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Ms. Fascinating

“Perrenials are buy-one-get-one-free and annuals are half off. Are you looking for anything in particular?”

“Just browsing,” I said.

I had wandered back to the greenhouses at our local garden center while my husband looked over some evergreens out front.

Her phone lit up and she looked at the face. “Oh, it’s my daughter — she either wants money or babysitting. Quick, which one do you think it will be?”

“Well, I don’t know your daughter…” I said as she wandered off to take the call. When I overheard her repeat the times, the answer was obvious.

I was looking for some mums for fall color in my yard.

I began to wander the greenhouse and peruse all the different sizes and colors, visiting this one and the one next door to see what all they had. I came back to the first house. I was narrowing it down.

“Are the Celosia Intenz on sale?” (Brilliant, fuscia feather-like blooms that I hoped to pair with the mums I was picking out for a hanging basket on our front porch.)

They weren’t.

“Did you guess?”

“Babysitting.”

“That’s right. My husband always says when she calls, “Oh, it’s your daughter again. Is it money or babysitting this time? Whatchu wanna bet?” he’ll say. He’s not their father. I’m sick of betting with him. My daughters are so different. This one, it’s always she needs money or babysitting.”

“Does she pay you?” I ask.

“No,” she said sheepishly. “The other one will never have kids. She has money, travels constantly. They’re like night and day.”

“You have two daughters? So do I. They sound like mine. They’re totally different but get along real well. One is a manager, a go-getter, loves to spend. The other one is more laid back. Doesn’t care about money, won’t let us help her. She tried college a few times and hated it. We said we’d help. She won’t go back unless she has a really clear idea about what she wants to do.”

“That’s good,” my new friend said. “Is that your husband?” She nodded in the direction of the front of the garden center where we were both looking as he was coming out of the center’s store. “Yeah,” I said.

“At least he shops with you. My husband’s like, “No, that’s okay, I’ll stay here.” I work part-time. I used to work full-time, but I can’t bring myself to go back. I also used to be 110 lbs., now I’m 140. I’m fat!”

“You’re not fat,” I say. She was far from it. “I take zumba so I can eat what I want.”

“Zumba, eh? Well aren’t you fascinating.”

“Yeah, I’m fascinating,” I chuckled. I think she meant it. It wasn’t like she was being sarcastic.

“Do you work?”

Work. How do I answer that. I used to work, but I had been on a long haitus — not retired exactly — but, at 64, still trying to “find myself”.

“I’m not working right now. I write a little.” Thinking about my blog which I had devoted little time indeed to in recent months.

“Write? Really? I knew you were fascinating.”

There was that word again. She was being generous — without knowing it. I found her fascinating. Was hanging on every word as she just spilled it out. I wanted to remember this conversation. She was a story.

She reminded me a bit of my oldest brother’s former flame — dark, medium length hair, similar in look and build, personality too. She had been a singer in his band, engaged to him — in a way — but ended up running away with another guy. Breaking his heart. This girl had an edge that reminded me of her-but nicer. I didn’t really know her, but she felt familiar. I liked her.

It was just me and her in the garden area at midday. We had all the time in the world to chat it up. I think she appreciated the company. She seemed like the type of girl who liked to stay busy. She’d watered all the flowers and plants already. She was just minding the store for the owner. I was helping her pass the time.

“Do you know the owner?”

“Which one is she?”

“She has scars on her face. She’s Ken’s daughter.”

“Oh yeah, the former owner. He moved to Florida or something. That’s the owner? I thought she just worked here. Yeah, I know who you’re talking about. What happened?”

“She was in a car accident.”

“I thought it was something like that.”

“She was in a car with two other friends and a some guys were joyriding and one of them hit them head on. Her friends didn’t make it. Half her face was torn off. The guys were fine.”

“Wow, that’s terrible. I hope the guys went to prison-or jail.”

“Nope. They didn’t. She used to be pretty wild, but I think she’s a lot quieter now.”

“Didn’t she have plastic surgery?”

“Minimum. She’s not vain, so I think she got just enough to fix her and that was it.”

“Wow.”

“What’s that husband of mine up to?” I said mindlessly.

“You can pay up there if you want. I’ll help you carry your plants.”

I had picked out two mums and one, not-on-sale fuscia Celosia. I wanted to keep chatting with her. I could waste a little more time. He would be down shortly.

We reviewed the others who worked at the greenhouse. The crabby one, the blond-who’d waited on us several times and had recently quit, the chubby one and a couple of others who didn’t sound familiar.

I saw John put something in his truck. “What is that?”

“Looks like weed cloth,” she reckoned.

Oh yeah. He had a project he needed that for.

He loaded his truck and then joined us in back. She rang up my three plants and put them in a tray.

“I put one of the hemlocks on hold,” he said as he paid my friendly consort. He would be planting it in the new bed for the daughter-who-liked-to-spend’s house.

As we made our way to the car, I turned and asked her name. I gave her mine. “Nice chatting with you,” I said.

“Nice chatting with you, Ms. Fascinating.”

Ms. Fascinating.

I felt that. It felt good to feel fascinating.

Almost as much as to feel fascinated.

And I got a story.