Well, things have not gone the way I would have wanted in lots of ways, but that’s life. So, I’m still behind. Today we have “L”.
All of the stories are linked. Some are better as standalones than others. If you’ve missed any and want to read them, you can catch up here.
Lots of Hope
I am planting lantana in a display at the front of the nursery when I hear approaching staccato heels. The clicking of high heels is a distinctly out-of-place sound here. Typically, no one wears heels to shop at a garden nursery. At my sister’s flower shop, yep. Here? Not so much. I glance up to see a woman wearing a bright sunflower yellow sundress that strikes at her thighs and bright red stilettos. Well, go you, I think. I’d break my neck in those heels. Especially on this uneven pavement.
I stand up. She towers over me and probably would even without the three-inch heels. Her eyes narrow at me and for a moment I think she looks familiar. Her makeup is perfectly done. Her eyes a bluish violet, her blonde hair has black at the ends, every curling strand carefully placed.
“Are you Josie McGregor?” she asks. Her voice almost doesn’t fit her face. It’s low, sultry. A singer’s voice.
“Yes,” I say, frowning. “Are you looking for flowers?”
She laughs. “God, no. I’d kill them.”
She pulls a squared paper from her purse, opens it up. It’s a music score, that I can see. She holds it up. “You wrote this?”
Suddenly I feel nervous. Did I plagiarize someone unknowingly? She doesn’t look like a lawyer, but you never can tell.
I move closer to the paper, see my song, “Five Reasons to Walk Away.” I glance from the page to her eyes. “Yes.”
She snaps her gum. “Great. I want to record it and I want a writer’s credit.”
“I know, I know. It’s hard to make money as a song writer and you deserve every penny you make. But I need some street cred, you know? People look at me and just see some dumb blonde. I want them to see something else.”
“By making them believe that you wrote a song you didn’t?”
She rolls her eyes. “I’ll change a word or two. That’s my contribution.”
I wipe my hands on my jeans while shaking my head incredulously. She does seem familiar, but I just can’t figure out why. Is she somebody? “Who are you, anyway?”
Her eyes narrow. “Are you kidding? I’m Deirdre Rain.”
I bite my lip. I’ve heard the name. Never paid much attention because she sings stuff that I’m never interested in hearing. “Why would you want to sing this song?”
A vulnerable expression flits over her face and is gone, as if she knows my thoughts and has heard them before. Just bubblegum music for you, dear. Don’t try anything harder. She looks toward the lantana I just planted. A swallowtail butterfly has discovered them and hovers over the orange blossoms.
“I need something different. I’m a good singer, but no one seems willing to let me be anything other than whatever I’ve become. I’m in a box and I need out and if you repeat that to anyone or tweet it or anything, I’ll ruin you.”
I laugh at her audacity. “Look, I know what it’s like to be in a box. There’s no need to threaten me. I’ll help if I can.” Besides, I think. If Deirdre Rain actually sings one of my songs, it might mean something to me and my songwriting. Legitimacy. Even if by a poppy pop singer.
The vulnerability slides over her face again. A tremulous smile curves her lips. “Thanks. I’ve had a rough year. Mostly because I’ve been a selfish idiot, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been rough. Do you have other songs?”
I nod. “I’ve been writing for fifteen years.”
“So, why do you work here?”
I laugh. There’s the difference between writing words and music and actually singing them. But, for the first time in years, I think maybe I have hope.
“Do you actually know any songwriters?” I ask, knowing that my colleagues drive ubers, pour coffee, and wait tables.
She shrugs then shakes her head. “I suck at being a human being. But I’m trying.”
I smile. I think she’s probably okay. We all just need a chance.
The butterfly flutters to the next lantana. I feel my own metamorphosis, and hope. I have lots of hope. Suddenly.
I discovered lantanas in the past four years after noticing how butterflies were so attracted to the plants in the gardens of the Outer Banks. I’ve subsequently planted them and brought them inside in the fall to winter over. They continue to produce blossoms, albeit without visiting butterflies, in my southerly window. When the weather grows warmer without threat of frost I’ll take them outside again to watch the butterflies find them.
If you have a patch with lots of sun, you might grow lantanas and watch as the butterflies discover them. They come in vivid, happy colors.