“That’ll be $35.76.”
Angel picked up the two twenty-dollar bills that had been tossed recklessly on the counter, sliding them into the cash register and calculating the change. It was kind of rude of someone to just throw the money onto the counter, he thought to himself. As revenge, he picked the right coins out of the till and opened his palm over the edge of the counter, the change tumbling all over the place. The customer standing across from him scowled. Angel simply gave her a smug grin as she picked the coins up one by one.
“Thanks for choosing Akuma Floral,” he said.
The woman gave him a tired look before turning around and leaving with her order in tow, door jingling behind her. Finally, she was gone.
It wasn’t as if there were a constant stream of customers in a flower shop in the middle of the day, but Angel hated interacting with them nonetheless, preferring to mindlessly scroll through various apps on his phone to pass the time. Now that the store was once again empty, he could do just that. He was just about to plop down onto his stool before he heard the door chime again. Sighing, he slowly stood up, ready to receive some sort of complaint about his customer service, or lack thereof. “Look, I—”
But there was no woman in sight, no angry, flailing customer there to scold him. Instead, a man strolled leisurely into the flower shop, his hands in his pockets. Angel had never seen him before. He looked exhausted, his posture lacking, eyes edged with a dark shade of purple. Despite his obviously stressed appearance, he seemed relatively collected. He was wearing a suit and tie with a white button-down, alluding to some semblance of professionalism, but his outfit was completely disheveled. His jet-black hair was tied up in a short ponytail that stuck straight up. Angel thought it looked hilarious. He did not comment on it.
“How can I help you?” asked Angel.
The unfamiliar man reached the counter and took his hands out of his pockets. He said quietly, “I’m here to pick up an order.”
“Okay, what’s the name?”
Angel disappeared into the back room, coming back out a minute later with a luxurious bouquet in his arms. It was so huge he could barely see in front of himself, the stems reaching his chin, face entirely hidden behind the flowers. He clumsily leaned over and set the bouquet down on a table next to the till, stepping back behind the counter while the other man fished his wallet out of his back pocket.
“Alright, Mr. Kishibe, that’ll be $104.58. Pretty fancy bouquet you picked out there,” Angel teased.
The man’s hand stopped midair. “That’s not my name. I’m picking this up for my boss.”
At his response, Angel’s face fell a bit. That’s what he got for trying to strike up a conversation for once, he guessed. “Okay, pretty fancy bouquet your boss picked out then. What’s the occasion?”
“What does it matter?”
Angel looked up from the register. The man was right, he supposed. He didn’t actually care what the occasion was. “Uh, sure. You gonna pay for this or what?” he questioned, eyebrows slightly raised.
He paid by card, picked up the flowers, and turned towards the door. “Thanks.”
Angel was already sitting back down on his stool, eyes glued to his phone. “Yeah,” he said in reply, with a little wave of his hand. The door jingled.
Working in a flower shop was not Angel’s dream job. In fact, he had never even considered it before, until he realized he desperately needed a job, any job. To live. It was a crushing realization for someone whose favourite activity was lying in bed and playing shitty games on his phone.
Thankfully, there was an opening at the flower shop his friend worked at - an employee had been fired for continuously bringing her cat to work and hiding it under the counter (several times, at that). So a couple of weeks later, Angel was officially working at Akuma Floral, holding no particular feelings towards the gig, good or bad. It was a job. There weren’t too many responsibilities, and it was always quiet, so he didn’t have to talk to many people. He didn’t have a cat, so he wouldn’t be bringing one into work. It worked out perfectly.
The people who did come into the store were generally uninteresting: men panic-buying flowers for their girlfriends after screwing up in their relationships, parents picking up bouquets for their kids’ graduation ceremonies, and the like. The majority of their business came from those heading to the cemetery a few blocks away - a morbid reason to take people’s money, Angel had thought. He didn’t really care how the shop made its money, though, if it meant he could keep his job there. All he really cared about was making enough money to let him live a relatively relaxed life.
Even when a young, handsome, strange man in a suit walked into the shop, Angel was not exactly captivated. It would be quite a feat for somebody to actually grab his attention, peel him away from his indifference. Angel thought it was impossible and had already resigned himself to a life consisting of himself, his apartment, and as much Nothing as possible. He didn’t even mind, having no interest in relationships beyond the few friendships he had. He spent most of his time alone, and he had no problem with that. In fact, he preferred it that way.
And so what if he had stolen a few quick glances at the tall, dark-haired man who walked into his workplace? Angel wasn't some hopeless romantic, dreaming of a chance encounter that would in all likelihood never happen. Angel, in all honesty, lived for himself in the first place, and there was nothing wrong with that - he understood that he could look out for those he cared about while also keeping his distance. But maybe he'd let himself think just a little bit about the striking blue of the secretive man's eyes. Just a little bit.
Aki stumbled into his apartment that night only half-conscious. Exhaustion had begun to take over his limbs before he could even make it home, the stresses of the day catching up to him with impressive speed. He locked the door behind him and threw his keys onto the kitchen table without even looking, immediately shucking his suit jacket off and tossing it over the edge of the chair.
Exhaling deeply, Aki roughly rubbed the bridge of his nose with the tips of his thumb and index finger. His apartment was tiny, basically just one big room with a bed, kitchen area, washroom, table, and TV - but he had grown to love its coziness, opting to stay there even though he could probably afford a bigger place.
He slowly undid his tie, sliding it off his shirt collar. Having undressed, he made his way into the shower where he stood under the hot stream of water longer than was necessary, his shoulders slumping, eyes shutting gently, muscle knots slowly coming undone with the heat. He would never admit to using aloe shampoo, lest his more crude coworkers mock him in defence of their all-in-one shower gel tendencies, but the fresh scent was enough to soothe him after an altogether hard day.
Aki finally got out of the shower, dried himself off, and slipped on some grey sweatpants and a loose white T-shirt. He towelled off his dark hair, letting it fall just above his shoulders instead of tying it into its usual ponytail. He was way too tired to make dinner; a bowl of cereal would be enough, he decided. He prepared his meal, turned off the light, and plopped down onto the end of his bed, switching on the TV and flipping through the channels briefly before settling on some mindless reality show. The screen was the only thing illuminating the room, the moon nowhere to be found, hidden behind clouds.
He shifted to sit cross-legged on the bed and drowsily ate his cereal, tired enough to let his mind wander to the strange flower shop employee he had encountered earlier that day. Was Aki really that bad at socializing? He couldn’t help but notice how bored the other man had looked the moment Aki had opened his mouth. His entire demeanour was entirely disinterested, and his looks seemed to mirror that. The flower shop guy had long, honey-brown hair which was slightly unkempt, as if he had just combed it with his fingers without giving much thought to how it would look. Aki couldn’t recall the colour of his eyes, as the short man had barely looked at him their entire interaction.
Maybe Aki thought he was kind of cute. Maybe he was remembering wrong. Maybe he was just too drained to catch himself before his mind had the chance to go there.
He didn’t have the chance to ponder it any further before his phone starting buzzing on the other side of the bed. Setting his empty cereal bowl down (when did he even finish eating?) he leaned over and grabbed the phone to look at the screen. It was his boss. He pressed the button to answer.
“Hayakawa. You have a job tomorrow. Makima will pick you up at eight in the morning, so be ready.”
Aki fought off the urge to sigh. He had been hoping to sleep in a bit tomorrow, do some housework, maybe even read a book. “Yes, sir,” he replied flatly.
“Excellent. Good work today, kid,” the boss said casually. Aki was one of his best men, after all, flexible and easy to order around at his will.
“Thank you, sir. Have a good night,” Aki responded with caution.
The line went silent. Aki locked his phone and grabbed the remote, turning the volume down on the TV. He usually left it on while he slept, a welcome distraction from his constant, racing thoughts. He brought his cereal bowl back to the kitchen, deciding he would do the dishes tomorrow instead. With slumber seeping into his bones, weighing him down, he slid underneath the blankets, barely remembering to set his alarm before finally falling asleep.