Behind her the noise escalated following a busboy’s mishap on his way to the kitchen.  It should be expected at a restaurant that adorns its tables with fake, dew-laden roses in hobnail milk glass vases. 


Alyce sighed as she recalled approaching the new owner last fall to offer him a deal on fresh flowers to spruce up his restaurant.  He did not take the suggestion kindly; explaining to her that when he thought his business needed “spruced up” he would be the one to decide. 


She took another sip of her herbal tea and glanced across the street at her shop, Petals by Design.  It was exactly three years ago that she returned from New York City to take the business over from her ailing father.  The flower shop had belonged to her grandparents and then her parents.  And by virtue of her feminine gender – her three brothers were in more “masculine” professions such as football coach, pipe-fitter and auto mechanic – she was the likely child to assume the family business.


Thinking of her brothers – she glanced at her watch and realized that Rob was late.  A single father, he was frantic when he called and asked Alyce to meet him for coffee at Laredo’s. 


Alyce loved her brothers and would have done the same.  Adam, the oldest, to Beth and they had two boys who were star athletes at the junior and high school where Adam taught.  Carl, the “middle” brother married his high school sweetheart, Ashley, who was finishing her Master’s degree.  Rob was the youngest child, just three years behind Alyce. 


Rob had always been the troubled child – getting through school was a challenge and the family celebrated his high school graduation with great joy.  His hobby growing up was tinkering with cars, so after high school “Uncle” Max gave him a job at his garage.  Just when the family thought he was getting his act together, Rob met Mallory. 


Mallory was the most conniving woman on the planet and everyone knew it but Rob.  It was no surprise when Mallory ended up pregnant and then left when the baby girl was only three.  Daisy, named for their mother’s favorite flower, was a beautiful, bright child.  Rob was a most attentive father – attending all school functions and providing a stable home life for Daisy as a single parent for the last eight years.  However, when an issue of a female nature came up, Rob always called Alyce.


Alyce had never married; never had children.  She never really had a desire for either – her work as a stock broker had been her life.  However, she loved her niece and nephews and showered them with more love than most parents can give.


The sound of the restaurant door bell broke Alyce from her revelry and she saw Rob, tall and dark, walking toward her – already in a posture of apology.


“I am SO sorry, Al” Rob began. “Mrs. Humphreys came in with a bent tailpipe and needed it fixed ‘right now’.  I’m sure that she had another curb to hit.”


Rob sighed and Alyce a small giggle. 


“What’s up, Rob?” Alyce asked her brother.


“It’s Daisy.  We have a serious situation, Sis; and I don’t know what to do.”


Imagining the worst, Alyce stiffened and anxiously asked, “What is it?  Is she okay?”


Rob sat with his head in his hands, and Alyce grew more worried with each second that ticked away.  He sighed and looked up.


“Daisy has been asked to a dance, Al – by a boy.  Did we start dating when we were in fifth grade?”


Alyce let out an audible sigh of relief, and seeing that this situation really unsettled her brother, she quieted the urge to laugh.


“Um, Rob?  You boys were asking girls out in second grade, remember?  And, if I’m not mistaken, Adam and Carl were threatening every boy who even glanced at me until I was in…well, college.”


Rob grinned.  He knew that Alyce was the one who could make sense of any situation.  He sought and appreciated her advice.


“So, what does Aunt Alyce need to do – chaperone, check out the young man, sit and bite nails with dad?” 


“Well, it’s a little more complicated than that, Al…it’s…well…it’s….the dress.”


“The what?!?” asked Alyce in amazement.  It was no secret that Rob had done his best to raise a daughter, but the fact that Daisy was a die-hard tomboy was hard to disguise.  In fact, the last time Daisy had worn a dress was when Carl got married, and that was at the insistence of their mother, who passed away 5 years ago – just months after the wedding.


“Yeah, bizarre, isn’t it?  She actually asked me for money to buy a dress.  Al, I don’t even know what a dress costs.”  Rob looked like a whipped puppy.


Alyce chuckled and said, “You really had no idea that this day would come, did you?  You thought she’d stay your little tomboy/sidekick forever.”


“Yeah…boys would have been a lot easier to raise, don’tcha think?  This must be some sort of weird karma, coming back to haunt me for my evil ways as a kid.”


Alyce laughed.


“It’s not karma, Rob.  It’s life.  And believe it or not, your Daisy is growing up.  She’s spreading her petals and ready to bloom for the world.  Pardon the floral puns.”


Rob laughed and said, “The folks would be proud of you, Al.”  Then he paused and reached across the table and took her hand.  “I’m serious, Alyce.  I don’t know what any of us would have done if you hadn’t come back home.”


Alyce patted his hand, and said “Thanks, Rob.  It means a lot to hear you say that.  But it’s true – I’m where I am meant to be.”  They sat in silence for a moment.


“So…the dress?”  Rob asked tentatively.


“Dress?  Are you nuts, Rob??  This is Daisy’s first official debut as a woman.  There will be dresses with matching shoes, manicures, hair styles, flowers…” Alyce winked as she trailed off.


Rob chuckled and said “Well, thank goodness I can get a discount on the flowers…”

  And they both laughed.