be-leaf in yourself ❁
Rashel is strong in several different ways. Not abnormally strong physically, she has a strong emotional constitution. It's hard to upset her. She's been called every name in the book, and for the most part she would laugh them all off. It's only if you mess with someone she cares about that the strong facade will crack, and she'll show her emotions. She's also strong-willed. Some might call her stubborn, but not obnoxious. She'll argue her point as long as she thinks she's right. And she is the type to drop a fifty on the floor of your car if she thinks you're not doing well financially, and need help.
Both physically and personality-wise, Rashel is warm. She gives heat off like a furnace, even in the dead of winter. And her personality matches. She's kind, welcoming, and open. Becoming friends with her is like stepping into a tight hug, or drinking hot chocolate on a icy winter day. That isn't to say that she isn't capable of a cold stare now and then. On the off chance that she's pissed off, her glares can peel paint from a barn, and make you feel like you have ice in your veins.
When Rash loves something, she loves it with her whole heart. And once you get her talking about one of her passions, she literally will not shut up unless she runs out of breath, or you tell her to put a cork in it. When the latter happens, she always has the grace to look sheepish, and apologize for rambling on. But she's not really sorry. Her three main passions are flowers, food, and the people she loves. Badmouth her friends or her family, and be prepared for a rant upon which no comparison can be made.
Rashel has a certain grace about her. Not only physically, but emotionally as well. She can navigate the narrow rows of her greenhouses without bruising a single spring leaf, and she can defuse an argument with a gentle word and a calm voice. She can dance (to the right music!) as fluidly as a raindrop, and she will go an entire disagreement without raising her voice. A far cry from when she was her mother's wild child. She likes to think that's the flowers' doing.
Rashel Harman was born in Kyushu, Japan. Four days before Valentine's Day, she came along while her parents were visiting family. They weren't expecting her yet; a month early, she arrived like a shrieking whirlwind, already opinionated and a trifle impatient. She kept her parents in Japan for nearly two months before the doctors deemed it safe for her to travel, and her parents got word from the United States government that their daughter wasn't considered a Japanese citizen.
Once she was able to get into the US, home for Rashel was Walworth County, Wisconsin. Her family had a picture-perfect house with a beautiful view of a pretty lake. Everything you could want for a perfect life. The Harman family was soon joined by Rashel's baby sister Elisabeth. Lizzie came exactly on time, with no complications, and was deemed the quiet one, while Rashel was always introduced by her mother as 'my wild child'. This, naturally, left the eldest feeling a bit of resentment toward her younger sibling. To know that her mother thought of her as wild, as uncontrollable, was enough to make her declare out loud that she hated the sturdy little girl that looked so much like their father.
But, as so often happens in stories like this, all it took was a traumatic event to forge a strong bond between the sisters. In the case of the Harman siblings, it was a surprise pregnancy. Elisabeth, sweet and perfect Elisabeth, wound up having quite a few notches on her Fendi belt, and her last 'boyfriend' had gotten her in a family way on the first day of the summer camp they were both counselling at. By the time they parted ways at the end of August, she was nearly three months along, and he was calling her a whore. When Rashel found out, she not only offered to drive her sister to the doctor, she also contacted the summer camp to get the father's address. She never told Elisabeth exactly what she did or said to the boy; all Lizzie was told was that it had been taken care of. And sure enough, that very day the boy's parents had contacted Rashel and Elisabeth's parents, letting them know that, whatever happened, there would be support from them. And it was Rashel, ultimately, who convinced their parents that Elisabeth being pregnant at seventeen was not the end of the world. And that if she wanted to keep the baby, they could all help the young mother until Lizzie got into the swing of things. It was because of this that, when the baby came along, Elisabeth did indeed keep her. She named her Noelle -- Rashel's middle name.
When the baby came, it became all to clear to Rashel that their once perfect little house was becoming far too crowded. To say nothing of the fact that Walworth County, while being picturesque and one of those little towns you think only exist in storybooks, didn't have much to offer by way of post-secondary education. In fact, the nearest university was nearly an hour away. At nineteen years old, she was beginning to feel cooped up. She'd been working as a delivery girl at the only nursery in town since getting out of high school, but was starting to long for something much, much more than that. She wasn't sure what she wanted to do with her life yet, but she knew it wasn't this. And she knew she couldn't find it in Walworth County.
The day that Rashel announced her departure from Wisconsin was rainy and dismal. Her parents didn't take it well; privately, away from Elisabeth, they told Rashel that she had been the one to sing the praises of having a baby in the house. It had been her who had said they would all work hard to help Lizzie out to take care of Noelle. And now, just as everyone was settling into a baby-friendly routine, she was leaving? They tried everything to get her to stay but, in the end, they could see that Walworth County was a glass jar against which Rashel's wings were beating. And so they eventually packed her up and, on the morning of her twentieth birthday, she got into her sometimes unreliable green VW Bug and set off on the nineteen-hour drive to one of two places that young women fled to while looking for excitement; Los Angeles.
She expected to glide into life in LA seamlessly, but this was not the case. She had only been in her dingy little apartment for a week and a half before she was robbed. She messed up her days when it came to street parking and her car got towed. Groceries were expensive and checks bounced. Her application to UCLA was denied because she'd filled out some of the forms wrong. She couldn't find work, no matter how hard she pounded the pavement. It seems that whatever could go disastrously wrong... did. Used to the quiet life, she had come to find that now that she was in the heart of a loud, noisy city, she didn't like it. It was too chaotic, and it was too hard for her to adjust. Feeling flighty and a bit like a failure, she began looking into moving for the second time in six months. This time, however, she decided that perhaps her mother had been right about something; perhaps she should have a plan before she picked everything up and moved this time. So she looked into schooling, spending countless hours pouring over college websites and fliers, trying to decide on what courses to take. She applied to a handful of schools all across the country and rewrote her résumé so it might be easier to find a job wherever she landed.
Soon, like a puzzle slowly coming together piece by piece, so her life began to take shape. She got an acceptance letter from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, to which she immediately enrolled. Her parents came to the city with Elisabeth and the baby to help her pack, and after searching the internet for a while, they found her a cute little apartment in Quincy a little less than an hour away from her campus. The move went even smoother than her first, because this time she made the trip with her sister sitting beside her in the car, and her father driving a UHaul behind them. And Illinois was wonderful; it had the newness she had craved, but it wasn't crowded enough to overwhelm her. Her apartment was in a good neighbourhood, which set her mother's mind at ease. Before they left, her parents treated her to a shopping trip that filled her cupboards and left her with enough money to keep her going until she got a job. Which, thankfully, happened soon; after a few interviews, she got a job at the campus bookstore. It wasn't her dream job, but the paycheck from there, combined with the monthly allowance her parents sent her, allowed her to live comfortably enough.
Seasons changed. The days got shorter, the nights got longer, and Rashel began to flourish. By the time her next birthday came around, she'd decided what she wanted to do with her life; after working with the plants and brightly coloured flowers at the nursery back in Wisconsin, she'd discovered that she had quite a knack for it. She'd always had a bit of a green thumb; her elementary school beansprout science project had always flourished, and when she was given flowers in high school from her boyfriend, they'd always managed to stay alive longer than they probably should have. Furthermore, she liked plants, and working with them soothed her. And so she'd decided to change her major, take a few science courses, and go into botany. That was the formal title, anyway. To her friends and family, she proudly announced that she was going to be a plant mom. It was mildly hilarious to see the expressions on her parents' faces at Christmas when she announced this. After all, getting a job in a field that would qualify her, technically, as a scientist was not what they'd seen in the cards for their wild child. To say they were shocked, and a bit doubtful, was a bit of an understatement. But they were proud of her, and offered their help whenever she needed it.
She did need the help, more often than she was happy to admit to, and she nearly quit once or twice when the academics almost got to be too much for her. She spent more than one night on the phone with Elisabeth, who gently talked her off the ledge of quitting school entirely and joining a travelling circus. Eventually, she got her degree and did... nothing with it. As it turned out, she really didn't want to work in a sparse lab, studying spores and mould. She wanted to be surrounded by beautiful things, not sterility. Remembering fondly the little nursery that she'd driven a junky old delivery truck for when she was eighteen, and the almost decrepit storefront that used to be a produce store on a neat parcel of land, she decided to take out a loan (thank god for her outstanding credit. If not for the help from her parents while she was in school, her credit score would have been in the toilet) and open a nursery of her own. Nothing massive, because she couldn't afford it. There were more florals than foliage, given that was her real passion. So really, it was a florist, with one of those build-it-yourself greenhouses out back that had a few more exotic plants, and a tiny fenced-off section where she grew fir trees for the holiday season. It was expensive, and it was scary, but thankfully the area she was in didn't have a lot of competition when it came to florals and plants (aside from the cut bouquets you could buy at the grocery store) so it wasn't long before she had a fairly steady customer base.
She was almost thirty before the little knot of tension that had formed when she'd opened her business eased away almost entirely. She was doing well for herself, enough that she could move out of her apartment and into a townhouse with a tiny square yard where she planted bee-friendly flowers and a minuscule vegetable garden. It was around this time that she bumped into a man at the little wonton house that had the amazing soup that she craved at least three times a week. He had a wide smile and a smooth voice, and she was charmed by him immediately. They'd wound up eating their dinner together, tucked into a tiny table in the corner of the restaurant. They exchanged numbers and got together for drinks that Friday. And in the beginning, it was great. They were able to talk for hours at a time, but also to sit quietly together to watch a movie and not say a word through the entire thing. He could steal food off her plate and she didn't kill him, and she convinced him to watch terrible horror movies. The sex was amazing. But gradually, and then suddenly, their relationship just... wasn't anymore. There was no messy breakup, they just kind of stopped. They didn't fight, there were no tears, just a parting of ways. When they met up at the opening of a new coffee shop in town a year later, they drank their coffees together, and that spark came back. Once again, they dated. Once again, they could talk for hours or sit in silence. Once again, the sex was fabulous. And once again, it dwindled and then died off like a cheap candle. When Rashel's car died two years after that, she had it towed to Kai's garage. He bought her a package of M&M's from the vending machine while she was waiting, and they wound up hooking up in the back seat of her car once it was repaired. The same thing. Dates. Conversation. Laughter and adventure and sex. And then a separation. It became a kind of running joke in the Harman family. Every Christmas there would be a present for Kai under the tree. And if they happened to not be dating at the time, they would laughingly tell her to 'just wait'. And she always gave the gifts to him, too. Eventually.
Since she opened Free Spirit Nursery eight years ago, it's grown a little. She has another greenhouse, a room just for herbs, vegetable seeds, and fruit trees. But it's still what Lizzy calls an overzealous flower shop. Rashel's speciality is orchids, papery thin and fragrant and beautiful in their fragility. Putting her degree to some use, she cross-pollinates them herself to make beautiful hybrids in colours that should be impossible. They are her pride and joy, and she often has a hard time handing them over to paying customers. She rarely has an empty shop, and she works from dawn until dusk. And as for Kai... well, she has two Christmas gifts for him in her bedroom closet, the lightswitch of their relationship having been switched back to the 'OFF' position. They're not on bad terms, though. They never are. They're just not on at the moment.