Chi-ching! Another plant sold. This one is an Orchid that I have named Steve. I can't help it! I need to have something to do for the three hours I'm here every day! So… I name the plants. Stupid, I know, but I get bored easily. I look up from the homework I resumed and notice the Woman who bought Steve staring at me expectantly. She is probably in her 70s, with gray hair, thin lips, and wrinkles. "Have a great day," I say in a not-so-cheery tone. She stands there and glares at me. I don't know what she wants until I look down and see Steve still sitting next to the cash register. I mutter a half-hearted "sorry" as I hand her steve. "Hmph!" she scoffs and then leaves. I wipe the sweat from my forehead and yawn. It's hot, nearly summer in New York, and I'd much rather be anywhere else, but I remind myself I'm here for a reason. My mom just bought both me and my twin new cars for our birthdays, so she says that in order to do an after-school activity, we have to pay for them. Jacob doesn't care. He hates sports (unless of course, they are video games) but I play lacrosse, and I can't let my team down! So that's how I ended up here, at "Maggie's Garden" from 3 to 6 pm, 5 days a week. Thankfully, tomorrow is Saturday and I'll have a whole two days to myself.
No one is around, so I sneak a glance at my phone, it's 5:43 pm. In other words, 17 minutes till I can leave. I spend most of the rest of the time working on my math homework. Five minutes before I can go, someone walks in the door. "Welcome to Maggie's Garden" I mutter, the garden coming out more like "garhen" as I stuff my mouth with sour cream and onion Pringles. I chew, swallow, and ask, "How can I help you?" The woman just stares at me blankly for a second, and then asks "Aren't you the new high schooler we hired?" I am so confused, first off, how does she know that!? Second, why'd she say "we" I'm about to ask when, as if she's reading my mind, she says "I'm the owner" she gestures around, "you can call me Ms. Maggie." These words take a while to sink in, but when they do, I think I'm under mind control. I get up super fast, stuff my homework and pringles into my backpack, and try to get the wrinkles out of my shirt while stammering, "It's very nice to meet you! Yes, I'm the new worker- I mean the person you hired- I mean- uh um" I'm still fumbling for words and jabbering my mouth off when she laughs and says "it's nice to meet you too."
She smiles, and her smile is beautiful! I'm not saying that in a weird way, yuck she's probably thirty! But it's a very pretty smile- that's all. "What's your name?" she asks "Alex," I say without missing a beat. I used to struggle with that, back when I first came to realize that I'm non-binary. I'd say, "I'm Bea- I mean, Alex." my mom kept telling me that I was more than welcome to keep my old name. I can tell it hurts her even now to say "Alex" instead of "Bea", and "my kid they/them" instead of "my daughter she/her". "Well Alex, I have a big project this weekend," Ms. Maggie says "we're remodeling the shop, and we need to move all the plants out. How'd you feel about $300 to help out all day tomorrow?" I nearly scream, but I hold it in. 300 dollars!? But I have plans to go to the movies with some friends tomorrow. I decide that this is WAY more important and say "I'd love that so much!" Uhg, I realize I sound like a total suck-up, so I quickly add "Let me ask my mom first." Ew! No way that made it any better. "Ok," she says "Just text me once you ask your mom." She hands me a "Maggie's Garden" business card that has her contact information previously circled in red sharpie. "now get out of here! It's past your work hours" She fake scolds me. I grab my backpack, rush for the door, and for the first time since I've worked here, I don't mutter thanks. I practically scream it.
I come home to the smell of chicken nuggets and Chick-fil-a sauce. Mom must be too tired to cook tonight. I grab an 8-pack from the counter and head to my room. I open the door to find my twin brother Jacob plopped on my bed, looking at his phone. He looks up, "hey my little baby sibling," he says. He was born 6 minutes before me, so he claims that he can call me a baby if he wants. I roll my eyes, "Get out of my room" I groan. "Aw but it's Friday movie night." He scrunches up his face in an attempt to make a "please, I'm begging you, look how cute I am" face, but to me, it just looks like he's constipated. I sigh and open my laptop to Avengers Infinity War and press play. We lay there on our stomachs in silence for a while, and then he says "Alex, I think I'm gay." This is no surprise to me, so I just say "ok" and continue watching. "You're not like… mad or anything?" he asks. "Bro" I pause the movie and sit up, "you do realize you're talking to your non-binary sibling, right? Of course, I'm not "mad", I knew it all along" I offer a smile, but he just frowns "What if mom's upset that all her kids are gay? And what do you mean you knew it all along?" he asks. I decide to answer him with a question of my own. "How many 16-year-old boys have Justin Bieber posters all over their bedroom walls? And Sarah is most definitely not gay." I let out a snort. "Even if she was, mom's not the kind of person who would be "upset" about that." He sticks his tongue out at me "I only have one poster, thank you. But you're totally right about Sarah" we both burst out laughing. Sarah is our 12-year-old sister, who is the most stereotypical tween you will ever meet. We laugh for a little longer and then I hit play on the movie.
BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP! "Uhg" I groan as I roll over and turn off my alarm. I don't remember falling asleep last night, but I guess I did because my alarm clock reads 6:30 am. I texted Ms. Maggie last night and she said to be at the store at 7:30. I have an hour. I give myself another minute before getting up from my bed and dragging myself to the bathroom. I take a quick shower, brush my teeth, and decide to pick out some shorts and a tank top I never wear since I'll probably get dirt all over them. My mom is in the kitchen when I head in, "Morning Alex! Are you going to the movies with your friends already?" Crap! I forgot to freaking tell her!? I could lie, but I decide to just give it to her straight "oh- no I canceled my plans. I have an all-day job at Maggie's." I say "Oh honey, that's great, so very responsible of you! Saving up for that lacrosse team you want to join?" She fires these words all at once and they mush together in my brain (I'm still tired, ok!) and so I just mutter "mhm" and grab the cinnamon toast crunch from the pantry. As I'm pouring the milk into my bowl, Sarah and Jacob come down the hall into the kitchen, Sarah looking perfect as ever (I think she slept in her makeup), and Jacob looking tired and groggy. Jacob lays down on the couch while Sarah grabs a protein bar, "Mom. Me, Sophi, and Emma are gonna meet up at the park ok?" Sarah says. She, Sophi, and Emma have been tight since kindergarten. "Ok, hon! Tell them they're welcome to come over for lunch!" Mom replies. "I will!" Sarah yells.
The door slams and it's quiet again, other than Jacob, who's managed to fall asleep again on the couch and is snoring so loud I think the people two apartments down can probably hear it! I check my phone, it's 7:15. "I gotta go, mom, Love you!" I kiss her on the cheek and leave. As I close the door to our apartment, the shiny black -1803- catches the sunlight and glints. Any other day I wouldn't think much of it- but today, I know this is the start of a great day.
I pull my jeep up to "Maggie's Garden" and see many people lugging all sorts of plants. I see Ms. Maggie hauling a fiddle leaf fig tree named Sharol out of the glass front doors of the store. I park my jeep and run over to help. I grab the other side of Sharol and we carry it to one of those portable shed things, already filled almost halfway with plants. We find a spot for it and plop it down, "thanks for that!" Ms. maggie says. I nod and ask "what do you want me to do first?" "Start in the flower section" Maggie replies. Everything goes smoothly for the first few hours. I even manage to carry a pot made of bisque clay! (I can't stand that texture!) and then the inevitable happens. Right around noon, I'm carrying a succulent to the shed when someone says, "Lunch just got delivered! I don't think twice, and jump up and down for joy! I'm starving. But as I'm jumping, the succulent slips out of my hands! I try to catch it, but it's too late! It crashes to the ground, and the beautiful pot shatters into pieces! Before I can do anything, though, I start crying. Polly- that beautiful succulent, is dying! I've never cared this much before! I'm 16, and crying like a baby! It's just a plant. I try to calm down, but the tears keep coming! It's like a tidal wave of emotions has crashed over me.
Before I know what's happening, Ms. Maggie has her hand on my back, rubbing it around in circles. Not going to lie, it calms me down enough that I can choke out "I-I'm s-s-s-s-so sorry" I start crying again and Ms. maggie helps me to my feet. She hands me a tissue and sits me down on a bench. "It was just a plant," she says. Was. she says it as if all hope is gone for Polly to survive. But I have an idea. I wipe away my tears and sprint to the back of the shop, where a bunch of pots with no plans in them sit. I grab a teal pot and go around the front of the shop to fill it up with dirt. Now I grab the succulent and stick it in the pot. It fits perfectly.
We finish moving the plants around 2:00 that afternoon. Other than me dropping the succulent, everything went well. We close the shed and lock it, give everybody high fives, and most people leave. Some tall bearded guy is sweeping up the spot where I dropped Polly, and a blonde girl is peeling off her gardening gloves. Ms. Maggie hands me Polly. "You saved her, so therefore you can keep her," she says, and smiles.
Over the next few months, I accept many new jobs as a gardener, and my room fills up with more and more plants. I even use some of the money I made to buy myself the fiddle leaf fig tree (Sharol) for the corner of my room! I've had to spend 16 years trying and failing to discover my passion and, finally, I have. Life isn't always easy, but when you find and do things you love, it makes it a whole lot better.