It was a short walk from the parking lot to the entrance of the garden center, but far enough for Rose to have already started sweating. True, it was an uncomfortably hot morning, and the sun grew more merciless as the minutes passed, but the reason had as much to do with Rose as with the heat. She had dressed lightly for the day-- a thin polyester dress with a floral pattern, sandals, a broad-brimmed hat-- but at 44 she was not a petite woman, and it didn't take much exertion for a film of sweat to form on her brow, her chest, and under her arms.
She hoped it might seem cooler inside the long rows of plants and flowers, away from the black asphalt of the parking lot, but if it did it wasn't by much. As she looked around at various flowering plants and shrubs, feathery fronds and snaking green stalks, her thoughts turned to her weight, as they often did, and from there to her lack of a love life, as they often did as well. She attributed the latter to the former, though it might have been truer to say that she indulged the former because she had given up on the latter.
If she had thought about it, she certainly could have named any number of friends who had reached a similar size at a similar age, yet were in healthy (or even hyperactive) sexual relationships. In Rose's case, it was less a matter of weight than of the fact that everything about her-- the round puffball of teased and shellacked hair, the matronly attire, the powdery body scent, the sensible shoes-- gave off a distinct air of permanent sexlessness. She seemed simultaneously uninterested in, uninteresting at, and incapable of pleasing a man in bed; seducing her would be like trying to interest a moose in the high jump.
But she had a beautiful garden-- gardening, like food, being one of her consolations and forms of self-expression. She worked her way along a row of shrubs and then came to one she didn't think she'd seen before-- broad leaves on a clinging vine, and here and there a white bell-shaped flower with a shocking pink interior. She lifted one frond up and took a whiff of it-- musky and strong, not sweet-- and as she did a loose berry rolled off the plant and dropped into her mouth. She gasped in surprise-- and in an instant she had swallowed it, quite inadvertently.
Oh dear! she thought. This could be quite serious! She looked around the base of the plant for a tag and found it. Argyreia nervosa-- Hawaiian baby woodrose. Relative of morning glory, native to Asia and Hawaii... seeds are eaten as a mild psychoactive related to LSD-- good heavens! Still, Rose rationalized, if people ate seeds, plural, for that purpose, one seed was unlikely to do a great deal. It was silly to be overly concerned. Perhaps a bit too readily, she put it out of her head and moved along to look at other plants.
A few minutes later, though, she began to feel distinctly uncomfortable. The sunlight seemed to be growing brighter, and she was feeling warmer, in fact as she looked down she saw that her dress was quite damp. Not far away a tall, dark-skinned young man who was spraying the plants with a hose turned to look at her-- and the look on his face as he turned to look at her told the story. He rushed over to her as her knees started to buckle and just barely was able to hold her up to guide her to a bench placed fortunately just a few feet away.
"Are you all right, ma'am?" he said as he wet a cloth with his hose, then held it up to her face. The cool water was instant relief.
"The heat..." she said, and then she realized she had better tell him everything. "Also... this will seem silly but... I accidentally swallowed a seed. The Hawaiian baby woodrose."
His eyes opened wide and she was shocked to see him laughing at her plight. But she didn't begrudge it, he had a kindly, funny face-- a big nose, a wide smile, black-framed glasses like you saw on so many college kids these days. Really kind of cute, not that she had ever thought that way about-- what was he? Black? Middle eastern? Polynesian? Hawaiian baby... ?
"... all tried it at some point," he was saying, and she tried to focus on him, realizing she'd been drifting. "I'm pretty sure one won't do you any harm. They say it's a psychedelic and even an--" he lowered his voice-- "aphrodisiac, but all anybody here seemed to get from it was a little happy feeling. I'm sure you'll be all right."
Aphrodisiac! My heavens, thought Rose. And as she contemplated the thought she did start to feel something run through her body, something she hadn't felt in a long time; a kind of tingle in her thighs, her stomach... oh, don't be silly.
She thanked him and moved along, taking only one backwards glance at him as she walked on. She liked the look of his buns, as her friends called them. Nice muscular legs in his shorts, like someone who biked a lot. Oh, what was she thinking, she put him out of her mind and continued on her way, looking at big leafy palms and brilliant red and purple annuals.
The colors of the flowers seemed to swirl and grow before her, intense, overwhelming. The fronds of the palms swayed back and forth, the sun beat down, the heat from the outside seemed to be matched by a surging force within her. She thought again of the young man, his tight ass, his strong legs as they must piston up and down, pumping his bike-- Rose, what has come over you! She hadn't fantasized like this in years, and as she did she felt the heat almost overpowering her. Another hose was nearby, no one was around, she could mist herself like they did the plants and cool down--
.... There is more of this story ...