Slow, silent rocking woke the pair gently, as it had these last seven months, like the soft shake of a partner’s hands. Felice was first to rise, opening the curtains of the small sailboat to reveal a bright sky, full of promise. The warm sun soaked into her skin, and she drank greedily until she had her fill, gazing across the lethargic waters at the painted canvas the horizon wore. Her companion, slow to wake but surprisingly animated once so, began the task of making the morning meal, and Felice enjoyed her solace with the water a moment more before pitching in.
The wind was strong yet warm, with a few wisps of cloud skirting the peninsula as Felice and Greta, her business partner and senior, enjoyed light toast with jam and butter, chilled fruits and summer wine. Many a fisher and sailor greeted the pair with delight, asking after their previous day and wishing them well with today’s sales. They in turn wished for quiet seas and bountiful harvests, trading some of their wine for yesterday’s catch.
The minnows fed ravenously on the scraps tossed to them while Greta set up the tables on the dock. Felice followed suit with the back of the boat, securing the gangplank with rope and organizing their stock: plants of all shapes and colours, growing in boots and wine bottles, vases and flotsam scavenged further to sea. Several had permanent homes in the planter beds flanking the deck of the sailboat, while the most exotic lived on Greta herself.
A walking growbed of sorts, Greta was a living horticulture experiment, feeding her plants as they fed her. During the bright day, she took excess energy from the plants to liven her step; at night, she returned the energy from a heavy evening meal and slept soundly while the flora feasted. These plants rarely stopped growing, so healthy a relationship had they formed with their host, and Felice regularly assisted Greta in grooming and trimming those that became unwieldy. These they replanted and sold, though a customer could take a cutting of their choosing for a price.
As daybreak gave way to late morning, the dock became alive with noise; a radio added a backdrop to the raucous laughter of sailors at midday, the bellows of fishmongers advertising their wares, the cooing of pigeons and cries of gulls amidst an idle murmur of prospective buyers.
Old Barlow stopped by to thank Greta for her advice, noting his Sedum Morganum was much happier now. They spent quite some time chatting, trading dirty limericks and careful glances. Felice, busy as she was with a couple, caught on sometime after he had left and noticed Greta’s face and petals flush with excitement.
They laughed like old hags as a fresh hand aboard a merchant vessel tumbled down the gangway, Felice offering her a hand as she stifled her snorting. Suitably embarrassed, she laughed back and hung around their tables a while, trading gossip over a bottle of port. Greta’s appearance had at first seemed to be a costume, a way to raise sales, but a few explanations and ginger tugs on the vines tumbling down her shoulder convinced her otherwise.
Several newcomers (tourists, Felice reckoned) were exclaiming loudly over the price of the trinkets and baubles on display across the dock, and Greta steeled herself when they reached her table. Felice stepped up to the tables and declared their plants the best in the bay, her confidence overshadowing Greta’s uncomfortable posture. The group barked laughter at her display and sauntered onward, and the two shared a look of derision.
Late midday saw a local delivery boy bicycling down the cobblestones, dropping off Greta’s afternoon meal and haggling over a few potted petunias for his mother. He bantered with Felice, as she was more his age, and Greta gave her a cheeky nudge when the boy wasn’t looking. She stuck out her tongue and dragged her eyelid down, and the teasing continued back and forth for the rest of the day.
Sunlight began to glint off the waves when Séamus, a local priest, came calling for a few larger Larkspurs for a wedding tomorrow. Felice popped into the boat to find the most beautifully flowering specimens, and Greta exchanged some coin for a parcel of mushrooms from her calves. As always, he blushed knowing where they were from, and blessed her with a reading from his book. Neither of the two shared his faith, but they respected his manner and company. He stayed to muse with them and aid in closing up their stall for the evening, even partaking in some rum cooled in the shallows.
As Séamus wandered home, a pack laden with pots, Greta and Felice set to making the ship seaworthy for the morning. The sail unfurled and dusted, rigging set for a fair wind and the windows cleaned of bird leavings. A small nest was dug out from under the boat’s nose, clearly abandoned for a season or two. They took turns wearing it as a hat while they cleared up the last of the dinner dishes.
Night wove the sky into grayer and darker shades, her dress of stars encompassing everything after a while. The waves picked up mildly, but the rocking made it easier to drift off, and Felice was finally coaxed into bed from on top of the galley by a nightgowned Greta, her leaves all curled in against the cool wind.
The two slumbered peacefully in the bay that was a crater, on a boat that was a home.