that perfect blue rose, but in his mind, Haul could see exactly the shade his reflection would be in that cup. The flavor would be no different than the drink in his hand, but somehow, he knew something would change. It was an impossible dream, one he knew would never come to pass, but he didn't really mind that.
Short Works | Main