There was a curious flower shop in London.
No one knew precisely when it was built or when it opened, but the shop rapidly became known for a vast collection of rare foliage that always appeared lush and green even in the dampest, dreariest weather. Almost overnight it gained a reputation for being one of the hottest spots to purchase herbs and shrubs and other flora for windowsill gardens. Ferns hung in baskets from the ceiling, vines crept over the walls, and the arrangement of scents and colors blended so perfectly that those who frequented often did so because of its calming effects. For most, the flower shop felt very much like a garden, though not just any garden. It was like finding a piece of home they’d never known, entering a land forbidden since long before their ancestors or their ancestor’s ancestors were born. In spite of this, however, very rarely was there anything good to say about the owner. Nor was there anything truly bad to say other than he was rather, well, odd.
It was hard to pinpoint exactly what it was about the florist that so unsettled his customers, and even harder to articulate, but those who tried often blamed the dark glasses that concealed his eyes or the restless energy permeating from his skin. Though he tended to remain behind the counter or in the conjoined nursery with the plants that weren’t quite ready for sale yet, there was a sense of constant movement about him. Oh, he’d cross his arms over his chest with a scowl aimed at a wilting leaf or some sort, but anyone staring in his direction for too long would have the sudden, dizzying sensation that the man existed in multiple spaces at once.
“Well, he must,” a young socialite mentioned laughingly to her equally affluent friends at brunch, “How else is he to keep that place running on his own?”
Ever since the shop’s doors had opened to the public, not a soul besides the florist had been spotted taking care of the flowers. It was a big mystery, though not an overly compelling one. Customers wondered how one man could possibly procure such high-quality merchandise, care for it, and also run the register, but they never wondered for long. Whether it was due to a lack of curiosity or the unseen, guiding force of an ethereal touch, the question of how Anthony J. Crowley happened upon his merchandise soon left their minds, and he carried on unbothered by questions not even he could answer.
For you see, no one knew when the flower shop was built nor when it opened, nor how it managed to procure the loveliest, most beautiful flowers in all of London, least of all the florist.
That is, until one Sunday afternoon, when the shop mysteriously emptied at the stroke of three. The florist in his dirt-stained apron didn’t know what to make of the sudden exodus but would confess if asked that he was not so much a fan of people overinflating his flowers’ egos with unwarranted praise like, “Oh, aren’t these striped petals just gorgeous?” that he was sorry to see them go. Honestly, it’d take him ages to tear down the gardenia’s self-esteem again after the customers had spent the day fawning all over its white blooms.
Taking advantage of the brief respite, he grabbed a mister and began spraying a fine layer over his daffodils, only to set it down with a sigh when the bell chimed at the door, and a sole customer walked in. He was of average height, dressed in a cream-colored suit with a tartan bow tie, and looked rather as though he’d stepped out of the wrong century. His prematurely white hair curled back from his forehead and sides, and if Crowley didn’t think he needed sleep before, he certainly did now, because for a moment he could have sworn he’d seen the faintest shimmer of a halo.