One month after my mother’s funeral, Darian and I are buying flowers again. My brother Lloyd is getting married tomorrow. I lead us through Madison Square Park to Belle Amie, the flower shop my family frequents.
Darian’s glacial eyes gaze at me serenely, and I long for an ice pick.
“Darling,” he drawls, “tomorrow will be a wonderful day.”
I beam a radioactive smile at him and swing his arm in a way onlookers will deem playful but I’m just getting the stagnant blood moving, ideally toward his upper chambers.
Lloyd met his fiancée Janet in their freshman year in college. They dated all four years and played lacrosse together to be closer, to go to the same parties, to know the same people, and to share the same stories. At Janet’s introductory dinner, my parents decided it was a perfect match as soon as they saw the way Janet strode into a room, string of pearls first. The couple has already started renting an apartment uptown, and soon they will adopt a French Bulldog. I am happy for my brother. I am happy that the things that make other people happy also make him happy.
Darian and I also met in freshman year at the same college my brother and all of Darian’s forefathers went to. We have been together for one year, and Darian is so content he could break glass, like ice expanding in the freezer. I complete him so entirely I wonder if anyone could. If we were jigsaw pieces he’d be the corner one–only lacking one filling–and I’d be a middle piece, replete with so many grooves and notches as to make any one definite match impossible.
At his introductory dinner, my mother liked Darian so much she almost smiled. To her, what Darian lacks in character he compensates for in financial security, future prospects, and conventional good looks. Truthfully, he is a desultory economics major. Rather than use his economics degree, I’d sooner see him wind up a weatherman, flashing his white teeth as he indiscriminately promises cool weather. But he’ll do neither of these things. No doubt he will end up on his father’s payroll, slated for an executive position that will be honorary and extremely lucrative.
We arrive at Belle Amie, a terrestrial garden of Eden recreated to fit the dimensions of a street-front establishment in the Flatiron District with a view of the park. The bell tinkles to announce our arrival, and Darian smoothes his lapel. The shop is in bloom. Legions of diverse flowers spill out of big vases that coil along the tiled floor into a spiral maze. Vines festoon from the ceiling. If I were any credit to my sex I would swoon.
“Good afternoon, Rose,” says Mr. Spencer, an elderly man with an exquisitely shaped white mustache, standing at the center of the maze with a red carnation in his breast pocket.
Most people call me Rosie–a girl must always be minimalized–but Mr. Spencer is one of the few who calls me Rose. Mr. Spencer is one of the few truly sincere people I know; part of this is because he works for an honest living. Everything that he says, he delivers flaked with genuine gold. Mr. Spencer is a lifetime admirer of my late mother and her cashmere shrugs. Despite attending the funeral, he offers his condolences once again.
“That’s a new look for you,” he gestures towards my hair.
Gone are the days when my bangs fan juvenilely across my forehead; I now comb them to the side. My hairdresser was aghast when I told her I would not be getting the usual trim–“but Audrey always has a fringe!” she protested. For years I was convinced that I was born to imitate Audrey Hepburn in her appearance and manner, a fantasy my mother did not discourage since to her it seemed an appropriate obsession for a young girl. But with my mother’s passage went the parts of me that I cultivated solely to appease her.
“It’s very mature,” Mr. Spencer says.
“Thank you,” I smile. I tap Darian who’s counting the freckles on the tiger lillies. “Do you like my hair?”
Darian tediously thaws out a thought, “it’s interesting.”
“Interesting? What do you mean by ‘interesting’?” I try to unthaw more thought. Mr. Spencer smiles either in pity or amusement, I can’t tell.
“Interestingly good,” he says, distracted by his survey. A tiger lily swallows his nose. He sneezes a cloud of ochre.
I take a swipe at him, knocking the pollen off his nose. I turn back to Mr. Spencer who asks me about college. I tell him I’m thinking of changing my major from finance to creative writing, specifically poetry. But like many things I say, I do not entirely mean it. I am mainly trying to gauge Mr. Spencer’s reaction.
He frowns slightly and says, “Rose, I’m sure you know yourself best. Only I remember that your mother always envisioned a future for you on Wall Street.”
“But Mr. Spencer, there’s no poetry in money!”
The exquisite white mustache ascends a couple of centimeters.
“What does Darian think?”
“Darian!” His head sprouts from a vase of sunflowers. “What do you think of creative writing?”
“Oh, dreadful,” he groans.
“Reading gives Darian indigestion,” I explain.
Mr. Spencer mentions that a well-known poet lives upstairs from the shop. “He was published in The New Yorker only last week.”
“Oh really?” I say in delight.
“They must not pay well because he’s two months late on rent.”
I furrow my brow. “Couldn’t he work here? Spraying the flowers to keep them looking sharp and that sort of thing? It’s a very poetic task.” My imagination soars at the idea: a rickety old man in a tweed coat with elbow patches and a newspaper folded under his arm whispering to the flowers, bemoaning their cut condition, composing odes on their ephemeral beauty. I even begin to envision myself in that tweed coat.
“No,” Mr. Spencer wrinkles his nose, “I don’t think he’d like that even if it means being able to pay his rent.”
“Why?” I ask.
“Poets are unreliable. It’s their affliction.”
“Then I’d make a great poet,” I declare with a nonchalant toss of the shoulder.
Mr. Spencer laughs a little too zealously. The daffodils bob in their glass vase like restless hobby horses.
“Darling,” my boyfriend beckons, “come look at these wonderful flowers.” He’s waving a bunch of lilies of the valley in each hand as if he’s greeting a sea-spent lover from distant shores. The flowers begin to drip on the tile floor.
“I can help you with that,” Mr. Spencer clears his throat.
My eyes appraise the demure blossoms. They are the type of flowers one might give to a young girl on her birthday to instill certain ideals when what she really wants is zinnias, azaleas, or better yet, roses, anything the hue of genuine warmth. He holds the lilies aloft like they are his holy grail, the shimmering standard; they match his pallid complexion perfectly.
The corners of my lips curl downwards in distaste, and I turn away to keep this frown private. I pretend to search for an alternative flower, something a little more lively, but then I really do find something better. Everything else grows dull beside a furnace of yellow roses, proliferating miniature suns in a frenzied orbit, emitting an incandescent zest for life.
“Darian, look at these!” I exclaim, more cheerfully than I feel. Darian deposits the frail white flowers in their glass vase and trundles over to inspect the roses.
“Yellow roses,” Darian muses, “that’s hardly common for a wedding.”
“Well,” I say, “we are not common people.”
“Sir, you’re a man of flowers,” Darian remarks, “what do yellow roses signify?”
“Friendship and joy,” Mr. Spencer answers.
“That won’t do,” Darian says.
“Why?” I chuckle. “Do you not feel friendship for my brother and joy for his
“It’s a wedding. Friendship is beside the point,” he states, as though this is a century-old truth.
“Besides the point?” I cry out in rising outrage, “but what about the friendship between the bride and groom? Wouldn’t you say that friendship is the foundation of any lasting romantic relationship?” I whip around to Mr. Spencer’s wise mustachioed face, “Mr. Spencer?”
“Certainly,” he soothes.
“Aren’t we friends?” I ask Darian in a tone every bit hopeful and hopeless at the same time.
“No,” he replies, suddenly solemn. “We aren’t friends. We are in-love.” He pronounces “in-love” like it is hyphenated.
And just like that merry milk maidens in petal pleated dresses parade around me to the tune of that clumsily hyphenated word. They chant, in-love, in-love, in-love. When I do not submit to their wiles they assail, brandishing the myth of love like clubs. A cloud of intoxicating botanical fumes pervades the room. I look to Mr. Spencer for support, but he continues to stand amid his rioting flora, arms folded neatly in front of him, with the scarlet carnation raging in his breast pocket. He tilts his head at me expectantly.
No one recognizes my plight. Friendless, I am wrenched back to the first time love took on the form of menace. I was twelve when an older male cousin with whom I was in love returned my affections with the infliction of bodily trespass. There are times in a girl’s life that teaches her the greatest danger in the world is being born a girl. The second greatest danger is having illusions about things, love being the greatest. So pretty, so virtuous, seeming so innocuous. A little white blossom, ablaze with promise.
Darian’s slothful voice congeals through the haze, dispelling all illusions. “Oh dear, we’ll be late to dinner,” he glances lovingly at his Glacial Blue Rolex studded with twelve tiny diamonds around the rim.
I reel back to reality. The flowers are fluttering gently in the breeze from an open window. With a jagged exhale I recall why I am here and what is before me. Four weeks ago was Mother’s funeral. Today we are buying flowers. Tomorrow is Lloyd’s Wedding.
What flowers will we get?
“Let’s just get those pretty white flowers,” Darian says.
The breeze from the window has died and the flowers hang motionless in the air as if waiting for a cue.
“As you please,” I say with a piercing edge, the edge of an ice pick as it makes contact with a dense object.
It’s not my wedding. It’s my brother’s. For him, tomorrow is a day of sworn promises and legal yokes. It’s not my wedding and that makes a mountain of difference. For me, tomorrow is fiercely possible, an enormous crest surging up to deliver me forward, iridescent with all shades from wrath to elation.
“It’s such a relief to have someone else make a decision for you,” I say to Mr. Spencer and he understands.
We make arrangements for four dozen bouquets of lilies of the valley to be delivered to the venue tomorrow. We charge it to my parents’ account on file. We turn to leave. Mr. Spencer wishes me luck and though I don’t believe in it, I thank him anyways.
Then, a canary-colored insistence nips me. I turn back around. I pull a crisp twenty-dollar bill out from the pages of the Edith Wharton novel I’m reading. I slap it on the table.
“A bouquet of yellow roses for the poet upstairs, for his recent accomplishment.”
As we emerge onto the sidewalk, the sun singes a hole into the livid sky. The boy I will never love reaches for my hand. A sweet nothing drips from his mouth, but I’m not listening. Over my shoulder, I squint at the dingy window above Mr. Spencer’s shop. A figure is standing by the dark window looking out, and despite the shadow, I can make out his face. To my surprise, it’s not a face wizened nor wistful but a young face, taut with challenge, as if asking impatiently and?
Tomorrow will be a wonderful day.
Image by Hands off my tags! Michael Gaida from Pixabay – vases of flowers in a flower shop
7 thoughts on “Flowers for a Wedding by Victoria Mei-ling Kerrigan”
It’s great to see your work up today. The interaction between the three in the shop contrasts well with the run of the MC’s mind. It all comes off effortless and the pace is perfect and displays restraint.
Hi Leila, thanks for your kind words. I’m so grateful to have my story up. Thank you.
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This flows beautifully and is very well constructed.
Good character portrayal and the asides painted an even clearer picture.
All the very best.
thank you for your kind words
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A beautifully painted vignette – one to linger over.
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The contrast in the characters bowled me over. I’m a simple no nuance Darian and I think that five minutes with Rose would wear me out. Don’t know if anyone else agrees.