supermarket opened just around the corner last month—”
“We’re not competing with inexpensive mass-market flowers. We’ve never chased pennies on a bloom. It can’t have made that much difference—”
“I don’t know.” Craig shrugs crossly. “I just look at the bottom line.”
I shush him as a customer enters. Normally I’d let Molly, the Fulham manager, serve him, but I like to spend a few hours every week or so working on the floor at one of my shops. It keeps me grounded and in touch with my client base.
“How can I help—”
“Flowers,” he says shortly.
Too angry for a funeral. Or a lover, unless he plans to beat her to death with the calla lilies. His brooding, bitter intensity fills the room like smoke.
I hesitate, and then move towards a bank of glorious pink peonies.
“Not those. She has enough secrets.”
I glance up in surprise. Not many people know the Victorian language of flowers; certainly not—I hate to sound like Davina—an American. From the Deep South, judging by his mellow accent.
“Yellow tulips?” I hazard.
“Hopeless love and devotion? Hardly. And not abandonment,” he says dryly, as I reach for a small crystal bowl of anemones.
Craig is agog. “What did you have in mind?” he asks breathlessly.
For a long moment, the bitter American says nothing.
“Lilies,” he says finally. “Lilies and jasmine.”
Innocence and good luck. Somehow, I don’t think he means it as a compliment.
Under his sardonic gaze, I deftly pull together a bouquet,weaving the jasmine through the lilies in a tight, crisp arrangement.
is why I love my shop, my job. These flowers won’t be thrust into someone’s hand, sniffed cursorily, jammed into a vase and forgotten. They will become part of someone’s story.
I watch the American curiously as he pays and leaves without another word.
I feel sorry for her, whoever she is.
It’s ten to six by the time I get home, thanks to a security alert on the District & Circle Line. I expect Jenna to be champing at the bit, wanting to get ready, so I’m slightly surprised to find the house in near-darkness. She must have popped out for a minute.
I hesitate by the drinks cupboard in the kitchen, then pour myself a very small gin and tonic. I’ve never really liked drinking alone. It feels … sordid, somehow.
I kick off my shoes and tuck my feet up under me in a squishy armchair by the unlit fire. I’m exhausted, but it’s a satisfying weariness born of hard work, rather than quiet desperation. I don’t know how I ever thought I could look after the twins myself. I’m just not cut out to be a hands-on mother. That doesn’t mean I love them any less, does it?
I pull a folder out of my leather satchel, and flip it open. I don’t know why our profits are suddenly down, but I refuse to sell out to the fern-and-carnations brigade who’d be just as happy with a cellophaned bunch of weeds from the garage forecourt. Craig means well, but I created my business for customers who understand the importance ofworking
nature, who know that stepping out of season, forcing flowers, goes against the order of things; customers who know that flowers mean so much
, like that strange, angry American.
I must have fallen asleep, because I’m startled by a car alarm sounding outside in the street. I jolt awake, knocking the file onto the floor, and glance at the clock. Eight-fifteen!
Where on earth is Jenna? And the twins?
I stem an instant gut surge of panic. She’s probably gone to see a friend, lost track of the time, the traffic—
She doesn’t answer her mobile. I call four times, growing more and more concerned. Davina is right. How much
I know about this girl? She’s only been here a few months.
thing could have happened—
Don’t be ridiculous. This is
I ring Fran, suddenly remembering that Jenna knows her nanny, Kirsty. They could have gone off together, forgotten to call—
Except that Kirsty hasn’t heard
Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan