Prompt: Image prompt.
(Source: writingpromts . tumblr . com)
FLOWERS FOR THE WOLF
The goal of the game was to create such a commotion that people who usually fluttered pass the glass windows would become too curious and would then enter to inspect what was happening inside a modest flower shop.
Business was as usual. Jillian Castell was among the various displays of flowers and was passing the time by playing a quick game of broom hockey with a make-shift puck, which was actually a wooden doorstop. She dashed back and forth, wielding her broom expertly and slashing wildly at the tiled floor. She cried a battle cry and made various whooshing sounds with her lips, causing an enormous racket. The doorstop skidded to and fro and with one final—and overly excited—swing, the hairs of the broom whipped the wooden piece across the scented room and disappeared behind pile of wrapping paper pieces and ribbon snippets in the corner which in the end, made absolutely no noise.
Yes, it was business as usual. Jillian tried to comfort herself by saying that because it was the middle of the week, people were much too busy to buy flowers for anyone. Of course, the thought did not last very long. Jillian's job was a labour of love. She adored flowers, arranging them and especially seeing people giving other people flowers. It was her dream to own her own shop and even after her parents pleaded that she take over the family business; Castell Spells and Potions—which was a very profitable and promising business—she had still wanted to own her own floristry. Though her whole family specialized in medicine and potions, she had no talent whatsoever.
Since she was a child, her brothers and sisters had prospered with their study in magic and did exceptionally well when it came to brewing medicine and potions. Jillian was the odd one out entirely. In fact, she was so odd that she wasn't even able to cast even the simplest spell in the history of magic, which was to heat one's tea. The magic theory of heating a cup of tea was simple; Think of hot tea. But oddly enough, she was never able to get it done at all. The tea just sat there, sad and lukewarm. Her whole family declared her to be the very first of the family that did not possess a shred of influence over magic and almost everyone had some influence over it which was clearly saying a thing or two about Jillian's worth in the family business. The one thing she did have though was good old fashioned resourcefulness, and that was good enough to run the business. She could do almost anything without the help of magic, even heat one's tea. All she needed was a fire and she could make that with matches. The world was much too convenient that people sometimes forget that they got by just fine without magic just a few hundred years ago.
Even flower shops needed enchantments but she managed by hiring an assistant who would cast spells on bouquets to make them sing and recite sweet poems, and wreaths that would scent your home for a month or charmed flower pots that would guarantee your plant a long life.
All that was well and good, until her assistant Harold proposed to the bookshop owner's niece, Alice and eloped to, funnily enough, Jillian's own homeland in the neighbouring country. For that she had certain distaste for Alice for snatching away her prized assistant but it wasn't her business to deny anyone's happiness. The bookshop owner, Mr. Otis, had always seemed to be angry at things, but that was probably related to the fact that his head was that of a wolf. Rumour has it that during his travels, he had angered an old witch and she cursed him. The details of said curse were not relevant to Jillian. The object of Jillian's concern was the bookshop owner in particular and how he constantly found every opportunity to shoot her a menacing glare from his shop across the street.
When the bells above the front door of the shop jingled, Jillian almost danced with delight until she realized it was Mr. Otis himself at the door. He seemed to have something tucked underneath his arm.
"Ah, Mr. Otis," Jillian started, forcing a smile. "What a… pleasure." The words barely escaped her lips. Mr. Otis was never popular in the shop vendor community. He was never social, never took part during city festivals and barely assisted in charities and events.
"Good day, Miss Castell." Mr. Otis greeted. He hovered by the door, bringing a handkerchief to his snout, careful not to disrupt the position of his oddly shaped spectacles. They were custom made. Jillian was not entirely sure whether the smells of flowers and herbs were doing him in or if he was being rude.
She nodded at his greeting and avoided looking at him directly, as she did most times. Mr. Otis wasn't ugly; in fact he was a rather fascinating specimen. He was dressed smartly, had excellent posture but even that could not hide that snooty personality of his. He was a brooder, a disgruntled man who buried himself in books and refused to be pleasant to anyone except his precious niece Alice. When she left he seemed to have lost all hope in humanity entirely. The only redeeming quality of Mr. Otis seemed to be his natural head for business. No matter how much of a mess his shop seems to be in, he always knew how to pick the right books that people needed and he always made a profit. She admired him for that, but Jillian was never one to admit anything out loud.
"Is there something the matter?" She cautiously asked. The last time the wolf man spoke to her was to complain that her shop banner was poorly assembled and horridly distracting. Though the banner was indeed horrid, with its crooked looping yellow letters and distracting, with its bright pink fabric, Jillian—as usual—was not about to admit anything and simply scowled at him when she removed the banner.
"Well, Miss Castell," Mr. Otis began stiffly, still tucking his snout underneath his handkerchief. "It has come to my attention that my shop has become much too stuffy." Mr. Otis's shop wasn't the only thing stuffy, she wanted to say but didn't. "I'm afraid not everyone finds the smell of old parchment and ink as charming as I do. I don't think a better fragrance exists anywhere in the world! Oh, pardon me Miss Castell, I mean no disrespect."
"What can I do for you, Mr. Otis?" Jillian sighed. She should've known he would have gone through all the trouble of walking across the street and sticking his sensitive nose in her floristry simply to poke fun and insult. Mr. Otis cleared his throat, which was an odd site to see from a man with a wolf head.
"Miss Castell, I would like to buy a dozen wreaths!" He declared, which something Jillian has never really seen before. She took as step back and almost stumbled over her own boots. Watching a wolf yell out loud was quite a frightening sight. His furry lips stretched backwards, bearing white and sharp teeth, his long ears folded slightly behind him much like how a dog does when it growls and his bright yellow eyes seemed to grow darker.
Mr. Otis cleared his throat again and seemed mumble something into his handkerchief.
"You would like to buy a dozen wreaths?" Jillian struggled with the numbers in her head and her stomach seemed to jump. She tried to keep the elation off her face and she reached behind the counter for her catalogue. Wreath making was the only thing Jillian could do right! All the materials were already enchanted; all it takes is a good sense of combining them! She tried to calm herself down and thought of the order. Owning an honest shop meant being honest to the customers and making a bad deal with Mr. Otis did not seem wise.
"That's quite an order, but I must be honest Mr. Otis." Jillian brought the catalogue forward, making her way the wolf man. She could've sworn that she saw him jump back a little. Of course that would be silly, why would he be afraid of Jillian, the non-magical florist?
"The spells we use for wreaths are quite strong. Ordering a dozen at a time would be, quite frankly, overkill to those in your shop, especially one such as yourself. You do have quite the sensitive nose." Mr. Otis blinked behind his brass spectacles, thinking of what Jillian said. He nodded slightly.
"Is that so?" The wolf man leaned over the catalogue and Jillian walked him through the different type of wreaths available. She spoke of red wreaths that smell of roses and sing the soft songs of bluebirds, then of green and orange wreaths that smell of flowery tea and pine wood, then of blue and teal wreaths that smell of fresh salty air and echo sweet sounds of the rumbling ocean and many more. They both stood by the door, Mr. Otis still half inside and half out with his handkerchief over his snout.
Mr. Otis nodded through all of the choices, clearly fascinated at the varieties and creative mixtures of spells. The wolf-man was not very familiar with the magic of floristry but he knew spells well and had not realized they were being utilized to such creative extents by florists all over the city. He was quite impressed, Jillian could tell and to her surprise, he asked questions politely and listened intently and not once did he joke about her craft—which she was almost certain he would do. It was an odd feeling, having Mr. Otis look over her catalogue with genuine interest and she couldn't tell when he planned on being rude or being pleasant. He struck her as a challenge to figure out. Soon, they reached the end of the catalogue and he thought for a moment.
One thing Jillian noticed was that when Mr. Otis was thinking, he was actually producing a soft growl. It was like a purr, or even a snore—she couldn't place her finger on it. The wolf-man seems to be completely unaware that he was making any noise at all! Jillian decided to keep it to herself. She placed the catalogue on the counter and waited for his decision. Mr. Otis seemed to be in deep thought about the order—the musty smell of his shop must be quite a severe problem.
After a minute of silence, Jillian decided to speak.
"Might I suggest purchasing one wreath for now? If you find it suits your shop, you may continue to order more." She said.
"Yes. Yes, I shall do that. Thank you kindly Miss Castell, you've been an excellent help." Mr. Otis said. "I will leave the choice of wreaths up to you, as you seem much more knowledgeable in that department. You can send it to me once you're done." The wolf man shuffled the object that was tucked under his arm and handed it to her. It was a large book with floral patterns engraved into the leather bindings.
"Ah—that is for you." Mr. Otis said mechanically, as if the words were rehearsed. Jillian realized that the book was actually a cookbook for florists. "It's quite old and used, but still in a readable condition. I am aware of your—ah—inexperience with spells and such. I thought it might help you with your shop. Now, about payment—"
"Now just wait a moment!" Jillian cried out, waving her right hand over his hands as he fumbled with his wallet. She held the book close to her as she did. "I couldn't possibly accept this! This looks much too expensive!" Mr. Otis thought of what to say.
"Actually, it's quite weathered and it is an old edition. Some of those spells may not be very efficient." He looked away from as he spoke. "I just thought it be a waste if I tossed it out. Now, about the pay—"
"Wait," She couldn't help but smile. Laughing a little she lightly pushed his hand that held his wallet away. The book in her hand was rough, old and battered, but since she arrived at the city and opened her shop, no one has showed her such kindness. Other florists knew of her lack of talent, but no one ever offered her help. She understood though, it was a business after all, to share secrets would be costly. She looked at Mr. Otis with his handkerchief over his snout and whiskers poking out of his grey fur. He was hard to read, as animals couldn't feature expressions like humans could. She knew though, that he was intent on paying for the wreath. Maybe the book really was worthless and he just wanted to clear space in his shop. Maybe he was mocking her, giving her a spell book when she obviously never had any talent for it in her life. Whatever his reasons may be, Jillian believed it was an act of kindness.
"This is very sweet of you. Thank you, truly." She had to interrupt him and push his hand and wallet away once more. "If I had my way, I would offer my flowers to you for free, but I'm not going to deny your generosity and I know how you men insist on honour and pride. This will be your payment for your first wreath, but the next will cost you." She smiled as he put his wallet away.
"You are very kind." He turned to leave. "I want to thank you, Miss Castell." She couldn't hold back her laugh. She held the book up and waved it some.
"For calling me a man." Mr. Otis then left; he put away his handkerchief and jogged across the street, back into this shop where patrons of all sorts waited for him. Jillian walked back behind the counter. She opened the cook book and flipped through the pages. She found notes and scribbles left by the previous owners. Some even corrected the ingredients and left their own recipes as well! She was going to have to work on these as soon as possible. She reached for the catalogue once more and absentmindedly flipped through. She stopped at a page.
"Tea and Pine." She mused at the image of a green and orange wreath decorated with beads and ribbons. That would suit him quite nicely.
A/N: This one took a while to write but very fun