Rachael stood behind the small sales cabinet; sweat beads trickled down from her brow. No customers again!
Her hands were hooked in her belt, as though she could prevent them wanting to roam.
Do something, silly!
Rachael grabbed a pair of pruning sheers. Rows of flowers needed daily care in the shop. For a week, though, business had been slow, and as Friday crept closer, she had neglected her little beauties more with each passing day.
The mundane task did little to settle her growing anxiety. Vic had insisted, “Friday, or else.”
* * * * *
Rachael turned the car down her street and saw a Buick parked in front of her house. A tightness covered her throat. Lilli should be home by now!
The lawn chair beside her screen door was occupied. Rachael let out a strangled yelp. Lilli was sitting on Vic’s leg. His smile was warm, but his eyes were focused. He didn’t need to say a thing; she knew the question, “Where’s my money?”
“Mommy!” Lilli said as Rachael stepped out of the car. “Lookie! Uncle Vic’s here! I told him all about my birthday last week.”
“Sounded expensive,” he said with a whistle.
Rachael gave a forced smile. “Hi, Vic.”
He put two hands on Lilli’s shoulders. “I saw Lilli here when she was gettin’ out of school and thought I’d give ‘er ride home instead of ‘er catchin’ tha smelly bus.”
He pinched his nose and made a duck face.
“Eww!” Lilli said. She gave an innocent giggle. “Mommy, can I watch a movie?”
“Yes, dear. I’ll get it for ya.”
Lilli jumped off his lap. Rachael passed Vic. His hand reached out and grabbed her arm. “I’ll join ya.”
His grip tightened; Rachael flinched and opened the front door.
“Here you go, baby,” Rachael said in a shrill voice once she had turned on the TV.
“Why do you sound so funny?”
“No reason, baby. Sit close to the TV, m’kay? Uncle Vic and Mommy hafta talk.”
* * * * *
Rachael walked back to the bench and unlocked the sales cabinet. Without looking, she reached into the top shelf, hand grazing filled plastic bags, and clutched an envelope labelled “TIPS.” Rachael counted, 100, 120…280. I just need $20.
Rachael placed it back inside just in time to hear the entrance bell ding.
A man in his twenties stood there, eyes wide with terror. With a sigh, Rachael dusted her apron. She knew that look. It was the same when a man walked into a lingerie store. Too many options, too many chances to mess up, it was all a little overwhelming for some. Rachael prepared herself. “Good afterno-on,” she said, voice cracking. Ugh. Great start, Rach.
“Hi,” he said, with a smile. “I hadda fight with my lady. What flower says I’m sorry but also says I want sex and cake.”
A pinkness rose in his cheeks, and Rachael smiled with triumph. Cake. Oh, thank goodness!
After some discussion, she put six long-stem roses into a box.
Rachael opened her cabinet and pulled out a bag filled with a green herb and placed it into the box under the wrapping. She smiled at the young man, and he winked back at her.
“That’s $150,” she announced.
He hesitated. “More than I expected.”
“I gave you the extra nice roses,” she admitted.
With a raised brow, the young man thought for a moment. “Better be good.”
“Guaranteed to knock her socks off,” she said.
He paid and left. With a wide smile, Rachael placed a fifty in the envelope and put the lot in her purse with a chuckle. Charged extra all week for the same product, and they all fell for it!
She grabbed one of the lilies off the shelf to take home and decided to close up shop for the day. Vic would receive this week’s and last weeks’ earnings within the hour.
We square? Good. I’m ready to stop dealing, Vic. How do I get out? Her internal monologue continued. She wouldn’t see the shadow outside at the edge of the storefront.
“Lying cunt!” she heard as a flowerpot collided with her temple.
Rachael crashed onto the pavement. Blood trickled into her eyes. Delirious, she stared at the lilies. Tiny bubbles of crimson freckled the pristine white flower until they were soaked up, turning into misshapen circles. She wanted to apologize but had no idea why, so instead, she closed her eyes and let the darkness take her.