Wedding Takedown

By: Geri Krotow

CHAPTER 1

“My order was very specific. I said absolutely no mums in the bouquet, and you sent an arrangement with three!”

Kayla Paruso knew that customer service was paramount to the success of Kayla’s Blooms. That was the only thing that kept her smiling at Mrs. Vance, who came into the shop every week with a complaint. The elderly woman had been widowed only a year ago and Kayla figured if nitpicking about floral arrangements kept Mrs. Vance going, then so be it.

“I’m so sorry, Mrs. Vance. I’ll send out a new arrangement tomorrow morning. Tell you what, I’ll throw in a new vase for the inconvenience. Please pick one from that lower shelf and let me know what time you’d like the delivery.”

“You know, in Europe it’s considered bad luck to give mums. They’re funeral flowers!” Mrs. Vance’s dentures clicked as spittle flew from her mouth.

Poor thing.

“I didn’t know that. Thanks for letting me know. Please do feel free to pick out a vase.” How her voice stayed so upbeat was beyond her. Her older sister, Melody, had told her it was the way she’d spoken since childhood—always sounding as though she was excited and happy to see the person she was chatting with.

Mrs. Vance walked over to the shelf of vases, the heels of her stylish shoes tapping on the hardwood floor Kayla had sanded and re-stained two years ago, before she opened Kayla’s Blooms. The lights were bright and her eyes were painfully dry after almost fifteen hours in the shop. It was time to call it a day.

“I’m glad you were here to deal with her.” Jenny, her assistant, spoke quietly behind Kayla. Her hands flew as she pulled off florist paper and wrapped bouquet after bouquet of fresh flowers, finishing each with a colorful spring bow. The Passover and Easter holidays kept them working around the clock and Kayla was grateful for every order called in.

Even for Mrs. Vance.

“It’s all part of the job, right? Besides, she did make it clear, no mums.”

“That’s my point. They weren’t mums, not technically. They were asters. And she’s never mistaken them for mums before.”

“You’re right. We have to give her some leeway. Her daughter stopped in last week and told me she’s thinking of placing Mrs. Vance in a memory care unit. The flowers looked like mums to her, and that’s all that matters. It’s no problem for us to make her up a new arrangement.”

“Unless every other customer wants the same treatment.”

“It’s our policy to replace any unsatisfactory order, and that won’t change.” She wasn’t going to try to explain to Jenny how hard and complicated the aging process could be, especially when dementia came into play. “Why don’t you head home after you get these into the water buckets?”

“You don’t have to tell me twice. What time do you need me tomorrow?”

“Eight o’clock is fine. I may be out on deliveries, but you can open the shop.”

“I can come in earlier. You can’t keep working at this pace.”

“Don’t worry about it. I need you fresh and chipper to face all the customers tomorrow. I thrive on this pace. My schedule isn’t going to let up until after wedding season. This is why I got into this business—to keep moving.”

“There’s ‘moving,’ and there’s the hamster wheel.”

Kayla smiled but ignored Jenny’s comment. Jenny was still in college, and spent three of her weekdays commuting to school, working for Kayla on the other two and filling in as needed. She was allowed to have her own opinion. It would be too easy to tell Jenny how much her life would change over the next few years. It was in those years that Kayla herself had realized she wanted to build a life with the permanence she’d never had as a child. Her childhood had been nomadic, spent moving around with her government-employed parents. Starting a new business had been a tremendous challenge but her patience had paid off, since the flower shop was all hers. And so far, it was operating at a profit.

Her cell phone vibrated in her apron pocket and she reached for it, her interest piqued when she saw the caller ID.

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