Part 1- Flowers
It all began with her name. With a name like Flower, you were doomed if you lived in a small town like Flatline, Texas. If you add in having to wear glasses, as thick as coke bottles, you were dead meat.
Her parents had been tree-hugging hippies; at least this was how her aunt always described them. She herself would never know them, since they died working for the Peace Corps shortly after her birth, leaving her in the care of her great aunt Millie. Millie was a sweet conservative woman, who did the best that she could for Flower, but she couldn't do anything about her name. You could shorten it to Flo, but then she sounded like she should be waitressing at a truck stop somewhere.
Her only friend growing up was Bradley Henderson. He was overweight and forced to wear some unfortunate headgear, but one day they discovered they owned the exact same Malibu Barbie, the one with the brown hair not the bleach blonde hooch. They were inseparable from that moment on and together teased without mercy. He was Blowfish-Bradley while she was Flower-Four-Eyes. She thought to go by her middle name once, but it was Luntz, and after learning the things that rhymed with that, she quickly reverted to Flower.
Flower swore she would change her name to something normal like Mary as soon as she turned eighteen, but on her sixteenth birthday, Millie took her to get contacts and that same day she met Chad.
Chad Williams at seventeen was already six foot four. His sweeping dark hair and laughing blue eyes stole her young heart away. He told her that her name was beautiful just like her. Of course, he also told her she was the only girl for him, divested her of her virginity, and then left her stranded at prom, but the new love of her name stuck even if he did not.
Losing Chad crushed her heart, and she was sure that she would never recover.
She even momentarily considered marrying Bradley, just so she wouldn’t have to spend the rest of her life alone, since as a teenager she truly believed that without Chad, the world would end, but luckily, she didn’t go through with it, especially since Bradley now lived as Brandy. He danced four nights a week down at the Queen of Diamonds in Abernathy and he was everyone’s favorite gal. The Barbie should have been a tip off.
Flower flipped her long jet-black hair over one shoulder brushing her bangs out of her eyes. She readjusted the pins sticking out of her mouth pulling out just one. Once the hem of the shimmering gold dress was pinned to her liking, she stood trying to work some of the kinks out of her back.
“How does it look from the back?” Bradley asked twisting at the waist in attempt to see behind him.
“Quit twisting it or I’ll never get it right,” Flower, chastised.
Bradley dropped the material, as if it burned his fingers. “Sorry, sugar, I’m so excited about this new creation of yours that I’m getting impatient for it to be finished.”
The Queen of Diamonds’ held an annual charity event called, of all things, The Queen of Diamonds annual charity event. It was a huge gala, but the biggest draw of the evening was the fashion show at the end of the night. As strange as it may seem, designers fought tooth and nail to have their creations displayed across the stage. Apparently, drag queens dropped some serious cash on their costumes, and this year the leading designer was none other than her. Flower Luntz Calloway.
She loved to make a person beautiful, which was her dream. It may not seem like much to some people, but when people felt beautiful, it showed in everything they did. It made things better even when you were at your worst.
She was a huge success in Flatline, Texas and even fairly well known over in Abernathy, but this event would make her famous. It was not the kind of famous, where people stopped you on the street for your autograph. It was more of a prestige. However, none of it would ever happen if Bradley couldn’t be still she thought as she caught him once again bunching the waist between his fingers in an attempt to see his own ankles. Letting out a frustrated growl a bell sounded from the front room alerting her to a delivery.
“Saved by the bell,” she muttered, thinking that she might stab him with a pair of shears, if she watched him destroying all of her hard work, any longer. In the front room, a deliveryman stood holding a huge bouquet of flowers.
The guy looked to be around eighteen years in age. He was snapping at his chewing gum as if he’d rather be anywhere else in the world. He straightened up from his slump when he caught sight of her. “I have some flowers here for…Flower?” he asked skeptically.
She stopped herself from rolling her eyes by force of will alone instead opting to smile brightly. Kill them with kindness; that was her motto.
“That’s me.” He handed the flowers over then stood as if waiting for something.
“Oh I’m sorry,” she told him setting the bouquet on the counter. “Let me get you a tip.”
He brushed his hand nervously over his hair. “No, that’s not necessary. Maybe I could get your phone number instead?”
She blinked at him in confusion actually wondering for a moment if he needed it for some official reason before it dawned on her what he meant.
“Um, how old are you exactly?”
He flashed a dimply grin. “Nineteen, ma’am,” he answered cheerfully.
Her hands clenched. “Okay, Skippy. The fact that you just called me ma’am should have been your first tip off that this wasn’t going to go well for you. For God’s sake. I have a bra in my dresser drawer right now that’s older than you.”
He shifted his feet uncomfortably. “So…that’s a no?”
She picked up the flowers, hugging them to her chest in an attempt to keep from wrapping her hands around his throat. “Yes. It’s a no,” she answered as sweetly as possible.
“Jeez lady, all you had to do was say no. I didn’t need a whole speech about you needing to replace your underwear, and for the record, I really don’t want someone with a nineteen-year-old bra anyway. I got me some standards.”
He stormed out leaving her feeling oddly disappointed, which should’ve been a warning sign that she had been too long without a man. Well, a man who actually wanted to be a man, maybe she should have scooped up Skippy while he was willing.
“More flowers from Chad,” she called down the hall, but as she turned the corner, she caught Bradley with the dress hitched up around his waist, so that he could rearrange his junk.
“Damn it Bradley!” She screamed slamming the flowers down. His head shot up and a look of guilt past over his face before he turned mutinous.
“I’m sorry Flower, but you have no idea what sequence will do to your boys.”
“Please, please tell me that you’re wearing underwear underneath there,” she begged even though she already knew it was a lost cause.
“Um, well. It kind of messes with the line of the dress.”
“Oh my God,” she breathed. “This cannot be happening to me, not now. I have exactly one week to finish every one of these gowns before we head out to Nashville for the gala. What am I supposed to do if you keep refusing to work with me?” A single tear ran down her face, but she couldn’t stop it any longer, nor did she want to. While this was a wonderful opportunity, it also stressed her out to the point, that she was pretty sure that she was going snap.
Bradley clicked across the room on three-inch heels drawing her into his embrace. “I’m so sorry baby. Just tell me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it.”
Flower started to speak but a knot formed in her throat making it almost impossible. Her voice ended up coming out in a squawk. “I’m going to fail. I’m going to be an utter complete failure. From this day on people will laugh about me behind their hands, because I don’t have what it takes to do this.”
“What do you need to get this done?” Bradley asked solemnly.
“I need you to hold still; don’t twist the dress; not at the waist and not with your hands. I just need you to stand still long enough for me to get measurements and pin the hems. That’s all. That’s all I’m asking of you.”
Bradley felt like shit. He was so accustomed to playing his part that sometimes he forgot that he didn’t need to play the game here with Flower. She deserved this break for her career, and he wasn’t the understanding friend that he should have been here lately. “I’m sorry. I have no excuse for my behavior. I know how important this is to you. Let’s try it again. I’ll be a good boy, and we will have your dresses ready even if I have to call in reinforcements. Okay?”
She only seemed to cry harder at his words. He hated to see her cry. It was one of those things, which were almost intolerable for him. He dropped his act completely. Becoming only the Bradley, she had known all her life. “Seriously Flower,” he pled using her name intentionally hoping it would snap her out of her tears and make her realize how serious he was. “I will fix this.”
She stared at him for a moment, as if she were in shock. He wondered if he was making a mistake by dropping his mask, but then she sniffled and smiled brightly. “You know I like Brandy because she is you, but I love Bradley and I miss him if that makes a lick of sense.”
“You miss me?” He asked feeling confused but relieved.
She nodded. “I do. You’re living over in Abernathy now and the only times I see you are when you come in for a new dress. A part of me thinks that you’re not even coming to see me anymore, just my dresses.”
Bradley’s chest tightened at her words. There were so many things that he couldn’t tell her, and so he did stay almost solely in Abernathy, just to keep from saying too much. Some truths went unchanged and they were not secrets. “I love you too, and I miss you so much. I’m sure that I could find someone closer to my house to buy dresses from, but yours are the best so for me it’s a twofer. I get to see you and get what I need.”
She didn’t have to know that what he needed was her, because what she needed was not him. She deserved all the happiness in the world and he was all that was wrong with the world.
Flower was visibly straightening her shoulders. “Okay. I had a moment, but I’m over it now. Let’s get to work on your gown. I want my man to be the hottest chick there.” And, that’s why he loved her. He loved her all of his life.