Change of Heart by Judith Keim
Emerson “Em” Jordan closed her eyes as the sound of the music enveloped her in a cloud of happiness. She was taking part in her sister’s wedding at a resort along the Gulf Coast of Florida, but in her mind, it might as well be her own celebration. The dreamy man holding her hadn’t proposed yet, but she was pretty sure he soon would. She’d dropped all kinds of hints about a Valentine engagement and a wedding a year later on Valentine’s Day. It had been a dream of hers from the time she was a girl.In a burst of noise, the image of dancing disappeared. Em sat bolt upright in bed and stared out her bedroom window. Through the glass she saw a colorful display of fireworks, and then she heard another loud bang.Em lowered her head into her hands and sobbed as she recalled what had happened earlier that evening. The Fourth of July picnic turned into a disaster when her boyfriend, Jared King, had announced he needed to talk to her about something important. When she saw his serious expression and how he was shuffling his feet, a nervous habit of his, her stomach did a somersault. She’d watched her family and friends head out to walk the four blocks to the town park to watch the fireworks and wished she could run after them.As he studied her, Jared took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “ Like I said, we need to talk. I can’t do this any longer. I love you, Em, I do, but I’m not in love with you. It’s time to call it quits.”She lifted a hand to her cheek as if he’d slapped her and reeled away from him. “You’re breaking up with me? Like this?”He sighed. “It’s not working. And it’s not going to.”Shocked, she stared at him wide eyed, certain she was about to throw up. She staggered over to one of the picnic tables set up in her parents’ backyard and plopped down on the bench beside it. Bending over, Em put her head between her legs hoping to stop the world around her from spinning.“Are you all right?” Jared asked, standing a safe distance from her.Anger straightened her. “I’m not all right, Jared King! You just broke my heart! I’m not sure I’ll ever be all right again!”“I’m sorry, Em. I really am.” He’d simply turned and walked away, leaving her to clutch her body, too weak to run after him, her dreams scattered around her like crushed blossoms.###For the next few weeks, Em managed to continue working at the family’s flower shop, but, in truth, she barely functioned. Jagged edges of her broken heart kept poking her insides, taking away her breath, stealing the cheerfulness she usually wore like a comfortable old sweater to protect her. Not even the sweet smell of freesia in the flower shop could chase away the pain of Jared’s words. It was a good thing that Jared lived in New York City, an hour away. She couldn’t bear to see him.She returned to her task of putting together a basket of summer wild flowers. She loved making things look as natural as possible, and woven baskets were good containers for the colorful blooms.“How are you coming with the Williams order?” her grandmother, Julia Jordan, asked as she entered the work area.“Almost done,” Em said, standing back to appraise the placement of flowers.“Looks wonderful, sweetheart.” After the death of her husband many years ago, her grandmother had opened the flower shop she’d named Rainbow’s End in their small, upstate town of Ellenton, New York. In her late sixties, Julia was still an attractive woman with gray hair cut in a bob, sparkling eyes, and a face that reflected beauty enhanced by her inner peace. Em smiled. Of all the people in the family, her grandmother understood her best. Two optimists who came together. Didn’t the name of her flower shop say it all?Later, as Em was putting together a bouquet for a husband to send as a surprise to his wife, she couldn’t hold back the question that had been gnawing at her insides. “Gran, Jared told me he loved me, but he wasn’t in love with me.” It still hurt to say the words.Her grandmother’s blue-eyed gaze, so like her own, rested on her thoughtfully. “He wasn’t the right man. Don’t worry. You have time.”“But, Gran, I’ll be thirty-two next spring! And every man I meet ends up being wrong for me. First, there was Garrett. He turned out to be gay, for heaven’s sake.”Gran clucked her tongue. “The opera singer in New York was the hardest for me to imagine your marrying. Imagine him already married to a concert pianist on tour!”“Yeah, that was another bad time. He’d told me he was lonely. I thought it was because he was living so far away from family. I didn’t imagine him having a wife. Neither he nor news releases ever mentioned it.”Gran placed a hand on Em’s shoulder. “I’m so glad you agreed to come back to Ellenton to live. The trouble with you, Emerson, is you want to believe only the best in everybody in every aspect of your life. That makes you a special person, but one who is bound to get hurt.”“I know everyone teases me about being a Pollyanna, but I’d prefer to live happily rather than face doom and gloom all the time.”Gran drew her into a hug. “Maybe it’s time for you to have a change of heart, become a little more careful, more realistic. Nothing too drastic, mind you.”Em laid the red rose in her hand on the workbench. “Are you saying it’s time for me to grow up?”“In a way,” she said kindly, brushing Em’s long, blond hair away from her face. “You and I, we’re two of a kind. We dream of what could be without seeing things as they really are. Who knew my husband would die at a young age, leaving me with a young son to raise and no money?”“I’m glad you decided to open a flower shop. I love it.” Em drew a shaky breath. “But, Gran, I hope you understand I can’t go through Valentine’s Day working here. That’s when Jared was supposed to propose to me.”“No worries. I already figured that out. Besides, my neighbor, Marilyn, needs to find a job. I promised I’d hire her on a part-time basis, thinking if she worked out, I’d bring her on board full-time before the holidays. That will give you a chance to start thinking about opening the landscape design business you’ve been talking about.”Relief sprinted through Em. She’d never want to hurt her grandmother, but no way, no how could she endure making beautiful bouquets, lovely nosegays, or single-rose love letters of her own design for others during the romantic time of Valentine’s Day.