Chapter 05: Night Shade
Sascha was humming as he swept the shop, when the bell above the door chimed. It was early morning, with the shop having just opened, and Sascha was a bit surprised to have any customers at that time. Still he smiled and looked up, only to be met with the sight of Evan standing in front of him, two cups of coffee in his hands.
"Good morning," said the man, extending a cup to the florist.
Sascha took it, a bit surprised to see Evan there so early.
"Good morning, Evan," he said. "I hadn't seen you here so early in a while."
"Well, I figured there wouldn't be as many customers in the morning," Evan shrugged, leaning on the counter. "Besides, I wanted to see if you were still mad at me for what happened last time."
Sascha looked a bit uncomfortable at the reminder, but he smiled a bit and shook his head.
"No, I'm not mad," he said. "I was never mad, you just took me by surprise."
Evan was relieved to hear that the other man wasn't really mad at him after all.
"Sorry about that, I'm not the most tactful person," he admitted, because it was one of the reasons he had never been able to stay with a woman for too long (though he didn't really mind all that much).
"It's just, we never talk or hang out outside of this place," he pointed out. "You're the only one of my friends I never see outside of work."
Sascha sighed, putting the broom he was holding aside.
"Evan, you know I don't go out much," he started.
"So, maybe you should," Evan cut him off. "Listen, I'm just trying to get to know you a bit more, okay? That's all I want from you, Sascha."
"Why?" the florist questioned, clearly confused. "I thought you weren't interested in me, so why go through all that trouble"
Evan grinned, and Sascha actually wondered if he should have asked that.
"Actually, I'm very interested in you, I just don't know why. So, I thought if I got to know you better I might find out. I told you, remember? I'm still somehow attracted to you."
"Evan!" and Sascha was definitely blushing then. The other man just laughed.
"Sorry, but you asked. Besides I really just want to be your friend, Sascha, because I know that's all you'll ever allow," not to mention, Evan didn't want to risk losing Sascha's friendship because his eyes refused to listen to his brain when it said Sascha was a guy.
"Besides, it's your fault for being unnaturally pretty for a man," he said jokingly. And this time Sascha laughed too. "So, do you think we can ever hang out as friends?"
The florist thought about it for a moment before nodding.
"I guess so, as long as it's just as friends," he insisted. "You're sweet Evan, but I still don't think it would be a good idea for us to be anything more than that."
Evan sighed dramatically.
"So I should probably find a new girlfriend, then," he said.
"Probably," Sascha laughed. "I can get you some nice flowers to help," joked the florist.
Evan smiled as he watched Sascha laugh, thinking that was when he was at his best.
They chatted for a bit longer, Sascha having taken a seat on his usual stool while he sipped the coffee Evan had bought him. It was a nice way to start the morning, he thought, especially because mornings were usually a bit slow. Evan was just telling him about a half-asleep co-worker who'd gone to the wrong floor and spent an hour arguing he was in the right office when the familiar bell chime sounded.
"Good morning," Sascha called, looking over at the man who had walked in.
He didn't say anything else though, as the man smiled and walked over to the counter.
"Good morning, Sascha," the man greeted. "It's been a while since I was here. I see you cut your hair."
Sascha nodded, not really looking at the man.
"Ah, yes, it was getting too long," he said, smiling faintly, eyes still fixed on the counter.
"That's a shame, you looked better with long hair," the man continued, leaning on the counter. Sascha drew back a bit and Evan could tell he was uncomfortable.
"So, how can I help you?" the florist asked.
The man asked for roses, red ones, and Sascha hurried to get the flowers. Evan took the time to look at the man a bit more carefully. He was tall, at least a few years older than him, with dark brown hair that was neatly combed and blue eyes of an icy tone.
"Thank you, I'm sure my wife will love them," the man said as he paid for the flowers. "I'm going to surprise her at her office, since it's our anniversary."
Sascha smiled again as he handed the man his change, but it was clearly forced and shaky.
"I'm sure she'll be very happy," he said.
The man left with the flowers, the bell sounding and the door shutting behind him. Evan looked at Sascha, who had busied himself with cleaning the counter where he had wrapped the flowers.
"Did you know that guy?" he asked. Sascha nodded absentmindedly. "Didn't seem like you liked him very much," Evan commented.
Sascha let out a shaky laugh.
"I guess not," he admitted, and that was surprising enough for Evan because Sascha liked pretty much everyone. "Shouldn't you head to work?" the florist asked.
"I still got time," Evan shrugged. "So, what's up with that guy?"
"Evan," Sascha started. "I'd rather not talk about it."
"If you don't like him why do you let him in your shop?" Evan asked instead.
"He's just buying flowers," Sascha shrugged. "You never buy anything and I let you come in," he joked.
"Fine, sell me some flowers," Evan said. Sascha looked at him incredulously.
"Don't question customers," Evan said with a grin.
Sascha smiled, a bit more brightly.
"Fine, what kind do you want?"
"I have no idea, just give me whatever you think is best," Evan said, because he'd probably end up giving them to some random woman at the office.
Sascha got to work on a bouquet of flowers in warm Autumn tones. He looked a bit more relaxed as he worked, and Evan wondered what it was about the man who had just left that had bothered Sascha so much.
"There you go," Sascha said, handing the flowers to Evan. "These should brighten anyone's day."
They actually looked very pretty in the end, Evan could tell Sascha had done his best to make them look nice. It probably helped that Evan had given him free reign.
"So, now that I bought something, can you tell me more about that guy," Evan said, setting the flowers aside after paying.
"Evan," Sascha sighed, exasperated.
"Come on, I'm just curious," the other man insisted.
Sascha frowned, crossing his arms and averting his gaze.
"It's not a happy story," he admitted.
"So maybe talking about it will help," Evan tried, and he didn't really know if that was true, but he'd heard Drew say it, so he figured it could work.
Sascha didn't look too convinced, so he tried again.
"You'll feel better about it," Evan insisted.
In the end, the florist sighed, admitting defeat. He knew Evan probably wouldn't give up, he was just too stubborn sometimes.
"We went out," he said after a while, not looking at Evan. "A few years ago, he just came into the shop and asked me out."
Evan tried not to look too surprised, though he hadn't really expected something like that. After all, the guy had said he was married, so that threw him off a bit.
"It didn't end well, did it?"
Sascha laughed, a bit bitterly, Evan thought.
"No, not really, but I guess I should have expected it," he said. "I knew he liked women, he told me so when we first started going out, but I liked him so much I didn't really care. I thought, maybe it wouldn't matter to him, he'd asked me out knowing I was a man, after all. We ended up dating for about a year, he was great, sweet and smart and we were happy. Then one day he came in and said he couldn't see me, at least for a while," Sascha explained.
"He said his parents were worried about him, they said he needed to start thinking about finding a nice woman to settle down with, so he agreed to go out with a girl from where he worked. He said he'd just go on a date with her to appease his parents, then we could be together again, so I didn't mind waiting for him. But then, he didn't show up for a while, he didn't call or anything."
Evan could see how upset Sascha still was about it, could tell how much it had hurt him. It was in the way he sat before him, arms crossed as if they would hold back his feelings. As if they were the only things holding him together.
"A while later he came back, and then he told me he was going to ask the woman he'd been seeing to marry him," Sascha had to stop there, because he was so upset, and Evan wanted to reach over and just do something to comfort him, but he didn't think it would be the best thing to do at that time.
"It really hurt," Sascha admitted. "To know that the reason he'd left me was because of something I couldn't help."
And Evan suddenly understood why Sascha was so hesitant to get any closer to him, because it was so much like what had happened to him before. To think that he'd found someone who would care for him and then be let down, to be rejected like Evan had rejected him. It had to have hurt more, after going through the same thing once before, and Evan realized that what he'd done to Sascha had been very cruel after all.
It also made him mad, to think of what the guy had said when he'd stopped by. To know that he would be so callous as to remind Sascha of what had happened and to even go as far as to mention the woman he'd left him for.
"Sascha, why do you still let that bastard in here?" Evan asked, confused and angry.
"I can't tell him not to come in here just because he left me," said the florist with a weak shrug. "And in any case, it was my fault. I knew he liked women and I still went out with him."
Evan didn't agree with that, but he could tell there was no use arguing with Sascha, at least not at that time. He glanced at his watch, noting it was time he headed for work.
"Listen, I have to go, but I'll stop by later," he said.
"You don't have to," Sascha protested.
"I want to, besides, I thought I'd give Jason a ride home," Evan said with a grin. Sascha smiled a bit, then grabbed the flowers on the counter next to him.
"Don't forget these," he reminded Evan, who had been distracted by Sascha's story. He just grinned and waved it off though.
"Keep them," he said. "Maybe they'll brighten your day a bit."
Sascha smiled as he watched Evan go, still holding the bouquet.
The man stopped when he heard his name being called and turned to find Drew hurrying over to him.
"Want to go out for a drink?" he asked.
It had been a while since they'd gone drinking after work, but with them both busy with work and Drew dating some girl he'd refused to tell Evan about(probably for fear of being teased), they hadn't had the chance to get together in a while. It was a good idea to try it again though, just relax and complain about work like they usually did while at the bar. Evan would have accepted, had he not told Sascha he'd go back to the shop after work.
"Sorry, not today, I have something to do," he told Drew.
His friend didn't look too shocked.
"What, finally found a new girlfriend?" he asked.
"No, I just thought I'd stop by Sascha's shop for a while," and that had certainly been a shock to Drew.
"Sascha? As in, the florist you asked out because you failed to notice - for once in your life - that he had no breasts and therefore was not a woman?"
Evan took the time to stop and glare at his friend.
"Yes, that Sascha, and please don't remind me of that."
Drew snorted out a laugh.
"You don't even have drunkenness as an excuse," he said, snickering. "But seriously, what's up with you and Sascha? You acted all horrified when you found out he was a guy but now you're still seeing him."
"We're friends, I stop by sometimes to chat, that's all," Evan told Drew.
"Right," and Drew didn't sound so convinced, but he let it go. Mostly because he couldn't believe Evan would ever give up women.
When Evan got to Sascha's shop, Jason was just leaving. He was climbing onto his bike and making sure his jacket was closed.
"You're heading home early," Evan said to the boy.
"Sascha said I don't have any more deliveries. Plus he doesn't like me working after dark," Jason explained.
"And here I thought I'd give you a ride home."
Jason rolled his eyes, knowing he only offered to look good in front of Sascha.
"You must be devastated," he deadpanned.
"So what are the flowers for?" Evan said - ignoring the boy's comment - because he had just noticed them and they were rather nice.
Jason blushed and looked away, trying to hide them.
"It's mom's birthday, I thought she'd like them," he said gruffly. Evan did his best to not laugh at the boy's embarrassment.
"Tell her I wish her a happy birthday, then," he said.
"Will do," and then Jason took off, giving Evan a short wave as he left.
Sascha was fixing some fake spider webs he'd hung for Halloween when Evan entered. He turned to look at him and gave Evan a smile that reached his clover colored eyes. It made them sparkle and look even prettier than usual and that was probably why Evan always did his best to get the florist to laugh and smile when he was around.
"Hello, Evan," he said, carefully climbing down the step ladder he was using.
"Hey, Sascha, how are things going?"
Sascha looked happier, he noted, than he had been in the morning. He still felt a bit bad about having asked the florist to tell him about the man from earlier. Clearly it was still a sore subject, but it helped Evan understand him a bit better.
"Oh, everything is fine, we had plenty of customers today thanks to Jason," said Sascha. "Apparently, he posted a few fliers while we was doing his deliveries so now more people know about the shop. He's still complaining about all the orders he has to take care of, but he likes the tips," Sascha laughed.
Evan smiled, leaning on the counter as usual. He noticed the flowers he'd given Sascha were in a vase on the counter. Sascha saw where Evan's gaze had landed and smiled a bit shyly.
"Thank you," he said. "For earlier, it helped, talking about it."
The other man tried very hard to remind himself that Sascha was a man, because he looked very pretty at that moment, and his brain wasn't really responding. He nodded, because he needed a moment to get it together enough to actually speak.
"I'm glad, I thought maybe it had been a bit mean of me to make you talk about it," he confessed.
Sascha shook his head.
"No, it's okay, I was thinking about it anyway, since he showed up," he said. "Telling you about it was a good way of just letting things out, it made it easier to just forget about it and get on with my day."
And it certainly sounded like it had worked.
"Good, but I still say you shouldn't let that guy back in here," Evan said and Sascha laughed.
"Well, he doesn't come here all that often anyway," the florist told him. "And it wasn't all his fault so I can't hate him for what happened."
Evan sighed and shook his head.
"You're too nice," he told the florist. "And it wasn't your fault, the guy was a bastard. If he wasn't going to take things seriously he should have left you alone," Evan had the sudden realization that it was very weird for him, of all people, to say something like that.
Sascha let out a small laugh, but it was genuine and Evan could tell he was happy.
"Thank you Evan, you're very sweet."
And then he surprised Evan by leaning over and leaving a soft kiss on his cheek. It only lasted a second, but Evan could still feel the warmth of those soft lips on his cheek even after Sascha had stepped back, looking a bit embarrassed and blushing a bright red tone. He swallowed thickly and willed his brain back to work on informing the rest of his body that Sascha was a man and off limits.
"Ah, sorry," Sascha apologized, looking nervous.
"No! It's fine, I mean, yeah, I don't mind," and he really didn't.
The florist smiled, still not looking at Evan. The bell above the door chimed, startling them, and a woman walked in, looking at the Fall flowers with interest and Sascha hurried over to help. Evan took it as his chance to leave, but he still stopped and waved at Sascha who smiled and bid him goodnight, and Evan thought it had been a good night already.