The customers had been extremely chipper today as they came and left The Enchanted Florist. Mrs. Beakman bought 10 wreaths, one for each of her windows. Mrs. Winters ordered a large centerpiece for her huge dining room table. Three or four other women ordered special items for Christmas. She took the orders.
Others walked in, looked around, bought a few things and left humming Christmas carols. Sophie rolled her shoulders and neck. She was getting ready to close the shop for the night. She was meeting Darron for dinner and wanted a few minutes to pull the green spills and pitch out of her hair. She peeked out the window. The street was lined with twinkle lights and the window reflected the white lights making her shop glow. She sighed contented.
Even the dark lights at her house didn’t bother her anymore. At least they weren’t lit. She wasn’t sure why Darron hadn’t been back to find out why they wouldn’t light, but she was thankful for the reprieve.
She went back to the register to start her cash out procedure, when the little bells over the door tingled. Looking up she did a double take.
He wasn’t supposed to pick her up, and definitely not here. She panicked, raking her hand through her tangled hair. That tree this morning had fought back.
“Darron?” Her voice squeaked.
“What are you doing here?”
“That’s my question for you,” she said.
He crossed him arms and walked up to the desk. Reaching across, he pulled something out of her hair. He held out a twig. “Friend of yours?”
She grimaced. “It’s been one of those days.”
“I’m here to purchase some flowers for my date, tonight.” He pursed his lips together. “I might need some suggestions. I don’t know this girl well, but I hear she’s not big on Christmas.” He made a show of gesturing around the shop. It was obvious that she knew how to decorate for Christmas, she just didn’t decorate at home. She got his point.
“You can never go wrong with flowers, Christmas or not.”
He returned his attention to her. “No, she really, really doesn’t like the holidays. I’d like to go with roses or sunflowers or something…carnations?”
Sophie turned her nose up. “Carnations? This isn’t junior high school.” Her heart fluttered like it had been shaken in one of those snow globes. He was there to buy flowers for her? When was the last time someone was that thoughtful?
“What about one of these?” he asked pointing to a teal Gerbera daisy.
“A daisy?” she questioned.
“Is that bad?” he said, pulling his hand back.
She smiled and shook her head. “Gerbera daisies are hot right now. I sell a ton of them. They symbolize innocence, loyal love, purity and gentleness.” She rattled off her knowledge as she did every day to a lot of customers.
He nodded thoughtfully. “Nothing about Christmas. I like it. I’ll take one.”
He smiled and wiggled his eyebrows at her. “I don’t want to overwhelm her with my generosity.”
She rang up his purchase and wrapped it carefully, knowing full well that she would be seeing this particular flower again.
“Are you done here?”
“I was just closing up.” Darron walked over to the door and turned the lock. He flipped the open sign to closed and grinned at her again.
“Look you’re closed. I had a thought. If you wanted to meet earlier since I’m here and you’re here. We could go to a different place for dinner.”
The first thing that went through Sophie’s head was that she didn’t have time to get dressed and she didn’t have anything to change into or to comb her hair. Terrible idea.
He told her pretty casual and she knew he was lying as she looked at her jeans, The Enchanted Florist T-shirt and sneakers.
“You can get dressed up next time. If we don’t leave soon, we’ll miss it.”
She agreed. “As long as I have time to use the bathroom and do something with my hair.”
It was an all-out sprint to the bathroom. Luckily she had a tiny mirror on the wall. She shook her head. She’d been serving customers all day looking like this. Running a comb through her tangled locks, she looked around for something she could use to wash her face and some lipstick to swipe on.
“It’s not a beauty pageant,” he called through the closed door.
She yanked the door open, sending him backwards in alarm. “I’m coming.”
Once they were on the road, he led her to his car. They drove into Windham, which was where the original location for their date was located. She let the suspense build.
“Did I mention that I had a child? Well, not really a child. A kid. A legal adult.”
“You might have.” She didn’t remember it, but she now tried to imagine him as a father.
“He’s in ROTC at his college, so we got to know the Veteran’s around town. They kind of adopted him, and me.”
“That’s nice.” She wasn’t sure where this was going, so she waited.
He turned the car into the Veteran’s center. The parking lot was already full and loud music was coming from inside. He smiled in her direction as he parked.
“Do you bring all your dates here?” she asked sarcastically.
“Only the good looking ones. It makes the older guys jealous.” He took her hand and led her to the entrance.
Dinner was spaghetti, sauce, garlic bread, salad and drinks. She gathered her plate and food and sat with him at a round table with other couples. Darron introduced her to them, many she already knew from The Enchanted Florist. She was overwhelmed and curious as to why he’d bring her here.
“When’s the boy coming home, Sir,” one man asked.
“Tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it. And, you know you can call me Darron.”
“Sure thing, Sir.”
Sophie gave both men a questioning look. She was missing something. Here Darron was, the father of a ROTC cadet and everyone was treating him like he was the Pope.
The conversation was easy, with everyone taking a turn talking about their grandchildren or their plans to get away to Florida. When it came to her turn, she said nothing.
Darron talked for them. He told them that they were on a date so that he would not finish decorating her house. After the explanation, he took a lot of ribbing for bring her to a public supper, rather than some romantic hole in the wall.
“Did they teach you nothing in all those fancy classes? Sir,” one of the men said, then tacked on the sir for good measure.
“I’m going to get us another drink?” Darron said, standing, spinning and walking from the table.
“You work fast,” Mrs. Beakman said. “He’s only been back less than a week. He’s a great catch.”
“Back from where?” Sophie asked the gentle older lady. “And why does everyone keep calling him sir?”
She asked at Sophie. “You need to stop drooling over him and talk to him. He is a Lieutenant Colonel. He just retired from active duty.”
Darron joined them again and set water down in front of her. Sophie swiveled her head from Mrs. Beakman back to Darron.
She was so out of her league. A military man, who also had a child? And where was the mother? She was about to ask when his phone rang.
The one sided conversation was brief. She heard the excitement in his voice, but saw the frown line creep across his forehead. He pressed the end button.
“Seems my son wanted to surprise me. He’s home. Tonight.”
Everyone spoke at once except Sophie. Her house was calling her. She needed to be there, not here where she didn’t belong.
“I can call my neighbor to come pick me up,” she told Darron.
He scowled. “Um. No. I will see you home, after we go to pick up Branson.”
She started to protest. “Your son?”
“I didn’t get to name him. Branson is at the Jetport waiting for me to get there. I didn’t plan on this, but it’s a great opportunity for me to show him off.”
Tonight Darron had been revealed as a military man, sweet and generous, and now proud father. She wasn’t ready for all of this. Her head was swimming. “Isn’t it too soon to meet your son? We only just met.”
“Yes, but I want to show him off and you’re available.” He leaned in quickly, so quick she almost missed his lips touching hers, but then the bombs went off in her head like a thousand shards of glittery light.
When she didn’t follow him from the table, he went back for her and looked into her eyes. He gave a knowing, self-satisfied smile and pulled her away as the other Veteran’s and their wives smiled and nodded their heads.
The airport was almost deserted by the time they got there. No other flights were expected and only one man stood on the curb carrying a duffle bag.
Darron pulled the car to the curb and jumped out. He wrapped Branson into a bear hug. “Dude. Am I so happy to see you. I’ve missed you like crazy.”
Branson looked toward the car. “Who’s that?”
Sophie felt her face flame at the accusing tone from Darron’s son. She should have walked home in the freezing cold all 15 miles.