December 22, 2003

Disclaimer: They aren't really florists, you know that, right? Written for Saiai as part of while we tell of yuletide treasure 2003. Do not archive this story without permission.


The shop smelled heavily of white roses, far too many of them, that they hadn't been able to sell. He didn't know who had ordered such a ridiculous amount in the first place. The rose scent was turning oversweet and sickly, and most of the white petals were going brown around the edges.

Yohji shrugged and opened the shop door, stood just outside, for a breath of air and more than just a breath of cigarette smoke. It was late, no crowds of schoolgirls with their noses against the glass. Chilly, too. Yohji looked up and down the street. No schoolgirls. No grown women. No one at all, at this time of night, and Omi wasn't due for another two hours.

Movement down the street caught his eye. A woman, walking briskly, but sadly not towards him. Yohji admired the sway of her hips, the gleam of her hair under the streetlight just before she turned a corner and vanished. He flicked the butt of his cigarette into the gutter and went back into the shop.

The shop smelled of white roses, and small wonder; it seemed that every flower was a white rose, a little past its prime, lush and heavy blossoms nodding on their prickly stems. Yohji didn't know why they had ever thought they would be able to sell so many. He sat down behind the cash register. A woman went by outside the window, tall and pale, her hair tied back with a scarf.

Yohji rested his head on his crossed arms, just a moment. He wasn't sleepy. That woman might come back. He could stand outside and wait for her, he could sit and rest a little first, it had been a long day, a long evening. It was going to be a long night.

Yohji shrugged to himself and opened the shop door. He stepped outside and leaned against the wall, fumbling for a cigarette. The sky was overcast. He blew a plume of smoke towards the clouds. A woman was walking down the other side of the street, tall and slim, wearing white. Yohji smiled, but she wasn't looking at him, just walking on long legs.

He cleared pieces of ribbon and crumpled corners of tissue paper away from the work bench. The shop smelled of white roses, and he wondered if he should make up a few arrangements, something he could unload on passing customers. It was only just gone eleven, and the shop had only been closed for a few hours. Maybe he needed a smoke first.

Yohji shifted, resting his face against the crook of his elbow. His eyelids felt so heavy.

The door opened, and a tall, pale woman came in. "I'd like to buy some white roses," she said. Her voice was flat and a little nasal. She blinked her eyes at him, with slow coquettishness.

The shop smelled of white roses. Yohji stepped outside for a quick smoke to clear his head. He looked up at the overcast sky, and when he looked down again, he saw a woman on the street corner to the right. She had long, long legs. She winked at him.

Yohji touched a white rose to the woman's cheek. She smiled coldly and kissed him.

Outside, the nearest streetlight winked and went out. The floor was not as hard as Yohji would have thought. The shop smelled of white roses, a scent thick as a blanket, wrapped all around.The woman wore a scarf tied in her gleaming red hair, and kissed him again, hard as a bite.

Yohji jerked upright, almost overbalancing. The three-legged stool behind the counter wasn't steady. Someone might have to do something about that. He fumbled in his pocket for cigarettes, couldn't find them.

The woman had cold, strong hands. She tasted like the roses smelled. Yohji touched her, searching for softness, but she was lean and hard all over, and she smiled wickedly at him. "I'd like to buy some flowers," she said. "White roses, maybe. Something fresh and untouched."

Yohji went outside. The sky was overcast.

Scraps of tissue paper fluttered as he breathed on them.

A man went past the shop window. He was tall and pale and wore a scarf tied around his shining red hair.

The shop smelled of white roses. Yohji wanted a cigarette, but he couldn't find them in his pocket, couldn't find his pocket, against his skin he felt only rose petals and cold, strong hands, and this was not a woman touching him.

He leaned back against the wall and took a quick drag off his cigarette. Down the street, a man leaned against another wall in mocking imitation, blowing a plume of smoke against the streetlight glow and the overcast sky. "White roses stand for innocence," he said. "Purity."

Yohji tried to sit up, but his head was so heavy. A white rose lay next to his hand, its petals crumpled like tissue paper. The woman touched him closer and closer and closer and closer, and there was pleasure and pleasure and pain and pleasure. And this was no woman, touching him.

The floor was not as hard as Yohji would have thought. It was carpeted with rose petals. The whole shop smelled of white roses. And this was no woman, taking him. He looked up and met a bright, sharp smile. "You see me," the flat voice said. "Don't you? I'd like to buy some flowers." Touch. "Something fresh." Pain. "And untouched." Pleasure.

Yohji cleared away pieces of ribbon and scraps of paper, crumpled petals, cut-off stalks. He fumbled in his pocket for cigarettes.

The sky was overcast. Down the street he saw a man walking slowly, turning to look over his shoulder. Red hair, shining under the streetlight.

Yohji jerked upright, almost overbalancing. Someone would have to fix the stool behind the counter, unsteady as it was. He stood up and got his cigarettes out of his pocket. There was only one left. He opened the shop door and went outside, leaned against the wall and smoked. The street was quiet; no one was out at this time of night.

He brushed white petals away from his cheek.

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