For some reason, people had the idea that florists were either kindly little matrons who named each plant or elitist snobs who declared roses were a cliche. In either case, the customers of Basement Blooms weren't usually expecting Eddie Gluskin's 6-foot something frame behind the counter. Truly, the flower shop had been his mother's invention. After a messy divorce and televised court case airing her and her son's abuse, the re-minted Luella Gluskin had needed a safe haven more than a profession--the old bastard was good for a settlement at least--when she'd taken up gardening.
Eddie helped out with the heavy lifting and his (court-appointed) therapist thought it was a lovely outlet for his aggression. Better to stab at dirt, slicing out plots and rows, than at other people. Luella had a knack for growing things, bushes and bundles of flowers displayed to the rubbernecking passerbys. A friend begged some blooms for her daughter's prom corsage and Luella happily listened to the woman prattle on about some meanings she'd looked up in the library after discovering the language of flowers in a paperback novel.
It had taken one book of Victorian flower meanings, checked out by a bored and curious Eddie, to get him hooked. In his spare time the teen began memorizing this new code, and practiced different arrangements for the dinner table. Once again his therapist was ecstatic he'd found a way to express his feelings comfortably. The next prom season more mothers were lined up for corsage. Eddie set up a workshop in the basement and cut stems, twisted them through lace and elastic, snickering at the lewd messages some of the women had accidentally chosen.
More calls kept coming throughout the year and Luella had to decide how to handle her unexpected business. While Eddie worked through homeschool courses on history and math, Luella took on night courses on business and management. The two Gluskins worked on their homework together at the table after dinner, Luella commenting on his inconsistent cursive and Eddie telling her to take it up with his teacher. She added mandatory calligraphy to his curriculum after and he showed her how to program the second-hand register she'd bought to calculate sales tax.
Business started slow, a rented out store front along a back street with "Basement Blooms" painted on the brick in Eddie's sharp script. Trial and error taught them how to best store and transport flowers, which roads to take on deliveries, and how to prepare for the hell that was wedding season. Luella manned the register while Eddie did grunt work and arrangements. Eventually Frank, a kid from the neighborhood around Eddie's age, became their first part-timer. He preferred deliveries, but learned how to run the counter when Luella decided to stay home and garden for the day.
Unfortunately, Frank decided to go and chase some chick in beauty school and fell in love with hair dressing. The girl didn't last, but the professional choice did. He stuck around through school and started a shop right next door to the Basement. The butcher's son from three shops to the right was volunteered into service by his mother. The kid was massive but "too sensitive for the family business". Chris was a good guy, if quiet, and his help let Eddie take up more counter work when Luella decided to take a step back from the business and ease into retirement. Then again, she had told Eddie for years she'd be ready to turn the business over to him when he was 24 and retire fully, but they has celebrated his 36th last August and she was still scheduling hours for herself each week.
"Morning," Chris grunted as he came in from the January frost.
"Mornin', hun. How's your mom's party?" Eddie asked, checking water levels as Chris formulated an answer.
"Good. She liked the little bouquet of pink ones best. Says thanks." Chris pulled on a white canvas apron and clocked in. The two worked in comfortable silence until the front bell rang.
"Welcome! One moment, darling," Eddie called. He wanted to grab just a few more wilted stalks out of this bucket before turning around.
"Aww, Eddikins, I feel all gooey." The florist snorted as the nosy tattoo artist from across the street kept talking.
"Miles," he interrupted, "it's before noon. Are you just in or have you actually learned to use that alarm clock I bought you?" There was a small click as Miles stuck his tongue out, the stud knocking against his teeth.
"Chris woke me up when he left, thank you very much! I know how to use clocks, honestly--" The man was ridiculous. He was normally decked out in various offensive shades of highlighter and never stopped talking. He and Chris were a testament to how opposites attract, managing to keep together two years now. Eddie had dragged his friend over to say hello when Miles had opened and both of them had left with the artist's number penned on their hands. "The only ink you'll get free here at Wallrider," Miles had winked. He never explained the name either, just made vague allusions to his promiscuous past. Eddie had considered calling, but saw Chris put Miles down in his contacts and had kept off.
"But how is my favorite grump nuts? Balls gone blue yet? There was this pretty chick in yesterday, just your type, oh and a cute guy came in too--" Miles gave a play by play of each of his customers and their requests, how his counter boy was looking for a second job to get through school, and how great his new piercer and tattoo operator's portfolio was. Eddie made "mhm"s and "oh"s in all the right places as he went about helping his customers. The regulars just made conversation over Miles' chatter while newcomers looked between the three men skeptically. To be fair, Miles was wearing fluorescent orange pants with a strawberry print tank, no less than twelve pieces of metal sticking through his face. Chris was listening attentively, staying to the side of the shop, but had taken after his father in physique and looked like he tossed around 18-wheelers for fun. Whereas Eddie had built up some impressive bulk from gardening and running the shop, Chris looked like he could eat him and have room to down Miles for dessert.
Finally, Miles was herded out to start his own workday, just in time for lunch break. The two took in the blissful silence of the shop while it lasted, exchanging amused but weary looks. It was Wednesday which meant it wouldn't last.
"Oi, skunk head, brought your food." Frank barged into the shop, absently flipping the sign to closed on the way. They had lunch together every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday so "You don't starve on chips and crackers and turn into fertilizer" as Frank put it.
"Ugh, you again. Why do I put up with you when I'm not pay I'm not paying you?"
"Hush, you love me and my cooking. At least your taste there isn't piss awful."
"Still not going to let you shave my head, Frank. You gave me this style and you're going to live with the consequences. Now move so Chris can go badger Miles into working." Frank stepped out of the way, handing over a plastic container of salad for Chris and getting a grunt of thanks in return. He opened another container of lasagna and put it on the counter for Eddie.
"Not even a little bit of edge work? You're killing me, Ed. I've even been practicing and could dye little flowers to cover your greys."
"Oh please, love, you haven't managed to convince me the entirety of our time together. When are you going to drop it?"
"When I'm good and dea--"
"Um, should I come back later?" The two turned to see that a young man had entered while they were bickering. "I think I interrupted..." He was cute, dirty blond hair just a bit too long and a silver camera charm dangling from his lip ring. He must be Miles' new toy.
"Lunch. Shop's closed," Frank shoved a big bite of lasagna into his mouth pointedly.
"Ignore him, darling. Welcome to Basement Blooms, are you looking for anything in particular?" Frank snorted and Eddie made sure to swing a kick at his shin when he stepped out from behind the counter.
"Oh, ah, Miles said--I mean I'm Waylon. Not that Miles said that! He just wanted me to come over and say hi! And, uh, tell E-Eddie that Chris will be back late?" The blond looked mortified, but shifted to look around the shop for the owner.
"Speaking, dear." Eddie chuckled, trying not to coo as Waylon turned bright red. His whole face was glowing and the color spread down his neck, inching across collar bones to--
"Frank. I work next door, at the salon not the insurance place." Frank cut in and made Waylon start a little.
"Nice to meet you! Silky said you're the best and he loves his undercut. I don't think I'm quite ready for high style yet, but I'll be sure you're the first I go to then." He was still a violent red, his hand inching up to ruffle his hair self-consciously.
"Silky? Is that the kid who runs Miles' desk? Didn't know his name. Beautiful platinum hair, pity he doesn't go out without a hat more often."
"Given his albinism I would think he'd have to cover up or burn." Eddie pointed out. "Besides, Waylon, your hair looks just fine. As long as it doesn't get in your way at work why worry?" Waylon stared at him blankly then up to his hair before pointedly not saying anything. Ouch. Frank gave him a side eye and smirked when Waylon opened his mouth only to think better of it and close it again.
"Thanks, I tie it back so no problem. Anyway, I should go..."
"Oh, just a moment." Eddie caught the blond's shoulder briefly before gliding around the shop to put together a quick arrangement. A couple wisteria, some white clover, chickweed, and cuphea should do. "Here, as a welcome to the street."
Waylon was short up close, Eddie thought as the man gently lifted the bouquet. He was scrawny too, but Frank would take care of that soon enough, the mother hen. Eddie could now see splashes of color peeking up from Waylon's shirt, the edges curling like petals around the collar bones.
"Thank you, Eddie, that's sweet, really sweet." Waylon beamed, petting petals gently. "I have to get back or I'll be late too, but I'll stop by soon!" He waved to Frank and Eddie finally noticed motion across the street. Miles was at his window, seemingly flipping out about the scene in the flower shop--probably demanding Chris get him a bouquet too. He gave Eddie a scarily big smile and a thumbs up before a large hand dragged him away.
"Until then, Eddie. Frank." Waylon left the store and sprinted back across the road.
"Oh how sweet, Eddie, you're just so sweet, sweet," Frank sang out.
"Shove it, old man."
"Only by a couple years, but don't think playing my vanity will distract me, mister. I remember enough of your nerdy flower talk to know you've got a crush. Wisteria? Really?" Eddie felt his cheeks warm up and sent an impressive pout his friend's way and mumbled out a response.
"What's that? My poor old man hearing couldn't pick it up."
"Shut up and get out of my store. Lunch break's over, and no you don't! That lasagna is mine." Frank laughed all the way back to his salon and Eddie could still hear it from through the wall. He just groaned when Chris came back and gave him a look.