The Green Knight ( Part #3)

(Part #1 HERE) (Part #2 HERE)

Rhys didn’t consider himself an especially brave man. –

He didn’t take unnecessary risks although he liked adventure. He didn’t eat strange foods or desire to travel to exotic lands, except maybe to see famous gardens. He didn’t interact with dangerous people or practice questionable occult rhetoric. He did, however, spend an entire day in a women’s hair Salon and he felt he deserved a place among the pantheon of “Bravest Men Alive.” Or at least a gold medal of some kind in spite of Flora’s “I told you so” smirk.

Women were exhausting and calculating creatures. When he insisted on staying in the Salon all day he’d said it for the sake of the plants, not thinking about the consequences of his actions. He didn’t realize that for eight hours he’d be harassed, questioned, lectured, photographed, flirted with and scolded (this last one mostly by elderly ladies assuming he was preying on innocent young women for nefarious reasons).

When these conversations came about, Flora’s laughter would ring out and she caught his eye in the mirror, her gap-toothed smile unrestrained from the cover of her hand. Occasionally she would swoop in and defend him when she was free of clients but mostly he was left to fend for himself.

She was right when she said he would come to know more than he ever thought he would. For instance, did he know that he was supposed to get his hair trimmed every six weeks to encourage faster growth? Or that dieting was all media-driven bull shit? (He did actually know that.) And that men who were more quiet and cold were more attractive to women because it made them want to dig under the surface?

Even he couldn’t miss that obvious call. It left a bad taste in his mouth.

Rhys left that day with dozens of pictures in his phone of the Salon, dozens more from women who simply got in the way, and a pocket full of phone numbers which he promptly threw in his fire place. When he flopped on his couch in the blessed quiet of his own home, his ears rang with the echoes of Flora’s laughter.

Over lunch she told him that he didn’t have to come back. That if he left her a watering schedule, she would try to follow it and not murder his generous donations.

“I meant what I said,” Rhys reiterated stubbornly, shoving a bite of the kale and lettuce salad he’d crafted from the salad bar at the chosen lunch destination. “I’ll come back and water them.”

Flora munched her deli sandwich, amused, wiping her now colorless lips with a napkin. “Fine then. Come in with me in the morning and do it before everyone gets there. In and out and no one is the wiser.”

“I can do that. Thank you.”

She smiled and they ate in peace, simply enjoying the moment.

She gave him an out several times during the day, insisting she would send him photos every hour on the hour. To this her co-workers jeered and teased, asking what kind of photos and if they were safe for work. She came back every time with something witty and humorous that made everyone feel at jovial and at ease.

He couldn’t stop watching her, trying to catch more glimpses of her colorful tattoos when he wasn’t staring at the floor trying to ignore people. She jangled and flashed and had a ready laugh. An exotic butterfly with wings that mesmerized him. Catching her eyes in the mirror started a fire in his belly, low and slow. It’s presence alarmed him.

Be careful.

Occasionally she would disappear when it was her turn to do the “Psychic” part of the business and it was those times her coworkers would swoop in on him, playing Twenty Questions and trying to get dirt on him.

“What are your plans miho? I see you making eyes at our Flora. She gotta marry a rich man!”

“You gonna be coming around here regular-like? We gonna put you to work then!”

“Hey what can chu do besides grow things? Do you have a job or what?”

“What’s with all the green stuff? It’s like a jungle in here now. Can I call you Tarzan and put a loin cloth on you?” (This from the high maintenance resident gay man.)

It was too much. He saw how Flora fit in with the gaggle of squawking geese but he didn’t understand why she put up with it.

Rhys groaned and threw an arm over his face. Why was he even doing this? Flora was not the kind of person he gravitated toward when he was looking for companionship. His types were more the tea drinking, book shopping, gardening variety. Quiet, like him, prone to philosophical discussions, and better when they each had their own spaces. People that didn’t trigger him.

Everything about her was a trigger for him, although not in the usual bad way. He found he didn’t mind the burn in his belly or her symphony of sounds and colors. She fascinated him. What was her story? Why did she choose to open a salon, of all things? Why here in his sleepy little town? Why all the tattoos? 

He was a little ashamed that he ran out on her at the end of the day, especially after he insisted on staying. She was in the back and one of her clients was preparing to alight his lap to take a selfie, all legs and perfume and heaving breasts. It had been his limit. Until then no one had touched him. He’d managed to dodge the pats and pets coming at him from every direction with a shift of a limb or twist of his torso.

He stood, careful to avoid the woman, and beat it to his jeep before anything else could happen. He peeled out from the curb into honking, angry traffic, controlling his breaths and clenching the wheel like he was going to break it. His vision was blurred and he blinked rapidly to clear it. Calm down. Calm down!

Too close. All of it. Too close. Stupid, stupid! He shouldn’t have tried to push himself.

He turned on the country music station to soothe his ruffled feathers and drove the scenic route home, using the road and the trees and the wind to calm him. Mile by mile, his shoulders relaxed and he eased off the accelerator. He was breathing normally by the time he neared his neighborhood and his heart rate slowed. It had been too close to the line he didn’t cross. All the bodies, the perfume, the coquettish women…

He would apologize later. Maybe with some lilies or some hydrangea that were in bloom, though it would pain him to cut them. He’d been a crappy guest. Right now he couldn’t think about that though. He needed to prune and water, transplant and check on seedlings. Yes. He needed his hands in the dirt, grasping living unfeeling things to calm his thoughts and then he would make a watering schedule for Flora’s plants. But he wouldn’t give it to her. He would go back. He had to. He had to see more.

He began by transplanting some Amaryllis into a decorative pot and giving them a generous soaking. As he emptied the can, he couldn’t help noticing the color was the exact same shade red as Flora’s tattoo.

__________________________________________

Flora had her own routine for calming down at her place. She picked appropriately obnoxious music, cranked the volume to the max and sat in a ball on her couch, ignoring the world. She let the vibrations of the music sink into her tight muscles and the little knots of anger in her brain loosen. She’d stopped caring about the bangs and shouting from her neighbors a long time ago when this happened.

She didn’t blame Rhys. Not one bit. And she should have tried harder to make him go. She saw how tightly he was wound after lunch. It was her fault for keeping him there, enjoying the fact that people connected her to him. It was selfish and it hurt him in the end.

When she’d come out of the back with her client and found him missing with a cluster of desperate housewives bad mouthing him, it didn’t take much to connect the dots. Flora strode over to the women, scalding them with a blistering tongue lashing and held the door open for them. They cussed her out and swore to put her bad customer service all over social media.

Oh no. Not social media!” Flora sneered at the girls. “Run along now, and yap elsewhere.”

“Crazy gringa bitch. We gonna shut you down!”

Flora flipped them the bird with a green tipped nail. “I’ll beat your chubby cellulite asses with my curling irons if you come back here again.”

After making sure the women were truly gone and not going to throw a brick through her window she turned and smiled at her remaining clients, who refused to look her in the eye. Some moved to grab their purses and she held out her hands, her bangles jangling.

“I’m sorry y’all. I had a crazy white girl moment. Today, all fees for hair cuts and alternative services are waived.”

A cheer went up and there was an excited buzz inside the Salon. Many of the women went for their phones to spread the good news and invite their relatives to come. Flora met Eta’s eye and the older woman held up her hands in surrender.

“You’re crazy miha,” she whispered when Flora came near, prepping her station for a grueling day at work. She felt the eyes of the other hair dressers burning holes in her back as well and heard puta aimed at her several times. Family, right? Love them and hate them.

“I’ll take the brunt of it Eta,” she said firmly. “You can take the fees out of my paycheck. It’ll cover the over time for the other guys.”

“Idiosa. As if I would do that. Their lazy asses can work hard for once. It won’t kill them, si?”

Her hands stopped Flora’s hurried movements and forced her to look up. Flora’s eye rested at her chin, a sign of shame, not looking directly into her eyes.

“You realize what you did, right?”

She didn’t actually. She had zero control over herself when she heard the cougars talking about Rhys. Like a red flag in a bull’s face, she just charged.

“I’m sorry Eta,” the smaller woman whispered, blowing out a frustrated breath.

“Who is he to you that you would kick out customers in our Salon miha? You’ve known him all of five minutes.”

Flora reclaimed her hands and reordered her utensils, trying to come up with an understandable answer. Who was he, besides some stranger she had a feeling about? How could she explain that to an outsider?

“He’s someone from my past,” she said carefully. “Someone I’ve known about for a long time.” She gave Eta a pointed look, gray eyes hard on her face.

Flora hadn’t divulged a lot of her past with the older woman because ignorance meant Eta didn’t disappear mysteriously. But for the sake of their business partnership, she felt it was fair to mention she had unsavory relatives, dangerous kinds, and that there were things she couldn’t say that Eta would have to be satisfied with not knowing. Explaining the importance of Rhys in her life was one of those things. Flora herself didn’t know exactly what Rhys meant to her but nipping the subject in the bud for now was the best she could do.

“Let’s just get through it, okay? Go and buy a round of Tequila Sunrises for everyone afterward at El Vita.”

Eta looked like she wanted to push for more details but Flora kept her eyes sharp so she let it go and made a show of her response to cast off suspicion from the others.

“Mio dios miha now you speaking my language! Drinks on the white gringa!”

There was a round of cheers and a new bounce to the employees the last hours at the salon. 

She and the others had worked well past closing time, giving away free dye jobs, tarot sessions, chakra cleansings, dream interpretations, hair extensions, waxings and magic spells. As busy as she was, the anger didn’t leave Flora despite being completely drained of everything else. She stayed quiet the rest of the day, preferring her own thoughts to conversation, and only staying at El Vita’s for one round of drinks before she cut out and drove home.

There’s something about him, Flora thought, glaring from her couch at her thrift store box TV. The more I’m around him the more possessive I get. I have no right.

Her eyes traveled up the cracked wall to a large cross hanging there, hand-made with copper wire and a rainbow of gem stone beads. It reminded her of her aunties, who were always surrounded by colorful scarves and jewelry. She recalled their chubby faces and their words floated up from the depths her memory.

Your instincts are never wrong Florinda. Your heart can be fickle and your mind will play tricks but your instincts never lie. You must learn to listen to them and you will never be in trouble.”

Instincts. Was it instinct that drew her to him? He wasn’t anything special when she first saw him at the Garden Center. Just a sort of handsome guy with a ton of nearly dead plants. Interesting story there but not someone who would garner a female’s attention immediately, especially after how cold he’d been. And yet she gave him her card. Her awful cheesy business card for her embarrassing job. Why in the hell did she give this guy her BUSINESS address? Normally it was her name and cell on a piece of stationary she kept in her car.

And yet he’d come. Admitted he washed the card on accident but then instead of calling or e-mailing her (it was on the website) he’d come in person to a place that obviously made him want to run screaming for the hills. And he claimed he wanted to keep coming back. That was something. It couldn’t just be her feeling the connection.

She wanted to know what he felt, what he thought about her. Was it only her who felt it? She wanted to ask but she knew he would never be forth coming about something so personal and unreal. The need to find out pressed on the back of her skull like a sensitive bruise ever since she’d met him. He could be one of the most important people she’d every met; a catalyst she needed to prepare for. Or he could be no one. 

If left up to him, she would never know. She could check though. She had the means and he would never be the wiser for it.

Another conversation, a less kind one, came bouncing into Flora’s head and she sat up, flushing with a latent anger, her fingers curling on the cushions like claws.

“She’s afraid of fire.”

Flora sat on the floor, her freckled face scrunched in concentration, staring hard at the dark-haired girl in front of her who was crying silent tears.

“Too easy! You need to go beyond the surface!”

There was a sharp rap to the back of her head and Flora jerked forward, not understanding what was needed of her. Mother spoke in riddles a lot and became irritated if she didn’t catch on right away. The other girl, a cousin, “volunteered” for her experimenting and sat in front of her. She looked terrified, brown eyes wide at the truths Flora had already uncovered about her; truths no one but her should ever know. Flora squeezed her trembling hands. trying to give comfort when there was none to give. She knew she was a monster.

Having a connection to someone, seeing their wants and fears on the surface won’t get us what we need from them. You need to sink into them, to become them and look through every memory.

I can’t do that Mama!” Flora argued, flinching in reaction to the quick hand movement toward her face. This time, a sharp faceted ring caught in her hair after the blow and yanked out a few strands of honey brown.

Find me something useful Florinda or you won’t get any food for an entire day. Maybe a clear head and stomach will make you focus better.”

But I don’t control the visions. They come to me–”

What do you think we are learning here child? Control! You saw the man in your dream because he will be important in your life one day. You made a connection to him in the astral plane. If you can develop that ability with anybody, you’ll be able to look for secrets. We need those secrets.”

But why?” she whispered, eyes tearing up from the pain and frustration.

Because as gypsies, we deal in secrets. The rest is just for show.”

Secrets. Flora knew lots of secrets that she tried to forget and she wasn’t in the market to learn anymore. She was furious with herself for even thinking of using it on Rhys, even for a flash of a second. She rose and flipped off the stereo, turning down the volume nob so she wasn’t deafened when she turned it back on again then she went into her room. She start divesting herself of jewelry and clothing. What she needed was a soothing and cleansing bath.

She was standing naked in her bathroom, waiting for the water to get hot, deciding which bath bomb she wanted to use when her phone started to ring. She looked at it, then at the clock on her headboard. Who was calling her at 11 at night? She swiped open the screen to reveal an unfamiliar number. She hesitated for a second and then answered it.

Hello?”

There was no answer.

Hello? Anyone there?”

There were a few moments of breathing. Just breathing. There WAS someone on the other line. But they weren’t saying anything. They were listening. The hairs on her arm pricked and she ended the call, throwing the phone on her bed like it was poisonous. Her heart beat out a furious rhythm against her rib cage and it was hard to catch a full breath. Who was it? Was it Rhys? Or a wrong number? Or someone else?

Icy fear cracked an egg on top of her head and oozed liquid nitrogen down her neck and shoulders. She slumped bare-assed on her toilet, her legs twitching with the need to move, to run, as they always had when strange things started happening to her. She didn’t stay alive this long by staying put and ignoring her gut. This at least, her aunties taught her well.

She had money stashed. Eta would trade her cars in a heart beat, had always ogled the shiny Pink VW Bug over her old rusty Cadillac. Flora had a no real plan except to travel east into the big cities where she could get lost and her family’s influence had a tenuous grip. She’d cut her hair again, bleach it down and become someone else. Rent a station at another salon under her other identity, the one she bought before running away. Start over again and disappear into the shadows.

Hold on now,” Flora said aloud, her voice a soft counter point to the water still thundering in the bath tub. “It could have been a mis-dial. A co-worker drunk dialing me to freak me out because they’re assholes.”

Or it could have been Rhys, she thought wistfully. But no. He’d washed her card and she didn’t think to give her cell out to him again. Three dots make a line. I’ll start packing when I see dot number two. I’m just wound tight from the day and jumping at shadows.

Flora reached over and chose a colorful bath ball at random from the stack in a basket by the tub. It was deep red and white like the Dianthus bunch tattooed on her ribs. She let out a deep steadying breath and plugged the tub, tossing the ball in. She stood there watching it froth and flow in the ripples.

Instincts.

She detoured to her bedroom for a moment and got down on both knees to lift the blankets off the floor on the side of her bed. She groped around in the dark for a minute and finally hooked a finger around the handle of a duffel bag. She tugged it a little and it came toward her reluctantly, wedged tightly under the box spring slats, bulging with necessities. She fought with it until it was at the edge of her bed and then abandoned it. She sighed and tucked the strap back under the bed.

Just in case.”

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Poor Unfortunate Soul

Passion: a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept

I’m beginning to wonder if Passion isn’t a unicorn.

Or maybe a natural talent. Like, some of us have it and others don’t.

I don’t know if it’s cultivated at a young age; being the lucky kid that has parents that expose you to different kinds of things so you can have a chance to find out what you really like to do. Or merely liking something and being curious enough to stick with it and nurture it.

Maybe I’m thinking about the definition too acutely. Maybe I think passion is supposed to be a zealot-like, all-consuming devotion, like those people who give up all worldly possessions and dedicate their life to saving the rain forest.

Either way, I have zero passion in my life. I LIKE writing. I LOVE reading. I really want to lose weight and become a healthier person. I don’t have any strong desire to fight for any charity or injustice. I don’t really care about saving animals going extinct (although I wish it hadn’t come to that in the first place). Laziness beat all these out. Work? Pfffft! Oh, and forgetfulness helps. My short-term memory is shot to hell.

I’m a little jealous of these artists that can bang out books every year or clothing lines every season or produce awe-inspiring paintings for top-notch galleries. What drives you people? It it the love of creation? Is it the memory of a grandparent whose words inspired strength and resolve? Is it the illness of a sibling living life to the fullest while they can?

Why don’t I have this? Did something stunt me as a child and block some fundamental necessity to cultivate passion? Is it a personality flaw? Can it be fixed?

I was never disciplined enough as a child to stick with much of anything, except school and books. I wasn’t interested in anything enough to pursue it wholeheartedly but I was interested in everything. Clothing design. Drawing. Baking. Embroidery. Interior design. Quilting. Guitar. Choir. Calligraphy. Clay sculpting. Mixed Media Arts.

Jack of all trades, master of none.

Can one LEARN to be passionate or is “disciplined” as good as it’s going to get for me? Maybe I have to get through one to have the other? Is it depression submerging me in doubt and I just can’t see clearly? Maybe I haven’t found that ONE THING that fires me up and makes me happy to be awake every morning.

I thought for a second just now that I don’t take pride in anything and that was my problem.

Some people take pride in their homes. How clean they are and how nicely decorated. Some people take pride in their work. Some take pride in raising their families or being a devout (Fill in the blank ______ ).

None of those really apply to me. I’m happy to be able to do these things with some modicum of competence but eh. That’s life. What I do take pride in though, is making things well. Trying a new recipe and it turning out delicious. Seeing something on Pinterest, copying it and making it better than I’d hoped. Being given a task and having the person who gave it be pleased with my accomplishment. Making pretty things for people and getting nothing back.

I take pride in being generous and kind. I take pride in being able to create beautiful, quality things. I take pride in making people happy.

Still doesn’t help me with my writing though. Really, it’s somewhat of a distraction, making all these pretty things. Not complaining. Just saying. Cuz it always comes back to writing.

I thought for sure Writing books was my Thing; my passion; the thing I HAVE to do every day or I feel anxious and shitty and half a human being. Turns out I can go MONTHS without writing a single word! That’s not passion. Is it? I certainly think about writing a lot. I have conversations with my characters out loud sometimes. I write scenes in my head. I funnel my emotions into different scenarios. I make music play lists to guide me through the stories. I think about all the things I SHOULD be doing like character bios and plot lines and back story.

Thinking is good. At least the desire isn’t completely gone.

It seems writing won’t give up on me. Maybe it’s a stubborn as I am, waiting for me to get a grip. As it stands, it’s literally dragging me face down across the glass-strewn ground that is my life, walking determinedly forward. My wrist aches, my heart is dead, all I want to do is sleep and yet…it’s still there. So I ask:

Can Passion merely be the thing one comes BACK to?

Are there levels of passion out there? Some gently simmering for longevity and others blazing strong like the sun for a short until a project is done and then fizzling out? When can I have some? Share the wealth!

For reals I know that to be an author it takes work and time and experience. And practice. And planning (which I’m rubbish at). That Maya Angelou quote never seems to be far from my brain as a reminder:

“When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come’.”

So it comes down to forcing my fingers to move until passion/inspiration/motivation strikes? What a sad existence I have at the moment. But I know that eventually, after my first book is published and I look back, it’ll all have been worth it.

But still…damn. A little heavenly light can shine on me any time now. I’d appreciate the boost ❤

Quickie #29 Lazy days and Sun rays

PROMPT: What is your favorite way to spend a lazy day?

I don’t really have a clear answer for this. Or rather, I have too many answers for this.

Most of my days now are spent by myself and I can do what I want whenever I want (now that I have a carrrrrr!!!) so whenever I have a day “off” it’s spent reading or watching Netflix or window shopping.

I enjoy staying home most of the time. I’m a hermit by nature and I like being with my kids. They’re friggin’ hilarious.  Going on a family outing to a restaurant or bowling is nice when we have a little extra to spend. Eventually we’ll even get brave enough to take the kids to different KINDS of restaurants,other than McDonald’s and Burger King (haaa…)

One kind of lazy day I enjoy is when I can read all day under the covers or curled up on the couch with endless cups of tea and then get gussied up to go out at night to a concert or to a bar with a sassy friend. Sometimes I like to listen to loud music and shout at people until my throat is sore. It’s rare, but the release is nice.

When I’m feeling like I need a change or scenery, sometimes I’ll pack a picnic and go cruise the back roads with the radio blasting and the windows down. It’s even better when a friend is driving and we’re singing together and rehashing “the good ol’ days”. Granted this is more a spring and summer activity but still one of my faves. I love being kidnapped for adventures.

I especially like the rare days I get to spend with my mom since she works evenings/ early mornings and then sleeps during the afternoon when I have to work. We’re employed by the same company but work in different stores so when we do get together we tell horror stories about it and empathize with each other.

Retail is AWESOME. You should try it!

At the core of it though my favorite lazy days require mainly Entertainment, Drinks (alcoholic or non, doesn’t matter), Laughter and Family. And maybe throw in some good home-made food although pizza is never a bad option.

11 Years: Adult Merit badge earned– “Marriage”

Today is my 11 year wedding anniversary.

I’ve been married to 1 man for over a decade. That’s one-third of my life.

1 year ago I realized that things were falling apart in my marriage. It didn’t start one year ago. I just realized it then.

10 years ago, I went against my instinct and got married to a man-boy too immature to deal with what a marriage really was. (Not that I was SO much more mature or anything.)

Strange that I can barely remember much from the last decade. I get bits and pieces when I think back. Most of it is frustration because humans are programmed to respond to and remember the bad more than the good. I know there were many good times in my marriage. But given my current state of mind, I’m not inclined to want to remember them either.

They (you know, the proverbial THEY) say that humans will experience at least three great loves in their life times.

  1. The first great love is the love you think you should have. Your fairy tale love, the one you read about in romance books. The one your parents tell you about. The one you hope might give you the white picket fence dream. Usually it’s to someone you’ve known in school or your early career path. And yet, there’s something deep down that tells you…maybe not? But you ignore it because you’re getting your heart’s desire! It’s the love of the inexperienced and lonely.
  2.  The second great love is destructive, toxic. It is drama filled, border-line addictive. Not necessarily violent or soap opera worthy but it is a relationship that is not healthy for you. Could be an online relationship or a secret affair. A girl/boyfriend gone wrong but you can’t seem to get enough of them, no matter how many times they’ve hurt you. The drama excites you and you get a thrill off it. You crave them. *Insert “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga here*
  3. The third great love comes at you like a stray cat. It comes up to you, all innocent and cute and you pet it until it goes away. The it comes again and maybe you feed it a little. Then you let it in your house and suddenly, it’s there on your lap purring and you’re okay with that. Natural as breathing. What the hell just happened? It is a love that comes from someone unexpected; someone you maybe weren’t even looking for. And yet, they seem to fit you as if they’d always been there. They get you like no one else ever has. The give you space and yet appreciate your flaws and admire your experience. They make you laugh, enhance you as a person and you find that you want to do the same for them. They are like the sun coming out after a terrible storm. (Wow. Maybe the third love really IS an animal.)

I’ve experienced all three of these and I have learned a lot about myself and relationships from them. I’m glad for these experiences because it’s made me a better mom and person, someone wiser. I can look at both sides of love now and give honest opinions about it. Not that they’ll be listened to because everyone has to experience their own life. But I have them.

I don’t think I’ll give any advice right now because I fear it’ll be slightly skewed. This was more of an affirmation that I’ve Been There and Done That and I Know My Shit. Because I survived 11 years with one man.

The next step on this journey is to identify what’s wrong with me and fix myself so that if I ever do decide to get into a serious relationship again, I won’t bring the same problems with me.

I do have one silver lining: I can use all this in my stories. Yep. There ya go.

The Green Knight (Part #2)

(Part #1 HERE)

The interior of the lounge was thick with cigarette and cigar smoke when a tall skinny man walked in. Fresh air from the door opening moved the clouds around in a frenzy before they settled again. He ignored the sexy women sitting and standing around trying to catch his eye and the suspicious gaze of the men watching him make a path to the back. When he approached a gold painted door at the back, two large bouncers with guns blocked his bath with crossed arms and severe scowls.

“What you crawling back here for, street rat?” the blond one in the tank top asked.

“He didn’t learn his lesson last time,” the other snickered, flexing his dark skinned muscles against his white t-shirt.

The shorter man didn’t say a word but held up his phone to their faces and waited, a smug expression in place. The ‘roided out bouncers squinted at the phone and then snatched it out of his hand. There was a silent communication between the two; the fear and hope that the one who came forward would bring good news. The blonde one knocked on the door (seeming to win/lose the bet) and a foreign reply was shouted through. He was gone for a minute and then another face appeared, much older, more wrinkled and infinitely more deadly.

Her eyes were as keen and cold as a snake’s.

“Such a clever and resourceful rat. Come. You have been graced with an audience.”

______________________________________________________

Rhys was waiting for Flora as she strolled up to her salon a few days later She was wearing a pair of paint splattered overalls, a sky blue midriff and a bright yellow bandanna in her hair, tied up like a head band. She had on large aviator sunglasses and she jangled, her multitudes of bracelets in place. Her earrings were laser cut sugar skulls and she carried a bulging spiked leather bag across her body.

“Hey stranger,” she greeted with a red-lipped smile as she neared. “You’re here early. You really are a glutton for punishment huh?”

He felt a bit of tension go out of him as he surveyed her easy smile and laid back greeting. Because of her curt exit the last time they’d parted he was concerned that he’d done something to upset her and it made him anxious for their next meeting. But all seemed to be well.

“I was checking up on your poor doomed plant. Figured I’d stop by.”

His eyes traveled down her ensemble, the neon hurting his eyes in the morning light and he focused instead on the pops of color on exposed skin where she proudly showed her tattoos. What he had originally thought was stained glass or abstract paintings were actually flowers. He recognized belladonna, peonies, lilies, roses, tulips, oleander, freesia and Dianthus among the bouquet and found it was hard to take his eyes away when she stopped in front of him. He wanted to examine them more closely and see if they were true to form.

“Your tattoos–” he started.

“Yeah I know,” she interrupted with a deep sigh. “Kind of obvious right? With my name  meaning flowers and all. But beautiful flowers are always noticed.” She elbowed him playfully. “And I like being noticed.”

He closed his mouth, the question dying on his lips. As if the pink hair and neon wardrobe wouldn’t do that already.

“So what ARE you doing here so early? I didn’t expect you for another week at least.” she asked, taking a wad of keys out of her bag and selecting one for the door. “And probably more toward the afternoon. It’s an ungodly hour to be awake.”

“Better with no customers around,” he said simply, shrugging when she looked at him with eye brows raised.

“That’s true. And you get to avoid my She-Wolf Pack. Smart man. Come on in.”

She held the door open for him and he walked past her, breathing in some of her floral perfume. Sweet and warm. She locked the door behind him and set her bag down on one of the couches up front, unzipping it and taking out some containers. He watched her and contemplated. What was that scent that tickled his nose? Jasmine? Rose. Definitely something rosy in it, but musky too. Sandalwood? He normally didn’t like perfume because it always smelled so fake and gawdy and it made him sneeze. This was subtle and natural. Was it oils then? He wanted to ask but she was already talking again.

“Sorry I ran out on you the other day. I had a trippy memory come back to me from my childhood. PTSD kicked in. It wasn’t anything you did.”

He was relieved that it wasn’t him that made her upset and that she’d cleared the air between them. It made his task that much more pleasant without the dark cloud of doubt hanging over him.

“It’s fine,” he said simply and shoved his hands into his pockets. His shoulders relaxed a smidge. “Thanks.”

She took off her sunglasses and threw them in her bag.

“Good. Have you eaten yet?”

“Uh—”

She laid out several tupperware containers and gestured for him to sit. When he didn’t she looked up at him pointedly with blue shadow streaked eyes. He sat on the edge of the couch to her left and watched her pop off lids with her newly painted rainbow nails.

“Here. Blueberry lemon bread, whole wheat banana chocolate chip bread, yogurt and granola parfait with fresh fruit, mushroom and bell pepper omelet and a selection of teas. We have hot water in the back.”

“You made all this today?”

Everything was still steaming as if it were fresh out of the oven.

She smiled at him and gave him a piece of banana bread on a napkin.

“I’m a morning person,” she said and reached for the omelet. She divided it with a fork and ate her half straight out of the container. He took a tentative bite out of his bread and chewed.

“I thought you said mornings were ungodly.”

“To most other people it is. Good right?” she asked.

He nodded and took a bigger bite. Satisfied, she rose and got hot water from the back in two chipped mugs.

“Do you always make this much food for breakfast?”

“I had some nervous energy to get out. I bake when that happens. Besides, I knew I had to be prepared for when you came back. Breakfast is easier to start people off on when they try new things. It’s light and non-committal, unlike lunch or –GASP–dinner.”

She winked at him when he gave a small smile and continue to eat. He enjoyed the solitude and the meal. The tea she gave was a green variation and he sipped it slowly to savor it. While they ate, Rhys looked around the shop and his eyes picked out potential roosts for the plants he had in the bed of his jeep. He’d brought a wide selection of varying sun/shade plants and flowers based on the lay out of the Salon he’d remembered. But he felt dismayed now seeing that there was little shelving or surface area to put them on.

“Are you allowed to put shelves up?” he asked, a tiny frown appearing between his brows.

Flora nodded and finished her bite.

“We have some. We just didn’t have anybody to hang them. Or the time.

“The owner won’t get mad if we put holes in the wall?”

She answered as she walked back for more hot water and dropped another bag ito his steaming cup.

“She’ll be fine with it.”

“Could you call and ask anyway? Just to be sure?”

She cocked an eyebrow at him.

“So demanding. I rather like this quality. Say something else, Mr. Demandy-pants.”

“It wasn’t a demand–”

She shushed him and dug out her phone, dialing a number. Rhys twitched when the Salon phone rang and Flora rose to answer it.

“Hey boss we got a guy here that’s worried about putting holes in the wall for shelves. Is it cool?”

She looked ridiculous with two phones against her ears and Rhys gave her a sarcastic look. Flora changed her voice slightly and crunched up her face to look like a sour-faced old lady.

“I don’t care. But if he scratches the paint he’s my eternal slave. It’s a discontinued color.”

“Cool! Thanks boss.”

She gave him a cheeky smile and put the receiver down again and clicked off her cell.

“Boss says it’s okay.”

Rhys tried to keep his face neutral but her thoughts had already guessed at his.

“Yes, the pink-haired hippie is a business owner, but only a third of it is mine. I was just the money backer to get it off the ground. The concept was entirely Eta’s idea. The other owner is a distinguished gentleman who took pity on us and got the business side of it all worked out. He travels a lot but we give him free hair cuts when he comes in and a tarot reading.”

“Tarot?”

“Yeah, like, divining your future with cards? Answering life’s mysteries, yada yada.”

Flora sat back down and took a piece of lemon bread. He had to admit it was nice to be around a woman who could eat and not pick crumbs off a low-fat croissant then complain she’s full. Flora had a healthy appetite for food and life.

“Is that where the ‘Psychic’ come into your Psychic Salon?”

“Yep. Every new client that comes in gets a free reading. Our regulars pay a little extra to get a service of their choice. We got tarot, palmistry, aura reading, chakra healing–”

“I’m sorry but you’re speaking in tongues. I don’t understand any of that.”

“It’s okay. Stick around long enough and you’ll know a lot of things you never thought you would. Are you finished?”

He picked up another piece of banana bread and Flora packed everything away again.

“Alright my gentle knight, lets see what we can do today.”

___________________________________

Working along side Flora in the quiet of the morning wasn’t a bad way to pass the time. It wasn’t pruning and watering in his green house, but it was a nice change. She talked a lot and he listened, helping her wade through the back storage room to locate the shelves he needed and then dragging furniture out-of-the-way to hang them. She was handy with power tools. He liked that. He also liked that when he held the latter for her, he got a closer look at her tattoos. The shading and detail were intricate and vivid, just like any real flower. He wondered how long it had taken for all of them to be done.

“There,” she said, drilling in the last screw and handing the tool down to him. “Good enough?”

All together they’d hung six shelves and a couple random pictures to change out the decor a little bit. “To complement the new greenery.”

“I’ll get my plants.”

“Ohhh can I come see what you brought me?”

He set the drill on the counter and fumbled for words.

“Well, they’re not for you. I mean, yes they are but–”

She smirked at him and patted his pink cheek affectionately.

“You are a gentle knight after all. I should go easy on you. Lets go before the morning early birds come in.”

Flora unlocked the door and let him out and he led her to his jeep. A small forest greeted her when he opened the back and she made an excited “oh!”

“Is this Old Fashioned Swedish Ivy? It’s so mature and full! I’d love to hang that outside but in this neighborhood, it’d probably get stolen. Wait. Is that–”

Flora reached for a purple striped plant and held it up to the sun.

“Oh my gawd a Rhoeo! My aunties had a huge one in the window of the living room. I loved watching it grow as a child. Purple was my favorite color so they got it just for me.”

He reached past her to pull out a tray of potted plants. “Herbs are pretty hardy. Lavender, lemon balm, mint–”

She bent down and buried her nose in the fragrant purple buds.

“I hope you have more of that. Eta loovveeeessssss lavender. She has me make her hypoallergenic lavender lotion every month.”

Rhys smiled a little and made a mental note.

“I’ve also got spiral grass for texture and Hot pokers for some color. A ficus that’s been growing for a few years now. I transplanted it recently so I’ll have to keep an eye on it but it can go in the corner between the two chairs by the window for optimal sun and minimal damage. Most of the rest are succulents that do really well without regular watering. I brought a variety of colors and textures…”

Flora grinned up at him as he rambled on and on about his precious green babies. She didn’t mean to tune him out but she liked the way his lips moved and the warmth in his voice when he talked about a subject he liked. He also looked stunning in black and she was trying hard not to let her switched be flipped all the way on.

He came back. That’s what mattered right now.

She helped him carry pots and trays inside the salon and started to clean up their mess and prep stations while he got to work. Every now and then he whipped out a small notebook and penned a few words and muttered to himself. She kept the Rhoeo at her station, making room for it among the brushes and irons. She made him take a break right before opening and offered him a “get out of jail free” card by reluctantly saying he’d done enough and she appreciated it.

“I can’t leave yet.”

Flora’s heart skittered around her rib cage and she took a sip of her now cold tea to mask her surprise.

“Not that I’m eager to shoo you away or anything but why?”

“I have to take pictures of the light inside every hour.”

She gave him a blank look.

“Some plants might burn or wilt if they don’t get proper amounts of sun. I have a few questionable placings and some alternatives if they don’t do well but I have to make an accurate analysis.”

A whole day looking at eye candy? Her female clientele would be ecstatic, she chief among them. She just hoped no one came in needing anything too complicated because she would be a little distracted. Very easy to mix up the purple and blue hair dyes when tall, dark and hunky was sitting on a chez.

“Alllriigghhttttttt,” she sang and stepped down from the front desk to open the door for the few waiting customers outside. “But you’re buying lunch.”

He nodded.

“For everyone.”

He blanched. She squeezed his cool fingers and smiled brightly at him.

“Kidding.”

She unlocked the door and then looked back at him, her face warm and open.

“Thank you for coming back Rhys.”

 

Quickies #9 Simply having a Wonderful Christmas Time!!

PROMPT: What is your favorite holiday and what do you love about it? 

CHRISTMAS!!! Without a doubt, christmas. I celebrated it as a child and there was so much excitement and traditions to be followed during december. It was like, thanksgiving was the vacation that got us ready for Christmas. We ate and played and passed out from tryptophan OD to conserve energy. Then–THEN!!– it was go time.

We felt it, even at a young age. The change, the shift toward the last holiday of the year. THE BIG ONE.

It started with a list and it was always written in descending desired order. Top three gifts first and back when we were kids, those weren’t ipods and drones. They were usually CD’s, a somewhat expensive toy ($40 or less), books (guess who asked for those?), and crafting kits. I always put down one impossible gift, which was a “white Christmas”. It kind of became a tradition in and of itself. Gifts that we KNEW we would get every year were: Pajamas. Yep. Flannel ones. I still have my last pair! Life Saver candy books. SOOOO much better back when they had all the different flavor packs rather than just one bland boring kind repeated 8 times. Chapped stick. And, for me at least, blank journals. Go figure.

Alright. Lists, check! Next came the tree. This was usually the first week in December and we always had fresh trees. Sometimes we would cut it ourselves at a farm and other times we would buy it already cut. It was a competition to see who could find the best tree. Winner takes bragging rights for the entire year.

Once we got it home it was my sister’s job to help trim the bottom and I would transform the branches into a little wreath that I wound with ribbon and put on my door. Then the official Christmas magic started! Putting on lights and my sister and I always got to put on our birth year Christmas ornaments first; the balls my mom got for us the year we were born. Then it was a matter of speed versus perfection.

Jennifer would try her best to put more ornaments on the tree than me whereas I would go around behind her back and make sure that no two same colored balls were next to each other and there wasn’t any crowding on the branches. It had to be JUST RIGHT. I remember one year when my sister didn’t show up for Christmas, mom and I strung popcorn while watching “Snowden” on TV (movie with famous ice skater Katrina Witt). We ate more of it than we strung I think but it was a memory I’ll never forget.

Slowly the wrapped presents would start to appear under the tree and then the baking would commence. Friendship bread, oatmeal raisin cookies, brownies, banana nut muffins, and chocolate chip cookies. Fattening up for the kill. Cookie dough is the best in the world. Just sayin’. Family would start trickling into town and school would let out for vacation so we got to sleep in. Oh gawd HEAVEN!

Christmas eve we were allowed to open ONE gift to tide us over and then while the coffee maker trickled with life giving fluid Christmas Day, Jenni and I opened our stockings, littering brightly colored paper everywhere. Batteries were probably the most anticipated gift because that meant something under the tree required them. Heck yes.

Not hard to see why Christmas is my favorite holiday. It has the best decorations (green and red FTW!), the best smells (I LOVE fresh pine tree smell and cinnamon apple candles), and the best memories.

 

 

 

 

Quickie #7 Family Ties

PROMPT: If you had been given a choice, would you rather have been an only child or part of a very large family? 

(Picture features Blogger Jessica Jordan on the left, sister in the middle and mom on the right) 

I would definitely choose very large family for a lot of reasons.

First is that my sister boned out of my family at 14 because our step dad was an asshole so I was practically raised as an only child. I didn’t mind the solitude or having a room to myself but it would have been nice to have an available sister to hang out with sometimes. I remember when she left I wore her clothes and slept in her bed and listened to her music for like, a week because I missed her. Her leaving also increased my abandonment issues.

Second reason is that I might have been better prepared for the world having numerous brothers and sisters to learn from. I grew up in the whimsical and idealistic dream world of books so learning how to navigate socialism was not instilled in me until very late in life. Lacking this skill caused me a lot of heart ache.

Third is that I might have been more competitive and goal-oriented. Something I’ve observed about siblings of large families is they have a healthy competitive streak. Whether it be a video game, getting good grades in school, or being the first one to the bathroom in the morning, every single child had a desire to shine and stand out among their siblings. Adversely, if one sibling got TOO MUCH spotlight, the others would gang up to knock him/her off their pedestal. There was no pecking order there.

A fourth reason and probably the biggest reason for me is that I would have liked to experience the plethora of memories with my family. Reunions, Holidays, movie night, home work, beach days, grocery shopping, birthdays, schooling…I want to experience everything! To live a full and aggravating life but to always have an anchor to come back to. To be there through heart ache, births, deaths, marriages and divorces, illnesses, achievements and let downs. I want it all.

I don’t think this is a “grass is greener” situation. I just feel that I might have been a stronger and better person in a big family.