Ken walked into the florist from the sidewalk and looked at colourful variety of arrangements before his eyes along with smell of hundreds of fresh blooms reaching his senses all at once. On this important day he always took his time picking out the right bunch of flowers with the sweetest scent and prettiest rainbow of colours.
“Hi!” A chirpy young girl wearing a green apron called out to him from behind the counter.
“Hi,” Ken said politely, and then he resumed his careful process of analysing the blooms before him.
“Are you after some flowers for someone special…a girl perhaps. After its St Patricks day, it’s another good excuse to give a girl some flowers.” She hinted with her smiling green tinted eyes her bright pink hair blended in with the sprays she was currently working into an arrangement with a leprechaun in the middle of it.
“Oh…she’s special…I ahhh… It’s a special day…not because its St Patricks day…I don’t have any Irish in me…I just want to honour her.” Ken stumbled over his words and looked away from her prying eyes. He really didn’t feel like going into long winded explanations about why he was buying flowers for a girl on St. Patricks Day and the usual comments that followed. “Oh, you’re so sweet…I wish I had a man like you in my life…” Then he’d blush to the roots of his hair quickly purchase something not quite to his standard and rush out the door to find another florist after ditching the not so perfect bunch of flowers to an old lady passing him on the street.
Her continual chatter brought him back to his reasons for being there.
“How sweet, well let me help you find that special arrangement.” She said enthusiastically. “What’s her favourite colour?
Good, Ken thought. A girl that didn’t ask way too many prying questions, she was straight to point the way he liked it.
“She likes red and yellow. Pink and, green purple and orange and blue…all the colours of the rainbow.” Ken smiled broadly.A memory of sitting with her one day when she was very ill looking out the window after a refreshing shower of rain to see a stunning at a rainbow arch stretching itself across the blue sky…seeing her watching it dreamily and asking him if there really was a pot of gold and a sneaky green clad Irish leprechaun at the end of it. “I bet there is, we’ll find it together one day…” He responded…”I’ll fly my plane across it until it takes me to the end of it…I won’t let a leprechaun get in my way,” he declared.
“I’m sure you won’t Ken…” She said ruffling his hair and then pulling him close so they could enjoy the brief beauty of the rainbow together.
“I’ll make you up a new arrangement then, one with all of those colours in it- do you have a price range?” She asked as she began to study the loose flowers on her table.
Ken gulped he knew this would come and he pulled out his wallet and scanned the lack of notes inside. Quickly picking up a pen he began to write a note. “I have eighty dollars on me, is that enough for something really special? But I need two the same…one to take with me and the other to this address.”
“I can do something amazing within your budget for two floral arrangements…and delivery included, so what you have is plenty, do you want then in box’s or a large posy for a vase?” She asked.
“A box arrangement will work fine.” Ken agreed.
“I know this will be look even better!” She said brightly and pulled out two child sized white gloss painted tin buckets and began arranging the colours of the rainbow inside it. Ken had to admit the flower arrangements were shaping up to be the best he’d ever given her yet over the time he’d begun this tradition. Only this year he decided to expand on his tradition to include someone else.
“No Leprechaun’s…” He added. “Mmm, maybe just in the ones you’re delivering.”
“Whatever you like sir.” She said merrily.
Eventually she handed him a beautiful arrangement of all kinds of brightly coloured flowers resembling the rainbow.
“Perfect. You an amazing florist.” He breathed, excitement growing inside of him. “She’ll love em.”
The young girl’s bright smile intensified and a light pink blush rose on her cheeks. “Thank you, no one has ever said that to me before. The girl you’re giving these to is one lucky lady or two…are you sure you don’t want to put a name on the ones I’m delivering?”
Ken shook his hear and frowned momentarily. “No…its not needed…you know I’m the lucky one and today I want her to know how much I appreciate all she’s done for me.” The young florist’s sweet face turned to confusion but she appear bright enough not to question him any further and went back to her work.
* * * *
Ken had a spring in his step when he walked out of the florist and jumped into his car he drove out to a lush green grassy place overlooking the ocean. Stopping at a familiar place not far from the main road he chose to walk down the simple driveway towards his destination carrying his new floral arrangement. A black Hearse in the distance surrounded by mourners dressed in black reminded him of the day he said goodbye to her and how it torn at his heart when the coffin was slowly by the pall bearers into the cremation house over the other side of the hill.
“She’ll never see a rainbow again…or flowers again…there’ll be nothing left of her.” He whispered though his tears. Why he uttered those words when he was only eleven years old while watching her coffin disappear into the building he didn’t know.
A year later most of her ashes had been scatter by her request at the crash site that had claimed his own fathers life. The lie she’d believed to be true he’d learn about years later cause him to feel the deepest anger towards his father for the grief he bestowed on her.
Ken stopped before a small plaque on a stone similar to a grave site beneath it contained the small amount of ashes he kept just for this place, something for him to come to be with her memory.
“Hi Ma, it’s me Ken.” He said sitting down next to plaque, he starred out towards the ocean allowing the light breeze and the tranquillity of the quiet cemetery to relax all of his thoughts and allow the cherished memories of his childhood with her to come flooding back.
He smiled as he heard her sweet voice in his ears again. “Ken…” She beckoned him with her sweet voice. “My darling boy I love you…today is special you know…today I get to spoil you…we won’t be inviting any leprechaun to the party.”
“No Ma…it’s my day to spoil you too.” He said aloud looking back the inscription on the brass plaque before him on the ground.
“I brought you some flowers, all the colours of the rainbow…just to say I love you…Happy Birthday Ma. It’s our special day.” Ken placed the beautiful arrangement in front of the plaque fresh tears streaming down his cheeks. For him this day wasn’t about an Irish man who chased all the snakes out of Ireland. It held a far more personal value closer to his heart.
He didn’t care about the tears rolling down his cheeks, they were a mixture of sadness and happiness for all the times he had spent with her on this day and all times he’d had to celebrate it without her fussing over him and trying to make him the centre of attention when it was last thing he wanted.
He sat there silently for a another hour before decided to leave as the daylight began to fade, he knew he had one last place to stop before going home to his usual routine of reading a book and getting some sleep.
* * * *
A short while later he pulled up in front of the Snack J, jumping out of the car he walked casually towards the front door with the ‘closed’ sign sitting at an odd angle across the window.
Jun rarely closed the Snack J especially after a mission and today she would have drawn in far more money since it’s a day when people go out to have green beer and Guinness and food.
Deep inside he appreciated Jun’s thoughtfulness in going out of her way to mark special occasions within the team. Jun didn’t know it, but she was also a very special lady in his life and he planned to tell her one day his real feelings for her when the war was finally over. Until that time he chose to appreciate their close friendship and allow it to deep over time.
He put his hand on the door knob only to have it opened for him by Joe.
“About time you showed up, you know she’s been fretting… thinking that you decided to do something else tonight like hang out a bar with green beer and big green hats.” Joe scolded him. “And its driving me nuts!”
“Why would I do that when I got specific instructions to be here for dinner?” Ken didn’t try to hide his bewilderment.
“You’re trying to put her way of doing things into logic again, don’t even go there you’ll spend a lifetime trying to figure her out.” Joe said casually.
Ken felt his insides warm up at that statement…a lifetime trying to figure her out…he could possibly live with that. Pushing past Joe he was in for his next surprise.
The Snack J interior was covered in decorations and balloons and large banner across the top of the counter. And not a single big green hat in sight, she put the focus on him.“Happy Birthday Ken.”
“Don’t stand there looking so embarrassed Ken- she went to a lot of effort to make it your day.” Joe said from behind him. Was he that transparent, Ken thought blundering for a minute to regain his composure.
“I can see that…just…well I didn’t expect her too.” Ken admitted. Just a birthday cake would have been more than enough fuss for him.
Jun came bursting through the doors of the kitchen carrying some party pies and sausage rolls on a big plate. With a small bowl of red tomato sauce.
Her sweet smile and bright cheery manner was infectious. “Ken!” She gushed wildly. ”I’m so happy you’re here, you said you had something to do, I just didn’t know it would take up most of the day…and then I thought…well forget about that, you’re here now and that’s all that matters”
Ken flashed his best smile in her direction and watched the gentle pink blush creep into her cheeks just as she turned her face away from him to hide it. It had been his secret delight for over year, making her blush and giggle with only a simple flash of his smile in her direction.
“Jinpei and Ryu are bringing out the rest of the food, just some cocktail frankfurts and Italian spinach and ricotta pastries…its all we really had since we didn’t get to shop before the mission.” Jun apologised. “I did manage to get out to a bakery…”
“It looks great Jun…I love all the decorations. And party food is the best!” Ken said sincerely casting his eyes once more over her effort to make his birthday special, just like his mother did every year from the time he was born till the last birthday he had before she died.
“Hey big bro finally showed up to his own Birthday party!” Jinpei teased from the doorway.
“I’m hungry, let’s hook in.” Joe sat at the table with five place settings.
Grinning merrily Ken soaked in the atmosphere and joined him, and the five of them spent the rest of the evening laughing and eating. As the night drew to a close Jun had Jinpei turn down the lights and brought out a simple birthday cake with eighteen candles brightly lighting her way as the rest of them sang ‘Happy Birthday’ out of tune. She placed it before and he blew them out in with one sweeping breath.
“Always knew you were full of wind.” Joe drawled with a sly grin. After they all shared in the chocolate cake Joe took his leave and left for the race tracks followed by Jinpei and Ryu.
“Let me help you clean up.” Ken offered.
“I’m fine to do it Ken really, I’m sure you have better things to do on your Birthday than to spend what’s left of it cleaning up after your own party.” Jun said brushing off his offer lightly.
“Today is my day…and if I chose to spend what’s left of it with the two women I care about the most in the world than I can’t think of a more perfect way to end it.” Ken picked up a few dirty plates and headed towards the kitchen. Opppsss, he thought. I said two girls…
Jun stood frozen, her crest fallen face went straight to his heart. Did she think I spent a few hours with another girl? He wondered.
“Oh…well if you want to go back and catch up with her…that’s fine by me.” She said bravely trying to hide how it really effected her by a flippant wave of her hand- she thought he was with someone else? He wondered.
Ken felt he needed to give her some explanation. “She won’t be going anywhere, besides she knows I love her, and every year on my birthday I visit her.” Ken knew he was being cryptic, but he enjoyed her reactions, it showed him her deeper feelings for him even when she thought she had her feelings tightly concealed from him.
“Who is she?” Jun asked politely, returning to the tables to clear off more plates and mess, she looked to be steeling herself for some kind of truth.
“My mother…on my birthday I take a specially selected bunch of flowers to where her ashes lay in rest.” He said softly.
Jun put down the plates, her expression changed to one of compassion and questioning. “Really, you do that on your own birthday…why not do it on her birthday?”
Ken lost in his thoughts for a moment worked to put it into words so it came out right. “I do it to show her that I love her and today is her day of celebration too because she gave me the greatest gift anyone could ever give me…life, she went through 16 hours of labour for me to come into the world…so she earned her flowers today even if she’s not here to see them. I hope she looks down from heaven and see’s them and know that its my way of saying thanks for all that she give me in the short time we had together. ..”
When he looked over at Jun her eye’s had become shiny with tears. She picked up a napkin to wipe them away. “On Ken…that’s so thoughtful of you. I don’t know of anyone that would do something like that for their mother…especially on their own birthday.”
“I know someone…” He said walking over to her he gathered her in his arms and hugged her close. “Thank you Jun, for making my birthday special and going to all the effort…you deserved flowers too…”
Jun pulled away from him enough to look up into his eyes and smiled with a glimmer of hope forming in them. “Funny you said that…some florist dropped those off here, she said something about not knowing who the sender is...do you know?”
“What can I say, there’s always a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow…and I can see a Leprechaun is there to protect it.” Ken grinned, knowing he just added to her confusion. “I have no idea- I spend all my money on the small posy of flowers from a street vendor for my mothers grave.”
“…I just wanted to thank the person who sent them…” She hesitated and searched his eyes, after a minute her hope turned to disappointment.
“I’m sure the person who sent them wanted you just to enjoy them, after all, I owe you a big tab…” Ken worked to cover his tracks, she was onto him.
“Ohhh…I didn’t think it was you…no...No…of course not…I just…well…ahhh.” She blundered bitting her bottom lip.
“I’ll put these in the kitchen,” He offered picking up the plates she left on the table.
“I have a copy of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ wanna join me.” Jun said her sweet smile returned, and suddenly he had better things to do than go back to his little Shack to read a book and sleep.
“Sounds like a plan…” He said. “I’ll get the popcorn and hot chocolate.” Ken offered.
Walking towards the kitchen he thought looked at the flowers sitting on the bench. Jun was the pot of gold he’d searched for at the end of a very long rainbow. The one his mother told him one day he’d find and he had to find a way to get past the Leprechaun.
He just had to finish the war…then he could claim her from the green clad leprechaun that was standing there between them know to him as Galactor. Until then he would enjoy the warmth of her friendship and the good times they spent together. And treasure every golden minute of it.