A Special Flower for a Special Lady
In 2005, I entered the Romance Writers of Edmonton’s romantic fiction contest, When Hearts Meet, and won. This marked the first official recognition of my skills as a writer of romance, and I was thrilled!
To thank you for visiting my site, I have provided that story here. I hope you enjoy reading it, as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Elizabeth watched the tall man in the beige raincoat as he gazed in a bewildered fashion at the display cabinet filled with cut flowers and arrangements. She’d seen him in her flower shop a few times before but he’d never bought anything; had merely said hello and smiled in a shy manner. Sometimes he would ask about a certain flower or engage her in light conversation until another customer came in. At those times, she imagined that he was her special friend and hoped that maybe one day he might invite her to the coffee bar next door.
She had been immediately attracted to him, although most people would say that he was nothing special to look at. Yet his brown hair with its soft waves, intense hazel eyes, and the small cleft in his determined looking chin showed him to be a man of character.
Although he seemed to be like every other business man in an ordinary raincoat that fell straight to his knees, Elizabeth knew otherwise. She’d heard other men, his colleagues she guessed, talking to him near the doorway to her shop, their voices carrying on the wind as it blew through the often opened door. At one time, she’d overheard the words, ‘congratulations’, and ‘promotion’, followed shortly thereafter by the phrase, ‘you lucky dog’. He had smiled and accepted the congratulatory pat on the back before entering her shop, carrying the same briefcase as always, and the latest newspaper folded up beneath his arm.
Sometimes when he came in, she would catch his eye and they’d commune silently for a second or two before one of them would smile or nod and look away. It was as if, in those few seconds, a bond had been formed and because of that, she had even dreamed of him last night.
The dream was simple. He came into the shop as he had done every other day for the past month. But this time, he picked out a bouquet. A particularly lovely bouquet of one dozen long-stemmed, red roses. With his arms struggling to balance his brief case and newspaper in one hand and the bouquet in the other, he brought them up to the counter, looked her straight in the eye and…
Her alarm had gone off. She had woken from that dream feeling frustrated at not sleeping long enough to hear what he had to say, yet excited that she had dreamed of him. That morning, Elizabeth dressed with extra care. It was Valentine’s Day. She didn’t have a special Valentine but she did own a flower shop and knew that her customers would expect her to dress accordingly.
She pulled her favourite sweater from the drawer, a pale pink knit with a slightly scooped neck and three-quarter-length sleeves. She then put on her black, straight skirt that clung to her curves and fell to just past her knees and would have been impossible to walk in without the sexy slit up the side. Low heels with small faux diamonds at the toe finished off her ensemble, picking up the sparkle of the small diamonds she wore in her ears and the glitter of the simple chain she wore around her neck. She had left her apartment feeling attractive and ready to greet her clients.
The shop had been busy all morning and even busier in the afternoon. And now, with less than a half hour left until closing, he had just walked in.
She gave him some time to look around, just as she always did. But this time, he seemed particularly intent on finding something. His gaze kept going between the spray of cut spring flowers and the arrangement of star-gazer lilies.
The phone had finally quit ringing. The last of the delivery orders had gone out the door. Her co-worker was busy in the back putting the finishing touches on yet another arrangement. Things were never dull in a flower shop and now that her friend seemed to be the only customer, her attention was focused solely on him.
Elizabeth’s hands felt damp as she thought about approaching him. He was probably looking for something special to take home to his wife. They had never discussed personal things before, whenever they’d chatted, she doing her work, he investigating the scent of a particular flower or asking a question such as, “Do you think it will rain today?” The personal had never come into it and she’d always assumed, though he didn’t wear a ring, that he was already taken.
She quickly dragged a hand through her hair, pulling it from her eyes to tuck it over her ear. Just as she was about to go towards him, a woman walked in, tall, dark-haired and beautiful. Elizabeth stopped and watched as the woman made straight for the only other person in the shop.
“Jeff, hello. Fancy meeting you here,” she said, smiling.
“Susan, what a surprise.”
The woman named Susan stepped closer to Jeff and placed a hand on his arm, rubbing lightly. “I haven’t heard from you since the New Year’s party. I was hoping you’d call.”
Jeff shrugged. “Sorry, I’ve been meaning to. It’s just been so darned busy.”
“I heard you got promoted. Congratulations, that’s quite a coup you pulled off.”
“Yeah, thanks. It was a lot of hard work and partly why I haven’t seen too many people lately. But that’s business for you.”
Susan looked around. “Funky little shop. Don’t know why I haven’t come in here before.”
“It’s a great little place,” Elizabeth heard Jeff say. “The right kind of place to pick out something special for a special someone.”
“Do you have someone in mind?” Susan probed.
Jeff’s shrug was non-committal and Elizabeth quickly looked back down at the counter and pretended to work on the order book. In truth, she couldn’t see the lines on the page before her.
“Well, I’ve got to be going,” said Susan. “I’ll see you later.”
“Later.” Jeff nodded.
Elizabeth watched the woman leave the store and saw that Jeff’s thoughtful gaze also followed her out. Was she the woman Jeff had in mind when he stepped into her store? Elizabeth knew her customers and she was quite certain Jeff was here to buy something for someone. And not just any someone. He was here because of someone special, just as he’d said. Screwing up her courage, she walked over to where he stood. “Can I help you with anything?”
Jeff had known Elizabeth would approach and felt his heart rate pick up. It had taken all day for him to decide whether he would come in here tonight or not. She had intrigued him ever since that first morning when, on his way to work, he had seen her put dozens of cut flowers into water-filled bins that lined the big front window of the store. He knew now it was her store. She’d told him that after their first meeting when he couldn’t explain, even to himself, why he’d stepped inside. Each day that he had come in, he had been too shy to do more than exchange a few comments with her and then leave.
And here he was, promising himself that this time, he’d have the courage to aske her for a date.
“I was wondering what kind of flowers I should buy.” That sounded a little lame, he thought, even to his own ears.
A professional, she didn’t hesitate. “Do you have a particular person or event in mind, or a room in a house perhaps?”
“No, not a room,” he answered truthfully.
“Well then, a person?”
He nodded, unsure of what to say.
“How about a lovely, bright bouquet of spring flowers, or perhaps an arrangement that is more artful? We have a floral designer who can create something precisely to your taste. What do you think this person would like?”
“That’s a good question,” he said. “I guess I’m not really certain.” Jeff tightened his lips in thought, looked quickly at her before pretending to scan the many flowers before him but able to take in her flawless complexion while he did. Those cheeks, like the palest pink roses, her eyes as blue as the spikes of irises she stood beside. He knew at once he would go through with his promise to himself. “Perhaps she’s someone like you. What kinds of flowers do you like?”
Her laughter was like the sun on a cloudy day, soft and very welcome. “I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that before.”
“That’s a shame,” he said, and meant it. Her eyes met his and stayed there for the space of one heartbeat.
“I guess I like all kinds of flowers. Is it for a special occasion?”
Suddenly, she was all business again and Jeff’s confidence wavered for a moment. He hoped he hadn’t put her off by being too personal. “Yes. Actually, it is. Very special. I’m hoping she’ll join me for dinner.”
“Oh.” A shadow crossed Elizabeth’s eyes before she brightened again. “Well, she’s a very lucky lady. Perhaps then, you should be looking at roses.”
“Yes. The colours mean something. At least, most do. For instance, white is for purity, yellow is for peace, and red, the most popular colour of all at this time of year, is for love.”
Her smile was so genuine, as if she wished him happiness with the woman who would dine with him tonight.
“I’m not sure. You see, I don’t know her very well. We’re just acquaintances at this point. “I’m hoping, though, that it can become more.”
“Tell me this. If you were to pick flowers for a very special occasion, a first date with someone you hoped would turn out to be very special, what would you suggest?”
Her eyes darkened and a look of wistfulness crossed her features. Sighing, she said, “I think that the best thing would be a lovely, deep red rose with the bud partially opened, like this one here.” She chose a prefect rose from among the few remaining in the bin before her, and held it in her slender hands.
“Yes?” He was watching her carefully now and couldn’t help but smile.
“And then, if we take some Baby’s Breath, and a sprig of fern to offset the bloom, I can tie a red ribbon around the grouping and wrap it up in some nice paper for you. It will be enough to tell her that you care about her but not enough to embarrass her or put her off. I find simplicity is best, especially in a situation that you are not a hundred per cent certain of.”
“That sounds like exactly what I need. I’ll take it.” His heart began to hammer in his chest as he followed her to the counter.
“I have some gift cards over here. You can choose one to write something on while I wrap this up. There are some small envelopes right beside them.”
He wrote a note on a small card with a valentine in the corner and an image of lace on the border, and then tucked it into the envelope just as she turned around.
Elizabeth was once again taken in by his soft brown eyes, such kind eyes, and knew a moment of envy for the woman he would be asking out. Trying hard to hide her sadness, she put on her best smile. “There you are, all ready. I’ll tape the note onto the paper, if you like.”
“Thank you,” he answered, and than asked, “so, are you going out tonight, too?”
“Me?” the urge to lie and say ‘yes’ was on her tongue but she found she couldn’t lie to this man. “No, not me. I won’t be going anywhere tonight. Just home. Maybe I’ll work on my ledgers and get ahead of the game. But you, I hope you have a wonderful time.”
“Thank you, I hope I will.”
He turned to go and Elizabeth felt suddenly weary and crestfallen. The man of her dreams was going to leave and take his beautiful rose to a very special woman. She wished with all her heart it could have been her!
Before had had taken a second step, he turned back to her and Elizabeth quickly shut out her sad thoughts to smile instead.
“By the way, I need to ask you something.”
“Sure, go ahead.”
“You did tell me once that your name was Elizabeth, didn’t you?”
She smiled genuinely now, happy that he had remembered. “That’s right, and you’re Jeff, aren’t you?”
He returned the smile and held out the single rose, wrapped lovingly in Baby’s Breath and ribbon. “Then, I think this must be for you. And if it is, then, I’m hoping, now that it’s six o’clock and it’s closing time, you’ll be able to join me for dinner?”
Elizabeth gasped and put her trembling fingertips to her lips. How many times had she daydreamed that he would ask her out? Hadn’t her dream last night been just like this?
“I know we don’t know each other very well,” he continued, as if afraid she would say ‘no’ before he had a chance to explain, “but I’ve been wanting to ask you out for some time. I just didn’t quite know how.”
Elizabeth swiped the corner of her eye where a tear threatened to fall. “I don’t know what to say. I’m so flattered.”
“How about, ‘yes’?”
She smiled again and nodded. “You’re right. Let me get my coat and tell Janey I’m leaving.”
As she strode back to the front of the store where Jeff waited, she thought she must be the luckiest woman in the world. He held her bouquet while she locked the door behind them, his nearness a comfort in the cool wind of a February night. She turned and took the flowers from him, their hands brushing together, electricity passing between them enhancing the giddiness she felt. A warm look was exchanged and Jeff’s hand was there, outstretched, waiting for hers.
Pulling her close, Jeff leaned his head nearer and asked, “Would you prefer Chinese or Italian?”
This time Elizabeth laughed outright. “Why don’t you surprise me?”
“Don’t tell me I’ve picked a woman who can’t make up her mind,” he joked, laughing along with her.
“Oh, I made up my mind a long time ago,” she replied, stepping even closer.
“So did I,” he breathed against her cheek. “So did I.”
In the shelter of the awning above the flower shop door, Elizabeth met Jeff’s eyes and held. This time, neither one looked away and both were drawn in for their first kiss. The air pulsed with a kind of electricity as their lips touched, tasted, to open and explore, then slowly part as they stood still to gaze into each other’s eyes.
“Wow,” was all Elizabeth could say as she tucked her arm in Jeff’s and walked away with him.