Flowers Jun20


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Zoe put the new arrivals in the cooler and stood admiring them through the glass.  The color was perfect for the Adam’s Wedding this weekend. They were the exact shade of blue Ali, the Bride, said she wanted when she left her order and the small swatch of sky blue satin.  Zoe was sure the Bride did not realize the difficulty in finding suitable blossoms in blue.  No one ever did.

She had often been confronted by a Bride to be who wanted all Roses and all blue.

Then she had to explain that Roses came in many colors, but not a pure blue.  Then the unconvinced customer would point to a blue Rose at her neckline, which of course was a perfect Rose bud, true… but in sky blue silk.  If she suggested that Michael’s might carry what she was looking for, the customer often left to go to another Florist, deciding that we were unreasonable.

These fresh Agapanthus’ with their large round heads filled into a grapefruit size globes of small, blue trumpet blossoms would be very good for the tables with their long stems and sword shaped deep green leaves.

For the Bride’s bouquet she planned to use several of the sky blue Spanish Iris by folding back the petals into the shape recognized as an Orchid, but in a better blue color than any Orchids she had seen.

A few of the fluffy, little 3 inch, pale blue, Scabiouses as the back ground flower with their dainty, white, centers would accent the white lace and satin ribbons,  Zoe could picture in her mind.

There were two large bundles of the light blue Bachelor Buttons that would make perfect little boutonnieres for the Best man and his attendants, in spite of their name.  Any left would fill in the larger table arrangements.

She quickly put a hold on the entire order, so that the Bride may come in to approve them tomorrow. Leaving the tiny blue satin square on the shelf beside the Iris, she went back to work in her own little Suzie Q’s Flower Shop.

Suzie was her Grandmother, who started the business and came in everyday until she was gone.  No, Not dead.  Just to Florida to retire.  But not until she was certain that she had given every bit of knowledge needed to operate the tiny Shop into her Granddaughter, Zoe, who had been working there since she was an after school teen. Now at 27 she had inherited the business she learned to love so much.

“G’mornin’ Zee”  Lily still standing at the cash register after a sale, greeted her boss.

There was always something to do. Zoe went to the Wholesale Flower Market every morning very early and brought back the latest blooms and plants.  Buckets of assorted blossoms had to be kept watered and dead leaves or wilted flowers removed to keep everything in view sweet smelling and appealing.

Her best friend since High School was, Lily Anne, now her single employee, who just happened to have the perfect name for a Florist, while her own name, Zoe, was confusing to pronounce, she liked to hear the E on the end, but didn’t always get it.

Lily had been busy manning the store while Zoe was accepting that Special Blue Wedding order in at the back door.

As she returned to the front, Zoe noticed at once that someone had purchased the entire bucket full of Gladiolas.  Perhaps for a party…  Zoe liked to try to guess where her flowers were going, by the kind chosen and her guess about the person who bought them.  Buying and selling flowers isn’t just about getting rid of them so she can buy more,  it was learning where they went and why and did they make someone happy or even just through a sadness.

“One man bought them all.”  Lily volunteered, knowing that Zoe was probably wondering.

“I’ll replace them in the morning.”  Zoe remarked, wondering why the man had wanted so many Gladdies.

They were not known as a flower of romance.  Men usually bought Roses, Orchids or Gardenias, for a lady, maybe a big assorted bunch that looked good together for his wife, and always a bright Chrysanthemum plant growing in a pot for their Mothers.   A Wreath for a Funeral was most likely phoned in to be sent to the Funeral Home.

“What did he look like?”  Zoe asked, after her mind had run out of options for that whole bucket full of Gladiolas.

“Who ?”  Lily was caught unaware that Zoe was still back at the Gladiolas subject.

“The man who bought all of the those Glads.  Most people pick out the colors they want from the bucket.  Nobody buys them all and doesn’t care what color they are.”   Zoe explained.

Lily laughed and looked around trying to remember.  What did he look like?  She had been watching to keep from spilling the water in the bucket he handed up to her at the counter. Nobody picks up the whole galvanized pail and says,

“ I’ll  take these.”  No, they just point at the ones they want and she lifts them out of their water and wraps them in their special paper from the huge roll at the counter.  Being handed the bucket made her ask,

“You want the pail too?  It’s two dollars extra.”

“That would be fine.” He said, taking out his Credit Card and placing it on the counter.  Lily remembered the name on the card was Duncan.  Duncan Davis.  She put the card in the machine, as he picked up the flowers in the bucket, still full of water, which were tall and hid his face.  You know Gladiolas!

He held them in one arm as he signed the card.  I looked to see if he was getting water on his clothes.  He took the card back then turned and left.  I really never looked at him.  Isn’t that strange?”

“Was he?”

“What?”  Lily was puzzled.  Zoe looked annoyed.

“You know, was he getting his clothes all wet?”

“No.  I’m sure of that.  He held the pail in his arms like a baby. And when he walked out the water didn’t even spill on the floor.

They both looked at the floor to make sure.

“I wonder what he wanted them all for?”  Zoe couldn’t help asking herself quietly.

At the Flower Bazaar the next morning, Zoe remembered to buy some Gladiolas and more red roses plus a half dozen flowering Orchid plants.  They were beginning to get very popular.  Even the market was carrying them now.  Some Tulips in six colors were on display for the first time this season, with their booms all closed up tight for at least a week yet.  She ordered three dozen and left.  They would be delivered within the hour, all except the Gladiolas, they had sold out.

She paused to ask herself , Do I have enough for Lily Anne to deal with while I’m busy with the Adams Wedding order.   Probably.  She went back to the large parking lot to leave,  when something strange caught her eye.  Well it really wasn’t strange, not here at the early morning Wholesale Market street full of every flower that would sell in this town today.

So why did the man carrying two very large containers full of Gladiolas to his car seem strange to her?

She watched him go by just a few feet away and stood awe struck as he set them on the asphalt to open the back of his Land Rover.  Her bucket full of Gladiolas,  that he had purchased from her shop yesterday, were still sitting in his car, held by a strap to the back of the back seat.  Now he had two more even larger containers full of multi-colored Glads that nearly filled the back.

“Yes, to her that was strange.”

Zoe couldn’t help herself.  She dropped her keys back into her purse and passing by her own car, she kept going until she was almost next to the Land Rover, then she paused and as if she had never seen so many Gladiolas in her life, Zoe exclaimed in her brightest voice.

“Oh my! what a wonderful big display of flowers.  All of those lovely colors!”  Zoe smiled up at him and waited hopefully for a reply.

The man closed the car door with a barely heard mumbled, “ Thank you,”  and walked directly to the front to open the driver’s door.  He was alone in the car, as he started the engine and drove the huge load of Gladiolas away.

Zoe did  get a good look at him as he avoided looking at her.  He certainly was a nice looking middle aged man.   No smile was seen to be appraised, but he had dark wavy hair in an old fashioned neat hair cut and strong shoulders with a good firm jaw line and straight nose.  Next time he came to her shop she would recognize him.  She could only hope if he bought something again, he would be a bit more talkative.  Well really just speak at all.

Zoe was surprised at his lack of response, as she was aware that she was an attractive Blonde who almost always received a lot of attention from men.

Back at the shop, Zoe told Lily about seeing her man, Duncan, buy even more Glads with theirs still in the back of his car.

“He can’t be selling them can he?”  Lily asked,  “You know. Maybe he’s like… one of those guys that stands on a corner and hands a single stem into the drivers as they pause for the stop sign, then puts out a hand for some change.  You’ve seen them!”

“Yes I have. But no, he can’t be one of those. He’s too good looking. And think of how much cash he had to part with to buy that many fresh Florist flowers?    I imagine those beggars pick their flowers free somewhere.”

“Yes but they rake in a lot of cash, I hear.”  Lily argued. “ But,” she added,  “Mr. Duncan Davis was a bit too neat.”

“Neat indeed,”  Zoe agreed.  She had taken a good look at him.

The Orchids sold out,  so Zoe planned to return to the Bazaar tomorrow for more.  Just as she locked the store, her friend, Baily, pulled up to take her to dinner.  Lily had left early to go home to cook for her husband, Sal.

“Hop in, Babe!”  Baily called out, as he reached across to push the door open for her.

“Great service,”   Zoe said as she stepped down into the low little red automobile.  “I just walked out.”

“I know.” Baily smiled at her, “I was parked across the street waiting.”

He was attentive enough to wait as long as he had to, but not attentive enough, to get out and open the car door.  She thought to herself.  The years of going with him had done that.

Perhaps they should just get married and settle down, but… with neither of them pressing for that event…  nothing happened.

She could tell which of his favorite restaurants he was heading to by the road he turned onto.  She liked Barbeque, so didn’t mention it.  It was a good twenty minute drive out on the countryside, but he also loved driving that little red Foreign… whatever.   Cars were not her thing and she kept forgetting its name.

“How’d the flowers go today?’  Baily asked.  Each time he said that Zoe wondered if he really wanted know, or was that the only line he had memorized.

“It was interesting and rather odd.”   Zoe began.  She really wanted his opinion on this.   “While I was in back taking in a special order shipment, Lily said a man came in and picked up the entire full bucket of Gladiolas and bought the whole thing , water and all.”

“Yes that is strange.”  Baily said, “Just how much do you charge for water these days?”

“Two dollars.”  Zoe answered as her mind had wandered back to the this morning.  Baily gave a pretend gasp.

”Maybe you had best give up the flowers and just sell water.”

Zoe came back to the present and laughed,

“That’s in a $1.95  tin bucket, you know.”

“How much were that many flowers?”

“$4.00 each for three dozen, that’s $144,00 plus tax. And $2. 00 for the water and bucket. One hundred and forty six bucks.  Now may I keep my Grandmother’s Little Flower Shop?”

Baily just laughed as he hit the open highway and picked up speed.  That would end the talk as he pulled the road from under the fast little car and Zoe gripped the arm rests until Baily rolled to a smooth stop in front of the Barbeque Palace.

“Did your Grandmother get her daily call in before closing.”  Baily inquired.

“You know she did.”  Each day she remembers one thing she forgot to tell me from 3000 miles away.”

“And did you ask her about the man who bought all of the Glads?”  Baily asked after ordering the Daily Special Dinner, which was the same for the last ten years.

“No,”  I did not.”  Zoe told him. “I’m asking you because you are a man and understand how men think. So why would a middle age man, just like you, buy a whole bucket of Gladiolas?”

“So I’m a Middle age man am I?”

“You know what I mean. A man like yourself. “

“Okay I will tell you.  Either he is cheating on the wife or… she died and they are for her Funeral!”

“Cheaters bring Orchids not… Wait a minute.  I didn’t tell you everything.  Then again this morning I saw the same man at the wholesale market and he bought all of theirs also.  The entire back of the Land Rover was filled with all Gladiolas.”

“I thought you didn’t see him.  Just Lily did.  How do you know it was the same guy?”

“Okay.  You got me.  I knew it was him because I walked up to the car and saw the Flowers he bought from us yesterday still in the car.”

“You say it was full?”


“Then it was a Funeral for sure.  Even Rodger the Dodger couldn’t cheat that much!”  Baily had to laugh at that joke, because Roger was the cheatenest guy they both knew.  He wasn’t even sneaky about it.   Zoe always accused him of making up that silly nick-name himself just to show off.

“That is thought is too sad. So I hope not.  We sell a lot for Funerals.  But everyone has the Flowers sent to the funeral, and we put a little personal note on them for our customers. I never saw anyone put so many expensive fresh flowers in a car and drive off with them.

“I know…“  Baily was about to say something probably very clever, when the food arrived and after that Baily loses interest in small talk.  Eating Barbeque is a serious business.   The House wine which was always served with their Special Dinner, even had a wooden smoky taste to it.  They must keep the wood burning barbeque in the Wine cellar.

Being full of whole wheat rolls and apple butter, deep dark, baked, beans, smoky wine and roast pork always slowed down Baily’s driving.

Zoe was too grateful for that to mention it, as he cruised slowly back home.  He did get out and take Zoe to the door, though for a good night kiss  and his kisses were nice and his company had been fun as usual, so why did they not seem to think of it as love?  At least Zoe knew she didn’t and as he never said so, he must not either

“Good night, Sweetie”  He patted her fanny and left.

Zoe went to bed early and dreamed about, of all people, Duncan, the Gladiolas man. In the dream he was arriving at her door with all of the flowers still in the back of his car.  I want to return these flowers.” he told her “They are faulty.”

“What is the matter with them?”   she had asked politely, just as Gramma Suzie would have.

“They are all wilted.”  He complained, “ Come out and see!”

They walked out to the curb where the big Land Rover was parked with the last section behind the back seat still filled with his huge collection of Gladiolas.  But they were now just faded, wilted, flowers.

Yes, sure enough the big beautiful colorful Gladiolas hung their heads low and the limp leaves were bent to the car floor.

“I can’t have a Funeral with them now.  They look awful!”  Zoe was dumb founded and tongue tied.  She could see that he was right on both points, but… How did that make it her problem?

“Didn’t your Gramma Suzie say the customer was always right, even if he is wrong?” Duncan said.

Zoe was startled.  How did he know she always said that?  She was so startled, that she sat up in bed to protest the problem, in spite of what Gramma Suzie said,

Then she sat there half awake and uncertain how to handle the problem that lingered on her brain in the half that was still asleep.

Her head dropped to the pillow and she closed her eyes, just as Duncan took her in his arms and gave her the kind of kiss she only dreamed about.  After which everything was alright.  Even the Gladiolas perked back up.

The next morning she went to work in kind of a daze.  Whatever she had dreamed about last night made her wake up that way, but she didn’t know why.

Luckily the Bride came in just as soon as she had opened and loved her choice of blue flowers.  She gave them her Mom’s Credit Card and left her the Church address and the time, leaving Zoe to put the arrangements together just as she had explained them the day before.  Once again Lily had the front duty.

Later in the afternoon after the delivery was made to the Church, Zoe came back to the Shop a bit exhausted and looking forward to closing time.  When she saw the Land Rover pull up in front of the Shop and the Gladiolas man step out of the driver’s seat and turned toward them.  Zoe  panicked.   Suddenly she was heading for the back, telling Lily that she forgot something she must do back there and had disappeared before that man came into the Shop.

But weak as she felt she watched from a crack as Lily looked up and gave him a big welcoming smile.  She would remember him this time, but she still hadn’t recognized him yet,

“I bought all of your Gladiolas yesterday.”  he told her.  “Did you get any more today?”  he wondered. As he looked around.

“My boss said someone else bought them all. So she couldn’t buy any. Sorry maybe tomorrow.  Do you want me to save you some then?

Lily asked, hoping to get him to look around.

“I’ll be back.  And yes, if she does get more I would like to buy them.” “Wait a minute and you can tell her.”  Lily turned to go get Zoe who quickly disappeared out the back door, where she stood looking in the trash container in case anyone wondered what she was doing.

Seeing no one, Lily shrugged and decided that Zoe was in the restroom, but the door stood open with no one in sight.  In a single complete turn she gave up and headed back.  Maybe she could just ask him why he needed more already and wouldn’t something else be a nice change?

But the man had left. The Land Rover had driven away.

Zoe watched him go from the alley driveway.  What was there about him that made her leave?  She had become so… almost too embarrassed to face him.  Was it the snub that she had been given at the Bazaar?  No she had scarcely noticed that at the time.  Only curiosity had made her mention him to Baily.   She saw as the car passed, that he had not bought any more flowers.  At least no tall ones were in the back.  Lily would tell her.  She rushed in to find out, she didn’t want to face him, but she still wanted to know everything else she could find out.  Something about him haunted her dreams.

If curiosity killed the cat, Zoe was doomed.  Something about seeing him again almost made her swoon .  What a stupid, silly, idea!

Lily dashed out the door with a backward wave calling out…

“See Ya Tomorrow!”

So Zoe went home to her empty apartment happy to be there with nothing to do.  She was still exhausted by the Wedding, but happy to have it. Things like that were a lot of work but they kept her in the black.

She turned on the T.V. and watched some news before dozing off on the couch thinking surely she wouldn’t dream sitting up…but she did.

A warm feeling flowed over her as Duncan entered her dream again.  Her dream man carried a single red Gladiola and set it on the coffee table as he bent to kiss her.  She moaned and went willingly into his arms as he came down to wrap his body over hers very gently.

Then she woke up and sat up.  What was that all about?  Zoe was almost embarrassed at her own response to this man she had only seen once and who had never spoken a word to her.  Was she that desperate for someone to love her?   She showered and took her new book to bed to read.  It was a love story and maybe that would settle her down to think about someone else’s problems.   Before long the book was on the floor and Zoe was sound asleep and back in Duncan’s loving arms.

In the morning she hurried back into a very hot shower to try to clear her head before going to work.  A good shampoo and a blow dry with a pony tail might do that.   She dressed in her most tailored suit, even if she woke up wanting to pull on her sexiest summer dress with the little spaghetti straps and flowing short skirt.  Get sensible Zoe ordered herself.

First stop as always, the Wholesale Market.  Then she panicked again.  She had just parked next to a Land Rover just like her Gladiola man drove.  Was he here already?

As she was getting out of the car, he returned carrying a small bucket of Glads.  As he put them in the back of his car, he saw her and answered her unasked question.

“Hi there again.”  He put the flowers in the car and strapped the bucket to the back as she watched fascinated.

“I took the others all to the hospital.  For the very first time I had enough.”  He smiled and she was mentally gone again. Lost in his great smile.

What about him had such a hold on her?  It was the dream.  Zoe knew that now, because she had been awakened twice with him in hers and and had even figured out how to get rid of him.

She turned on the bedroom T.V. and put on the news watching it until it had bored her back to sleep…  alone. with the World’s problems keeping her brain busy trying to solve them all, which was of course, impossible, but a challenge just the same.

His next words jarred her back.

“Are you doing anything for lunch today?  I’d like to show you something.”

Was she?  Zoe couldn’t remember.  “I don’t think so, but as soon as I order today’s flowers and get back to work, I’ll know.”  She responded.

“Who do you order flowers for?  What Florist?”   he asked.

“Suzie Q’s Flowers.  My Grandmother’s  Shop.”  she added.  His face lit up.

“My favorite little flower store.”  He admitted. “Are you working there?  I’ve never seen you.”

“I’m in the back a lot making Wedding arrangements and such.”  She made as her excuse.  What would he think if he knew she dashed out just to avoid seeing him for reasons she could certainly never express.  Even just standing here facing him was a strain

“I can save you a little bit of time they still don’t have any more Gladiolas.” I took the last few. He put his hands out open to show he had nothing.  I wish I knew what would work as well for me.”  He gave it some thought then decided,

“I’ll come in a bit early and maybe you can suggest something.  What time do you go to lunch?

“One O’clock. Does that work for you?”

“Sure, I’m my own boss.  So I tell me what to do.  I am pretty bossy though,”  He smiled that smile again, “By the way I’m  Duncan Davis and you are?”  he put out a large, almost familiar hand, that Zoe had seen and felt many times in her dreams.  Zoe couldn’t make herself touch it, she dropped her purse instead, then bent to pick it up while telling him her name.

Okay Zoey.  Is that spelled with an E at the end or a Y.”

“ Just the E but everyone seems to say Zoey.  I guess Zo is just too plain.”

“There’s nothing at all plain about you though.”  He complimented her.  At least she took it as one.

Zoe spent a of of time looking for what to suggest in place of the Glads,

What was in stock here that he might like was the Corn Lily or the Forsythia or maybe the Day Lily or Amaryllis so she bought some of each. The Amaryllis was the largest and the most plentiful and thus the cheapest.  However Duncan didn’t seem interested in the price.  He must have money.

By noon she will be able to show him all of them and knowing what he wants to do with them will help a lot.  Then she saw some Cape Chincherinchee.  And added some of those

Should she dash home for that summer dress?  Yes she should.  But even now she was having trouble not thinking and dreaming about this guy. Looking sexy would even make that all worse.  She stayed sensible and went to work getting very busy as soon as she entered a little late.  She had spent extra time helping Lily, but she forgot to mention her upcoming date with Duncan to Lily. Her thoughts centered on learning why he was so interested in buying so many Gladiolas.

With the replacements each arranged in their little buckets and placed to show well, she still planned on leaving as soon as she  saw his car pull up to the front.  Zoe hated to think she didn’t want Lily see her go to lunch with him, but she wasn’t ready to face that yet.

But it didn’t work out that way. At 11:00 a.m. he tapped on the back door and Lily let him in.  She led him to the front and with a big smile introduced him to her boss, Zoe.  Duncan played along and put out his hand.

Oh no, Zoe thought, here we go again. With no purse to drop she had no choice but to accept his hand with a firm shake.  He held it a bit longer and she made no effort to take it back…just like in her dreams where she was melted butter with his touch.

“Come-on.” Lily said, “Let me show you the new blossoms Zee bought today to fill the Gladdy gap.”  Lily tugged Duncan away and introduced one  stem after the other.

Zoe was both relieved and irritated.  She had rehearsed the way she would present each new one to him.  But now she could go to the back and breathe again.

When it was nearly time for lunch, she went to freshen up to go with Duncan.  How would Lily handle that?  They could not both leave at the same time.

But Duncan pulled it off by telling Lily he had to take Zoe away for an hour or so and then he would bring her some lunch if she would give him a hint about what she would like.

“Oh please don’t worry about me.  My husband ,Sal, will soon be by with our lunch.”  He likes to eat here with me and our quiet little flowers.  His building is too noisy.”  She chuckled a little laugh, “What else would you expect in an Auto Repair and Paint Shop?”

Zoe followed Duncan to his car and managed to take a seat without showing the emotion she was feeling.  Her mind counted to fifty slowly to calm herself.  If only she hadn’t spent so much time fantasizing about him in her dreams.  Just keep remembering, he is just a regular guy… not your private Dream Man.

By the time they arrived at the hospital she had heard the story of how he had started this personal event.

His Mother had been in the hospital for those whose memories had been stolen by that terrible disease called Alzheimer’s.  She was there for almost a year, before she was quietly relieved of her illness and total inability to know a person or how to eat and drink by that final sleep.

In that time his Dad had visited daily and he had managed once a week.  Then suddenly his Dad had a heart attack and was gone so quickly.

“I hope I go like my Dad.”  Duncan added, “Hospitals should be for those getting better not a place to slowly go downhill. “

With his Father no longer visiting her, Duncan went to see his Mother more often.  His Father always took her a stem of her favorite Flower, which she always grew in her garden…a Gladiolas.  So He had come carrying a bouquet of them to her.

As he walked slowly past the open doors other old women saw him and in their permanent confusion decided that he was there for them.  Hands reached out and a name like my boy, John was called. He picked up a single stem and place it in their hands.  They almost always brought it close to their hearts some and even kissed it.

By the time he reached his Mother’s room he had but one left. She brightened and said sweetly, “Peter.”  That was my Father’s name.  Duncan slowed and swallowed hard to keep his voice even as he explained. She did not know he had gone before her.  Zoe used her finger tips to brush away a tear that had formed unwillingly as he spoke so softly about those last days. Getting out a Kleenex was too obvious.

Anyway after that I always took as many Gladiolas as I could to give one to any person male or female who seemed to call me by a name important to them.

After Mother was gone I decided to change Hospitals.  Now I go to the Children’s Hospital and carry a Gladiola stem to each of the children who struggle to survive to adulthood.  Many will make it the others fail trying.  They seem to like the beautiful big flower as much as the seniors had and I enjoy the squeals of joy they bring to these little ones.

They arrived in the Parking lot and Zoe helped him by being a flower carrier.  The nurses and Doctors called Duncan by name and smiled as he walked the halls putting out flowers where there were none.

They went past the Hospital Coffee Shop and stopped for a cup.

“You see.”  He explained to Zoe.  The long stem opens one flower at a time as the bottom one drops off, the next higher opens up and a fresh flower is in bloom, all the way to the top. So a single stem lasts a long time.  That was what my Mother liked about them and so do I.

Zoe told him which other flowers do the same and reminded him of having seen them at the shop.  “The Gladiolas season does end you know.”

“I’m finding that out, from you and the folks at the Wholesale Flower Bazaar.”

“I could stop until next season or…”    He thought a minute I could use something else.  But I can’t give these Kids anything to eat.  No candy No nothing. And toys are difficult to choose for kids with different abilities.

A single Flower lasts long enough to be helpful and gives them each a tiny thing to love.    They really do love their flower and it loves them back.  Some even sleep with it on their pillow.”

“And the Doctors don’t mind?”  Zoe wondered.

“If it’s a danger, those children are in a different ward.  So no, they really don’t get one.”  I just figured that if a single flower can bring so much joy to an elder, who has regressed to childhood, then why not a child? I inquired and they said it can’t hurt. So give it a try.  That’s what we are doing.”

“Zoe suggested the much smaller Forsythia.  It is almost a miniature Glad. And for good P.R.  They are named for William Forsyth who help found England’s  Horticultural Society.  They will fit a child’s pillow better.” She added.

Duncan turned to face her at the Hospital Entrance.  Was she dreaming again?  This was how they all started.  But in her dreams a kiss always followed.   She stepped back one step.

“Thank you for coming today. “ he said softly.  “Will you come with me again on Saturday? “
“Gladly.”  It made her laugh, as it sounded almost like a pun. They continued to the car and he drove her back to the shop.

She ran quickly inside and explained the flower use to Lily.

“None of us even came close to guessing that.”  Lily exclaimed.  “So what do you think of him.?”

“Ohh, he’s alright.  I don’t know anything else about him.  But I am going to the Hospital again next Saturday.”

“What are you going to tell Baily about that.?”

“Just what I told you.”  Zoe went to work making up for lost time and was ready when Baily picked her up for dinner.

This time he waited across the street for her to come away from her Shop.  He put down the book he was reading as he heard the car door open.

“Hey Babe, you were fast tonight.  How are things going with the flowers.?”

“Just fine.  I chose some different ones this morning for a new customer.”

“Another Wedding?”  Baily wondered.

“No this one is taking them to the Children’s Hospital.”

“His kid is sick?”

“No, this is the Gladiola Man. You remember him.  Well that is what he does with a car full of flowers.  No Funerals and no wife to cheat on.  Roger can keep his cheatin’ rep.”

“How about a drive to the coast for a fish dinner tonight.”  Baily changed the subject to the evening at hand.

“Sounds good to me.”I walked all of the halls in that big Hospital to help pass out the flowers and I am bushed.  The ride will feel good for now.”

Zoe leaned back and closed her eyes.

“Let me know when we are there.  What did you do today?”

“We had big case finish up with good results. I’m celebrating!  Can’t you tell? “ He glanced over and saw that Zoe probably missed his last ten words. She wasn’t snoring but definitely asleep.  Baily smiled as he thought, How nice that she was comfortable enough with him to sit back and sleep without worry.  He looked back again.  She was rather pretty when she slept.  Of course she is pretty, but sleeping people rarely are.  He patted her gently on the nearby knee and whispered just in case she could hear him

“You just rest darling and I will tell you when we are close.”

She moaned something and turned toward him without waking.

Fortunately he could not see the dream that had taken over her unconscious mind.  She moaned again softly, as the warm feeling her Dream Man always gave her by his mere presence.

“If that is snoring , I like the sound of it..”  Baily said half aloud.

He drove into the parking lot and turned to waken Zoe.  She smiled and reached out to him.  He allowed himself to be pulled into a kiss.

“Is that my thanks for letting you sleep?”  Baily asked in his normal voice.  “In that case you may sleep anytime you like.” Zoe opened her eyes.

“Baily?”  She wasn’t sure where she was.

“We’re at the Fresh Fish Diner, sleepy head.  Are you still hungry?”

Zoe sat up almost in fear.  Had she spoken or done anything to be embarrassed about?

“I’m sorry I only meant to rest my tired eyes.  She pushed herself to get up and out of the car, so that the cold Beach air could jar her to life.

Zoe never appreciated the cold wind so much. Her dream had vanished as they always did .  But she wanted the feeling to vanish with it.  She was walking to get to the Restaurant Rest Room to brush her hair and clear her mind.

Inside she leaned on the sink and stared into the mirror.  The thing is, she told her mirrored self.  The real man, Duncan, is nothing like the Dream Man I have invented in my sleep, so get over it and him both.  She went back to the table where Baily was busy ordering for both of them.

From this point on Baily would get the attention he had earned over the years.  The wide awake and much wiser Zoe smiled at him.

Baily walked up to Zoe’s front door for his regular goodnight kiss and stood back a bit looking at her.  Then he said,

“Tonight,  I’d like a goodnight kiss just like the one you gave me this evening in the car as you woke up from your driving sleep.”

“How was that any different from every other kiss?” Zoe wanted to know.  She only remembered sleeping and waking up.  The kiss was forgotten with the Dream

“It was about how you reached out for me and drew me to you that was different. It was you kissing me.”

Zoe put her arms around Baily’s neck and brought him to her instead of waiting for him to come on his own to give her the usual peck of a goodnight kiss.  Feeling the difference herself she kissed him long and slow.”

“Was that it?” she asked sweetly.

Baily drew back and just stared at her.

“You have changed, Babe.  I don’t know what or why but it is very nice.”

“This one is on me.“  Baily told her as he moved back in place. Sure enough the next kiss was the return of hers and better.

“No you are the one who has changed.”  Zoe told him.  She put her hands on her hips and gave him a scolding look. “Have you been practicing with someone else?”

“You must be kidding, Zee, When do I even have time to see anyone but you.”

“You don’t and maybe that is the problem.  Maybe we need to have more time away from each other.  So we can appreciate it more when we do.  I thought that several times this year.  That we had grown stale and there was no excitement in our times together.  They were not dates… they were obligations.”

“I do know what you mean but I don’t like what you are saying.”  Baily argued.  If you mean like…  we are breaking up.”

“No not breaking up.  We are starting over. Call me for a date and tell me where we are going and why.  Then I will tell you if I can work it into my calendar.  Let’s be friends and work our way from there.  If along the way you call a stranger for a date, I must not object and neither may you, if I accept one.  Because if and when we Marry,  that part will end and there will be no cheating allowed no matter how much fun our friend Roger the Dodger says it is,  Got it?”

“I got it. But I may not like it.”   Baily said, while wondering if this new freedom had some advantages after all

Zoe reached over and drew him into her best good night kiss.  If he was going, she wanted him to leave with a good opinion of her.

She watched him zoom off in his favorite love… his little red automobile.

It had gotten late and she headed to bed wondering… if she had a Dream this night, who might be her Dream Man now?  She felt a relief with their decision tonight.  It seemed to Zoe that when your Dreams are better than your reality something had to change.  Tonight it did.  Had she made a mistake?  Suppose she just lost Baily forever.  If she did, seven years had been wasted.

By the time she had showered and had a hot cup of tea, she decided that the years with Baily were just like her childhood.  They could not be lost they were just a learning period.

Duncan retuned the next day to look at Zoe’s choice of using the daintier stem of Forsythia for the Children’s Hospital Kids.  Meanwhile Zoe had changed her mind and now recommended the Freesias instead they have more colors and the Forsythia was only a deep gold yellow

.  But he would need to decide if the Freesia perfume was too strong.  It really is strong,  but oh so nice, one of her favorites.  If anything in the drug store said “Freesia” on it, she bought it whether it was shampoo or dishwashing detergent.

They took what she had of both for Saturday’s Hall walk.  The Staff at the Hospital may have an opinion.

The children loved them both.  Zoe thought the little girls just craved the attention and responded to the smile of the handsome Flowerman.  Duncan insisted that the little boys had all fallen in love with the beautiful Blonde Lady who gave them a pretty flower.

The staff even liked the perfume of the Freesia when they walked past it.  They told them that many parents brought in the growing potted Freesia plants for a window sill, to cover up the medicinal odor that many found unpleasant.

Zoe discovered a wholesale shipment of Corn Lilies which were colorful and dainty with long stems like baby Gladiolas.  She bought the bundle to offer first to Duncan and soon learned that they would be very popular with her regular customers as a dinner table center piece.

The bright red Amaryllis with the thick study stems were far too large for the children.  Each heavy deep green stem held from three to as many as six very large trumpet shaped flowers, four or five inches across, facing in all directions. A single stem was a full arrangement.

Duncan insisted that Zoe went with him to take as many as possible to the Hospital where his Mother had been for the last months of her life.  Those old folks would love to get one of these impressive Flower groups while they are in bloom and he felt a bit guilty having not visited since his mother died.  At the same time he knew forgetting was what they did.

At the end of that walk Duncan decided that Zoe needed to be cheered up.  Seeing how those people grew old, could be, no was simply put, very depressing.  So he got tickets to a mostly happy musical, South Pacific and they went to dinner then the show.

They told each other it wasn’t really a date, as it was not made in advance, but they certainly relaxed and came away singing the bouncy songs.  Still on a high from the music they went to a club for a drink or a coffee to be decided there.  They must have had both for they were now awake, but game for taking chances.

The way they were acting, Zoe wasn’t surprised when Duncan seemed ready to kiss her goodnight.  She had been the most surprised all of those times when he did not. So for the past three months she had been left wondering if the Dream Duncan and the real Duncan were anything alike.  Wondering and wanting to know are different.  Wondering is a vague thought.  Wanting to know is a need.

When she only wondered, it didn’t matter that he never kissed her, she could count on the Dream to come in her sleep and thus she knew what it must surely be like to be kissed by him.  The fact was she didn’t want to know for certain, if learning the truth about one, the real man, would ruin the other, the Dream man.

The real man was obviously more timid than, the Dream Man,  Zoe also wondered…What would Duncan think if he knew I have dreamed of more than his kisses since that first day..  This was her secret and she would never, never let him know that, never.   As she mulled the options he was getting closer.

Now Zoe was worried she didn’t know if she could deal with this happening.  It was obvious that he was going to kiss her.  The way his hand held her arms, the way he looked at her.

Something else too what was it? He was breathing too soft or holding his breath.  This was not going to work, No he must not.

But just like in her Dreams she could not push him away.  What could she do?  She could hold her own breath until she fainted.  How long would that take?  She should have tried to time that in advance.  There was nothing to do but face the music and let it happen.  She melted into his arms and lifted hers up to his neck, just in case she did faint.

By the time his mouth reached hers she was a goner, just like in the dream she felt that already familiar warm all over shiver that made her moan in her sleep and now again, when she was wide awake. Neither moved from the hard kiss, and both stayed to softly keep it alive.

As he loosened his hold, she was convinced that this really was the Dream and she had to fight to keep on her feet.

Duncan the real man didn’t move away he just stayed there holding her, which was lucky because her knees were weak right this minute.

“I was afraid this would happen.”  He whispered to her bare neck “ I always knew if this got started that nothing would ever be the same.  It can’t ever be the same again now you know.”

“I do  know, but I didn’t want to either, so I fought it,  But it happened just as I always dreamed.  Can we both try to pretend tomorrow that it didn’t happen tonight?”  Zoe asked.

“I believe every screwy saying proves to be true here.  You can’t put the tooth paste back in the tube, or the worms in the can, or the lid back on Pandora’s box. Your dreams don’t come true because you want them to. They come true when they are true.”  Duncan made an effort to make them both face that truth.   Zoe tried to change it back.

“ I’ll try to pretend this didn’t happen , if you do the same.”

Duncan told her, “ I must warn you that I have dreamed this ever since we met.  I’ll keep on dreaming if I must, but now I’m convinced that real is so much better.”

“Yes, it is.  But the dream is a safer secret.”

Duncan moved away just far enough to look at her face.  Their bodies still pressed together. “ I have a suggestion.”

“I’m listening.”  Zoe needed some guidance here and now.

“We could just agree to walk off the cliff and take the plunge.  We go right now to Vegas and get married.  Then no more suffering and dreaming.  Some people like my parents actually keep the love growing for many, many, years. “

“And when we are very old, will you bring me Gladiolas?”  Zoe asked.

“Or you may have to bring them to me.”Duncan smiled.

“ I will.  I will.  But better yet we can just keep on taking them to the Hospitals for the little sick children.  And our own children will be too busy helping us give flowers to others to get sick themselves.”

“Of course,  Giving away flowers is a lot of work, but somebody has to do it to keep the happiness going.”.

“ I’ll keep us supplied with beautiful blossoms from my Flower Shop.’  Then she turned serious. “ By the way, what do you do when you are not giving away flowers?  How do we feed the kids if my Shop fails?

“I write.  Books. About the people I meet in the hospitals and in parking lots.”  Duncan smiled at that memory of seeing her and knowing then that what happened tonight was inevitable.

He even knew that she always knew and fought to keep it a secret feeling, also.

From this moment on the secrets were out. Two secrets had melded into one.  They both agreed that a real life was after all so much better than what the dream life had promised.