Flower Power

Submitted into Contest #86 in response to: Write a story where flowers play a central role.... view prompt


Fiction Romance Contemporary

  The flowers stopped arriving in early December, nearly four months after her husband, Harry, had succumbed to the Coronavirus.

 Harry had been a robust man of sixty-four who still maintained a full head of hair, albeit bordering on white. Leah, his wife, would call him her Silver Fox and after forty years of marriage it still made him blush. Erect back and spry steps gave him the appearance of a younger man, but he knew that even a few years younger was still old.  No matter, he intended to keep working till he felt he couldn’t.  

 Every Friday evening on his way home from the office he would stop in at his new favorite flower shop and buy a small bouquet of fresh seasonal flowers to bring home for the Sabbath. Leah loved having flowers in the house and he, of course, loved Leah so it became a tradition.  

 When Harry contracted Covid, he was taken to the PICU, the pediatric intensive care unit, because the adult ICU was full. “Business is good,” he quipped to a tired nurse that was checking his breathing. “I could do with a lot less ‘business,’” she said, adjusting her face shield and smiling behind her mask.  

 Leah couldn’t visit him in person due to the health risks but she could FaceTime with him. Not being able to hold his hand, stroke his hair, and just be there, was wrenching but she spoke with him as much as she could, depending on how he felt, and tried to maintain a calm facade. He, of course, could see right through that. He had seen her in all of her emotional incarnations over the years. From a loving Mother of three, tolerant spouse, righteous defender of the wronged, sad and guilty daughter and back to loving wife. He could read her and what he was reading now was worry tinged with sadness. He had always thought of her as his little spitfire and the woman he saw on the small cellphone now had none of that fire in her face. She looked scared and tired, lines normally concealed by makeup now showing themselves.  

 “When did we get so old?” he wheezed into the phone.

 Leah’s large green eyes, a little puffy, stared at him from the screen. He loved those beautiful and intelligent eyes, but those eyes had been crying.  

 “We’re not old, my love,” she said between sniffles, “we’re just covered in the dust we kicked up walking our path together. Wait, too cheesy?”

 “C’mon, you know I’m lactose intolerant,” he whispered. 

 “Hah,” she giggled. After all these years he could still make her laugh. It was one of the things that first attracted her to him. “I love you.”

 “I love you too,” and the call disconnected.

 The flower shop was called Flower Power and the thirty-ish young woman, Eva, dressed the part. She wore, what had been called a peasant dress, and maybe still was, for all he knew. She dripped in beads, bangles, and other astrological jewelry—moons, stars and symbols. Harry, being more age appropriate to those times, loved it. There was something comforting in harkening back to his younger days where possibilities were still, well. . .possible.  

 “Hi Eva, how goes it today?”

 “It goes, but it’s been a little slow lately. People are worried about the virus, I guess,” she said.

 “Yeah, me too. They’ve begun asking that people wear masks so this might be the last time you see my handsome face.”

 “Oh Harry.”

 “Hey, Eva, have I ever told you my San Francisco story? San Francisco was the hub of the counter culture and “flower power,” he raised his hands and made the finger quotation gesture, “movement back in the day and I thought, you know, given your stores name. . . ,” he trailed off. 

 “No, never told me. Let me hear.” She selected a few roses and sprigs of baby’s-breath and began wrapping them in paper and ribbons as she listened.

 “Well, I was on vacation with my wife, Leah, “

 “I know, I know,” she interrupted, “you’ve been buying her flowers for, like, two years, I should know her name.”

 “Fair, anyway, we’re in San Francisco down at Fisherman’s Wharf, a real touristy place, and this kid, maybe he’s nineteen, comes over to us. He’s bare chested, barefoot, wearing faded old bellbottoms, has strings of beads around his neck, wearing a tie dye bandana and is holding an old polaroid camera. ‘Hey man, wanna take a picture with a real Hippie?’ he asks. ‘Just five dollars, man.’ Leah, looks at me and we both smile. I take my wallet out of my front pocket ‘Tell ya what, man,’ I say, here’s five dollars and you can tell people YOU took a picture with a real Hippie.’”

 “That’s great,” Eva said, smiling. “But you gave him the five dollars?”

 “Sure, I admired his salesmanship,” Harry said.

 “Love it,” and handed Harry the wrapped flowers.

 “Thank you, another triumph,” he said. “Can I ask you something else? I’m not keeping you am I?” and gestured around the store.  

 “No, no, unfortunately I don’t see hoards of customers here, I have time, I enjoy talking with you.”

 “Good, ahhh, that’s to the talking not to the lack of customers,” he clarified.

 “I gotcha Harry, no worries.”

 “Just want to be clear, because I have a big Ask. You see, I’m really worried about this virus, Covid-19. I have a bad feeling. I’ve learned through the years to listen to my inner voice, its been right many times in my life and it’s telling me to be scared. Without being morbid what I’d like to do, if you’re on board, is to pay you five thousand dollars in advance for flower deliveries. Think of it as a kind of gift certificate for future purchases. You agree that if I should die, you’ll send a flower arrangement every Friday to my house, just like I’ve been picking up for the last few years, until, of course, the money runs out. But five thousand should hold us for a few years, I think.”

 Eva stared at him, unspeaking. “Oh stop, please, that’s horrible and ahh kinda beautiful at the same time, I don’t know what to say.”

 “Just, please, say yes. It’s hopefully not going to happen, but if it does, I’d like for this to be a thing, you know?” Hey, if all this passes and we’re okay, I’ll just have a tab here that I can work off and if not, well. . . .”  

 “O-kayyyyyy?, she said. I can draw up some kind of a form on the computer and,”

 “Not necessary, I’ll have my credit card receipt and I trust you to handle this for me.” He handed her the card.

 Covid got worse and despite Harry’s strict adherence to CDC guidelines, he tested positive and fell ill. His inner voice would be correct one last time.  

 After Harry passed, Leah took some comfort in the weekly flower delivery. He had explained his plan in a lengthy letter she received from their family lawyer, days after the funeral. She would place the flowers in a clear vase and place it at what was once Harry’s place at the dinner table. He was always in her thoughts but the bouquet brought him to the forefront and she liked being able to focus on something she felt he had somehow touched. Then the flowers stopped coming. Flower Power had succumbed to the virus in its own way. Eva tested positive and recovered but the same could not be said for her shop. It went the way of many retail spaces. She did hope that one day, if and when this was over, she could again open her doors. In the meantime, she nursed herself back to health with fistfuls of vitamins, supplements and herbal teas. Maybe the hippie girl persona wasn’t really an act.  Once well, she turned her thoughts to the Harry and Leah dilemma.  

 Eva had been really touched by Harry’s devotion to his wife and to his wish for it to continue after he was gone. She didn’t think, hoped, his plan would be needed but still thought it was sweet. So now it fell to her to be the administrator once again. While her store was open it was easy to fulfill their agreement but now with no resources what was she to do? It’s been a few months since I got sick, she thought, but now I need to do something. She called, emailed, and texted a bunch of other florists she knew in the area and told them the story. They were all excited to help. The funds Harry had given Eva were put into a separate account that could be drawn on by each of her friends and one Friday, after months of nothing, a bouquet of flowers was delivered to Leah’s home. They continued to arrive, faithfully, every Friday afternoon for years, well beyond the “few years” Harry had thought probable. Eva had taken a portion of the money Harry had given her and bought something called Bitcoin. She didn’t really understand it but a finance friend had told her it was a good investment. And it was. The account was nicely funded.  

 Years passed and at Leah’s funeral a spectacular and generous amount of flowers were delivered to both the funeral home and to graveside. They were, of course, from Harry and there was a small card that simply read, “I will hold you soon.”  

March 24, 2021 15:43

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