Flower Ten: Pansy–You Occupy My Thoughts

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Emma

The month of November went entirely without incident.  The only important event was that the guys were applying to colleges.  Although an expensive process, Grandmother promised to provide them with the money as part of the payment for tutoring me.  And now with the hope that Grandmother would be paying for their tuition, the four thieves could apply to schools they’d never even dreamed of attending before.

The application process was extremely hectic, and between that, homework, and preparing for their lessons with me, the guys had no free time at all.  It made me realize all the more that they weren’t the lazy thugs everyone else perceived them as, and I respected their hard work and diligence.

By the time they’d put in all their applications, Thanksgiving weekend was upon us.  Although the four thieves planned to spend Thanksgiving Day with Grandmother and me, they had other plans for the rest of the weekend.  Marcus’s father was coming home for a few days, so Marcus and his grandparents were going back to their house to have a second Thanksgiving feast with Captain Lew.  As for Heath, Stan, and Tony, Remnon Foster House was holding a Thanksgiving dinner and party throughout the weekend, and they wanted to visit some of the workers and friends they hadn’t seen for awhile.

So that meant the house would be quiet for most of the weekend.  However, Grandmother had plenty of plans for me.  Just because the four thieves would be out of the house didn’t mean I got to skip the public outing test for that weekend.

Splash and Spray was affiliated with twenty local florists in Orchid Beach, of which nine would be open for Thanksgiving weekend, minus the holiday itself, already getting ready to put out Christmas flower decorations.  My job was to visit all the shops and introduce myself to the owners as the future successor of Splash and Spray.  Then I would have to ask them all sorts of questions on their inventory and what kinds of flowers were most popular to consumers.

It was probably the biggest test yet, even more difficult than going through the Halloween party.  And the worst thing was, not one of the four thieves would be with me to boost my confidence.  But Marcus kept reassuring me that I was ready to do this by myself, and so I tried to believe him.

Our relationship had changed completely after that Halloween night.  We still bickered quite a bit, but only with the understanding that we were still friends when all was said and done.

Now I realized that although he could still be a pompous jerk and a bit of a bully, he had a good heart and only put up a tough front.  In reality, he was a big softie.  I wasn’t exactly sure why, but I always wanted to make sure I tried my best especially in front of him.  It brightened my day whenever he smiled at me or gave me a compliment.  I wanted to make him proud of how much I was progressing.

Out of the four guys, I felt like I was the closest to Heath and Marcus.  Heath was the one I turned to when I needed someone to confide in, but Marcus was the one I went to when I needed motivation.  While Heath was more of a kindred spirit, and he was never judgmental, only offering words of encouragement, Marcus was more of a reality check, spurring me on.  He was definitely tougher than the sensitive Heath, but in a good way.  Without Marcus to goad me on with his occasional harsh, but truthful, words, I’d probably try to retreat back into my world of manga and flowers.

On Thanksgiving Day, we awoke to the sounds of a full-out thunderstorm.  It wasn’t much of a heartbreak, since we didn’t have any plans to go out anyway.  The morning was dull and gray, but that didn’t keep the servants from scurrying about, trying to prepare for the evening’s big feast.

I was so uptight my task this weekend that Grandmother told me all lessons were cancelled, and I could have the day to myself to do whatever I wanted until the Thanksgiving meal was ready.

I gazed out my bedroom window, only to see nothing but water coming down furiously on the lawn.  I didn’t mind the rain.  It was good for my plants, as long as there wasn’t too much of it.  But I knew the gardeners had already covered the more delicate plants to protect them.

As for me, I planned to read manga in the quiet and solitude of my room all day long.

Or so I thought.  I read quietly for the better half of an hour before I started to get bored.  Which actually stunned me.  I’d never gotten bored reading manga before.  But today, the story just wasn’t holding my attention.  There Mina was, having all sorts of adventures, and there I was, just sitting on my bed doing nothing exciting at all.  At the point in the story I was reading, she’d gotten stuck in an abandoned house in a snowstorm with her love interest, and they were about to kiss.  It should have been exciting, considering I’d waited seven volumes for this first kiss to finally arrive.  But my thoughts kept returning to that Halloween night, when Marcus had saved me from the Bulk and carried me in his arms back to my room.

It wasn’t the first time I’d thought of that scene since that night.  Sometimes I dreamt about it, and even more so, I daydreamed about it during class.  And now, every time he gave me one of his rare smiles, my pulse raced, and there were strange flutters in my belly.

Finally, I decided maybe reading about Mina’s first kiss was the cause of all these strange emotions.  I needed to take my mind off of anything romance-related.  I made up my mind to relax in the spa.  It was the perfect place to warm up.

I made my way to the Aqua Quarters, where the spa, gym, and locker rooms lay.  Peeking inside the gym, I noticed the four thieves were hard at work on the treadmills, with the news on full blast.  I scurried past into the locker room, which was divided into two—one side for the women, the other for the men.  The locker room led into the spa, which was separated again by a screen into the women’s side and the men’s side, but the screen was thin enough so that the men and women could talk if they wanted.

Nobody else was in the spa, but I kind of expected that.  Everyone was too busy preparing for tonight’s feast.

I sat back in the water, enjoying the heat, which instantly unfroze my toes and spread to the rest of my body.  The heat felt so nice that I decided to close my eyes for just a second, but I must have dozed off because when I opened my eyes again, it was pitch black.  Alarmed, I realized there must have been a power outage because of the storm.

The water had gone cold, which told me I’d been napping for quite some time.  Only my shivers had managed to wake me.  I had to get back to the locker room and get on some clothes before I caught a cold.

It was impossible to see.  Somehow, I managed to climb out of the pool, but I couldn’t find my towel in the darkness.  I was getting colder with each second I sought the dratted thing out and finally decided it was a waste of time.  I’d be better off getting to the locker room, where there was a whole stack of towels near the entrance.

I groped my way towards what I believed to be the right direction and was thankful when I finally bumped into something that felt like a door.  I walked a bit further and felt around.  There should have been a pile of clean towels right by the doorway, but all my hands felt was air.  Now I was shivering quite violently, and my only goal was to find my clothes and get warm.

I started feeling my way again when something solid and strong, but radiating heat, bumped into me.

“Oomph,” I said, just as I heard another voice, deep and low, grunt out, “Who’s there?”

“Marcus?” I could hear the relief in my own voice.  “You have to help me.”

Two seconds of pure silence from the other end.  Then, “Emma, what the hell are you doing in the guys’ locker room?”

At that point, I realized I must have wandered into the wrong side of the lockers.  No wonder there hadn’t been a pile of towels by the entrance.  “It was dark, and I couldn’t see,” I said, starting to feel impatient.  Why was I even bothering to explain myself, when I was stark naked and freezing?

“Well, turn around,” he said.  “I only have a towel around me.”

“At least you have a towel.  I have nothing.”

Another five seconds of silence.  Then a groan.  “I hope you’re not implying what I think you are.  You can’t seriously be standing in front of me in your birthday suit.”

“I wish I had a birthday dress on now,” I snapped.  Even that frilly, uncomfortable contraption Grandmother had made me wear for my thirteenth birthday.  And why was Marcus talking about birthday clothes anyway?  “Any piece of clothing is better than nothing.  So help me look for something to wear before the lights go back on, and we can actually see each other.”  That would be rather humiliating.  While the human body was just the human body, and I usually wasn’t squeamish about it, for some reason, I was getting rather embarrassed at the mere idea of Marcus getting a full view of my body.

And then just as I had that thought, the lights came on, and Marcus was suddenly getting a full frontal view of me, and I of him.  Only at least the important parts of him were covered by a towel.

Several shocked moments passed, as we could do nothing but stare at each other in complete bewilderment.

Then for the first time in my life, I let out a high-pitched girly scream that had nothing to do with my occasional tantrum problem and everything to do with pure mortification.  At the same time, he let out a loud, “Oh my God.”  I turned around first, forgetting that it wasn’t helping, as now he was staring at my backside.

I snapped my head to the side and saw that he hadn’t moved an inch.  He looked dazed, as though he couldn’t move if he wanted to.  I’d heard that guys had it bad with their crazy hormones, but this was ridiculous.

“Stop looking,” I yelled, trying my best to shield my bottom with my hands, and that finally did the trick.

“Sorry.”  His gaze finally wandered back up to my face.  “You’re trembling.”

“So kind of you to n-notice,” I retorted, unable to help the slight chatter of my teeth.

Marcus spurred into action, grabbing the first towel he saw, which had been on the bench beside us all along.  He wrapped it around me, making an effort to keep his eyes focused on the top of my head.  Then he grabbed my hand and dragged me to the showers.

“What are you doing?”

“The power’s back on,” he said, “So the water heater’s back too.  The quickest way to warm up is a dunk in hot water.”  He turned on the water, tested the heat, and pushed me inside.

The hot water felt like heaven on my skin, slowly unthawing every inch.

“I’ll be right back,” I heard Marcus say.  Within minutes, I heard his returning footsteps, and I shut off the water.  He handed me a nice, fluffy towel through the shower curtain, then a warm robe.  When I stepped out, I saw that he’d already dressed, and he’d even found my clothes and had folded them neatly on the bench.

As he turned around to let me dress, I asked him why he was the only one here.  “I saw all four of you at the gym.”

“I stayed an extra half hour,” he replied.  “And thank goodness I was the only one here.  I don’t think you’d have wanted all of us to see you…” He gestured helplessly into the air, and I knew he was just as embarrassed as I.

“Please don’t mention it again,” I groaned.  “In fact, I’d appreciate it if you could erase it from your memory.”

He muttered something that sounded like “Highly unlikely,” and remained silent for the rest of the time it took me to dress.

I didn’t think I could get any more embarrassed at this point, but as I put on my underwear and bra, the thought occurred that he’d had to have seen and touched my unmentionables in order to bring them to me.  Why, oh why, had I chosen my most childish underwear—the one with printed strawberries and hearts—to wear today of all days?  Now he’d probably imagine me as some little girl with strawberry underwear.  I should have worn my black, lacy pair, so he’d think I was more sexy and sophisticated.

Oh God, and why was I even thinking about what underwear I wanted him to see, when he shouldn’t have seen it in the first place?

If this whole escapade had occurred with one of the other boys, I knew I would be slightly embarrassed, but I would have certainly gotten over it by now.  But because it had been Marcus, I wasn’t likely to forget this any time soon.  I felt something different for Marcus.  But for the life of me, I couldn’t explain what it was.

And then as I looked back at him to make sure he wasn’t trying to peek, I suddenly found myself unable to take my eyes away.  He stood straight and tall and seemed so strong and solid.  His hair was still damp and slightly messy, as though he’d quickly run his fingers through it instead of using a comb.  The back of his neck was slightly scarlet.  I knew that meant he was either extremely angry or felt awkward.  In this case, he was embarrassed.  But I remembered how red he’d turned the day he’d punched The Bulk’s lights out for attacking me.

How heroic he’d been that night, sweeping me up into his arms.  And then he’d talked to me the rest of that night, speaking encouraging words.

“Emma, are you done yet?”  His voice jerked me out of my stupor, and I realized I had not only frozen in the act of placing one leg into my jeans, I was also almost drooling.

“A-almost.”  My voice came out all dreamy, as though I’d been eyeing chocolate cake through the window of a bakery.

I cursed myself for where my thoughts were taking me.  What was I doing?  There was no way Marcus could be chocolate cake.  And I meant that figuratively, of course.  We were too different, and we fought all the time.  I couldn’t let myself become too attached to him.  It was dangerous and unwise, and frankly, the mere thought scared me.

If I should choose one of the four thieves to have a crush on, it would be Heath.  He was sensitive and kind and had made my heart race more than once.  Yes, I decided.  I would form a crush on Heath.  With him on my mind, I could safely distance myself from Marcus.

Having made that decision, I finished dressing quickly.

Marcus

Telling me to erase the images of Emma from my head was futile.  It was like telling a kid not to play his favorite video game.  Even if the game was taken away from him, he’d still be dreaming of playing.  And even before today, I’d been dreaming about her.  Now, it would only get worse.

There was no point in denying my attraction to her.  I’d known it ever since that Halloween party, when I’d seen The Bulk attack her.  But that didn’t mean I could act upon my feelings.  For one thing, her grandmother would probably kill me.  And for another, I had a feeling Heath liked her, and there was no way I could fight over a girl with my best friend.

But I found it was getting more difficult to repress this attraction.  Especially today, because, well, let’s just say, it’s not every day when the girl of a guy’s dreams bumps into him in the dark, and she’s not wearing a stitch of clothing.  I thought I deserved some medal of honor for the self-control I’d displayed.

Speaking of which, the girl of my dreams was dressing right behind me, and I hadn’t even tried to peek.  Why was she taking so long?  I hadn’t heard the rustle of clothes in a while.

“Emma, are you done yet?”

“A-almost.”  Her voice sounded strange, like she’d been daydreaming about something.  I heard her scurrying to put on the rest of her clothes, and then she told me it was safe to turn around.

When I did, the strength of my attraction for her knocked the wind out of me.  It didn’t matter that she was wearing plain jeans and a sweatshirt or that her hair was wet and sticking out in all directions because she hadn’t brushed it yet.

The urge to kiss her was powerful.  I suppressed it by biting the insides of my cheeks.

“Ahem.”  We both jerked at the sound of the newcomer.  “Emma, what are you doing in the guys’ locker room with Marcus?” Heath said suspiciously.  He also sounded annoyed and glared at me.  “Is there something you’re hiding from the rest of us?”

“No,” I said firmly.  “There was a bit of confusion when the power went out, but we sorted it out.  No need to fuss, Heath.”

“I’m not fussing,” he huffed.  I’d never seen him huff before.  It only confirmed my suspicion that he liked Emma, and he was jealous.

For the life of me, I couldn’t stop myself from feeling a sick wave of triumph.

“I was only trying to find you,” he said.  “To tell you your father’s here for dinner.”  Then he muttered something that sounded like, “Unappreciative ass,” as he exited the way he’d come in.

“Oh,” Emma exclaimed.  Her voice was a little breathless.  “I almost forgot your dad was coming.  We need to get ready for dinner.”  And then she bolted from the room, clearly too afraid to meet my gaze.

Emma

 

I was glad to finally meet Marcus’s father.  He was a good distraction to keep me from thinking about what had happened in the locker room.  I turned my thoughts to presenting myself as a good hostess and showing off my newly acquired social skills.

But then Captain Lew came into the house, wearing his pilot uniform and looking so serious that I actually took several steps back as I thought of going into hiding.  And when he then demanded to know why I hadn’t saluted him, I thought I might cry.

Then his mouth relaxed, showing all the laugh lines in his face, and Marcus rolled his eyes.  “Oh Dad, don’t scare her.  I told you she takes things very literally.”  He turned to me and explained.  “He’s just teasing you.”

“That I was, Miss Emma,” Captain Lew said.  “I’m sorry if I upset you.  Sometimes I get carried away.  You don’t really have to call me Captain, either.  Arthur will do.”

I tried my best not to show that I’d been shaken up, assuring him that I could take a joke or two.  As we all sat to a feast of turkey and all the fixings, I began to see just how lighthearted Marcus’s father really was.

Arthur Lew was so unlike his son that I was a bit caught off guard.  Whereas Marcus was all straight-faced and a no-nonsense kind of guy, his father was a laidback jokester who I would have sworn was Tony’s father if he and Marcus didn’t look so similar.

The man also loved talking about his job.  He’d been a military pilot back when he and Marcus’s mother were still married, but a few years after she’d left, he’d had enough experience to apply for a position at major airlines, which would give him a little more time to spend at home with his son.

Now he was an airline pilot who traveled all over the world and was nearing twenty years of experience.  Two years ago, he’d been promoted from first officer to captain.  I would have thought this would make him a highly desirable pilot and that he would be earning a lot of money, but he told us this wasn’t the case.  There was a lot of competition in the job market, especially at major airlines, especially because of the bad economy.  In order not to get laid off, he had to take less than desirable wages and work whatever shifts were thrown at him.  He was only able to come home a week per month, and during this visit, he’d be able to stay through the first week of December.

“You’re welcome to stay here when you’re home,” Grandmother told him.

“Thank you, but I’ll be taking advantage of the peace and quiet at home to catch up on sleep,” he said.  “So thank you very much in advance for keeping my rambunctious family here.”  His eyes twinkled.  “Besides, I understand Marcus has certain obligations to fulfill, and I find myself envious after seeing just what a pretty obligation she is.”  I wondered why he was looking at me, until Tony leaned over and whispered to explain that the captain was talking about me.  And then I wanted to hide my head, as my cheeks instantly flushed.

“Dad,” Marcus exclaimed, his face heated from embarrassment.

“Marcus,” his dad imitated him in a sing-song voice.

“All right, you two,” Marcus’s grandmother said, acting as peacemaker.  “Eat more food.”  She reached over and piled extra helpings of sliced turkey and sweet potato casserole on the plates of both father and son.

While Marcus sulked but quietly dug into his plate, his father wasn’t done talking yet.  Now he addressed Heath, Tony, and Stan.  “So guys, how have you been enjoying life?  Heath, still drawing?”

“Yes sir,” Heath replied.  “The garden here gives me all sorts of inspiration.”

“Guess what, sir?” Tony burst out, unable to contain his excitement.  “We all applied to colleges last month.  Now I might actually get into acting school and fulfill my dream to become a stand-up comedian.  And it’s all thanks to the Lockharts.”

“Oh?” the captain smiled appreciatively at Grandmother.  “Seems that you’ve all benefited a lot from Mrs. Lockhart’s generosity.  I can never thank you enough, Madam, for taking the boys and my parents under your wing.”

“Please don’t even mention it,” Grandmother blushed prettily.  “It’s been a pleasure having them here.  The house is so much livelier with them in it.  And the boys have become such good friends with Emma.”

“That’s only because Emma’s so awesome,” Stan praised.  “She’s giving me piano lessons, you know.  I’ve always wanted to learn, and she’s finally given me the chance.”

“Piano lessons, eh?” Captain Lew grinned at me.  “You, Miss Emma, are a girl of many talents.  I understand you get straight A’s at school, and you have a green thumb.”

“She has more than a green thumb,” Tony said.  “She has a green hand.”

“She’s like a dog whisperer, only for plants,” Heath agreed.  “A plant whisperer.”

“That’s something you and my wife have in common,” the captain told me.  “My wife loves to garden.  Her favorite flowers are white poppies.  I remember when we first met—”

He was interrupted at the abrupt sound of Marcus’s chair grating against the floor.  “I’ve had enough to eat,” he said.  “I have homework to do, so I’m going to my room now.”

Since it was Thanksgiving weekend, and homework wasn’t due until Monday, I wondered why Marcus was choosing tonight of all nights to get it done.

And then across from me, Marcus’s Ye-ye groaned.  “You did it again, Arthur.”

“I guess I did,” Captain Lew sighed.  “I totally forgot.”

Marcus’s Nai-nai admonishingly struck her son’s shoulder.  “How could you forget?  It’s been fifteen years, Arthur.  And you had to do this on Thanksgiving, of all days.”

From beside me, Heath stirred.  “I’ll go see how he’s doing.  He usually talks to me about it.”

He got up and hurried after Marcus.  Judging by Tony and Stan’s downcast expressions, it seemed they knew exactly what was happening, which only left Grandmother and me out of the loop.

“I’m so sorry, Mrs. Lockhart and Emma,” the captain apologized.  “I ruined a perfectly good Thanksgiving with my quick tongue.  You see, Marcus doesn’t like it when I refer to his mom in the present tense.  But sometimes it just slips out.”

“Arthur still hasn’t accepted the fact that Maggie isn’t coming back,” Mrs. Lew said.  “I’m so sorry to bring in our family drama, Penny.  It’s so shameful.”

“It’s all right, Allie,” Grandmother said.  “If anyone knows a thing or two about family drama, it’s the Lockharts.”

Dinner was pretty much over after that.  Nobody was in much of a mood to talk.  Grandmother and Marcus’s grandparents had retired to their rooms for the evening, leaving Tony, Stan, and me with the captain.  He was going home for the evening, but just before he left, he asked if he could talk to me in private.  So while Tony and Stan decided to go check up on Marcus, I brought Captain Lew to the sitting room and gestured for him to take a seat on a navy blue armchair.  Then I sat on the sofa across from him.

“Emma,” he started.  “I’d actually like to ask you a favor.  But you can’t tell anyone.  Marcus would get extremely angry if he knew what I’m about to ask you.”

“And that would be…”

“I need you to help me find my wife.”

The request was so outrageous that for a full five seconds, all I could do was blink and stare, wondering if I’d heard correctly.  “You want me to find Marcus’s mother?  But how am I supposed to do that?”

“I’ve been trying to track her for years,” he said.  “And I’ve just recently had a lead.  I think she’s working for Splash and Spray right here in Orchid Beach.”

This jolted me further.  “You mean she’s been right here all along?”  That was insane.  How was it possible that Marcus or his grandparents had never bumped into her?  “Where is she?”

“That’s what I want you to find out,” he told me, pleadingly.  “For the past two years, I’ve been getting two thousand dollars wired into my bank account every month from a private bank that only Lockhart employees use.  I’ve asked the bank about it, and all that told me is the account holder is a Marigold Hyacinth Banks.  I’m about ninety-nine percent sure this Marigold is really my Maggie.”

“And why would she give you two thousand dollars every month?” I asked.

“Because before she left, she put our family in debt.  I think she’s trying to help pay it back now, but she doesn’t want me to find her because she’s ashamed.  I tried finding out more about this Marigold, but Splash and Spray takes its employee confidentiality very seriously, and I can’t discover anything else about her.”

I thought I understood what he wanted me to do now.  “So you want me to use my Lockhart name to get a hold of this information and find out if this Marigold is in fact your wife.”

“Exactly,” he replied, folding his hands and sitting forward to look at me gravely.  “I would ask your grandma, but she would tell my parents about it, and I don’t want them to know.  I also need you to promise not to tell anyone, not even Heath, Tony, or Stan.  I can’t risk them informing Marcus.”

“Why can’t you just tell your family?” I asked.

“You saw how Marcus reacted when I mentioned his mother,” Captain Lew sighed.  He shook his head.  “He was only two when his mother left.  He used to wait at the window every day, hoping she’d come back, and every time a car drove by, he’d toddle over to the door so hopefully.  And after about a year of doing this, he just stopped one day.  Simply gave up that she would ever walk through that door again.  When he grew up, he always got mad at me whenever I acted like she was coming back.

“And my parents feel the same.  They think I should stop hoping and that I’m causing harm to Marcus by continuing to search for Maggie.  But Emma, I have to know she’s all right, even if she never comes back.  I just need some closure.  I believe Marcus needs it too, even though he won’t admit it.”

I watched the display of emotions flicker over the captain’s face and marveled.  Just three months ago, I would never have been able to connect with the man or realize just how many emotions he was experiencing at the same time.  But now I was able to read the conflict in his face, the mix of anger towards his wife for disappearing in the first place, the sadness of never knowing why she left, the confusion, as he wondered if he’d driven her to it.  And I knew the feeling of not being able to know why a person I loved, a person who was supposed to love me had acted the way she did.

“What exactly happened all those years ago, Captain?”  I wasn’t trying to be nosy, but if he was asking for my help, I figured I had to know as much as he would tell me.  “Do you have any clues at all as to why your wife left?”

He shook his head miserably.  “All I can say is it was probably being away from home so much.  But I thought Maggie was supportive of my career.  She’s always been so vibrant and happy on the outside.  It was one of the qualities that drew me to her when we met.”

The captain explained that he’d met his wife one Christmas, when a family friend introduced them.  He’d been away on military duty and was home just for a few weeks.  He and Maggie had hit it off right away.  A few years later, they were married, and he’d started his career as a military pilot.  He was gone for weeks at a time, but his wife had always been supportive.  Around the third year of their marriage, she found out she was pregnant with Marcus, and the two of them were so happy.

“Now that I’ve had the chance to reflect, I think her depression started after Marcus was born,” he said.  “She complained that she was always tired but couldn’t sleep, and she mentioned she would cry for no reason sometimes.”

“Post-partum depression,” I said.

He nodded in agreement.  “But nobody caught it back then.  My parents were at a retirement home an hour away, and I was never home.”

That probably only added to Maggie’s depression, I thought, but didn’t say out loud.

Maggie Lew left when Marcus was only two years old.  She left him at the retirement home with his grandparents and never came back.  Captain Lew returned home to find out that his wife had been a chronic online gambler.  She’d lost about half a million dollars.  Since Maggie had been in charge of finances in her husband’s absence, he was in shock.

And that wasn’t even the worst of it.  Maggie had been gambling away their entire life savings, and when that was depleted, she’d taken out a mortgage on the house and sold the car, furniture, and even her engagement ring.  After she left, Arthur had been forced to sell the house and move his parents and son to a small apartment.

“And yet you still love her, even after all she did,” I stated.  It was clear he did, or he wouldn’t be trying to find her now.

“I can’t help it,” he replied.  “The Maggie I knew wasn’t the Maggie who left me.  And I feel like it’s my fault that she changed.  If I’d been home, maybe she wouldn’t have slipped into depression.  Maybe she felt abandoned and alone.  And Emma, if it really is Maggie putting that money in my bank account, it means she’s sorry.  I just need to know if it’s really her.”

I thought about what Captain Lew said for a second.  I would never be able to explain why my own mother had acted so viciously towards my father and me, but at least I had some sense of closure, knowing she was just that way and would never change.  But the Lews hadn’t had any closure at all.

Besides that, I had a feeling Marcus’s mother was different from mine.  A few months ago, I wouldn’t have trusted any gut instincts, but I’d changed since then.  “Marigold means grief,” I whispered.  “And the purple hyacinth is a symbol for regret.”

The captain stared at me like I’d just spoken Thai.  “What was that?”

“Nothing,” I said.  “All right, I’ll help you.”

Captain Lew’s face brightened.  “You will?”

“I’ll try my best.”

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