Love & Daisies

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Chapter 14

Daniel was packed to leave the home he had come to love. He trudged down the sidewalk through town and into the flower shop.

Ding! Ding! The familiar sound of the bell on the shop door would be something to miss.

Maggie looked up with a smile that nearly faded when she saw the sadness in Daniel’s eyes. She went over to comfort the boy whom she knew must have come to deliver his reluctant good-byes. “Hi, Daniel. Ella isn’t here right now.”

“Oh, that’s okay. Could you just give this to her for me, please?”

Maggie accepted a bundle of tissue paper sloppily taped together; a gift wrapped as only a child could. “Sure.”

“Thank you,” Daniel whispered as he turned to go.

Maggie quickly called out to him. “Daniel!” He stopped, but didn’t turn around. “She’ll miss you. Be sure to write and she’ll write back.”

Daniel walked out without a word. Maggie watched him trudge down the sidewalk, hands hidden in his pockets.

“I hope we’ll see you again,” she said to herself.

Maggie turned the gift over in her hands, wondering at what sort of treasure was sealed inside. After closing up shop, she hopped into her car and hurried home to her brokenhearted baby girl.

With the gift from Daniel in one hand and a bowl of Ella’s favorite ice cream in the other, Maggie made her way up the creaking steps. She nudged Ella’s bedroom door open to find her lying on her belly in the middle of her bed with homework spread out around her.

“This looks like organized learning,” Maggie teased. Ella glanced up and forced a half smirk. “Honey, you’ll be happy again. Trust me, these things happen.”

“You mean people I care about will always be ripped from my life?”

Maggie sat next to her daughter on the bed and rubbed her back. “No, but many people will come in and out of your life as you get older. You’ll lose some friends, and make new ones. Not always for good reasons but not always bad ones. It just happens. It’s all a part of growing up.”

“Growing up sucks.”

“It’s what you make of it. I know it feels awful now, but so many more good things will come. Don’t you worry.”

“But how will I ever be able to trust anyone ever again?”

Where do kids come up with these things? Maggie wondered to herself. “Well, say you felt that way before you met Daniel.”

“Okay.”

“Now, with that in mind, do you think you would have ever given him a chance?”

“No.”

“But didn’t you have so much fun while he was here?”

“More than ever!”

“See? It’s important to give people a chance, because you could miss out on so many great experiences if you don’t. And yes, you could get hurt again. But if you don’t try to move on, you could end up alone. And you, my dear, are far too loving and lovable to be alone.” Maggie brushed Ella’s hair back and gave her a peck on the cheek. “Here,” she said as she offered Ella the bowl.

“Mmm, my favorite! Thanks, Mommy.” Ella sat right up and took a bite. “What’s that?” she asked, referring to the package.

Maggie laid it on the bed before Ella. “Daniel dropped it off for you on his way out of town.”

“He didn’t want to give it to me himself?”

“I think it made him sad, honey.”

Ella set her bowl down and picked up the gift, looking at it in silence for a moment.

“Do you want me to go?”

“No, please stay.” Ella began to pull apart the tissue paper ever so gently. She uncovered a note, folded over so many times that it was a tiny rectangle that couldn’t hold itself together. She opened it and began to read aloud.

“Dear Ella,

I know I’m pretty quiet and not very sensitive, but I wanted you to know that I’m really going to miss you. Remember that four leaf clover I found? You told me to hang on to it because it’s lucky, so I did. I put it in an old necklace my mom doesn’t wear anymore. I hope you remember me. I’ll try to write, but it sounds like we might be traveling for a while. Maybe I can send you a postcard on the way. Anyway, I had a lot of fun playing with you. It made after school and the summer lots of fun. Tell your mom hi for me.”

Ella looked up from the paper briefly, “He says hi.”

Maggie smiled silently.

“My dad says it’s time to go. Guess I’ll see you around... maybe. I hope you like the necklace.

Daniel”

Ella threw the letter down and dug through the rest of the tissue paper until the necklace fell into her hand. She looked over the gift with glowing eyes. The long, delicate white gold chain was complete with a locket fairly larger than others Ella had seen. It had a clear glass front that allowed Ella to view the four leaf clover which was tucked safely away inside. Ella popped open the locket to look at the clover.

“That’s very nice.”

“Yeah,” was all she could manage, replacing to clover and sealing it shut. She examined the treasure thoroughly. On the back was an engraving. “I - M - H - A - M - A. What does that mean?”

“Not sure. It may have met something to Daniel’s mother if this belonged to her.

Ella lay the locket upon the lavender comforter and reviewed the letter. Maggie picked up the necklace. The background within the locket was very plain, but she had an idea to remedy that. “Ella, would you mind if I added something to the locket? I promise you’ll like it.”

“Okay.”

“Finish your ice cream before it all melts.”

“Yes, mommy.” Ella propped up the letter so she could continue to study it, and picked up the bowl of yummy goodness to finish.

Maggie carried the locket out of the room, leaving Ella alone but in better spirits.

Daniel was packed to leave the home he had come to love. He trudged down the sidewalk through town and into the flower shop.

Ding! Ding! The familiar sound of the bell on the shop door would be something to miss.

Maggie looked up with a smile that nearly faded when she saw the sadness in Daniel’s eyes. She went over to comfort the boy whom she knew must have come to deliver his reluctant good-byes. “Hi, Daniel. Ella isn’t here right now.”

“Oh, that’s okay. Could you just give this to her for me, please?”

Maggie accepted a bundle of tissue paper sloppily taped together; a gift wrapped as only a child could. “Sure.”

“Thank you,” Daniel whispered as he turned to go.

Maggie quickly called out to him. “Daniel!” He stopped, but didn’t turn around. “She’ll miss you. Be sure to write and she’ll write back.”

Daniel walked out without a word. Maggie watched him trudge down the sidewalk, hands hidden in his pockets.

“I hope we’ll see you again,” she said to herself.

Maggie turned the gift over in her hands, wondering at what sort of treasure was sealed inside. After closing up shop, she hopped into her car and hurried home to her brokenhearted baby girl.

With the gift from Daniel in one hand and a bowl of Ella’s favorite ice cream in the other, Maggie made her way up the creaking steps. She nudged Ella’s bedroom door open to find her lying on her belly in the middle of her bed with homework spread out around her.

“This looks like organized learning,” Maggie teased. Ella glanced up and forced a half smirk. “Honey, you’ll be happy again. Trust me, these things happen.”

“You mean people I care about will always be ripped from my life?”

Maggie sat next to her daughter on the bed and rubbed her back. “No, but many people will come in and out of your life as you get older. You’ll lose some friends, and make new ones. Not always for good reasons but not always bad ones. It just happens. It’s all a part of growing up.”

“Growing up sucks.”

“It’s what you make of it. I know it feels awful now, but so many more good things will come. Don’t you worry.”

“But how will I ever be able to trust anyone ever again?”

Where do kids come up with these things? Maggie wondered to herself. “Well, say you felt that way before you met Daniel.”

“Okay.”

“Now, with that in mind, do you think you would have ever given him a chance?”

“No.”

“But didn’t you have so much fun while he was here?”

“More than ever!”

“See? It’s important to give people a chance, because you could miss out on so many great experiences if you don’t. And yes, you could get hurt again. But if you don’t try to move on, you could end up alone. And you, my dear, are far too loving and lovable to be alone.” Maggie brushed Ella’s hair back and gave her a peck on the cheek. “Here,” she said as she offered Ella the bowl.

“Mmm, my favorite! Thanks, Mommy.” Ella sat right up and took a bite. “What’s that?” she asked, referring to the package.

Maggie laid it on the bed before Ella. “Daniel dropped it off for you on his way out of town.”

“He didn’t want to give it to me himself?”

“I think it made him sad, honey.”

Ella set her bowl down and picked up the gift, looking at it in silence for a moment.

“Do you want me to go?”

“No, please stay.” Ella began to pull apart the tissue paper ever so gently. She uncovered a note, folded over so many times that it was a tiny rectangle that couldn’t hold itself together. She opened it and began to read aloud.

“Dear Ella,

I know I’m pretty quiet and not very sensitive, but I wanted you to know that I’m really going to miss you. Remember that four leaf clover I found? You told me to hang on to it because it’s lucky, so I did. I put it in an old necklace my mom doesn’t wear anymore. I hope you remember me. I’ll try to write, but it sounds like we might be traveling for a while. Maybe I can send you a postcard on the way. Anyway, I had a lot of fun playing with you. It made after school and the summer lots of fun. Tell your mom hi for me.”

Ella looked up from the paper briefly, “He says hi.”

Maggie smiled silently.

“My dad says it’s time to go. Guess I’ll see you around... maybe. I hope you like the necklace.

Daniel”

Ella threw the letter down and dug through the rest of the tissue paper until the necklace fell into her hand. She looked over the gift with glowing eyes. The long, delicate white gold chain was complete with a locket fairly larger than others Ella had seen. It had a clear glass front that allowed Ella to view the four leaf clover which was tucked safely away inside. Ella popped open the locket to look at the clover.

“That’s very nice.”

“Yeah,” was all she could manage, replacing to clover and sealing it shut. She examined the treasure thoroughly. On the back was an engraving. “I - M - H - A - M - A. What does that mean?”

“Not sure. It may have met something to Daniel’s mother if this belonged to her.

Ella lay the locket upon the lavender comforter and reviewed the letter. Maggie picked up the necklace. The background within the locket was very plain, but she had an idea to remedy that. “Ella, would you mind if I added something to the locket? I promise you’ll like it.”

“Okay.”

“Finish your ice cream before it all melts.”

“Yes, mommy.” Ella propped up the letter so she could continue to study it, and picked up the bowl of yummy goodness to finish.

Maggie carried the locket out of the room, leaving Ella alone but in better spirits.


Ella opened the door to see Eric standing there. He looked her over. She wore layered tank tops of different shades of pink, and rose and lavender plaid shorts. Her toes were freshly decorated with lime green polish and her hair was tied up in two tight little buns, one on each side of her head. Her face was covered in a white face mask. Eric stared at her for a moment, unable to pull his eyes away. He couldn’t help but notice how beautiful he found her in this disheveled, yet oddly captivating, state. But that wouldn’t get in the way of him having a bit of fun.

“You look... original.”

“You like it?” she asked, spinning around so he could observe her from all angles. “This look hits the runway in Milan next week. It’s all the rage,” she blew him a flirtatious kiss.

“I believe it! So, can I come in?”

Ella gave him a devilish smile and grabbed his shirt, pulling him in with a seductive tug. With just one peck on Eric’s cheek, Ella bounced onto her couch where she snuggled up with her puppy and a bowl of popcorn. “C’mon! Doc’s Son and I are having ourselves a movie night!”

“Not exactly what I had in mind, but I’ll bite. What are we watching?” Eric grabbed a handful of popcorn as he leaned back into the couch. Doc’s Son quickly left Ella’s lap to sit on the new visitor’s.

“Trader,” she said to the puppy. “You know... that new movie. I forget the name.”

“What’s it about.”

“Same old: guy and girl are friends, girl helps guy get in other girl’s pants, in the process guy and girl-one fall in love.”

“Wait, which girl is girl-one?”

“The guy’s girl.”

“The first girl or the one he’s friends with?”

“What? No, girl-one is the one he’s friends with.”

“But you never said anything about girl two. You only mentioned girl and girl one. If two words are exactly the same but one has a number following it, the one without the number comes first in the order of things.”

“Whose order if things?”

“Everyone’s order of things.”

“Wait, who is girl two?”

“That’s what I’m saying.”

“You know what? I’m not about to get all Abbott and Costello with you, so shut up and watch the movie.”

“Fair enough,” Eric said with a satisfied smile as he popped a few more snacks into his mouth and got comfy with one arm around Ella and the other free to pet Doc’s Son.

They enjoyed the movie and each other’s quiet company. During the hour and forty minutes of romance and comedy, Ella moved only to rinse her face of the mask before climbing snuggly under Eric’s arm, and Doc’s Son fell asleep in his bed on the floor. Once the movie was over, they let the credits run. Not long after the credits finished, Eric interrupted the silence.

“So, what are we?” he asked.

Ella thought about this for a moment. It did seem that they stumbled from acquaintance into relationship without much warning. “Well, we’re either dating or we’re seeing each other.”

“What’s the difference?”

“If we’re dating we are exclusive. But, if we’re seeing each other, we may also be seeing other people.”

“Are you seeing anyone else?” Eric asked.

“No. Are you?”

“No.”

“Then, I guess we’re dating,” Ella smiled.

Eric leaned in to kiss Ella, but stopped when he noticed a chain around her neck that hung low into her shirt. “Did you have this on the whole time I was here?”

“Yeah. I wear it every day.”

“I didn’t notice.”

“That’s because you were distracted by the unique way I curl my hair,” she said with a sweet smile. “That, and the chain is so long. It’s always been something special I keep close to my heart, a secret hidden from the rest of the world.

Eric pulled out the chain to find a locket on the end. “Where did you get it?” He asked, turning the locket around in his hand, but he didn’t really see it. His attention was drawn to a distant, unretrievable memory.

“When I was younger. You know what, it’s a sad story. I don’t really want to talk about it.”

“Oh, come on. I want to learn about young Ella.”

She took a few seconds to consider this request. Sliding the locket out of Eric’s hands and into her own, she proceeded to open her heart and it’s buried secrets. “Okay.” She sat up, holding the locket out in front of her and fiddling with it as she laid out its history. Well, when I was younger I had a friend.”

“Lilly?”

“No, this was before I met Lilly.”

“Was it a girl?”

“A boy.”

“Continue.”

“Thank you. Anyway, I had a friend I would hang out with after school and sometimes on the weekends. He seemed a bit closed off at first, but once he opened up we became the best of friends.”

“That’s not sad.”

“Not yet. One day, his parents decided to move away. Before they left he gave me this locket. Inside it he placed a four leaf clover that he had found in my backyard. When we found it I had told him to keep it for good luck, and he did. Well, until he gave it to me.” Ella slipped into a daydream as she turned the locket about in her hand.

“Sounds like you really liked him.”

“I did,” she confirmed.

“Do you miss him still?”

“Well,” she thought about this. “I don’t know. I guess you could say I do, but he wouldn’t be the same person now. I bet I would like him though, if I knew him. Did you ever have any childhood friends like that?”

Eric cast his thought back to his early years. So much had been lost or forgotten, but something felt right about his answer. “Yes,” he said.

They both sat quietly for a moment, each in their own daze. Eric gently requested the locket for a closer look. “May, I?”

“Of course,” she answered.

Eric took the precious object, seeing it fully now. He ran his finger over the inscription on the back, squinting his eyes to be sure he read it right.

“I never found out what those letters stand for.” Ella interrupted his thoughts.

Without responding, Eric flipped the treasure over. The clover roamed freely within its sanctuary, allowing only small openings to view what lay behind it. Eric opened the locket and found a picture behind the clover. “Is this him?

“And me, yes.”

“What was his name?”

“Daniel.”

Eric pondered this for a moment before suddenly breaking the quiet comfort in the room. “Well,” he kissed her head. “You had better get to bed, and I should go.”

“Why?” Ella became a little shy, unsure of what she had done to chase him away. “I was hoping you would stay tonight.”

“Oh,” Eric was surprised. “Really?” He thought hard about this. Of course he wanted to stay, but something was drawing him away. “Not tonight. It’s not that I don’t want to. I really want to. I just… have somewhere to be first thing in the morning.”

“Where’s that?”

“No worries; just get some sleep. I’ll try to stop by the shop tomorrow.”

“Okay,” Ella gave in to him leaving, but sank deeper into the couch. Disappointment and curiosity began to brew within her.

“Good night,” Eric called as he left the apartment.

“Night,” Ella called after him. She lay on the couch looking at her locket and remembering the boy she once knew. As she recalled these memories, she effortlessly drifted off to sleep, never making the move to her bed.


When the sun rose, Eric was already on his way to Hillside. He knew his grandmother would be up with the sun, and he wasn’t going to be late to see her today. He had one question that he couldn’t leave unanswered any longer.

Nearly bursting into the nursing home, Eric scanned the community room only a short second before he spotted Eleanor.

“Good morning, Nana,” he said, a bit out of breath as he kissed her head and kneeled beside her.

“Well hello, it’s barely morning. What are you doing here, dear?”

“Nana, I lived here before, right? When I was younger?”

“Of course. You loved it here. When your parents made you leave it broke your heart as much as it broke mine.”

“I need to know who Ella is.”

“What do you mean? You certainly know her better than I do.”

“I know her now, but I need to know who she was before.”

Eleanor shook her head. “I’m sorry, dear. I don’t follow.”

“She doesn’t understand much these days. She is quite old you know,” Mr. Finer said from across the coffee table. Eric hadn’t noticed him or Mr. Jerries before now.

“Don’t make me send him for my cane!” Eleanor threatened her friend.

“Nana, did I know Ella when I was younger?”

“Well, yes. Didn’t you know? She’s the girl you used to play with after school. Of course, that was before your Mother and I had that awful disagreement. She was so angry that she picked you up and moved you to Washington just to be away from me. I can’t even remember what we fought about. A terrible time, that was for us all.”

Eric stood up, trying to let this revelation sink in. “Ella is the girl I knew here―before we moved. We were together every day.” His excitement grew as he realized that this woman, who had stolen his heart, was the same girl he knew so many years before.

“You didn’t remember any of this? Not even the flower shop? That’s where you first met her,” Eleanor said. “Couldn’t stand the idea of playing with her.” She chuckled to herself.

“There were things about the town that were vaguely familiar.” Eric answered, dazed and digging for memories stored away so many years ago.

“Well, you were young at the time. Can’t expect you to remember it all. There must be room in the brain for more useful information, you know. This is why our brain purges these things.”

“It was her,” Eric said, feeling energy rushing through his body. “Ella is the girl I knew.” Anxious to share the news, he turned to leave but looked up to see her standing before him. “Ella,” was all he could say. Seeing her again freed the locked away memories, allowing them to all flood back at once. His words were lost as the puzzle pieces fell together.

“What do you mean I’m the girl you knew?” Ella asked, feeling a bit uneasy.

“I’m Daniel.”

“Daniel? Not Eric?”

“No, I’m Eric too. My middle name is Daniel, that’s what I used to go by when I was younger. That’s what Nana called me.”

“Eleanor is your grandmother?”

Eric nodded his response.

“And, you’re Daniel?”

“Yes,” Eric started to smile, but began to realize that Ella was not so enthused.

“You’re the Daniel that left here twenty years ago.”

“Yeah.”

“The same Daniel who left me here, who promised to write and who never did?” Tears were forming in Ella’s eyes. “The same Daniel who broke my heart?”

“Ella―”

“Don’t.” She put one hand up as if that simple act could keep him from moving. “You lied to me then about what I meant to you, and you lied to me now about who you are.” Eric tried to step closer again, but was stopped. “Don’t come near me. I think you’ve hurt me enough. Just stay away.” Ella turned and walked out, carrying Mr. Finer’s hydrangeas away with her. Eric immediately went to follow, but Mr. Finer ordered him to stay his feet.

“I’d stop there, Son. I think you’ve done enough damage to last that girl a while. Why don’t you give her some space to let this all sink in?”

Eric’s eyes followed Ella, but his body remained where it was.

Ella sat in her car in the Hillside parking lot, desperately wiping away the tears that were flowing down her cheeks. Her phone was to her ear and ringing for what seemed like a lifetime. Finally, Lilly picked up on the other end. “EllaGant arrangements, Lilly speaking.”

“Lilly, call out the troops. I’m hurting bad this time.”

“Where are you?”

“On my way home.”

“We’ll meet you there.”

Without a word, Ella turned her phone off and pulled away. Once home, she went right inside and climbed into pjs and bed with a box of tissues to cuddle. Doc’s Son hopped up and lay his head on her for comfort.

No more than fifteen minutes later, Lilly and James walked in with Chocolaty Delight ice cream, a few bad movies, and even more tissues. When they entered Ella’s bedroom, Lilly rattled off all Ella needed to hear to know the shop was in good hands so she could rest. “Sarah is opening the shop and a few of our part-timers came in to cover me.”

“I will check in with everyone later, so you have nothing to worry about. We’ve got it all covered,” James added.

“Eric is Daniel,” Ella explained through tears.

“Who?” James asked.

“Daniel from when we were kids?” Lilly asked. “That boy you knew before we became friends?”

“That’s the one.”

“Oh, El. This is big.”

“Who’s Daniel?” James whispered to Lilly.

“Shh! I’ll explain later, it’s a long story.”

“How could he keep this from me?”

“Maybe he didn’t know,” was all Lilly could suggest.

“So he didn’t even remember me? I don’t know what would be worse! Lying to me about who he is, or not remembering me at all.”

“Touché,” Lilly submitted.

James smacked Lilly on the arm for her insensitive response and crawled into bed next to Ella. “Come here, dear,” he said, wrapping his arms around his friend. “Lilly will throw on a bad movie and serve us some ice cream. In the meantime, I want to hear all about your history with this man who has apparently broken your heart more than once.”

Lilly gave James an evil look, but followed his instructions to a ‘T.’

Ella remained locked up in her bedroom for an entire day, but her two friends wouldn’t let her hide out much longer than that. Late the next afternoon, Ella was rudely awakened by her covers being yanked off. “Rise and shine, honey bunches!” Lilly said. “The sun has brought us a new day, so it’s time you get out of bed and start moving on with your life.”

Ella rolled over with a moan.

“Come on,” James reached over the bed and nudged her. “Life goes on and it will go on without you. You don’t want to miss anything, right?”

“Yes, I want to stay right where I am and miss it all.”

“Your mom wouldn’t want that, nor would she allow it. Rule One of Maggie’s Rules of Break Up Recovery: twelve hours of wallowing for each year you were together. Since you haven’t been together for that long, I think you’ve wallowed enough.”

“Don’t forget I knew him almost a full year before.”

“Yeah, but you were too young to date back then so that doesn’t qualify.”

Lilly and James waited quietly as Ella’s reluctance began to break down. “Fine,” she rolled onto her back. “I’ll get up. But I want ice cream for breakfast.”

James’ eyes met Lilly’s, who slowly admitted, “Um... right. That would be a great idea, except we ate it all last night.”

Ella lifted her head to look directly at her friends. “We did!”

“Yeah, you were hurting pretty bad...”

“And we were feeling your pain,” James added. “Also, it’s lunch time, not breakfast.”

Ella started laughing and the other two eventually joined in. With her strength mostly regained and her outlook on life only slightly less optimistic than normal, Ella climbed out of bed and hopped into the shower. When she came out, she knew her day would be at the mercy of her two friends. That was, after all, Rule Two.

“Okay,” she said in a bathrobe and with her hair twisted up in a towel. “What am I dressing for?”

Lilly answered, “We’re going out.”

“Where?”

“Shopping.”

“And then?”

“Clubbing.”

“Noooo, I’m really not up for that tonight. Besides, we have to drive 40 minutes to get anywhere that even has a club or any semblance of one.”

“Exactly,” Lilly said.

“We’re testing fate,” James added.

Lilly walked over to Ella. “You run into Eric at random places all the time, right?”

“I guess. But please consider that we live in the same house and a very small town.”

“Noted, and… disregarded. We will be far away from here, so if you run into him tonight you’ll know it’s meant to be.”

“If not, then it never was,” James finished the thought.

“You guys know I don’t believe in that,” Ella said matter-of-factly.

“No,” Lilly continued. “But you do believe everything happens for a reason.”

Ella gave in. They had her there. “Must have taken you all night to come up with that one.”

“Pretty close, actually,” James said as Ella retreated to her room to get ready.

Ella opened the door to see Eric standing there. He looked her over. She wore layered tank tops of different shades of pink, and rose and lavender plaid shorts. Her toes were freshly decorated with lime green polish and her hair was tied up in two tight little buns, one on each side of her head. Her face was covered in a white face mask. Eric stared at her for a moment, unable to pull his eyes away. He couldn’t help but notice how beautiful he found her in this disheveled, yet oddly captivating, state. But that wouldn’t get in the way of him having a bit of fun.

“You look... original.”

“You like it?” she asked, spinning around so he could observe her from all angles. “This look hits the runway in Milan next week. It’s all the rage,” she blew him a flirtatious kiss.

“I believe it! So, can I come in?”

Ella gave him a devilish smile and grabbed his shirt, pulling him in with a seductive tug. With just one peck on Eric’s cheek, Ella bounced onto her couch where she snuggled up with her puppy and a bowl of popcorn. “C’mon! Doc’s Son and I are having ourselves a movie night!”

“Not exactly what I had in mind, but I’ll bite. What are we watching?” Eric grabbed a handful of popcorn as he leaned back into the couch. Doc’s Son quickly left Ella’s lap to sit on the new visitor’s.

“Trader,” she said to the puppy. “You know... that new movie. I forget the name.”

“What’s it about.”

“Same old: guy and girl are friends, girl helps guy get in other girl’s pants, in the process guy and girl-one fall in love.”

“Wait, which girl is girl-one?”

“The guy’s girl.”

“The first girl or the one he’s friends with?”

“What? No, girl-one is the one he’s friends with.”

“But you never said anything about girl two. You only mentioned girl and girl one. If two words are exactly the same but one has a number following it, the one without the number comes first in the order of things.”

“Whose order if things?”

“Everyone’s order of things.”

“Wait, who is girl two?”

“That’s what I’m saying.”

“You know what? I’m not about to get all Abbott and Costello with you, so shut up and watch the movie.”

“Fair enough,” Eric said with a satisfied smile as he popped a few more snacks into his mouth and got comfy with one arm around Ella and the other free to pet Doc’s Son.

They enjoyed the movie and each other’s quiet company. During the hour and forty minutes of romance and comedy, Ella moved only to rinse her face of the mask before climbing snuggly under Eric’s arm, and Doc’s Son fell asleep in his bed on the floor. Once the movie was over, they let the credits run. Not long after the credits finished, Eric interrupted the silence.

“So, what are we?” he asked.

Ella thought about this for a moment. It did seem that they stumbled from acquaintance into relationship without much warning. “Well, we’re either dating or we’re seeing each other.”

“What’s the difference?”

“If we’re dating we are exclusive. But, if we’re seeing each other, we may also be seeing other people.”

“Are you seeing anyone else?” Eric asked.

“No. Are you?”

“No.”

“Then, I guess we’re dating,” Ella smiled.

Eric leaned in to kiss Ella, but stopped when he noticed a chain around her neck that hung low into her shirt. “Did you have this on the whole time I was here?”

“Yeah. I wear it every day.”

“I didn’t notice.”

“That’s because you were distracted by the unique way I curl my hair,” she said with a sweet smile. “That, and the chain is so long. It’s always been something special I keep close to my heart, a secret hidden from the rest of the world.

Eric pulled out the chain to find a locket on the end. “Where did you get it?” He asked, turning the locket around in his hand, but he didn’t really see it. His attention was drawn to a distant, unretrievable memory.

“When I was younger. You know what, it’s a sad story. I don’t really want to talk about it.”

“Oh, come on. I want to learn about young Ella.”

She took a few seconds to consider this request. Sliding the locket out of Eric’s hands and into her own, she proceeded to open her heart and it’s buried secrets. “Okay.” She sat up, holding the locket out in front of her and fiddling with it as she laid out its history. Well, when I was younger I had a friend.”

“Lilly?”

“No, this was before I met Lilly.”

“Was it a girl?”

“A boy.”

“Continue.”

“Thank you. Anyway, I had a friend I would hang out with after school and sometimes on the weekends. He seemed a bit closed off at first, but once he opened up we became the best of friends.”

“That’s not sad.”

“Not yet. One day, his parents decided to move away. Before they left he gave me this locket. Inside it he placed a four leaf clover that he had found in my backyard. When we found it I had told him to keep it for good luck, and he did. Well, until he gave it to me.” Ella slipped into a daydream as she turned the locket about in her hand.

“Sounds like you really liked him.”

“I did,” she confirmed.

“Do you miss him still?”

“Well,” she thought about this. “I don’t know. I guess you could say I do, but he wouldn’t be the same person now. I bet I would like him though, if I knew him. Did you ever have any childhood friends like that?”

Eric cast his thought back to his early years. So much had been lost or forgotten, but something felt right about his answer. “Yes,” he said.

They both sat quietly for a moment, each in their own daze. Eric gently requested the locket for a closer look. “May, I?”

“Of course,” she answered.

Eric took the precious object, seeing it fully now. He ran his finger over the inscription on the back, squinting his eyes to be sure he read it right.

“I never found out what those letters stand for.” Ella interrupted his thoughts.

Without responding, Eric flipped the treasure over. The clover roamed freely within its sanctuary, allowing only small openings to view what lay behind it. Eric opened the locket and found a picture behind the clover. “Is this him?

“And me, yes.”

“What was his name?”

“Daniel.”

Eric pondered this for a moment before suddenly breaking the quiet comfort in the room. “Well,” he kissed her head. “You had better get to bed, and I should go.”

“Why?” Ella became a little shy, unsure of what she had done to chase him away. “I was hoping you would stay tonight.”

“Oh,” Eric was surprised. “Really?” He thought hard about this. Of course he wanted to stay, but something was drawing him away. “Not tonight. It’s not that I don’t want to. I really want to. I just… have somewhere to be first thing in the morning.”

“Where’s that?”

“No worries; just get some sleep. I’ll try to stop by the shop tomorrow.”

“Okay,” Ella gave in to him leaving, but sank deeper into the couch. Disappointment and curiosity began to brew within her.

“Good night,” Eric called as he left the apartment.

“Night,” Ella called after him. She lay on the couch looking at her locket and remembering the boy she once knew. As she recalled these memories, she effortlessly drifted off to sleep, never making the move to her bed.


When the sun rose, Eric was already on his way to Hillside. He knew his grandmother would be up with the sun, and he wasn’t going to be late to see her today. He had one question that he couldn’t leave unanswered any longer.

Nearly bursting into the nursing home, Eric scanned the community room only a short second before he spotted Eleanor.

“Good morning, Nana,” he said, a bit out of breath as he kissed her head and kneeled beside her.

“Well hello, it’s barely morning. What are you doing here, dear?”

“Nana, I lived here before, right? When I was younger?”

“Of course. You loved it here. When your parents made you leave it broke your heart as much as it broke mine.”

“I need to know who Ella is.”

“What do you mean? You certainly know her better than I do.”

“I know her now, but I need to know who she was before.”

Eleanor shook her head. “I’m sorry, dear. I don’t follow.”

“She doesn’t understand much these days. She is quite old you know,” Mr. Finer said from across the coffee table. Eric hadn’t noticed him or Mr. Jerries before now.

“Don’t make me send him for my cane!” Eleanor threatened her friend.

“Nana, did I know Ella when I was younger?”

“Well, yes. Didn’t you know? She’s the girl you used to play with after school. Of course, that was before your Mother and I had that awful disagreement. She was so angry that she picked you up and moved you to Washington just to be away from me. I can’t even remember what we fought about. A terrible time, that was for us all.”

Eric stood up, trying to let this revelation sink in. “Ella is the girl I knew here―before we moved. We were together every day.” His excitement grew as he realized that this woman, who had stolen his heart, was the same girl he knew so many years before.

“You didn’t remember any of this? Not even the flower shop? That’s where you first met her,” Eleanor said. “Couldn’t stand the idea of playing with her.” She chuckled to herself.

“There were things about the town that were vaguely familiar.” Eric answered, dazed and digging for memories stored away so many years ago.

“Well, you were young at the time. Can’t expect you to remember it all. There must be room in the brain for more useful information, you know. This is why our brain purges these things.”

“It was her,” Eric said, feeling energy rushing through his body. “Ella is the girl I knew.” Anxious to share the news, he turned to leave but looked up to see her standing before him. “Ella,” was all he could say. Seeing her again freed the locked away memories, allowing them to all flood back at once. His words were lost as the puzzle pieces fell together.

“What do you mean I’m the girl you knew?” Ella asked, feeling a bit uneasy.

“I’m Daniel.”

“Daniel? Not Eric?”

“No, I’m Eric too. My middle name is Daniel, that’s what I used to go by when I was younger. That’s what Nana called me.”

“Eleanor is your grandmother?”

Eric nodded his response.

“And, you’re Daniel?”

“Yes,” Eric started to smile, but began to realize that Ella was not so enthused.

“You’re the Daniel that left here twenty years ago.”

“Yeah.”

“The same Daniel who left me here, who promised to write and who never did?” Tears were forming in Ella’s eyes. “The same Daniel who broke my heart?”

“Ella―”

“Don’t.” She put one hand up as if that simple act could keep him from moving. “You lied to me then about what I meant to you, and you lied to me now about who you are.” Eric tried to step closer again, but was stopped. “Don’t come near me. I think you’ve hurt me enough. Just stay away.” Ella turned and walked out, carrying Mr. Finer’s hydrangeas away with her. Eric immediately went to follow, but Mr. Finer ordered him to stay his feet.

“I’d stop there, Son. I think you’ve done enough damage to last that girl a while. Why don’t you give her some space to let this all sink in?”

Eric’s eyes followed Ella, but his body remained where it was.

Ella sat in her car in the Hillside parking lot, desperately wiping away the tears that were flowing down her cheeks. Her phone was to her ear and ringing for what seemed like a lifetime. Finally, Lilly picked up on the other end. “EllaGant arrangements, Lilly speaking.”

“Lilly, call out the troops. I’m hurting bad this time.”

“Where are you?”

“On my way home.”

“We’ll meet you there.”

Without a word, Ella turned her phone off and pulled away. Once home, she went right inside and climbed into pjs and bed with a box of tissues to cuddle. Doc’s Son hopped up and lay his head on her for comfort.

No more than fifteen minutes later, Lilly and James walked in with Chocolaty Delight ice cream, a few bad movies, and even more tissues. When they entered Ella’s bedroom, Lilly rattled off all Ella needed to hear to know the shop was in good hands so she could rest. “Sarah is opening the shop and a few of our part-timers came in to cover me.”

“I will check in with everyone later, so you have nothing to worry about. We’ve got it all covered,” James added.

“Eric is Daniel,” Ella explained through tears.

“Who?” James asked.

“Daniel from when we were kids?” Lilly asked. “That boy you knew before we became friends?”

“That’s the one.”

“Oh, El. This is big.”

“Who’s Daniel?” James whispered to Lilly.

“Shh! I’ll explain later, it’s a long story.”

“How could he keep this from me?”

“Maybe he didn’t know,” was all Lilly could suggest.

“So he didn’t even remember me? I don’t know what would be worse! Lying to me about who he is, or not remembering me at all.”

“Touché,” Lilly submitted.

James smacked Lilly on the arm for her insensitive response and crawled into bed next to Ella. “Come here, dear,” he said, wrapping his arms around his friend. “Lilly will throw on a bad movie and serve us some ice cream. In the meantime, I want to hear all about your history with this man who has apparently broken your heart more than once.”

Lilly gave James an evil look, but followed his instructions to a ‘T.’

Ella remained locked up in her bedroom for an entire day, but her two friends wouldn’t let her hide out much longer than that. Late the next afternoon, Ella was rudely awakened by her covers being yanked off. “Rise and shine, honey bunches!” Lilly said. “The sun has brought us a new day, so it’s time you get out of bed and start moving on with your life.”

Ella rolled over with a moan.

“Come on,” James reached over the bed and nudged her. “Life goes on and it will go on without you. You don’t want to miss anything, right?”

“Yes, I want to stay right where I am and miss it all.”

“Your mom wouldn’t want that, nor would she allow it. Rule One of Maggie’s Rules of Break Up Recovery: twelve hours of wallowing for each year you were together. Since you haven’t been together for that long, I think you’ve wallowed enough.”

“Don’t forget I knew him almost a full year before.”

“Yeah, but you were too young to date back then so that doesn’t qualify.”

Lilly and James waited quietly as Ella’s reluctance began to break down. “Fine,” she rolled onto her back. “I’ll get up. But I want ice cream for breakfast.”

James’ eyes met Lilly’s, who slowly admitted, “Um... right. That would be a great idea, except we ate it all last night.”

Ella lifted her head to look directly at her friends. “We did!”

“Yeah, you were hurting pretty bad...”

“And we were feeling your pain,” James added. “Also, it’s lunch time, not breakfast.”

Ella started laughing and the other two eventually joined in. With her strength mostly regained and her outlook on life only slightly less optimistic than normal, Ella climbed out of bed and hopped into the shower. When she came out, she knew her day would be at the mercy of her two friends. That was, after all, Rule Two.

“Okay,” she said in a bathrobe and with her hair twisted up in a towel. “What am I dressing for?”

Lilly answered, “We’re going out.”

“Where?”

“Shopping.”

“And then?”

“Clubbing.”

“Noooo, I’m really not up for that tonight. Besides, we have to drive 40 minutes to get anywhere that even has a club or any semblance of one.”

“Exactly,” Lilly said.

“We’re testing fate,” James added.

Lilly walked over to Ella. “You run into Eric at random places all the time, right?”

“I guess. But please consider that we live in the same house and a very small town.”

“Noted, and… disregarded. We will be far away from here, so if you run into him tonight you’ll know it’s meant to be.”

“If not, then it never was,” James finished the thought.

“You guys know I don’t believe in that,” Ella said matter-of-factly.

“No,” Lilly continued. “But you do believe everything happens for a reason.”

Ella gave in. They had her there. “Must have taken you all night to come up with that one.”

“Pretty close, actually,” James said as Ella retreated to her room to get ready.

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