[Story] Story a Week 32 – Flower

Simon surveyed the wall of the florist shop with feigned interest. The long wall was fitted with rows of little metal holders displaying the various blooms that could be added to arrangements. They were sorted by color, so the wall progressed from pinks and reds down into oranges and yellows, with a handful of blues and purples at the far end. Sure, it was nice. Nice and safe and achingly pedestrian.

The florist bustled over to him the moment he rang the little bell above the door when he entered. “What can I help you with today?” she asked, far too cheerfully, Simon thought.

He rather doubted that she’d have what he wanted, but the trouble was he didn’t know himself what exactly that was just yet. His hope was that she might help him narrow it down a bit. “I’m looking for something really unusual,” said Simon. “You know, exotic.”

She began plucking stems out of the metal holders on the wall. Musas, bird of paradise, tiger lily — ugh. “What’s the occasion?” asked the florist, still gathering flowers into her hands.

“It’s for my boss,” Simon said, forcing a smile. Thankfully, the florist’s back was still turned, so if it looked fake, no one was the wiser. “One of those guys that has everything.  So I need something really rare if I’m going to make an impression.”

The florist nodded, moving over to the large glass case. “We do have a selection of orchids. These are a bit more expensive, but they’re certainly something different. I doubt he has one of those!”

Simon peered at the orchids through the glass. They looked rumpled, sad, and deflated. They were also domestically grown, he was certain. But he didn’t want to be rude. Or be too memorable. “I don’t suppose you have anything from a rainforest, something like that?”

“Oh dear, I’m afraid not,” said the florist, still unnervingly cheerful. “I’m not sure where you’d find something like that. Maybe the arboretum?”

He nodded and thanked her on the way out, but he knew they didn’t have what he needed at the arboretum, because he’d already checked. While they did have a nice variety of rare and unusual plants, he’d been to their greenhouses on many trips and never found anything new. The problem was that he didn’t have a name, only an idea. And it needed to be rare enough that no one would suspect — the perfect gift.

At home, he made his usual afternoon rounds, watering his own plants, removing dead leaves and checking for insect pests. Maybe someone on his plant forum would have an idea. They were all, like himself, avid gardeners with a keen interest in plants and their quirks. Of course people had their particular favorites and areas of knowledge. He clicked down to his favorite sub-forum and posted a message. Within a few hours he had replies, and one linked him to an online vendor in Asia. The browser’s translation did little to help; it was a vast catalog of cuttings and seeds from plants native to the region. There were photos, but no scientific names, and the descriptions seemed to list only their medicinal uses. Not especially helpful, but Simon pored through each listing, searching for something suitable. They were expensive, too — he had to do the currency conversion a few times to make sure he’d got it right. They ranged from around twenty dollars, most around fifty dollars, some as high as two hundred and fifty for a handful of cuttings or seeds. Seemed like an expensive risk if they wouldn’t grow, and he didn’t know the names, so he couldn’t research the correct amount of sunlight or pH or soil type. Simon paused at a listing for the colorfully named “Emperor’s Final Decree”. It had big, showy blossoms, red with black centers and gilded edges. Maybe a little unusual for a bouquet, but that’s what he wanted, wasn’t it? The stems looked long and strong enough to suit a vase. The seeds were also four hundred dollars. Simon frowned, but clicked the “Add to cart” button anyway.

While he waited for his four hundred dollar seeds to arrive, Simon set up an area of his basement for their nursery. He brought down his best lights — a variety of colors, a few different intensities — and prepared beds with different types and pH of soil. He kept meticulous notes and labelled each container with the information. With luck, at least one of them would grow. He also searched online, but without the Latin name he only found folk stories and legends. These were interesting, and gave him hope for the final result, but they didn’t tell him how to actually care for them. Most exotic plants were finicky, that’s why they were rare and valued. If they were easy to grow, everyone would have them. Maybe not this one, though, Simon reasoned.

The seeds, when they finally arrived, were ordinary looking — black, oily spheres. He handled them with gloves, just to be safe, and always wore a respirator when he opened the section of the basement where they’d been planted. Waiting for them to sprout was nearly intolerable, but they did, finally. They preferred rainy and hot conditions, medium light to replicate the jungle floor, and smooth, silty soil. Simon tended each delicate sprout with the greatest care, inspecting them several times a day. It would take months for them to reach full size and begin blooming, but barring any catastrophe, the most dangerous stage of their lives was over. Now, it was only a matter of waiting until he could make that perfect, deadly arrangement.

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