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by Zehzeh
Rated: E · Fiction · Contest Entry · #2198969
The meanings of flowers.
When Ruth pushed open the door to Orders, she was hit in the face by an icy blast from a growling air con unit. Ms Walters, sensing an open door, frowned up from her keyboard and studied the dumpy woman hesitating in the entrance.

'Can I help you?' The tone of the question was contrary to its meaning. Ruth, in her turn, studied the famed dragon who ruled the entire Orders Department Office. She pulled herself up to her full height, raised her chin and stared into the Walters' ice blue eyes.

'I'm from Clover Agency.' She made it a firm statement, equal to equal.

'The temp's station is cubicle five.' Ms Walters rose to her feet. 'This way.' As she took the dozen steps to Ruth's new workplace, she recited the office rules. No beverages on the desk, a water bottle was permitted. No personal photos, no sticky notes, no this, no that, no the other. 'You may keep a paper diary but your work log must be on line.' Then there were all the logging on protocols before she could sit down and start work. And all the time the beady stare of those ice blue eyes bored a hole in the back of her neck. Ms Walters had given her the only cubicle that was in her direct line of sight.

The same icy blast greeted Ruth the next morning. She nodded a 'Good Morning.' to Ms Walters and gave Janice in the opposite cubicle a beaming smile. As she sat down, she saw a half hidden miniature red rose bud, its stem in a sealed vial. How lovely. She kept it out of sight and took it home. Rosebud, beauty and youth. In the eye of the beholder.

Wednesday's arctic gale made her sneeze as the door closed behind her. Ms Walters' 'Bless you.' was a warning not to repeat the infraction. Janice rolled her eyes and tossed a box of tissues over the cubicle wall. It nearly knocked over a tiny bottle with a perfect lavender rose in it. She raised it to her nose. A delicate perfume, fresh with a touch of spring about it. It joined the rosebud on her dresser at home. Lavender rose, enchantment.

By Thursday she had worked out the way of opening the office door so that the air con's kiss was less than deathly. Ms Walters gave her a sharp nod and Janice offered her a mint. It covered the heavy fragrance of a blowsy, double petalled, flame orange rose. All day, it wafted its fragrance bringing a promise of lazy days in the garden. Orange rose, fascination. Ruth felt warm inside.

She was looking forward to Friday. Side stepping the wintry wind, she glanced at Ms Walters, who was busy with a multi-coloured Gantt Chart on her screen. Janice rubbed her fingers together as if counting money. Payday. There was no rose. Sighing, she logged on. Her screen's backdrop was a fluorescent pink rose. Ruth smothered a snort. Pink rose, perfect happiness. She sighed.

It was a perfect weekend. She and her partner had breakfast in bed and a long lie in. A day shopping in the city, a meal and a show. Sunday was wet but friends called by and took them out to a country pub for a roast dinner. Roses were not mentioned.

Ruth had a headache on Monday morning. Too much rioja, and the air con's bite did nothing to relieve it. Janice gave her a conspiratorial grin and a couple of tablets of Resolve. They cured the headache but not the heartburn. An unscented, modern tea rose sat on her desk. Its peach petals were frilly and edged with scarlet. It cheered her up no end. Tea rose, I'll remember always.

She spent Tuesday morning's commute wondering what rose would be sitting on her desk that morning. To her surprise, the air con was not working and it was already stuffy in the office. Janice had made a concertina fold fan and was busy creating her own air con. There was no rose on her desk. None on the screen. Not a good morning. She opened the single drawer to look for a pen. Two roses, entwined, a red and a white. Unity.

'Ahh, Ruth.' Ms Walters gave her that look that made Ruth check her watch. She was just on time. 'I regret that tomorrow will be the last day that we require your services.' Ruth gave a wry grin. That was the nature of temping. The rose of the day was a miniature, open bloomed white, its yellow stamens thick with pollen. The stem was as smooth as a dandelion's. She had to look that one up when she got home. A thornless rose, love at first sight. That had been true enough.

It was good, finishing in a Thursday, it made a long weekend. When she arrived, the air con was at city worker temperatures, not Inuit and was a gentle waft. Janice had made her a little good bye card, decorated with four leaf clovers, for good luck. Another card, in a plain envelope, had a picture of a magnificent cedar tree, inside it was signed with a simple, 'F'. It sat on her desk all day. On the way out, going home, she dropped a primrose on F's desk.

That evening Frankie was stretched out on the couch, her feet resting comfortably in Ruth's lap. They had opened the last bottle of merlot and were at the giggly stage.

'Cheers!' They clicked glasses. 'I love the cedar tree.' Ruth traced its line with a gentle finger. 'I live but for thee. Think of me.' She blew a kiss. 'Primrose.' She added with a soft smile.

'I can't live without you, either.' Frankie Walters replied and blew the kiss back.

972 words
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