TITLE: Stoking Hope
GENRE: Adult Historical Fiction
Frances and Joe are college students, dating for two months. They take a walk after their chemistry class on a cold March day in 1941.
Frances scanned the treetops, searching for signs of spring but the trees were bare, the glass spires of the conservatory clearly visible.
Joe stomped his feet. “Let’s go inside.” He emptied his pocket, handing the coins to the gatekeeper.
She opened her mouth to protest. Joe being indulgent with his scant funds filled her with guilt, but the warm and perfumed air was so enticing. She closed her mouth. They wandered through damp rooms overflowing with exotic plants and flowers, pausing to read the small identification tags and trying to pronounce the long names aloud.
“Glad I’m trying to be a chemist, not a botanist,” Joe said, squinting at the words printed beneath a tall plant with leaves as large as elephant ears, hairy vines snaking up the trunk. He pushed open the door to the Orchid Room.
“Mmm,” Frances mumbled, overwhelmed by the intoxicating scent. Dozens of blooms in dozens of colors, quivering atop rubbery stems. She bent, her nose inches from blood-red petals. Two women approached, the only other people in the room, and Frances murmured a greeting, straightening to let them pass. She worked her way into the tight space, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. Feeling Joe at her side, she opened her eyes. The women had disappeared; they were alone. She raised her chin and Joe leaned down, his eyes a brilliant green, mimicking the lush plants. Her first kiss. Everything was as she dreamed—heart pounding, lips tingling—except it wasn’t Mickey.