Brooklyn Twilight

On an ordinary night in Brooklyn, a handsome young man buys flowers for his girlfriend, Cora. But there is more going on than meets the eye. [Short Story]

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1. Buying Flowers.

The handsome young man strolled, care-free, along the twilit street, attracting several approving looks from other pedestrians, many of them female. He was dressed smartly; his light-grey suit unbuttoned to reveal a tie-less and impeccable shirt, which was tucked into his belt without as much as a crease. His hair, a natural light blond, was neatly combed to the left with not a single hair out of place. A small, but nonetheless radiant, smile graced his face, which could have been sculpted by a master craftsman: the line and angle of his jaw seemed to frame his pleasant features perfectly. He had no blemishes or scars and his bright blue eyes shined cheerfully over cheekbones that were pronounced enough to be visible, but not so much as to promote the idea of gauntness; clearly this man was anything but emaciated. His well-built figure was discernible even through the cover of his clothes.

   Several women who passed him that evening would later think wistfully back to their brief encounter of this man with a sigh, wondering what could have been if they had been fortunate enough to know him. An aura of calm seemed to emanate from the man, rubbing off on his fellow pedestrians.

   That the young man should have such a profound impact on others was nothing short of astounding: this was New York, after all, where a person would happily ignore a fellow human in need, blissfully uncaring, focused only upon their own lives and troubles.

   But the man noticed none of these things; his mind was elsewhere, thinking ahead to his upcoming date. He is terribly excited and is so looking forward to it. He is going to treat Cora to the time of her life and maybe even-

   His smile grows wider and he gently pats the pocket where the ring is safe in its velvet-lined box. It was expensive, a cluster of diamonds-real diamonds-embedded in a solid gold band. Expensive, yes, but well worth it; nothing but the best for his girl.

   He is paying little attention to his surroundings and would not have noticed the flower stall at all, had it not been for the brilliant colours in his peripheral vision. As it was, he still thought little of it.

   Then he stopped.

   Flowers, he thought, Cora loves flowers.

   Beaming, he turned around and walked back to the stall, where the proprietor was watching his approach with a kind, knowing smile on his face.

   This man looked to be in his early sixties, though he still looked fairly robust for his age. On his head, he wore an old-fashioned fedora and his clothes consisted of a tweed jacket and trousers, with large, sensible loafers on his feet. His dim green eyes lit up as he noticed the attractive man heading his way; he had a look in his eyes, a look that the old man had long since come to recognise; the look of a man who is completely enamoured and in love.

   His stall had all kinds of flowers, many of them pre-prepared into bouquets for people just like the man who was now almost at the stall. With the knack of a man who has long been in the trade, he put the man down for a dozen red roses. He turned slightly and switched off the radio. It was just the usual: the war in that Asian country was as bad as ever; the ruthless Hammer Man was still on the loose; a hurricane on the West Coast had killed seventeen people and left hundreds more homeless; NASA was launching yet another rocket to do God-knows-what.

   Just, the man thinks, the usual.

   “Help you, friend?” he asked, looking appreciatively at the man’s fine features and clothes.

   If possible, the man’s grin became even more cheerful, radiating contentment and delight as he scanned the rows of flowers. “I certainly hope so,” he replied. “You see-“

   The old man raised a hand with a smile. “Let me guess,” he said, “you’re thinking of buying some lucky gal some flowers for a date. Am I right?”

   The young man laughed charmingly and nodded; the sound drew the attention of a number of passers-by and a triad of woman on a bench across the road looked over, smiling. “Is it that obvious?” he asked through his laughter and the stall’s proprietor found he could not help but join in the mirth.

   “A look in your eyes, my friend,” he said, smiling.

   “Well in that case, what would you recommend? Choosing flowers has never been my forte. I’ll leave it in your hands.”

   “Well,” the elderly man said modestly, “I don’t exactly have a degree in botany if you catch my drift, but I’ve been running this stall for a long time now. If I hadn’t picked up on a few points over the years, I doubt I’d be talking to you now.” He made a show of looking the young man over and his examinations only strengthened his previous opinion. “The old classic would suffice, I think: a dozen red roses.”

   The smooth-skinned young man thought about it for a moment before nodding. “Better make it two dozen; I’m going to propose tonight.”

   “Really? Well, congratulations, son! Good for you!” He counted out twenty-four roses before swiftly and expertly binding them into a bouquet, then wrapping the whole thing in a decorated plastic coat. “On the house!” he proclaimed, holding out the flowers. “Call it an engagement present.”

   The young man, still smiling, shook his head. “I can’t let you do that,” he said. “It wouldn’t be fair.”

   The older man flapped a hand. “Oh, pooh! I insist!”

   “At least let me pay half,” he persisted. “Come on, what do you say?”

   The proprietor thought about it briefly before nodding reluctantly. “Oh, very well. That would come to...five dollars.”

   “Five? Okay.” The young man took out his wallet; black leather with initials embossed in gold. R.S.S., it said. He opened it and took out a small handful of bills. “Thank you very much, Mr. ...” He trailed off.

   “Dees,” the old man answered, extending a hand. “John Dees.”

   R.S.S. shook his hand, his grip firm but respectful. “It’s been a pleasure,” he said, taking the bouquet and dropping the money on they faded, lime-green counter. “Goodbye, Mr. Dees. Maybe I’ll see you again one day?”

   John Dees smiled and shrugged, smiling. “Anytime; you know where to find me.”

   R.S.S. turned away, nodding.

   “Good luck with your girl!” Dees called at the man’s retreating back. R.S.S. turned, still walking, and waved.

   Then he was gone into the crowd.

   John Dees looked down at the counter and, after a moment, smiled: the man had left fifteen dollars as payment for a bouquet that had been worth ten and charged at five.

   He found it didn’t surprise him much.

   What a remarkable man, thought Dees, locking the money away in the small strongbox beneath the counter. I hope to see him soon. Maybe meet his fiancée. If only more people were like him...

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