‘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.)
so finally, after a million years, i have returned from war! i apologise this has taken so long and that it's not that greeat and that the chapter is a little short. i'm finding writing hard at the moment but i'm hoping that the next chapter will be better and a little longer.
anyway, once again shoutout to cora as without her i probably would have never started writing this in the first place. anyway enjoy!! as always leave me compliments and/or criticism, who knows maybe it'll get me to write a little faster.
‘Listen, dude, either pick a design or piss off. I’ve got other people I could book in.’ Christen said, tiredly, leaning across the counter and glaring at the man who was lazily flipping through the design book without even leaning towards any particular pattern.
Christen had seen this type before. Balding, sweaty businessmen who’d just realized that they were invisible to the pretty, young ladies and were now desperately trying to make themselves feel young and hot and wanted again. Some bought cars, some had affairs, and some like this asshole, got tattoos. But Christen had already had a long day and could no longer be bothered with pussyfooting around with him.
‘Hang on, hang on!’ The man snapped. ‘I’m trying to find -’
The bells on the door chimed and Christen stood up straight, expecting to see Kelley’s four o’clock stepping in for her tattoo, but… seeing Tobin, instead. Surprised, but not disappointed, Christen stepped away from the man who couldn’t make up his fucking mind and over to the door, where Tobin was.
Tobin’s face broke into a beaming smile, just as blinding as she remembered. ‘You remember me?’
Christen blinked at the odd question. Of course, she remembers her. Why wouldn’t she? They worked just across the street from each other; she could see Tobin working in her shop when she looked over, every once in a while. Not that, uh, she looked a lot. Or anything.
‘Uh, ‘course I fucking remember you. You brought me flowers.’ Christen said, out loud. ‘You’re not doing that again, are you? The last ones died and got so gross I had to toss the whole jar out.’ She grumbled with a sigh.
‘Well, did you change their water?’
‘...No. Why the hell would I?’
‘Well, to make them last longer.’
Tobin’s tone was surprisingly patient. She spoke softly, and not like she thought Christen was an idiot, something that anyone else would have done by this point. Most people did think she was a fucking idiot, assumed she had stumbled into the wrong profession because she was built like a yoga instructer yet clearly covered in tattoos. She had been on the receiving end of many judgemental looks her whole life but she didn’t owe anyone an explanation. If they didn’t like how she looked or what she chose to do for a living then they could fuck off. She wasn’t out here to please anybody. The only person who truly mattered was her damn self.
‘...So, you just got me a high-maintenance present?’ Christen asked, crossing her arms over her chest.
Tobin’s eyes followed the movement, watching her inked forearm muscles ripple as they tightened across her chest. She wanted to stare for a little longer, really take in the tattoo sleeves, commit the detailed lines to her memory so she could think about them later. She wanted to get closer, trace her fingertips over the undoubtedly soft skin, watch as goosebumps rise to prickle at the tanned skin.
Tobin shook her head and subtly cleared her throat as she darted her eyes to look away, a blush rising on her high cheekbones.
‘Medium-maintenance.’ Tobin murmured, wetting her dry lips.
She seemed guilty. And that was when Christen realized that curled in one hand, she had another mason jar, this time filled with Stargazer Lilies.
‘No.’ Was the immediate response out of Christen’s mouth.
‘C’mon, please?’ Tobin asked, tilting her head to one side, immediately making Christen think that she looked just like a puppy, big brown eyes and all. ‘I had so many extras… and I thought of you when I saw them because they’re so nice and so are you.’
Christen’s protest died, mid-sentence, her mouth stuttering to a close and her brows burrowing for a second. Nice? No one’s ever called her nice…
And apparently she wasn’t the only one who had that thought. The man at the counter, who was still aimlessly flipping through the book, let out a snort that he tried - and failed - to turn into a cough. Christen turned her head and glared daggers at him.
‘You almost fucking finished?’ She growled out, her face forming a snarl.
The man nearly dropped the book under the weight of Christen’s glare, the smug smile sliding off of his smarmy face. Christen huffed with satisfaction and turned to look back at Tobin.
‘Lilies don’t match the decor.’ She said, shaking her head at the offer as her eyes darted back down to the mason jar with disdain.
‘It’ll brighten the place up!’ Tobin said, not at all put-off by it. She set the jar on the counter, where the last one had been.
‘The place doesn’t NEED brightening.’ Christen groaned, rolling her eyes.
But, Tobin only grinned sweetly and hurried back out the door. Christen briefly thought about launching the jar after her… but, just clucked her tongue and turned back to the dopey piece of shit that was still just standing there.
‘Pick a fucking PATTERN, already. Jesus Christ!’
(Those flowers weren’t moved, either. And they lasted longer, when Christen changed their water.)