She had to go unnoticed, unseen, for her mission. She crept along a wall, hiding in the shadows cast by the dim light, slinking past rows of boxes and patches of flowers until she reached a door. Her fingers carefully made their way to a paper attached to the door, and she whipped it over, darting back for cover before she was noticed.
But just as she made it past a flowery space, she could hear the people coming, surging for the door like a flower shop in February.
Probably because it was a flower shop in February.
There was a loud, chaotic jingling as men and women alike jerked the door with its single Valentine's-pink bell to get to the merchandise inside. Ino, behind the counter, greeted the newcomers with a smile as she adjusted the small bun on the back of her head.
It was February 13th, the absolute last call for anyone who still wanted a girlfriend after Valentine's Day. Business had been booming in the Yamanaka flower shop since February 1st, but today was going to be the most hectic by far. Especially since Ino was the only family member available to run the shop.
Her father was off on a last-minute mission, and her mother was too ill to be running around a public store.
One way or another, it was going to be a frenzied day.
"Miss? Are the boxes of chocolate high-quality? For this price?"
The Yamanaka flower shop had gotten a small shipment of chocolates, just for the holiday. IY's father said it would boost business, but Ino didn't understand why they needed any more customers when they were already so crowded.
"They're good enough to impress anyone," Ino replied, checking the rest of the crowd for questions before she went back to the counter.
"How much are these? They don't have a price tag." A man held up a small bouquet of two flowers.
"The price is posted above the flowers!" Ino called from behind the counter.
"Is this credit card accepted here?" the man first in line to check out asked.
"Always has been," Ino sang through her teeth, trying to keep her pleasant smile.
Why couldn't customers notice the sign right in front of them that answers their questions?
"Do you have any balloons?" one boy called.
"I'm afraid not." Ino barely got to check out two customers before the little bell chimed again.
"Is this the Yamanaka flower shop?" one teenager just coming in the door asked.
"If that's what the sign says, that's what it is," Ino replied. "Have a nice day," she said more pleasantly, turning back to the shopper she had just checked out.
"What kind of flower is this?"
"It's a chrysan—"
"Which bouquet you think my wife would like better?"
"Could my girlfriend be allergic to this?"
"When are you closing?"
"Why are these more expensive than the ones wrapped in plastic?"
"What do the colored roses mean?"
"Where are the discount flowers?"
"Hey, where are you going?" The questions faded to murmurs as the greenhouse door swung shut behind Ino.
She slunk down against the wall with a sigh. As if it weren't impossible enough to run the shop this busy month with the help of her family! She checked the clock on the far wall. The shop had only been open half an hour.
She got back to her feet, took a deep breath, and plunged herself back into the store's endless chaos.