The old man’s hands shook when he handed his change over in exchange for a large yellow sunflower. The girl smiled, thanking him with a slight nod of her head. She smiled at him every Wednesday when stopped at her corner.
He walked slowly down the street, taking his time, what little of it he had left. She watched him until he was a wavering coat and other customers began clearing their throats, calling for her attention.
From time to time she would have suitors, asking what her favourite flower was and then purchasing it, paying much more than she asked or what the wilting blooms were even worth. She always blushed appropriately, accepting their gestures and often, their requests for company.
She was a pretty girl. Youth stayed with her, showing in her cheeks and eyes. She appeared to hold a joy for the world when in all honesty she could hardly say she cared much for most of it.
But she cared for the old man.
She made sure that she gave him the most beautiful, healthiest flower from her cart and she never asked for much. Her eyes sparkled at him, baring her heart, and she hoped that he would return her smiles.
He never did.
In the times between his visits, she fantasized about what the man was like before age had turned him brittle and cold. She imagined that he had been a wonderful lover, taking his lady to the finest places. She closed her eyes during slow moments and saw them dancing together under the moon, everything from waltzes to ballets, all set to wonderfully classical music.
Those who interrupted found her starry eyes and distracted, sighing with contentment. When she went home with the rich men who chased her like bees after pollen, she imagined their arms were the old man’s and that he was holding her tightly for his next dance.
She believed that he was bringing the flowers to the cemetery. Even after she had gone, the old man still cared enough for his lady to bring her everything, including the sun. That was how she thought of the large yellow flowers he bought weekly: as portable suns, reserved only for those who could fill you with the best sort of life.
The man was something constant in the young girl’s life and she cared that he chose her over any of the other vendors he might have favoured instead.
She began seeing a boy regularly as well, although his visits were to her bed and not her flower stand. He brought her favours and showered her with words but his arms did not feel warm and he never showed her those hand-held suns she cherished so much.
She sent the boy empty smiles and tired eyes, but let him stay close to her. She saved the light in her eyes for the old man and poured it into him whenever he came by. He accepted her blossoms and seemed absolutely oblivious to her affections.
The girl could feel her spirit weakening. Her eyes shone less, even for the old man, and she no longer blushed at the men who bought her roses and lilies.
The boy who loved her told the girl that he did not want to wait for her to love him back. He held her in his arms the wrong way and left her a golden locket. She smiled at him sadly, but not because he was going.
The old man continued his routine. The girl continued smiling at him but had begun forcing it a long time ago. He kept his face still and straight throughout the weeks. She longed to feel warm again from the inside.
The old man became sick. When he stopped to purchase his flower from the girl, he could hardly hold onto the stem. She assisted him, wrapping her arms under his, around the old man’s slowly expanding chest.
He leaned into her, letting the girl support his surprisingly small weight. He placed his hands on the girl’s arms and held them tightly. She smiled at him hopefully.
Slowly, in the time that it took for a universe to expand completely, his lips turned up at the corners. He looked into the girl’s eyes and she could feel the life well up from the very bottom of her insides.
She took a small step to help the old man begin making his way again. He countered with an equally small step of his own. Soon, they were turning together, counting an inaudible melody with their almost invisible paces. The girl pressed her ear to the old man’s chest and felt the pulse of his age. She sighed and knew that he was giving her the sun.