Raven had been around the florist shop for longer than she could remember. It was Gran and Pops shop then. Her parents took it over when Raven was in second grade after grandpa died and grandma wasn‘t doing as well in the shop by herself.
Every day after school, Raven did her homework in the back room while Grandma talked to herself and made up the orders. Mama was at the front counter working with the customers. Dad was at his self named ‘real job’ at the office. He also called himself a silent partner of the florist shop but he was not so silent every Saturday when he did the bookkeeping there.
Just to set the record straight, Raven wasn’t the name given to her by her parents, but a chosen name that seemed to fit her well when looking at her long black hair. So Raven was what everyone called her even her parents and teachers.
Raven was also a perky Goth. Happy enough to be accepted by the community at large, but still a mystery to them in her black clothing, pale face and black painted lips and nails who spent her down time visiting the cemetery. So when she started to work at the florist shop after school and weekends, after her mother grew ill, a few regular customers took their business to the other shop in town.
But Raven had the knack for ordering just the right amount of the right kinds of flowers just like her grandparents did, especially for unforeseen funerals. So the business was doing well despite a Goth behind the counter. The shop was becoming well known for having just what you needed when the time came to order an unexpected flower arrangement. So when her mother was doing better enough to come back to work after her operation she kept Raven on as a part time employee.
Grandma didn’t need to work at all after that and she would only show up at the shop when they were busy with a large number of orders. Whether by the grapevine or some unknown force Raven’s mother never did admit to knowing how, because Gran wasn’t called in, she’d just arrive in time to help.
On rare occasions Gran would say something about grandpa telling her about a death, but Mama put it down to old age and Gran’s missing Pops.
Raven and Gran’s favorite arrangements were the funeral orders. They both liked the calla lilies best. And people didn’t use them much for anything but funerals these days.
The trend in town was that funeral sprays had mostly white flowers. Sometimes a favorite color would dominate. But they didn’t vary much. Casket spreads, sprays in paperboard vases, and those dreaded house plants to show the family left behind that life did go on, or that the giver didn’t want the dying cut flowers reminding them of the death itself, as if a houseplant made all the difference. And the few penny pinchers who didn’t want to see their money die in the vase.
Gran would just shake her head and Raven would smile back at her. They didn’t need words between them most of the time.
One day Raven heard Pops voice loud and clear telling her to change the standard weekly order before the invoice when out. Five times as many flowers as usual. She looked around but the bell hadn’t rung and no one had come into the shop. Her mother was still out buying more of a special ribbon for a wedding order to replace a spool that gotten wet.
Raven ordered the flowers anyway sealing the envelop and placing it with the rest of the out going mail. She felt sure it was the right thing to do even if it sounded so strange to be taking orders from the dead... And for mostly her school colors too? Next week was Halloween that usually meant more autumn colors. Maybe there was a school function coming up that needed them and she had just forgot about it.
The letter carrier came in without a word and took the out going mail leaving the incoming bills on the counter for her mother to go through when she got back. Raven finished her homework before the next customer came in and interrupted her again. The rest of the day was spent filling the wedding order and calling the person hired for the day to deliver them to the church, reception hall, and house.
The next week was a busy one for everyone at the florist shop. Raven had no school and that helped too. She wouldn’t be missing class to work on the gross amount of flowers going out of the shop. The football teams bus had been in a accident and two players killed, five went to the hospital, one critical. Flowers were coming and going as fast as their hands could make up the orders. Gran and Raven stayed late into the night to get the arrangements ready for delivery the next day.
“He told you about the flowers, didn’t he?” Gran asked.
“Pops? Yes, he did.” Was Raven’s reply, thou she couldn’t look at her grandma when she said it.
“I told him not to catch you unawares. He didn’t want to wait until I could tell you myself. You know, that Pops and I always could talk with the dead, and to each other now of course.” Gran got back to work as she talked. “Your mother never did understand about it. Thought we were a bit nutty in the head. She didn‘t want to hear it. Closed her mind to the possibilities. But you…”
“I thought I was hearing things from my imagination. Stories to fill the lonely hours of waiting until you and Mama were done working.”
“No my girl. Just the dead making sure that the next to arrive goes out in proper style. If you keep on listening, you‘ll have a right good little business here for yourself someday. Pops won’t ever steer you wrong.”
Later the next day Raven heard Pops say, “Calla Lilies. Lots of extra calla lilies. Gran’s coming to stay with me tonight.”
Raven called in the order. She stopped by Gran’s house on the way home to tell her how much Raven loved her and to hug her one last time.
“Have a good time at your Halloween party tonight.“ Was Gran’s parting words to Raven in this life.
This taking orders from the dead was going to take some getting use to. But Gran and Pops would be around in spirit to help her out.