I love my job.
No, I do. Flowers are my life, and they always have been.
I see a lot of things on any given day. I encounter lovestruck young men, teenage girls wirh crushes, new mothers, even grieving families. The most rewarding thing about working in flowers is that I get to help people express their feelings via a singularly unique medium. With this territory comes all sorts of people - some happy, some in tears, but all people who have come to me with a very particular need that I am very good at filling.
I'm a people person, it's true. I love people, love getting to know them, and I especially love meeting new ones. Hell, I love everyone.
Well, I should amend that to say that I love everyone, except rude bastards.
However, I am also a hot blooded man, so when I am presented with what can only be described as Rudeness by the way of Blond Male Perfection In Criminally Tight Trousers, the game changes a bit. This is precisely the predicament I find myself in right now. He's tall, with blue eyes and golden hair and for a moment I think I hear angels singing... until he opens his mouth.
"I need to place an order," he says, gruffly.
I flinch at his tone, my hands struggling to hold onto these slick bells of Ireland stems as I insert them into a vase. "Sure thing, give me just one moment to finish this piece-"
"I'm in a hurry."
"I understand, but I am on a bit of a deadlin-"
"So am I. Can I get some service or not?"
"I'll finish it up, Merlin, go ahead," my best friend and partner in floral crime, Mithian, interrupts with a smile.
In this moment, I make a grand, albeit internal, proclamation: I decide that he shall henceforth be called Blondarse; a fitting term in that it is descriptive of two things that he most definitely is. Still, I am nothing if not professional, so I smile, put down my design knife, and walk over to the counter.
"What can I do for you?"
"I need a wedding bouquet."
"Oh! Congratulations to you!"
Blondarse smiles, softly. "Nah, not to me, it's my sister and her partner Gwen. I'm just taking care of the bouquet, that's my gift to them."
"When is the service?"
Much to Blondarse's chagrin, I burst out laughing. He cocks his head to one side and squints in my direction. "Is there... something wrong with you?"
I'm wiping the tears from my eyes as I shake my head. "Nah, I'm fine."
"Yeah," Blondarse says quietly, eyes boring into my own, "you are."
I flush violently and change the subject. "Um, sorry, that wasn't very professional of me, forgive me. I just... that doesn't give me much time to prepare. Just the bouquet, that's all you need?"
"Yes, we're keeping it simple. I have a photo from a bridal magazine."
I don't even try to hide the disappointment in my eyes when I study the photo. Of all the possible bouquets Blondarse could have shown me a photo of, it had to be one containing Lily of the Valley - an extremely expensive, and difficult to find, flower. I get a lot of inquiries about them for wedding work, but when the bride-to-be learns how expensive they are, they run screaming into traffic.
Well, not into traffic, but you get my point.
"That's what she wants so, how much will it cost?" Blondarse pulls out his wallet, making something of a production of the simple task, and eyes me expectantly. I'm still staring at him with a confused look on my face and all I can do is shake my head, because I know that it will take me at least three days to have these flowers flown in to the local wholesaler. "It's not that simple."
"What do you mean it's not simple? This is a photograph of some flowers. You are a florist. I'm just asking for a quote."
The irritated sigh escapes my lips before I can contain it. "There are things to consider," I reply through gritted teeth.
Blondarse blinks, twice. "Ooooookay, so consider them, so we can move things along here. I'd like to get this settled today."
"Do you know what type of flower this is?"
"Lilies of the valley."
"Exactly. You don't just walk into a shop and walk out with lilies of the valley." I wrinkle my nose. "Well, at least, not in this town. Perhaps in a large city, but there's no way I can get them in house for you by tomorrow. I'm sorry."
Blondarse's face falls. "Ah, I see."
I bite my lip nervously. "I'm Merlin, by the way," I offer, extending one hand, which Blondarse takes in his own, shaking it firmly.
"Arthur," he smiles.
"I wish I had better news for you, but I'd love to still help, though. Could you talk her into something different? Is that something your sister would be receptive to?"
"Not sure about that, she's pretty persistent. Actually, she chose them because they signify purity, which, in turn, in her words, "signifies the deep, eternal love her and Gwen share-"
"Aww." I don't mean to interrupt him, but I can't help myself because come on, that's a damned sweet notion.
He chuckles. "Yeah, I know. It's positively cavity-inducing. Anyway, I'll talk to her tonight and see what she thinks. I'll be in touch. Do you have a business card?"
"Sure." I reach behind the cash register and locate one of our cards. I hand it to Arthur as the phone begins to ring and another customer enters the shop. "The shop also has a Facebook page, I check it most evenings, so if you would like to message me after you've talked to your sister I can get back to you pretty quickly." I shoot him an apologetic smile and gesture at the phone. "I should get that. Nice to meet you, Blon- I mean, Arthur."
With a smile and a nod, Arthur takes his leave.
When I finally make it home I am still kicking myself for nearly calling Arthur Blondarse to his face. Even more alarmingly, I realize that in the short time I was in his presence, I seemed to have committed his face to memory in alarming detail. Soon, though, I have something else to occupy my thoughts, in the form of a fat tuxedo cat who has just jumped onto my lap.
"Hello, Archimedes," I coo, "how's my good boy?"
About an hour later, after we've eaten, Arch and I are piled up on the couch relaxing when I remember my earlier words to Arthur. Reaching for my laptop, I turn it on and log into Facebook, where, sure enough, I do have a message from one Arthur Pendragon.
Arthur Pendragon: Hi there. Turns out Morgana is being more flexible than I had thought.
M&M Blooms: Is she there with you? Perhaps I should speak with her directly?
Arthur Pendragon: She's actually at the hospital, Gwen had their first child this morning, a little girl! That's why the ceremony is going to be so low-key, it's going to take place in the hospital room.
M&M Blooms: Really? How wonderful is that!
Arthur Pendragon: Gwen said that she came into the hospital as Morgana's partner but she wants to leave it as her wife, with their child, so yeah, this whole thing has happened rather fast. When I find a bloke I want to marry, I'll do it more traditionally.
When I see the word "bloke", I really do begin to hear those aforementioned angels singing.
M&M Blooms: Do it right?
Arthur Pendragon: Yeah, you know, the church, flowers, handsome boyfriend, an adoring crowd of thousands.
He's got me grinning into my cup of Earl Grey with that remark. Blondarse, I mean, Arthur, is cheeky as well as gorgeous.
Arthur Pendragon: ... I was kidding, you know.
M&M Blooms: LOL. All good. I see a lot of couples plan weddings of all kinds, some small, some massive-
Arthur Pendragon: You said 'massive'.
Having choked on it and sprayed it everywhere, the Earl Grey looks oddly hypnotic cascading down my computer monitor, I must say.
M&M Blooms: Yes...yes, I did. And you said 'came' earlier.
Arthur Pendragon: Well, you said 'do it right'.
M&M Blooms: Aren't we supposed to be talking about the flowers for the bouquet?
Arthur Pendragon: Oh! Yeah. She says she's so taken with the baby at this point that she wants you to surprise her. Just choose something appropriate and I'll pick it up at closing tomorrow.
M&M Blooms: Really?
Arthur Pendragon: Is that okay?
M&M Blooms: Sure, sure, it's just rare, that's all. Actually, it will be a challenge, but I'll do my best to rise to the occasion. And, yes, I know, I said 'rise to the occasion'.
Arthur Pendragon: Well, shit, it's no fun if you don't let ME point it out.
After a fitful night of sleep, I am a ball of nerves the next day when Arthur strolls into the shop at ten minutes to five o'clock.
"Hi," I smile, "are you ready to see it?"
I guide him to the cooler and he waits outside as I bring out a white box, placing it on the counter. I open it and take a step back as Arthur takes a step forward.
"Well? What do you think?"
Arthur stands back and shakes his head. His mouth opens slowly and eventually gets stuck in an "o" shape, but he doesn't say a word as he simply gapes at the design I've presented him with. My heart rate begins to increase exponentionally as I realize that it's very possible that he hates it, that I've disappointed him.
"Christ, Merlin. It's beautiful. Seriously." Arthur looks up and into my eyes finally and I feel a little lightheaded when he continues to fix his gaze on my own as he repeats himself. "Beautiful."
"Thanks," I whisper, eyes now on my shoes.
"Tell me about it," he says softly, staring at the bouquet as though it were the most fascinating thing he's ever seen. "Tell me what's in it." Arthur has moved behind the counter and is standing so close to me that I can smell the faintest hint of his cologne; I grip the counter with one hand, so my knees don't buckle.
"The white flowers are stephanotis. Extremely fragrant, they signify happiness in marriage." I pause, tucking an unruly lock of my hair behind my ear - or, I attempt to, until Arthur does it for me and I positively melt. I swallow nervously and point at the delicate pink flower. "The pink is stock. I chose pink in honor of their brand new daughter, and because they signify a happy and content life, which is something I wish for all of them."
Arthur still says nothing, content to drink in my design. While I appreciate the attention, the silence is making me nervous so I break it. "Do you think she will be pleased with it?"
"If she's not pleased with it, I'll keep it myself and carry it around," he laughs. "She'll love it, seriously, they both will. I can't thank you enough."
"Don't thank me, please. It's my pleasure,."
"You said 'pleasure'," he whispers, linking his fingers through my own, our noses practically touching. I allow my thumb to trace the outline of his own and return his shy smile. "Wanna come to a wedding with me?"
I nod slowly, pressing my cheek against his own. I lean in and whisper into his ear.
"You said 'come.' Blondarse."
I can feel his wide grin against my cheek.