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Coming of Age Romance

Last night Anna dreamt she was secured in a large rose bud. Every petal of the flower was strategically placed to protect her from the outside world. Thick and thorny vines snap on the ground, threatening anything or anyone that might come close. In that moment she felt nothing in the real world could give her as much comfort as the flower and constantly moving vines did in that dream.


The roses she examines in front of her now at her local garden fresh flower shop are more delicate. That’s part of the beauty of them. You have to take care of them in order to keep their dainty looks and vibrant colors. Freeze them, put them in ice, put them in water, press them, preserve them, even dry them and keep the petals. We’ll do all sorts of things to keep flowers around for as long as possible. 


Moving away from the roses, she sees a basket of mixed bouquets that are on sale because they’re a couple days old. She’s always had an interest in older items. Lockets gone brass. Chipped tea pots. Jammed typewriters. Flowers are just one of the many things in this life that start to lose their splendor as time passes. 


Anna feels that way, like a fading beauty in an unromantic world. She knows she can adorn her hair with ribbon, rub cherry colored tint on her lips, and wear frilly skirts for now. However, as her appearance ages and changes, everything else will change with it. All of her efforts to beautify herself will be seen as futile. 


Some of the bundles have many different types of flowers, mixed carnations and roses embellished with pieces of baby’s breath and wildflower. Some are rose bouquets, in an array of different colors. Suddenly, one stray bouquet of tulips, colored a deep scarlet red, catches her wandering eyes. 


Roses are delicate and fresh, representing a dream of security. Then, there are tulips, the flower of spring. The bulbs blossom into cups fit for a fairy. The stem is free of thorns and leaves, as if to say that they don’t need anything to prove their beauty. 


Flowers in hand, Anna moves towards the check out, but not before her eyes can catch a bumble bee flying out of a rose bud. She thinks back on her dream last night, wondering if bugs ever take a second to hide in a flower just for a few seconds of safety. She thinks that if she was a bee that she would do that. 


The person in front of her in the ever growing line has another bouquet of tulips. His frame is tall and boxy. He turns his head from side to side, observing the world around him. He lets out a playful chuckle as a child waddles past. There is an aura about him that makes him seem just as fresh and vivacious as the season. 


With spring awakening an effervescent and talkative energy within her, Anna feels the need to approach him. She composes herself, pushing her hair away from her face, and pulling at her sweater nervously. Before she can tap his shoulder, he turns his head in her direction, stopping her in her tracks. 


She sees his narrow brown eyes, peering through wire glasses at the red tulips in her hands. She can’t move, stuck with her free hand glued to the bottom of her sweater and her other hand still holding the tulips. Just tighter than before. 


“You’re lucky I didn’t grab those,” he teases, as he turns around with a bright and sprightly smile. His glasses look too big for his face. He has raspberry colored lips that look shiny and hydrated. His skin is the color of golden beach sand in the summer sun. He has a glowing smile so big, it could light up the sky on the night of a new moon. 


Something about seeing him face to face sparks something inside her. The light that flitters through the trees is brighter. The flowers in their hands take on a richer, more vivid color. The cashier smiles bigger, and her voice raises in pitch. The birds chirp in harmonies. The butterflies thump against the walls of her stomach. The world comes to life around her. 


“I suppose I am,” Anna laughs, feeling relieved she didn’t have to start the conversation. However, in just one second she feels the need to say something else. She gestures to the ‘For Sale’ basket that she found her tulips in. “I meant to ask you if you found those in the basket right there? I really love tulips, but I didn’t see any other ones around.”


“Yeah,” he answers, longingly. “The only two bouquets of tulips they have, I think. I’m glad I left one. No matter how tempting it was to take the last one… I knew there was someone out there who loved them just as much as me, and they deserve their tulips too.”


“Thank you very much.” 


Anna doesn’t know if she’s thanking him for leaving the tulips or taking the time to talk to her. Even so he accepts her gratitude with a nod and a grin. 


“You know what tulips symbolize?” 


She furrowed her eyebrows in curiosity. The only thing tulips have ever symbolized to Anna is her hometown. On her way to visit her mom every few months, she passes the local farm, where they grow in neatly arranged rows over the hills. Anna wonders if that same farm is supplying the tulips that are in their arms right now. 


“No, I’m not familiar.” 


“I used to read about the language of flowers,” he leans in, as if he’s telling a great secret, so close that she can smell remnants of cloves and cinnamon on his breath. “Tulips, red tulips specifically, represent true love. Passionate love.” 


Her face burns, and her body shivers. Her heart races, and her mind slows. She wants to say more, but her tongue is stuck to the roof of her mouth. All of Anna’s feelings are conflicting with one another. It keeps her still, standing there stupidly smiling until they’re interrupted. 


“Excuse me, sir,” the cashier prompts him to move forward. “You’re next.” 


“So sorry,” He says sincerely, walking forward in line. Even the way he apologizes to strangers is pleasant. 


As he steps up the counter, turning away from her, the reality of the situation dawns on Anna. The smile falls off of her face. Her shoulders slump forward. She drops her head and stares at her ruffled socks peeking out of her black Mary Janes. She just knows that the conversation is over this very second. 


Meet cutes only exist in movies, she thinks to herself. She stares at the flower of true love, feeling bad that so many red tulips are bought by people who may never experience such a thing. She feels bad for herself too. 


Anna has always been a hopeless romantic, though she will never call it that. The phrase seems so comfortless. The word hopeless burrows itself under her skin. Is it really so pathetic to want to find love? 


“I’d like to buy her flowers too please,” he says, cutting off the rampage in her mind at once. Anna hesitantly looks up and passes her flowers over to the cashier with unsure hands. 


She looks up at the side of his face the whole time he’s paying, examining everything about him. His unruly facial hair. His golden earring that she didn’t even notice before. The way his smile looks charming, even from the side. She looks away as he shoves his wallet back into his pocket, silently hoping he didn’t catch her staring. 


He hands her back the bundle of tulips with steady, calloused hands. Her fingertips feel his warmth for just a moment, immediately wanting more. She can barely mumble a thank you while accepting them, shyness finally taking its hold on her. He seems more confident than when she first walked up.


 “I forgot to ask your name.” 


Still stunned from the reality of the whole situation, Anna takes time to breathe before answering. She worries somehow it would all come out wrong if she speaks without thinking. “I’m Susanna. My friends call me Anna.” 


“My name is Asher, and I’d love to see you again, Anna.” He pulls a red tulip out of his bouquet and hands it to her. She keeps her eyes locked on his brilliant honey colored ones, as she accepts the flower in her hand. “Until then.” 


Anna stands there unmoving, watching him as he walks away. Finally, she looks down at the tulip, planning to place it carefully in her hair. Unexpectedly, she sees a small piece of paper tucked into the flower bulb.


Of course, he wouldn’t just leave without giving her a way to get in contact. The small piece of paper is the ticket to communicating with him again: a ten digit number in flowery writing.


She sits on the sidewalk, tucking the flower into her hair and the number into the pocket of her vintage sailor shorts. She watches as families and couples flit from one store to the next. Birds fly from tree to tree, singing out beautiful tunes. Teenagers walk through the streets in groups, laughing and talking amongst themselves lightheartedly. 


As she sits, allowing the world to rush by her, the blue sky fades into various shades of purples and pinks. Puffs of cotton drift across the ever changing heavens and out of her vision. In her mind, she compares them to her doubts and fears. Fading away so she can focus on the beauty of her life. 


Anna thinks back on her experience meeting Asher, and the dream she had just the night before. His rough hands are reminiscent of the thorny vines that protected her in the dream. His warm laugh and melodic voice is comforting like the petals. His considerate and gentle outlook on life brings a similar feeling of calm to her.


 It makes her think if her dream was really that comforting? She woke up feeling more relaxed than she had been in a long time, but meeting someone like Asher has brought her to a new level of euphoria that she didn’t know existed. She feels herself vibrating on a whole new frequency, feeling things she never felt before. Her soul is filled with the colors of spring.


Spring may be a season that brings life, opportunity, rebirth, and joy into the world around her. But in this moment, Anna is convinced Asher is her spring, birthing new opportunities for connection into her life.


The birds are the messengers of his presence. The flowers are the symbols that he uses to convey his love to the world around him. Just like the spring is thawing out the ground below her, Anna could feel that Asher’s company began to thaw her heart.


 She can’t help, but ask the question circulating in her mind. Was her true comfort waiting here for her the whole time? 


March 30, 2023 22:28

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2 comments

L LL
04:06 Apr 08, 2023

Abigail, I adore this story. Will you write more please? You have such a lovely talent and, by your crafting style, you must also have a lovely heart.

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Tricia Shulist
17:53 Apr 02, 2023

What a nice story! A story of hope and renewal. I like the way that Anna holds herself back, trying to avoid being disappointed. Thanks for this.

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