Louis hated Valentine’s Day. Hated it with a passion he reserved for Marmite, and Victoria Beckham. If you’d never encountered either Marmite or the stick insect, you were very lucky in his opinion; but for Louis, Valentine’s Day was worse than Luke Skywalker facing the Death Star. Louis was something of a drama queen with a huge crush on David Beckham—not that he’d ever have admitted it.
Louis was also a florist and Valentine’s Day was his nadir, his nemesis; the evil day that shall not be named, when he turned his fingers into pin-cushions making a million bouquets for guilty men who sighed in relief as they handed over a dozen red roses, and then went back to ignoring their spouses for the rest of the year. Stupid bastards. Lazy bastards. Did they think one poxy bunch of flowers would make up for three hundred and sixty four days of neglect?
No one bought flowers for Louis. Not that he’d have liked them anyway. He’d have only moaned and bitched at the way they were arranged. In Louis’ opinion, no one was as good as he was at sorting each bloom into a precision arrangement that would last until the stupid, moronic recipient decided they were better than Louis at bunging them in a vase. No one was as good as Louis. No one. Got it? Louis hated everyone—especially on Valentine’s Day.
Not that he had time to have a relationship with anyone. David Beckham wasn’t exactly banging down his door, declaring his undying love and suggesting Louis give up his crazy hours and instead warm David’s bed. He went to the market to pick up the flowers, making the same meaningless conversation with the stall-holders that he did every morning at arse-o’clock. Christ, why couldn’t he have trained as an accountant? His mum had wanted him to be an accountant, but Louis had just laughed at her and talked about studying floristry instead. Although now his mum appreciated his talents.
At thirty-one, Louis lived with his cat and his issues, above Long Stems, the florists he’d owned for seven years. When people asked him why he was still alone, Louis snippily pointed out he was picky and why should he settle for dirty socks and farting in bed, when he could fuck ‘em and leave ’em to clear up their own filth. There was another reason, of course—the real reason. Few people knew that one and those who did weren’t telling.
Today though, Louis would be lucky if he even saw his bed. He had bouquets to make for the orders, and there would always be the men who’d actually forgotten it was Valentine’s Day. The ones who would come in frantically right up until the time the shop closed. He kept the shop late on Valentine’s Day, of course, to take advantage of these idiots. Louis may have hated Valentine’s Day but he wasn’t stupid.
Desdemona, his Persian Blue, looked at the volume of red roses taking up the floor space in the shop and sniffed haughtily. She stalked off, her arse high in the air. She suited Louis perfectly. He would do the same thing if he could. He had to start early because as the only full-time employee he couldn’t make up bouquets and serve on a busy day. He laid out the roses and baby’s breath, and began making up the basic bouquets. He would create more elaborate arrangements as well, for customers who saw beyond just the obligatory red roses to the beauty of the arrangements. Either that, or they had more money to waste. First he needed caffeine. Lots of it. Yeah, he had an addiction. What of it? You try getting up at one a.m. every day.
Louis worked until banging on the door and the light outside told him the day had finally arrived. He scowled at the outline of the man standing outside the shop door, but he knew he’d been spotted so he couldn’t ignore the arsehole who’d disturbed him. He unlocked the door and pasted on a smile.
“Mr Williams. How nice to see you again. You look as wonderful as ever,” he cooed.
The middle-aged man glowered at him. “Don’t do that.”
Turning his back on the man Louis rolled his eyes, and resisted the urge to sway his hips as he walked back to the counter. He saw Mr Williams three times a year for two bouquets; one, a modest bunch of flowers for his wife, and the other, a much bigger arrangement for his girlfriend. The man also placed the same order for their birthdays. Louis was tempted to shake things up and reverse the order but Mr Williams usually collected them personally and he’d been coming to the florists for fifteen years. When Louis opened the shop Mr Williams had stared at him doubtfully for the first few visits. Two years in, Mr Williams had said he was better than the previous owner. Was it worth the five minutes of satisfaction for Louis to fuck up the guy’s life?
“I have your order,” Louis said, bringing out the two bouquets and handing them over.
Mr Williams grunted and dug in his pocket to bring out the cash. He only ever paid cash—didn’t want any credit card payments to be caught by the wife, obviously. “Thanks,” he said as he handed over the money.
“My pleasure.” Louis deliberately placed an emphasis on my, knowing how uncomfortable it would make Mr Williams. He got his kicks where he could.
Mr Williams’ lip curled but he didn’t say anything, and he left as quickly as he could.
Louis grinned. The first customer of the day was dealt with. He needed more coffee.
By lunchtime Louis wasn’t grinning any more. He was footsore, hand-sore and fucking grumpy from having to be polite to the arseholes who came in and demanded their sexual satisfaction in a £9.99 bouquet. Louis handed the flowers over with increasing disdain. They couldn’t even be bothered to shell out for the dozen long-stemmed roses, hand-picked by Louis that morning. And they wondered why their wives just threw them any how into a vase and forgot about the flowers until they died. Louis would have given his partner a bouquet to profess his love. Each flower would have been lovingly picked to explain the feelings trapped in his heart. He wouldn’t have used red roses though, Louis would have used yellow roses. He would have known exactly what that meant.