You Were: The Florist
August 25, 2010
(We have a very interesting victim today, but I shall maintain my policy of secrecy and allow her to divulge her own name if she chooses.)
You’ve always possessed excellent communication skills. That shouldn’t come as a shock. But you might be surprised to discover that you haven’t always relied on words to spin your stories or make your point. For five full decades of the nineteenth century, you used flowers instead.
These days, the language of flowers is all but dead. In fact only a few history buffs and a handful of Kiki Strike blog readers are even aware it existed. But throughout the Victorian era, it was the secret tongue of love-struck swains, randy aristocrats, and scorned women. And you spoke it better than anyone.
You owned a small shop in the Mayfair district of London. You employed no workers, posted no ads, and walk-ins were never welcome. The only way to purchase your wares was to request a personal appointment with the owner herself. In your business, discretion was of the utmost importance.
When your rich, aristocratic, or royal clients would arrive at your door, you would quickly whisk them inside. They were offered tea (or whisky) in your flower-filled workroom and invited to spill their hearts out. Sometimes you were forced to listen for hours. In all your days in the business, no one had ever requested a bouquet that simply said, “I love you” or “I’m sorry.” The emotions people needed to convey were always infinitely more complicated.
As your clients spoke, you pulled handfuls of blooms from the hundreds of buckets that lined the workroom walls and assembled them into stunning—and meaningful—arrangements. A bouquet of yellow roses and chrysanthemums was a brutal accusation of infidelity. A few lime blossoms tucked into vase of orange roses told the recipient that one’s intentions weren’t entirely pure. Striped carnations were a polite, “no thank you” that could let a suitor down easy. Morning glories were a humble acknowledgement that one’s love was in vain.
Your flowers said more than your clients ever could, and they always departed feeling relieved and unburdened. But over the years, your shop became so popular that you had little time left for a life of your own. Oddly enough, you barely noticed. You were content to tell other people’s stories.
Then one evening, only a few minutes after you’d arrived home at your modest apartment, there was a knock at the door. Outside stood a small lad holding an enormous bouquet of lavender roses. You must have gasped. Not because of the message they sent (love at first sight) but because you’d spent weeks desperately searching for roses. It seemed every greenhouse in Britain had been invaded by a rose-munching fungus. Even the flowers on the continent hadn’t been spared.
And yet they kept arriving at your apartment night after night. Light pink roses (passionate love). Red roses (true love). White roses (eternal love). Even blue roses (mysterious love). For the first time, you understood how it felt to receive one of your own arrangements. It was the most delicious torment you’d ever endured.
Finally, when you couldn’t stand the suspense anymore, you chose not to answer your door. Instead, you let the tiny delivery boy leave the bouquet on your doorstep. When he turned to go, you followed behind him. All the way to Hampstead.
He finally ducked into the servants’ entrance of a rambling mansion a stone’s throw from Hampstead Heath. You snuck around the side of the house and discovered an enormous greenhouse lit with gas lanterns. Inside, a rainbow of roses was in full, healthy bloom. And tending to the fragile blossoms was a familiar young man. He had come to your shop only a few weeks earlier to purchase a bouquet for his mother. (Heliotropes for devotion.) Considering the simplicity of his statement, he had stayed much longer than most. Still, you’d hated to see him go. He knew a great deal about flowers, and he had the most wonderful laugh you’d ever heard.
Too shy to say hello, you were just about to make your escape when he looked up and spotted you watching him through the glass.
You wore peach blossoms to your wedding.