The haning tree (work in progress)
By Lofi LAde
By @S F Brooke
My jaw cracked on a yawn as I opened the shop, the bells were annoying today and I couldn’t get rid of the images of my parents’ grainy faces. My mother’s red hair was the most prominent feature of the dream, my father’s gruff voice calling for help….they never stood a chance against the diesel. I was actually a natural redhead, but I dyed my hair black soon after the accident. The color hurt too much for me to correlate it with my mother and see it on myself. My black Vans squeaked on the tile as I put on my apron and sat down to cut some arrangements behind the counter. I turned on some music and tried not to fall asleep in the quiet of the flower shop.
The bells twinkled as the door opened and my welcome was halfway through my mouth before I lifted my head and saw who it was. It was the man…again. I was tired of this cat and mouse game he was playing, if he wanted to buy something it would be today, otherwise, it’s started getting creepy. One hand reached for the Mace that was under the counter, while I said my greetings. “Hello,” I started, my tone frosty. My body and brain were tired today and it was time for this guy to go.
The redhead started right up to the counter, opening his mouth before I interrupted him.
“Look, buddy, you either need to buy something or please leave. If you’re interested in getting my number, I’m not really up to dating right now.” My face didn’t change as I talked to him, I knew it was an ultimatum but frankly with him coming in three times to my shop and not getting anything it was starting to freak me out.
The man’s face turned to one of disgust as he pulled back, “What? Ew, no, I don’t want your number.”
First off, rude. Second, also rude. Third, what did this dude want then? I was going to ask before he gently tapped the counter a few times and spoke more than I’d ever heard him.
“Forgive me, I’m not very good at this.” He told me, touching his temple. “I’m usually much better at speaking, but with you, I falter as to how to explain.”
“Explain what?” I asked, slightly exasperated. The flower in my hand was losing a few petals as I continuously shook it as my hands talked with my mouth.
With a frown he paused and looked at me again, his gaze moving from my nametag to my eyes before giving a small shake of his head. “It’s safer if I actually don’t say anything. I apologize…Libi.” He ran a pale hand through that red hair and turned and walked out of my shop. Hopefully for the last time.
“What does that mean!?” I shouted once the door closed. With a growl, I put away all the flowers I was cutting and tore off my apron. Yanking open the shop door, my gaze looked around to see if he was anywhere but he was gone. Grumbling under my breath, I closed up the shop a few hours later and headed home. Reaching for my phone, I called Gianna on the drive, pushing seventy on the turning roads to my apartment. “G, how do you feel about moving that girls’ night to tonight?” I need a drink, to talk to some people, and to vent. My hands were tight from being clenched in anger and I couldn’t get the man’s words out of my head. Clenching my jaw, a harsh breath went out of my nose.
“Are you feeling alright?” Gianna asked, hearing the difference in my tone. “Bad day at work? How stressful are flowers?”
“Very,” I growled, thinking of the irritating man that had bothered me for the past three days.
G and I moved the date to later that night, Ottie would be able to join as well. I went home and changed into skinny jeans, a tight dark blue sequin tank top, and threw on a silver necklace and earrings. I grabbed some black booties and grabbed a black leather jacket to complete the ensemble. Pippa’s was a nice little bar, there was live music most nights and the cocktails had a pretty great kick to them. I met Gianna and Ottie at a small bar table, both women already had drinks. Giving a wave to a waiter, my favorite drink soon arrived: a Mojito. It was set in front of me and within a few minutes it was just mint leaves and ice left.
“Whoa, okay, girl. Spill.” Ottie said, chewing on her cocktail straw. Her tan skin shined in the light as she twirled a piece of her brown hair around her finger.
I mumbled something unintelligible before ordering another Mojito. “There’s been this guy at the flower shop,”
“OoOOOoooO, guy trouble.” Gianna jokes, nudging Ottie with her elbow.
With a roll of my eyes, I flapped a hand at them, “No, not even close. This guy is like a freaking stalker, okay, he comes in three days straight and doesn’t buy anything!” I took a long sip of my drink before continuing my story, “Today I finally told him to either buy something or leave and he gives me some totally cryptic lines that just make the situation even creepier.”
“What did he say?” Ottie asked, interest and concern in her eyes.
Thinking back, I tried to remember. “He said something like it would be safer if he didn’t say anything to me.”
Ottie and Gianna looked at one another before I interrupted them, “Guys, I promise it isn’t anything to do with my parents.”
“How do you know though?” G asked, “The crash made you remember so little.”
I looked at the table, stirring my drink with my straw and counting the leaves of mint among the ice. The crash had been when I was young, still a teenager. At least that’s when I’d been told, it’s hard for me to remember much when I was young. My therapist says it’s because my brain went through a traumatic experience and blocked off the memories but when I try to remember things it is very hard to think past the last couple of years that I’ve been in this town and with these people. It’s blurry faces and it’s vague memories that I can remember when I think but oftentimes there’s a migraine that follows when my brain tries to reach too far down memory lane. Letting my head thump onto the table I said, “Can we just enjoy tonight? I told the guy to bug off so let’s just drink.”
Ottie and Gianna cheered and we all clinked glasses. The music grew louder and my chest became warm as the liquor hit my blood. I liked the cooler tasting drinks and finished another Mojito before the night was over. The dance floor was soon packed as the three of us partnered up with a few dance partners and as for me, I let the music take away my worries and stress. It was around midnight when I finally said goodbye to the girls, feeling just enough of the booze in my system to have a nice high but not a hangover in the morning. I also felt pretty good because I got a number from a cute guy in my back pocket. Driving home, a grin couldn’t help but overtake my face as I recounted my night. It felt good to let loose and spend the night with friends, it had been far too long since I’d done so. It was needed.
As I pulled into my parking spot at my apartment, the joy faded from my face. “What the…” There, standing in the front of my building, was the redhead. His head was tilted back to look at the higher levels of the apartment building, his dark trench coat still on as it was slightly chilly outside and there was a bouquet of white lilies in his left hand. “That’s it, this is ridiculous.” I fumed and angrily parked my car. My chest felt tight and I grabbed my keys.
“What are you doing at my apartment?” I yelled as I slammed the door. “This is beyond creepy okay? I’m calling the police.” Maybe it was the booze but I stalked right up to him and jammed my finger in his face. “Explain yourself!”
He blinked at my finger, going cross-eyed before taking in a deep breath and moving my finger out of his face. “I don’t know how else to say this, normally I have a silver tongue, but with this…” His hand went through his short red hair again, clearly agitated. He looked me in the eye, pinning me with his gaze. “This is going to sound crazy, it’s been a while since I’ve been on Midgard.
Midgard? What was this guy even talking about? “Get to the point,” I ordered, crossing my arms.
The man sighed again and faced me, the flowers covering his chest with how big the bouquet was. “Your name is not Libitina, your name is Hela. The goddess of death.” He put a hand on his chest, “My name is Loki, I’ve come to rescue you and return you back to your throne.”
My laugh was hysterical as I took in what this guy was saying, “Right? And my neighbor is the queen of England.” I shook my head, still chuckling. “Last time I checked, buddy, you aren’t Tom Hiddleston, so nice try.”
The man furrowed his brows, “Who… never mind, truly I am Loki. The god of mischief and fire and many other things although in the myths here they tend to label me with only trickery.” He seemed to be offended by this.
I threw my hands up, “You’re insane!” I took a few steps away from him and headed towards my apartment. My head was spinning from the alcohol now and I had no time for made-up games. “Leave or I’m calling the police.” Turning I took a few steps up my stairs.
“Hela, wait,” He protested, grabbing my wrist. “Please, I’m here to take you back home. It’s me, Loki, your father.”
That’s when I Maced him.
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