❀chapter two | he hates flowers❀

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 When I got to the flower stand on Monday, both Thalia and Jack were already there. 

Thalia kept tapping her foot against the ground, her high heels making clacking sounds against the sidewalk. Instead of her usual casual sundress, she was wearing a long pencil skirt and a frilly blouse. Today was another one of her job interview days. I had timed my departure from school so I would be seven minutes late, but she didn't seem to notice. 

I set my backpack by the foldable chair Jack was sitting at, tapping away on Thalia's tablet. 

She checked her makeup in her hand-held mirror. "Alright, it's time for me to go. I'll see you later. Jack, you're working until six, okay?"

He glanced at her and nodded.

"Romy," she said, turning to me. "Today and for the next few days he's here to mostly watch. To see how things work. Show him the basics. He'll be using my tablet so he can get started on ideas for the website."

"Okay," I said. 

Thalia adjusted the position of a rose on one of the flower arrangements and walked away, seeming like she could fit in with all the other suited up business people around the city. I tilted my head towards the sky and squinted my eyes against the afternoon sun. The sun was kind of a rare thing to see around here, considering that it was nearly always shrouded with clouds. And despite the clouds it almost never rained, but when it did, it rained too much. 

I stared at the flowers on display for a good three minutes until I couldn't take it anymore and turned around to face Jack.

"Are you working on ideas? For the website?" I asked, and just as the words left my mouth, he tapped a few times on the tablet screen and nodded without looking at me.

I raked my eyes over him, scrutinizing, searching for something that could tell me more about him. Maybe a stain on his shirt, telling me that he didn't care about appearances. Maybe an expensive jacket, telling me that he cared too much. But there was nothing that stood out. He slouched a little bit in his seat.

I let out a sigh. It was only a matter of time before Thalia had to fire him. He was in a few of my classes at school, and he rarely did his work or listened to what the teacher had to say. The teachers, however, always took pity on him and he managed to scrape by. There was one time in sophomore year when I had to be in the same group as him for a project, and of course, he didn't contribute at all. I told him to meet me at the library the day before the project was due so he could at least do something, but he didn't show up. He wouldn't look me in the eye the day we had to present it. I had tried to talk to Thalia about this earlier, but she dismissed my concerns and said that we couldn't fire him before he even started to work, which I guessed was sort of true. 

Maybe I should say something to him. I thought, but my mouth hung open in the air and not a single thing came out.

I made some arrangements for about an hour, taking loose flowers from the buckets at the bottom of the stand and practicing some of the techniques I learned. The customers bought pots or packages of flowers, leaving empty spaces that I filled up. I tried to show Jack some of the basics of flower arranging, but he didn't really seem to be listening. 

The appearance of the sun had sure put a lot of people in a good mood today. Customer after customer came to the stand, breaks in the long stretches of silence.

I was used to being by myself here, so the silence was no stranger to me, but being around another person without saying anything was more uncomfortable than I would have liked to admit. With most people, there was usually always something to talk about, always a joke to be made. I found myself relieved whenever a customer came by and I could make small talk with them, even if just for a few minutes.

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