“Jesus, what was that?” Jeremy said as he stepped into the hall. “Oh bloody hell, sorry Tommy.”
Tom sat up rubbing his head, drool slicking the side of his face, “Ow. Good morning.”
“You sleep there last night?” Jeremy said crouching down next to his friend, offering him a napkin to wipe his face.
“Yeah, must have,” Tom, replied, smacking his lips and grimacing at the taste of dry morning mouth. “What’s the time?”
“Nearly 11, I’m here to take you to the parlour, remember?” Jeremy looked over his friend concernedly. “If you still want to go pick out the decorations with your mum and Hetti...”
“Christ, 11? I went to sleep just after sunset,” Tom said blinking furiously and holding his hand out. Jeremy stood up and pulled his friend to his feet. “Um... yeah... Just gimme 15 minutes, I’m already dressed, so time saved there.”
Jeremy scoffed and brushed Toms back as they walked through to the kitchen, morning light streaming into the living room. The flowers looked bright and lovely. Jeremy stared at them, thinking to himself that they must be nearly dead, but they did not look it. “Coffee?” Tom asked as he walked to the fridge.
“Yeah that’d be... wait. You’re thirsty?” Jeremy said, looking back to his friend who had rummaged around in the masses of crockery that had been dumped in his house over the last few days and come up with a bit of bacon from a quiche a girl in Jessica’s class had made for him, dangling out of his mouth as he chewed on it voraciously. “And hungry?”
Tom nodded and switched on his coffee machine, the first time in nearly a week. Swallowing hard, he burped and smiled, “Yeeewp. Exsqueeze me,"
“Are you on E’s? You seem...” Jeremy looked for the right word.
“Normal! What the hell is going on?”
“I got a good night’s sleep,” Tom shrugged.
They sat down and had their coffee’s, Jeremy filling Tom in on what Maggie had been ‘informed’ would be happening at the funeral the next day, by Hetti. Tom steeled himself for another round of fighting. The good feeling he had acquired from his nights slumber slowly started to ebb away as the day wore on. The drive to the parlour was quiet and Jeremy could almost feel Tom’s irritation radiating from his skin. The plans outlined by Hetti were, by even Jeremy’s meagre understanding, the exact opposite of what Jess had written in her will.
They pulled up on the crunchy gravel driveway and stepped out, Tom slamming the car door shut, a very stormy look on his face as he made his way to the heavy oak doors to the main room, where the service would be taking place. Jeremy sighed and popped himself nicotine chewy, slowly following.
Tom was about to whip the doors open when a voice stopped him. “Hey! Don’t you go in there like that.”
Tom whirled around, ready to fight the world. He did not know why he was so mad but it possessed him. He looked around and took in a stunningly gorgeous girl, dressed in a smock, holding some flowers. Tom glowered menacingly “It’s none of your business,” he said darkly.
“So? Don’t go into that room with a look like that on your face,” she said sternly, putting the flowers down on a large trestle, that Tom had not noticed when he came in.
“Why do you care what room I go into with any look I have on my face?” Tom said, stepping away from the door.
“I work here a lot. Being angry is normal, but it’s not helpful. Come and help me bring some more flowers in,” she said walking out the door. Tom scoffed and turned back to the door, “I mean it Mr! I’ll crack you over the head if you don’t get out here,” she said, eyes flashing. Tom considered opening the big doors again, turned to look at this odd woman, who was boring holes straight through him. He sighed and followed her outside.
“Who the hell are you?” Tom asked as they made their way to the garishly painted van, the side door was slid open, revealing rows and rows of bright and lush looking plants.
“The florist,” she said simply, not looking back at him.
“So you’re the one to blame?”
“Blame for what?” She said, as she clambered up into the van to find something heavy to give Tom.
“Nothing... How is the flower business?”
The florist poked her head out of the van, “It can be pretty irrigating.” She said smiling.
Tom blinked and face-palmed, “Bloody hell. Can I go inside now?”
Tom rolled his eyes and turned around to walk back inside. He had not taken a step before he felt a swish go past his head and he ducked instinctively to the side as a plastic flowerpot crashed to the ground in front of him, spilling soil over the gravel driveway. “What the hell!”
“I said no,” the florist spoke curtly. “You’re still mad. Come and sit down. Do you want some water?”
Tom stared at this gorgeous psychopath, who was holding out a bottle of water for him, utterly perplexed. “Jesus you’re weird.” He said, walking over to the van, taking the bottle of water from her.
“You’re handsome,” she said as she turned back around into the van.
Tom coughed and scowled, “What?”
“I thought we were stating conclusions we’d drawn... Oh bugger it, look at this one.” She said, handing out a small pot with a wilting little bud. Small purple flowers were resting on the lip of the pot, stalks too tired to hold it up any longer. “Look at him... Bugger it.”
“Are you a florist because you like flowers, or is it a job?” Tom asked quietly, resigned to sitting or being brained by a pot plant.
“I like flowers,” she said climbing out of the van and sitting next to him. “Why?”
“I’ve seen a lot of flowers over the last few days. Is it a hard job?”
“Depends on what you mean. I work long hours, but I love it.”
“Do you spend more time with some flowers than others?”
“Some require more attention, sure. Why?”
“Do they die?”
“Everything dies,” the florist replied gently. Tom half-heartedly nose chuckled sadly.
“Even the flowers you spend the most time with?”
“Every one of them.” She said, looking at him intently.
“Then what’s the point?” Tom said thickly.
“The point? What’s the point in growing them if they’re just going to die?” Tom nodded. “The point is they’re pretty and make people happy. I like pretty things and making people happy. They’re hard work but so is everything worth the effort.”
“Why are they worth the effort?”
She furrowed her brow, “Because they make people happy. What more do you need?”
“If they make you happy when they’re alive, doesn’t it make you sad when they die?”
The florist considered this, “Sometimes, but they’re just flowers at the end of the day.”
“So what’s the point? If they’re just going to die and they’re just flowers, why bother with them?”
“People find comfort in them. The smell, the colours. They make a place look alive. Offices, gardens, homes...” she trailed off, trying to figure out what he was getting at.
“Have you ever had a really special flower?”
“Yeah... Carvia Callosa. Karvy. They’re supposed to be beautiful when they bloom,”
“You haven’t seen it bloom yet?”
“No, they take about ten years to bloom. I had to keep it in a tightly controlled little microclimate.”
The florist sighed sadly “Yeah, yeah. It got sick a couple years ago. Tried everything.” She looked over and Tom was looking back at her, eyes wide. “It got infested, even though it had never been outside that little box.”
“I’m sorry. How far away from blooming was it?”
“Probably 8 years or so. I was going to time my life by the bloom cycle,” she chuckled and looked down self-consciously. “By the time this one bloomed I wanted to have a wife and have adopted some kids with her... I was one of those arty rebellious kids. I’m not even gay.”
“What made you change your plans?”
“Life. You know, the thing that happens while you’re making plans,” she smiled.
“How do you figure out how to move past something like that?” Tom asked, totally earnestly.
“A flower dying?”
“Yeah,” Tom said evasively.
“Flowers aren’t people.” She said, looking straight at Tom, who was looking down at his shoes.
Tom looked up at her, that glint back in his eye. “I don’t know what happened to you but you will be alright. When my flower died I thought the whole world had ended, so I broke up with my girlfriend and ran away to become a miner.”
Tom raised his eyebrows in surprise “Because a flower died?”
“See. Even you think it’s an overreaction, and you’re out here wondering how your life is going to continue.” She smiled at him.
“We had only just started to live our lives...”
“It’s not fair,” she nodded sadly. “But you can still live your life.”
“How can I without her?” Tom asked sadly.
“Look at this little flower,” the florist said, holding out the small dying purple flower. “He’s no less special than my Karvy was. Should I work as hard to keep him alive as I did for my Karvy?”
“Should you not work as hard to keep going as you were before with your partner?” Tom crumpled his face. “Everything may die dreams, plants, monkeys, Jedi. Nevertheless, for something to die, it had to live first. You have to fight to live. Being alive is where it’s at. Think of all the things you can still do. Your life is not over by any stretch. Mine is not over either. Just because my plant died does not mean my dreams had to. They changed, because life finds a way. You just have to tend to yourself, and let other people try to help you. You need water, and fertiliser, and sun, just likes this little guy. Just like I needed.”
Tom stared at the little dying plant, and uncapped his water, pouring a little into the pot.