About a month after the Valentine’s Day party, Jessie started to come around. She had been quite smitten by the blond Australian, and had let her emotions get the best of her and bring her down. The fiasco at the party was a real bummer, as Rose so eloquently put it; sometimes things are just too good to be true.
Today seemed a bit brighter as Jessie, Rose, and Denise rummaged through the Easter decorations. The St. Patrick’s Day décor had been tossed into a box and put into the storage room until next year. St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t a great day for sales, but the girls liked to decorate, and the store was their home away from home more than a place of work, so at every holiday they decorated, with gusto.
It was a slow morning and the delivery truck hadn’t come on schedule. Denise seemed to be distracted and spoke up. “I wonder where Randall is; he should have been here two hours ago.”
Jessie checked her watch. “Yah, he is a bit late, maybe stuck in traffic or something, or, there’s a problem with the tulips I ordered. Oh, shoot, I hope not, we need those for the Scouts drive this week.”
Jessie’s supplier was Sheridan Nurseries in Mississauga, and she received a shipment every day except Saturday and Sunday. Randall had been the delivery guy since she started working at the store, even before she owned it; she was quite fond of Randall; he was professional, always on time, and she never had any broken product.
Just then, the phone rang. “Hello,” said Rose. She shook her head no, not Randall.
“So how are things going between you two?” Jessie asked Denise.
“Great. He’s really very nice, a gentleman, you know, not many of those guys around. And he does the sweetest things.”
“Oh, yah. Like what kinds of things.”
“Well, the other day we were at Toys-R-Us—he was looking for a toy for his nephew—and there was this kid who wanted his mom to buy him a remote control truck. Well, when Randall saw the look on that little boy’s face after his mother told him she didn’t have the money for that, he went up to her and asked her if he could buy it for him. Do you believe that? I didn’t know what was happening. One minute Randall’s beside me and the next he’s at the cashier with the toy truck and the boy in his arms!”
“Really? And the boy’s mother didn’t think that was weird?” Jessie’s eyes bulged.
“That’s the thing about it, though, she thought it was the kindest act in the world. That’s how charming he is.”
“Wow. That’s… wow.” Jessie didn’t know what to say. “So, he likes kids then?” Jessie shot Denise a smirk.
Denise laughed. “Now, listen here, you, I’m not ready for babies. Not yet, anyway.” They laughed.
“Yah, but it’s good to know, right?” Jessie smiled. Her eyes were bright.
“It’s good to see you smiling again,” Denise said.
When rose was done with the phone order, they concentrated on the decorations and got the store looking Spring-ish and festive. They each had their lunch break and the day went by with business as usual.
Around 4pm the delivery truck finally pulled up right outside the front door. All three girls stopped what they were doing and watched as the driver got out and entered.
“I have an order, should I just bring it in?” he said.
“Our delivery door is out back, you need to pull into the alley behind the dumpsters to the left of the building,” Denise said. She cast a confused glance at Jessie and Rose.
“Where is our regular driver?” Jessie said.
“He called in sick,” he said, as he turned around and walked out the door.
“He was fine this morning,” Denise said. “He’s not answering his phone; it’s not like him, something’s wrong.”
“Rose, could you get the delivery please.” Jessie said.
“Yah, sure, you guys figure it out.” She went to the back door to deal with the delivery guy.
“Something’s not right, Jess.”
“Do you have his work number? Maybe someone can tell us something more.”
“Yes, okay.” Denise rummaged through her purse for her cell phone and speed-dialed Randall’s place of work.
“Yes, hello, I’m trying to get ahold of Randall. Our delivery guy just informed us that he called in sick. I’m his girlfriend and I’m worried something has happened to him since he is not answering his cell phone. Can you tell me anything, please?”
There was a long silence as Denise listened to the person on the other end of the conversation. Denise nodded several times and shot Jessie a few worried looks.
“Alright, thank you so much for your help.”
“Randall’s in the hospital.”
“What? Oh, my, what happened?”
“They don’t really know. Apparently, he was in early, reviewed his schedule, loaded his truck, and then started the day. A few hours later, he called the office, and the lady on the phone said he was babbling incoherently. She got his location from the truck’s GPS signal and sent someone out to check on him. When the guy got there he was passed out in the back of his truck, barely breathing. The guy couldn’t bring him to and called an ambulance. He’s at Scarborough Hospital.”
Denise’s face turned an awful shade of grey and Jessie thought for a moment she was going to faint. Jessie pulled her in close in a bear hug trying to comfort her.
“Okay, I’ll drive you, Rose can handle things here. Just sit for a moment, try not to panic.”
Denise sat and took a deep breath. Jessie went to the back to tell Rose what was going on. Minutes later they were on the 401 driving to Scarborough with rush hour traffic just beginning. An hour and half later, they entered Scarborough General and inquired at reception.
Denise turned at the sound of her name. It was Lou, Randall’s sister.
“Oh, Lou, what’s going on? I’ve been so worried, I couldn’t get ahold of him all day, then the delivery guy comes and tells us he’s sick.” Denise rambled on and told Lou about what the lady at Sheridan had said.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t have your cell number and I couldn’t think of what the flower shop was called. I just got here myself, traffic’s a bitch. They haven’t told me anything yet, they are still doing tests.”
“Whatever it was, it came on fast.” Denise said. “I stayed at this place last night and I left him in perfect health this morning. I don’t understand.”
Lou led the girls to the waiting area and they sat and waited, speculated.
“I’ll go get us some tea. It’ll help calm our nerves,” Jessie said. She was about to get up when the sound of sliding doors got her attention. When she turned around a doctor was coming out, flipping through the chart in his hand.
“Mrs. Priddle?” he said.
“Yes.” Lou stood up to greet the doctor and they all circled him with a slew of questions.
The doctor put his hand up and they quieted. “He’s stable. He was barely breathing when he came in so right now he’s breathing through a ventilator. We’re still waiting on test results. You cannot see him at this time. What I need right now is information: What kind of job does he have? Was he ill this morning? How’s his health? Does he have a medical condition?
Jessie, Denise, and Lou answered as best they could. When the doctor finished entering notes, he went back through the sliding doors. Jessie went to get the tea as Denise and Lou sat silently.
Back at The Little Shop of Flowers, Rose was quite busy with customers, phone orders, and putting away the delivery. Closing time came quickly and she was glad to finally lock the door and turn on the florescent CLOSED sign. She had to rearrange things in the fridge in order to store the tulips. She was just putting the last of the tulips in the fridge when she felt a sharp pain in her forearm. When she looked down at her arm, a brown colored spider scrambled into the bunch of tulips she still held. The scream to awake the dead came as the tulips fell to the floor. She jumped back away from them and headed for the nearest chair.
“Oh, my Lord! Sweet chili peppers! Where the heck are you, you disgusting, vile, beast!” Rose stood on the chair with her eyes glued to the flowers. Nothing moved. She remained still while the bite on her arm throbbed. She waited. Five minutes—nothing. Ten minutes—nothing. Fifteen minutes—movement. It came out, slowly at first, then it made its way across the floor to the heater. Rose slowly took a small glass jar and made her way toward it.
Rose managed to get the jar over it before it reached the heater. She took the cover and slipped it under the jar. She screwed on the lid and placed it on the counter. As she looked at the eight-legged monster, goose bumps formed on her body and the hair on the back of her head stood on end. Then everything went black as she fell to the floor.
“Rose! Rose!” Alex was gently shaking Rose, trying to wake her. Her face was pale and she was barely breathing. He called an ambulance and waited.
As the doctor was informing the girls of Randall’s current condition, Jessie’s phone rang. “Hi, Rose, how are things? Have you closed shop yet?”
“Jess, it’s me, Alex. I just showed up—Rose and I had a date tonight. Jess, I found her passed out on the floor. She’s got a huge bite on her arm and she’s got a big spider in a jar on the counter—she must have caught it before she passed out. I called an ambulance.”
“Oh, shit,” Jessie said, “is she alright?” Jessie grabbed Denise’s arm. She got the group’s attention and they listened as Jess spoke into the phone.
“She’s barely breathing. It must have just happened.”
“Alex, I’m at Scarborough Hospital. I’m here with Denise. Randall is here. He collapsed earlier this morning. The doctor is saying that they found bite marks on the back of his neck. Alex, that spider could be the key. I’ll meet you at Brampton Civic. Bring that jar with you. Take care of our girl.”
“I will, and I’ll lock up, don’t worry.” Alex assured Jessie he would take care of Rose.
Jessie hung up and turned to the doctor. “Rose got bit by a spider and she caught the thing before she collapsed. Alex got there just in time. The ambulance is on the way.”
“Rose?” the doctor said.
Jessie and Denise explained.
“Did he say what kind of spider it was?” the doctor said.
“No, but he is bringing it to the hospital with him.” Jessie said.
“Okay, I’ll get in touch with them and I’ll let you know what I find out.” He seemed hopeful and hurried back through the sliding doors.
“A spider bite, could it be?” Denise looked at Jessie.
“That would explain a lot.” Lou said.
“So, will you be okay here while I head up to see Rose?” Jessie sighed. “What a mess.”
Lou and Denise told Jessie to go, while they waited there.
Later that night, in that quiet time after midnight, Alex and Rose witnessed the doctor administering the antidote.
The spider was identified as a Hobo spider, indigenous to the Pacific Northwest. Jessie knew that Sheridan Nurseries ordered from a company in Abbotsford, BC. The spider must have caught a ride with the shipment of tulips. Randall was bitten, but he probably didn’t think anything of it, and got weaker as time went on. Luckily, he was able to call for help, before passing out.
“All we can do now is wait,” the doctor said. He took Rose’s vitals and checked the IV before leaving the room.
Jessie eyed the bandage on Rose’s arm. She wondered how Randall was.
“I’ll be back in a minute—I’m going to call Denise to see how Randall is doing.”
When Jessie came back into the room she relayed the news to Alex. The antidote had been given to him and they were waiting. Randall was worse than Rose, he had been exposed longer.
“Alex, if you hadn’t shown up when you did, Rose would be using the ventilator, too.”
“I know, I know.” He took a deep breath and got up to stretch his legs.
“I’m going to close my eyes for a bit.” Jessie sat in one of the two recliners and pulled a blanket up to her chin.
Alex held Rose’s hand and gently hummed the tune that was playing when they first met at the Valentine party.
When Jessie awoke, Rose and Alex were gazing in each other’s eyes. “Oh, get a room, will ya?” Jessie joked. She got up and looked down at Rose; her color had returned to normal. However, she was a bit flushed.
“How ya feeling?”
“My arm feels like it’s burning right off,” she said.
“I’ll get the doctor.”
“The nurse is gone to find him,” Alex said.
Jessie’s phone rang. She put Denise on speaker and she and Alex were delighted to hear that Randall’s vitals were back to normal and he was off the ventilator. The antidote was working. It was only a matter of time before he awoke, too.
Two weeks later, Lou had a dinner party and welcomed the whole gang. Rose and Randall had made a full recovery, although the scars hadn’t fully healed, and probably wouldn’t for some time. Both Randall and Rose were compensated for their pain and suffering from Exemplar Horticulture, the company who had supplied the poisonous tulips. The incident was unprecedented and a more strict process would be undertaken to ensure that nothing like that would ever happen again. And Jessie had closed the store for a few days and had the entire place fumigated, just to make sure.