Her cell phone was ringing.
It was a normal enough occurrence; von Karma Catering was a busy place come the Christmas season. Business parties, bar mitzvahs, weddings, New Years; everyone wanted to celebrate during the end of another year, no matter what the cause.
It was as precious as it was utterly annoying.
Her calendar was booked. Two birthdays, seven small office parties, and a wedding that involved practically half of LA. She’d been shouting orders all day, fitting the requests of the customer to a T, as she would any other day. It was her job to be perfect; a business dealing in perfection. The wedding would be neat and tidy, every blade of grass in place. She would make it so, and even with the few setbacks of a few foolishly foolish employees, this wedding would be another success for her company. And through it all, the foolish machine kept singing that foolish song. Once the song was over, she’d have a few minute reprieve. And then it would ring, ring, ring again, and drill into her skull another nail of annoyance. She did not have time for foolish personal calls.
And of course, this call was personal; the ringtone set for it was the only one that was different from her usual four-toned, business-not-pleasure ringtone.
She let it go to voicemail once more, and rolled up her sleeves. They were moving a rather intricate ice sculpture to the main buffet table.
“Lift with your legs, you foolish fool!” she spat, leaning back a bit to cover for the unbalance the man next to her had caused. “You’re legs! This is how an employee of von Karma Catering preforms? I ought to--”
She never did finish that sentence, for her phone had begun to ring yet again. She let an hushed expletive slip, and in a much louder voice commanded two younger men to replace her spot.
As soon as she was away from the noise, she unclipped her phone from her belt and jabber the “CALL” button with as much annoyance and frustration a human thumb could muster.
“What could you possibly want?” she snarled.
“I have been calling for an hour,” the voice on the other end answered. It was a deep voice, a voice that held no accent such as hers (German and perfect), that was clipped around the consonants, and filled with distress.
“Miles Edgeworth, I am very busy. This reception starts in less that five hours, and I have fired two foolish men for foolishly demolishing a table and dumping the food onto the ground, had to hired two back-up chefs to remake said food, and am working to find a way to preserve a foolish ice sculpture that has gotten here too early thanks to the foolish driver and her foolish habit of being too early as she always is. I am busy, Miles Edgeworth.”
“And no one understands more than I,” he said, and through the anxiety she heard a note of honesty. “But it’s about to get much, much worse.”
Franziska ground her teeth. “What do you mean ‘much worse’.” It was not a question she framed, but a demand.
“Our florist, Miss Woods, has canceled. She’s gotten sick with the flu.”
Franziska was quiet.
“She sent the quarter of her quota that she did finish arranging to a church in Lakewood. The rest of it is unfinished or wilted.”
“Lakewood is on the other side of LA,” Franziska near-groaned. Perfect. Just perfect.
No. Not perfect. Imperfect, foolish, and utterly dangerous considering their allotted time frame.
When Miles Edgeworth spoke again, it was over the sound of car horns and faint yelling. “Yes. I know.”
“Are you driving?” she asked, horrified.
He gave her a derisive snort. “I don’t see how we’ll get the flowers back any other way. Twenty five arranged bouquets are better than none at all, Franziska.”
Franziska pressed a hand to her forehead. “You are driving to Lakewood? Are you mad?”
“In which sense of the word?” he grumbled.
“This is foolish, Miles Edgeworth! Foolish actions from a foolish man--”
“You could always do the reception without flowers.”
“I will do no such thing,” she hissed. She had agreed to the flowers, she had promised the flowers, Miles Edgeworth and she had overseen some of the prep. They’d had a chart for where they would go. As anything perfect, one thing out of balance threw the entire system out the proverbial window.
“Do we really have a choice, Franziska? I don’t think I can find a florist this early, and even if I could, I do not think they could handle seventy five large pots to be arranged in less than five hours and have them delivered to the proper place. Ergo, I’m--”
She was a von Karma. She’d be damned if she let perfection slip through her fingers, even once. “Ergo nothing, Miles Edgeworth,” Franziska snapped. “Where are you right now?”
There was a short pause and a rustle of fabric and hair as the man on the other end sitched ears. “I’m about to turn off of Hawthorne and take ninety-one.”
“Turn around,” she commanded. She was marching toward her car as she spoke. “Turn around, and come to oversee the preparations. How far are you from Rancho?”
“Ten, maybe twelve minutes,” he answered, and again she could hear crazed beeps and a slight screech of--
“Mind your led foot, Miles Edgeworth, and drive within the parameters of the legal system for once!” She started her own car and waved one of the assistants to oversee everything. “I will find a suitable florist for this wedding, we will have the flowers ready and delivered, and you will be able to set the rest of the chapel in perfect order, as you always do.”
There was a relieved sigh on the end of the receiver. “Thank you, Franziska. I’ll be there very soon. Good luck.”
“I do not need your luck, little brother,” Franziska said, pulling into the street. “I am a von Karma. Everything I do, I do perfectly well. With or without luck.”
Somewhere Between Florence and Bell...or Maybe Carson
There was a coffee shop that Franziska often visited with a few colleagues called Blend 107. It was a small business that did well for its size, and that served an excellent roast. The owner was a bastard in the morning, a jerk in the afternoon, and a regular asshole by closing time. He was bitter and sour like cold coffee, and his sexist comments about women in business suits grated on her nerves. But the coffee was good, and her retorts served for a better burn than the scalding hot water the man worked with, so she went every now and then.
It was not the coffee shop that Franziska needed right now, but rather, the little shop across from it.
Around the shop was a gated archway that housed morning glories. Those flowers hugged the gate, and the Lucky Cat statue that waved at passersby below it.
There was a sign that hung from the archway. It read Forest Fey, and was shaped like a rounded number nine.
And it was open.
As soon as the door opened and the little bells that hung above it sang their hello’s, the smell of rain and wet grass filled her senses. The entire place looked like another world. A jungle, or an oasis. Ferns hung from the ceiling, and potted flowers of every kind were shelved or on the floor. There were shelves of seeds in the back. The ceiling was glass, the floor was a deep brown wood, like rich soil. The only sound was the trickle of water from small fountains meant for a garden installation Off to the side was the register, and it was painted to look like it opened up to a river that lead to a waterfall in the distance.
Despite the need to rush and the morning she’d had, Franziska could appreciate this place for all it was worth.
“Good morning!” someone trilled to her left.
There was a girl there. Not a woman like herself, but a girl. She looked too young to be running a shop. Her eyes were big and brown, her hair was dark and long and done up in a top-knot of sorts, the rest cascading down her shoulders, and her skin was fair. She was clad in some kind of odd, purple outfit that reminded her of Japan. She had an air of complete naïvety about her, and, judging by the way she was looking at Franziska, it was not an act.
“Welcome to Forest Fey!” She shimmied out from behind the register. “Wow! You’re here early, huh? It’s barely eight. I mean, I just opened up the store, but I was going to go get a few more z’s since, y’know, no one comes in until like, twelve? Maybe one? I don’t know. But wow, I guess it’s true what they say, the early bird catches the worm. Ah! I don’t sell worms though! Euck! Can you imagine if my potted flowers had worms in them? Totally gross! Ack, now I’m thinking about it, and it’s giving me the willies. Oh. Hey. Now that I think about it, if I don’t sell worms, and you’re the early bird trying to get some of those nasty worms, what are you doing here?”
She was in front of Franziska now, bouncing on the balls of her feet, her eyes impossibly wide, impossibly enticing, and waiting for her to say something.
Of all the things she could have said, however, what left her lips was, “I do not eat worms.” Something so less than perfect that she felt certainly felt like a worm.
The girl laughed. “Of course not! Ugh, they’re so gross though, right? But hey, no, what I mean is, how can I help you?”
“Are you a professional florist?” Franziska asked. She regained her composure rather quickly. This was no time to be losing her head.
The girl screwed up her face. “I’d like to think so. We do a lot of landscaping and flower arrangements. Not enough to become a chain, but I like to think I’m as professional as it gets!”
“The name is spelled wrong on the sign,” Franziska blurted. (What foolishness!) thought Franziska. How could she be engaging in small talk? She never had time for it before. Did all of her business deals require a certain level of exposition now?
“Oh, I get that a lot actually!” the girl said, completely unperturbed. “But it’s not! That’s the family name. I’m a Fey. Maya Fey.” She stuck out a hand. “Nice to meet you.”
Carefully, Franziska took it. “Franziska von Karma, of von Karma Catering.” She gave the hand a single, proper shake, and pulled back quickly.
Miss Fey gasped. “Really?! No way! You guys do great parties! My friend Nick and I went to a party catered by you guys a long time ago--a friend of ours celebrating his pre-engagement to his girlfriend. Actually, I think she left him before he could propose. Not that it’s any of my business, because it’s Nick’s friend, not mine. But the party was perfect!”
“Perfection is my business,” she stated simply.
“I think my cousin actually got married and also used your services. It really was perfect.”
Franziska felt a small knot of something warm in her chest. She’d been told countless times that her work was perfect. Yet coming from this stranger, it meant just a bit more. Odd. Disgusting. Interesting. “Usually, wedding receptions catered by my company are done by my little brother. I cannot take all the credit.”
The Fey girl nodded. “Well, you do wonderful work. A lot of companies say they strive for perfection, but you actually reach it!” Her excitement dwindled very suddenly, and a look of surprise covered her face. “Wait! So if you’re here...”
Franziska cleared her throat. “I am looking for a quick hire. There has been an incident, and in a few hours, a reception will be starting. The flowers that we had ordered were sent across town, and our usual florist has come down with a mere cold.” Speaking of that, Franziska wondered if her brother would finally fire her. The girl was lovely, but all of her arrangements looked the same. The woman made a quick mental note to fire her once she was cleared of all sickness, with or without the confirmation of Mies Edgeworth.
Maya nodded quickly, and scurried behind her desk. Franziska followed. “I have a binder here of some of my recent jobs. I’ve only done a few house parties though. A lot of it is landscaping, but the flower arrangements are all mine.”
And the arrangements were wonderful. Each one was different, and more vibrant than the last. Colors that made the area pop, or added an air of elegance to a gaudy looking room. They spoke volumes and set the tone of the area. One particular photograph was a single tall vase. It was white porcelain carved with a design she didn’t recognize. The flowers were both colored white. Chrysanthemums and cyclamen. They supported each other, and though the arrangement was gorgeous, Franziska could see nothing but sorrow in it. She touched the picture gently.
“My sister’s funeral. The flowers mean “Rest,” and “Goodbye.” Maya’s voice was wistful. “Mia always thought flower language was cool. It seemed only fitting that it was how I said goodbye to her.”
She’d said it very quickly. It was completely tactless, and she felt only a bit guilty about it. But she did not have the time to sympathize. The arrangements she’d seen were perfect. The thoughts behind the pictures were professional. She’d done a few engagements before. And Franziska was running out of time.
“My brother has lost a florist, or, rather, will be losing a florist, and is in need of a decent replacement. Your portfolio is adequate; you will do.”
Maya Fey’s eyes had gone wide. “You’re hiring me?”
Franziska shook her head. “I am in no need of such things. You will be working with my little brother, Miles Edgeworth, and I am hiring you on his behalf.”
Miss Fey’s jaw was hanging open in a very imperfect manner. “I...I..”
Franziska dug into her pocket and pulled out the copies of the guides and lists made specifically for Miss Woods. “This is what must be done. Delivered no later than eleven.”
“A-alright! How many are expected?”
“One hundred, even. No later than eleven.”
Maya’s impossible wide eyes scanned the directions and flowers. “Okay. I have an abundance of purple snapdragons, so no problem there. All stocked up on heather. You’ll want very little heather though, I don’t think this Juniper lady had it right, you’re gonna want that on the edge….oh!” she looked up from the paper, and her eyes were filled with worry. “Stephanotis?”
Franziska nodded. “Apparently Mrs. DeLite will be having them braided into her hair and in her bouquet, which she ordered herself. The foolish woman has no regard for making this day easier.”
Maya nodded slowly. “Well, at least you know it’s not so easy to get them delivered. Not many people order those from this place. I think I have a few pots of them already planted…”
“Those will do.”
Maya shook her head. “It won’t be enough, not if you want one hundred of these done the way you have them. If this Mrs. DeLite has them in her hair and in her bouquet, they have to the the main flower seen…” she chewed her lip. “Maybe…”
Franziska sighed. This was taking too long; she did not have time to fool around. She brought her right hand up and glanced at the time. “Miss Fey,” she said sharply. “If you feel that you cannot do this in such short notice, I must take my leave. It is nearly eight thirty, and I have places to be.” She gave her a curt nod. “Goodbye.”
The woman made it three steps before there was a high pitched squeal of, “Hold it!”
Franziska turned around. The young lady behind her was beaming. Her eyes were bright and her hands were clapped together in front of her.
“I can make all one hundred. I have help coming in thirty minutes and I work fast. The only thing is, if we want the stephanotis on display, we have to arrange them in a sort of circle. I can do that,” she told her cautiously, “but I’ll have to add something. I frequently order viscaria, since it’s may favorite. It’s a little thing, and it can work well with the heather as a garnish. I can add some fern too. But it won’t be what you have on here.”
Franziska bit her cheek. What was ordered had been perfect. The colors, the look, everything. Miles would be going out of his mind if it was changed without a sample to be seen. He had been foolishly fussing over the DeLite wedding since October, and hours close to the deadline, this kind of change would probably cause him to have an aneurysm.
“Is that okay?” Maya asked. She looked like she was about to cry and had a crease of worry between her eyebrows, and for some reason that settled it.
“I will trust this task to you, Miss Fey. Welcome aboard.”
“This is a disaster.”
Franziska rolled her eyes. “Only a foolish fool of momentous fool-dom would turn down this young lady. She is talented.”
Miles ran his fingers through his hair, got fed up half-way with that nervous habit, and instead chose move his finger under his glasses to rub the growing circles under his eyes. “You have fired my flower lady.”
“And hired you a perfect one.”
“We don’t know if she meets any of my standards--”
“She meets mine,” Franziska snapped. “Mine have always been higher than yours. I am perfect, as is my company. I believe this will be a much better, well-thought-out arrangement than anything the Woods family has given you.”
“Miss Woods has done spectacular arrangements in the past. I know her work. I’ve worked with her one on one, and now you hire this...this stranger without any prior knowledge--”
“She had a portfolio,” Franziska pointed out. She also had very nice eyes and a smile that made her mind feel like it was turning to pudding. But if she’d hired her based on looks, she’d have been motivated by less than perfect conditions. And Franziska was a professional, first and foremost; the looks were but a bonus.
“--or any prior experience. I cannot believe this. Did it not occur to you that this impulse hire was, in fact, very foolish?”
“It is not any more foolish than your client wanting a wedding at one chapel and having her reception at another one.”
“That has nothing to do with this current situation.” A light pink dusted his cheeks, and if Franziska were anyone else, it would have come across as sunburn instead of a blush. “And it’s not foolish. It’s my job to make this wedding perfect.”
Franziska nodded. “Which is why, if you did not have me here, it would not be.” She watched her brother run his hand fully through his hair. His eyes were wide and tired. “If you did not trust your big sister,” she stated softly, “you would not have allowed me to find another woman for your wedding in the first place.”
The other sighed. “I simply assumed you were going to order the same arrangements. I did not think you’d go as far as to find a new shop entirely.”
“Then you do not know me well enough. I do nothing without purpose. Miss Woods was entirely too inconsistent. Miss Fey seems to take herself very seriously.”
“Yes, of course.” Miles’ caustic tone did little for ethers mood. “How old did you say she was? Fifteen? Seventeen?”
“She is an adult,” Franziska snapped.
“This is going to be a disaster,” Miles retorted.
Franziska pinched the bridge of her nose. “You are being a foolish, dramatic fool. No amount of frustration or fear can undo my perfectly thought-out decision. It is done.”
Miles groaned and leaned against his car. His phone beeped, eliciting another strangled noise. “I must be at the church to oversee the final preparations.”
“Be gone,” Franziska ordered, shooing her little brother away with a stiff wave. “Cater to your wedding plans, and I will cater to my own company.”
Miles dug in his pocket and pulled out a small notebook. It was worn at the spine, and bulky with sticky notes, colorful tabs, and folded memos. “Should I leave this with you? These are all the plans, perhaps you can look over them with Miss--”
Franziska was shaking her head, her hands forcefully moving the other around the front of his car to the driver's seat. “I do not need your help, nor your foolish notebook of a foolish fool’s dreams. I am a von Karma, Miles Edgeworth.”
Miles slammed the door to his gaudy red convertible. “Yes. The von Karma family is always perfect.” He turned the key and pinned Franziska with a look. “But I don’t think that means you are psychic. Here’s hoping that the two are synonymous, just for today.”
She glared at the car until it made it made the turn out onto the main road.
In her pocket, her phone sounded. “Speak,” she growled, turning swiftly back to her own catering company. They were all taking a small break for water and stretching before getting back to heavy lifting.
Franziska almost physically gagged at the nickname. “Miss Fey, I will ask you to refrain from such names. There is no familiarity here. Just business.”
“Uh, alright then.” She cleared her throat. “We’ve almost done everything. I’ve got fifty here right now thanks to my extra help.” Away from the speaker she called out, “Pearl! Come say hi! It’s Miss von Karma!”
“There is no need for that!” Franziska said, her words rushed. “I do not need to meet your employees. I just need to know when you expect them to deliver the flowers.”
“Mr. Armando is actually driving the first half over right now. Our van is pretty small, and we only have one. If that’s not alright--”
“You have done...fifty arranged, large vases? In this ammount of time?” She looked at her watch. It was just after a nine forty five. “That is impossible. You haven’t had enough time--”
“You just leave it to me, Fran!” Maya yelled into the receiver, so loud that she had to hold the phone away from her ear. “I’m a professional! I can make at least twenty five vases in thirty minutes! And now, with Pearly here--that’s my younger cousin--we can double that amount in the next half hour! You need those flowers by eleven, so we’re gonna get them to you by ten thirty, or my name isn’t Maya Fey!”
“Er, Miss Fey,” Franziska said cautiously. “Is your driver careful? If there is once chip, or one flower out of place, I will not tolerate it.”
“Nah, don’t worry. Mr Armando owes me a bunch of favors because my shop makes his store look nicer. Plus I help him grow his coffee beans. Best coffee West L.A.!”
The woman’s eyebrows rose. “The foolish man with the foolish mask at that foolishly foolish coffee store is your driver?”
“Not usually,” Maya answered, and there was a click of ceramic on granite that alerted Franziska that Miss Fey was getting back to work. “I am, since I’m usually the only one making these displays and delivering them. Oh! And usually I get no more than ten, so flower delivery works a lot like pizza, accept even if it’s more than thirty minutes, it’s not free. I’d get my friend Nick to drive them since he’s usually up early, but he can’t drive, and that won’t be good for the flowers. Nervousness behind the wheel makes them wilt.”
(I expect that being crushed in a car accident will do the exact same thing…) “When will you be arriving? The reception starts at one o’clock.”
“Arriving? With the flower you mean?” she hummed on the other end. “Okay, if Diego is driving a car at sixty five miles and hour…”
Franziska coughed. (Sixty five? Those flowers better be undamaged, or I will whip this foolish driver within an inch of his foolishly pitiful life!) Of course, she wasn’t allowed to carry her whip with her while she was working; several; workers had filed complaints, and, according to the Health and Safety Regulations and the Occupational Health and Safety Act of California, it was not ethical, or legal, to have her whip on her person. However, it was always displayed in her office, or when she was off duty.
“...the flowers should be there any minute? Or wait, did I not carry the two….? Or was it the seven….? Was there even a seven?”
“Miss Fey,” Franziska said sharply, trying to snap the other into full attention.
Apparently it worked, because Maya squeeked and said, rather loudly, “Yes ma’am!”
“I do not mean the delivery. So long as they are here by eleven. I meant yourself. You still have the address, yes?”
Maya sputtered on the other end of the phone, and then went quiet. Franziska was just about to ask if she’d hung up when Maya spoke again. “I’m invited to this shindig? For real?”
The caterer started to nod, realized Maya could not see her, and stated firmly, “Yes. Do remember that you are meeting your new employer here. Miles Edgeworth will be arriving at four in the evening, so be please punctual.”
The squeal that screeched its way over the phone was not so much painful at it was positively deafening.
Franziska smiled softly nonetheless.
Wayfarers Chapel Exterior
Because it was December, the evening came very fast. The sky was a fading bruise of orange-purple, and the pinks clouds streaked faint scars across the sky. The bar was open, the tables were set, the food was being eaten. The sound of the ocean was dim compared to the soundtrack of what seemed to be mainly Billie Holiday (something that was the bride’s own idea). Miles Edgeworth had had a brilliant idea of using fairy lights in the tall trees to create atmosphere.
The flowers were wonderful. White porcelain, with a small bunch of stephanotis coming out of the top. Deep purple snapdragons bowed their heads from under their splendor. Ringed around those were small, periwinkle flowers that must have been the viscaria. The accenting heather and fern had, Franziska thought, made the wedding reception what it was; something out of an old movie. The draping arm of a fern inspiring a vision of a bride draping herself languidly across a railing overlooking an ocean view, rather than a half drunk woman dancing in a dusty basement of a church.
There were a few chapel benches that had been dragged out of storage last minute on Franziska and her little brother’s order, so that guests who did not wish to mingle could sit. Here sat Franziska, her left, glove-clad hand occupied with a glass of champagne. She was leaning back into the bench, draped in an elegant seafoam green evening gown, reminiscent of herself she often thought. The chest above the bust and sleeves were made of a matching lace with embroidered flowers. Her silvery hair was left loose.
She felt wonderful. And a bit tipsy, but she had most of her mind to keep that to herself.
“Party’s really hoppin’ huh, dollface?” a voice piped from behind her.
Franziska whipped her head around, her right hand gripping the handle of her actual whip as she did so. But behind her was Miss Maya Fey.
Her hair was not loose, but in a thick, fish-tail braid over one shoulder and ending in a large purple bead. Her lips were glossy, but her face other than that was free of any make-up. Her shoulders were bare and pale, and there was a little tiny mole on the left one that was kind of shaped like a heart, but that may have been the champagne talking. She was wearing a dark, grape-colored dress that hung barely below her knees and swished with every movement or breeze.
She did not look like the little girl who she’d seen today, and it was, in a way that was very new and a little drunk, very sudden but not entirely unwelcome.
“Miss Fey,” Franziska said slowly. “I see you’ve arrived on a sort of schedule, if not completely late.”
“Hey!” Maya huffed, moving to take the spot next to Franziska. “I was on time! But I looked all over for you, and then I saw that there were these really small burgers out, and I hadn’t eaten all day, so I had some of those.” Her fingers fidgeted in her lap, and Franziska noticed that she held one of the small, purple flowers in her hand. She rolled it back and forth, watching it spin as she spoke. Franziska watched too. “And then I asked one of your chefs here if they’d seen you, and they directed me to the outside, and then the bartender said you had a glass of champagne, took another to go, and ‘left toward the benches,’ so I found the benches and...ZVARRI! I found you!”
The strange word caught her off guard. “Excuse me?”
“Zvarri?” Franziska asked, and she could feel a small smile begin to start.
Maya flushed. “Oh! Uh. There’s this detective show that comes on every now and then. ‘The Sophisticated Adventures of Luke Atmey: Ace Detective.’ Comes on after the Steel Samurai reruns. He shouts that once he’s made an important discovery. My friend Nick thinks it’s ridiculous, so I tape both shows on his DVR and never tell him about it. Drives him crazy.”
Franziska chuckled, and then they both lapsed into a comfortable silence. The lights above them twinkled in the dwindling light. Billie Holiday sang her heart out to an upbeat song and the brass hummed along with the murmur of the ocean. Franziska sipped her drink and smiled softly and Maya hummed along to the music. It was completely serene.
“Franziska?” a clear voice called, and suddenly it was broken.
She turned to look over her shoulder. And there, standing in his full, magenta clad, cravat-ed glory, was Mile Edgeworth. He looked a bit winded, and his eyes widened when he saw Miss Fey next to her. “And...guest?”
“Employee,” she corrected. “Meet Miss Maya Fey. She will be working for you and your business in making wedding plans come true.”
She could have sworn him mutter the word, “dreams.”
Maya stood up. In height comparison, Maya was very small indeed, and looking at her, Franziska saw her shrink just a bit more.
“Mr. Edgeworth? Hi, Maya Fey. I work with Forest Fey, I did the flowers? I-I mean, shoot you knew that.” She bit her lip and stuck out her hand. “I am a professional, and I have a portfolio at my shop! I don’t have business cards though. I think I should get some, but I can never decide on the kind of stock I want it printed on.”
Miles stared Maya’s outstretched hand for a few moments, before turning to Franziska. “She arranged the bouquets?”
“She’s the same person you hired? The same person you spoke to?”
“Yes, of course.”
Miles nodded slowly and faced Maya once more. “You are the owner of Forest Fey? You’re quite...young.”
“Only twenty five! I’m not that old, but I’m old enough to drink and drive. OH! But-but not at the same time.”
Miles’ eyes widened a fraction and looked like he wanted to say something smart, but instead he said, “Your job with the arrangement is beautiful. You and I both got...very lucky.”
“Don’t I know it!” Maya agreed, nodding quickly. Her hand was still out for Miles to shake. “So you’re Miles Edgeworth? The guy who did this whole wedding?”
“Yes,” the man said with more than a little trepidation.
Maya beamed at him. “It’s wonderful. You made it look and feel like a dream. I actually feel like I should be getting married. It’s absolutely perfect here. And I love the lights!” She pointed above them. “They kind of give his whole party a twenty-first century Gatsby feel, you know? That could be the music too, but the lights are still wonderful.”
Even in the dim setting, Franziska could see her little brother’s blush. She snorted. Miles coughed and turned away, choosing instead to grab his elbow instead of Maya’s still waiting hand. Another nervous habit he had done since he was a child. But under that nervousness and embarrassment, she knew Miles had just received the complement of a lifetime.
“W-welcome aboard, Miss Fey. I will have the new orders in soon. There is another wedding scheduled in a few weeks time. I look forward to working with you and your undeniable talent.”
He turned to leave. Franziska called to him, “Will I be receiving a phone call explaining about how I was right and perfect, as I always am?”
She could still hear his choked laughter and embarrassment as he went, no doubt, to compose himself and speak to the bride and groom.
“That could have gone better,” Maya mumbled. “I don’t think he liked me very much.”
Franziska nodded. “Miles Edgeworth is a very busy, scheduled man,” she explained. “Because of this, he interacts on a level that is half-business-half-social-awkwardness.” Good lord, was she usually this tongue-in-cheek about her brother? Perhaps she should drink slower. “He does not take change very well, hence his aversion to my hiring you. He does not take compliments very well, either. Which is why he ran like the foolish man that he is.”
Maya giggled. “So he’s shy, huh? I bet he’s a big softie, too! Only romantics can make a wedding this special.” She clutched the flower in her hands close to her chest and sighed deeply. “How sweet.”
Franziska chuckled. “Romantic Miles Edgeworth. I will have to take your word for it, as I do not see it. I do not understand how you can either, but as I said. Perhaps, if I were more inebriated…”
Maya laughed a little. Franziska snorted.
As the laughter tapered off, both women met eyes, and Franziska had a moment of utter clarity that, whether or not she was drinking, she wouldn’t mind getting lost in those eyes. It was a very sloppy, imperfect thought, and right now she dare not lock it away.
There was quiet again, and in the distance, the soundtrack turned slower, the piano of the track starting the beginning of These Foolish Things.
Maya broke eye contact first. “So this flower,” she stated softly, “is called a viscaria. They’re hard to get in flower shops, so I keep a bunch of them. They’re also my favorite, because...well...because they say a lot without saying much at all you know?”
Franziska shook her head, but smiled anyway.
“For example, saying something like ‘I’m fine,” can really mean something like, you’re excited, or upset but can handle it. It says a lot. This...uhm...this flower….or…” she cleared her throat, met Franziska’s eyes again, and held the flower out to her with a shaking hand. “This flower means, ‘Dance With Me.’”
There was a beat of silence. It held the world in a bubble for exactly thirty shocking, nervous, imperfect seconds. In those moments, Maya Fey watched with her breath stopped in her throat as Franziska von Karma blinked her words slowly away. Franziska von Karma waited to see if Maya Fey had a punchline in there somewhere. After five seconds, when she didn’t produce one, Franziska had to make her heart stop trying to fly out of her chest. There were things to consider. She had been drinking, for one. She was in public, for two. She wasn’t sure where anything would lead, where Miss Fey (Maya, don’t you think? After that, it might as well be simple Maya. She calls you Fran after a day. Maya. Maya it is) would want this to lead.
This was foolish.
But right now, looking at Maya’s nervous hand and sincere eyes and lips that were being worried on by persistent teeth, she stood up.
“Yes,” she said, taking the flower. She tucked it into Maya’s braid, and offered her a very open, very warm, very imperfect, smile.