A pleasant humming sound emitted from within Pots and Pansies, a small flower shop run by Vivian Finley. The store was filled with a wide variety of colour, in the form of tulips, peonies, gerberas, lilies, roses, succulents, carnations and much more. It was a Tuesday afternoon and Vivian had just finished sweeping the floor when the wind-chime on the door jingled merrily. She quickly wiped her soil-covered hands on her apron and brushed her messy brunette hair out of her face as she glanced up at the young man. The first thing she noticed was his warm smile, followed by his kind, shining, green eyes.
‘Can I help you?’ Vivian offered as the man looked around the shop, surveying the displays of bright floral bunches and twisting leaves.
‘Yes, please,’ he nodded. ‘Do you have any bleeding hearts?’
‘Yes, I got them in this morning, actually,’ she replied. ‘I’ve got a few different arrangements if you want to look at size and prices,’ she added, gesturing to one of the tables.
Vivian found bleeding hearts to be very intriguing flowers. They were perceived as a symbol of strong romantic love, and had a very unique appearance, looking nothing like the family of poppies they belonged to. Each stem was lined with dark pink heart-shaped flowers that hung down in a neat row. The small hearts folded up at the bottom, revealing a small white tear-drop tip that made it seem as though the hearts were bleeding.
It didn’t take the man long to decide which bunch he wanted before bringing it to the counter. He had chosen a small arrangement wrapped in baby pink cellophane and brown twine, tied in a small bow.
‘Could I please get a tag too?’ he requested, nodding to the small decorative tags for sale.
‘Sure, what would you like on it?’ she asked, picking up a pen.
‘To the most beautiful person in the world,’ he answered. ‘Love, Elliot.’
‘How sweet,’ Vivian said softly, tying it around one of the stems.
When she handed Elliot his change, he didn’t hesitate to drop the coins into the tin she had on the counter, collecting donations for cancer research.
‘Your family?’ he asked, looking at the framed photo beside the till. The photo was from two years ago, and showed both of her parents kissing her on the cheeks, while her younger brother, Eugene, ruffled her hair.
‘Yeah,’ Vivian replied quietly. ‘That was opening day.’
‘It’s a nice photo.’
After he walked out, Vivian sighed. Whoever received the flowers would be extremely lucky, indeed, and there was no denying the nagging sense of envy that filled her chest. She did not believe in love at first sight – no, that was preposterous – but as she thought of the goofy smile that lit up his face, she couldn’t help but hope that she would see him again.
The following Tuesday afternoon, Vivian was trimming the lavender roses, although she was struggling to concentrate properly due to how fast her mind was racing. Despite how quiet the day had been, she had been feeling anxious ever since the fight she had that morning with Eugene, now twenty years old.
Their parents’ recent divorce had put a significant strain on their relationship, causing fights to erupt between them over the smallest issues. That morning, Eugene snapped at her for using the last of the milk, and it had escalated to a shouting match, in which they ended up blaming each other for the divorce. Of course, none of it was true, but Vivian had not had time to make up with Eugene before she had to rush to work.
The argument had just been playing over in her mind all day, so when the wind chime suddenly clanged to life as Elliot entered the shop, she jumped, causing her fingers to slip, and instead of cutting the stem, she accidentally sliced her finger. Vivian swore loudly, quickly trying to find something to clean her finger with.
‘I am so sorry! Are you okay?’
‘N-no, it’s fine, my fault for being so clumsy,’ she stammered.
‘Here,’ Elliot offered her a handkerchief.
What millennial carries a hanky? Vivian thought to herself, biting back a grin when she saw a tiny rose stitched in the corner.
Elliot held Vivian’s hand closer to him so he could get a better look at her injury, causing her breath to hitch in her throat slightly as his warm touch sent tingles down her arm.
‘It looks pretty bad…’ he murmured. ‘I think you might need stitches.’
‘I’d rather a Band-Aid,’ Vivian laughed nervously.
‘I’d rather you made sure your finger is properly treated.’
‘Well… I’d rather you let me make poor choices to avoid my fears.’
‘Okay, fine,’ he gave in with an eye roll. ‘But, I’ll be back next week, so if it’s infected, I’ll have to chop it.’
‘My hero,’ Vivian snorted. ‘Thank you… do you want this back?’ she asked tentatively, holding out the bloody handkerchief.
‘You keep it,’ he laughed. ‘I’ll see you next week, Vivian.’
As he walked out again, she wondered how he knew her name, but quickly smacked herself as she remembered she was wearing a name badge. After realising she’d had a successful conversation with Elliot without making a total fool out of herself, Vivian did a happy jig, however, it was short lived when he burst back in, catching her off guard.
‘I was just, er, running on the spot – gotta keep fit, right?’ she chuckled nervously.
‘I forgot the flowers,’ Elliot laughed awkwardly.
‘Bleeding hearts?’ they asked in unison.
The two broke into bashful smiles as Vivian nodded.
‘Just over there.’
When Elliot returned to the counter with a small bunch in hand, he asked for another tag, with the same thing written on it as last time: ‘To the most beautiful person in the world, Love Elliot.’
Vivian tried very hard to ignore the sinking feeling in her chest as he walked out once more, knowing that that person was not her.
For many weeks, Elliot continued to visit her shop every Tuesday afternoon, each time buying the same flowers with the same tag. With each purchase, the two would get to know each other that little bit more and Vivian knew that, what once was a teensy little crush, was now a steady, throbbing ache in her heart, slowly swallowing her whole.
‘Who are they for?’ she managed to ask as Elliot placed another bunch bleeding hearts on the counter, many Tuesdays later.
Contrary to what Vivian expected, Elliot’s face fell, his green eyes immediately losing their shine.
‘My gran,’ he answered grimly.
‘Y-your gran?’ Vivian repeated in shock.
‘She’s in hospital… brain cancer,’ he sighed.
‘I- I’m so sorry,’ she breathed.
‘It’s not your fault,’ Elliot shrugged. ‘It’s looking a lot better though, they think the treatment is finally working.’
‘Yeah… I told her about you, too… she wants to meet you, actually.’
In that moment, Vivian was struggling to breathe slightly, too overcome by a range of emotions to notice the pink blush that had coloured his cheeks.
‘I better hurry though,’ he added, glancing at his watch. ‘I’ll see you next week!’
But Elliot did not return next week, or the week after that, and the extra bleeding hearts Vivian had ordered were left to wilt and die when no one bought them. She worried what had happened to him, until he came in a week later, although he was hardly recognisable. His hair was a mess, he had large bags under his eyes and there was no smile on his face. Vivian didn’t even know what to say to him, but he spoke first, his voice hoarse.
‘I need more bleeding hearts… do you do funeral arrangements?’
Words by Annalise Timms
Annalise is a young writer and poet from Adelaide. She is in year 11 at high school. She enjoys reading, writing, being a social hermit and staying home with her pets. Last year, her work was published for the first time in the SAETA Spring Poetry Festival Anthology.