By: Emily Engberts
The first flowers each spring bring big changes along with them.
Two women, thinking that they are too different, find that those differences don’t have to be bad…
Dani lost all her dreams in the divorce three years ago, but she’s finally saved up enough to live her own dream this time. So, she moves to the island with her young daughter, Rose, to open a flower shop, ready for a new start in her life.
Her heart is still tender, but when she catches a glimpse of her daughter’s teacher, things start to change.
Kim is the only one of her siblings who still lives on the island. She loves her job as a primary school teacher but with siblings with big careers, she feels like she’s always behind them, never the same. She teaches, takes care of her parents and still feels like she’s not doing enough, like she’s supposed to do more.
That is, until she gets a new pupil in her class whose mother makes her rethink everything she ever presumed about her life, who makes her rethink everything she believed in.
Spring is coming and that means teaching about plants and colours and how things grow. A tour around the town with Kim’s class, trying to spot spring flowers and a couple of little lambs, brings the women closer together. But it’s not until an intimate moment at a dinner party that things start to get intense.
This year, will there be more than just flowers blooming on the island?
Dad is staring at me, a huge grin on his face, a smile I can’t ignore. He holds up a beam of the greenhouse as I’m attaching it. It’s the end of the afternoon of my first day in my new house, and we’re building the greenhouse in the garden. Inside, it’s all still a huge mess, but my mum and Rose, my daughter, are sorting things out there. Max, my beautiful Schapendoes, a Dutch Sheepdog, keeps walking from the house to us and back, trying to be helpful wherever he goes but mostly just being in the way, as the lovely silly creature tends to do.
“You can stop looking at me like that.” I try to glare at Dad, but the smile on my face doesn’t help much. I’ve not been able to stop smiling for the last two weeks, ever since I signed the papers for this house.
“Why? Why am I not allowed to be proud of you?” He raises an eyebrow at me.
“You are. Just… Just not by staring at me like that.” I drill the beam into place, we only have a few beams left to go, before we have to put in the windows, which finishes up the structure.
“Why not? I’m proud of you. Raising your little girl on your own like that, having a career, saving enough money, and then finally moving here. I just can’t hide how proud I am of you.” Just hearing him say those things makes my cheeks go warm. Dad being proud of what I do never really crossed my mind, but at the same time, it feels good to make him proud, to make both my parents proud.
We grab the next beam and as he holds it, I fasten it into place.
I don’t know what to tell him, how to explain that it was all just a matter of surviving for me. Of trying to keep going and not lose my mind or my grounding. So many of the things that have happened in the last few years have not been by my own choice.
Two years ago, the woman who I thought was the love of my life, who I’d been with for over five years, walked out on us, she didn’t want what we had, our little family, and she’d decided that instead of talking to me, she’d just make her own plans. One morning, after a gruelling night with Rose, who’d caught some flu or something at the day care she’d been attending, I walked into a kitchen filled with bags and boxes. Rose’s bedroom had been upstairs, while ours was downstairs, so I hadn’t even realised that my ex had been packing… That was it. She left that same day, leaving everything to me in the divorce apart from the things that she’d taken with her in those boxes that morning. I had a house to live in, I had some resemblance of a life and I had our daughter.
She hadn’t just walked out on me, but also on our daughter, Rose. Back then, Rose was too small to understand what was going on, why Mummy didn’t come home anymore, why… why the house had gone so quiet suddenly. That day, I realised that there were only two things important in my life, my own independence and giving Rose the best life that I could. I didn’t want to be dependent on anyone any more, I wanted everything in my own hands, I didn’t want to be surprised like that ever again.
And now, I finally made that happen. With Rose in primary school, I was able to focus on my career more, and by doing that, I was able to buy us a house on Schiermonnikoog. Not just any house… A house with enough land that I could have my own garden, enough to be able to grow and sell flowers and other things in the small store at the front of the building. I made it all happen. Not by choice, but by necessity. I had to, so that something like this could never happen to us again.
Dad puts his hand on my shoulder, squeezing a little. When I look at him, his eyes are a little sad, but also warm. “I know that it’s been really hard on you. I know that things haven’t been easy. But I’m still very proud that you’ve managed to do this. I’m still very proud that you were able to do all this, make it all come true.”
I nod, smiling a little at him. My parents really helped me in the last years, and it’ll sometimes be hard to not be as close to them anymore. “And if you ever miss me, you can always come stay in the studio.” I point to the small building at the end of the garden. Almost all the houses here, at least most of the ones I saw, have a possibility to rent out either part of the house or a small building outside, usually a type of shed or studio. And, of course, this one came with one too. It’ll provide a little extra income, which will be nice.
We efficiently finish putting up the final beams and start on the windows. If everything goes as planned, I’ll be able to start putting plants and flowers in it in the next few days, after I’ve made sure that it’s leak proof and everything.
My life may have fallen apart two years ago, but I’ve finally gotten to the place where I really wanted to be. I finally made my own dream come true.
* * *
I spread the papers and notebooks out in front of me. I’m trying to plan what I’ll be doing in the next weeks, because if I don’t plan, things won’t happen. Firstly, of course, there are plants and flowers that I’m going to have to put into the greenhouse. Growing up the different seedlings and things like that, and maybe buying a few small plants of other plants. I have some experience growing plants in my kitchen and on the balcony, but no experience in an actual greenhouse, outside, and of that size. Or experience growing plants to sell off again.
This first year is going to be interesting, I’m pretty sure of that. The idea is to start growing flowers and vegetables and even some fruit. We’ll use the fruit and vegetables for our own food, live off our own land, and then use the flowers and maybe some spices and things like that to sell. At least, that’s the idea.
I’m not exactly sure how well everything is going to work, but that’s okay. I’ve got my own writing career, I make enough money writing books to support us, and then some. But running a small shop like this, it’s been a dream of mine for years, for decades probably. For this first year, all I’m hoping is to not have too much of a loss for the shop side of things, starting small, minimal loss is all I’m going for.
For the greenhouse and the garden, I’m thinking some practical things first, like broccoli, tomatoes, paprikas and a few other edible plants. That should at least get me going for our own food. When it comes to flowers… Well… I’ll have to see about those. It’s too early in the year to really sell many flowers, apart from some bulb plants. So, for the shop side of things, I’ll have to figure out both the space I have, and my own abilities.
Of course, especially right now, running the garden and the shop won’t take up even most of my day, so the rest of the day I’ll be dedicating to my writing, trying to keep up the schedule I’ve been keeping to for the last two years, the schedule that made me able to realise this dream in the first place.
When I started out with the writing, trying to work my schedule around Rose’s naps and things like that, wasn’t very easy. Of course, when I still had the help of my ex, that was much more doable, but when she left… it all came down on me. I had to do everything by myself then. So I learned to work around her nap times, I learned when I would be able to multi-task and I learned when to ask my parents to look after my little girl for a couple of hours in exchange for a homemade dinner. Last year, when Rose went to primary school, I was finally able to get a better publishing schedule down, especially since I then knew when and how I could be working, that made things a lot easier. I suddenly had hours and hours of uninterrupted time to work, and my publishing output went through the roof.
I lean back in the chair, stretching my back and then I look out over the darkening garden. I pull my robe around me tighter, just staring out the window over our new place. I made it happen, I really did. Now I just need to keep going.
I hear Rose’s footsteps on the stairs inside the house, and the next moment, she darts into the conservatory. She’s holding her favourite plush toy against her chest, looking at me with big eyes. Max follows her closely behind, excited that there is movement in the house.
“What’s wrong, baby?” I reach out to her and she takes my hand, then she climbs into my lap, putting her head against my chest.
“It’s so strange here.” Her eyes dart around and my heart breaks a little at the confused look in her eyes. “The sounds are all different. And it smells different. Everything is different.”
I stand up, lifting her with me, and then I carry her back inside, locking the door behind me. “I know it’s different, but this is our new house. Getting used to new places is always a little scary.” I carry her in my arms, Max at my heels, as I check the front door and then turn the lights off in all the downstairs rooms. Most of them are still mostly empty, only filled with boxes, but the kitchen has a table to sit at and there is a TV and couch in the living room. We’ll finish up the rest tomorrow. “Say goodnight to Max.” I turn so that Rose can see him.
“Goodnight.” She blows a kiss at him, a satisfied smile on her face.
“Goodnight Max.” I ruffle my fingers in his fur and he sits down on his little mat next to the stairs. He knows he’s not allowed upstairs, and I think he’s too chicken to even try it right now. I walk up the stairs with Rose and then step into her room. “You’ll get used to this place soon enough. You’ll get used to the quiet and the new sounds in no time.” I smile as I put her into her bed again.
She looks at me in a way that tells me that she’s not convinced about what I’m saying. Gone are the times when she’d just believe me when I’d tell her things. But that newfound curiosity also makes me smile so much. “When?” she demands. This is the first time she’s ever moved house and we’ve even barely gone on holiday, especially since going on holiday with just Rose seemed like a lot of work for me, and holidays are supposed to be less work. The only other place she knows is her grandparents’ house, so this is all brand new for her.
Give her a soft kiss on her forehead. “I don’t know. But we will. I promise. You’ll forget that everything sounds strange before you even realise it.” I pull the covers over her more, tucking her in. Then I quietly leave her room, looking back at her at the door. “I’ll be right across the hall from you. I’ll leave the doors open, and the light on in the hallway, so you don’t have to worry.” I think I can see her nod in the darkness and I can’t help the smile on my lips as I look at my beautiful and brave little girl.
She’s not the only one who will have to get used to all the quiet, but I really do believe that moving here is going to make things a lot better for the both of us. It’ll be a new start. Away from everything that still bound us to the past, that bound me to the past.
This is our future. This is where we’ll make our dreams come true.
This is my new life.