Chapter 01: Apocynum
When Evan's girlfriend slapped him and told him it was over, it wasn't a big shock, and the worst thing about it was the stinging pain on his cheek. There was no desperate pleading for a second chance or the sharp pain like a stab to the heart, just a call to a friend with a proposal for a night out drinking. As always, Drew – Evan's friend – accepted the offer, and the two went out to their usual haunt. It was a Friday night, Evan had just been dumped, and all in all, it wasn't such a bad day.
"You don't even look bothered," Drew said, looking at the man next to him with a quirked eyebrow.
They were sitting at the bar, not even out of their work clothes and looking very much like a pair of miserable office workers. Evan shrugged and took a swig from his beer, answering only once he had set down his drink and turned his hazel colored eyes onto his friend.
"Well, she was the third one this month," he said nonchalantly.
Drew just sighed and shook his head, running an hand through his short black hair.
"So, why did this one leave?"
"Said I didn't spend enough time with her," Evan told him. "Apparently I'm supposed to drop everything when she wants to go shopping," he scoffed.
Drew didn't say anything to that as he finished his beer and asked for another. He knew Evan very well, and he was pretty sure it wasn't that simple. It wasn't hard to tell what had happened, and he had drunk enough to actually tell Evan this time around.
"Let's be honest," he said, leaning on the bar top. "What really happened is you lost interest and just started making up excuses not to meet her until she got fed up and dumped you."
Evan sent his friend a halfhearted glare, not bothering to respond, because Drew already knew the answer.
"So, what's next? Are you going to try again or are you taking a break from dating?"
It was more of a habit to ask, because Drew was pretty sure Evan wouldn't be able to live without women for long. The longest he'd gone without a girlfriend was a month and he was in the hospital that time.
"Well, there is that blond in accounting," Evan said with a grin, just as Drew had expected.
"You're hopeless," his friend said, shaking his head.
Evan just laughed, just like he always did.
Monday arrived and Evan woke up in a good mood. He got dressed for work, making sure his light blond hair was neatly combed and his tie was perfectly done before stepping out of his apartment and right up to his car, idly whistling some catchy song he must have heard on the radio. That day, he thought, he would manage to get a date. He was sure of it, because while Evan couldn't hold a woman to save his life he damn well could get one. At the moment, he had his heard set on Laura, the blond he had mentioned to Drew before. Laura with her slim frame and longs legs and most importantly (and he wasn't ashamed to admit it, in fact, he often did so around Drew) a firm set of breasts that were the envy of all of the other women working on that floor. All he had to do was stay positive, keep up a smile, and be confident.
Just in case, though, he'd stop by a flower shop before he got to work, because he'd seen the woman's desk adorned with fake flowers and thought she'd like some real ones for a change.
Evan pulled up to the front of a small shop with potted plants and fresh flowers adorning the front. A wooden sign hung on wrought iron with the word "Clover" written on it in curling black letters. When Evan stepped in, a bell chimed above him and he took a moment to appreciate the neatly kept plants and flowers inside, bathed in the bright sunlight that streamed in through the wide windows covering the front wall.
"Welcome, I'll be with you in just a minute," came a soft voice from farther back into the shop.
Evan only caught a glimpse of light brown hair and a large bouquet of flowers before the shop attendant was gone. He waited patiently by the counter, still whistling the same tune as before, wondering what he should get.
Not roses, that's old, he though. Hmm, maybe those pink ones.
He heard someone approaching, and turned to the attendant, thinking of asking for a bit of help in deciding what to buy. And as soon as his eyes landed on the person standing before him, he froze, his whistling halting abruptly and his gaze fixed on those clover green eyes in front of him.
"Sorry about that, now, how can I help you?" said the young woman, a gentle smile on her pretty face.
It took Evan only a second to recover and snap out of his daze. In an instant, he was smiling and speaking with his nicest tone.
"Hello," he paused, glancing at the name tag pinned to the dark green apron the young woman wore. "Sascha, I was just looking for a nice bouquet of flowers to give to someone, but I just can't decide what to buy. I'm not very good at picking flowers," Evan said, laughing sheepishly.
The girl behind the counter just smiled understandingly.
"Of course, I'll do my best to help. Now, are the flowers for a special occasion? Maybe for a young woman?" she asked.
Evan laughed and shook his head.
"Well, I guess, but it's nothing special. I just thought it would cheer her up. She's been having a rough week," he lied, because while Laura was pretty damn hot, there was something about the flower girl in front of him that just attracted him and he wasn't about to waste a chance.
"Well, that's very nice of you," she laughed.
"How about some gerbera daisies, to brighten things up for her," she suggested, pointing to some rather large and colorful flowers.
"Sure, those look great," Evan agreed, after only a quick look.
Sascha began the task of preparing a bouquet with the flowers and Evan watched her work, taking the chance to look at her more closely. She was slim, with pale skin and light brown hair, loosely curled and tied back in a ponytail. Her clothes were plain, just jeans and a sweater beneath the apron she wore and from what Evan could see, not much of a cleavage. In all honesty, she wasn't his usual type, but Evan still liked her. Sascha was very pretty, her face finely shaped and perfectly suited for the gentle look in her eyes. Freckles crossed her slightly upturned nose and dotted her cheeks. Long lashes framed her pretty green eyes and a soft smile seemed to brighten her face.
"Here you go," she said after a while, and Evan immediately turned his gaze away from her chest (not that there was much to look at, or anything at all, really) and back up to her face.
The bouquet turned out pretty nicely after all, and Sascha had even tied it with a big red bow. Evan thought, if in a week he regained his interest in Laura, he'd be in good shape already. He paid for the flowers and was going to make his move when an older woman walked in, greeting Sascha warmly.
Guess I'll come back when it's less busy, he thought, because the two women were already chatting amicably.
He left with a wave and a grin at the smile he got.
Laura was very pleased with the flowers after all. She gushed about how she loved daisies and how Evan was so sweet, but he only listened to about half of what she said, leaving when he was bored of the praise. Drew was watching, mildly impressed, as Evan succeeded in getting Laura's attention, a bit curious as to why the man was walking away without a phone number.
He didn't ask about it until lunch time, when him and Evan walked to the usual place where they ate.
"So, how'd it go with Laura?" he asked as the waitress left after taking their order.
"Oh, it was fine," Evan said lightly, turning away from watching the waitress walk away and to his friend. "But Laura's old news."
Drew's brow rose as he stared at his friend. "Really? And what brought this on?"
Evan grinned, and leaned over.
"I met this girl this morning," he began. "I have no idea what it is about her, but I just have to get her to go out with me."
Drew remained unimpressed, because he'd heard the same thing plenty of times before. Evan, however, insisted that this girl was different, so Drew did his best not to remind the other man of the many times he'd claimed to have found someone special.
It was two days later that Evan had decided Laura's flowers needed to be replaced. At least, that was his story and he'd be damned if he didn't stick to it.
"Good morning," Sascha greeted from behind the counter, turning away from watering a fern just as Evan stopped in front of the counter. "Oh, welcome back," she said, recognizing the man.
"Good morning," Evan said amicably.
"What can I do for you today?" the florist asked.
Evan smiled and pointed to the same flowers he'd bought last time.
"I'd like a bouquet like the one I bought last time," he told her.
"Sure, they'll be ready in a minute," Sascha immediately began to pick out the flowers to arrange them. "They really didn't last long did they?" she said idly.
"No, I suppose not, but then the person I gave them too isn't too good with plants," Evan commented.
It was true enough, because Laura's flowers were already wilting when he walked by that morning. He guessed that was probably why she always had plastic flowers instead of real ones.
"Gerberas are very temperamental," Sascha said, still focused on the task at hand. "But, they should last about a week it they're kept in a vase with just about an inch of water. If they're put in too much water, their stems will begin to decay and they will die faster," Sascha explained.
Evan actually listened to what the florist said, nodding in understanding.
"I see, you really know your flowers," he commented.
Sascha laughed, a light sound that filled the shop and made Evan smile.
"Well, I have to if I want to stay in business," she said.
"Do you own this place?"
Sascha nodded, carefully setting the flowers in place.
"I do, I've had it for nearly five years now. I don't get quite as much business as some of the larger shops, though," she sighed.
"Don't worry, I'll be your number one customer," Evan joked, drawing another laugh from Sascha.
"Well, I really appreciate that Mr." she trailed off, waiting for a name, which Evan was pleased to give.
"Evan," he answered readily. "Just Evan is fine."
"Right, well, here you go, Evan," she held out the bouquet and Evan paid before leaving with a wave.
He had meant to ask Sascha out that day, but after talking with the florist, he decided there was no hurry. Besides, Sascha didn't seem like the type to go out with someone she barely knew, and Evan had time enough to work on charming her.
Every two or three days, Evan would return to the little flower shop and buy another bouquet of gerberas. Laura was extremely pleased with the attention she was getting and Evan had an excellent excuse for returning to Sascha's shop. Or at least he thought he did.
"Whoever gets these is a very lucky person," Sascha said as cheerfully as always, handing Evan his change.
It was the end of Evan's third week visiting the shop and he had just bought another bouquet of the usual flowers (after chatting with Sascha for a bit, of course).
"Are you sure you're not looking for a more romantic type of flower?" Sascha smiled teasingly.
Evan laughed a bit nervously, because he didn't want Sascha to think he was interested in someone else.
"No, these are fine. They're just for a co-worker, a friend, I suppose."
He didn't return until the weekend when he had a new excuse.
"The usual gerberas?" Sascha asked, already heading to the flowers.
"Actually, this time I'm looking for something to congratulate someone," Evan said.
"Oh, well is it for a friend?"
"Yes, they just got a promotion, so I thought flowers would be good." Evan was very proud of himself for coming up with that.
"Well, then how about some iris flowers to compliment them and bells of Ireland to wish them luck?"
Evan readily agreed and Sascha got to work on a very beautiful bouquet of blue iris flowers and bells of Ireland.
"So what time does this place close?" Evan asked casually, watching Sascha work.
"Well, today is Saturday so I close at one."
Evan grinned, pleased with that answer.
"Just around lunch time then," he said. "How about I come by and we go get something to eat? I know a great place nearby."
And all the money he'd spent on flowers was worth it just to see Sascha's look of surprise.
"What? I, um, I don't know, I mean," Sascha struggled to say.
"Do you have something better to do?" Evan pressed, leaning forward on the counter.
"Ah, well, no, not really."
"Then go out with me," Evan insisted.
Sascha was clearly flustered, but still managed to finish tying a bow on the flowers before nearly shoving them at Evan and telling him the price. A bit disappointed, Evan handed Sascha the money and took his change, ready to get out and plan how to ask Laura out on Monday.
"I, um, I'll be ready at one."
Evan stopped and looked back at Sascha, who was attempting to hide her blushing face behind a fern. He grinned brightly back at Sascha.
"I'll be here," he said, before walking out.
Sascha waved at him and Evan thought it was turning out to be a pretty good day.
"Hey, Evan!" someone called out.
He turned back and saw Drew heading his way, looking oddly at the flowers in the other man's arms.
"Who are those for?" he asked.
"Julia's getting promoted isn't she?"
Drew just gave him a blank stare.
"You barely talk to Julia, she works in another department, also, it's Saturday. What, were you going to do, drop them off at her house?"
"Actually, she's having a small party today at the office," Evan informed his friend. "But what is this, an interrogation?"
"Just curious," the other answered with a shrug.
"Yeah well, forget the flowers, I managed to get a date with that girl I was telling you about," Evan said with a grin.
"Oh really? Finally decided to ask her out?" honestly, Drew still wondered why Evan had taken so long to do so, it just wasn't his style.
"Yep, I'm taking her out for a nice lunch today," he bragged.
"Good for you," Drew said, just barely resisting rolling his eyes. "So, does this girl have a name?" It was something he'd been trying to get out of Evan for a while, but the man wouldn't say, just to annoy him.
"If you must know, her name's Sascha, and she's the lovely florist who's been providing me with flowers all this time," Evan said smugly.
The other man didn't respond, just stared, looking surprised and confused at the same time. He opened and closed his mouth a few times, not sure what to say before he looked back at the flower shop Evan was talking about.
"What's wrong with you?" Evan asked his friend, eyebrow quirked and a questioning expression on his face.
"Wait, you mean the florist from that shop?" Drew asked, pointing at the little flower shop. "That's the one you've been talking about?"
"Yeah, I just told you," the other man answered, frowning a bit.
"And this florist's name is Sascha?"
"Yes, what about it?" Evan said impatiently.
And then Drew began to laugh so loudly that people turned to give them funny looks before going on their way, some of them stepping a bit farther away from the pair. Evan smiled apologetically, before turning to his friend.
"What the hell? What's so funny?"
"Y-you!" Drew managed between laughs, nearly doubling over. "Oh, God, I can't believe it," he gasped out. "This, this is great!"
Evan glared at the other man, confused and a bit irritated.
"Drew, what the hell is so funny?"
After a few minutes of laughing and leaning on a lamppost for support, Drew managed to calm down enough to explain.
"Sascha," he started, slightly breathless from laughing so much. "Sascha's a guy," Drew couldn't help but laugh again, though not as loudly as before.
Evan froze, and stared at his friend, trying to register what he'd just said, but it was too ridiculous.
"That's impossible," he said, glaring at Drew.
But the other man shook his head and wiped the tears of laughter from his eyes.
"No, really, Sascha's a guy," he insisted, but Evan refused to believe it.
"You're insane, that cannot be a guy. How do you even know Sascha?" he asked Drew.
"My sister, she told me this was a good place to get flowers for my mom," it still sounded like Drew would start laughing again at any moment. "I was actually heading there just now, since my aunt's visiting. I'm picking her up at the airport so I thought flowers would be nice," the man explained.
"But seriously, you didn't know?" there was more disbelief than amusement in his voice this time around. "I thought you'd been after Sascha for three weeks, how could you not notice?"
Evan was wondering this himself at the same time as his mind desperately tried to deny it. Because Sascha was too pretty to be a man, and Drew could just be messing with him. Only Drew wouldn't bother to put that much work into a prank and neither would he know Sascha.
"Are you sure Sascha's a guy?" he asked, and by this time he sounded a bit desperate.
Drew nodded, still looking amused.
"Yeah, why do you think you've never seen Sascha wear a skirt, or a dress, or make-up even?"
Evan had noticed that, but had passed it off as Sascha just dressing comfortably. After all, Sascha was a florist, and was constantly moving around, taking care of plants and tending to customers. Besides, even without make-up, Sascha had looked pretty, at least to Evan.
"So, still excited about your lunch date?" Drew asked, smirking.
"Shut up," Evan snapped, glaring.
But Drew brought up a good point, because now Evan had to think of what he was going to do about his date. He sighed, thinking that maybe he'd ask Laura out, after all.