“Are you gonna pay for those?” I glanced over to the clerk, a broad man hunched over the counter chewing on a toothpick, and down at the two bouquets I grasped like weights I wasn’t strong enough to lift.
“Yeah, sorry,” I replied. “I can’t choose.”
“What’s the occasion?” He chewed on.
“An apology. And our anniversary.”
“You’re a man. Bring her roses.”
I dropped the frilly pink flowers into the floral display under the market’s neon sign and surveyed the rows of candy bars below the counter, resting the deep burgundy buds on its scratched surface. “How much?”
“$13.99,” he said, squinting his eyes to read the tag. I rummaged through my jacket pocket for the twenty I’d nicked from my mom’s dresser. “Quite a shiner.” I looked to my reflection in the dark front window, a quick reminder of the bruise under my left eye.
“My face got in the way of her fist.” I laid down some quarters and crumpled dollar bills. The change rolled and clattered. Shit.
“And you’re the one apologizing?”
“It was my fault.” I smoothed out the bills. “I only have $8.50.”
Water dripped on to my canvas sneakers as I grabbed a bunch of striped carnations. “Keep the change,” I muttered as the door beeped behind me.
The flowers mocked me from the passenger seat as I drove to her house.
I threw them out later that night, their sweet smell tinged with the iron taste in my mouth.