The Little Flower Shop by the Sea (26 page)

BOOK: The Little Flower Shop by the Sea
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‘You mean like the Women’s Guild?’

‘Yes, and the Parish Council.’ He screws up his face. ‘They’re a tough nut to crack. Even I’ve had problems with them. Me, in my position!’

‘I’m not looking forward to dealing with them – especially Caroline. I don’t think she likes me very much.’

‘I don’t think Caroline likes many people,’ says Woody. ‘But you can deal with her, Poppy, I know you can. And do you know how I know?’

I shake my head.

He leans in towards me. ‘Because you already have someone very important on your side.’

‘I do?’

‘Yes.’ Woody nods keenly. ‘Who in a small town such as this commands the most admiration and respect from people?’

‘Erm…’

‘Who do people look up to and listen to when they talk?’

‘Clarence?’ I try, hoping I’ve got it right with our local priest.

Woody looks dismayed, but carries on regardless: ‘Yes… Father Claybourne is definitely
one
of your allies,
and
…’

There’s more than one?

‘Jake?’ I ask, shrugging my shoulders.

Woody tries not to let his irritation show as he leans back in his chair.

‘Yes, I’m sure Jake has your back too. But I feel the description applied more to myself than the local flower grower.’

‘Oh! Well, it goes without saying, Woody, surely?’ I reach forward and grab his hand. ‘Of course I know you’re on my side.’

Woody blushes and looks down at my hand holding his. ‘Whatever I can do to help – you know that?’

‘Ooh, what are you two up to!’ Amber calls as she appears behind us, peeping over our shoulders.

Woody immediately snatches his hand away and leaps up, knocking over his chair in the process. ‘Nothing! Nothing at all, Amber!’

Amber grins. ‘As if, Woody. Poppy only has eyes for Jake anyway!’

Amber picks up Woody’s chair for him and heads around to the other side of the table. ‘Thank you, Woody,’ she says, as he dives in front of her and whisks her chair back from the table. ‘Very kind.’

I stare at her across the table while Woody enquires if Amber would like a drink.

‘Guinness, please, Woody,’ she replies, and he heads off to the bar. What?’ she asks innocently, seeing my glare.

‘What you said about Jake,’ I hiss. ‘Didn’t you mean Ash?’

‘Oops, sorry, slip of the tongue!’ Amber grins, not looking at all embarrassed she’s said the wrong name.

‘Will you stop trying to get me and Jake together! We’re just friends and you know it. There’s nothing more going on between us and there never will be.’

‘Sure, I understand,’ Amber says, not looking as though she believes me.

‘It’s the truth!’

‘And you know 100 per cent that Jake feels that way?’

‘Feels that way about what?’

We both turn in the direction of the deep, gentle voice joining our conversation.

‘Hey, Jake,’ Amber manages first. As she turns back she pulls a face at me that Jake over her shoulder can’t see.

‘Feels that way about… women buying men drinks!’ I recover, breathing an internal sigh of relief. ‘Amber said you were still against it, and I said you were fine about it after I bought you one last night.’

Jake looks at us, puzzled, as Woody arrives with Amber’s Guinness.

‘Oh, Jake, you’re here.’ Woody glances with dismay at the pint he’s just bought for Amber. ‘Can I get you anything?’

‘A pint of my usual would be great, thanks, mate.’ Jake pats Woody on the shoulder and sits down in his seat.

Woody sighs and heads back to the bar.

‘So, no Ash tonight?’ Jake asks, casually picking up a bar menu from the middle of the table.

‘No, he’s at a stag party in Newquay,’ I tell him, feeling most awkward discussing Ash with him. ‘He’ll be back tomorrow.’

‘Nice. Can’t remember the last time I went to a stag do,’ Jake says, browsing the menu. ‘I’m sure he’ll have fun.’

I glance at Amber. She grimaces.

‘Yes, I’m sure he will,’ I say tersely. Obviously Jake isn’t at all bothered about Ash. My assumptions last night had been spot on.

‘So, are you getting food tonight?’ Jake asks, looking up from his menu.

‘Erm…’ I turn to Amber.

She nods enthusiastically.

‘Yes, why not?’ I say, determined not to feel so awkward around Jake. ‘We only had time for a quick snack at lunch, the shop was really busy today. I notice Richie has an ale pie on his specials board tonight, that’s always good.’

‘Sounds good to me!’ Jake says, putting down the menu. ‘What about you, Amber?’

‘I’m vegetarian,’ Amber says. ‘I’ll have whatever the veggie option is.’

‘Don’t you find that limiting when you go out to eat?’ Jake asks with interest. ‘I admire what you’re doing and everything – and I love animals, don’t get me wrong – but I’d miss my meat if I had to give it up.’

‘It depends where you go. Most restaurants have at least one non-meat option on the menu these days, if not more.’

Jake nods. ‘Well, good on you. It’s a great thing you do for our animal friends.’

‘Talking of which, where’s Miley tonight?’ I ask, suddenly missing her. Basil is back at the cottage, snuggled up in his bed. But Miley’s unlikely to be doing the same.

‘Bronte is making some sort of collage tonight for her art project at school, and Miley loves sticking stuff with glue. We figure it’s best to give her something we don’t mind being stuck down to play with, rather than finding our socks stuck to the walls when she’s a bit bored one day.’

Amber and I are both laughing as Woody returns with Jake’s drink.

‘Cheers, Woody,’ Jake says, holding up his pint of beer. ‘My round next.’

 

We all decide on, then order, some food from Rita at the bar, then we begin chatting amiably around the pub table while we wait. The earlier awkwardness I thought might be there between me and Jake seems to melt away, and Woody and Amber are getting on very well too.

‘Poppy is going to try and hold a wedding at Trecarlan,’ Woody tells Jake. ‘And lovely Amber is going to do all their beautiful flowers.’ He smiles dreamily at Amber.

‘Really?’ Jake asks, looking at me in astonishment. ‘How on earth are you going to do that – it’s derelict, isn’t it?’

‘No. It’s just not lived in. Mad Stan, the previous owner, had to go into a home when he couldn’t live there any more.’


Mad
Stan?’ Jake enquires. ‘I’ve never heard him called that before.’

‘That’s what the locals used to call him. Stan was a bit… eccentric, I guess you’d call it. How long have you lived in St Felix if you don’t remember Stan?’

Jake thinks. ‘Erm, we moved here about seven years ago when I got the flower business, and we were here two years before… well, you know.’

I nod hurriedly. ‘Perhaps that’s why you don’t remember Stan then. He must have left before you arrived.’

‘Stan sounds fabulous,’ Amber says. ‘I love elderly people – they have so many interesting stories to tell.’

‘You’d love Stan then, he was always telling stories. Not all of which I think were true.’

‘You still haven’t explained why you’re going to hold a wedding at the castle though,’ Jake persists.

I quickly fill him in on what happened in the shop earlier.

‘Well, good luck with that,’ he says, looking doubtful. ‘I can’t see Caroline letting you hold a wedding there.’

‘Why not? She doesn’t own Trecarlan.’

‘You’d think she did the way she carries on. She’s very protective of it. But then Caroline seems to have taken it upon herself to be in charge of all of St Felix.’

‘Well, not this time,’ I say. ‘Trecarlan was Stan’s house, not hers, and I intend to breathe some life back into the old place with or without Caroline Harrington-Smythe’s permission!’

 

We talk about the wedding and Trecarlan some more, deciding that if I am going to try and hold a wedding at the castle next month, not only will I need the blessing of the Parish Council, but the help of some of the townsfolk of St Felix too.

‘You need to hold a meeting,’ Woody suggests. ‘The people here are very helpful, and I know they’ll chip in, like they did with your shop.’

Jake nods. ‘He’s right, whatever you might dislike about living in a tight-knit community, the people here always try to help each other when someone’s in need.’

‘That’s what I love about this place,’ Amber says affectionately, ‘the closeness. Coming from New York, it’s like a different world.’

‘Do you miss it?’ Jake asks. ‘Being here in little old St Felix can hardly compare to the Big Apple.’

‘I miss the energy,’ Amber says. ‘Nothing can compare to the buzz of Manhattan. And of course I miss my friends and family over there, big time. And I’ll definitely miss New York in the fall this year.’

‘Is it pretty?’ Woody asks. ‘I’ve never been to America.’

‘Oh yes, very. If you go upstate, the colours are even more intense and beautiful than in the city.’

‘It sounds amazing, Amber,’ Woody says, hanging off her every word like a puppy waiting for a treat from its master. ‘I’d love to go there one day. I’m sure it’s wonderful.’

‘It is, Woody, you’d love it. But St Felix is a wonderful place too, don’t ever doubt that. I miss things about the States, sure, but here –’ she gestures around the room – ‘in this friendly pub, on the beautiful sandy beaches, walking the quaint little streets, and visiting your olde worlde harbour with its colourful boats bobbing around – it’s…’ She searches for the right word. ‘It’s safe. Here in St Felix I feel safe, like nothing or no one is going to get to me.’

I notice that Amber’s bottom lip is quivering as she finishes her impromptu speech. She hurriedly picks up her almost empty pint glass and drains the last of her second Guinness of the night.

‘If Richie doesn’t hurry up with those meals, I’ll be quite tipsy soon,’ she says, and her eyes are a bit misty. ‘That’s what you Brits say, isn’t it – tipsy?’

We all nod, touched at Amber’s emotional speech, but at the same time mystified.

‘Right then, my round!’ she announces in a tight voice. ‘Same again, everyone?’

Without waiting for an answer, Amber leaps up and heads off to the bar.

‘Is she OK?’ Woody asks, looking worriedly after her. ‘She seems a bit upset.’

I watch Amber at the bar as she waits to order from Rita.

‘Yes, I think so,’ I say, remembering what my mother said on the phone yesterday. ‘But I have a feeling there might be a bit more to our Amber than a few crystal beads and some incense. I think she’s hiding something.’

‘What sort of something?’ Jake asks, looking up at Amber waiting at the bar.

‘I’m not sure. But knowing St Felix, whatever it is, I bet being here is already making it better.’

Amber and I stand together in the ballroom of Trecarlan, the evening sun filtering through the windows and highlighting the dust covering every surface, and the cobwebs hanging from each corner of the room.

‘I didn’t know it was this bad,’ Amber says, looking around her. ‘How are we going to transform this into a wedding venue?’

‘We will. I’ve already had numerous offers of help from people in St Felix.’

The offers had started coming in that night at the pub. As soon as we’d told Rita and Richie what we were hoping to do for Katie and Jonathan, they’d immediately begun putting the word out with their customers. News spreads fast around St Felix, and I’d been inundated with people volunteering to help with the cleaning-up process, or offering to lend a hand with the décor, music and catering.

So all I had to do now was turn the offers into something concrete and we’d be away. I’d called an emergency meeting of the Parish Council to discuss what I wanted to do, and we were meeting with them on Thursday to get the go-ahead.

‘We’re only here today,’ I tell Amber, ‘to work out exactly how we’re going to run this. I’ve never done anything like it before, have you?’

Amber shakes her head. ‘And to think a couple of days ago I was worrying about a few flowers! Now you’ve got us organising the whole wedding. How did that happen?’

‘I don’t know.’ I shrug. ‘This really isn’t my sort of thing at all. I just wanted to help them, you know. They seem such a lovely couple.’

‘Ahh…’ Amber points to my chest. ‘I told you there was a heart in there somewhere, and I think we’ve finally found it!’

‘You’re hilarious,’ I tell her, rolling my eyes. ‘How about you get that pad out of your handbag while I stop laughing, then we can start making some notes.’

‘Don’t bother, Amber!’ A shrill voice which sounds worryingly like Caroline’s calls across the ballroom. ‘Because no wedding is going to be held here.’

We both turn to see Caroline striding across the ballroom floor wearing a navy Barbour jacket and green Hunter wellington boots.

‘What makes you think you can tell us what to do?’ I snap, annoyed that she’s already trying to ruin things. Caroline and I haven’t had much to do with each other since my first night here in St Felix, but I’ve bumped into her enough around the town, and heard so many negative things about her from people that I know her reputation is well deserved. She could make real trouble for us if she put her mind to it.

BOOK: The Little Flower Shop by the Sea
6.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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