Will shifted the van into Park and turned off the ignition. As he was reaching to open his door, Ashley gestured with her thumb to the back of the van, observing, "We've still got hours to drive before we get this guy home. I'm gonna run in and grab something to drink. Want anything?"

He shook his head, "No, thanks. I've got to go in myself anyway when I'm done."

"Okay, see ya inside, then." She slipped from her seat onto the concrete and crossed to enter the gas station.

When he entered the station himself a few minutes later, the van's tank filled, he headed to the back to take care of his own business before grabbing a bottle of Coke from one of the refrigerated cases. Ashley was waiting for him next to the register at the front of the store.

As he finished paying for his soda, he noticed Ashley staring at the display of single stem roses sitting on the counter, absently stroking one of the soft red petals with her finger. "Pretty, aren't they?" he asked.

She shrugged noncommittally and pulled her hand back quickly. "I guess…. It just seems like $8.99 is a bit much for just a flower. And they've been sitting out here for who knows how long… They're not exactly fresh."

He smiled as he followed her out of the store and toward the waiting van. "It's the thought that counts. Sometimes, nothing says the right thing except a rose. Know what I mean?"

She shrugged again before climbing into the passenger seat. "Yeah… maybe. I guess." There was a hesitancy in her response that made him wonder, though.

Will settled into the driver's seat and turned on the ignition. Shifting into Drive, he pulled out of the gas station. As he drove, he could see Ashley toying nervously with the corner of her leather jacket in the seat next to him. "Hey…."

She turned to him, her hands stilling in her lap. "Yeah?"

"Don't worry. You will."

"Will what?"

"Know what it's like - someday - to get a rose. You just need to find the right guy." She looked at him for a moment, then snorted. He couldn't help but smile. "I know, sounds like a line… But it's true, Ash."

"Yeah, right. Lets face it, I'm just not the kind of girl guys give roses to. More thorns then petals, I'm afraid."

He couldn't help chuckling even though it really wasn't true. "Like I said, you just need to find the right guy."

His laughter proved infectious; it managed to get a small smile from Ashley, too. "I wish he'd hurry up, then."

"Don't worry," he repeated. "You've got time. Someday, the right guy will come along. A guy who appreciates petals and thorns."

He had expected a sarcastic retort. Receiving none, he spared his companion a sideways glance. She was staring out the window, lost in the thoughts his words evoked, her features softened in a rare unguarded moment. And he knew, with absolute certainty, that one day Ashley would understand exactly why $8.99 was never too much to spend on a rose.

Will smiled to himself.

Petals indeed.