It was shaping to be a pretty normal day. Keith had woken up late for the hundredth time, and he considered just changing his alarm clock to the exact minute that he could get away with, instead of the 'leisurely, early morning' he promised himself each night.
The coffee he had snagged from Hunk's was strong and hot, and the steam and scent drove away the remnants of sleep that lingered on his mind. The caffeine made him sharp as he opened shop, putting a new roll of paper in the cash register, tying the red apron around his waist, and settling into the morning routine of watering the plants and checking orders, and arranging the random knick-knacks and other items for sale.
"Allura's Arboretum and Floristry". It wasn't the sweetest name, nothing like 'Pretty Petals', but it was scientific and to-the-point, like it's owner. Keith was the sole worker, and main manager of the shop, but he didn't own it. Allura Altea was a beautiful, excitable woman who had a green thumb and a love for flowers, and she had hired Keith when he was looking for jobs. Keith had only recently moved to the small sea-side town for college.
He had never really considered himself a flowershop kind of person, but it oddly clicked when he began working. The shop was quiet and calm, always smelled good, and he didn't have any annoying co-workers. Business was good at this time of year, especially with all the tourists who walked down the main strip by the ocean and visit the quaint shops as the colors of late summer and autumn swirled around them.
Earlier in the summer when Keith had first moved here, he had arranged seashells along the counters and potted flowers and trees, and along with the blue-painted walls and its convenient location, it was what Hunk had called the 'perfect beachy petal shop'.
Hunk was a striving entrepreneur, managing his own little coffee shop and bakery, just down the road. Hunk was like a tattered blanket from your childhood, or a favorite stuffed animal. His constant smile and yellow sweatshirt that always smelled like pastries and coffee beans immediately made you feel warm. Keith wasn't a very touchy-feely, emotional person, but, aside from Shiro, Hunk was the best person to talk about personal stuff with.
"Thank you, have a nice day," Keith said to the elderly woman, who was holding a small bonsai tree in her arms, "Do you need some help with that?"
"I've got it dear, thank you," she smiled with crooked teeth and a frail voice, and shuffled out the door and into the sunny afternoon.
Keith sighed and leaned forward against the counter, brushing off some dirt that the pot had shed. Soft music from his iPod played over the speakers in the shop, and he surveyed the room, eyes floating over the Alocasia odora, with its giant leaves that hung over the shelf of glass-blown vases and bowls, the hanger full of floral dresses and shirts, the display of the children's toys and gifts, from flower teething toys to fake leis.
Sitting back in his swivel chair behind the desk, Keith waited for his laptop to boot up, pushing on his glasses. His fingers poised over the keyboard, he began going over the rubric for the essay he was about to write for one of his classes. Frowning, Keith tried to remember. As he was lost in thought, the bell at the door dinged, signaling a customer. Keith shut his laptop and looked up.
A teen was wondering aimlessly into the shop, hands shoved in his pockets, his shoulder relaxed as he looked around.
"Hey," the boy said nonchalantly, and tipped his head in Keith's direction, eyes glancing Keith over.
"Hello... may I help you with something?"
The teen shook his head, and his short hair swished around his forehead. "Nah, I'm good. Just looking."
Keith settled back and watched the customer making his way around the store. He surreptitiously adjusted his beanie over his dark hair, and took off his glasses, folding them neatly beside his laptop.
The customer hesitated by a rack of floral button-downs and flipped the fabric between his fingers. He was wearing grey sweatpants and a blue tank top that read, "saltier than the ocean" in block letters. Keith rolled his eyes internally at the boy's mainstream white-with-black-stripes Adidas.
The brunette walked with a light kind of saunter, which reminded Keith vaguely of a cat, and he seemed to unconsciously bend his feet one at a time, up onto his toes, then rolling his ankles. Everything about him seemed relaxed. The total opposite of Keith.
Keith snapped to attention when the teen dropped into a squat in front of the bouquet rack and swooped up a wildflower and peony bundle before straightening and walking over to the counter.
"I'll take this please," he murmured as he pulled out his wallet. Keith eyed the bouquet, calculating the price, before typing it into the ancient cash register, which groaned as it spat out the cash box.
The customer grinned and handed Keith a $20.
"Keep the change, cutie." Keith froze. His fingers froze around the twenty. His gaze found the teen's blue eyes, which were happy and playful.
"Oh, lighten up," the customer said, laughing, "Here." He reached forward across the counter and placed a plucked sprig of forget-me-nots behind Keith's ear.
"I'm Lance, by the way. I hope to see you around."
Keith's tongue felt fat and useless in his mouth as he fumbled for words.
"Keith," he blurted, and then his eyes grew wide at his outburst. "I'm Keith," he covered up.
"Keith..." Lance stared at him, curious. "See you around!"
And before Keith could object, Lance was strolling out the door, bell clinking behind him.
Stupid, stupid, stupid! Keith scolded himself and leaned down, banging his head against the counter lightly. He sighed, and inhaled sharply, eyes opening.
He was going to see Lance again. Of that, he was sure.