I thought that maybe, in time, Luke could make a great friend. And working with him was far easier than I’d imagined. I’d thought he’d fight me the whole way, be contrary as a rule, make it his personal mission to irritate me. But over the last few days, we’d found a rhythm. He came up with the ideas, and I figured out how we’d get it done. He took my direction without complaint and executed it with precision.
It was more creative fun than I’d had in years. And I was high on the feeling.
I stopped behind him, admiring the expanse of his back and shoulders with a giddy smile on my face. I tapped him on the shoulder, trying for cute.
He jumped six inches, the saw coming to a stop just as he wheeled around, the motion fast enough to nearly knock me over.
“Jesus, Tess. Didn’t anyone ever tell you never to sneak up on a man using power tools? I could have lost a finger.”
I flushed, laughing. “I’m sorry.”
He gave me a sideways smile. “No harm done. Just remember—I can’t make you things if I have no hands.”
I peered around him, looking for the crates. “Speaking of…”
Luke chuckled softly. “They’re over here. Come on, let me show you.”
He walked me over to the big worktable, and on top was one of the crates and my entire order of flowers, plus some things I hadn’t ordered but would match perfectly.
But my eyes were locked on the crate, and as I approached, he smiled, folding his tremendous arms across his chest. I didn’t even care how smug he looked.
He’d painted them a buttery, sunshiny yellow, lined them with moss, filled them with soil, topped them with chicken wire to hold the dirt in place. On the tops, he’d installed metal drawer pulls, two on each, to hang them by, I figured.
“The color is perfect, Luke.”
“It’ll match the other window. I found a whole box of drawer pulls and thought that’d be better than just using screw hooks. And I had another idea,” he said tentatively. I’d have called him nervous if I thought Luke was capable of the emotion. “Wait. Let me back up.”
He moved down the table, his hands disappearing behind the metal buckets full of waiting florals. And when he stepped back around it, my smile was wide enough to open up in a grin.
In each meaty fist was a rope, and at their ends was a board of wood as old as this establishment. It was worn and grooved, dry and etched with age. He’d made a swing.
“So when you said you’d make a flower cloud, I thought … what if we made a scene? The succulents, those can be sunshine. And this one can be rain. The cloud, the swing. In each, we could hang filler flowers in an arch like rays or rain—feverfew daisies for the succulents and purple sweet peas for the swing. Oh, and look.” He set the swing down to reach under the table, returning to view with an armful of rain boots.
The sizes varied, from men’s to women’s, big to small. Some had to be from the thirties or forties, the style both foreign and familiar, the shape of the toe, the craftsmanship of the buckles. All of them were worn, loved.
“We could set them up in the windowsill and fill them with flowers. Maybe ranunculus … have you walked through the greenhouse rows lately? It’s legitimately exploding.”
I reached for a boot, the feel of cool rubber under my hand as I inspected it with awe and appreciation. This boot had lived a lifetime, as had the components of the swing, of the crates he’d turned into planters for me.
For the shop, I corrected.
Emotion washed over me, my surprise and sentimentality over all he’d done overwhelming. “It … it’s perfect. Just perfect.”
He smiled, setting the boots on the table. “Man, I’m relieved. I figured you were going to hate it.”
I made a face. “Hate it? How could I possibly hate this?”
Luke scratched at his neck. “I dunno, Tess. I figured I’d screw it up somehow, especially since you didn’t weigh in on a lot of this. I changed your plan.”
“You adjusted my plan. Lucky for you, they’re good ideas,” I teased.
“I mean, don’t overdo it on the flattery or anything.”
“Thank you, Luke,” I said quietly, my smile small and awed. “I could never hate this or anything you create. You, my friend, are truly talented and in ways I could never be. And I’m sorry I ever made you feel like I wouldn’t approve. I haven’t been myself lately. You … you tend to do that to me.” I snapped straighter, smiled wider. I’d said too much. “So please, go nuts anytime you want with zero concern for what I think.”
He watched me with his thoughts clicking behind his eyes, though they were otherwise hidden from me. “That’d be impossible. But thanks all the same.” I opened my mouth to respond, but he spoke first, changing the subject. “Now, what do you say we get started? I want to show Mom tomorrow. If we don’t, I’m pretty sure she’ll bust in here like the Kool-Aid man whether we like it or not. It’d blow our whole surprise.”