Love in Bloom
Pat Jeanne Davis
Kate pulled her long, brown hair into a ponytail and looked out on the yard of her new home, where robins hopped about, snatching up a meal. The sun shone brightly, announcing the approach of spring. Finally! She visualized a row of multicolored flowers bordering her driveway.
She squelched a sigh. Had she made the right decision to move so far away from family and friends? At the time, a new position seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. A change had been long overdue, Kate reasoned. And not having a special someone in her life provided further cause to accept the offer. Still, the cold winter had lasted far too long, and she missed the familiar faces back home.
Kate stepped away from the window. With a full schedule next week, Saturday was the only time she had to return to Freddy’s Garden Center. Perhaps the promised shipment of flowers had arrived. She grabbed her car keys.
When Kate entered the nursery, she spotted a figure working at a metal counter surrounded by plants and pots. As she approached, he turned and fixed his blue eyes on her for what seemed like minutes. “Back so soon?” he asked, grinning.
“You’re the one I saw two weeks ago.”
He rubbed his chin. “You came back just to see me.”
Kate flashed a smile. “Can you help me choose flowers for my yard?”
He laughed, revealing straight white teeth. “I’m your man.” He slapped his palms together to dislodge the dirt. “The name’s Fred.”
She took his big hand in hers, intrigued by his friendly manner. “Kate.”
“Let’s see. You told me you’d moved here recently and wanted flowers that bloomed a long time and didn’t need much care.”
Fred gestured for her to follow him. “That’s my job,” he said over his shoulder. “Another supply came in yesterday. You’re in luck.”
They moved down rows of wooden tables overflowing with tulips and daffodils. Kate felt like a schoolgirl on a field trip as she half-ran to keep up, then nearly crashed into him when he stopped and turned around.
“I moved here two years ago to be closer to my eleven-year-old son and opened this garden center last spring,” he said.
Surprised by Fred’s revelation, Kate’s eyes drifted to the bare space on his ring finger. Why hadn’t she done more with her hair and put on a little makeup before coming out this morning? She met his gaze. “It sounds like you’ve been transplanted like these flowers.”
A ghost of a smile crept over his face. “Like yourself.”
Kate nodded. “Came here six months ago after accepting a new position.”
Hyacinths scattered blue, purple, and pink around her. She drew in the sweet fragrance and listened to chimes swaying in a warm breeze.
Fred selected a tray of flowers with little faces. His hand caressed the petals as if they were friends. “Pansies provide a variety of colors that last for months.” He moved to the next table. “The lush blooms on these begonias are hardy as well.”
“I’ll take both.”
He picked up a large white bag. “You’ll need potting soil. I’ll get my son to take these to check-out and to your car. That’s him over there.” Fred motioned for his son.
“Well, what do you know,” Kate said as the boy approached. “Billy is in my class!”
Billy’s eyes widened in recognition. “Miss Haley!”
Fred wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. “I finally get to meet the Miss Haley.”
Billy kicked a stone with the toe of his shoe. A sheepish grin spread across his face.
Kate scrambled for something to say to break the awkward silence. “Lucky you, working here with Dad.”
He looked at his father before taking the flowers and bag. “Yep, I know.”
Fred tousled his son’s blond hair. “I’m the lucky one.”
After Billy left, Fred turned to Kate, pulling his baseball cap forward over his dark, curly hair. “He wasn’t exaggerating when he said you’re pretty.”
Kate managed a smile and lowered her head, feeling her cheeks grow warm.
“And he’s always going on about how you make science come alive.”
“Happy to hear that.” She laughed. “I wish I had that much success with plants.” Or with men.
Fred laughed too. “You’ll need these.” As he handed her a trowel and gardening gloves, their hands touched. Did he feel the same attraction?
Fred shifted his feet. “Take this slip up front and tell them I said to give you a gardening book.” He cleared his throat before speaking again. “If you need any further help, I’m your man.”
“Thanks.” Of course he was her man. Kate recalled her first trip here. Fred answered every question, even the ones she quickly thought up just so she could look into those captivating blue eyes while he answered.
He started walking toward another customer.
“I want to put in some other things,” Kate called after him.
He headed back to where she stood. Her pulse quickened.
“What do you have in mind?”
Kate shrugged. “I need some suggestions.”
“Maybe some shrubs,” he said. “If you like, I could stop by next Saturday, take a look at your yard and give you a few ideas.”
“Sounds good. I’ll keep an eye out.” Kate’s casual tone masked the excitement within. Her heart surged with the wonder of spring and the prospect of a fresh start.
“Write your address here. If you have no one to put them in, just remember, I’m your man. And don’t worry about not having a green thumb.” He winked. “I’ll teach you what you need to know.”
Kate craned her neck to keep him in view as he walked off. Fred glanced back and their eyes met, leaving her with a promise of good things to come.
Thank you, Pat, for kicking off my spring series, Spring Starts, with this fun story about the beginning of what I’m sure becomes a great love.
PAT JEANNE DAVIS lives in Philadelphia, Pa with her British-born husband, John. They have two grown sons. She enjoys flower gardening, genealogy research and traveling with her husband. She is a volunteer in the nursery at the church she attends and at the local chapter of MOP’s. Pat has published essays, short stories and articles online and in print. She has a keen interest in mid-twentieth-century American and British history, particularly the period of World War II. Pat’s father-in-law served in the British Eighth Army during the war. When Valleys Bloom Again is her debut historical romance set in that era. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and the Historical Novel Society. Pat loves to hear from her readers. Subscribe to her newsletter here www.patjeannedavis.com
As war approaches in 1939, Abby Stapleton’s safety is under threat. Her father, a British diplomat, insists she go back to America until the danger passes. Abby vows to return to her home in London—but where is home? With her family facing mortal danger so far away and feeling herself isolated, she finds it hard to pray or read the Bible. Did she leave God behind in war-torn London too? Abby becomes friendly with Jim, a gardener on her uncle’s estate.
Jim can’t get Abby out of his mind. Did she have a sweetheart in England? Was it foolish to think she’d consider him? He curses his poverty and the disgrace of his father’s desertion and drunkenness haunts him. Can he learn to believe in love for a lifetime and to hope for a happy marriage?
Abby couldn’t know the war would last a long time, nor that she would fall in love with Jim—soon to be drafted by the U.S. Army—or that she’d have to confront Henri, a rejected suitor, determined by his lies to ruin her reputation and destroy her faith in God’s providence. Will she discover the true meaning of home and find happiness with Jim?
When Valleys Bloom Again can be purchased on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.