Romance Friendship

Hunter eyed her windowsill critically. Truthfully, she knew there was no more room. Ever the pragmatist, she quickly catalogued her ever growing inventory of houseplants. She couldn’t find it in herself to care about the troubling pattern of these lovely new additions. She’d make room, she knew. Somewhere. Maybe there was a lonely shelf in the bathroom? 

She heaved a sigh and plopped into her kitchen chair, raking her hands through unkempt hair, still partly styled from the utter disaster of a date from the night before. Upon waking up, miserably alone, she’d donned her hoodie, laced up her boots, and walked to the local florist to peruse their collection of available indoor potted plants. Her clerk took one look at her sorry state and offered her a companionable smile. 

“Lousy date, then?” he’d gently asked her. 

“Ugh. Why are the only men I date such raging narcissists?? I mean, I know why, but come on. There must be someone out there who can be charismatic and confident and not think they’re an actual fucking gift to all women. I hate that arrogance. And yet, here I am. Again” she grumbled, throwing him a meaningful glance. 

Hunter had a compulsion. Unsure why it started, and unwilling to unpack this particular impulse at the moment, she knew it was becoming slightly concerning. Ready to move on past her ex (god was that seriously 2 years ago?), she’d started dating a few months back. Dipping her toes into a pool of obnoxiously unstable men with differing personality disorders. Her shitty date last night had actually bragged about how long it had been since he’d last cried. What the fuck. That’s not a flex, Kyle, you desperately need some therapy. So, unsure where to put her feelings of both disgust and loneliness, she’d begun collecting houseplants. She had a nurturing instinct that needed an avenue for expression. While she longed to put these urges into fostering a budding relationship, she finally had cultivated enough hard-earned self-worth to know that she would not settle for less than she deserved. Hence, the houseplants. After each failed attempt at connection, instead of wallowing, she’d walk through the fragrant aisles of the florist and funnel her dejection into helping something grow and thrive. And now, she was startled to realize that she was running out of room. 

Hunter now allowed herself the luxury of a long pause to inspect the latest inventory. Back in the beginning of this odd endeavor, she had started simple. Did her due diligence and researched the shit out of how to properly care for houseplants. Her first purchase was a low-key snake plant. They don’t need much water, thrive indoors without the need for too much sunlight, and their leaves rarely even need dusting! They’re also known for pulling toxins from the air during the day and releasing oxygen at night, which is why her flourishing snake plant (lovingly named Nagini) was strategically placed by her bedside table. 

After an exceptionally horrendous tinder date where Brandon (if that was his real name) conveniently “forgot” his wallet and she was forced to pay for their overpriced steaks, she had left her phone in the Uber, gotten what she assumes was food poisoning, and slammed her finger in her front door all while trying to get away from Brandon and his persistent hands. So, when she went the next day to the florist, the clerk helpfully suggested an adorable little bamboo shoot known to bring luck. Apparently, so he’d told her, the number of the stalks on your bamboo plant carry significant meaning. Two for love, three for a long and happy life, five for health, seven for wealth, eight for growth, nine for luck, and ten for perfection. Intrigued, she rifled through the lot and selected one with two stalks and one with nine. Better safe than sorry when gambling with luck. 

Then, there was Adam. It started out pleasant enough. They met at the local fondue restaurant and conversation flowed easily enough through the cheese course. It stalled out a bit during the main course as he could not, for the life of him, stop talking about his mother and her ongoing relationship with his ex. That was…unusual. But, even this absurd conversation couldn’t dampen her excitement knowing that next was the chocolate fondue. Until, of course, they used the torch to flambé the marshmallow topping and Adam, startled out of his dreadful monologue that she was no longer even pretending to listen to, knocked the hot metal bowl onto her lap. She screamed, flinging it to the ground, but not before receiving a substantial burn to both her legs, hands, and dignity. Adam, the dear that he was, ran to the bathroom and never returned. So, upon frequenting the florist the very next day, the clerk quietly listened to her story, and walked her over to the aloe plants. “This one is on me,” he had told her kindly. 

On and on this went. She’d amassed quite the collection of both living, breathing plants and mortifying life experiences she found herself eagerly sharing with her favorite florist.   Lavender for love, and hopefully, stress-relief. A Boston Fern for happiness. An attractive Chinese money plant for wealth. This one, aptly named Bucks, was sitting on her work desk. She kept a Rosemary plant in her kitchen, both for it’s practical uses in food and because it was meant to symbolize remembrance. Not that she wanted to recall her horrible dates, mind you, but so that she could remember herself in the midst of her longing for a connection.  A lumpy Cactus representing strength through a tough time. A Bonsai sat front and center on her kitchen sill, offering her balance, harmony and calm. 

She’d come to love her growing little family. Each one effectively replacing the memory of a bad date with a reminder that she was the main character of her own story. In addition to the flora that livened up her living space, she also kept a hanging thread in her bedroom to keep the individual flower stems that her favorite clerk would gift to her on occasion. Sometimes he’d disclose their meaning, though other times he would remain frustratingly tight-lipped.  

Once, after she’d told him how her date had stood her up and then texted her later that he had, indeed, come to the restaurant only to see that she didn’t resemble her profile picture, he’d plucked a perfectly pink Azalea bloom and tucked it carefully behind her ear. He’d smiled so genuinely then. Told her that Azalea’s represent femininity and strength and is usually given to someone to remind them of both their inner and outer beauty. She’d blushed then, stunned at the direction their conversation had taken. He’d simply turned away after that, finishing up her purchase and moving on to the next customer, completely oblivious to the fact the he’d completely and irrevocably changed their comfortable dynamic. Like clearing the fog off her glasses only to realize she’d been walking away from her path instead of towards it. Dazedly, she walked home, deposited her new Orchid in the living room, and started the thread in her bedroom. The pretty pink Azalea hung proudly. 

Randomly, it seemed, he’d present to her a freshly picked flower. Never shy, with an effortless calm, he’d gift her these meaningful offerings, then move on. Never lingered, never truly explained WHY. She felt the whiplash of these gentle, intimate moments stir something inside of her. A sunflower gifted with the excuse that she brought joy to his day when she came in the shop. A tulip for appreciation for her continued patronage (a wink accompanied this one). A gardenia when it seemed like she was in need of clarity. Her thread of dried flowers was expanding, and with it, her feelings. 

He saw her approach the store and felt his heart speed up and his palms start to lightly sweat. Took a few deep breaths and tried to remember why it was a bad idea to ask her out. He knew she’d be vulnerable when she came in today, as her visits were usually the result of some asshat breaking her fragile heart and making her feel unworthy. How any man wouldn’t be beside himself to have her accompany him anywhere was beyond him. 

She was adorably disheveled when she approached the counter with a groan. Luckily for him, the last customer had just checked out and they were alone in the store. She rolled her eyes with a smile, even though she looked a little sad this morning. That tugged painfully at his heart.  

“Lousy date, then?” he offered. 

“Ugh. Why are the only men I attract such raging narcissists?? I mean, I know why, but come on. There must be someone out there who can be charismatic and confident and not think they’re an actual gift to all women. I hate that arrogance. And yet, here I am. Again.” 

He smiled at her then, gently, and with care. He had, he knew, an expressive face. Kind eyes from his mother and a clever mouth from his father. He had a practiced way about articulating his expressions. He had a devious smirk, and he had used it when he was younger. Spent many of his formative years plowing through women as a way to stroke his own ego. It wasn’t until he, himself, had felt heartbreak from a pretty face that he understood the damage a one-sided connection could have. Since then, after some fairly intense therapy, he’d gotten this job at the florist as a way to reconnect with himself. After being so selfish for so long, he realized he needed an outlet – a place to nurture not only his own heart, but pieces of the living world around him. He loved it here. Felt like he could finally breathe when he unlocked the back door and stepped into the walk-in. He tended his plants with great care. Spent entire days carefully handling seedlings and cuttings and contentedly watching them grow into glorious specimens. 

And then, Hunter came blundering through the door one day, completely frazzled and clearly in need of some plant-based therapy. He watched with delight as her passion for these living organisms was quickly becoming apparent. Every time she’d enter his store, she brought with her enough light to fortify both himself and his plants. She’d make him laugh with her self-deprecating, easy humor. He wondered if she had any idea that her face, while recounting her dating horrors, so animated and vibrant, would blush the exact pale pink shade of a delicate rose. She had to have known that her lips, chapped and smiling, resembled the cherry red petals of his favorite tulip. He was captivated by her eyes, the deep, enchanting blue of morning glory. She was altogether the most naturally lovely woman he’d ever met. And he had resolved to tell her these things. Slowly, and with patience, as was now his way. He listened when she spoke. Would hear the unfolding of her tales but also the pains behind them. Heard the account behind the burn, when he suggested the aloe, but also that constant fear she had of abandonment. His heart ached for her. When he boldly plucked the stem of his favorite Azalea (obviously named Ziggy) and placed it behind her ear, he knew he’d found the right way to tell her how he felt. 

That morning, her charming mini rant over, he watched her allow herself a moment of peace. Fingering the flowers, gentle as a sigh, she made her way back over to him after a spell. 

“Anything in particular you’re in need of today? I have offerings aplenty,” he joked. Smiling their secret, shared smile. When had that started happening?

“Actually,” a devious smirk appeared, “I do need something. And only you can give it to me.”

Okay. Casual banter. He could do this. He felt flustered but was committed to calm. 

“Gladly.” God, I’d literally give you anything you ever asked of me.

“If I wanted to, I don’t know, declare my intentions for someone; Tell them through the language of flowers that I was interested in them, what would you recommend? It would be for a man, mind you. So, something not too flowery or feminine.” She crossed her arms and looked up to him with a raised eyebrow and impish grin.

His heart sank a little. Again, he reminded himself that she was vulnerable, and owed him nothing. Maybe he’d missed his chance. His subtle advances not reaching their mark. He cleared his throat.

“Well, there’s always carnations. Great to show affection. But it is a bit on the flowery side. Roses are too obvious, and you have to get the color just right as each one signifies something different…”

He trailed off as he watched her trying to stifle a laugh. 

“What?” He felt suddenly self-conscious.      

“Nothing! I’m so sorry. Keep going! None of those are it. I know you, and I know you can do better than that.”

“Is that a hint of flattery I detect?”

“No. None at all. Purely a factual statement.” She had the audacity to wink at him! He might be dying.

“Uh huh. Sure. Anyway, I think your best bet for your intended would be a Peony. I’ve got a delightful bloom towards the back. I’ll walk you over.”

He moved out from behind the counter and meandered through the aisles with her at his back. He took a moment to locate the item in question.

“Here she is. A physical symbol for a new or evolving romantic relationship. It’ll be a lovely gesture for sure.” 

Trying hard to not let his disappointment show at her excitement, he handed it over.

“This is perfect!” she gushed. “Thank you so much. You really are brilliantly thoughtful.”

Flushing at her compliment, he walked her back up to the front to check her out. He watched as she turned towards the exit, touched that she’d heeded his advice, but already regretting what he didn’t say. 

She made it almost to the door before she turned around and walked back, seeming to steel herself for what she was about to say. 

“Look. I know you must think I’m a mess. I always come in here all woebegone after a shit date and bury my sadness in taking care of these flowers. I swear I’m usually more put together.”

He only stared at her. He was listening attentively, as always, but couldn’t quite yet decipher where she was going with this. 

“I think yo—” she cut him off immediately.

“No. Please, let me finish.” He nodded his agreement, puzzlement plain across his expressive face.

“I’ve been waiting for you to tell me the meaning behind these flowers. Why you keep giving them to me on days when I seem to need them the most. You’re the most present, observant and kind person I’ve met in a really long time. And I want to get to know you better. Not in the context of me droning on and on about why men suck, but like…maybe romantically. Hell, I don’t know, even just more friendly. Whatever you’d be down for.” She looked almost angry as she shoved the potted Peony back into his hands. “So, here. Take this stupid beautiful plant and have dinner with me,” she pouted. 

That night, after a dinner free of mishaps, she took him home. Showed him, delight clearly evident on her face, where she had put all the plants she’d taken home from his store. They recounted, together now, the memory of when she’d obtained them. Their conversations flowed as easily as the wine they laughed into. When he held her hand for the first time on the sofa, fingers intertwined, he felt their heartbeats balance. And when he finally, FINALLY, kissed her pale pink lips, tasted her honeyed tongue, he felt his soul settle into place, firmly next hers. Like roots tangled together.

When Hunter awoke the next morning, she regarded her floral menagerie with a song in her heart. He’d left the Peony there intentionally. And you know what? There was a spot on the windowsill. She could move the aloe over just a bit to the left.  After all, she was no longer really scared of being burned. Yes, she could make room for it, she thought. She could make room for him.  

December 18, 2020 18:05

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Cole Lane
00:12 Apr 26, 2021

Your dialog is always so natural it moves the emotions along without saying them!! This is a romance, probably not something I normally read but this moment "And when he finally, FINALLY, kissed her pale pink lips, tasted her honeyed tongue, he felt his soul settle into place, firmly next hers. Like roots tangled together" Yeah, I really need to add more passion between my characters lol.


01:33 Apr 26, 2021

Omg THANK YOU!! I love them together...honestly they wrote that moment themselves 😉 I appreciate the comment!!!! ❤️❤️


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Grace Things
19:40 Feb 21, 2022

Recently I enjoyed a book which used the language of flowers as ciphers and codes, to communicate and understand, quite enjoyable and recently I've wanted to research more into the matter. Thank you for reminding me


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01:33 Nov 28, 2021

OMG.Do you also love plants ?


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Graham Kinross
11:41 Nov 13, 2021

"She had a nurturing instinct that needed an avenue for expression." No time for a pet? I take it her house looks like a greenhouse without enough windows. I can see it really clearly, also the dating stuff sounds all too familiar, even girls do most of that stuff.


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19:48 Mar 22, 2021

I love the character you created here with hunter! And yeah, those dating problems, lol. Seems like it's universal for everyone :) I love how you wrap the flowers into everything, almost like each one is a little metaphor. Great story!


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Daniel R. Hayes
05:54 Mar 28, 2021

Wow! This was such a touching, and beautiful story. It warmed my heart to read it. I'm so glad they found each other in the end. It's funny how we sometimes search for that perfect person to be with, while all the while, that special person could be a passing stranger, or someone right in front of us. I loved how you incorporated the flowers in this story. I learned some things I didn't know before. Was this from personal knowledge, or did you have to research them? With this being your first story, I am completely blown away by your...


15:27 Mar 29, 2021

Hi Daniel, Thank you! It's my least sad one haha! You know...I don't know much about flowers, but knew they hold meaning, so I did do a little bit of research ;) Thanks again for your lovely comments :) :)


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Unknown User
11:11 Mar 13, 2021

<removed by user>


19:34 Mar 13, 2021

Thank you so much!! This is one of my favorites :) :)


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