A Rose of Perfection
“You are absolutely beautiful.”
Kendall, a yellow Kacheek, smiled down at the rose in her paw. It was a lovely pink shade with elegant, full petals, and just a few leaves. The way the sunlight streamed through the window made the flower glow in an ethereal kind of way. Like a fairytale; like the most magical rose. It was perfect.
“Do you talk to the flowers often?” the elderly Yurble asked, leaning on the counter impatiently.
The Kacheek looked up at her customer. “Oh,” she said, realizing that time was inching by. “Sorry. No. I mean, yes. I mean... well, I can’t really help it. This is quite a beautiful rose.”
“I do agree,” the Yurble said.
“It’ll be three hundred neopoints, please.”
The flower shop on the corner of Chia Close and Guild Street was somewhat busier than normal. All morning customers had come in and out, boxes of chocolates and flower bouquets in their paws. Valentine’s Day was tomorrow, and the flower sales were going through the roof.
Although business was generally on the slow side, Kendall loved working at the flower shop. When the yellow Kacheek unlocked the door in the mornings, the room smelled of fresh scents that were sweet but not overpowering. She loved nature and wildlife, loved the colors and textures of each flower and knew their names by heart.
A pink Bori practically skipped over to greet her. “Hey, Kendall! How’s it going? Did I tell you that those Aurora Lilies I bought last week are still alive?”
“Hi, Sydney,” said Kendall, stricken by a sudden wave of gloominess. “I’m fine. No, you didn’t tell me.”
“It’s amazing,” gushed Sydney, eyes wider than Song Flowers. “Those lilies look the same as they did three weeks ago. I’m being totally serious.”
Kendall forced a smile. “That’s fantastic.”
“You working tomorrow?”
“From eight to five.”
Sydney crinkled her nose. “Wow, stinks for you.”
Kendall knew that Valentine’s Day was super important to her friend, like some grand holiday. After all, Sydney was always the one to receive the most flowers and chocolates at school, or the mega expensive piece of jewelry. To her it was like a second Christmas! Sometimes Kendall felt a little annoyed by the Bori, but she often shook the feeling and tried to be cheerful.
“Oh, I don’t really mind,” said Kendall honestly, and she added, “it’s not like I have anything else to do.”
The truth was that she seldom received flowers or chocolates on Valentine’s Day. The Kacheek was popular enough at school but she pegged herself as the stay-at-home, quiet type. And those types weren’t exactly the ones raking in the roses. The only plus side to this year's Valentine’s Day was that she would be working at the flower shop, where roses were in plentiful supply.
“So, do you have any Dunkydoos in this morning? The bunch I had in my vase—you know, the crackle one on my nightstand—just died. But they lived for two weeks! Would you believe that?” Sydney rambled on and pawed through the red Yokalias.
“Dunkydoos are in the basket on the far right,” said Kendall as she calculated a blue Chia’s purchases at the register, “by the Gardenias.” Sydney was in here every other day but she was constantly forgetting which flowers were where.
The bells on the door jingled and Kendall looked up. A cloud Eyrie stepped in, wandering over to the colorful poppies.
Kendall had seen him before, in class. Milo was his name. He was always surrounded by an elite group of friends, joking and laughing, but he showed kindness to everyone. The Eyrie often said hi to Kendall when he passed her in the halls and had a wonderful smile. Kendall liked him; he was nice. And cloud was a beautiful color.
She approached him. “Can I help you with something?”
Milo looked up from the poppies. “Was it my clueless expression or do you have to ask that to everyone?” He smiled.
“You just seemed like you might need some assistance,” said Kendall, a small grin already on her own face. She felt her cheeks heating up. “Are you Valentine’s Day shopping or have you merely taken an interest in botany?”
“An interest in botany,” he said, grin widening, “definitely. Flowers just blow my mind.”
Kendall couldn’t help but giggle. Valentine’s Day it is. Of course he’d be buying gifts for his friends and family. He was just that kind of person. “So do you know what type of flower you’re looking for?”
Milo’s face went blank. “Umm, actually, I have no idea. I don’t know much about them.”
“Well, the poppies are a good choice,” said Kendall, starting with the flowers to her right. “They’re definitely not as elegant as... say, roses, tulips, or lulus, but that’s why a lot of Neopians like them. Poppies are the sweet and to-the-point flower, good for friends, you know?”
“Umm, sure,” said Milo, plucking a red one from its container. He moved it closer to his face. “It smells okay.”
“If you want a nice smell, the Zobamints are wonderful,” said Kendall, reaching behind them to pluck one from its holder.
Milo took the Zobamints. “Yeah, I guess these are cool.”
Kendall studied the green leaves. “You’ll probably want to mix it with another flower to give it more color. Something with a very light scent so you can still smell the mint.”
“Oh,” said Milo. “What about those?” He pointed to the pink cyclamen. “My little sis is crazy about pink.”
“Pink would be nice,” began the Kacheek, “but usually white or pale green flowers are associated with a mint aroma. These,” she traversed the shop, “have a pleasant smell and make the Zobamints look much more beautiful. They’re called Chartruse Puffs.”
Milo came to see the full, light-colored flowers. “Yeah, that works.”
Kendall continued to assist the Eyrie as he shopped: white lulus for his grandmother and magenta tulips for his mother. They had spent almost an hour pouring over each flower until Milo was certain that it would be right for its recipient. Occasionally they chatted in between about school and ordinary things, but the conversation gradually turned flower-related again.
“Do you like working here?” asked Milo, examining the red and yellow poppy bouquets.
Kendall sighed. “I love working here. Besides being surrounded by a multitude of scent and color, I also get to take home flowers that are too old to sell. I have so many that I don’t know what to do with them.” Am I talking too much? The thought suddenly popped into her mind and now she was worried.
“That’s pretty awesome,” said Milo, and he sounded it. He sniffed the red and yellow poppies. “These smell good. I think I’ll give them to Caroline.”
The Kacheek felt a pang of disappointment. Her smile slipped. “A friend?” she asked.
“Yeah,” said Milo, nonchalant. Kendall followed him to the register. “I never thought there was all this stuff to know about flowers.”
“You’d be surprised.” Kendall bit her tongue, tempted to tell him about the extremely rare Yooyu flowers that were just imported from Altador. He doesn’t want to hear about that, Kendall decided. He probably just wants to finish up and get on with his day. She kept her mouth shut.
But Milo picked up a single rose from near the front counter and twirled it around to see all of the petals, clearly in no hurry to leave. “What’s up with these single roses? Do people really buy just one?”
“Sure,” said Kendall, finding his naivety somewhat amusing. “The single roses are a bit more... meaningful. Instead of drawing your attention to a lavish bouquet, your eyes focus on the detail and beauty of only one flower.” She paused. “Well, that’s how I like to think of it. These single roses are actually my favorite.”
“Yeah,” was all he said. Perhaps he’d had enough flower-talk for one day. “I’ll take this one, too.”
“It’s cool that you buy so many people flowers for Valentine’s Day,” Kendall commented as she tied a red ribbon around each bouquet.
Milo smiled in mock vanity. “What can I say? I’m a nice guy.” He thanked Kendall and paid for the flowers after a quick "see you later". The Kacheek watched as he used his elbow to push open the door. Within seconds he was already around the corner and out of sight.
“He does seem like a nice guy,” said Sydney, who had stepped up to the counter. The Bori attempted to conceal a fit of giggles behind her large, pink paw.
Kendall ended up laughing herself. “Are you ready to check out or what?”
Valentine’s Day was the busiest of year 10, minus yesterday, and Kendall started home as the sun began to set. There were Neopians in the street strolling merrily, enjoying the peaceful evening. Kendall walked fast with her head down, trying not to bump into anyone.
“Hey!” someone called. “Hey, Kendall!”
The Kacheek turned, on the outskirts of the throng of Neopians. To her surprise, Milo hurried up to her, smiling and waving. He carefully pulled out a small object that was pinned in his scarf and held it out to her.
“For me?” asked Kendall numbly.
The cloud Eyrie smiled crookedly. “Yeah. I was going to give it to you yesterday, but this is better.”
It was a single red rose, in mint condition, the one Milo had purchased yesterday. The petals were ruby and flawless. The stem was as straight as a pencil. No thorns were removed.
Kendall twirled the perfect flower around in her paw, hardly believing it was real. “Why?” Not that she was ungrateful; Kendall hoped he hadn’t perceived it as that. The word was the first thing that popped into her mind.
“You work at a flower shop,” said Milo. “I was just thinking about how much you like them. And I’m sure people forget about you because they think you have all the flowers in the world.” Kendall smiled and listened to him continue. “So then I remembered what you said about the single roses.” He brushed his paw against the soft petals. “They’re meaningful.”
Kendall averted her gaze from the rose and looked up fondly at Milo. “Thank you.”
“Happy Valentine’s Day,” he said.
“You, too.” Kendall started down the street, but then looked back at the Eyrie, who was still standing there with that same, crooked grin. “Hey, umm, I didn’t happen to tell you about those Yooyu flowers, did I?”
Milo moved forward and fell into step with her. “Yooyu flowers? No way! Like the petpet?”
“Yeah!” Kendall exclaimed, feeling a rush of happiness. “They were discovered shortly after Altador was. It’s so funny because the flower itself is shaped...”
And they talked about flowers the entire way home.
Author’s Note: Happy Valentine’s Day! Edited by beewitched2.