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“Hello? Oh. It’s in the mail.”
Rose had noticed long ago that her mother’s phone conversations had become very short and tart. But like all things that happen frequently in a small child’s life, she thought nothing of it.
“No, I carved it on a slate and tossed it into the river, hoping it would reach you--yes, I sent it by letter.”
After all, Rose had a much more important matter at hand, which was fighting off boredom.
“What? Well, I’m not surprised. It’s been snowing for a while now. Give it a couple of days, or take it up with the postal system. Goodbye. No, goodbye.”
Rose had already read the books her mother kept in the Children’s Corner of her floral shop. On days where business was livelier, Rose could pass the time with the customers’ children. But heavy snowfall had kept customers and their children indoors, and Rose soon exhausted all other options.
“Mama?” Rose said, right before darting behind the cover of the small bookcase. Her mother looked up with her tired eyes, and put on a smile.
“Well, where has my little sapling gone to now?”
Rose struggled to contain laughter.
“Why, it looks like she’s disappeared! I hope she hasn’t gone out into the cold all by herself; that’s no place for my budding flower. Now who will help me build a snowman? But wait!”
Rose, now being scooped up from above the bookcase, couldn’t contain herself any longer.
“Ah-ha! Here she is! I’ve found my Rose amongst the briar patch.”
“Mama,” Rose said, putting her finger into one of the many holes on the front of her mother’s dress, “Mama, I’m bored.”
“Well, how about that snowman, then?”
Both mother and child came back inside very cold, very wet, and very thankful for the temporary break from their burdens. After her mother had dried her off, Rose skipped around the shop, humming a little song she heard at school. When she finished prancing to her heart’s content, she noticed that the message light was blinking on her mother’s answering machine. Rose liked to try and blink to the same rhythm as the flashing light, so it would appear to her that it was always on, or always off. Her mother soon noticed the light as well, and with a sigh, deleted the message.
Outside, a car door closed. Rose’s mother, without looking up, half-sprinted towards the coat-rack on the back wall, and grabbed an apron. No, it wasn’t an apron, Rose remembered; her mother once told her it was a smock.
“The difference is that a smock covers your entire front”, her mother had said, long ago. Rose wasn’t sure why she remembered this so well.
As Rose’s mother put on the smock, the store door opened. Rose let out a noise. It wasn’t quite a scream, yet it wasn’t a cry of excitement either.
“Mama, Grandpa’s here!”
Grandpa always wore a tuxedo. It always came as a surprise to Rose how black the tuxedo was. It seemed more than just black; as if all the surrounding light was gathered and compressed into this abyss of a formal jacket, then released all at once through his over-saturated red tie. It made looking at Grandpa very difficult, not that Rose was certain she even wanted to.
“Why hello there, Rosalind! Helping your mother with the shop?”
Rose simply made an incomprehensible mumble, which seemed to satisfy her interrogator. Rose’s mother decided it was her turn to ask questions.
“Father, what are you doing here?”
“What, can an old man not check up on his only daughter from time to time? This is certainly no crime. Besides, I called to say that I was in town, and even left a message stating that I was stopping by.”
“Oh, I didn’t--“
“No, you didn’t, did you? Been ignoring a lot of phone calls lately?”
“This is exactly why I don’t like you stopping by,” Rose’s mother stated. Rose could tell her mother was very uncomfortable.
“Rosalind,” said Grandpa, “your mother and I need to have a talk. Why don’t you go play over there for a little bit?” He motioned not towards the Children’s Corner, but the front of the store, the farthest location away from the adults. Rose had no intention of disobeying Grandpa.
Lined across the front window of the floral shop were display plants, non-descript and plastic. They were lush and in bloom, as plastic plants always are, but upon closer inspection, one could tell that the leaves were of some tight fabric and the stalks were coated in paint. Still, from far away these plants looked very attractive. On some occasions, Rose would grab a small watering can from the Children’s Corner and pretend to water them. This would always bring a smile to her mother’s face. Rose really wanted to make her mother smile right now, but there was no way that she would get the toy watering can if it meant moving closer to Grandpa. So, she decided to remain up at the front with her synthetic friends. Even from this location, Rose could pick out small phrases of the adults’ conversation, such as “economically unfeasible” and “decrepit edifice”. She had no idea what these phrases meant, but she doubted they were good.
Shortly thereafter, Grandpa passed by Rose without any acknowledgement, going through the door. As Grandpa’s car soon vanished into the winter weather, Rose felt as if she were coming up from deep underwater. She looked over to her mother, who was staring glazedly down to the floor, both hands firmly grasped on the cash register in front of her.
“Mama,” Rose said, trying dearly to change the subject from the day’s events, “Why are these plants always in the window?”
And Mama cried.