Roses, Part 2

Part 1 was last Sunday, here: https://madgeniusclub.com/2022/02/06/roses/

Jenna had a list of everything she needed for the rose bed, and everything but the roses themselves piled on a cart. She looked around. “Where’s AJ? I want to make sure he likes the ones I’ve picked out.”

“He’ll like anything you decide. He always does. As for where he snuck off to… over there. Huh. Face down in the flowers.” Gunny was looking off toward the table of miniature roses, and Jenna realized AJ was crouched so low his head was even with the taller plants, face actually down in a rose plant.

The shop assistant who’d been helping them spoke up as they approach. “Oh! Those are officially called Hearts of Space. They have this lovely spicy scent.”

AJ did not look up from the black roses with a startling red-orange center. He spoke just loud enough for them to hear. “Like Amanda’s clove cigarettes.”

Jenna wondered who Amanda was. From the way Gunny wrinkled up his forehead, he was wondering, too. The shop assistant, though, kept right on going. “These have only been on-planet for… wait, you know Amanda Grimsley?”

That brought AJ’s head up, eyes wide open and locked on. “Amanda’s alive?”

“No, she died in a car accident about five years ago.” A hesitation, then, “Did you know her, Upstairs?”

AJ froze – a hesitation so slight Jenna knew no one else could see the way he reflexively cooled down at the unwelcome news. “Damn. Yeah, I met her up on ThreeFree.”

The assistant nodded awkwardly, and tried to fill in the silence after the unwelcome news. “She was the most amazing horticulturalist. She actually named that rose breed Strykers, you know? Because they have cold edges as black as space, but with a warm heart. Rumour says the original grafts she brought down, each one had individual names. The nursery that hired her, they didn’t want to call the breed that because, well, you know, the growers in the Fed… She took the secret of where she got them from to the grave. Do you know where they came from?”

AJ shrugged, hands spread out in what looked like a natural gesture. But he never made natural gestures; they were always premeditated. “Can’t say, ma’am.”

That was enough to make Jenna bite her tongue. Can’t say was a world different, in AJ’s careful speech, from don’t know. Before things could go south, she spoke up. “We’ll take… four?” She’d been planning on four roses in a trial bed.

“Six.” AJ said it firmly, and she followed his lead.

“Six. And everything we need for the bed, if this isn’t enough.”

As they loaded up the truck, Jenna paused to put a hand on her protesting lower back, and looked at the pretty little plants. “I’ll call the best one AJ.”

Her husband looked at her, looked at the roses, and resumed loading. “No. The best one’s Skid. He better not be the first one to die, this time.”

There was nothing she could say to that, except to give him a long, silent hug.

(This is not in the next book. This is purely spawned by one of my alpha readers claiming that AJ hates plants. AJ, I protested, does not hate plants, when they’re in their proper place and controlled. Now I have three chapters, of which this is an excerpt, in which Jenna, AJ, and the resident expert on roses (well, Gunny has them, and they’re not dead) go shopping. He may have consulted with a certain widow hastily before the madcap adventure commenced. Something about digging in rosebushes recently because he lost a bet… but that’s a different story for another time.)

Part 3 here: https://madgeniusclub.com/2022/02/20/roses-part-3/

Photo by Seemann at Morguefile.com

16 comments

    1. There’s one more part to this next week.

      As for the next story, I have to write it first. Well, I have to write the screaming and shooting chapters of the climax and the (spoiler) and the (spoiler) and the after-action debrief part one with (spoiler), and then the AAR with Crane including (spoiler) and then the ending that wraps up the theme, and finally the epilogue with (spoiler)

      And somehow make all the screaming and shooting tactically correct, and all those wrapping-up bits not boring.

      (…Or I could run screaming into the night. That is gaining a fascinating attraction as the best alternative.)

      Sorry, it’s been a week. But I did get one fight, and one chapter closer, this week.

      1. You mean that it’s impossible to write a quiet story (without the screaming and shooting) about these characters? [Puzzled Smile]

      2. If you choose to run screaming into the night, just remember that the time change is coming waaaayyy too soon and plan which end of night accordingly. Oh, but the full moon is Wednesday, so you could give the neighbors a new rumor to talk about. “[“What do you mean a werewolf in {redacted}? Don’t you need, like trees-n-stuff to have werewolves, like in the movies?”]

      3. The thing to remember is, while you running screaming into the night may be entertaining, most of us would perfer to pay for stories.

  1. Nice snippet, Ms. Grant. I finished reading all three book of this series a few days ago, looking forward to the next one.

  2. If they don’t fit anywhere else, just stick them up for $.99 . . . nah, really, that’s hardly worth it, make it $2.99. I’ll certainly pay three bucks for a brief fix of some of my favorite characters!

    1. Must agree with Pam. Lovely story so far and I want to see the rest. I’d love a collection of short stories/novelettes/novellas with who cast of characters.

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