With arms full of sweet pinks and rich reds, Anna carried her haul around her usual route: two cafe's, a small florist, a grand mansion and a french restaurant, Le Petit Chateau. She had been delivering on this route for nearly two years. Most of her clients ordered different flowers each time but not Le Petit Chateau. The owner, Theo Gerard, always requested the same three flowers: "larkspur for levity, daffodils for chivalry and peonies for romance and prosperity"he said they were "for the joy and good luck of his patrons".
Each week she would deliver her flowers and each week she would come to her last stop, greeted with a warm, wide smile from Theo. He was always holding two cups of Parisian hot chocolate for them to share. They would sit and talk about their lives and the world around them; about her love of flora and his love of food. She would say "thank you' and he would say "no, thank you for bringing me the most beautiful bouquets for my diners". He would display her blooms as decorations and majestic centrepieces all around the restaurant, with a few singular stems placed in delicate vases on the more intimate tables. Seeing her work used so charmingly filled her with pride.
On one particularly grey, late January morning Anna was trudging along to her deliveries. Thankful that she finally made it to her last stop, she plopped herself down on a chair as soon as she put her flowers down on the ornate lacquered wooden tables at Le Petit Chateau.
"These clouds really know how to take the joy out of the day eh?" Theo chuckled lightly.
"Yeah, I guess." She replied, quieter than usual.
"It's not just the weather getting you down?"
"No...I mean yes, it is that, but also...this time of year always puts me in a less-than-perfect mood."
"Anything in particular?"
"You'll think I'm a sap if I tell you." The corners of her mouth curled up for a moment.
"Ha! Try me."
"Well, Valentine's day is coming up..." she couldn't help but fidget with her hands as she spoke, "and, being a florist, Valentine's day isn't just one day - it's months!"
"Yes, I imagine it's your busiest time of year."
"It is. But being surrounded by roses and tulips and little love notes really emphasises how...how alone I am." Her words trailed off as she looked down at her fidgeting hands.
"Oh Anna, you're not alone - you've got friends and family and you've got me." Theo smiled timidly.
Anna laughed gently, "thanks Theo, but you know what I mean. This time of year is lonely for single people like us."
Theo's smile faded slightly as he responded with a half-hearted nod.
"Anyway," she said as she stood up with a sigh, "I've got to get back and make more bouquets - busiest time of year and all that. Thanks for letting me chew your ear off, ha ha."
"Anytime," he waved as she walked towards the door, slightly deflated in tone, "see you next week"
"See you." She waved back.
The next few days flew by, fluttering with rose petals and tulip bulbs, love notes and cards; goodness knows how many bouquets she wrapped in pink tissue, red tissue, white tissue, even purple. Countless suitors came in, desperate for any smattering of blooms left in the city. Of course, like any well prepared florist, Anna had enough flowers to calm each and every romantic - from the simple, single flower to the larger than life floral offerings. Needless to say: she was soon exhausted. As Valentine's day came, she was looking forward to her final deliveries so this occasion could be over.
Like clockwork, at the end of the week, she delivered to the cafe's, the smaller florist, the grand mansion and finally came to Le Petit Chateau, usual bouquets in hand. As she walked from her van to the restaurant doors she couldn't help but notice the increasing scent of roses; she shrugged it off as olfactory exhaustion from handling so many for weeks on end. She swung open the doors, looked up and froze in shock - dropping the bouquets from under her arm.
Before her was a sea of bright red roses with pink roses here are there, rising like waves. The entire room was full: every surface, every table and chair was covered in bouquet after bouquet, crate after crate, of deep red and sumptuous pink. Even the floor was covered, like a beautiful carpet, with a narrow path starting at her feet and winding through tables around a side wall. She followed it slowly, looking at every bloom, every petal, grazing them with her fingertips as if she were walking through tall-grass on a summer afternoon. Turning the corner around a particularly tall wave of stems, she stopped again as she saw Theo standing there beaming.
"Theo, what's all this? It's incredible!"
He smiled even wider as he stepped towards her with his hands outstretched, "it's for you." In his hands lay a necklace in a smart, black box."Oh my...Theo it's exquisite! Where did you find a necklace with African Violets on it? They're my--"
"Your favourite, I know, I remember you talking about them. It's by Michael Michaud - he makes the most amazing nature-inspired jewellery. I thought you'd like it."
He gently took it out of the box, opened the clasp and motioned towards her. She turned, sweeping her hair over her left shoulder so he could fasten it.
"Thank you Theo, I love it! You've made this day so special and I didn't think..."
"Happy Valentine's day Anna."
Still smiling, they shared a soft, warm gaze as they leaned for a kiss.