When Abbey and Brady reached the nursery, it was a burning inferno. The glass walls had collapsed and it was going up in a snarling hiss of smoke and flames. Firefighters struggled to get the blaze under control. Police and paramedics had arrived and Eye Witness News was on the scene, snapping photos.
"Oh my!" Abbey was out of the car the minute it came to a screeching halt. Her face was as ashen as the thick clouds of smoke billowing up into the night sky. Tripping over the gravel and cinders as she rushed toward the fire chief, she screamed. "What happened? I'm Abigail Jordan and I own this nursery. What happened? When I left, everything was fine. Please tell me nobody was in there!"
"No one was in there," the fire chief placed a hand on her shoulder. "Things could be a lot worse. Dead plants can be replaced. People can't." Riveted with shock as reality filtered through her, Abbey screamed, "My roses! All my precious roses. All those hanging baskets of lavender. My exotic orchids and Easter lilies. Gone, all gone!"
"It's all right," Brady folded her into his arms."Shh."
"What started it?" Abbey stared at the fire chief.
"How did it start?"
"It's being investigated. At this time, the cause is unknown. Could be a gas leak. A neighbor reported hearing an explosion, and in a few minutes, your greenhouse went up like a house of cards."
In less than an hour, the fire was under control, but all that remained of Abbey's nursery was a bed of ash. The floral boutique across the covered bridge was unharmed but the rest of the damage caused by the fire was insurmountable.
"Do you have any idea how long it took me to choose and cultivate each of my prize roses?" Abbey finally let the tears roll. Leaning on Brady, she sobbed in between hysterics. "My Lasting Love rose, demolished. And to think I'll never smell the spicy aroma of my Sentimental rose again. And at prom time, I never had enough of the Falling in Love rose.
They all wanted a corsage made of the pink roses, timeless and romantic. And not to forget the Arctic Flame rose, popular for keeping the romance alive. All my hard work, up in smoke."
"Ms. Jordan," the fire chief interrupted. "We know the cause of the fire. It was caused by a recently installed heating table. Some of the cable wiring possibly touched each other due to improper installation."
Abbey shoved Brady away and stared at him, her eyes glinting with anger. "It was you. You said you knew how to install the heating table and I listened to you. You ruined my dream. Get away from me."
"Abbey," he tried to reach her. "There's gotta be some mistake. Let me-"
"There was a mistake all right," Abbey hissed."Hiring you and trusting you with my roses. Get out of here and never come back. I never want to see you again."
On Easter morning, Abbey pulled up to her floral shop, her heart heavy with grief. Feeling as if she had the weight of the world on her shoulders, she crossed the bridge to where her garden nursery had been. Even before she got there, the thick scent of smoke lingered, a pungent reminder of what had happened the night before.
She wanted the world to stop spinning. How could Brady have been so careless? How could she have been stupid enough to trust him? Somewhere deep in her subconscious, she knew she should have had an electrician install the heating table. So why hadn't she listened? Because she'd been attracted to him and had been well on her way to falling in love with him. She recalled how infatuated she'd been only yesterday when she watched him touch the roses with such tenderness. And the kiss they'd shared last night. Tears spilled down her face at the memory.
She kicked her foot in the rubble and screamed at the top of her lungs. Sobs ripped through her until she couldn't breathe. On Easter morning of all mornings, a time of rebirth and resurrection. Hurling herself on the bed of ashes where her nursery had been, she kicked and screamed, not caring if the world came crashing down on top of her. Hearing footsteps behind her, she looked up and gasped.
An old man with flowing white hair stood over her, his gnarled body stiff and bent. He poked at her with his walking stick. "Get up, girlie," he commanded. "Quit feeling sorry for yourself."
"Who are you?" Abbey stood up and backed away. Other than the birds, there was no one around. She reached for her cell phone, only to remember it was in her purse in the car. Her heart pounded with adrenaline. "Who are you and where did you come from?"
"I'm not here to hurt you. I'm here to help." Abbey started across the bridge. She wanted to get far away from this nut. Who was he?
His words had a jarring effect. She turned around to see him rooting through the rubble with his cane. What was he doing, digging around in her dirt? Was he looking for money? Food? Was he homeless?
He looked at her without expression. "I've come to give you words of wisdom. When you find love, hold on tight. Then find it in your heart to forgive. It's all about forgiveness."
Curious, Abbey joined him. The sun was peeking through the mountaintops and a shimmer of red caught her eye where the old man was probing with his cane. She got on her hands and knees and joined him, shoving the dirt and cinders aside with reverent fingers. There it was, the satiny red petals of a Lasting Love rose, buried beneath the rubble. Tears of joy trickled down her face. Preserved beneath the ash and cinders was her favorite flower in the whole world, her Lasting Love rose. She kept digging, deeper and deeper, and before long, the entire bush and its brilliant red blossoms had resurrected.