“I think you dropped something,” Zoey says. She bends down and picks up a flower that had been lying on the floor next to Maia’s left foot.
“I don’t think that’s mine,” Maia replies, sparing the flower a brief glance as she wipes glasses clean.
“It fell out of your apron,” Zoey insists. “Plus, it has your name on it. “See, here? There’s a little note attached with a ribbon.”
Maia frowns and takes the flower from Zoey. It’s a red carnation with a light blue ribbon tied around the stem. Dangling from the ribbon is a small card that reads: Dearest Maia, roses are red, violets are blue, but please accept this carnation from me to you.
She finds herself smiling, even if she is still a bit confused. Who on earth would be sending her flowers? She hasn’t had a partner since Simon. Maybe a customer? That’s sweet, but she doesn’t really know how to respond. She doesn’t even know who it’s from.
“Any idea who it’s from?” Zoey asks, leaning on the counter next to her.
“No idea. The text is printed, not handwritten, so.” Maia tucks the flower into the waistband of her apron. It provides a lovely, unexpected splash of color against the dullness of the apron, and she finds herself smiling once again.
“You’re very giddy,” Zoey observes. “I’ve been working here for two months and I don’t think I’ve ever seen you smile this much.”
“Oh, shut it,” Maia tells her, making a shooing motion. “It’s just a nice surprise, is all.”
“Well, you deserve a surprise, considering this is, what? Your fourth double-shift this month?”
“Don’t remind me,” Maia groans. She checks to make sure the carnation is in place before she heads over to the table in the corner to take their orders.
“Hey, Maia!” Clary grins at her as she approaches. “How are you holding up? This is your fourth double-shift this month, isn’t it?”
“Ask me again how I’m doing when I get my paycheck,” Maia tells her, getting out her notepad and looking at the Shadowhunters gathered around the table. “So, what’ll it be?”
As Maia rounds the table, Clary notices the flower. “Oh, Maia, did someone give you a carnation? That’s so sweet! You know what those mean, don’t you?”
“Not really.” Maia brushes her fingers across the petals. “I just know it looks really pretty.”
“It means admiration,” Clary tells her.
“Admiration in the platonic sense or romantic?” one of the other Shadowhunters asks.
“Hmm, it depends. I think Maia can decide how to interpret it though,” Clary replies.
“I wouldn’t mind some romantic admiration,” Maia says thoughtfully.
“Well there you go,” Clary says, grinning at her.
Maia grins back. “Well, somehow finishing the rest of this shift doesn’t seem so bad now.”
She returns to the bar to fetch the drinks, smiling all the way and ignoring the knowing looks Zoey flashes her.
Maia’s shift is nearly over before she finally feels like she can catch her breath. She’s run herself ragged tonight, what with Zoey having called in sick on specials night. People heard “2-for-1” and really went wild, she thinks wearily.
“Hey, Maia!” Clary slides onto a stool across from the bar. “Your shift almost over?”
“10 more minutes!” Maia scrubs at a particularly stubborn stain on the counter. “I can’t wait. I’m going straight home and collapsing into bed.”
“Don’t forget your tips.” Clary starts scooping up the bills on the counter. Maia only looks up from her scrubbing where she hears a little gasp and, “Oh, that’s different.”
Maia looks up. “What is?”
Clary waves around a wad of cash in one hand and then hands Maia a purple lilac. “Do your customers normally tip you with flowers?"
"No," Maia says slowly, taking the flower from her. “This is the second time in two weeks.”
“Oh, right, you got that other flower last time I was here,” Clary says.
“Yeah, someone put it in my apron pocket.” Maia smiles. “I don’t really know why this person is doing this or even if it’s the same person, but…it’s nice.”
“That’s great,” Clary murmurs, smiling. “It’s nice to be surprised sometimes, right?”
“Definitely. And this…it’s a nice surprise.” Maia strokes the lilac’s soft petals. “I don’t know what this one means, though.”
Clary pulls out her phone and types for a few seconds. “It means first love,” she reads aloud.
“First love? Is this person telling me they’re in love with me?”
“Maybe? Or maybe that they’re open to falling love with you?” Clary reaches out to caress a petal as well.
“Look at you, Miss Artist,” Maia teases. “You were the star of your English class, weren’t you?”
“Yeah, I was.” Clary laughs. “That and art, of course.”
“Of course.” Maia grimaces. “Which reminds me, I have a big exam tomorrow I still need to study for.”
“I could help you study, if you want?” Clary offers. “I’m a whiz at flashcards.”
“That would be great, actually,” Maia says, smiling. Clary smiles back.
Maia returns from her jog just as the sunrise starts bathing everything around her in pinks and golds. She comes to a stop before her front steps and stretches slowly, allowing the breeze to cool off her overheated skin.
As she finishes her stretches, she notices that her newspaper has already been delivered – she can see the corners of it poking out of her mailbox.
She unlocks the mailbox and unrolls the newspaper. She’s still cooling down from her runner’s high, so it takes her a moment to notice that something has fallen out of the newspaper.
It’s a flower. She smiles as she bends down to pick it up. She doesn’t recognize it, but a quick google search tells her that it’s a hydrangea. A symbol of heartfelt emotions, she reads, her smile widening. She only wishes she knew whose these flowers were coming from. This is the third one in just over a month and she still has no idea.
Her phone buzzes with an incoming text. I just finished my morning training and I’m starving, Clary’s message reads. Want to meet for breakfast?
Her smile is so wide by now it nearly hurts her cheeks. She and Clary have started meeting up, outside of the Hunter’s Moon, and Maia honestly can’t think of anyone whose company she enjoys more. Just give me a time and place, babe, she texts back, skipping up the stairs to go shower. Today is already a great day and she can’t wait for it to continue.
“You hungry?” Clary asks.
Maia looks up from her textbook. She and Clary are sitting together under a tree in Central Park, taking refuge in the shade while Maia studies and Clary sketches. They’ve been quiet for the past half hour or so, but it’s been nice, comfortable, not awkward at all. The two of them have been meeting up like this on a semi-regular basis for the past few weeks and Maia genuinely enjoys herself every time. Clary is great company – she’s sweet, funny, a great listener, but also someone you can feel at ease with just by sitting silently in their company. Maia can’t deny it to herself anymore, she’s got a bit of a crush on the girl.
“Sure,” she says. “You in the mood for anything in particular?”
“You’ve got it.” Maia rises to her feet, smacking Clary’s hand away when she tries to hand her some cash. “Mustard?”
Laughing, Maia jogs over the nearest hot dog vendor and waits patiently in line. After a couple of minutes, it’s her turn and she places an order for two hot dogs with mustard. She looks over to shoulder to admire Clary while she waits, getting a little distracted and not realizing it until she catches the sound of the vendor clearing his throat pointedly.
“Oh, sorry,” she tells him, handing over a few bills in exchange for the hot dogs. She’s just about to turn away when the vendor says, “Hey, wait. There’s something else.”
“I don’t think so,” Maia says, “it was just these two things.”
“I was supposed to give you this too,” the vendor says, handing her a sunflower.
Startled, Maia accepts the sunflower with her free hand. “Who gave you this?”
“Can’t tell you that,” the vendor grunts. “Just that a person told me to give this flower to a girl who asked for two dogs with mustard and who was wearing a dark blue denim dress and a red bracelet.”
“Thank you,” Maia says, still feeling dazed. She turns around and walks slowly back to Clary. The vendor’s description had been awfully specific – which means that the person behind the sunflower had to have known what Maia was going to order and what she was going to be wearing. Who would know that kind of information?
Maia settles down on the blanket next to Clary and wordlessly hands her one of the hot dogs.
“Another flower?” Clary asks, grinning. “Do you know what it means?”
Maia types it into her phone. “Dedicated love,” she reads.
Clary waggles her eyebrows. “That’s intense. Do you know anybody who’s dedicated in their love for you?”
“Not yet,” Maia answers. She glances down and catches sight of Clary’s notepad. “Hey, are you sketching me?”
“Of course!” Clary says. “You’re the perfect model. Especially with the way the sunlight’s been hitting you through the leaves of this tree for the past hour. Gorgeous.”
Maia can feel a flush rising on her cheeks. “You really think so? I’m just sitting here studying, it’s not really exciting to draw.”
“I think it is,” Clary says simply. Maia tightens her grip on the sunflower, feeling giddy all of a sudden, and bites into her hot dog to hide her blush.
The sight of Clary sitting on her front steps is legitimately the only thing that could lift Maia’s spirits after her shitty day. She’d had a horrifically long day at work and then she’d realized she had forgotten to take an online quiz for her biology class. She’d managed to take the quiz on her phone while waiting for the subway but wasn’t sure if she’d done too well – the website had crashed before she’d been able to view her score.
“You look like you’ve had quite a day,” Clary observes as Maia reaches her.
“That bad, huh?”
“You look gorgeous as always,” Clary replies, waving a hand dismissively. “I just could tell from your posture that you’re exhausted.”
“You could say that,” Maia sighs, sinking down next to her. “Oh, god. Everything aches.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Clary hesitate for a moment before she says tentatively, “I’ve been told I give pretty good back rubs. If you’d like…”
Maia isn’t going to turn down the chance to get her shoulders rubbed by a beautiful girl. “Go for it,” she says, turning slightly to give Clary better access.
Clary had undersold herself. Her massages are heavenly. She uses just the right amount of pressure, enough that it hurts, but in the best possible way. Maia can practically feel her tension melting away, can feel her bad day evaporating as her entire being narrows down to Clary and her magical touch.
Then, suddenly, Clary lifts her hands away. Before Maia can react, something very soft trails very slowly along the back of her neck. Maia freezes in surprise, goosebumps breaking out on her skin.
She realizes what it is a mere moment before Clary lifts the flower from Maia’s neck and hands it to her. It’s a red tulip. A pale pink ribbon is tied around the stem, and, just like the carnation did, it has a small note dangling from the ribbon.
This time the note is handwritten. It reads: Dear Maia, will you be my true love?
“It was you all along,” Maia murmurs, tracing over the note with her thumb. “I was hoping it would be you.”
“Did you suspect it was me?” Clary whispers.
“After I got the sunflower in Central Park, I thought it was probably you. But I didn’t want to ask you. I was hoping you’d tell me.” She smiles, tracing the tulip along the inside of Clary’s arm. Clary visibly shivers, her eyes widening as her gaze locks with Maia’s. “And you did.”
“I did,” Clary agrees, a small smile twitching at the corner of her mouth.
“I want to be your true love,” Maia tells her, her gaze dropping to Clary’s mouth.
Clary scoots closer. “Perfect.”
“It is.” Maia closes the remaining distance between them. “Can I kiss you?”
“Please,” Clary breathes.
Maia raises both hands to cup around Clary’s face. She strokes her thumb along Clary’s jawline as she presses a kiss as light as possible against Clary’s mouth, immediately followed by another, then another. She can feel Clary starting to tremble against her and deepens the kiss, swallowing Clary’s delighted gasp of surprise.
Clary raises one hand to place it against Maia’s hand which is still cupping her jaw. One kiss melts into another, and another, as they kiss languidly, knowing they have all the time in the world.
When they finally break apart for air, Clary rests her forehead against Maia’s. “That was the best first kiss I’ve ever had, to be perfectly honest with you.”
“I’m glad to hear it.” Maia grins. “And ditto.”
“Are you ok?” Maia laughs as she glances down at her girlfriend.
Clary looks up from where she’d buried her face in Maia’s shoulder. “Uh-huh. Great. Just fine.”
“We can change the channel,” Maia offers.
“No, it’s fine. You said you wanted to watch this, so…”
“I just don’t get it. You fight literal demons every single day and you’re scared of a movie about ghosts?”
“It’s different!” Clary insists. “I have enough of demons, I don’t need them in my private life too. And ghosts aren’t the same as demons.”
“You are so cute,” Maia says fondly, stroking her fingers through Clary’s long red hair. “And speaking of being cute, I got you a present.”
Clary lights up. “You did?”
“Yes, baby. of course I did. I’ve got to talk care of you, don’t I?” Maia gets up from the couch, ignoring Clary’s pout when she does, and goes over the kitchen. She opens a cupboard and pulls out a vase she’d stashed there, already filled with water and containing a bouquet of red roses.
Clary’s eyes light up when she sees them. “A bouquet of red roses means ‘I love you’,” she says happily. “You love me, babe?”
“Like you didn’t already know,” Maia scoffs. She hands over the vase. “Check out the flower on the right edge.”
Clary lifts the flower Maia had indicated and her gaze immediately zeroes in on the ribbon wrapped around the bottom of the stem. And tucked within the ribbon is an engagement ring.
Clary’s head snaps up to look at Maia.
“Will you marry me?” Maia asks softly.
Clary holds out the ring to her. “Will you put it on me?”
“Of course.” Maia slides the ring onto her finger. “Is this you accepting?”
Clary smiles. “Yes.”