Mari rolled her eyes. “That totally seems like a stable living arrangement for a child. I could tell when he came into the shop that he had an edge to him.”
“He’s definitely rough around the edges, but I think he really wants to do right by Talon. He was forced into a situation and thought he’d have a partner to help him, but now he’s doing it all on his own.”
“I couldn’t imagine,” my sister said. “I can’t believe Lyric just left him. You’d think she’d be more thoughtful after she saw what went on with Parker and me.”
“She abandoned her newborn baby in the hospital, Mari. Any thoughtfulness we thought Lyric possessed went straight out the window and is now void.” It was crazy how you could know a person your whole life and then realize you knew nothing about them at all.
Time was a curse, the way it slowly morphed relationships into foreign affairs.
Mari shook her head. “What a mess. But, on a brighter note, I have a surprise for you.”
“Is it a green smoothie?”
She cocked an eyebrow. “I said a surprise, not a disgusting ground-up plant. We are officially hiring an additional florist! I’m interviewing a few people over these next few weeks.”
Since opening our floral shop, we’d always talked about hiring on more staff, but we hadn’t had enough profit to actually do it. So, the fact that we were now at that stage where we could afford to bring on more staff was exciting. There was nothing more exhilarating than watching your dream grow.
As I went to reply, the bell over the front door rang, making us both look up. “Sorry, we’re not actually open tod—” I couldn’t even finish my sentence when I saw who was standing there with a bouquet of roses.
“Parker,” Mari said as she breathed out, her strength dissipating as his name rolled off her tongue. Her body physically reacted to him as her shoulders drooped and her knees buckled. “Wh-What are you do-doing here?” Her voice trembled, and I wished it hadn’t. It gave away the effect he had on her—the effect he obviously wanted to have.
“I, um…” He chuckled nervously and looked down at the flowers. “I guess it’s a little stupid to bring flowers to a flower shop, huh?”
“What are you doing here, Parker?” I said, my voice much more stern than my sister’s. I crossed my arms and didn’t look away from him for a second.
“It’s good to see you too, Lucy,” he remarked. “I was hoping to speak to my wife for a minute.”
“You don’t have a wife anymore,” I told him. Every step he took toward Mari, I interfered. “You lost her when you packed your bags and left all those years ago.”
“Okay, okay, fair enough. I deserve that,” he replied. Mari murmured something under her breath, making Parker arch an eyebrow. “What did you say?”
“I said you don’t deserve shit!” Mari barked out, her voice still shaky, but louder now. Mari wasn’t one to ever curse, so when the last word flew off her tongue, I knew he had her really shaken up.
“Mari,” Parker started. She turned her back to him, but he kept talking. “It would’ve been seven years a few weeks ago.”
She didn’t turn to face him, but I saw her body react.
Stay strong, sister.
“I know I screwed up. I know it seems like a real shitty thing to do to show up here after all this time with some crap flowers, but I miss you.”
Her body reacted more.
“I miss us. I’m an idiot, okay? I made a lot of shitty mistakes. I’m not asking you to take me back today, Mari. I’m not asking you to fall in love with me. I’m just a boy, standing in front of a girl, asking her to get coffee with me.”
“Oh my gosh,” I groaned.
“What?” Parker asked, offended by my annoyance.
“You stole that line from Notting Hill!”
“Not exactly! Julia Roberts asked Hugh Grant to love her. I just asked for a cup of coffee,” Parker explained.
I couldn’t roll my eyes hard enough. “Whatever. Leave.”
“No offense, Lucy, but I didn’t come here for you. I came for Mari, and she hasn’t told me to—”
“Leave,” Mari said, her voice rediscovering its strength as she turned back to face him. She stood tall, like a strong oak tree.
“Mari…” He stepped closer to her, and she held up a hand to halt him.
“I said go, Parker. I have nothing to say, and I want nothing to do with you. Now just leave.”
He hesitated for second before he placed the flowers down on the counter and left.
The moment the door shut, Mari released the breath she’d been holding, and I hurried to the back room.
“What are you doing?” she called after me.
“Getting the sage stick,” I hollered back. When we were kids, Mama kept a sage stick in our house that she’d burn whenever there was an argument of any kind. She always said fights brought bad energy to a space, and it was best to clear it out right away. “There’s nothing good about Parker’s energy, and I refuse to let his negativity seep into our lives again. Not today, Satan.” I lit the sage and walked through the shop, waving it.
“Speaking of Satan,” Mari mentioned, picking up my cell phone when it started ringing.
I reached over for it, and Graham’s name flashed across the screen.
Warily, I answered, passing the sage stick to my sister. “Hello?”
“The chair doesn’t work.”
“I said the chair doesn’t work. You told me she liked the gliding chair, and that’s how you got her to sleep, but it’s not working. I’ve been trying all morning, and she won’t sleep. She’s hardly eating and…” His words dropped off for a moment before he softly spoke again. “Come back.”
“Excuse me?” I leaned against the counter, flabbergasted. “You shoved me out of your house.”
“That’s all you can say? That you know?”
“Listen, if you don’t want to come help, fine. I don’t need you.”
“Yes, you do. That’s why you’re calling.” I bit my bottom lip and closed my eyes. “I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”
Again, not a thank you.
“Make it fifteen.”
Lucy pulled up to my house in her beat-up burgundy car, and I opened the door before she even climbed out of her vehicle. I held Talon in my arms, rocking her as she cried from discomfort.
“That was twenty-five minutes,” I scolded her.
She just smiled. She was always smiling.
She had a smile that reminded me of my past, a beautiful smile filled with hope.
Hope was the weak man’s remedy to life’s issues.
I only knew that was true from the past I’d lived.
“I like to call it fashionably late.”
The closer she got, the tenser I became. “Why do you smell like weed?”
She laughed. “It’s not weed, it’s sage. I was burning it.”
“Why were you burning sage?”
A sly grin found her and she shrugged. “To fight off negative energy like yours.”
“Oh right, hippie weirdo. I bet you travel with crystals and stones with you, too.”
With no effort at all, she reached into her over-the-shoulder purse and pulled out a handful of crystals.