“You are so wrong,” said Vincent, thrusting a Parrot Tulip in Juan’s face, “She said Mrs Hollerbeck was a priority and anyway she’s uptown and uptown always goes out first.”
“I know uptown goes out first but you fucked up the Blaustein order and day gotta go now man, and dats what she told me”
“I fucked up nothing you asshole”
“Hey Aniese tell da fucking faggot what he fucked up, I’m outta here.”
Everything was as it should be at the 4th Street Flower Shop: Vincent, the Queen arranger, was having his usual morning meeting with Juan, a six foot, Latino, ex-speed freak with an innate ability to arrange flowers and Marla, the proprietor, was still at the market. Aniese rearranged the pile of invoices on her desk and kept her head down.
“Well if you could write fucking English sweetheart, then maybe I could read the fucking order, you fucking wetback.”
The last comment was lost on Juan whose lumbering frame was already out of the door. The unlikely coupling of Juan the ex-con and Marla the fashionista’s favourite florist had come about when the young flower girl had decided to quit her job arranging for the good, the bad and the ugly on the upper Westside and branch out on her own. Juan had been there right from the start. Initially hired as van driver, then a stem cutter he had helped her re-model the empty liquor store, the only property she could afford to lease, in what was then a far from fashionable neighbourhood. He had kept the bums at bay, who insisted upon banging on the door for a bottle, while he learnt the names of flowers. She gave him the necessary references to get off probation. Now he had a bank account, a wife and a new baby boy and Marla had a thriving business in what had become a very funky hood. It was widely believed the arrangement had only lasted so long because Juan was one of the few people whom the headstrong Marla could give no shit to being as how he took no shit from no one, especially her. And this she respected and therefore he became the only member of her itinerant staff who lasted more than a year. Plus, legal employment was not something that would come easy to a man with his back ground and Juan knew that his life span was likey to be a lot longer arranging flowers than it was back on the street.
“OK cupcake,” trilled Vincent, downing his blooms, “I’m getin’ coffee, skinny latte for the lady?”
“Better make it a large one,” said Aniese, swivelling in her chair.
“Hold that thought, honey, I wanna hear everything. And tell the arsehole the Blaustein’s are ready in the refrigerator and he can go fuck himself.”
Vincent and Juan carried on a perpetual love hate banter but would die to defend one another from anyone else. Proven when Vincent perjured himself in court to give Juan an alibi after he was accused of doing a break-in with Marla’s delivery van (a job actually carried out by Juan’s now estranged half-brother who was temporarily employed by 4th Street at the time). And Juan had laid to waste a Neanderthal that had once tried to suggest that taking it up the butt might not be God’s way, while kicking Vincent down the steps of the subway on Astor Place.
The phone rang and Aniese remembered just in time to put on her happy voice, the voice she was supposed to use when dealing with the clients but rarely did. Instead she reserved it mainly for the call Marla always made when she was on her way back from the flower market. Yes everything was great, Vincent was great, Juan was great, there was no drama, no hiccups, no problem. She put the phone down and took the kid gloves off. To say Marla was highly strung was a mild understatement, she was a forty-year old adolescent. Yes she could do the most amazing things with even the humblest bunch of flowers, this was an indisputable fact but she was an hormonal headcase. Marla would stamp her feet, slam down the phone, scream and shout then happily sit down and discuss the tiniest minutiae of one’s personal life. However, should Aniese ever have to ask her a question regarding an account she would be off again, flouncing about the office, ranting on about having to do everything and the pressures of life and why didn’t any one care and on and on and on. So why was Aniese still there? Because she wasn’t, she was leaving. It’s just that she hadn’t gotten around to it yet and besides it was convenient. She only lived a few blocks away and the money was OK and it wasn’t rocket science and so what if her boss was a raving nutcase at least she had a job and she was able to work at her next career move in her own time. Plus, she could be late and Marla was never going to sack her, who else would put up with her?
Aniese finished writing the billet-doux from the guy on Wall St. and stuffed it in the little envelope and addressed it to Kattie Koloski. She paper-clipped it on the right hand side (always the right hand side) of the relevant yellow slip with the arrangement instructions neatly printed in the middle and the address written in the box on the left. Then, she put it with the card to the eminent English Dame who was opening on Broadway, the thank you note from the guy who had a different date every day, the well done, the commiserations, the congratulations and the you-go-girl for Naomi Campbell from her agent.
“So what shall I put?” she said, chewing the end of her pen in lovelorn angst.
“How about you may be a loser but you’re still my stud muffin?”
“Thanks Vincent, that’ll cheer him up”
Aniese stared out of the window at the strip of tree that blocked the view and thought some more. The wording had to be just right.
“Is he still doing coke?” asked Vincent thrusting a baby artichoke into the oasis.
“Well what about sniff this?”
“Look Vincent this is important. I want him to know I have forgiven him his short comings and that I’m prepared to give him another chance without undermining his confidence within our relationship”
“ Oh Lordy let me sit down I’m having an Oprah moment,” said Vincent, fanning himself dramatically with an Arum Lily. “Listen sister, has he even called yet?”
Vincent had a point. Aniese was already working on the afternoon orders and there had still been no word from Trey; no crying, no begging, no pleading for her to come back.
“Maybe he didn’t realise I was being serious”
“But you aren’t.”
“But I was last night.”
She looked down at what she had just written on the little card she’d been planning to attach to the bouquet of berries, rose buds and baby bell peppers for Trey: Only you, forever Aniese.
“Maybe I’ll just check my messages,” she said, speed dialling her home phone.
“What like he’s lost your cell” quipped Vincent who believed Aniese would be better off with a cat rather than go belly-up with Trey. “Let him go honey, what you need…….” He stopped mid way through his denunciation of the young man as he realised Aniese was not listening. She was standing in a pool of grief stricken shock, her face distorted by disbelief, her hand to her mouth, eyes unblinking.
“Oh my God what’s happened?” said Vincent, springing in to action with a pack of Marlboro Lights.
“He’s dumped me.” She crumpled in to her chair, knocking over the out-going orders box and scattering all the messages of love and lust on to the floor.
“He says I’m absolutely right, he’s says we were strangling each others creativity and he feels like he’s just taken off a hat that was too tight. He says he wants to move to California and he hopes we can always be friends and he wants to thank me for making it all so clear.”
“Is that all?” said Vincent, lighting a cigarette anyway, “I thought someone had died or something.”
“They have, I have”
“Sweetheart, you dumped the schmuck last night.”
“But that was before….before I knew he was the one. And now I am a hat that’s too tight” she dissolved into a snotty sob, “and he did it on my answer phone.”
“Yer, that is bad.” Said Vincent, sucking ruefully while thrusting his arm through the open window, “but look at it this way, it just goes to show what a loser he is. You do not need someone like that in your life.”
Aniese bent down and shovelled the cards back into the box. She plucked out the one she’d just written to Trey and ripped it in half.
“Bastard” she sniffed.
“That’s right honey.”
“Fuck him anyway,” she blew her nose.
“Now you’re talking, you take those flowers home yourself”
“No way” said Aniese, feverishly writing out a new card, “Send ‘em out.”