He almost missed seeing her entirely when he arrived at the entrance to the botanical garden. He glanced about in despair, silently cursing his lateness, but then he saw her. She was crouched next to one of the perennial borders, intently studying a plant near the edge. He walked toward her and tried to look casual.
“Hi,” he ventured. She looked up and smiled, her eyes brightening in recognition before she waved him over.
He dutifully crouched beside her.
“See all the aphids on this new growth?” She pointed to a number of tiny green bumps on matching green stems at the tip of a branch.
“Yeah,” he nodded, leaning closer and squinting.
“Now look here.” She raised a leaf with her fingertip and revealed what looked like a tiny black and orange accordion with six legs. “It’s a ladybug larva,” she explained. “They eat aphids, and they’re all over this plant.” He craned his neck to better see beneath the leaves. Now that he knew what to look for, he found them easily.
“Cool!” he blurted, a schoolboy grin on his face. She beamed back at him, and for a moment it seemed as though time had stopped.
He jumped to his feet suddenly and brushed imaginary dirt from his pant legs. “Shall we look at the rest of the garden?” he asked quickly. He could feel the color rising in his cheeks.
“Sure,” she replied and stood, surprised that she felt light-headed and breathless. She told herself it was because she had gotten up too quickly.
As they wandered through the garden, she touched leaves and stems, then raised her fingers to her face to breathe in the aromas that lingered on her skin. She buried her nose in flowers, sifted soil through her fingers, and pulled weeds. Disarmed by her unabashed enjoyment, he found himself sharing her delight. They spied on insects, discussed combinations of color, texture, and shape, and made up their own names for plants whose labels they couldn’t find.
After a while they settled on a shaded bench near one of the fountains. A mockingbird began singing somewhere above. Its song, sweetly piercing, wove an intricate counterpoint to the music of the falling water.
“The air smells delicious,” he sighed as he relaxed against the backrest. She inhaled deeply and nodded. The fragrances of countless blossoms, released by the heat of the sun, now hung in the late afternoon air. Their mingled effect was heady and hypnotic; even the bees seemed inebriated as they bumbled from flower to flower.
“You must have been a bee in a previous life,” he chuckled, noticing her heavy-lidded expression.
She smiled slowly and replied, “And you must have been a flower.”
This surprised him. “Really? What kind?”
She leaned close in a conspiratorial fashion and murmured, “The kind that bees find intoxicating.”
Their eyes met, and time truly did stop for a good, long while.
(This week’s Red Dress Club prompt: Let’s get all steamy up in here and write about sex. But you know us. There’s a twist. You can’t write about the act. There are so many other possibilities; have fun finding them. Limit is 600 words. It can be fiction or non-fiction.)