What just happened?
Did I really meet One Direction?
And is that scribbled number what I think it is?
It was midday on Saturday and the boss from hell – Cordelia Stem – owner of ‘Long Stem Flowers’ had asked me to deliver a special bouquet personally to one of her best clients, Simon, on the other side of London. Great. Not.
I’d never met him, but apparently Simon needed the flowers to give to his girlfriend at lunch and our van wouldn’t get there in time in the traffic so muggins here was going to have to trudge two tube stops and a ten minute walk the other end to get it to him at the restaurant. How embarrassing. But, Simon always got what he wanted, or so Cordelia said.
“And I don’t expect you to be long,” she called after me as I left the shop. “No coffee stops or taking time out to telephone your mates.”
Ha. As if she paid me enough to run up minutes phoning my mates.
I set off, the bouquet in our trademark black card bag with silk ribbons and dodged the pedestrians who seemed intent on barging into me, ruining the flowers and getting me the sack. I was close to the edge as it was, having tripped in the shop last week and fallen into the counter, beheading a dozen red roses.
“Oi! Mind out!” I kept shouting as I walked. On the tube it was even worse. I almost got the tops of the flowers stuck in the door it was such a crush, but luckily I managed to whip them inside just before the peonies were squashed.
At the other end I came out of the tube and edged round a crowd at Green Park. “Mind please,” I was calling out, like a guard from South West trains, “Mind the flowers please…” I felt a right berk. I had a map on my phone, finding a space on the pavement to stop and look at it. I had to get up to New Bond Street, which I had no idea how to do, so I held the phone in front of me with my right hand and balanced the flowers carefully with my left. “Coming through,” I shouted, “Flowers coming through!”
Of course, if I’d been looking at the street and not at the map as I walked past the Ritz Hotel I’d have seen them, all five of them, tumble out of the lobby, bouncing and joshing each other, followed by three photographers, two stylists and a film crew. I didn’t.
Smack! I hit Harry’s shoulder first with an almighty crunch then I over balanced and stumbled forward into Nial, rebounded off and put the flowers out in front of me to break my fall. They did the trick. The flowers hit the pavement, crashing down, the bag burst, peonies and roses scattered everywhere and then I toppled backwards and landed on my bum.
I sat there, dazed for a few moments, near to tears.
“Oh my god! Are you all right?” I saw the roses, pale pink with dark pink edges trampled underfoot as people walked on by. I looked up and saw the most beautiful pair of blue eyes that I have ever seen. They gazed down at me with genuine concern.
“Duh. Of course she’s not all right! She’s taken a hell of a fall.” I turned and crouching down beside me was Zayn. “We should give her some air. Stand back a bit.” He looked into my face. “Does anything hurt? Can you walk?”
To be honest, I wasn’t sure that I could. I was too stunned and too upset to get up. I shook my head.
“The flowers….” I murmured. “I’ve got to give the flowers to…”
“Oh Jeeze… your flowers!” Zayn stood and began scooping up what was left of the plump pink blooms I’d been carrying. Nial darted forward and picked up a rose.
“Here…” he said.
“That’s no good!” Zayn shot at him. “She needs the whole thing, not just one flower…”
There were shouts of, “Taxi!” and I could see the rest of the boys moving towards the kerb. The uniformed hotel concierge was assembling a fleet of black taxi cabs and my bouquet was lost in a crowd of feet.
“Here, let me help…” Nial held out his hand and I took it. He pulled me gently to my feet and smiled at me. The people, the cold, the graze on my hand and the lost blooms all melted away. I smiled back and felt myself blush. He reached out and tucked a strand of hair that had fallen over my face back behind my ears.
“Come on Nial!” Someone shouted. Unwittingly, he was still holding my hand as he moved towards the group. He let my fingers go. “Come on…” A voice called.
I watched as car doors opened and slammed shut, as people climbed into taxis and disappeared. Nial stood where he was a few yards away and stared at me. He began to edge towards the taxi. A car door was opened in front of him and I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned and Zayn handed me a huge bunch of pink roses, perfect plump pink roses wrapped in white tissue tied with the gold ribbon of the Ritz Hotel.
“All is not lost,” he said.
There were more shouts. I looked down at the bouquet in my arms and then I glanced up again to thank him. But before I could say anything he was gone. A final taxi cab door slammed shut and the car moved off. I saw only my own face, bewildered and flushed reflected in the dark windows of the cab.
Ten minutes later, I had found New Bond Street and the restaurant that Simon was in with his girlfriend. I was bewildered by what had happened, elated but also haunted by Nial’s face as he left and by Zayn’s kindness. I was terrified that Simon would know these weren’t Cordelia’s flowers and that I would be for the chop when I got back.
I waited in the reception of the restaurant while the Maitre D went to tell Simon I was there. I could feel myself trembling, almost on the verge of tears. The perfume of the roses was heady and overpowering, but would it be enough?
There was a cough behind me and I turned to see Cordelia’s Simon; well dressed, clean shaven, smiling a dazzling white smile that took in me then the flowers and gradually began to fade.
“This isn’t what I ordered,” he said.
I could feel myself blush right to the roots of my hair. “I know, I’m sorry, but…” my voice faltered. I held them out and he stepped forward to take them. I hung my head as he looked at them closely, breathing in their scent then I took a step back and turned to go.
“First,” he said, “I don’t think being ten minutes late is acceptable…” I looked up at him and bit my lip, ready for the telling off I knew I was in for.
“Second, I ordered peonies and roses in pale pink, not a bouquet of plump dark pink roses…”
I stared and him, unable to speak.
“And last,” he said, ripping a strip off the top of the tissue paper. “If this is who I think it is then you had better get a move on…”
He handed the strip of tissue paper over to me and I looked at it. Scribbled in ink that had blurred at the edges were three words and a row of numbers;
“Call me – Zayn…”
Does she ring that number? And what happens when she does?
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