Carmilla sighed, rearranging a bouquet of flowers with force that was probably unnecessary.
“Woah, what did the hydrangeas ever do to you?” LaFontaine joked from the storeroom.
“That incessant noise has been going on for three days now. And I live above this damn shop, so I can’t even go home to escape from it.”
“It’s not that bad.”
Just as LaFontaine said that, a particularly loud string of construction noises made Carmilla throw the flowers across the shop in frustration. Luckily the shop was empty of customers (as it often was) so the bouquet just lay on the floor, looking sad.
“Dude, we gotta sell those!” LaFontaine walked over, picked up the flowers and placed them on the display to their right. Carmilla put her head in her hands. If the noise wasn’t bad enough, it had stopped her from sleeping, which was the perfect recipe for splitting headaches. And the work day had been slow, even for a derelict florists that usually only got one or two customers anyway.
“How about you go home early? Try and catch up on that sleep?” LaFontaine offered.
“I doubt I’ll be able to sleep with that noise,” Carmilla said, but she smiled and picked up her bag anyway. “Thanks, LaF.”
“No problem,” the ginger waved at Carmilla as she walked out of the shop.
It was literally five steps from the shop to her front door, but for some reason Camilla found herself curious to find out what exactly was going on next door that warranted the endless bombardment of hammering and drilling.
She walked over to the shop right next to hers. It used to be a cafe, but got shut down because of some sort of horse meat scandal, and it had been a vacant space for the past few years. Now, however, it seemed someone was using it again.
The place was still unpainted, but she could peek inside the window and make out people walking around carrying planks of wood and chairs. Probably another cafe.
When a particularly loud power tool caused a shot of pain to her temple, Carmilla straightened up and decided to give them a piece of her mind. They couldn’t just make that much noise twenty-four-seven and think they were gonna get away with it.
She opened the door and stepped into the shop. The smell of varnish and paint assaulted her nostrils. Five burly men were lugging about chairs and playing awful country music much too loud, but the sound of the offensive drilling was nowhere to be seen.
“Excuse me?” Carmilla asked. When no one took any notice of her, she raised her voice. “Excuse me?!”
There was once again no reaction. Boiling with anger, she stormed over to the radio and pulled the plug out of the wall, causing a sudden silence that had her ears ringing. Unfortunately, the quiet was short lived as the construction noises started up again and seemed to be getting even louder. Everybody in the room turned to stare at her, annoyed. She put on a sickly sweet smile and tilted her head to the side.
“Now,” she began in a dangerously soft tone, “who here is going to tell me who’s making that god forsaken din, or am I going to have to kill everyone here, instead of just them?”
It would have been comical, the slim young girl threatening five large men, if she hadn’t been so utterly furious. One of them slowly pointed to a door at the back of the shop, and Carmilla nodded her head, walking over and pushing her way inside.
“Can you please do everyone in this neighbourhood a favour and shut the fuck-“
Carmilla stopped in her tracks as a tiny girl squealed and fell off the chair she was standing on.
“Oww,” she rubbed her head, which she must have banged off the floor.
“Shit I’m sorry,” Carmilla rushed over to help her up. She certainly had not been expecting the source of her headaches to be a five foot two girl who looked like she collected beanie babies and probably cried at stray cats. She seemed to be in some sort of back room, but it was mostly empty save for some tools and one chair that had recently been vacated.
“It was my fault, dad always warned me not to stand on chair because I’d fall. I just couldn’t reach the shelves…” as the girl gestured to the planks of wood and the drill in her hand, Carmilla remembered why she was there.
“Oh, yeah. Uh, about that, you’ve kind of been making a lot of noise for like three days straight and I live just there,” she pointed vaguely in a direction that was sort of ‘up and to the left’, “and I can hear it all.”
The girl’s eyes widened. “Oh my gosh, I am so sorry! I didn’t realise I was disturbing anyone!”
“It’s fine, honestly.”
Where did that come from? It certainly was not fine and five minutes ago Carmilla had been ready to kill whoever was making the noise. Granted she’d been expecting some fat middle aged guy, not an adorable tiny girl, but still.
“It’s just, I’ve been trying to get this shop ready,” as she spoke the girl began walking around the room, busying herself with tidying up tools, “and we open in a week and I’ve barely gotten everything in here let alone set up, and not to mention I have to decorate once the basic infrastructure is there and…” she finally remembered to breathe, and turned to Carmilla with shining eyes. “I’m Laura.”
“Carmilla. And, I was overreacting I’m sorry. But can you just keep it down at nighttime?”
“Oh, yeah, sure! I really am sorry I didn’t realise I was keeping you awake-“
“Cupcake. Shut up.”
“Right,” Laura smiled. “Well anyway, uh, I guess I’m your new neighbour? I’ve got the apartment right above here.”
“You know I could help if you want.” At Laura’s raised eyebrow, she continued. “Setting up this place I mean.”
“Really? Thank you!” Laura bounced over to Carmilla and enveloped her in a crushing hug. Who knew such a tiny girl could be so strong?
“Relax, cupcake, I’m not just doing it for you,” Carmilla spluttered out through her crushed ribs, “If I help it’ll be over sooner and I can start getting some real sleep again.”
“I really am sorry about that by the way,” Laura said, finally releasing Carmilla who took a few deep breaths.
“So you’ve told me.”
“How about I make it up to you? Do you like coffee?”
Carmilla smiled, surprised. “Are you asking me on a date, cutie?”
Laura blushed furiously. “No, no! Just a friend thing. Unless of course you don’t want to be friends and would rather we stayed as acquaintances in which case forget I even suggested anythi-“
“There’s a Starbucks down the street. Come on.”
“So, what is the new place anyway? You gonna steal business away from me?” Carmilla joked over her coffee.
“Depends, what’s your business?”
Laura spluttered hot chocolate everywhere, and then flushed red at the mess she’d made. She began to wipe it off the table, apologising as she did, and Carmilla just smiled at how adorable it all was.
“I’m sorry I just… didn’t have you pegged as a florist.”
“What did you have me pegged as?” Carmilla leaned across the table, and Laura blushed even deeper.
“Uh, I dunno, some kind of badass who listens to punk rock and picks fights in bars?”
“What makes you think I can’t do that and whip up a mean bouquet of flowers?” Carmilla sipped her coffee teasingly. She decided she quite liked making this girl flustered.
“Oh, no I didn’t mean to insinuate anything-“
“Relax, cutie, it was a joke. But you still didn’t answer my question. What’s your business?”
“It’s, uh… a… tattoo parlour.”
It was Carmilla’s turn to choke on her drink, although she managed to not make a mess everywhere.
“Bet you didn’t see that one coming!” Laura grinned victoriously.
“I’m sorry but you’re being trusted with needles?”
“And permanent ink?”
“Sweetie I’ve only known you for half an hour and so far you’ve managed to fall off a chair and spill hot chocolate everywhere, do you really think it’s a good idea to attempt to mark strangers bodies for all eternity without messing up?”
Laura furrowed her brow, and Carmilla realised that the only thing more entertaining than making her flustered was making her angry.
“I’ll have you know that I’m actually very meticulous and I have a steady hand.” She stuck her nose in the air triumphantly.
“Prove it,” Carmilla smirked, pulling a pen from her backpack and handing it to a confused Laura, before sticking out her arm.
“Oh I see! What would you like?”
Laura grabbed her by the wrist and clicked the pen, before placing it on Carmilla’s arm. She could feel it on her skin, tickling slightly, but she refused to look at what was being drawn. Instead she focused on Laura, and the way her tongue stuck out slightly when she was concentrating and how her bangs fell over her face. She was very tempted to reach over and push them behind the other girl’s ear, but she stayed still, scared to ruin whatever was being drawn on her.
Laura slowly turned Carmilla’s arm until it was facing upwards and the pen glided across more sensitive skin. Whatever it was, it was covering Carmilla’s entire arm.
Eventually Laura finished, and she turned to smile at Carmilla, who tried to pretend that she hadn’t been looking at her this whole time.
Carmilla finally looked down at her arm and holy shit.
Her entire forearm was covered in swirling lines reaching from her wrist to the crook of her elbow. They looked like ocean currents, or like Van Gogh’s Starry Night, circling each other and weaving all around the pale skin, and Carmilla couldn’t take her eyes off it.
“And that was with a ballpoint. Imagine what I can do with colour… Carmilla?”
Reluctantly, Carmilla tore her eyes away from the (what could only be described as a) masterpiece on her arm, and met Laura’s expectant gaze.
“Is it alright?”
“It’s… beautiful.” Carmilla breathed. Laura hummed happily.
“I know. It’s kind of what I do.”
And with that, Laura stood up and walked out of the coffee shop, leaving a thoroughly awestruck Carmilla in her wake.
It was only hours later, when she was washing the ink off in her apartment, that Carmilla realised that right below the largest swirl, a phone number had been written in minuscule script.