‘Okay, I think that’s the last of them.’ Christen huffed as she stumbled forward, her arms burning with the weight of the boxes precariously balanced in her grasp. She felt her legs wobble, almost giving way and with a curse lost grip on them completely. They slipped between numb fingertips to land on her foot. ‘Mother fucking shit.’ She squeezed her eyes shut while she waited for the pain to pass, half bent over.
The bells chimed on the door, alerting her of someone else’s presence, and she whirled around at the same time that Kelley - who’d been laughing her dumbass head off at the sight of Christen’s pain - leapt up from her chair. They both side-eyed each other before taking a step forward, stopping to stare at the unnaturally cheerful brunette who like them was soaked to the bone by the rain, water dripping from her hair in rivulets down the curves of her face. Her eyes followed the raindrops for a second, unable to stop her eyes from wandering across that sharp jawline and dimples in her cheeks.
For the first time in her life, she felt breathless.
She swallowed thickly, crossing her arms across her chest, the squeak of the black leather jacket she was wearing filling the empty expanse of the shop.
‘Uh…’ Kelley spoke since Christen was still too distracted mapping out the contours of this stranger’s face. Once she realized what she was doing, she quickly averted her eyes, instead choosing to flex her foot which was still radiating pain from where she’d dropped the boxes onto it moments before. ‘Sorry but we’re not open? We uh, literally just opened shop… try again in a few weeks?’
‘Oh! I’m not here for a tattoo.’
Her cheeks turned red and whilst on any other day Christen would find it adorable, she was tired and in pain and in no mood for this minor inconvenience.
‘Closed means closed.’ She snapped, her breath coming out in an angered huff. ‘We’ve only just opened the fucking doors. We can’t do anything for you!’
‘Christen!’ Kelley hissed lowly, sending her a sharp glare. She wasn’t near enough to kick her but Christen knew if she was, she’d probably get a kick in the shin for potentially scaring away a new customer.
‘Uh…’ The woman stammered, her cheeks reddening even further. ‘I wasn’t - I mean… I’m Tobin! I own the shop across the street.’ She half-turned and pointed out the window as if her just saying it wasn’t enough.
‘The flower shop?’ Christen asked with a lift of an eyebrow, suddenly realizing that she was holding a mason jar with flowers in one hand.
Tobin nodded her head eagerly, her bright smile nearly filling up her entire face. Christen was struck at how pretty she looked in that moment, eyes shining brightly, smile dimpling her cheeks, her high cheekbones dusted in a delicate pink.
‘Yeah… She Loves Me. The shop name. That’s uh… anyway. I saw that you guys were just moving in, over here. And I thought I’d come say hi since we’re going to be neighbors. But, uh… obviously this is a bad time and I uh… I shouldn’t have popped in I…’
Her face began to fall as she appeared to register Christen’s words for the first time. And Christen winced, feeling guilt pool in the pit of her stomach. Fucking great. She’d only been in the shop for 15 fucking minutes and she’d already upset her neighbor.
‘No, I… I’m sorry. I just dropped a fucking box on my foot. I didn’t mean to take my frustration out on you.’ She allowed a small, apologetic smile to pull at the edges of her mouth before limping forward and holding out her hand to shake Tobin’s. ‘It’s lovely to meet you. I’m Christen. But, you didn’t need to rush on over here in the middle of work…’
Her eyes glanced back to the flowers in the other woman’s hand.
Tobin’s brow creased for a moment before she suddenly realized what Christen was referring to. ‘Oh! No, no. I wasn’t working. These are for you.’ Tobin said as she reached forward to lightly shake Christen’s outstretched hand before dropping it to hold out the mason jar in her other hand for the slightly taller woman to accept. ‘I thought it might brighten the place up a little bit.’ She remarked with a nonchalant shrug and an easy grin.
Christen’s brow furrowed before she turned to look at Kelley, who was still stood beside her. She shot her a look as if silently asking her if she was hearing what she was hearing. That this strange, openly optimistic woman saw the two of them opening up a tattoo parlor and thought that the one thing they needed was a jar of fucking flowers?
Kelley just stared back at her, an openly perplexed look on her face. She shrugged and started whistling a Spice Girls song before grabbing a box and starting to move into the back of the shop, leaving her to deal with the sweetness and light, stranger.
Christen turned back to her, rubbing the back of her neck anxiously. She didn’t want to be mean, but…
‘I don’t know if we really need… I mean, it’s really nice of you and all but I don’t think flowers are…’
‘Oh, don’t worry. They’re free! I’m not making you pay for them.’ Tobin clarified, stepping away from Christen and moving over to the check-in counter. She set the mast jar down in an empty space, next to the computer they’d be using to check-in clients and book new appointments. ‘See? Would you just look at that? It really brightens up the room. They’re Gardenias, for luck with your new shop.’
Christen couldn’t deny that they looked pretty but she had never much cared about flowers before and they were a stark contrast to the black and dark red decor inside of the shop. They stuck out like a sore thumb, actually.
‘Thanks.’ She says as she looks up at the flowers back to Tobin, wondering how subtly she could toss them after she left the tattoo parlor.
Tobin’s cheery smile was so bright that it nearly illuminated the room all on its own. Christen’s breath caught in her throat at the sight of it, she could feel her stomach flipping and dipping. Oh, fu-
‘Well, I better get back to my shop and leave you to unpack. It was nice meeting you!’ She left with a small wave, bustling out just as quickly as she came in. Like a reverse hurricane. Christen sighed with a small shake of her head. Being neighbors with her was going to be… interesting.
‘You want me to dump these?’
Kelley asked suddenly from behind her, making her jump. Christen clutched a hand to her chest before slowly turning around to look at her business partner.
She pointed to the mason jar, fingertips running across the clear glass.
Christen paused before wetting her lips and shaking her head.
‘No, I’ll deal with it later.’
(But they were never moved from the counter, not even after the flowers started to wilt.)