Gerard Beauchamp greeted the orchids every morning at the start of his shift, but the botanical garden’s new publicity manager didn’t know that. Katrine Marallis hugged a clipboard to her chest as she stepped into the humidity of the greenhouse. Eyes glued to the concrete floor, she maneuvered her high heels through a minefield of puddles. “Gerard, sorry to interrupt, but I need to give you the schedule for tomorrow’s photo shoot.” She scanned the tropical foliage and frowned. “I thought you were talking to someone.”
The orchid specialist straightened his six-foot frame and hastily brushed soil from the worn knees of his tan overalls. His slow smile broadened. “Well, Miss Katrine, I was. I always ask my orchids how they are feeling before I get to work.”
Katrine smiled uncertainly and coughed. “Right. Well, as you know, Virginia Outdoor Lifestyle will be featuring our garden in this month’s travel section. The photographers will start setting up at 9 AM. Our executive director will be interviewed at 10:30.” She flicked a stray leaf from her red silk blouse. “Of course, all the tools and supplies will have to be tucked out of sight.”
The spry octogenarian nodded his bald head. “Don’t you worry, Miss Katrine. The ladies and I will be ready.”
Katrine took one step back, turned abruptly, and almost tripped on a leaky hose.
Gerard glanced at her shoes and chuckled. “You must not spend much time around our plants.”
Beads of perspiration threatened to trickle over the young woman’s thin eyebrows. “Actually, I have a brown thumb. Now I really must be getting back to my desk.”
“Maybe you could visit with a few of the specimens on your lunch hour. That’s a good way to bond with the staff and volunteers, too. I’ve made some really good friends here. Met my Mitzi over a bag of potting soil. Today would have been our fiftieth wedding anniversary.” He nodded toward the orchids. “Many of these ladies knew her longer than I did, so we reminisce a lot.”
Katrine backed away and fled with a cursory wave.
Gerard sighed and turned back to the thirsty clay pots. “She’ll understand once she gets to know you.” The honeyed fragrance of Encyclia radiata, his wife’s favorite orchid, quickened his pulse. It was not yet in bloom, but Mitzi had never forgotten a special occasion.
Elizabeth Spencer Spragins is a fiber artist, writer, and poet who taught in North Carolina community colleges for more than a decade before returning to her home state of Virginia. Her work has been published extensively in Europe, Asia, and North America. She is the author of three original poetry collections: “Waltzing with Water” and “With No Bridle for the Breeze” (Shanti Arts Publishing) and “The Language of Bones: American Journeys Through Bardic Verse” (Kelsay Books).