Wendy Miller appreciates how writing gives her an excuse to think and thinking gives her an excuse to write. As a mother of three young girls, Wendy Paine Miller finds ways to creatively manage her time in order to conduct research for her sixth novel, edit her fifth novel, and write articles and book reviews. When she’s not writing or caring for her girls, she’s likely reading, hiking, encouraging women through speaking, or refurbishing a piece of furniture. Her work has appeared in numerous publications. Wendy thrives on stirring conversation on her blog and would love for you to visit her at http://thoughtsthatmove.blogspot.com/.
I bundle the roses together and slide baby’s breath on both sides of the bouquet. As I inhale, a sweet aroma finds its way down into my lungs. Old lady lungs.
I step to the refrigerated case and set the bouquet inside with a handful of other multicolored roses. The bells above the door chime. I scurry back behind the counter.
In walks a man I immediately recognize. He’s been in every Wednesday for the past year. Wednesday is the only day I work, and I’ve asked the manager and Sue, the younger gal who sometimes works at the shop, about him, but they both swear they’ve never met him.
He’s dressed in pressed corduroy pants, a golf shirt, and a tweed blazer. With a slight limp, he ambles over to where I’m fussing with daisies. The petals have scattered on the glass counter, a real “he loves me, he loves me not” embarrassment. I push the petals into two lines with the side of my hand, then reach for a vase of tulips to arrange.
I smile and my heart tightens and begins thrumming throughout my body. Have I told you the elderly gentleman is nice looking?
But he’s married. One of those romantic types who probably serenades his wife and still buys her chocolates on their anniversary. It’s been fifteen years since I lost Walt. I’ve forgotten the sensation of a gentleman’s hand sweeping over my cheek.
He glares into the glass case and points to the bucket of peonies. I’d been anticipating this gesture. Peonies every Wednesday. It’s the only flower he buys. After his fourth visit, I gained the courage to ask him about his weekly purchase.
One week last spring when I sensed an ounce of his reservation had fled, I asked, “Why peonies?”
He responded with a clipped, “Her favorite flower.”
I tied a soft blue bow around the plum peonies.
The following week our exchange mimicked the one from the week before.
“Why four?” I ached to know what it was about that number, why he always selected four peonies to give to his wife each Wednesday. I walked a respectful line, in admiration for the love they must share.
“We have four children,” he responded and paid in cash.
Just last week bravery washed over me, an invisible baptism of how I vicariously celebrated the love he felt for his wife. “Why Wednesdays?” I looped the ribbon into a bow.
“It’s the day we met.”
I know he’s waiting for me to ask a question today. He’s already given me cash and the peonies are firmly in his grip, but he remains standing in front of the counter. My face stains the color of the crimson tulips in a vase before me.
“What’s your name?” His words drift to me like waves lapping the shore.
My eyes gloss over with tears. In the twelve months he’s frequented the shop he’s never asked me a question. I didn’t know how much the lack of his initiating conversation niggled at me. My hands tremor and I reposition the tulips soaking in water. “Evelyn.”
“Hello, Garret.” We both giggle and I take a step back, not wanting to cross a line into his marriage.
He turns his back to me and when he reaches the door and opens it, the bells jingle. But he doesn’t walk out. He spins around and the flaps of his tweed jacket fall against his waist. Did he forget his keys? He doesn’t walk to the counter, but instead to the refrigerated case. He peers inside for over a minute, seemingly staring at his own reflection. A knot of laughter unravels inside my chest. What is he doing? He has four peonies to bring to his wife. I didn’t forget the bow, did I? Then it hits me. I forgot to ask a question this week.
I don’t think he can leave until I ask a question. Some routines become so ingrained, so expected, acting outside them feels more than unnatural.
I swallow a gulp of air, inviting into my lungs every delicious scent from the florist shop. “What does she say when you give them to her?” I offer my most sisterly smile.
His cheeks droop and he shuffles to the counter to stand across from me. “Who?”
His stare falls onto the vase of rosy tulips. “I bring them to her every Wednesday.”
“Yes, I know.” I encourage him to go on with the nod of my head. I can at least delight in the romantic stories of others.
He coughs and rests his hand on the glass. “What’s your favorite flower?”
My hand floats to my chest, then cups over my mouth.
He repeats himself. “What’s your favorite flower, Evelyn?”
I don’t speak, but I can’t help it when my eyes fall to the tulips.
He plucks one from the vase. Drips of water slip off its stalk and sprinkle the counter. It reminds me of dewdrops on blades of grass in the spring.
I try to corral the conversation, to help him remember her. “What does she say? I want to know.”
He holds the tulip in his hand. I can’t take my eyes off the petals.
“I bring peonies to my wife’s grave on Wednesdays.”
My breath catches. “Her grave.”
We share a knowing glance and he hands the tulip to me.
When I clasp my fingers around the soft petals, I imagine holding Garret’s heart inside my tender grasp.