Authors: Ali McNamara
I stop as I realise what I’ve just said. Oh no! Me and my big mouth – my mother was right.
Have I just stood and publicly agreed to run a flower shop?
I turn towards Jake and see he’s grinning. ‘Game, set and match!’ he mouths at me.
It seems I have.
Then I hear applause break out from behind the bar as Rita begins cheering.
‘Yay for Poppy and our magical flower shop.’
Magical? There’s that word again.
As people offer to buy me drinks and congratulate me on my new venture, I notice Caroline has melted away with the rest of her cronies. But I have a feeling it won’t be the last I see of her. I’ve met the Carolines of this world before; they don’t take defeat well.
‘So,’ Jake says, when my temporary fan club has dispersed. ‘It looks like you might be needing that chat about flowers after all…’
The next morning I awake early to sunshine streaming through the curtains in the bedroom downstairs.
Yuck, I’m used to sleeping with blackout blinds in London. I immediately roll over, pull the eiderdown over my head and try to get off to sleep again. But I can’t, my mind begins churning over the events of yesterday, particularly last night, so I roll on to my back and stare up at the uneven ceiling above me.
After my accidental admission about the shop, Jake had walked me back to my cottage, and then taken himself off home, sensibly leaving his van at the harbour because he’d been drinking. He didn’t mention anything more about the shop, obviously sensing by my silence I had much to think about, and for that I was grateful.
What on earth had possessed me to announce that to Caroline and the rest of the pub? I was no more certain I wanted to stay on in St Felix and run the shop than I was of the coastal weather forecast.
But as I’d said to Jake only yesterday, if I say I’m going to do something, I do it. I don’t back down.
However, by sticking to my guns this time, it would mean I’d have to give this flower shop thing a go.
Flowers and me
. I screw up my face. Not exactly a match made in heaven.
It’s getting quite warm in the little bedroom now, and I wonder if perhaps today will be a nice sunny day in St Felix, and I’ll get to see the town in a better light. I kick the eiderdown off, and begin thinking again:
Would staying for a while in this quiet little seaside town really be so bad?
What had I got to look forward to if I went back on my word and sold the shop and cottage and returned to London? I’d just been fired from the hotel job, I didn’t really have any friends, and I lived in a tiny flat above an off-licence in Barnet, having insisted on paying my own way when my mother wanted me to take a job in Violet and Petal’s shop in Liverpool. Also I’d have an excuse not to visit Teresa for a while; her receptionist had been chasing me to reschedule the appointment I’d cancelled four times already. Much to my annoyance, my mother had insisted on continuing to pay for my therapy, even when I had taken to paying for everything else. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t get away from it.
Just the thought of it is making me feel very uneasy indeed.
Maybe I could get someone in to help me? Then I might not have to have too much contact with the flowers. I could concentrate on the day-to-day running of the shop, and let my assistant do the rest!
Brilliant! Yes, I could try that for a while, and if it didn’t work out I could leave before the rough winter weather set in. It might be nice to spend the summer here in St Felix…
I lie there in bed, happy that I have a plan, and not a bad one by my standards. One that will not only keep my mother happy, it will appease the people of St Felix for a while.
Suddenly I hear banging on the front door.
‘Who on earth is that at…?’ I glance at the bedside clock and realise it’s nearly 8 a.m. I must have been lying here thinking longer than I thought.
I get up off the bed and head through the hall and across the kitchen in my PJs. Then I open the wooden front door and peek through the gap.
I don’t know who or what I expect to find standing outside my door at 8 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, but it’s not the riot of colour, wild hair, and general exuberance that greets me.
‘Oh boy, are you Poppy?’ she asks, trying to poke her head through the gap.
I open the door a bit wider.
‘Yes…’ I say hesitantly. ‘Who are you?’
‘Amber – your mom sent me,’ she says, as though I should know exactly what she means.
‘Yeah, to help you with the shop. She did tell you, right?’
‘That’s odd. She said she was gonna call you…’ Amber appears to be thinking. She runs a bejewelled hand over her wild red hair while she screws up her freckled nose. ‘It is Wednesday, right?’ she suddenly asks.
‘No, it’s Tuesday.’
‘Ah!’ She throws her hands up in the air. ‘That’s why. She’s supposed to call you today. I must have lost a day somewhere over the Atlantic.’ She looks at me and smiles. ‘Can I come in?’
I shake my head to try and wake myself up. An enthusiastic American hippy was not what I was used to before I’d even had coffee in the morning.
‘If Mum sent you, then I guess you’d better,’ I sigh, moving aside to let her into the cottage.
Amber and her luggage are now scattered across the sitting room while I make tea – herbal for Amber, which she has produced from one of her many bags, and black for me, after I realise I don’t have any milk in yet.
All I’ve discovered so far is that Amber flew in to Bristol Airport early this morning from New York via Dublin. Then she got a train, and finally a taxi to St Felix. She says she hasn’t slept in twenty-four hours, which is why she’s acting ‘pretty wired’ and has got her days mixed up.
I carry our two mugs of tea upstairs to the living area.
Amber is already out on the balcony, her face absorbing the sun’s morning rays. ‘Your view is to die for,’ Amber says, turning towards me as I join her.
‘Yes, it is pretty special.’ I pass Amber her tea while I take a look at the view myself. It looks a lot prettier than it had out here yesterday. Today I can see right across the bay to the harbour. The sea is a crystal clear azure blue, and where the sun’s rays burn into it, it’s almost translucent in places. What a difference a new day and some sunshine makes.
‘Your mom promised me St Felix would be special,’ Amber says, ‘but I had no idea just how beautiful it would be.’
‘So why are you here? I know you said Mum sent you, but why?’
Amber takes a sip of her tea. ‘Mmm, camomile… so relaxing. I’m your new florist,’ she announces. ‘I usually work with your mom at her store in Brooklyn. She knew you’d be needing someone and, well, I don’t like to sing my own praises too highly, but I am one of
best florists in New York State.’
‘Fantastic.’ I nod. ‘I’m sure you’re really talented, Amber. But why did you want to leave New York to come here to St Felix? It’s a bit different.’
‘Change is good,’ is all Amber says, before sipping her tea once more.
‘But Mum was taking an awful chance, sending you all the way over here on the off chance I’d be keeping the shop, wasn’t she? What if I’d decided to sell?’
‘Oh, she knew you’d be keeping it,’ Amber says knowingly.
‘How could she, when I didn’t even know it myself until this morning? In fact I only decided thirty seconds before you knocked on my door!’
‘I read her petals,’ Amber says, wandering back into the lounge. She sits down on the rocking chair. ‘Oh, how very quaint!’ she exclaims as she begins rocking to and fro.
‘What do you mean – read her petals?’ I ask, following her.
‘Her flower petals; I gave her a flower reading. It’s like a cross between reading tea leaves and tarot cards.’
I blink hard. Could she be for real?
‘I may regret asking this,’ I say, sitting on the sofa opposite her, ‘but tell me: just how do you read someone’s flower petals?’
Amber smiles dreamily. ‘It’s a gift. I’ll read yours while I’m here, if you like?’
‘Er, no, that won’t be necessary, thank you.’
‘Why, what are you afraid of?’ Amber looks above my head with a glazed expression. ‘You know your aura is very muddy. I could cleanse that for you, if you like?’
Before I can politely reject her offer, Amber continues, ‘I see a lot of darkness around you, Poppy.’ She flinches slightly. ‘A lot of darkness and a lot of pain.’
‘What’s my mother been telling you?’ I shout, jumping up. ‘It’s no one’s business but my own!’
‘Whoa, easy, sister. Your mom said nothing. I’m just telling you what I see, that’s all.’
‘Well don’t.’ I walk back towards the open French windows and stare out at the wispy white specks of cloud in the bright blue sky. ‘I don’t mean to seem rude, Amber, because I’m happy you’re here to help me with the shop, really I am. I know nothing about running a florist.’
Actually I can’t believe my luck. This means I won’t have to look for someone. One item crossed off what I expect will turn out to be a very long list of things that need to be done before I can get the shop up and running again.
‘But I’d appreciate it if your flower knowledge is all you share. I have my reasons, but all this spiritual stuff – which I’m sure works for you – it’s not my scene at all.’ A giant gull lands right in front of me on the balcony. He flaps his wings a couple of times and stares at me as if to enquire why I’m on
landing area, then decides to fly off again in search of food. ‘I’m sure your floristry skills will be a wonderful asset to The Daisy Chain,’ I say, watching the gulls dive into the water looking for fish. ‘I haven’t thought too much about what sort of shop it’s going to be when we re-open; you caught me unawares with your sudden arrival this morning. So if you’ve got any ideas that you want to share, I’d really appreciate hearing them…’
I turn to hear Amber’s response; but the chair has stopped rocking and she’s fast asleep.
There’s a blanket lying across the arm of the sofa, so I pick it up and gently cover her. She doesn’t stir, so I hurry back down to my bedroom to get dressed.
Leaving Amber still snoozing in the rocking chair I head out in search of breakfast. All I’d had time to do last night was buy fish and chips, so I head down to the supermarket and stock up on a few basic provisions – like milk, butter, jam and bread. I decide I’ll have to pop back later and stock up properly when I’ve had a chance to make a list.
On the way back I pause outside The Blue Canary bakery. The cakes in the window look delicious – just like they had when I was a child. The only difference was now I could see through the window with ease instead of having to stand on tiptoe.
A man wearing a pair of mustard-yellow trousers and a tight, white short-sleeved T-shirt with a blue canary on the front comes out of the shop carrying a sign. He places it down on the pavement, then smiles at me.
‘Howdy,’ he says jovially. ‘Can we tempt you into something naughty but nice?’
‘Yes, I think you might be able to.’ I grin back. ‘It all looks so good.’
‘What tickles your fancy – in the cake sense, that is!’
‘Erm…’ And then I remember. ‘I don’t suppose you do a custard tart, do you? I used to buy a lovely one here when I was small.’
‘My darling, of course we do! It’s one of our specialities! Come, come!’ He encourages me into the shop. ‘Declan!’ he calls, as we go into the shop together. ‘Are the tarts ready yet?’
‘Coming right up, Anthony!’ I hear a voice from the back respond merrily, and then another, slightly thinner man, this time wearing bright-red trousers and the same white T-shirt, with the addition of a blue apron, appears carrying a tray of freshly baked custard tarts.
‘How many would you like?’ Anthony asks, now behind the counter.
‘I’ll take two, please,’ I say, thinking of Amber back at the cottage.
‘Coming right up.’ Anthony begins to bag up the cakes. ‘So how long ago was it you used to buy the tarts?’ he asks.
‘Oh, many years ago. I used to holiday here in St Felix as a child.’
‘How lovely. You would have known Declan’s uncle then. Declan inherited the shop from him.’
‘And all his recipes!’ Declan calls, bringing through yet another tray of delicious-looking cakes – Chelsea buns this time – which he sets down on the counter. ‘Those tarts are made to his exact recipe.’
‘Then I know they’ll be delicious!’ I smile, offering Anthony a £10 note. ‘They were always my favourite.’
‘Are you holidaying here again now?’ Declan asks, coming over to the shop counter. ‘We don’t see too many holidaymakers at this time of year.’
‘At any time of year,’ Anthony mutters, tapping the buttons on the till.
Declan glances at him.
I take a deep breath; I’ve made my decision, now I must stick with it. ‘No, as a matter of fact I’m taking over the florist shop along the street. I’m Poppy – Rose’s granddaughter.’
Anthony and Declan look shocked at my announcement one moment, then overjoyed the next.
They both speak at once: ‘Oh my darling, why didn’t you say so! That’s fabulous news. We adored Rose. We were devastated when she passed.’