It was getting late, the more time he put this off, the closer she'd be to closing, and the closer he'd be to losing. No, he couldn't let that happen. Just had to get ready. Now, tentacles? just go with regular blue. Clothes, were a concern. Not going to turf, so won't need his regular gear. In fact probably better that he didn't wear it. Just regular clothes. Cream basics...she's not gonna really see those. Definitely not gonna bring the jungle hat, that'd be too obvious. Would she notice his bigger mask? Probably could cover it with some...No! Stop procrastinating! Just go, damn it!
Finally he was there, and the sun was already starting to get a little low. Time was short. It'd be oh so easy to give up, take the sass from his team, and agree that he was too scared...but, this wasn't just to prove he was brave. So finally, with one last sharp breath, he stepped forward and opened the doors, which rang with a little bell, in the humid interior air. Wall-to-wall, the shop was decorated with pots of flowers, boxes of flowers, pictures of flowers, and vases of flowers, on shelves, tables, desks hanging off the ceiling. One other thing that caught his eyes was a propped up photo, with a bunch of...jellyfish? The inkling gave a confused look, but quickly checked his phone to confirm this was the right shop. Perhaps he'd meet one of them, instead. A stir of confidence, and he rang the desk bell for them.
"Just a tick! Be right there!" her voice answered, crushing his courage. Her heavy footsteps bore down on him, like volleys from her . He was practically frozen in place, like a deer in headlights. Soon enough, she emerged, tall, dark, and her hair-tentacles were purple like venom. She was not in her turf war outfit, but could probably still gut him with her bare hands in those garden gloves. She had to have been one of those humboldt squids, maybe. She cleared her throat, and spoke amicably, "Sorry for the delay. Mum called in sick, leaving me to take over. Can I help you?"
Desperately fighting the lump in his throat, he managed to get the words out of his mouth, "Y...Yeah, I'm... l-looking for flowers?"
A brief pause, followed by a chuckle came in reply, "Well, you've come to the right place. Is there a particular kind you're looking for? Or maybe an arrangement? Or..." she trailed off, as she got a better look at him, "...Wait...do I know you, from somewhere?"
Chills ran up and down his back, as he hastily replied, "N-no, I don't think so! Don't think w-we've ever met!"
She raised a curious brow, "You sure? Maybe it was in a turf war?"
"N-nope, definitely not! I don't even play turf, just a regular inkopolis squid! Heh-heh...!" He gave an awkward laugh, trying to lie under crushing pressure.
Her expression was puzzled, but she nodded, "Hm. Alright. Well, the name's Belladonna. And yes, my family is of jellyfish. So, what kind of flower are you looking for? Or... what's the occasion?"
Her not asking his name was like dodging an inkstrike, and he quickly tried to answer, "Ah, yes! Well..." he trailed off, momentarily realizing what he'd have to say, and cleared his throat to try again, blushing a little, "Well, there's this girl I like, and... and I wanted to get her some flowers."
She smiled at the sound of that, but was struck with another memory of her icy teammate describing someone quite like this boy crushing on her. "Ah, How sweet. Well, what kinds of flowers does she like? I'm sure we'll have them somewhere around here."
The boy blushed, as he blinked wide open, with a dumbfounded expression, "Uhh... I don't really...know. I...hadn't r-really asked. Sh-she doesn't really know I'm here...We're not dating, or anything. More...kinda friends, and...and I like her." He blushed a little more, as his mind turned to her.
He was wary of her warm smile, as she listened. "Hm... Well, plenty of girls like flowers that speak to their character, or disposition. Personalities in flowers, like elegance, purity, sunniness. Hmm..." she turned to him, with a puzzled expression, "Excuse me for asking, she's not the...cold type, is she?"
He blushed again, remembering the crush he had, before her, who was cold as ice...but also one of Belladonna's teammates, he felt another chill, as he had to steer away, "N-no! Not this girl! No, she's sweet, kind, a little shy and quiet, but makes really nice stuff, at this cafe. She also has this really cute accent. And actually, I think she's named after a kind of berry..." Bella nodded along, putting pieces together. "And uh... maybe I might be over-thinking it. Another friend of mine suggested I should probably just go with some red roses."
The taller inkling flinched at that. "Y...you said that you two aren't dating, and she's on the shy side, right?"
He gave a confused look, as he scratched his head, "Y...Yeah? Aren't red flowers the kind people usually get for people they like?"
She cocked her head, and stroked her chin, "Well red flowers, especially roses, say less along the lines of 'I like you,' and more like, 'I love you.' More what you'd get someone you're already dating, married to, or...courting. Not really restraint in it, and in some cases, a bit of lust... And it doesn't sound to me, like you want to...seduce her, do you? Or is that what your friend is suggesting?"
The inkling boy's eyes widened, as he look downed, exhaling, "Shhh...cod...dammit...Yeah, that sounds like him."
"And is friend's named Jonquil?" she sneakily asked.
"Yea-ACK! N-nope! Not his name! D-don't know...!" He stammered to back out, but knew she just trapped him, and his whole body froze up.
She grinned, snapping her fingers, "Aha! Thought I recognized ya! You're one of his teammates, aren't ya? The little aerospray of Petal Splash!"
He was still frozen, fear in his eyes, "Y...yeah..."
Bella nodded, but smiled gently, calming his uneasiness. "Ah, don't fret. I don't know what he's told you about me, but my grudge is only for the wanker, himself, not the rest of his team..." his expression turned relieved, as her voice tendered, "And more importantly, I don't hurt kids."
He indignantly puffed up, a little, to seem brave "I'm not a kid..." But the endeared look she returned smothered what bravado he summoned.
"So, I don't believe we were introduced. You know my name and yours is...Cosmo?"
"I-it's Sorrel," he clarified, "Cosmo's another friend, on the team. He...he actually dared me to get flowers from here..."
She gave a little chuckle, "Ah, and did he also tell you I...I dunno, make mulch out of sea snails, or something like that? On second thought, I don't want to know. Just understand that our flowers are grown in a clean, healthy nurseries, without the use of chemical fertilizers."
"O-okay..." he started to slowly smile, scratching his head, "Thank you... So, uh, what flowers do you think I should get her?"
"Well..." She reached under her desk to pull up a pot of different colored flowers, "Pink flowers, like this tulip, represent more gentle affection, along with innocence and playfulness. Yellow ones, like this daffodil, represent friendship, respect, and compassion. A good way of saying 'I appreciate you, and the work you do,' or as a nice 'get well soon' gift for when somebody's having a rough day, or under the weather. And orange ones can be good for that, too. White flowers, like these orchids, depict purity, faithfulness, and go well in bridal bouquets..."
Sorrel was scratching his head, but caught himself getting interested, if in his own teenage way, "Huh. So, what do black flowers represent?"
She raised a curious brow, but chuckled a little, "Well, there aren't many black flowers that grow naturally, so sometimes colored water is used to make them black, or darker, at least. In some cases, they're used to represent rarity, or uncommonness. And, as you can probably guess, they can represent death. Not just the death of someone, but can also be the death, or end of a relationship."
"Oh... I don't think I wanna get her those, either... Uh, heh..." He gave a little smile at her.
"So, who might this girl be? She actually sounds a tiny bit familiar, too." She seemed relieved that he wasn't so petrified, anymore.
"Huh? Oh, okay. Her name's Kirsikka."
"Hmm... Did she have a patch over her left eye?"
"Yeah, actually. Do you know her, too?"
"Eh... a bit. I used to know her. More familiar with...her sister..." her expression darkened for a moment, before she snapped herself out of it, "But, she isn't important. I think... I might remember that she does have a fondness for a particular kind...Lilacs? No, she's allergic to those... Ah, cherry blossoms! If I remember right, she quite likes those! Let me get some, just a tick!" and she went back into the shop.
Sorrel's head spun with the idea of Kirsikka getting them, and how happy she'd look, before stopping on something, "Ah...Didn't know cherries grew on plants. Or...flower plants?"
"Ah, they grow on cherry trees, of course, as do the blossoms," she replied, cramming the image of him lugging around a huge tree into his head.
Soon enough Bella returned, with a bundle "So instead, we present them on the thinner branches, for the same effect."
"Oh, that's a relief! Heh...That'll be perfect!"
"Brilliant! Now just let me get these properly arranged..." She went carefully over the bundle, arranging them meticulously into a beautiful bouquet. Tying them, wrapping them, tagging them, even putting the stumps in a little tube of water. It was almost baffling for him to see this turf war captain, who brandished a heavy dynamo roller to splat without mercy, now delicately working on something like putting flowers together. Maybe she wasn't all bad, after all. "And there we go! All ready to go! Now, there's not too much a rush, but it's best to get these into a vase, rather than lying around." She then turned to the register, "And let's see, it comes to..."
His eyes widened, as he considered the price. He had no idea how much they'd cost! Were they expensive, this season? Were they rare? Could he afford... "Oh, not as much as I thought it'd be."
"Well, we're doing well enough, this season, so I figured I'd give ya a little discount, this once."
Sorrel flinched at that, "Oh! I... Thank you, Ms. Belladonna!" His smile grew, as he happily paid up.
"No problem, kid. And if she asks, tell her they came from Aunt Bella."
"Okay!" His smile brightened.
"And if Jonquil tells you to get her red roses, while you're like this, tell him to shove em up his arse, thorns and all!"
He snickered at that as he left, waiving her off.
She smiled waiving back, as she remembered one of the meanings attached to cherry blossoms: possibilities and potential. Energies renewed, new beginnings, and of course new romances.
It wasn't very far off, that he ran into another familiar figure. Tall, dark, and his hair-tentacles in that ridiculous wave style. Not really in turf gear, but still had those headphones on, as if the face piercings and sharkshit-eating grin weren't loud enough. "Ah, there ya are, Sour-Grass! Looks like you got something, and lived to tell the tale!"
He gave an awkward laugh, "Uh, hey Cosmo. Didn't expect to see you, here. Were you watching to make sure I did it, or something?"
"Actually, just came back from a date with Taloupe, and remembered this place. So yeah, and maybe bust you out, if you screamed, or something." He joked, souring up the shorter one. "So, let me guess, she wasn't actually there, was she?"
"No, she was there, actually."
"Oh? Did she recognize you?"
"...After a bit, yeah. But, she was actually kinda nice, and helped me pick these out for her."
"Ah, well look at this big man, walking with a big man's...bouquet!" He chimed, slapping him on the back.
Sorrel blushed, "Eh-heh-heh... Yeah, I made it work. Told you I can do it, I'm brave!"
"Yeah, today, you are! So..." he glanced at the time on his phone, "The cafe should still be open, and she should be there. Shall we go get something, while you give them to her?"
He was utterly still, in silence. His blank, expressionless face burned up.
" ...Sorrel?" Cosmo asked again, nudging him a little. Causing his body--stiff as a board--to teeter over, falling flat on his back, fainted. "S-Sorrel!"