A World Full of Shadows


sf_gabriella_icon.gif sf_nick_icon.gif sf_yi-min_icon.gif

Scene Title A World Full of Shadows
Synopsis In the bright light of morning, Yi-Min finds herself in the darkness.
Date October 14, 2020

Rose and Trellis

October isn’t the busiest time for the legitimate business of Rose and Trellis; there are always a few fall weddings and other functions, of course, but it’s hardly the lion’s share of a florist’s work like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and wedding season.

The other side of Yi-Min Yeh’s business doesn’t have as much seasonal variety, of course, and despite the autumn’s chilly weather, people will and do come in for those “springwater orchids” and other blooms that aren’t as common as the fall blooms like begonias, marigolds, and rhododendrons.

When the door jingles, Gabriella Milos becomes the first customer of the day. She pauses en route to the counter to look at a display of cheerful marigolds, then walks up to the counter, waiting for the shopkeeper’s attention.

As it happens, Gabriella does not have long to wait. Yi-Min had noticed the jingle of the bell over the opening door straight away; it is, after all, the first such bright sound of the day to pierce through an atmosphere of serene, early-morning silence.

Nevertheless, Yi-Min appears mostly focused on what remains of her current task, which is inserting the short, newly-pruned stalk of a hibiscus into a folded paper bundle with many of its fellows, something which she finishes doing with very gentle care. From where she stands behind one part of the countertop, she offers a dimpled smile to the woman who had just entered into her domain — one as dulcet and amiably soft as the cream-colored apron she wears, and the blush-pink blooms arrayed in a lush fan before her.

"Good morning, miss. May I help you?"

“Hello!” Gabriella says warmly. taking a moment to look down with appreciation at the flowers on the counter.

“I just needed a bouquet for someone who’s retiring today. Nothing too funereal, but I’m willing to let you use your artistic license and choose from whatever’s freshest and prettiest. don’t know her favorite flowers or anything like that,” the reporter says, peering around the show, wide hazel eyes taking in the beautiful sights.

“Those are just beautiful. Do you grow everything yourself?” she asks, curiously.

Behind her, the door opens again, and one of the regulars — not for the flowers, but he sometimes buys those, too — steps in. The lean frame of Nick Holden is silhouetted against the bright sunlight from outside for a moment before the door closes behind him. He offers a quick smile when he sees Yi-Min is with a customer and walks to a display table to look around, as if he doesn’t have a particular product in mind.

When the shopkeeper looks back to Gabriella, a small grayish spot creeps into Yi-Min’s vision at the left side of her left eye, blurring her periphery.

"Of course. In fact, I think I may have something in mind already," Yi-Min answers, nodding with obvious appreciation when Gabriella gives her leave to choose an arrangement as she sees fit. The next question draws a laugh from her, a silvery sound of amusement. "Oh no, I do not. That would be far too many for me to handle. Most, I obtain from a variety of local sources. But! I do grow all my favorites myself." That last sentence lends a light to the low smile on her expression as she steps from her now-completed work, turning towards the small sea of opalescent iris flowers cresting a vat behind her.

As she does, her line of vision meets with Nick, who receives a silent, candid glance past Gabriella's figure as though to confirm 'I will get to you soon.'

Then that oddity of a blur hits… and the florist suspends her stride, reaching to graze at the side of her eye with a slow fingertip. She had always been a diligent early riser, for the sake of her business. Perhaps lack of sleep was catching up to her.

Gabby’s wide hazel gaze follows Yi-Min to alight on the irises. “Are those your favorites, then?” she asks. “They’re just beautiful, too. I’m happy to have you choose whatever you think works well; you’re the expert, obviously. Let’s say whatever fifty dollars will buy me?”

She turns to look at Nick, a small smile for him tipping her lips upward. “If you have quicker business, I don’t mind waiting,” she tells the man, who shakes his head, lifting a hand to shake at the polite gesture. As if to help make his point, his phone buzzes in the pocket of his peacoat, so he steps toward the other side of the store to answer it in a low voice, the hints of a partially outgrown East London accent coloring the words.

Yi-Min’s efforts to rub away the spot helps for a moment — with just her right eye open, her vision is clear and sharp. But when her hand falls away, when she looks at the irises, it returns — the hazy gray spot eclipsing the left corner of her eye seems to take up a little more space, edging inward from her periphery.

"They certainly are one. They are beautiful, no? I love them for their potential to come in such a rainbow of colors… ah, excuse me." Yi-Min's earnest pleasure at having such an apparently enthusiastic customer grows dim due to the dimming of her vision, and she makes herself look away from Gabriella for a second. Her kneading of her own eyelid grows just a hair more distressed, though she is still trying to conceal the fact from both customers present.

This wouldn't do at all.

For the second time, Yi-Min lifts her hand from her eye so as to continue working as before. This might go away on its own if she continued to act as though nothing was wrong, or so she hopes. With only slightly grimmer determination, she reaches to pluck the first of several irises from their bed to begin the bouquet as requested, ignoring the fact that the hindrance causes some of the nacreous silhouettes of the petals to blear for her as though inside a fog.

Rubbing causes pinwheels and starbursts to explode in inky colors behind her closed lid, and once more, when she opens them, there’s no relief. The gray blot is still there, seemingly more insistent than before.

After a blink or two, it seems to darken, shifting from gray to something darker, though not quite black. More like the color of the New York night sky in mid summer — as if someone had mixed black and orange paint together. A sort of sable that looks black until one sees something darker silhouetted against it.

With the change in hue, the shape is more defined; it’s not a circle, but an oblong shape, like a chubby comma on its side.

Nearby, Nick and Gabriella are each oblivious to Yi-Min’s plight. Nick scrolls through something on his phone while Gabriella examines a nearby display, glancing now and then at the bouquet as the florist creates it, but not at Yi-Min’s face to see the distress she’s trying to hide.

With a secret glance at both through what is left of her vision, Yi-Min counts this lack of attention being paid to her as the sole mercy she's likely to get from this. Yet who knew how long it would last, or how much worse this was due to get? With fear in her throat, heart beating like that of a wary little bird, she somehow manages to carry out the rest of the order with a minimum of outward fuss.

"How does this look to you?" she inquires of Gabriella after several minutes have elapsed and her feet have carried her everywhere that she needs to go, turning back to present a near-finished bouquet to the countertop for inspection. It's really quite fortunate she has been doing this so long she could probably do it in her sleep. It's a lovely assemblage, even if pieced together with some haste before her sight might go completely. The pearlescence of the original irises has been given a matching companion in several large, white roses, with both offset by star-like statice flowers threaded expertly through.

“Oh, it’s just gorgeous,” Gabby says, her eyes widening and her hands clasping together. She hurries toward the counter, dipping her head to inhale the heady scent of the floral arrangement. “You are amazing. And so fast. I will be absolutely sure to write you an amazing Yelp review.”

The reporter finds the bills to pay for the bouquet, adding another five for a tip above the fifty-dollar limit she’d proposed. “Thank you. She’s going to love it, if I don’t keep it for myself instead,” she says warmly, taking the bouquet in arm to head for the exit. She gives Nick a lingering look before exiting, then steps outside.

The door opening illuminates the portal with the bright morning sunshine, and the bright light seems to illuminate that dark spot in the center of her vision, turning it an angry orange for a moment, with radiating lines streaking into the center of Yi-Min’s vision.

Unaware that there’s anything wrong with his dealer, Nick steps forward, pulling his wallet out. “Black-cap calla lilies.” His usual. “You doing alright?” The question is also his usual, not an indication that the Londoner has noticed her inner panic.

Breathing a sigh of relief once Gabriella has been hurried through the rest of the transaction and out the door, the shopkeeper feels her anxiety spike anew once that door physically opens, letting daylight stream into the shop. With a soft outcry of reflex that registers to Nick like a weirdly pointed inhale, Yi-Min is forced to look away from the newest source of aggravation, quirking a palm upwards to shield her eyes.

"I'm fine," she then proclaims much more vapidly than she feels, even as her eyelids are still shuttering in a small series of blinks meant to recompose her composure. Calm, silent breaths. With her hand down again, her fingertips curl finely into themselves on the countertop.

"So. Usual amount?" is her followup question, asked much more directly than usual because it's only the two of them in the shop at the moment. If the answer is yes, she'll disappear into the back room to get him what she knows he wants, just as she had done in the past. He is familiar with the procedure.

Maybe there she can quickly do something about this… problem, too.

His brows rise at that sharp breath; when she says she’s fine, those same brows draw together in a concerned furrow. Clearly he thinks that’s an untruth, but he doesn’t call her out on it, at least not directly.

“Migraine? You need some coffee? I can run across the street and get you some,” Nick offers, but he nods to the question for the usual amount.

He pulls out his wallet, resting it on the counter. “Take all the time you need. If anyone pops in, I’ll give ’em a tour or something.” It’s said with a grin. “Really, though, I’ll watch the shop if you need a minute. I don’t have anywhere to be in particular, besides home in bed soon.”

Migraine. Nick's suggestion sends an odd sense of hopefulness washing through Yi-Min, even as she’s recovering from what had felt like glimpsing the face of some angered, elder sun god. Yes, that's all it might be. Not that a migraine was anything to brush off, but at least it was a problem with precedent in many others. One that could be dealt with.

"Thank you. Really, I'm fine." This time, the reassurance sounds more genuinely meant, even if she clearly still isn't much more fine than before. Being in Nick's presence puts her a great deal more at ease than being in that of a stranger, and she gives him a pinched smile behind one last, greatly tentative attempt to persuade the blotch out of the side of her eye with a brush of her fingers. "One of the part-timers should be coming in soon, thank god. I should be able to hold out until then. Let me go and grab your 'lilies.'"

Turning on her heel, she paces off on light feet towards the back of the shop.

“No problem,” Nick says, and the smile is kind, though he still looks dubious about just how “fine” she is. Once she’s out of view, he leans against the counter, pulling out his phone to pull up the e-book he’s reading on its tiny screen, scrolling through it now and then with a flick of his thumb.

The blot within Yi-Min’s eye fades back to that inky, tenebrous darkness but at least it’s better than having a miniature solar flare captured in the world of her eyeball. Even looking up at the artificial light doesn’t bring back the livid orange hue, though it does make the spot harder to ignore than when she’s looking away from the light, she finds. There’s no pain, nor any other sensation she’s had with the aura preceding other migraines in the past.

But after a moment, that darkness in the corner of her eye — a relief after that vibrant flare — seems more sinister. The persistent blot makes it feel like there’s someone looming just to her left, but when Yi-Min turns her head, she’s alone.

Yi-Min has never had much of a problem with migraines. Nor had she ever been one for imagining things. She is far too practical a woman for that. So, the sensation that there is some watcher lurking just out of her sight once more creates a lance of dread in her, not so much of some true hidden assailant, but that of the onset of some heretofore-unknown medical condition that is wreaking havoc with her perceptions.

For now, avoiding the shadows that pool in the dustiest, deepest corners of the back room, she presses a hand up to her temples. Breathes, slowly and deeply.

And, simply goes on to do what she has to do: her job.

When she reemerges into Nick's view, it's holding an orchid in a cheap pot, such as one might commonly find at any supermarket. It's no lily of any kind, of course, but it's not like Nick had actually been expecting one.

Nick smiles at the orchid — he seems to be a man who can appreciate beauty. “That’s a lovely one,” he says, handing over a couple of bills to cover the cost of the plant and the product hidden tucked somewhere in its trappings.

“Cheers. See you in two weeks,” he says, with a quick two-fingered salute that bears a quaint resemblance to someone doffing his cap. “Take care of that head of yours, Yi-Min.”

He pauses at the exit, glancing back, his hand on the door knob. “Might wanna look away if the light bothers you, yeah?” He gives her time to do so, before opening the door to exit into the bright sunlight without.

"I'll try," Yi-Min responds with a quiet emotion she can’t quite parse herself, watching more keenly than usual as Nick takes possession of his purchase so as to latch onto a point of focus that isn't whatever is marring her eyesight. Obligingly, she points her gaze away when he bids her to, her expression reflecting a slight note of gratitude within that motion. "You are most welcome. See you in two weeks."

It's the small things like these. Nick is a decent sort.

Seems it, anyhow.

Now, to figure out what to do with the rest of her day. Raising her left wrist before her, she squints at the face of the slim wristwatch strapped to it. It wouldn’t be long before Brynn would arrive.

She could hold down the fort until then, surely.

The morning carries on in its usual way. A couple of customers come and go, and then suddenly, there’s a little windfall of four at once. Usually in a small shop like this, that would be a good thing, but today, it seems overwhelming. Brynn can’t get here fast enough.

Yi-Min finds herself in multitasking mode, answering questions about a funeral arrangement while finishing up a bouquet of tiger lilies, the heady scent filling her senses. When the door opens again, it does so without flooding her vision with those angry orange fireworks, and only then does Yi-Min realize that the blot has faded from the corner of her left eye.

A rub at it and a glance at a plain wall out of the corner of her eye ensure that it’s — for the moment — retreated back to wherever it came from.

Hopefully for good.

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