happy woman working in flower shop

Love in a flower shop

Some parts of the world are still exciting places in which to live, even for people who have tired of the trodden world. One such place is the city of Shanghai, in East China. At the last count, Shanghai was the third biggest city in the world, with upwards of 26 million people living there. Colin loved residing among them.

You see, Colin appreciated living in South Shaanxi Road, in the French Concession area of Shanghai. The suburb was certainly a more convenient, safe place in which to live and work than his home town of Welkom, in Free State.

The concession areas were forced out of the Qing Dynasty, starting with the British government in 1842, to facilitate trade. By the 1930s, Shanghai had become the most important port in Asia. Colin felt as if he was living somewhere that had been part of people’s lives for centuries. One could not say that of the mining town of Welkom.

Colin felt strangely at home in the French Concession as his family had fled to Africa from France sometime back in history to escape religious persecution.

There were enchanting moments on offer.

Many of the buildings indeed seemed to be straight out of Paris. The buildings were old and it showed that they had been built by French people for French people. London plane trees lined the streets, but you had to know the history of the city to know that. The trees had been introduced by French people maybe 160 years back when French people moved in there.

There were enchanting moments on offer. Colin always enjoyed walking along South Shaanxi Road. A tiny flower shop on the road always caught his senses. One could take in the fragrance of the flowers from about 15 metres either side of the door. After appreciating the shop for about years, something changed inside the shop, as small as it was. Colin noticed a woman sitting inside at the only table, sipping green tea from a quaint cup. She was so familiar to Colin. He knew her.

Slyvia had lived in Shanghai for about three years before moving into the French Concession. She had been attracted to the area by its history. She also lived in South Shaanxi Road behind two big black doors off the street.

Slyvia worked at a school as a social studies teacher. Her landlords in the French Concession also owned a flower shop – the flower shop. They loved nothing more than for Slyvia to repose in their store, work on her computer and drink their tea. Neither could speak each other’s language. She reminded them of their granddaughter of the same age who lived and worked far away. The fragrance of the shop was enchanting and the colour of the petals lifted her soul. Slyvia loved to drop in to smell the roses, for want of a better expression. 

There in a South Africans in Shanghai WeChat group, was Colin.

Slyvia noticed that if she was there in the early evening, often a chap walked past who was so familiar. She noticed, but pretended not to, each time he walked by.  Slyvia had seen him before, she was convinced. So, she did what so many women her age around the world did, she searched for him on social media. And there, on a South Africans in Shanghai WeChat group, was Colin. She recognised him as he used his own picture as his profile picture. She also learnt a lot about him from his Moments, which was a part of WeChat where people recorded their lives. Colin had also looked for Slyvia on social media, but had not found her, as she had not used her real name nor photograph.

On a Friday evening in October, Slyvia saw Colin on the pavement outside the store. He stood there for a few seconds then entered the store. He bought pale purple roses, but did not seem sure of what he was going to do next. Colin took the bunch of flowers, turned Slyvia, and made as if to say something. He stopped. Colin and Slyvia looked at each other. Their eyes locked for a split second longer than was necessary.

Colin fled the shop. On her way out of the florist later, the old owner looked at Slyvia and smiled in such a kind, grandfatherly way, as if he knew a secret. He said to her in Mandarin: “That young man; you have awakened his spirit. He thinks you are elegant and is optimistic you will be united with him.” The old man knew the meaning of the colour of flowers. He and his wife laughed knowingly. Slyvia did not understand a word, but walked out lighter than she had felt for a long time. She had a feeling that something good should happen to her.

Slyvia noticed on Colin’s Moments that he was off to a pub the next day to watch a South African rugby match on television, out of Japan.  She resolved that she had to be too.

“We need another chair at the table.”

Slyvia walked past the flower shop on the morrow to get to pub. The fragrance caught her a little by surprise. She loved again the aroma. For a reason Slyvia could never explain, she went in to buy the same pale purple roses. The owner flatly refused to take her money, but he did have a huge smile on his face. He told his wife in Mandarin: “We need another chair at the table.” Slyvia knew they were speaking about her.  

Thus, Slyvia found herself at a rather smokey, rather busy and very loud pub. It wasn’t that unbearable. As the evening wore on, Slyvia had the sense that somebody was watching her. It was not an uncomfortable feeling, but was very real.

A face appeared through the gloom a table or two away. Slyvia recognized Colin looking at her. Slyvia froze in her seat. Colin smiled at her, stood up and walked over. He held out his hand and introduced himself. Slyvia could not believe how silly that was. She blurted out: “Who were the flowers for?” Colin replied: “They were for you. I was just too shy to give them to you.” Slyvia reached around for the bunch of roses she had with her. “Well, these are for you,” she offered, with a smile. “We both can’t be shy,” she said. Her laugh and happiness were infectious. Colin also laughed, somewhat sheepishly.

Slyvia and Colin found each other in Shanghai. It was love in the flower shop, you could say. They are still together. They speak of marriage and family and children and being together forever.

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