After what Rachel jokingly terms "the traffic incident," the two of them piled into the car with their families and made their way back to Rachel's parents' house. They sat next to each other on Tessa's chesterfield, antsy and excited, waiting for the moment when they could run away from the social proprieties (which in this case were not unlike what Luce imagined the Spanish Inquisition to have been like) and be finally, blissfully alone. Twice Rachel found herself actually sitting on her hands because she wanted so desperately to reach out and touch Luce.
When they were finally able to leave, night had fallen. They made sure Luce's mum got home, before wandering off in the direction of her shop. The lights were off, but the door was still unlocked and Luce had a moment of exasperation that her mum had just gone off and left things like she had. She was too happy for it to be anything other than short-lived annoyance though. The flowers she'd arranged in the morning were still there, and still perky and happy in their vase. It felt like a long time ago. At the time, she'd selected the tulips as a wistful act of commemorating things she'd given up hope of having for herself, but now they were looking back at her like a sneaky promise. Look at us, they taunted, we knew something you didn't know. She smiled and gathered them up, then turned around to see Rachel waiting in the doorway.
"Do you know what tulips stand for?" Luce asked as she walked over to her.
"No. What do they mean?" Rachel was grinning ear to ear.
"Red tulips stand for a declaration of love. The yellow ones, those are for a hopeless love." She indicated the four yellow flowers amidst a see of red and white and pink. "The variegated tulips are for beautiful eyes, like yours. Overall, they stand for the perfect lover."
Rachel blushed very prettily, and Luce handed her the bouquet. She watched Rachel stroke the petals gently as she locked up the shop, then took her free hand and led her upstairs.
On the day that Rachel and Heck's divorce was finalized, Luce closed up the shop early and took the Tube to the office building where Rachel worked. She rode patiently up the elevator to the eleventh floor and wandered around for a moment trying to find the right room. Rachel seemed surprised to see her, not unhappy, but Luce could see that the smile that usually lit up her face wasn't quite making it to her eyes.
Luce set the demurely wrapped package she was holding on the desk in front of Rachel, keenly aware of the eyes on her. Most of the office knows that Rachel left her husband for a woman, but this was the first time most of them were actually setting eyes on the culprit.
Rachel, used to the scrutiny, deftly ignored them and focused on unwrapping the paper. She could feel the tears threaten at the corners of her eyes again, and willed them away. Inside was a cheerful little pot of marigolds. The bright yellow and orange made her smile, just for a second, but it was a help.
"What do they mean?" she asked softly, knowing her girlfriend well enough to know there was a purpose and a reason.
"'Comforts of the heart,'" Luce quoted from some long forgotten source stored in her memory.
"Thank you," Rachel said, and it was heartfelt. She arranged the pot just so on the corner nearest the window, and tried her best to push all the other thoughts out of her mind.
One of the first things that Luce brings into their new flat is a pot of aloe for the small kitchen's windowsill. It doesn't occur to Rachel to ask her what aloe stands for; Luce didn't expected it to. Many people, Luce knows, overlook the plants without showy blooms when they think about bouquets and the language of flowers.
Luce's reason for it was much less the practical considerations of burn care and much more personal. Aloe, she knew, stood for grief, and for her it was a reminder. She was deliriously happy with Rachel, and their relationship, but she never wanted to forget that it had come at a high cost.
Heather, Ivy, Iris, Lavender, and Baby's Breath:
They announced their engagement on a Monday evening, after a casual family dinner. Because her engagement to Heck had been such a production, Rachel was disinclined to make one out of it this time. Everything about this wedding was as far afield as they could manage, as if in some way doing things differently would stave off whatever bad luck the first wedding had attracted for the bride and groom. Even if it had brought them together, Rachel had discovered she was just superstitious enough to think it was foolish to tempt fate.
Instead of an elaborate church wedding, they opted for a park setting, and instead of fancy dresses they both chose very pretty sundresses. Only their closest family and friends were invited, and despite Tessa's attempts to host a fabulous party, they reception was small and cozy. The only similarity, in fact, to that first wedding was that Luce had done all the flowers herself.
The night before, she stood in the middle of her shop, and tried to decide what she wanted to use. What message did she want to send, both to her beloved and to herself? Roses, while an accurate portrayal of her feelings, seemed awfully cliched. Tulips were a possibility, and one of Rachel's preferred flowers, but they didn't seem quite right. Her eyes fell upon a bundle of white heather hidden halfway behind some chrysanthemums, and she fished them out carefully. She knew without having to look it up that heather stood for wishes, and more importantly for the promise that your wishes would come true. That was certainly both what she wanted for Rachel, and what she felt she'd achieved herself, so she began with them. For the dominant green she chose ivy, for fidelity and friendship, two things she hoped they would always have together. Then color, and for that she finally settled on purple irises in Rachel's bouquet, to show the courage she'd displayed in the way she'd followed her heart and lavender for her own bouquet, for devotion. In both of them, for a finishing touch she laced them through with baby's breath, for everlasting love.