A tinkle of chimes, and the slam of a door; business was as usual for a quiet Tuesday mid-morning at Bloomin’ Lovely. Gita, hands deep into a pot of soil, was delighted at the arrival of a customer, and, still clutching her fluorescent-pink trowel, went to go greet whoever they were.
“Welcome,” she began in her usual chirpy tone, “to Bloomin’ Lo- Oh! Hi, Sarah!”
Sarah Jane, panting and sweating, stood behind a tall flowering plant as if she was trying to hide, “Gita! Hello!” she managed between heavy breaths, obviously not expecting the company.
“You alright, Sarah?” Gita gave her a cheery smile, “It’s just you seem –” Sarah Jane peered out of the shop window – “distracted.”
“Do I?” she said, still scanning the street beyond the paned glass, “How’s Rani? Have you heard from her recently?” she continued, making small talk to hide the fact she was very much distracted.
“No.” Gita’s smile was replaced by a frustrated frown, “Last I heard, she was off to Cambodia to visit some sort of temple of a thousand Buddhas. That was three weeks ago!”
“Oh really? That’s weird, she called me last night!” Sarah Jane seemed to forget whatever troubled her prior, and her manners too! Gita’s frown deepened to something unmistakably wistful.
“I mean – did I say last night? I meant last week – no, month. Yes, it was last month!”
“It’s alright, Sarah, I know she calls you a lot more than she does me.” Gita sighed, “It’s a part of growing up, isn’t it? One moment they're all over you, and the next they make more time for their friends than you, and they forget to call you for three weeks!” She sat down on a nearby lawn chair (crushing a display of packaged seeds while doing so) and looked into the distance, glassy-eyed.
“From what I hear, she’s having great fun!” Sarah Jane recounted, to which Gita lightened up significantly. “The Temple of a Thousand Buddhas was a bust, though. You couldn’t actually go inside, apparently,” She chuckled, “but that didn’t stop Clyde!”
Gita snorted into a fit of cackling, “That sounds like Clyde!”
It took her a while, but when she did stop laughing, she stood up from her seat and grabbed Sarah Jane’s hand (forgetting her’s were coated in wet soil) pulling her towards a doorway, the room beyond not quite visible through a curtain of hanging beads. “Sarah, you must have some tea!”
Reluctantly, Sarah Jane complied, following her into the back room of the flower shop, forgetting any responsibilities she had before, now entrapped in conversation with Gita.
Unseen by the pair, a blur of green ran past the floral shop, hot in the pursuit of four teenagers…
“How’s Luke by the way?” Gita handed her a steaming mug of Earl Grey, keeping one for herself, “Still - you know?”
“With Sanjay? Yep! Clani is still going strong as well!” Sarah Jane replied.
“Clani?” Gita looked puzzled.
“Rani and Clyde!” Sarah Jane laughed, “It’s what Luke used to call them - a mixture of their names - long before they got together.”
“Shipping, I think that’s called! That’s what they call it!”
“Yeah, kids these days!”
Sarah Jane shook her head, “I don’t know!” The pair chuckled.
“So, Sarah? How about you?”
“What about me?”
“Have you got your eye on anyone?” she sipped her tea, eyeing the journalist intently.
“Of course not!” she seemed humorously outraged, “Why would you think that?”
“I don’t know! It’s not too late you know - there are always more fish in the sea!”
Sarah Jane chuckled and emptied her mug, before going for seconds. The tea trickled from the flowered porcelain teapot, which seemed to impregnate the silence even further, “I don’t think so.”
“Are you sure? I can always give you a few recommendations!”
“Gita Chandra! You are not going to give me recommendations on who to date!”
“How about Mr. Baker the baker?”
“Mr. Baker the baker is far too young and I don’t fancy a baker for a husband. Saying that, he has got some lovely buns.” Sarah Jane paused. “His bread’s alright as well.” They broke into a fit of laughter.
“Although now you mention buns, our postman’s alright, isn’t he?” Gita said, forcing Sarah Jane to laugh even more. “I’m just looking out for you, Sarah! I don’t want you to be alone!” The two had stopped giggling at the arrival of this new topic.
“I’m fine, Gita! Really!”
“I mean Luke’s at university, Rani and Clyde are gone, Sky’s -” Gita paused, but it was too late - the damage had been done. Sarah Jane winced, casting her eyes down to the floor.
“I’m sorry, Sarah. I shouldn’t have mentioned…”
“I really am sorry -”
The two sat in silence for a while.
“So, that sign over there!” Sarah Jane signalled to a wooden placard on which the words: Gita’s Mid-Week Flash Sale were written.
“Oh, yes! Let me tell you all about it…”
Sarah Jane sipped her tea, only half listening to Gita rambling on about new flower stock. She tapped her nails against the flowered porcelain of the mug.
“…Anyway, so when I managed to get my hands on the seeds I grew them out in the garden. Haresh wasn’t best pleased though - they’re not particularly the nicest smelling of plants.”
“And this is for your herb display?”
“Yes, I’ll show you all the new ones! Here, I’ll take your mug. Just this way!” She led her out of the shop’s backroom, to a display case of various potted herbs. Sarah Jane, reluctant for a Gita lecture, felt something niggling at the back of her mind, something she was forgetting…
Various aromas, both good and bad, floated through the air. “Over here,” Gita signalled to the top half of the display stand, “are all your common herbs. You’ve got oregano, rosemary, parsley....” moving her pointed finger across the display as she continued to name each and every potted plant in turn. “And then you’ve got the irregular ones,” she waved her hand to circle the bottom two rows of the display stand, “They’re all very obscure and really very rare for a small village’s local floral shop. Here, smell this!” She shoved one sparsely-leaved plant into Sarah Jane’s face.
“Oh! Wow! That smells like -”
“Vinegar, I know! Trick-stem-lance-o-latem it’s called,” she read the label, “although some people also call it Vinegar weed. It’s grown on the West Coast, America so I had to ship over some seeds and try to replicate the conditions using the radiators back home. Haresh was fuming when he got the electricity bill, but he’d be even madder if he found out I haven’t sold a single one yet!” she giggled, “You won’t tell him, will you?”
Vinegar… vinegar… vinegar... Sarah Jane thought to herself. Oh, how could I forget? That’s what I came in here for in the first place. To hide!
Gita, still rambling on about her new range of herbs, was taken by surprise when Sarah Jane shouted out: “THE SLITHEEN!” and even more so when she said next:
“Gita, do you know if the shop’s open yet? I really need some vinegar! I’m out!”
“Vinegar? Are you alright, Sarah?”
“Yes, I’m perfectly fine. It’s Zoe, Dan, Beth, and Melody I’m worried about… is the shop open?”
“Umm…” Gita thought for a moment, “No. Not until 2!”
Sarah Jane cursed under her breath. Although, she thought, this might just work.
“Gita, I need all the vinegar weed you have! Quickly!”
“Sarah Jane, where have you been?” Zoe hissed from behind a wheelie bin, not far from Gita’s shop.
“Sorry,” Sarah Jane ducked down next to her, swinging a Bloomin’ Lovely embroidered carrier bag in her left hand. “Where are the others?”
“You see that black recycling bin over there? Inside!”
“All three of them?”
“No, Melody’s is in that bush! Where were you, Sarah Jane? We only managed to give it the slip, but it’s still looking for us! Thank god it’s not a Sunday or else everyone in Foxgrove will have seen it by now!”
“Sorry! I got carried away. Gita starting gossiping and I completely forgot the Earth was being invaded!” Zoe rolled her eyes. “But I brought these!” She opened up the carrier bag to reveal a selection of bouquets.
“Sarah Jane, this is not the time to appreciate flowers.” She breathed in deeply. “Eurgh! What is that? It stinks!”
“Vinegar weed?” Zoe looked at Sarah Jane as if she were crazy, “Oh!” The realisation dawned on her. “Vinegar weed! So, what are we going to do? Throw them at it?”
“No!” Now it was Sarah Jane’s turn to look at Zoe as if she were crazy. “It’s not actually made of vinegar, but they won’t know that! We can just waltz over there, give them a good whiff of the flowers and they shouldn’t bother us anymore!”
“Blackmail by flowers?” Zoe chuckled.
Sarah Jane nodded in confirmation, “Yes! Blackmail by flowers!”
Bloomin' Lovely returns next week with The Records