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Tigers and Stargazers
I’d been working at Angel’s Flowers for almost six years, and I still wasn’t used to the smell. Every place has a certain smell, like my old high school (pine sol and mildew mixed with sweaty teenagers) or my mom’s house (cigarettes and chocolate chip cookies). And after awhile the smell isn’t noticeable anymore because you get used to it. Not so with Angel’s Flower’s. As soon as the glass doors part, it hits me full on. A blast of cool, damp air, followed immediately by the sickly but pleasant scent of hundreds of fresh flowers mixed with an earthy scent. Sometimes I get headaches from the heavily perfumed air, at which point I go outside for a few minutes to breathe in some smog. It’s a good contrast.
I stopped bothering to straighten my hair before work. Five minutes in the humid store would undo whatever I had done, no matter how much Aqua Net I used. The store also taught me just how valuable a tube of waterproof mascara can be, after the first day when the wetness caused a major makeup meltdown that resulted in me scaring away three customers.
“’Elle, hun, is that you? You’re early,” I heard a familiar voice say, drifting to me from the back room.
“Noelle,” I say under my breath. I love Angel like a second mom, but I despise being called Elle. It reminds me of Legally Blonde. With my stick-straight five foot four self, long black hair with purple streaks, and six (and counting…) tattoos, I’m the opposite of Elle Woods.
Angel is probably around sixty, despite her telling me and everyone else that she’s my age. She acts more like she’s twenty six than I do, though, always running around, yelling at the men who deliver the flowers to us, and jumping into her own blue van to make a delivery. She insists that delivering the flowers herself helps business. She says it’s nice when people can put a face to the name. I think people like Angel’s for its catchy slogan: “Our Flowers Are Heaven Scent!”. The slogan is lame. Angel and I both know it. But we keep it because we love laughing at its corny-ness. Also because Angel’s ex-husband came up with it, and I don’t think she’s quite recovered from the divorce.
“Hey Angel, yea its me, NOELLE,” I called back to her.
“Oh, shut up. I’ll call you what I want since I’ve got your paycheck,” she teased.
“Yea, yea,” I retorted, a smile spreading its way across my face. “Anyways, I’m here early ‘cause I’m visiting my sister tonight, so I’m gonna try and get done quick so I beat traffic. The drive is long enough as it is.”
“Alina,” I replied while pulling out a crumpled sheet of folded paper from my back pocket.
Bouquet of a dozen red roses, wife
White snapdragons and phalaenopsis orchids (about 6 each) in purple vase, grandmother
Small bouquet 6 pink roses, daughter ballet recital
Vase of tiger/stargazer lilies 7 or 8, new mother
Multicolored small bouquet of Gerbera Daisies, high school homecoming
I started with the dozen red roses.
I just don’t understand some people, I thought, annoyed. Yes, roses are pretty and symbolize love and passion or whatever. But come on. Let’s be more original. Forget-Me-Nots also symbolize love and Violets mean faithfulness, but no. Everyone has to get roses. How original.
I walked into the back room to get the flowers. Angel was watching some soap opera on the teeny T.V. that’s older than me. It even had the bent-up rabbit ear antennas it was that old. A commercial blared. An image of a young man smiled out at me from the screen while a stuffy voice in the background told Angel and I why we should give this loser our votes. As I navigated my way to the refrigerators (the back room resembles a war zone), Angel, who was digging in a box for some flower feed, called out,
“Hey it’s your lucky day. That vase of lilies? You don’t hafta deliver it. Guy says he’ll come in and pick them up, says he’s on his way to the hospital and the store’s on his way.”
“Oh. Ok cool. Maybe I’ll actually make it to Alina’s before midnight now.”
I smiled over at Angel, in all her frizzy-haired glory. The smile quickly vanished as I pricked my ring finger on one of those damn rose thorns. A small bead of blood dripped on one of the precious roses.
I knew I didn’t like you.
I used to work at a bakery, which I guess is kind of ironic since my last name
is Baker. I hated that job. I love being outside and wanted a job that would have something to do with nature. But, since college wasn’t for me and I’m not exactly cut out to be a lumberjack, my options were somewhat limited. So I saw the ad in the classifieds and met Angel. It was supposed to be temporary, but—
I jerked back into the present as the door chimed. A man, maybe a year or two older than me, had walked in and was surveying the shop. As he looked around, I looked at him. He was wearing a beat up, sweat stained grey hoodie and black basketball shorts. He was pretty decent looking, too. He also looked oddly familiar.
“Hi. I’m here to pick up my order? Lilies for my brother’s wife. She just had a baby.”
I didn’t answer at first. I was still lost in thought, trying to place who he was.
“Um…hello?”, he said again. By this point he was giving me strange looks, eyeing the tattoo of vines and flowers that snaked all the way up my arm in an odd way, as if it would explain to him why I wasn’t responding. This bothered me slightly. People tend to stare at my body art and then treat me differently, like they expect me to whip out a crack pipe or join a motorcycle gang or something. Wrong. I just like having something that no one else will ever have.
“Oh! Sorry. It’s been a long day. What was it that you ordered again?”
“Lilies.” He smiled. As he did, my mind clicked together and I realized who he was. Nathan Sullivan. The guy who had just ran for mayor and lost. The guy who had smiled at me from the ancient T.V. earlier. My stomach twisted. I hate people in politics. They say they want to help the regular people, the “Average Joe’s”, but that’s crap. They just want money and power and bragging rights. Like a lot of other people in the world, I suppose, but politicians seem especially bad to me because they actually succeed, stepping on many people on their selfish journey to the top.
I reached behind me, grabbing the vase and setting it on the counter.
“That’ll be twenty two dollars, Mr. Sullivan,” I said with a sly grin.
“Oh. So you recognize me from the ads. Well…now I’m embarrassed,” he said while doing that thing that guys do when they’re embarrassed, where they reach behind their head and scratch and sort of stretch out, all while not making eye contact.
“Why would you be embarrassed?”
“Wouldn’t you? Those ads were awful. They made me look like a huge tool. It’s no wonder I lost. Hell. I wouldn’t have voted for me after seeing those ads.”
“So why did you make them?”
“I didn’t. A private sponsor did. When I saw it I was horrified. Everyone made such a big deal. Honestly,” he said, leaning against the counter, angled towards me, “I just decided to run for mayor because I wanted to do something about these God-awful roads. These pot holes from hell have already blown out two of my tires.”
“Oh my God! Our roads are terrible! If only you would’ve said that in your ads, you would’ve won for sure,” I said, laughing.
“Oh well. It’s over now. No big deal.”
He smiled at me. Then a quizzical look appeared on his face. He opened his mouth to speak, but was cut off by his cell phone screaming Red Hot Chili Peppers at him. Tell me baby, what’s your story? Where you come from and where you wanna go this time?
“It’s my brother. I’ve got to go, apparently he’s really anxious for me to meet my new nephew,” he said, handing me the twenty-two dollars.
“Sure, have a good day! Oh, and I’m glad you’re not a tool.”
“Thanks! By the way, I like your tattoo. The vine-y one? Looks pretty sweet.”
The door chimed again, saying good-bye this time, and he was gone.