My time studying abroad was like the weather there: sunny and mild.
Connor wasn’t the first guy I dated after Sly, but our relationship was like the weather too. It was simple. Predictable. Easy. I liked him and he liked me.
“Are you a fruit?” Connor asked.
Was it my orange dress? Maybe I should’ve worn another color, but it looked good on me. “Don’t you dare say orange.”
“Because honeydew you know how good you look right now?”
I stared at him incredulously. “Oh my god. Seriously?”
“Orange you glad I didn’t say orange?”
“I was, until you said that.”
He playfully dipped me back. “Because to me, you’re a fineapple.”
At least he couldn’t make fruit puns when he kissed me. I really liked the way he kissed. He was just so…sweet, I guess? Like, in everything he did.
…Yeah, so maybe I had a type: big and hairy, with glasses and a weird fixation on my fruit name.
But like the sunny weather, I knew our relationship couldn’t last. I couldn’t stay away from home forever. He wasn’t there for much longer either. Still, it was nice? Like a long vacation, where I could forget everything for a while, before I had to grow up and get a job.
He was nice enough to drop me off at the airport when I finally had to go back home–and kissed me goodbye. We’d agreed not to do the long-distance thing, so it really was goodbye.
It hurt, but like everything else, I knew the pain was temporary. Goodbye, Connor. Goodbye, endless sunshine. Goodbye, fantasy.
It was sunny back home too, but was it morning or evening? Ugh, jet lag. It was so loud here. I wished Connor was here to pick me up–I didn’t want to bother Grandma and Grandpa.
I decided against heading straight home. Maybe to extend my vacation a little bit? I remembered the beach where I’d sold flowers for the summer way back when–a quiet place. More touristy now than I remembered, though.
I didn’t mind being on my own. It was nice sometimes, to be able to think and relax.
But when I was wandering around, I stopped short. Was that…?
He turned to look at me. Didn’t he? Was it him? That guy I’d…spent a couple hours with by the beach? Did he live around here? And had he not learned how to button his shirt in the past few years? But beach-y people were like that…and so were fae.
I didn’t believe in fate, not really, but it was like…a weird coincidence? Maybe it was a good one, something to help me get over Connor.
“Hey,” I called out, and then I remembered I didn’t even know his name.
He started walking away. Did it get darker all of a sudden?
And then came the torrential downpour.
Luckily, there was a cute little flower shop right nearby–at least the flowers would be enjoying the rain. It was open, so I decided to duck inside to escape. Maybe I’d run into that guy again if he’d done the same? Not that it really mattered.
“Oh my god, that storm came out of nowhere,” I said.
“Feel free to hide out here till it passes,” said the cashier. “…Wait, Clementine?”
He was like, almost unrecognizable. Long hair pulled back into a bun, some stubble-beard thing going on, no more piercings…and just the expression on his face.
“Guilty,” he said. “So, uh, you been doing all right? Haven’t seen you in a while…”
This was so awkward. “I’ve been studying abroad. And I’m about to graduate, I guess? So, um, you work here?”
“…I own this place,” he said, a shy smile spreading across his face. “I, uh, really like flowers. A lot. Didn’t think I’d end up a businessman, but here I am.”
“The flowers are really pretty,” I said honestly, “but this doesn’t seem like you? I mean, not the you I knew…”
“Don’t think you ever really knew me, Mang–Clementine. Don’t know if I knew me either. Or maybe I was just afraid to admit what I liked. And–” And who he liked? But he didn’t finish that thought. “My life coach has been helping me with that.”
“You have a life coach?” My words came out more condescending that I meant–and it was too late to take them back.
“To be honest, he’s my cousin. Tried going to therapy at first, but I just…couldn’t get over the whole spilling my guts to a stranger bullshit. Cas knows his shit–helped me figure out a business plan when he was shopping for flowers for his mom. Aunt Daisy owns and runs her own restaurant, so why can’t I make money off of what I’m into too?”
This was seriously more than he’d ever talked about himself like, ever. I didn’t even know he had a cousin or an aunt. Or that he actually liked flowers. And therapy? Wow.
“You went to therapy? Why? Are your parents okay?”
“…Yeah, they’re fine. They really liked you, by the way. Mom gave me shit for messing everything up.”
“Yeah, I did,” he interrupted. “I messed up bad. I made my shit your shit. Never liked a chick as much as I liked you, but… Cas says I worry too much about what people think, you know? That I shouldn’t fuck around with somebody’s heart just to feel like more of a man or whatever. So, uh, I guess it’s too late, but…I’m sorry.”
I didn’t know what to say. His words were what I’d needed to hear years ago. Was it too late now? How did they even make me feel?
Maybe he wasn’t the same person he was when we were together. I knew I wasn’t. “It’s never too late for an apology,” I decided. “…Thanks, Sly.”
“Hey, I know the weather’s real bad, but I’m running a business here, lady,” he said suddenly. “You gonna buy something or what? A man can’t survive on flowers alone.”
I stared at him…and then burst into laughter.
“…How about I throw in some nice tiger lilies with any purchase,” he said. “Color reminds me of you.”
“I can’t say no to free flowers.” I turned away from him and drifted over to the flowers lining the opposite wall. The smell reminded me of him, but I decided not to tell him that.
Outside, the storm raged on, but it was cozy and soothing inside the shop.
My days of blissful sunshine are over, I thought as I breathed in deeply.
For some reason, I didn’t mind.