My eyes shifted between the two potted plants. Both of them beckoned me, teased me, and dared me to buy them. I know they are betting on my failure to keep them alive; but alas, this will be the plant that will thrive under my thumb! Notice, I did not say Green Thumb, as so many plant enthusiasts have. Nope, that is something I do not possess. I have owned exactly 232 plants since I was born. I’ve received one for each birthday, thirteen were given to me as house warming presents, some I bought on a whim, and the rest had the unfortunate luck of being under my care while I worked the family business during my summer vacations through highschool.
I am no quitter, determined to keep one alive. Now, you may ask yourself; “Why are house plants so important to you,” or “Why don't you just admit defeat”. You may even think that I should cut my losses and find something else to obsess over. But that is not who I am! For I am Guinevere Bloom, the heir to Bloom Nurseries, the biggest retail plant nursery chain in the Pacific Northwest. In order to inherit the family legacy, I need to prove that I can keep a houseplant alive for six months, because getting an MBA to actually run a business was not enough to fulfill my family's standards.
My father inherited the business from his father, and his father inherited it from his father, and his father… you get the picture. I know my father would be damned to let the family business suffer under my thumb of death. No, I am sure he would sooner sell it off to the highest bidder than see me bring it to ruin.
So that brings me back here, to this department store garden center I snuck off to in disguise. If anyone were to see me, it would be the biggest scandal since Brad cheated on Jen, but I’m not willing to show my parents I’ve killed yet another house plant.
I have researched, I have studied, and I have strategized; for this is war, and only a fool shows up unprepared for battle! Through all my studies, these two plants are supposedly the easiest plants to take care of; a spider plant or a Pothos.
Now, it would seem the only Pothos available looks half dead already, so Spider Plant it is! I bring my prisoner- I mean plant, home and I swear it already looks wilted. But I am not deterred. I head to the “Altar” in the living room. The “Altar” is something I set up in preparation for the Spider Plant. I have meticulously recreated the same atmosphere that the store I bought it from had - which basically means I have a bunch of fluorescent lights set up by a table. I put on some Mozart (because the internet said that helped), and quietly walk away.
In my research, it’s important to allow a new house plant to get settled in its new environment. Change stresses them out, and the fact they can get stressed is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, but I push away my cynicism. I am committed to following the internet's advice to a T. No chances are going to be taken; the stakes are too high.
With everything settled, I am revved up for victory… or at least I would be, but a giant yawn erupts from me, startling me. I head to bed completely confident in my approach, believing that I may prove my family wrong for the first time.
The next morning, the scene that greets me makes me think I should call the police. There are two things about the scene that are surprising; one is that I inadvertently hit repeat on Mozart's Requiem in D minor, which is probably the most depressing song ever. The second thing is that the Spider plant has collapsed in on itself, turned brown, and a hoard of flies buzzed around it like little death omens. I am about ready to pull my hair out and realize I may need professional help, because growing up in a family full of plant specialists was not enough.
I do what anyone would do in my position; I Googled the closest plant nursery that is not associated with my family, grabbed the decaying foliage, and flew out the door. Now, it was difficult finding a nursery in my city that did not work directly with my family. So I went to the next city over, to a small garden nursery called Sage Nursery. I drove an hour for a consultation about a dead plant. This is how desperate I have become, and possibly a bit crazy too.
I arrive and am blown away by the atmosphere of Sage Nursery. There are fountains every twelve feet, with Koi swimming around, turtles resting on rocks, and actual ducks waddling around. Lush green foliage gives the illusion that I am not indoors, and potted flowers take up every barren space between the green. It smells as if I was in a wild meadow, and I feel like I’m in a fairytale. Bloom Nurseries don’t look like this, not at all. I did not realize how corporate our stores were until now. Being in a Bloom's store was like being in a Walmart, where Sage’s was like being in a hidden paradise.
It was so quiet (except for the ducks quacking at me), I was afraid to move as I did not want to interrupt the stillness and peace. Just then, I see a man, not much older than I am, walk through an archway covered in vines. He looks at me and pauses, shocked to see me or shocked to have a customer, I’m not sure. I recognize him immediately. Sebastian Sage, owner of Sage Nursery. I just hope to God he doesn’t recognize who I am.
“Who are you?” Phew, I guess he doesn't.
He eyes me with an almost aggressive suspicion. The look he’s giving me is quite rude, but I am determined.
“Nice to meet you too,” I goad, “I need advice with my plant. Can you help me?”
He tears his glare away from me and stares at the pot in my arms, his face contorting to horror when he registered the perishing Spider Plant.
“What did you do to it?” he gasps, drawing back as if he’s afraid he may befall the same fate if he comes near.
“That’s what I was hoping you could tell me.” I hold out the pot so he can get a better look at it.
He approaches apprehensively, holding his breath in suspense as he gets close enough to make an analysis. He stares at the lifeless foliage for what seems like forever, about thirty seconds, when his eyes lock on to mine, his blue irises cut into me like ice spikes.
“It’s been burned alive,” he chastises me. “How on Earth did you manage this?”
Burned alive? That can’t be. How did I manage that? I think for a moment and then it dawns on me.
“I put it under fluorescent lamps...” I admit.
“How many, all of them?” He was mocking me, but also genuinely concerned.
“Um..” I count in my head, “six of them”.
His mouth gapes, as if I just announced a bomb was going to drop on us at any moment. Me, I was the bomb, and I have already exploded into this man’s life to ruin his day.
“Can you help me, you know, make it better?” I ask, in all seriousness.
Realizing his mouth is still gaping, he snaps it shut and looks at me with a stern expression, the kind usually reserved for Librarians when you’re being too loud.
“You’re kidding, right? This thing is as dead as a doornail,” he tells me as I lower the pot containing the deceased Spider Plant. I look down to hide my face from him, fighting off my disappointment, and the urge to throw the damn pot on the ground, shattering it into a million pieces and then setting this whole place on fire.
I hear a deep sigh from in front of me. “Here,” he goes to grab the plant, “I can put it in the compost.”
I hold on tightly to the pot as he attempts to tug it away from me. I don't let go, but the second time he tugs I lax my grasp, admitting defeat.
He turns and walks away with my last ditch effort at a future in my family’s business. Then I look around me and realize I’m surrounded by plants and I can try again! Maybe with this man’s advice I could pick the perfect plant that I can keep alive!
I run after him at full speed, and then into him. Apparently, the compost was not that far. I knock into him with more force than necessary, for the necessary amount of force would have been none. He staggers for a moment, needing to take a step forward to avoid getting knocked down.
“Why?” he sighs loudly, but also with no hint of surprise in his voice. Like he already expected this behavior from me.
“Sorry, I thought… never mind,” I feel it best that I do not explain my reasoning behind why I barreled into him, “I need you!” I blurt.
He spins around to look at me, mouth agape again.
“Wait…” realizing how that may have sounded, I hurry to clarify. “I need your help, rather. You see, I need to show my family I can keep a plant alive for six months, and so far that has been a Sisyphean task. Would you be able to recommend a plant? Preferably one that can’t die no matter the amount of tyranny that it’s exposed to.”
He looks at me, confused. Understandably.
“Why is your family subjecting all these plants to murder?” he asks, in a way that's obvious he’s not joking.
Now it’s my turn for the heavy sigh.
“Look, my family owns a nursery, and I won't be allowed to take over until I can prove to them I am not completely inept at..” I gesture to the surroundings.
“They’re called plants,” he says sarcastically.
Now it’s my turn to glare at him.
“Will you help me?” I ask, fully realizing that begging is not beneath me.
He crosses his arms, peering down at me, his face devoid of emotion.
“I know who you are, you know.”
”I saw you with the rest of the Bloom family at the Cypress Conference last fall.”
I was really trying to avoid this type of run in.
“Why should I help you or your family?”
Here it comes, the same rant I’ve heard from several small nursery owners.
“It’s because of you and your family that my business is doing so poorly.” He finishes, not yelling, but only becasue he is clearly restraining himself.
I knew I should have donned my disguise from yesterday. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!
“I think you should go, and in the name of all plants everywhere, find a different profession”
He points at the exit, and I can’t help but to follow his direction. As my feet shuffle beneath me, a light bulb bursts in my brain, and I twirl to face him.
“I would like to proposition you,” I blurt before I hear how it sounds.
And there's that gaping mouth of his again.
I wave my arms in front of me, “That’s not what I meant” I cry at him, “I mean, I have a proposition for you…” does that sound better? “Ugh! I want to make a deal with you!”
He crosses his arms; “What kind of deal?”
“I have a Master’s in Business!” I shout at him, proudly.
I’m met with silence.
“Congratulations?” he finally responds, as confused as ever.
“What if I help you with your business, and you help me with my… inability to keep plants alive?”
He thinks for a moment, his hand rubbing his chin as he eyes me, half in doubt, but there's something else there in that look too. Hope.
“Deal,” he agrees, and we shake on it.
The next few months are a whirlwind. I put more miles on my car driving back and forth from my home to Sebastian’s than I have put on it in all the years I’ve owned it.
He selected a Monstera for me to keep alive, and came to my apartment to select the perfect spot for it, as it requires indirect sunlight. He wrote me out a watering schedule and I set reminders on my phone. When I ignore those reminders, Sebastian texts me to remind me, like he magically knew. I'm convinced there's some sorcery involved.
He regularly visits the Monstera to ensure it’s still alive, and I regularly visit him to look over Sage Nursery’s books. I draw up a business plan that sets a profit goal to work towards. We see an increase in profits by the third month, and that's about the time a realize Sebastian has quickly become one of my best friends. By the sixth month mark, Sage Nursery surpassed its profit goal for the first time ever, and I have officially met my six-month mark of not killing a plant.
Sebastian takes me out to dinner to celebrate. We spend the entire night talking and laughing, and then I realize that this just might be the end of our arrangement. We both get really quiet, as I suspect he is realizing it, too.
“Guinevere,” I hear him say. I look up from my hands clasped on my lap to meet his gaze.
“Are you p-planning to show your parents your plant?”
Did he just stutter? Is he nervous? I’ve never seen him nervous before, but I think I might be witnessing it. I feel my heartbeat speed up.
“Well, yes, that’s what this whole thing has been about,” I say, a bit more shyly than expected, and I swear my heart beat is louder than my own voice.
He gives a small smile, looking down at the table where his hand fiddles with a fork.
“We made a pretty great team these last few months,” he finally says, still focusing on the damn fork.
“We did,” I agree, and my heart has never beat so fast.
His eyes shift to meet mine, and then back to the fork as he opens his mouth to speak, but nothing comes out. He takes a deep breath and pushes the fork away. He meets my eyes with more confidence now.
“What if we continued working together? What if we were… together?”
My heart explodes in my chest. Those are the words that I’ve been wanting to hear, not even realizing it. I launch myself into his arm and he holds me, laughing.
“Is that a yes, then?” he whispers into my ear.
“Yes,” I whisper back, happier than I’ve ever been.
I decided not to tell my parents that I kept a plant alive and instead moved in with Sebastian. My parents ended up selling off Bloom Nursery to the highest bidder, and it continued on the same as it ever has. Not doing better, but not doing worse.
Sage Nursery, on the other hand, continued to get more and more business. We had to expand and hire more people to help just to keep up with the demand. This made Sebastian nervous. He didn’t like the idea of getting too big, and I had to agree with him. That small nursery feel is what I fell in love with in the first place. I didn’t want it to change.
So we scaled back, but continued to profit and make enough to live comfortably.
The future of plant Nurseries may be Bloom’s, but my future is Sage.
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I love this story so much.
This was such a great take on the prompt. I loved the way you structured dialogue. Well done.
Thank you so much for reading and the kind words! I really appreciate it!
Ah what a lovely story. Worthily shortlisted. I picked up two small errors (if I must be pedantic haha!) one spelling mistake and one word error (used “a” Instead of “I”) - otherwise just perfect! I loved the journey it took me on. A lovely romance. Much enjoyed your writing style and the way the story unfolded. Thank you for sharing x
Thank you so much for your feedback! It made my day! Yeah, I did kind of rush editing, I'll admit. I turned this in Friday afternoon when I was at work lol.
Hi Jules, This is a really well written, entertaining read. I love the ending! Clever word play.
Thank you so much, you are very kind. :)
This really made me smile and made my heart happy. I like the premise of this story and the little turn it takes. Well done!
Thank you so much for your kind comment. I've been reading a lot of rom coms lately and it definitely rubbed off lol.
I found this relatable because I, too, have black thumbs!
Characters with "thumbs of death" were often used for this prompt. It's a memorable story, but has a realism deficit. I didn't become infatuated with the characters, and I believe success in a romance pivots on whether readers swoon over the characters in love . Good attempt, Jules.
Thanks for your feedback Mike! Definitely some food for thought, I appreciate it.
Thank you for taking the time to read, Philip!