Chapter 06: Forsythia
The day after Sascha had surprised Evan with a small peck on the cheek, the man was still thinking about all that he'd learned about Sascha the previous day. At the very least, he now knew why Sascha was so skittish when it came to relationships. He supposed he'd be the same way after what the florist had gone through. Unfortunately, Evan couldn't say he'd ever been in such a situation, rather he'd been the one causing people so much grief.
He recognized that perhaps the relationships he'd practically run away from hadn't been as inconsequential to others as they had been to him. Maybe some of the women he'd been with had truly thought him to be in love with them and maybe they had loved him like Sascha had loved the man he'd dated before. It wasn't something Evan liked thinking about, but neither was it something he could hide from.
"Drew," he called to his friend during their break.
Drew hummed to let Evan know he was listening, still busy with making sure his coffee had the perfect amount of sugar. Evan was hesitant to voice his doubts, but if anyone could give him a clear answer without judging him too much, it would be Drew.
"Do you think I've been wrong, you know, with the way I've treated all the women I've dated?" he finally asked, and Drew looked mildly surprised.
"What, you mean if I think you're a jerk?" Evan sent his friend a weak glare, but nodded all the same. "Oh, then yes, yes I do," Drew answered all too easily.
"Don't take it personal, Evan, but you're a complete asshole when it comes to dating. I mean, remember that girl you went out with for like two weeks and then left because she was 'dull'? The longest relationship you had lasted only about two or three months and every time things start to get serious you leave. So, yeah, you're pretty much a bastard, why do you ask?" Drew finished casually, sipping his hot coffee.
"Well, thank you for the detailed answer, but I was just curious," Evan said, scowling, but Drew shook his head.
"No you weren't, no one ever just 'wonders' that type of thing, especially not someone like you who's lived in denial for years. Something had to have triggered this sudden bout of sympathy towards your past victims," Drew went on, and Evan thought he was enjoying the chance to show him what a jerk he was a bit too much.
"So what is it, are you feeling guilty or something?" and reluctantly, Evan admitted that yes, he was feeling guilty, only to himself though. And instead of admitting it to his friend, he posed another question.
"Do you think I'd ever be able to have an actual relationship, one that lasted more than a month?"
Drew looked curious now, mostly because he'd never imagined his friend asking something like that. Actually, he never thought Evan would even want a real relationship with anyone. He'd always looked rather happy with the fleeting romances he'd had with all his previous girlfriends.
"Honestly? I'm not sure," he said, shrugging. "You really don't look like the type to settle down. I suppose if you found someone you really cared for," and even then, Drew doubted it because Evan had been with about half the women in the city and none had held his interest for very long.
"So I'll die old and alone," Evan deadpanned.
"Probably," said Drew, entirely too nonchalantly.
They switched to other subjects after that, but Evan still thought about what Drew had said. It stayed in his mind for the rest of the day and up until he was standing outside of Sascha's shop.
When he walked in he was a bit surprised to see Sascha sitting behind the counter, chatting happily with Jason. A small paper plate with cake was set before him. Both Sascha and Jason looked over at the doorway when Evan walked in, Sascha smiling as brightly as always.
"Hello, Evan, what brings you here today?" Sascha asked, and Evan ignored Jason's usual scowl to really think about the florists' question.
What really made him return to the shop so often? He'd always told Sascha he returned with the purpose of finding the reason for his unusual attraction to the florist, despite the fact that – disregarding his gender – he wasn't the type of person he'd usually choose to date. Sascha was plain, normal, never aiming to draw attention to himself and entirely too nice, and Evan was used to the more outgoing type who wanted to always be seen, always be liked and recognized for their charm (maybe it was because he was like that at times).
He looked at Sascha, who was still looking at him with his usual soft smile and pretty green eyes, and admitted that he was why he kept returning. Just to talk to Sascha was good enough, it made him feel welcome and liked and it was all Evan really needed. He couldn't say that with Jason there though, so he just grinned and walked over to lean on the counter.
"Just came to make sure Jason was actually working," he said jokingly, making the boy roll his eyes. "So where did you get the cake?"
"Jay brought it," Sascha said, still holding a plastic fork stained with frosting.
"My mom actually sent it though, it was left over from yesterday," the boy added.
"Oh, so Sascha gets cake, but I don't?" Evan accused with mock indignation.
"Pretty much," Jason answered simply, and Sascha just let out a small laugh.
"Here, you can have some of mine," he said, pushing his plate over to Evan.
"It's fine, it's yours anyway," Evan said, though the cake looked really good.
"He can have some later, there's plenty left at my house anyways," Jason added.
"Really? You're so nice, Jay," Evan teased, and Jason covertly kicked him in the shins when Sascha wasn't looking.
Evan stayed around for a while longer, and watched Jason leave on his bike before it got too dark. Apparently, Sascha was worried about him getting run over if he was out at night, so he always sent him home rather early.
"So, how long is he supposed to work here?" Sascha asked Evan after Jason was gone.
"Actually I told him he could stop already, but he seems to like it here," Evan answered with a shrug. Jason's parents hadn't complained either because it kept Jason out of trouble and taught him a bit of responsibility, they claimed.
"Well, I guess I'll talk to him about it later. If he's going to stay he needs to get paid with more than tips," Sascha pointed out, turning to greet a customer who'd just walked in.
Evan watched as Sascha dealt with the man, making suggestions and doing his best to create an arrangement that would please the customer. It was one of the reasons people returned to Sascha's shop; the service. The florist was always patient and willing to help.
"I take it you're not buying anything," Sascha said to Evan as the door closed behind the young man who'd bought a very nice bouquet for his girlfriend.
"Will you kick me out if I say no?" the man answered teasingly.
"Hmm, maybe," the florist joked, turning to head into the back. "Could you please watch the shop for a minute, I just need to get a few things from the back," he said.
"I thought you were kicking me out," Evan pointed out, eyebrow quirked.
Evan laughed and waved Sascha off, agreeing to watch the shop. He walked behind the counter and leaned on it, not really expecting to have to do anything. While business had picked up, people usually visited during the day, not just before it was dark. Apparently, he was wrong, because the bell chimed and the door opened, letting in a gust of cold wind as a man walked in and Evan couldn't believe who it was. Of all people, it had to be the one person he didn't want to see.
"Hello, is the shop owner here?" asked the man, and Evan didn't have any trouble in recognizing him as the man that Sascha had admitted to having gone out with in the past.
Evan tried not to glare, but he was angry, and he didn't know why the man insisted on bothering Sascha.
"He's busy," he answered shortly, and the man didn't seem very happy to hear that, frowning a bit, but he kept his tone casual when he spoke.
"That's okay, I"ll just wait for a bit, then," he said, and Evan wondered why he wanted to see Sascha so badly.
"I think it would be best if you left," he said, and he did his best to not sound as mad as he was. He doubted Sascha would appreciate him punching someone in his shop.
"I'm sorry, but who are you?" the man asked. "I don't think I've ever seen you around. Do you even work here?" it looked like he'd just noticed Evan's clear lack of an apron and name tag.
"I'm a friend of Sascha's," Evan told the man. "And I really don't think he wants to see you, so get your flowers somewhere else," and he sounded more than a bit angry, but the guy had it coming and it could have been worse.
The man just looked at him, assessing him, before switching his gaze to the door leading to the back. It opened slowly to reveal Sascha, carrying an arrangement of chrysanthemums. He stopped when he saw the man standing in front of the counter and for a moment, Evan thought he'd drop the flowers he was holding. But Sascha just looked away, appearing very uncomfortable.
"Sascha," the man said with a nod.
"Hello, Steven," answered the florist, still doing his best not to look at him. It almost looked like he wanted to blend into the arrangement he was holding.
"I was just talking to your friend. He said you didn't like me coming here, is that true?" the man – Steven – asked Sascha. Evan caught the florists' gaze, and it was obvious that he didn't know what to say. Or maybe it was that he was just afraid to say it. In the end though, Sascha nodded and glanced up at Steven.
"I'd rather you didn't," he told him.
The man seemed a bit surprised that Sascha had actually admitted it, but he tried not to show it. He pursed his lips and looked at Evan, who just continued to glare, before turning and leaving the shop. Evan heard Sascha let out a sigh of relief and looked over at the florist, who set the arrangement on the counter.
"You should have told me he was here," he told Evan, sounding frustrated.
"Why? You don't like dealing with the guy. I figured I'd kick him out for you," Evan shrugged.
Sascha gave him an odd look before shaking his head and turning back to straightening the flowers before him. Evan hoped he wasn't mad at him, after all, he'd just done what he did to keep Sascha from getting upset again.
"Thank you," Sascha finally said after a while. "I don't think I ever would have told him to leave on my own."
Evan smiled and moved to stand next to the florist. Hesitantly, he placed a hand on Sascha's shoulder, feeling him tense for a moment before he relaxed under the touch.
"I"m sure you would have, but you're welcome," he said. "And you should be very proud of me for being as polite as I was," Evan added, making Sascha laugh.
"I'm sure," the florist commented. "So, just out of curiosity, are you going to go home before I close up for the night?"
"Depends, are you closing shop soon?" Sascha smiled, still focused on the arrangement he was fixing. He'd ended up messing it up a bit out of surprise when he'd seen Steven in his shop again.
"Evan, I'm sure you know the business hours already. But yes, it shouldn't be long now," he said.
"Then I guess I'll stick around for a while longer," Evan said, stretching.
True to his word, Evan stayed until all the customers had been tended to, and all the orders had been picked up. He waited patiently for Sascha to clean up and lock the shop and at seven o'clock they were both standing outside.
"Well, goodnight Evan, thanks for stopping by," and it looked like Sascha had every intention of walking home as he usually did, but Evan had other plans.
"Hey, let me give you a lift home," he called, and Sascha stopped and turned to look back at him.
"What? Ah, no, it's fine, I live just a couple of blocks away," he said.
"So it won't take long to get there," Evan pointed out. "Come on, it's really no trouble."
Sascha thought about it for a moment, and maybe it was because of how determined Evan looked, but in the end, he relented. Soon he was sitting in next to Evan and just as he'd said, he lived just a few blocks away from the shop, in an apartment complex that looked like it was fairly old, but not rundown. Evan pulled up right to the front and waited as Sascha unbuckled his seatbelt and turned to him with a small smile.
"Thank you for the ride," he said. "And for stopping by the shop, it was nice, having some company."
Evan just looked at Sascha with what he thought was his most charming grin, and nodded.
"No problem, maybe I'll stop by again tomorrow," because it wasn't like he had anything better to do and he really did enjoy talking to Sascha. Not to mention he wanted to make sure that jerk, Steven, didn't show up again.
Sascha waved at him as he walked up to his home and Evan waited until the door had closed behind the florist before driving off.
- - - - - - - - - -
Halloween was always a fun time for Sascha, granted, holidays in general were things he always enjoyed. But on Halloween, he could just sit in his shop and give out candy while looking at all of the costumed people. It was fun and it was distracting -- and it brought in sales -- and Sascha got to eat the leftover candy which was always a plus. This year he'd save some for Jason, because he'd been very good and he would probably appreciate it.
The door opened and a group of children and their parents walked in, all excitedly calling out, "trick-or-treat!"
Sascha laughed as he extended a bowl filled with candy to the kids. He was particularly amused by a little boy dressed as a wizard, complete with a long, graying beard and mustache.
"Alright, and a flower for all the girls," he said, offering one of the black and orange paper flowers he'd made for the occasion.
They left in a flurry of wings and wands and superhero capes, all calling out their thanks to Sascha, the parents waving at the florist. Sascha set the bowl down on the counter and went around to grab another bag of candy. It was still very early, yet he'd already gone through plenty of candy. He was glad he'd bought as much as he had. The bell chimed again and he looked up, expecting to see more children, but instead it was just Evan standing there with a smile.
"Hey," said the man, walking over to where Sascha was filling the bowl with more treats.
"Hello, Evan. I wasn't expecting to see you tonight," Sascha said, because he'd thought Evan would probably go out with some friends to celebrate.
"It's Halloween, and I was curious to see how you'd celebrate it," Evan said, taking one of the candies from the florist's bowl.
In reality, he'd been hoping he'd get to see Sascha in a costume, but apparently, the florist left the dressing up part to the kids. He was wearing his usual apron over a sweater and jeans, completely ordinary, to Evan's chagrin.
"I don't really do much, just give out candy," Sascha responded, shrugging and pushing the candy bowl away from Evan.
"That's all? No dressing up, or parties, or anything?" Evan asked, a bit incredulous, Sascha just smiled.
"Nope, none of that. I'm not really one to enjoy parties, and it's a bit hard to work while wearing a costume," he explained. "What about you? You're not wearing a costume," he pointed out, because Evan was still wearing his usual work clothes.
"I didn't think people would take me seriously if I went to work dressed as a pirate," he joked, drawing a laugh from the florist.
"What do you usually do on Halloween?" Sascha asked curiously. Evan doubted Sascha would approve of what he really did during Halloween, but he could give him a vague description.
"I just usually go to a few parties, spend the night with friends and try to cure myself of a hangover the next day," he also usually hoped Halloween didn't fall on a weekday because that was seriously horrible.
"No offense, but that doesn't sound like much fun," Sascha admitted and Evan wasn't really surprised.
Another small crowd of children walked in, asking for candy, their eyes shining with glee as they grabbed the treats Sascha offered them. They left as happy as all the other kids, hurrying to the next shop to get more sweets.
"So, what are you doing later?" Evan asked, sneaking a few candies away from Sascha.
"Same thing as always, go home and sleep," Sascha answered, swatting away the other man's hand.
"That's no fun, want to go out for drinks?" Evan offered.
"Evan, I don't drink," Sascha informed the man, and Evan was pleased to note that at least he hadn't seemed to mind the invitation itself, this time.
"Fine, we can do something else. Do you like haunted houses?" he doubted Sascha did, so he wasn't surprised when the florist shook his head.
"Not really, besides, it's late and I have work tomorrow. I'm assuming you have work tomorrow too," he pointed out, and Evan sighed and leaned against the counter, arms crossed.
"Unfortunately, I do," it would be nice to, for once, not go in to work with a hangover the day after Halloween, Evan admitted to himself.
More children walked in, all laughing and greedily grabbing at the candy. The girls were happy with the little paper flowers Sascha gave them and left with thanks to the florist.
"You're really not going to do anything today?" Evan asked Sascha once again, after the children had left. Sascha just looked over at Evan, clearly amused, and sighed.
"If you want we can do something on Saturday," he offered, not looking at Evan, immediately, the other man perked up. "Maybe go out for coffee like you suggested last time."
"Sure, that sounds good. I'll stop over at closing time," Evan was quick to agree. Sascha didn't even mention the fact that, apparently, Evan didn't even need to ask when closing time was.
He stayed for the rest of the night, talking with Sascha and watching him give out candy to the kids. Even if he didn't do much to celebrate, Sascha looked happy, and Evan admitted that it was kind of fun to look at all the costumes. Still, he could tell what Sascha really liked about the holiday was the chance he had to make other people happy, even if it was just with a bit of candy and paper flowers. At the end of the night, he offered to take Sascha home, and the florist agreed a bit more readily than the last time.
Like he usually did when he gave Sascha a ride home, Evan parked in front of the apartment complex and waited for the florist to unbuckle his seatbelt. This time, however, Sascha reached into the bag he carried and pulled out a smaller bag with a grinning pumpkin filled with sweets and handed it to Evan.
"I thought since you kept stealing the kids' candies you might want some of the leftovers," Sascha said with a chuckle, and Evan just grinned at him.
"You know me too well," he answered, and Sascha just smiled and opened the car door.
"Thanks for stopping by, it was nice having you there. I think having someone to spend Halloween with is pretty fun, after all," Sascha said sincerely.
He bid Evan goodnight and walked off, leaving the man grinning and a bit amused at the thought that maybe a peaceful Halloween wasn't so boring after all. Not to mention, he had something to look forward to on Saturday.