Monday, February 2, 2015

JESSIE TEMPLAR'S MYSTERY VALENTINE

“JJ!” 

Jessie Templar rushed to the kitchen table just in time to stop her mischievous kitten from chewing up the lovely roses that had just arrived. 

JJ scrambled from the table to the chair to her hideaway bed behind the sofa. 

“You little devil.”

Jessie went back down the hallway to the storage room once again to find the floral wrapping. When she came back out JJ was back on the table chewing on the leaves. 

“Holy mackerel, what’s wrong with this cat?” She chuckled and realized that screaming and bitching didn’t work with cats. She wrapped the roses and placed them on a high shelf. She took one last look around to make sure everything she cherished was tied down or up high, then went to work. 

Jessie owned and operated a small flower shop in downtown Brampton. She had inherited the shop from the previous owner who had left it to her in his will. He had passed away on Valentine’s Day exactly six years ago. Jessie had been his only employee and had been like a daughter to him. The man was never married and had no children or living relatives so Jessie had been the sole heiress. Jessie had liquidated most of the estate, except for the flower shop, and it had become such a lucrative business that she had to hire two other employees to keep up.  

“Hi, Jessie, Happy Valentine’s Day!” 

“Hi, Rose, same to you. How are we doing this morning?”

“Not many walk-ins, but the phone hasn’t stopped.” Rose was at the wrapping counter busy cutting, arranging, and wrapping. “Denise is in the back with the delivery guy.”

Jessie went to the back where Denise was flirting with the delivery guy. When she saw Jessie she said goodbye and sent him on his way. 

“Is he ever going to ask you out or what?” Jessie teased Denise. 

Denise laughed. “He’s shy. Besides, I kind of like the flirting, it’s so much fun, and nobody gets hurt.” 

Jessie agreed. Both of them had had their hearts broken before. All three girls were single and around the same age. Jessie made sure of that during the interviews. It was easier to work with like people. 

“Guess who got roses delivered this morning?” Jessie bragged.

“From your secret admirer?” 

“Yah, that’s the third time this week, and all it says on the card is: See you at the party. I’m starting to get a little nervous.” Jessie took the newly delivered flowers to the front to Rose and Denise followed with the rest.

“Do you think it’s someone who lives in the building?” 

“I don’t know. I should never have put up that party flyer on the bulletin board. God knows what kind of people are going to show up.” Jessie sighed and started helping Rose with the orders. 

“What’s going on? The party’s still on, right?” Rose said. 

“It’s her secret admirer; he sent roses again this morning.” Denise told Rose. 

“Really? And you have no idea who it is?”

Jessie looked up at Rose. “No, I don’t have a clue. I haven’t really seen anyone around. Most people in the building are just coming and going and apart from the odd person bumping into me trying to get in the elevator, it’s been pretty calm.”

“So how many people have responded?” Denise said.

“About 35. There may be a few stragglers, but I doubt that there will be more than 40. I hope not, my apartment’s not that big. Last night, I had to rearrange the living room and bring up some more chairs from the basement storage room. The place looks nice though. I put up a few decorations and the Champaign’s cooling on the balcony. I knew we were going to get more snow, payback, you know, where we had it so good last month.”

Denise and Rose laughed. 

“So how many men and how many women are coming?” Rose said.

“There are a few more women than men, but all are single, and the few people that I do talk to in the building are bringing other single guests, so it should be a good turnout.”

“Great, so when are you leaving here?” Denise said.

“Well, the party is due to start at eight, but there’s always someone coming early, so maybe you and I can leave around seven, that’ll give us time to get home, get changed, and set up.” 

Jessie looked at Rose. “Then you can come right over after closing the shop, by then things should be heating up.”

Rose nodded. 

The girls were excited and nervous and were quite busy for the rest of the day. 

Jessie and Denise left at seven and went back to Jessie’s to get things started. Both had changed into tight jeans and lace tops, fitting choices for Valentine’s Day. Candles were lit, soft music played, and the Champaign was cooled. The first guests arrived at quarter past eight. By the time Rose arrived, Jessie’s apartment was crowded, and everyone was engaged in conversation. 

“Oh my, this place is happening!” Rose said as she poured herself a glass of Champaign. “Any sign of you know who?” 

Jessie refilled her glass as Denise fought her way over. 

“Hi, Rose!” Denise was just a little tipsy. Rose laughed. Denise put an arm around Rose and kissed her cheek. 

“Ok, Denise, I love you, too.”

Denise grabbed the bottle and poured the rest of its contents in her glass. Rose and Jessie watched as she made her way back to her delivery guy. 

“It was so nice of you to invite Randall, Jessie.”

“Well, those two have been fooling around for the past six months; I figured someone had to do something.”  

They laughed and the question came up again.

“Yah, but what about your mystery guy, did he show?”

“Honestly, I don’t know, I’ve been talking to everyone, but nobody has given me the eye, if you know what I mean.”

Rose nodded. “Okay, well, I’m going to mingle, who’s that guy over there? Have you been talking with him?” She pointed at a tall dark haired man standing alone.

“Yah, he lives in the building, seems like a nice guy, he works at Rogers. Go get him Rose, free cable.”

They laughed then Rose went to mingle. Just then there was a knock at the door. When Jessie answered she couldn’t see a face, only a bouquet of yellow roses, and from the footwear, she could see that it was a man. 

“Hi,” Jessie stammered.

The flowers were pushed forward and down so that a face appeared. 

“Happy Valentine’s Day, these are for you,” said the man in the Prada loafers. He had a head full of layered blond hair, blue eyes, and teeth so white they gleamed. He smiled.

Jessie was dumbfounded. “Oh, ah, yes, yes, please come in. My name is Jessie. Welcome to the party.” She felt her face flush.

He followed her in and she shut the door. He raised the flowers again and she graciously accepted them. 

“I’m Eli. Did you get the rest of the flowers I sent?” 

Jessie smiled. “So, it’s you.” They stood there for a moment looking into each other’s eyes and smiling until it got weird. 

“Yes, thank you so much, they are scattered around the apartment. Would you like a glass of Champaign?” 

Her welcomed guest nodded. “That would be great, thanks.”  

Jessie pointed him toward the kitchen to where the Champaign chilled in the ice-filled sink. As she followed, her eyes went from the back of his thick wavy hair all the way down his royal blue silk shirt and his black casual pants to those tan colored Prada loafers, and all she could think about was his accent, his incredibly sexy Australian accent. She downed the rest of the Champaign feeling like she’d just won the lottery. 

“Help yourself, Eli, the glasses are over there.” Jessie pointed to the end of the counter. She opened the cupboard and was about to reach for a vase when Eli placed his hand on her shoulder.

“Here, allow me.” She looked at him; his eyes sparkled. She felt faint.

“Thanks,” was all she could muster. Excitement stirred within her and her legs felt wobbly. 

“No worries,” Eli said. He reached for the vase and filled it with water. She took a scissors and was about to cut the plastic wrap off when she noticed that it was her own store brand plastic wrap. Once again, their eyes met in a long lust filled gaze. The music and hum of conversation and laughing seemed to fade. He moved in close and took the scissors she’d been holding. She stood, smiling. He cut the plastic wrap and placed the flowers in the vase. 

“Where shall I put these?” he said.

Jessie took a bottle of Champaign out of the sink and grabbed two glasses. “Follow me.”

She led him down the hallway to the storage room. He followed her; she could feel his eyes move down her long brown hair and her skinny jeans to her favorite high heels. She entered the room and flicked the light switch. A dull yellow light set the mood. He followed her inside and before she closed the door she caught a glimpse of Rose and Denise, both sporting victory signs, and silly school-girl grins. 

“Have a seat.” She took the flowers from him and motioned to the counter height table and chairs that was set up in the corner. He sat down and she lit the centerpiece candle. She placed the glasses on the table, poured the Champaign, then sat down facing him. 

“Now, Mr. Eli, are you stalking me?”

They laughed, they talked, and they laughed some more. When the bottle was finished, Jessie got up to get another.

“I’ll be right back,” she whispered in his ear. 

“I’ll be waiting.”

When Jessie entered the kitchen she noticed that the party had calmed down and half the people had left. Rose was tidying up the kitchen counter and Denise was in Randall’s arms. When Denise eyed Jessie, she got up to interrogate her. 

“Is that him? Is that the mystery guy? Who is he? Does he live in the building?” Denise started.

“Jessie, he was my last customer at the store tonight.” Rose said. “He bought all the yellow roses we had left.”

“I know, I saw the wrapping paper.” Jessie said. “He’s from Australia and he just moved in. I haven’t seen him before tonight. And that accent! Holy mackerel, he’s so dreamy.” Jessie pinched herself.

“What are you doing?” Rose said.

“Making sure I’m not dreaming.” Jessie chuckled. “So where did everyone go?”

“A lot of people got paired up and left together, don’t worry, I made sure to thank everyone for coming, and I kept the food trays filled and the Champaign flowing.”

“Awesome, thanks, Rose; I didn’t think I was in the room for that long.”

Just then, Alex, the cable guy, came over to Rose. “Are you ready to go?” he said.

Jessie and Denise looked at Rose. In unison they said, “Are you leaving?”

“Yah, Alex and I are going to check out that new nightclub downtown, The Hungry Lion.”

“Okay, well, I’ll see you on Monday.” Jessie thanked Rose for her help and then Rose took Alex to the bedroom to get their coats. 

Denise was just about to drill Jessie some more when there came banging at the door. They were surprised, it was nearing midnight. 

“Who could that be?” Denise said.

The banging got louder. “I don’t know, but I had better answer it before they break down the door.”

Jessie opened the door and a young girl came barging in screaming, “Where is he, where is that lying, no-good piece of shit.” She was clearly intoxicated.

“Excuse me!” Jessie turned to the girl and grabbed her by the arm. “Hey, just a minute, you can’t come barging in here like that! What do you want? Who are you looking for?” 

Denise stood by the door, ready to throw the crazy chick out if she didn’t cooperate.

“Eli, where’s Eli, I know he’s here!” 

Jessie’s heart sank as she let go of the girl’s arm.

Eli came out of the room toward the door.

She came at him with arms flailing. “You liar, your liar, you’re nothing but a liar!”

He tried to calm her down, but she was wild, they were both entangled. Eli was trying to grab her arms and the crazy chick was trying to slap him.

Alex came up the hallway and Randall came out of the living room. When they saw what was happening they grabbed Eli and shoved him out the door. The girl, tripped over the pile of boots, and also went flying out the door. Both the girl and Eli were now arguing in the stairwell. Alex closed the door and they all stood there for a moment. Everything had happened so fast. Someone had turned off the music and the remaining guests were looking on in disbelief. 

“What the heck was that?” Rose broke the silence. 

Denise, who was half in the bag, answered, “I think you know what that was.” She looked at Jessie. “Jessie, I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it; I knew it was too good to be true.” 

She looked up at her guests and apologized, someone had turned the music back on, but the atmosphere had been ruined. Rose took Jessie by the arm and went to the kitchen, Denise followed. They stood around the counter, speculating about what just happened. The rest of her guests stayed for a little while longer, until they no longer heard the arguing in the stairwell, then they left. Jessie thanked everyone for coming and they were all grateful for a wonderful time, and some wild entertainment. Rose and Alex stayed until Jessie told them to go and have a good time. Denise and Randall were the last to leave.

“Jess, are you sure you’re going to be okay?” Denise felt bad.

“It’s okay.” Jessie was still in shock, but the Champaign had dimmed the senses somewhat. 

“Listen, I’ll come over tomorrow and help you clean up.”

“Yah, sounds good, have a good time. Take care of her Randall.” They said goodnight and then Jessie was alone.

She went to the kitchen and got that bottle of Champaign she had planned on sharing with Eli. Instead of pouring a glass, she went to the medicine cabinet and got some Tylenol. She took two tablets with a glass of water and then went to her bedroom. JJ had been waiting patiently. She put on her fleece pjs and got into bed. JJ kneaded a spot on the opposite pillow, curled into a ball, and started to purr. 

“Happy Valentine’s Day, JJ.”

JJ kept purring.

Jessie closed her eyes, but sleep did not come easy.