It was a quiet Tuesday afternoon and Vivian had just finished sweeping the floor when the wind-chime jingled merrily, indicating a customer had entered. She quickly wiped her soil-covered hands on her apron and brushed her 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, actually,” 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, pointing to the table.
It didn’t take the man long to choose which bunch he wanted before bringing it to the counter.
“Could I please get a tag too?” he requested, indicating the small decorative tags for sale.
“Sure, what would you like on it?” she asked, taking a pen in her hand.
“To the most beautiful person in the world,” he answered. “Love, Elliot.”
“How sweet,” Vivian said softly, tying it around one of the stems.
After Elliot walked out, Vivian sighed, envying whoever was lucky enough to be receiving the flowers from him. 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. As it turned out, she didn’t have to wait long, because the following Tuesday, Elliot returned. Vivian was trimming the lavender roses and was so deep in concentration that, when the wind chime suddenly clanged to life, she jumped, causing the clippers to miss the plant, and instead, slice her finger.
Vivian swore loudly, quickly trying to find something to clean her finger with.
“I am so sorry! Are you okay?” a familiar voice asked her.
“N-no, it’s fine, my fault for being so clumsy,” she stammered.
“Here,” Elliot offered, presenting a handkerchief to her.
“What millennial carries a hanky?” Vivian thought to herself, biting back a grin when she saw a tiny rose stitched in the corner.
“It looks pretty bad…” Elliot commented, holding Vivian’s hand closer to him so he could get a better look at her injury.
Her breath hitched in her throat slightly as his warm touch sent tingles down her arm.
“I think you might need stitches,” he murmured.
“I’d rather a bandaid,” Vivian muttered.
“I’d rather you made sure your finger is properly treated,” Elliot retorted.
“I’d rather you let me make poor choices to avoid my fears,” she grinned.
“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 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.
“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.
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…”
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. When he did come in, a week later, 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?”