Spring 2010, Aeon University’s annual Garden Show
The rest of the Botany Club had gone to lunch, leaving Seth to man their booth at the fair solo. He was a freshman, and though arguably he had done a big amount of the legwork in the production of the gem of their presentation, namely the precise bioengineering of the Scandinavian Moon Lily, he was still the low man on the totem pole. Then there was the fact that after the Garden Show, the grant he had received to work on the Lily would be running out. Things were looking bleak in the social AND cash flow departments.
He had been bemoaning that fact when a slender Japanese woman with long bluish black hair and dazzling leaf-green eyes approached his prized Lily beds. Even though Seth was a relative innocent when it came to women, this woman took his breath away with her delicate grace, like that of a willow tree in a gentle breeze. A faint and rather unfamiliar floral perfume tickled his nostrils as she leaned over the Moon Lily, and ran one fingertip across the flower’s blue-white petals very gently.
He stared and then swallowed when she looked up and smiled at him. “Uhh. Hi.” He managed to stammer. He must have blinked because all of a sudden she was in front of him, offering a hand.
“Konnichi-wa…” She glanced at his nametag. “Seth-san.” Seth swallowed again and then attempted to clear his throat as he took her hand and she gave it a firm gentle shake. He thought he was going to melt under her leaf-green gaze and dazzling smile. Her hand was rather warm in his, and rather…nice.
“I am Kaoi Imagawa, manager of the Ice Palace’s rooftop garden and greenhouse. You have a beautiful display here.” She smiled again. “This variation on the Lily…it is your work?”
Seth blinked at her and then nodded eagerly. “Yeah, actually it is… that would be the Scandinavian Moon Lily…Lilium Noctiluca.”
She nodded carefully and his slightly darker green eyes sparkled as he relaxed and proceeded to tell her about the flower.
“It’s a rare breed, thought extinct up until about two years ago when it was rediscovered in Greenland. Very hardy plant, it naturally does well in arid cold climates with little sunlight. It’s actually a natural nocturnal bloomer that prefers opening its petals to the gentler light of the moon than the brighter warmth of the sun.”
Kaoi tilted her head at that. “If its nocturnal why is it open right now?”
Seth grinned. “Trick of the trade.” He wasn’t going to tell her that he had gently asked the plant to show off its eeriely beautiful petals.
Kaoi smiled and encouraged Seth to continue as he explained how he had induced it to cross-germinate with a Japanese Tiger Lily to create the new viable hybrid for warmer climates. He finally finished his explanation, only to see her touch the Moon Lily again.
“She really loves you, you know. That’s why she’s displaying herself to people who cannot understand what it is like to be her, you know.” Kaoi whispered.
Seth blinked, shock written on his face. Kaoi smiled again. “I’d like to buy…say three dozen of her brothers and sisters for my greenhouse. And if I can be so bold, I’d like to hire you to help tend to them, as a part-time job. After all, the most important thing in botany is love, no?”
Seth blinked again and struggled to make words come out of his mouth. “I…”
He opened and closed his mouth, then licked his lips. “I can have the plants ready by next week, and uhm…” He stopped and stared at her and resisted the urge to hug her.
“You really mean it about the job?”
Kaoi smiled, the floral perfume stronger now it seemed. “Hai. I do. Here…take my number.”
She pulled out a piece of mulberry paper, and a calligraphic brush and inkstone, writing her name in English, and then in formal Japanese characters, along with a phone number. When she finished, she folded the piece of paper into the form of an origami lotus flower and handed it to him with a bow. She then returned the tools to her portable calligraphy kit.
“If you would be so kind, can you visit the Ice Palace on Sunday? I’ll be happy to reimburse your cab fare, of course, Seth-san. That way you can look around the greenhouse before you make a decision about my offer.”
He nodded and she shook his hand again before turning an elegant 180 and gliding off to the other displays. Seth was reminded of a leaf blown in the wind as she vanished into the crowd. It took two tries for Bruce, his research advisor to drag him back to himself. “Seth! Seth! What’s gotten into you?! Told you that I was here so you can go and get some lunch now.”
Seth swallowed and gently tucked the paper flower into his pocket. “Yeah… lunch… lunch is good.. thanks Bruce.”