Dee Moyza's Story Archive

Like Sunlight on a Day-blooming Flower


Chapter Two

Vivian kept Lula's business card tucked into the translucent pocket on the inside cover of her planner, so she could begin each workday by catching a glimpse of its bright pink lettering and a trace of the warm thrill that day at the garden left her with.  She'd considered calling, several times, to inquire about the price of an arrangement or even just the shop's operating hours, but, without a real reason to, Vivian always decided against it. 

Until an opportunity landed right on her desk.

"Lilianna Moorhouse dropped by while you were out," Isabel said, sliding a packet of papers and a paperback book toward Vivian, "asking if she could host a reading here.  She's a local author, self-published, and is looking for promo."

Vivian picked up the book.  The cover had a silhouette of a couple against a rising full moon, with one woman sprouting what appeared to be ears and a tail.  "Bidden by the Night.  Paranormal romance, I presume?"  She turned it over to read the summary.

"Yep, testing the bonds of love, and all that."  Isabel turned the packet around and read from it, "'After her lover is transformed into a werewolf, a woman takes it upon herself to find a cure.  But with each full moon that rises, she finds herself drawn more toward her lover's altered form.  A classic tale of head versus heart, knowledge versus instinct.'  That is quite a predicament."

"It fits well into our theme, and I'm always happy to support emerging talent.  She will be bringing copies to sell, correct?"


"We can gauge the response, and if it's favorable, pick up a few to sell in-store.  You never know where the next big thing can come from; think of how amazing it would be if we launched it here!"

"Aren't you getting ahead of yourself?"

"Maybe, but I didn't build this business on pessimism."  Vivian opened her planner, her eyes grazing over Lula's business card, bolstering her swell of confidence.  "Did she request a specific date?"

"Just the earliest we have available." Isabel smiled.  "She's quite young, and eager to get her story out there."

"Aren't we all?"


"No, eager to tell our stories."  Vivian circled a date.  "Next Thursday looks good.  6 PM to close.  Let me see her promo packet.  I'll give her a call and get this set up."

"You're a soft touch, Viv."

"Not necessarily.  It just makes good sense.  We get more people in the door for the reading—"

"Depending on Moorhouse's promo, of course."

"Of course.  But assuming she gets a decent turnout, those people will have a chance to see what we offer, and once they've finished Moorhouse's book, if they are looking for something similar, they know exactly where they can find it."

"In other words, free publicity?"

"Precisely.  Let's hope Moorhouse has some good self-promotion skills, or at least a hearty following on social media."  Vivian flipped back to the front of her planner and paused.  "And maybe a little token of appreciation will get some more publicity."

"Token?  Like what?"

"Something small, but heartfelt…"  She glanced at Isabel and quickly shut her planner.  "It's just a thought.  I'll consider it later."

Isabel hiked an eyebrow.  "An out-of-nowhere thought.  But hey, you're the boss, whatever you think is good."  She raised her hands from the desk.  "Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go check on our new part-timer, make sure they aren't trying to load the receipt paper backwards again."

Vivian watched her leave, then surreptitiously pulled out Lula's business card.  Giving a bouquet for a reading seemed like a silly idea, but it would give her an excuse to visit the flower shop.  It would give her an excuse to see Lula in her element; a chance to see her smile again, and a chance to figure out whether the butterflies she felt back at the garden were just part of the whimsy of a rainy day, or something a little more substantial than that.

This would be one of her more interesting lunch breaks, that much was certain.

* * *

It was impossible to miss Flor Amor.  The building was painted a light yellow-green, with a mural of colorful flowers along one side.  Its name was displayed, as bold as on the business card but many times larger, on a yellowing sign where the parking lot met the sidewalk.  A wide alley opened on one side of the building, currently occupied by a large truck, from which workers were unloading boxes and carrying them into the shop.  Vivian thought she glimpsed Lula among them, but not being sure, and not wanting to disturb her, anyway, she opened the door to the flower shop.   A little bell above the door tinkled as she walked through, and a young woman's voice greeted her in singsong.

"Welcome to Flor Amor!  How can I help you?"  The young woman appeared to be in her teens, and was perched on a stool behind the cash register.  Vivian returned her greeting and approached the counter, taking in the rest of the shop in the meantime.  In contrast to its bold and somewhat chaotic-looking exterior, Flor Amor's interior was sleek and organized, done up in muted yellows and white.  A refrigerated cabinet stood to one side of the counter, with completed arrangements on display.  They ranged from gaudy to rustic, from a collection of stems to an enormous centerpiece.

"I'm looking for a small arrangement," Vivian said, turning back to the girl.

"Great!  I can certainly help you with that!"  A scripted response; she must be very new to this.  "What's the occasion?"

"A thank-you gift.  Preferably a small one."

"Got it.  Next, do you have a color scheme in mind?"

"Nothing specific."  Vivian hadn't thought of that.  She just wanted a simple arrangement that looked professional.  The young associate, however, was determined to stick to her script.  She pulled out a thick binder and opened it in front of Vivian.

"This is our most current catalog.  You can browse by color, flower, or occasion.  Why don't you take a look through it and see if something catches your eye?"

"All right."  Vivian flipped through the binder, only half-registering the wealth of options before her.  In between pages, she'd cast her eyes up and furtively glance around the shop for any hint of Lula.  The sales associate, meanwhile, retreated to her stool and opened a textbook across her lap.  Vivian sighed and turned another page.

"Hey, it's you!"  A voice from the back of the store startled her, and Vivian looked up to see Lula smiling at her, a large box in her arms.  "Great to see you.  Give me a sec, I'll be right there."  She set down the box and removed her work gloves, then walked toward the counter, her smile seemingly growing brighter with each step. 

"Vivian!  What brings you here?"  She was dressed in loose-fitting jeans and a polo shirt that matched the building's exterior, with the Flor Amor logo embroidered on it.  Her curls were as soft and bouncy as Vivian remembered, but pulled back from her face today by a wide floral headband.  She nodded toward the sales associate.  "Did Cathy leave you hanging?"

Cathy's head snapped up.  "No, Tía Lula, I was just letting her decide what she wanted.  Give the customer space to think, right?"

Lula turned a skeptical expression on Vivian.  "Is that so?"

Vivian smiled.  "Yes.  Cathy was very attentive, she greeted me as soon as I walked in."  She paused and bit her lower lip.  "By the way, it's great to see you, too!"

"How are you doing?  How's the bookstore?  I've been meaning to swing by there and check it out, but work has kept me pretty busy lately."

"I'm doing fine, and the bookstore is actually the reason I came here.  We're hosting a local author's reading, and I figured it would be nice to give her a small arrangement as thanks for selecting Typereader for her event."

"Selecting?  She approached you?"

"She's self-published, and doing her own promotion.  If her book does well at the reading, I may order a few copies for the store."

Lula nodded.  "Always nice to see another entrepreneurial spirit.  All right, what kind of arrangement are you looking for?  I see Cathy's already pulled out the big guns with the catalog here, but we make custom orders, too."

"I'm not entirely sure.  I was thinking something small, yet professional-looking."

"Okay.  Colors?"

Vivian picked at the cuticle of her pinky finger.  She really had come out here on a whim, and that was becoming more obvious with every question Lula asked.  Thankfully, there was a professional response.

“To tell you the truth, this is the first time I’ve done something like this for a visiting author.  What would you recommend?”

Lula’s eyes lit up, and she tapped her lower lip with her finger.  "I have an idea…do you have a copy of the book with you?  Or do you remember what the cover looked like?"

"I remember the cover.  It was dark blue.  A nighttime scene, with a large full moon rising and the silhouette of a werewolf-human couple."

"Sounds fun!  Now, what I'd like to do is echo that in the color scheme."  Lula flipped to the individual flowers section of the catalog.  "I'm assuming you want to keep this on a budget, correct, since it's a little thank-you gift?"


"Then we'll go with the old standby: carnations.  We can use dark blue carnations as a filler flower, and then add a white dahlia, right at the front of the arrangement, as the focal point, similar to a full moon.  We can use a few stems of snapdragons for height, but keep the entire arrangement small and compact.  Just enough to show your appreciation, with the added benefit of tailoring the color scheme to the author's work."  Lula grabbed a blank notepad from beneath the counter and began sketching.  "Pardon my poor art skills, but this is the general shape of the arrangement.  We'll go ahead and bring it all together with a dark blue ribbon around the vase.  What do you think?"

Vivian looked at the sketch, still reeling from how quickly Lula was able to generate an idea based on the description of a book cover alone.  She'd always known florists were artists in their own right, but to see such effortless creativity on the fly left her speechless for a moment.  "It's perfect," she said at last. 

"Well, I don't know about perfect, but thanks!  Hold on, let me see if I can find something similar in the catalog, to give you a better impression of what the finished product will look like."

Over the next fifteen minutes, Lula and Vivian finalized the design and order details.  Every time Vivian thought they were done, Lula seemed to think of another question, to the point where Vivian began to wonder if she wasn't simply looking for a way to extend the conversation.  When at last they were finished, Lula flashed her dazzling smile, and all the warmth and light Vivian had felt from her that day in the garden flooded her veins again.  She took a slow, deep breath to stop the fluttering in the pit of her stomach and signed the receipt.

"Thank you for your business," Lula said, slipping the receipt into the till.  "I look forward to delivering the arrangement."

For the arrangement's sake, or for the chance to visit the bookstore?  The coy question prickled on the tip of Vivian's tongue, but she thought the better of asking it, and instead thanked Lula and bid her a good day.  As she walked back to her car, however, she began to berate herself for her hesitancy.  How else would she know how Lula felt if she never asked?  It might be awkward—mortifying, even, if it turned out she'd been misreading Lula's actions—but nobody ever really died of embarrassment.

Regret, though?  That was something that could eat a person alive.

Vivian glanced at her reflection in the rearview mirror.  She'd known love and shame and heartbreak before, but the only thing that had ever truly scarred her heart were the chances she never took.

* * *

"Nice place you've got here," Lula said, walking through Typereader, arrangement in hand.  "It's so bright and open.  I hear the word 'bookstore,' and I usually think of shelves crammed too close together."

"We like to give people space to browse, unhurried," Vivian replied.  "If they want to read the first three chapters of a book in the aisle, they should be comfortable doing so, especially if that means they're more inclined to buy the book to finish it." 

"A baited hook, then?  Clever.  I wish there was some way to incorporate more idle browsing in the floral business." 

“But at your shop, the customers are assured a quality product.”

“You flatter me.”  A sly grin crept across Lula’s face.  “I won’t dispute the truth of your compliment, though.”

Vivian looked away, feeling the warmth build in her cheeks.  “I simply say what I believe.”

“A real straight-shooter, eh?”

“Not exactly 'straight.'”  Vivian squeezed her eyes shut.  What just came out of her mouth?

“Interesting.”  Lula hummed to herself.  “Very, very interesting.”

Before Vivian had a chance to further embarrass herself, Isabel approached from the reading area at the back of the store, Lilianna Moorhouse at her side.

“You’ve met Vivian,” she said to Lilianna, “but let me introduce you to Lula Fuentes, the florist who made this lovely arrangement.”

“Which we are presenting you with, as a thank-you for choosing to host your reading in our store,” Vivian finished, taking the arrangement and handing it to Lilianna.

“These are lovely,” Lilianna cooed, then introduced herself to Lula with a profusion of thanks.  “I didn’t think bookstores did this for authors, at least unknown authors.”

“We like to set ourselves apart.  We believe it’s vital to encourage and appreciate up-and-coming talent, especially local talent.”

“This definitely makes me feel noticed!  I especially love how you matched the color scheme to my book cover. This flower right here—" she pointed at the dahlia "—even looks like a full moon. I can practically see the characters standing in front of it! I really can't thank you enough!" Nevertheless, she thanked Lula and Vivian again, then followed Isabel back to the reading area to prepare.

Lula let out a low whistle.  “You have quite the honeyed tongue, Vivian.  I could practically see Lilianna grow several inches out of pride.”

“I meant what I said.”  Vivian absently straightened the books on the shelf closest to her.  “We like to encourage new authors.  You never know who might write the next bestseller.”

“Understandable.  How long have you done this?”

“This is the first time.”

“And what made you decide on flowers?”

Vivian glanced sideways at Lula, who leaned against the opposite shelf with a self-satisfied smirk.  “It’s something different,” she lied.  “Sophisticated.  Memorable.”

“And why Flor Amor?”

“Your business card.  When I thought up the idea, it was the first thing I saw.”

“Saw…or looked for?”  Lula took a step toward her, her smile softening.  “After that day at the garden, I drove past here a few times.  Even changed my route to work one morning.  I wanted to see you again, wanted to find out more about you, but I never worked up the courage to come in.  When I saw you at the flower shop, it was as if my thoughts had drawn you there, somehow—I know that sounds really stupid, but—I was just…so happy to see you.  To see your smile, the way your eyes get so intense when you’re concentrating, that little thing you do when you’re nervous.”  Lula pointed to Vivian’s hand, where she was once again picking at the cuticle of her little finger.  “So, if you had any ulterior motive in ordering those flowers, don’t be ashamed to tell me.  I was the coward, driving past this store every time.”

Vivian swallowed hard, her heart pounding, opposing forces of pride and giddiness clashing within it.  She’d had disappointing relationships before—her last one ended with a long-distance break-up by text message—and she’d learned to keep her feelings to herself, especially in the early stages.  But Lula’s honest admission, her obvious interest in Vivian, warmed her spirit, like the first rays of sunlight on a day-blooming flower.  And, like that flower, Vivian felt her heart open up, felt her fears unfurl to lay bare her soft, idealistic nature, the soul that wanted nothing more than to love and be loved.

“I wanted to see you, too,” she admitted quietly.  “I suppose I just didn’t trust myself enough to say so.  I didn’t trust that what I feel when I’m around you was anything more than a silly daydream, some romantic notion picked up from a book.  I was afraid I might be wrong.”

“But you took the chance, anyway.” Lula clasped her hand.  Callused but gentle, strong and warm, Lula’s touch melted the last of Vivian’s apprehension.  She gave Lula’s hand a light squeeze and looked into her eyes.

“Would you like to take a chance, with me?  Right now?”

Lula’s eyebrows shot up and she tilted her head questioningly.

“There’s a coffee shop down the block.  We can sneak out, have a cup, and be back here before the store closes…if you have time, of course.”

“I sure do.  And look at you, playing hooky from your own store.”

“Isabel has everything well in hand.  And just between you and me—“ Vivian leaned close to Lula and dropped her voice “—I’ve never really been a fan of werewolves, anyway.”