"How long has she been there, Mommy?" Milly asked.

"Who?" Victoria, Milly's mother, was very rich, very successful, very busy, and very oblivious. The hov was in the shop until 9:00am, the chauffeur had told her, and they'd only had the one vehicle at the rural estate, so it was a quick taxi hov to the small town's outskirts, then a race to make her 9:00am meeting. For an added element of charm, hovs were not allowed inside town limits, and horses only barely tolerated. And Victoria was certainly NOT going to ride a horse in her present business dress. Milly was along because she'd been promised a trip to town and this accomplished two things at once.

"That lady selling the flowers," Milly replied. "She must be over twenty!" she estimated with a young child's concept of old age. "Mabye," she added with an ominous tone, "over thirty."

Milly's mom sighed and stopped. It was 8:48. Still, she could spare two minutes for her daughter.

The woman Milly was pointing to was well into her eighties, both by looks and fact. Stooped and wearing a thin shawl that whispered of a once vibrant red, her eyes were still bright blue, unfaded even in the many years since Victoria, as a little girl, had run up to the woman to buy a flower for her grandfather. And Victoria's mother had told her when SHE was young she'd bought flowers from...

Victoria shook her head to clear her thoughts. Only a minute left before she had to continue to her meeting.

"She's been there for over seventy years, Mildred," she replied.

"What's her name, Mommy?"

"She doesn't have a name, Mildred. She's a ripe. The town bought her when she was young and rewrote her mind so all she wanted to do was sell flowers. They thought a flower lady added an element of charm for the tourists who visited."

"Young like me?"

"I don't know, Mildred. I think so."

"Oh." Mildred thought for a second. Perhaps six or seven seconds, Victoria calculated. "Can they do that to me?"

"They wouldn't, Mildred," Victoria replied, carefully avoiding a lie by saying no. "I'm far too influential in the region." The holographic clock floating in front of the bakery they were beside clicked to 8:50. "Now, let's get going. Mommy has an important..."

"But WHY doesn't she have a name?" Mildred was determined to solve the mystery of the old woman.

"Because she doesn't need one, Mildred. She's always been the flower lady. That's all she does. Now we must go." She tugged Mildred gently but firmly by the hand. Mildred went obediently along, yet still looked behind her at the flower lady, who was now holding out a yellow tulip to a young couple. Mildred raised her free hand and waved.

            "G'bye, flower lady," she said in a small voice. Then, even quieter, "G'bye, Cindy."

 

Element of Charm

Copyright ©2007 by Peter W. Prellwitz All Rights Reserved.