SERIES Say It With Flowers by Jan Snook
Jennifer was happy to begin the New Year with Matthew by her side . . .
She remembered feeling apprehensive, suddenly on her own, pregnant and nauseous, resting on the soft orange cushions.
Then, waiting for her due date, feeling isolated after having to give up her busy life in a job she loved.
She remembered bringing her baby home from hospital to a livingroom full of cards and the scent of cut flowers.
Night feeds on the sofa, three o’clock darkness outside, Martyn snoring in bed, oblivious.
Was she the only person awake at that time of the morning?
Later on, sitting with her feet up at coffee time, with toddlers watching “Playschool” and “Playaway”, then reading them a story and tucking them up on the sofa for their afternoon nap.
Her head was still full of memories when the council’s refuse lorry drew up. The driver pipped the horn and jumped out.
Jessie smiled at him and shook her head.
“I’m so sorry,” she said. “That’s all right, love,” he replied, and together they dragged the sofa away from the roadside and back into the garden.
As the lorry pulled away and disappeared down the road, Martyn’s car sped up and screeched to a halt.
He wound the window down.
“Oh, no, am I too late?” “Too late for what?” “Have they taken it? It’s just, I’ve been thinking about that old sofa.” “Yes, Martyn?” “Perhaps we could keep it.”
“We could find room for it somewhere you know.” “Yes, Martyn.”
“We can’t let it go to the tip. It’s like, well, part of the family.”
“Yes, Martyn, it is.” She watched his face as he spotted the sofa, still covered in blankets.
Jessie grinned. This really was vintage, after all. ■
JENNIFER woke up and groped for her watch, then opened half an eye to look at it. It was after ten. She should be at work! She was about to spring out of bed when she remembered: it was New Year’s Day. Last night had been New Year’s Eve, and she’d been out celebrating with Matthew until the early hours.
She lay back on her pillows and smiled. It was a new year – full of opportunity and promise.
Just as she decided she couldn’t lie there all day, her phone rang.
“Good morning, and happy New Year. Again,” Matthew said brightly. “How are you feeling?”
Jennifer smiled. So last night really had happened: the flowers, the restaurant, the champagne, the fireworks, the chimes at midnight and “Auld Lang Syne”. It had all happened. Including that kiss . . .
“I’m fine.” She laughed. “Well, maybe a tiny bit groggy.”
“What you need is a long walk to blow the cobwebs away.”
“I’d love a walk, but it’s flower club tomorrow, and I need to buy some flowers if anywhere is open. I hate leaving it late.”
“I’m sure the florist in the high street will be open. Let’s go there first, then have lunch in that pub opposite, and then we can go for a walk. OK?”
Jennifer ordered her flowers, and it wasn’t long before they were sitting in the pub ordering a ploughman’s.
“So,” Jennifer began, “are you entering the competition this month? The title’s ‘January Blues’, which is a bit miserable, but I feel obliged to do something.”
“I think you realise that the main draw of the flower club for me is not the flowers,” Matt replied, beaming.
“I love the way you blush at every little thing,” he added, but Jennifer wasn’t looking at him.
“Isn’t that Emily?” she asked abruptly, looking out of the window at the florist’s shop. “What is she . . .?”
They both stared. Emily was walking towards her car, concentrating on the beautiful arrangement she was carrying. It was a riot of blue flowers interspersed with delicate cream and white blooms.
“What on earth shall I do?” Jennifer asked despairingly.
“What do you mean?” “Well, I think I can tell you without giving anything away that arranging flowers is not her strong point.”
“You think she’s going to present that as her own work? But anyone who’s seen her in class will know, won’t they?”
“The judging’s done anonymously,” Jennifer said darkly.
They spent the afternoon discussing what they could do about it. Matt’s suggestion was to tell the judge what was going on.
“But then she’d be publicly humiliated,” Jennifer objected. “No, I think I’ll have to have a quiet word with her when she arrives at the club.”
The following evening Jennifer got to the flower club early and staged her own arrangement as quickly as she could.
She was glad to see that there were several novice arrangements already in place. She decided to wait for Emily in the car park and tackle her there.
Jennifer got outside just as Emily reached the door, carrying the fateful arrangement.
“Oh, I was just coming in to find you.” Emily smiled.
“I’ve been looking for you, too,” Jennifer replied nervously.
Emily’s face fell. “Don’t tell me my arrangement’s fallen over,” she said.
“Your arrangement?” Jennifer repeated stupidly.
“Mine’s the one nearest the door,” Emily said, still looking worried.
“But . . .?” Jennifer looked down at the flowers in Emily’s hands.
“These?” Emily said after a moment. “You can’t seriously have thought I could produce something like this! I bought these at the florist in town.
“I took some to Alison this morning, but I don’t know where you live,” she added. “They’re to say thank you for Boxing Day. It was wonderful!”
More next week.