The following day she reluctantly took a month’s leave from her job and returned to the suffocating town where she grew up. Somebody had to sort out what her mother had left behind.
The shop was just as she remembered it. Wood-panelled walls made the long space dark and claustrophobic. Narrow buckets were stacked three feet high. A few sad bunches of withered blooms remained. A maelstrom of paper scraps twitched in the drafts she made as she moved. Mysterious phone numbers were taped to the counter, the walls and the edges of every surface. Loose tickets carpeted the floor. She sighed, and tore the first bin bag off the roll.
As Rose gathered up the tickets by the fistful, she noticed that a great deal of them were makeshift order forms for events that had not yet happened. ‘Famille Rouillon,’ they would begin, or, ‘Marc & Jeanne’. ‘Bouquets – 3, TG.’ ‘Hommage ‘éternel’ sans lilis.’ ‘Orchidée blanche – anniversaire 5 mai.’ The 5th of May? That was today.
She thought about these customers, most of them regulars, old friends, characters she’d grown up with. She couldn’t leave them with nothing to mark these special occasions. But with no cash and no suppliers, what could she do?
As it turned out, the answer was already at the door. Rose picked up the secateurs and a block of florist’s foam. She stepped out into the overgrown yard and began to snip. To press the short branches into the cube. Bay, laurel and yew; hawthorn and holly. Their sumptuous greens shone generously against each other. She had watched her mother do this every day, and now it felt as natural as breathing.
‘Monsieur Druot?’ she asked, over the old fashioned telephone, ‘It’s Rose. Your arrangement is ready. Shall I bring it round?’