Roses and Thorns by Anushka

“What time is it?” My brother Chrys, short for Chrysanthemum, wiped the sweat from his brow. For the millionth time, I answered.

“4:08. Now get to work!” I knelt down in the vegetable patch and began yanking out weeds. Every Saturday of my supposed-to-be-perfect summer vacation has been spent weeding the vegetable patch. My mom is the only one still fresh as a daisy after gardening for 3 hours. She runs Blossoms and Buds, a flower shop down on Main Street. Chrys and I were stuck working in a patch of dirt, which the scorching summer sun made the Sahara feel tame. “I think that tomato plant is ready to be picked, so hurry up.”

“When’d you get so bossy?” Chrys grumbled. But he got to work, snipping away at the juicy, plump tomatoes.

“I think we’ll have a salad by tomorrow!” My mother trilled from across the lawn. “Fresh from the garden. Should we invite the Schmidts for lunch? We could buy a carrot cake…” My mom trailed off, deep in thought. Our neighbors, the Schmidts, are always ready to get out of the house and go, go, go! I swear I saw four pairs of running shoes in the coat closet last time I walked their dog, Sammy.

“I’m not sure, Mom. Remember? We have to go to my eighth grade picnic by Lilliac Creek.” My older sister, Azalea, flipped her perfect auburn brown hair. “Do Ivy and Chrys have to come? I mean, the pair of them are just so immature.” My entire family is named after plants, but Azalea is definitely the prettiest. My mom, Daisy, frowned.

“Next week, then?” Just then, my mother’s phone rang.

“What?! But it’s Izzy’s picnic tomorrow.” Pause. “Well, that is serious. I suppose Ivy could manage for a few hours. Wednesday? Okay. Thanks, Linda.” Now I knew who she was talking to. Linda was Mom’s assistant in the store. She’s kind of old, but she has a super green thumb. “Linda just said that her daughter broke her hip. She has to watch her grandchildren while her daughter has surgery.” Turning to me, she smiled heavily. “Ivy will have to manage the shop because of Izzy’s lunch.”

“What?! Why can’t Dad do it?” I complained. I had never really inherited my mom’s love of flowers like Azalea and Chrys.

“I’m leaving for Denver tomorrow evening. And I haven’t even packed!” My dad’s rumbling laugh eased some of the nerves I was having.

“Will Chrys be there with me?” My brother shook his head.

“Sorry, Poison Ivy. Looks like you’ll have to ask your other venomous friends. “ My brother chuckled at his lame joke.

“Actually, that’s a good idea, Chrys. Ivy can manage the cash register and talk to customers while you can get a head start unloading the new shipment we got.” Mom clapped her hands excitedly. “Let’s get prepared!”

“Bye, Ivy!” My older sister sang on her way to the car. “I’m sure you’ll have a great time amongst your flower friends!” I rolled my eyes. Azalea could be so annoying!

“You have your phone if you need it. It’ll be fine.” My mother’s easy attitude was almost contagious. I turned around to walk back into Blossoms and Buds. Before fifteen minutes had passed, a large group came in. The sweet tinkle of our flower bells alerted me, and I tried to look confident.

“Hello! My name is Ivy Greene, and-” I was interrupted by the guffaws of the group.

“Ivy Green? What else could she be, Ivy Red?” A short lady in the back looked at me. “Come now, Ivy. I need flowers for my pooch’s party. Only the best for Fifi!” A tiny dog who I hadn’t noticed before peered out of the woman’s large bag.

“Why, we have the perfect flower for you, miss. A dogwood!” Chrys chuckled at his joke. But the lady seemed to take him seriously!

“I didn’t know you were such a great salesman, Chrys!” I whispered to him as the lady inspected the flower.

“Hmph. Why don’t we throw in a couple violets, Agatha?” A tall, skinny man looked down upon the flowers with a careful eye.

“Oh, that’ll be perfect, Fernando!” The lady, Agatha, was practically dancing. But Chrys looked nervous.

“We’re out of violets, Ivy!” Chrys whispered. I looked around the shop frantically.

“Uh, what about instead of violets, we try sweet peas?” I showed Agatha my

favorite flowers.

“Perfect! Show me to the counter.” Uh-oh! I forgot how to use the credit card swiper.

I practically thrust the bulky machine at Agatha.

“Thank you!” Tinkling flower bells rung through the air. “Whew!”

 

“Okay, now it’s time to make deliveries. We’ll close shop for a while, maybe two hours, while delivering flowers. I’ll take the East Side of town, you take the West.” I handed my brother a list of names. “You should know their addresses. If you don’t, give me a call. Don’t be late, and do things in order. Got it?” I was incredibly nervous about making the rounds. Blossoms and Buds is famous for being the only florist shop in the area that delivers riding a turquoise, specially made bicycle (another of Mom’s crazy ideas).

“Yeah, I got it. Listen, who’s Charlie Reddings?”

“He’s that old man who owns the hardware store. Let’s get going!” I attached two small trailers to the bikes. “Bye!”

“Adios!” My brother waved as he pedaled off.

“Let’s see, Arabella Jester.” I murmured to myself, looking over the long list taped to my front handlebars. “She lives on Prudence Lane, just like Mary Hutchinson.” I pushed hard on the pedals, speeding away.

 

“Why, hello! We haven’ seen ya’ll in a long time. Bella is tending to little Tyson, now, but I can take those flowers.” Mrs. Jester never failed to amuse me with her Southern drawl. And yes, her daughter, Arabella, is an actual Southern belle!

“They’re hibiscus, just so you know. Would you like me to place them inside for you?”

“That’d be fine, darlin’. I think the livin’ room’ll do.” I placed the flowers in a small vase on the counter. Unfortunately, one of baby Tyson’s toys was on the floor. I bounced on the ball, dropped the vase, and stumbled right into Arabella, who was carrying Tyson! She dropped him before skidding backward, and I just barely caught him in time.

“Why, thank you for savin’ my baby! I don’t know what I’d’ve done if y’all weren’t’ there. Come here, little guy.” I handed Tyson over to Arabella, relieved to pass on the duty of carrying the baby.

“Of course, Arabella. It was nothing.” Contrary to my words, my heart was pounding. What if I had dropped little Tyson? That would’ve been awful! I waved at the family before walking across the road to Mary’s home. I knew who these flowers were for: Mary’s older brother’s new wife.

“Good afternoon, Miss Ivy. Come in,” Mary’s old fashioned grandfather ushered me into the living room.

“I brought the flowers Mary ordered for Charlie’s new wife. I’d really love to stay, Uncle Ernest, but I have precisely eleven more deliveries to make. I must get going.” I handed him the flowers and attempted a graceful exit.

“Ivy!” Mary zipped down the banister, even though she was in her late teen years. She knocked into me, tipped over a glass table ornament, and caused me to drop the flower crate I was holding right onto Uncle Ernest’s toe!

“MARIA JANE HUTCHINSON!” I winced as the man bellowed.

“Sorry, Grandfather. I’ll help you out there. Bye, Ivy. I wish we could hang out some more.” Mary gave a little wave and accepted the crate.

“I’m so sorry,” I said as I slipped out the door. How many more accidents would I cause?

 

Thankfully, the next five deliveries went fine. The customers weren’t home, so I didn’t have a chance to trigger any accidents. Instead, I placed the crate outside the door in a special crevice, leaving the family a note as to where their delivery is. I crossed my fingers that my small stroke of luck would hold as I pedaled to Saige Parker’s small home.

“Who is it?” A quiet voice broke the peaceful atmosphere around the house.

“Ivy Greene, with a delivery for Saige Parker. Is she home?”
“Come in.” Saige had clear blue eyes and reddish brown hair. She accepted the beautiful orchids with a small smile. “Thank you. Would you like some tea?” I eagerly nodded. My friends called me a “Passion Fruit ‘addict’” but really, I love any kind of non-caffeinated tea.

“Mmm! It’s delicious. What do you call it?” Saige smiled, bigger this time.

“It’s lotus tea spiced up with a dot of rosemary. My dream is to own a tea shop called Saige’s Tea and Sweets down on Main Street. I’ve already made an offer on the Blossoms and Buds land. I really hope the lady accepts it.” My mouth went dry. Mom was selling Blossoms and Buds? That’s practically where Azalea and I grew up.

“Huh? Oh. Yeah, um, I really, um, hope you get the space!” I slunk out the door and began stabbing at my cell phone.

“Chrys! Mom is thinking of selling Blossoms and Buds. We have to head back to the shop. Meet me there in five.”

 

Sitting in front of the office computer, I punched in the computer code, V-I-O-L-E-T. Once the machine connected to the Internet, I furiously typed in our bank’s name. “Do you know the account password?”

“I think it’s Dewdrop. After the rains, Mom always checks the bank.”

“Yes! We’re in. It says that Blossoms and Buds makes 35,000 dollars a year. That’s not that much, considering that it says here Mom spends 27,500 on new flowers. And sometimes more if there’s a new trend. We have to make some money, or Mom will sell the place to Saige!”

“I’ll finish making the deliveries, you come up with a plan. Okay?” Chrys rushed out the door before I could utter a word.

“Let’s see. Good money making strategies for kids,” I typed into the search bar. “Hey, this idea would be perfect!” I dialed Chrys, murmuring into the phone. “So do you have any?” I asked.

“Plenty. I’m almost done with the deliveries, so why don’t you start searching?” Chrys hung up, yet again before I could utter a word. I sighed and began pulling out clothes that were too small for me. Just then, the doorbell rang. I quickly logged out of the computer and unlocked the door.

“Hello, Mom! How was the picnic?” I said in a overly cheerful voice.

“Oh, it was great. I’m in Mr. Grey’s math class and Ms. Lorenzo’s gym!” Azalea pushed through the doorway. “Where’s Chrys?”

“Um, er, he’s, um… finishing up his deliveries!” I smiled widely, scared on the inside.

“Can you call him? We need to have a family meeting.” Mom suddenly looked haggard and sad. I had a feeling our meeting was going to be about Blossoms and Buds’ money situation. I gulped as Chrys came through the doorway.

“You called?” he asked.

“Actually, Mom wanted us to have a family meeting. It’s probably going to be about the store, you know, um, closing.” I choked out the news and had to be patted on the back to calm down.

“You all deserve to know that Blossoms and Buds is not making enough money to stay in business.” Shocked gasps from Azalea and Dad counterbalanced the fake ones from Chrys and me. “We are behind on our employee salaries, and we owe the flower suppliers hundreds of dollars. If we’re going to get over this crisis, we’ll need to make at least 9,086 dollars.” Mom rested her head in her hands.

“Well, Ivy and I were planning to sell all our clothes that are too small and the ones that we don’t wear. Why doesn’t everyone in the family do the same?” Chrys looked around the table. Everyone nodded enthusiastically.

“And we can put something up at Chrys’ school auction! Like two days’ worth of organic meals.” Everyone looked at Azalea, surprised she was being so optimistic. “What?” She asked.

“It’s just a nice change to hear you being positive.” I said.

“Okay. Let’s get to work!” Dad grinned with hope.

Next morning, we had collected and priced all our old clothes. Azalea had emailed Chrys’ principal, asking him if they would accept her organic meal idea in the auction with such late notice. He had responded almost instantly with, “Fantastic idea! Go right ahead!” Since then, she had been experimenting nonstop with different dishes. My personal favorite was a dessert made from strawberries, blueberries, and this special organic chocolate.

“Hi! This is Ivy. I called yesterday to see if you’d like to buy some clothes for Tyson. After all, he’s growing fast!” I couldn’t wait to see if Arabella wanted some of Chrys’ old clothes for Tyson. “Sure! The total price will be $23. I’ll be right over!” Arabella hung up and I put three long sleeved shirts and one pair of toddler jeans in a brown bag. “I’m heading to Arabella’s, Mom!”

“Take your phone with you, hon.” I nodded and slipped out the garage.

 

“Why, hello again, darlin’!” Mrs. Jester opened the door to the cottage for the second time in two days. “Arabella has a small box waitin’ for those lovely clothes.”

“Thank you so much for your support, Arabella. It’s the customers like you who are helping save our business.” Mom and I had rehearsed this sentimental line thousands of times, and it seemed to work on Arabella.

“Here’s some extra money, 35 dollars. It’s a donation.” Arabella was obviously trying to stop her Southern accent, and I almost laughed out loud.

“Thank you so much! Bye!” I skipped down the steps, 58 dollars in my hand.

“Azalea?” I peered into the kitchen. “I picked some tomatoes and bought that organic pasta.”

“Thanks, Ivy. Want to help? Just boil some water for ten minutes, and add that pasta. I’ll help after that.” Azalea pushed away a curl that had escaped from her messy bun.

“Really? I’d love to!” I found a good stainless steel pot (it literally said, “This is a quality stainless steel product!” on the inside) and filled it three-quarters full with water. I tapped the small circle on our stove twice, and the hot top warmed up quickly. “Should I add the pasta now?” I asked after a few minutes of watching the pot boil.

“Sure. There’s some cilantro on the shelf. Cut that up and put it to the side, and then start simmering the tomatoes at medium heat.”

“Okay.” I followed her directions and turned down the heat on the pasta. “Should I put the pasta in a nice bowl?”

“Actually, I’m trying out this new recipe. Basically, after draining water – without rinsing! – you add the tomato sauce and cilantro while the pasta is hot and keep mixing it in the pot. Everything becomes warm and toasty that way.” Azalea clicked a few times on her pink laptop and jotted down a few notes. “The pasta will be the fourth meal of seven that’ll be on Chrys’ school auction.”

“Cool. Can I help with the other three?”

“Of course you can! Come back to the kitchen in 50 minutes, when the sauce will be ready and we can start on the next dish. They need to be ready by tomorrow!”

***

I pulled up the soft white covers on my bed and yanked the light cord. Together, Azalea and I had prepared pasta, salad, French toast, and chocolate fondue. Everything was wrapped in plastic food wrap and looked perfect. I couldn’t wait to see who would be the lucky eater of those yummy dishes.

***

“Chrys! What happened?!” When I had come down the stairs four minutes ago, Chrys was sitting in the middle of a food disaster. Apparently, when Chrys had come downstairs, he had crashed into the table, knocking several auction items on the floor.  Strangely, the four dishes I had helped make were the only ones remaining on the table, safe from disaster. Azalea, sobbing and crying, shook with shock and anger. I hugged her and scolded Chrys. Fortunately, Mom was upstairs sleeping in ignorance, and Dad was away in Denver.

“I can help remake everything,” Chrys offered. Azalea shook her head.

“Those dishes cost a lot to make.” Azalea groaned, “We’ll have to change our auction item to ‘Four Organic Dishes.’” I crossed the kitchen over to hug her.

“If we eat one dish, we can change our auction item to ‘The Three Dishes! You know, like the Three Musketeers. ” I tried to crack a feeble joke in order to lift everyone’s spirits.

“It’s okay.” Mom appeared on the stairs, looking forlorn in her white nightgown. “There was no way we could’ve saved the shop anyway. Saige had already bought it last night, but I didn’t want to tell you.”

“What?!” Azalea, Chrys, and I said together.

“The store is our home! You can’t do that!” Chrys looked like he was about to explode. “If Saige turns our home into some lame tea and biscuit café, you’ll have destroyed our family history loving memories!” Azalea and I looked at him weirdly. “Ugh, you know what I mean!” Chrys groaned.

“What Chrys means to say is, we’ve grown up in Blossoms and Buds. It’s like rearranging our bedrooms after we leave high school.” Azalea’s sorrowful eyes made me turn away. Suddenly, the doorbell chimed happily.

“Hello!” Saige smiled, but looked shocked when she saw all of our faces. “I didn’t realize you were the owner of Blossoms and Buds, Ivy or I wouldn’t have dropped such a bombshell on you like that. I do want to apologize for the shock I gave you. Actually, I have an idea. What if we start a business together called Tea & Blossoms. It’ll be like a tea shop café that sells flowers!” It could become a destination for wedding planners and brides!

“Really? You’d do that?” Mom’s face lit up for the first time in days.

Saige nodded, “I realized that a tea shop alone wouldn’t be all that profitable by itself. Together, though, we’ll make tons!”

“Wow! Thanks, Saige. I’m so happy, I could twirl!”  laughing with my new friend, I let my imagination go wild.

EPILOGUE:

A few months later, I pushed open the door to Tea & Blossoms. Customers lined up at both counters, manned by Saige and Linda. Mom stood off to the side, chatting with some wedding planners. The fresh smell of wood still lingered even though it had been a month since the place had been remodeled. I spotted my best friend Chelsea’s mom standing in the corner with a few other parents from school. I was thankful for the happiness that the new store had helped bring. Azalea, Chrys, and I were now getting along, and Mom and I had talked. She understood that plants weren’t my first love, but she was glad that I enjoyed being behind Saige’s counter. Overall, the shock that the first few weeks of summer had given me wore off by October.

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