She just couldn’t believe that she’d gotten this job, even if she’d lied to get it.
It was true, her mother was one of the most talented florists in the kingdom. But that didn’t necessarily mean that she’d inherited her mother’s gifts for flora and fauna, or her uncanny ability for gorgeous aesthetics. She literally had green thumbs, and as such, she’d been long sought after by the King and Queen, Rowan and Amaryllis, desperate to use her skills to make the palace city gardens lush and beautiful, but her mother much preferred her cottage outside the outskirts of town, away from the city’s busy atmosphere. So when a page had arrived from the palace begging for an apprentice to one of the best florists in the kingdom, she’d sent her daughter in her stead.
And ever since, Poppy had done nothing but lie. She hadn’t meant to, exactly, but it had happened anyway. She knew little to nothing about flowers and fauna; she was drawn to more aggressive types of magic, something that her mother had lamented from the time that her magic had manifested. Poppy suspected that her mother was so sick of her being underfoot she’d felt like giving her only headstrong daughter a challenge.
Something that would she would need the gods help pulling off, and at the thought, her stomach churned and clenched. But she didn’t dare retch and make a mess on Lord Earnest’s immaculate hardwood floors. Her nervousness made her head swim slightly, or maybe that was the heady, sweet scent of the flowers, propped up and arranged by color in lovely vases, some of crystal, others of glass. It was a gorgeous place, and even she could not deny that.
She decided to make herself some tea to settle her nerves; the shop, at this point in the day, was empty. So surely her boss wouldn’t mind her slipping into the backroom and making a cup of tea? She walked to the glass door and quickly flipped the sign from open to closed; it would take fifteen minutes, tops.
She looked around, wondering what she could use to help calm her nerves. A cherry wood cabinet caught her eye behind the counter, adorned with what looked like a garnet inlay, and she sneaked over to it, wincing when the door squeaked open.
Was it technically stealing if the door had just opened on its own?
She roved the shelves with her eyes, wincing when she realized that all of the tiny jars were labeled meticulously; no matter what she took, it would most certainly be missed. A subtle glow caught her eye, the second tiny jar glistening a deep violet. Her fingers twitched, and before she could stop herself, she took it and slipped it into the pocket of her apron.
Poppy slipped into the tiny backroom of the shop, which contained a tiny stove, a kettle, and rows and rows of pictures of flower arrangements, on the walls and the bookshelves. She poured water into the kettle to boil, so nervous and light-headed she felt as if she were about to jump out of her skin. There was a knock on the glass door, a quick rap of knuckles, but she refused to move. She was certain that she would not be able to converse with the customers without the tea, and her fingers found the jar in her apron pocket. She held it tightly, so worried she nearly chewed through her lip.
At last, after what seemed like an age, the kettle squealed, and Poppy hurried to pour it into a chipped mug. She lifted the jar out of her pocket and opened the lid, and put the glowing flower, dull violet with white speckles that reminded her of stars, into the boiling water. A small cloud of indigo-colored smoke exploded into being above the cup, and she winced silently. She heard the door creak open, and before the person, probably her master, could enter, she risked permanently burning her throat by gulping it down, the flower sticking like a burr in her throat.
“Poppy?” The lord’s deep, rich voice that reminded her so much of a cello sounded, and she could feel his presence, looming just behind her. “What are you doing in here? There are customers, and I was summoned from my office to accommodate them.” She could just picture him standing there, hands on his hips. “I was nervous, so… I made myself some tea,” She replied, smiling, hoping to the gods that she didn’t look as guilty as she felt.
“A guest is asking for that special-order purple orchid. The one that has white flecks on it, shaped like stars? I think you know of it. I showed it to you the day before yesterday. Do you know where it is? I looked in the cabinet and it was gone.”
Poppy blinked; the room seemed to swim before her, and she heard her master’s words as if from underwater. “I haven’t seen it,” She replied, shaking her head to try and clear it. But it only made the room tip sideways, and she frowned, putting a hand out to steady herself.
“Are you quite all right, child? You seem… distracted.”
“Just nerves, Master,” Poppy lied, smiling up at him, and his brow furrowed, as if he wasn’t sure what to say in reply. “All right. Come help me, won’t you? And do make sure you put that cup you used in the sink.” “Yes, Master.”
He left, and she crossed the room slowly, feeling her feet weighed down as if made of stone. She lifted the cup to put it in the sink, and to her horror, it disintegrated into dust in her grip. She couldn’t read the writing that was on the incriminating jar, but she knew one thing.
She would regret stealing from her master’s private stores, and not just because she was feeling so unlike herself.