Grayscale

She only saw skyscrapers. She looked everywhere around her and that was all her eyes could find. Carlina hated the city. It was all skyscrapers and metal with smoky pollution constantly blowing in her eyes.

Carlina loved people, and she loved to go where people went. But that meant venturing into the cities, and Carlina was always skeptical about going there. She loved her cottage-esque home in the countryside, but it always lacked people. Because she was feeling deprived of human contact, Carlina decided to make one of her rare trips into the city. She was already regretting it.

"You want a cab, miss?" A man with stained teeth and greedy eyes rolled down his window.

"No, thank you," Carlina said. She started to walk down the street.

"Are you sure? I'll give you a good deal." The man followed her down the street with his car, ignoring the honks from other drivers.

Carlina ignored him and ducked into a shop. She loved people, but cab drivers were disgusting. They lived in the city; they only knew metal, smoky cars, and grey architecture.

Turning her attention from cab drivers to the shop she had entered, Carlina was astonished. She realized she had entered a florist shop. Wherever she looked, she saw bright bouquets decorating the shelves. She forgot for a moment that she was in a city; it was as if she were home in her garden, but everything had been potted and arranged more beautifully than she had ever imagined. She seemed to drink everything in: the scent, the colors, the welcoming atmosphere.

"Can I help you?" A young woman in her mid-thirties came out from behind a particularly lovely arrangement of gardenias.

Ignoring her question, Carlina asked, "Is this your shop?"

The woman laughed. "Yes. You look surprised."

"I didn't think something like this was in the city."

"Something this colorful?"

"No, something this beautiful." Carlina began slowly wandering through the shelves of flowers.

"You don't think the city is beautiful?" The woman followed her through rows.

"No, it's all metal and pollution. There's some color from murals and the people, but there's no sky. All it is is skyscrapers." Carlina stopped at a particular array of flowers.

"You should look from the top of the skyscrapers. From down below, you can't see much, but once you're above the city; well, that's a view I can't describe."

Carlina turned to the woman and asked, "If you like the view so much, why is your shop here?"

"I wanted everyone to see my flowers; and, as a storeowner, I need to sell my flowers, so it needed to be on street level."

"Why did you open this shop?" Carlina asked.

The woman smiled. "I wanted other people to notice color. The city is grey, as you can tell; it needs life. You look above and find nothing; I look around and see nothing."

Carlina turned back to the flowers she loved. "You wanted to share your love of color. Why go to the city?"

"People never notice color in the city. It's all black and white and brown. Once they pass my store windows, they notice the color, and the store accomplishes what I want it to. Even if they don't buy anything, I can still share the beauty of colors." The woman noticed Carlina was still staring at the same flowers. "You like that arrangement?"

Carlina nodded. "What flowers are these?"

"Exotic parrot tulips with a fringe of viridflora tulips."
"They're beautiful." Carlina reached out to touch the flowers, but stopped before her hand came into contact with them.

"You can touch it; in fact, you can have them." The woman walked briskly away and came back with a white vase and plastic bag. "Would you like the clear vase or this one?"

Carlina looked at the storeowner is surprise and back at the flowers, glancing for the first time at the price label on the vase. "Oh, I'm sorry, but I can't afford this. They're beautiful, but they're too expensive for me."

"No, you don't have to by them. I'm giving them to you."

"I can't accept that! Besides, they'd never make the trip back home with me; they'd die." Carlina backed away from the flowers.

"I insist you take them. And flowers are about the immediate beauty they give us; they're meant to die sometime." The storeowner took the vase from the shelf and carried to the cash register in the back of the shop. She put the plastic bag over it, taping it onto the vase so it wouldn't fall off and came back to Carlina, who hadn't moved.

Carlina, instead of accepting the flowers, put her hands up in front of her. "I told you, I can't accept these. I'm not worth it."

The woman frowned. "Yes, you are worth it. I want to give people the beauty of color, and you noticed it. If I don't sell these flowers, they all die. I'd rather give this one away than let it wilt on my shelves." She took Carlina's hand and put it around the vase. "Take this, and enjoy them."

Carlina's hand tightened on the vase. "Thank you," she said.

"You're welcome." The woman turned around and went behind the counter of the cash register, sitting on a stool there. "Have a nice day, and enjoy those flowers!"

"I will. And again, thank you!" Carlina opened the shop door and stepped out on the sidewalk. Again she saw the skyscrapers surrounding her. Instead of focusing on the empty, smoky sky, Carlina focused on trying to find a skyscraper, one she could climb. She wanted to see the view.