Chapter 1: the day Dani walked in
Their story began with a crash. The moment that Dani opened the door of the Moonflower Shop, the sound startled Jamie enough so that she dropped the flower pot she was carrying. The young owner of the shop cursed and kneeled before the shattered pot and the scattered dirt. “You little shit,” she grumbled, shaking her head at the mess at her feet.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Dani said, her voice was careful and something inside her was yelling at her to just step back and out of there and pretend nothing happened. However, her feet barely hesitated before rushing her to the mess she felt a bit guilty of. “Can I help?” she ventured to ask, since she was already standing there.
“Huh?” Jamie looked up at her, her eyebrows scrunched in confusion that slowly smoothed over as she looked at Dani. “Hey there,” she said now, and cleared her throat, “Can I help you?” Jamie stood up, her head tilted, her hands on the back pockets of her denim overalls, and something about her eyes, so warm and intense that almost made Dani flinch away, well…
Dani opened her mouth to answer, but found that nothing came out. She hoped she wasn’t blushing already, and just waved her hand at the mess on the floor. “Sorry about that,” Dani finally said, the ghost of a laugh on her voice. Before Jamie could get to tell her not to worry about that, Dani added, “I just… I walked in here and… yeah.”
A breathy chuckle left Jamie’s mouth, and one of her hands flew to press against her lips. She wasn’t the type to give endeared laughs to her clients, but then again, her clients rarely were the most adorable blonde she’d ever seen. “You walked in, yeah, I noticed that,” Jamie nodded. If she was effortlessly smiling at the other woman well, that was a natural reflex, nothing else. However, she was aware that they were both staring at each other now, saying nothing else. “So… can I help you with something?” Jamie insisted, before it would be an inappropriately long time to stare at a client’s cute pink shirt and even cuter denim jack that was just a bit big on her.
“Yeah!” Dani nodded eagerly once and it was simply mesmerizing the way her smile took over her face, seemingly lighting up her entire body, the whole room even. “I saw the sign outside. Are you hiring?” she asked.
Oh, she looked so hopeful it pained Jamie a little bit. She swallowed thinking of the damned sign on her shop’s window. “Help wanted?” it read. She had begrudgingly put up the small sign, hoping nobody would show up. One too many incidents around the shop had made clear that she seriously needed another pair of hands around. But that didn’t mean she wanted someone else around. Someone else messing with her flowers, her shop, her personal space. “Sure,” Jamie finally, unpleasantly dragging out the word. She didn’t feel great about hoping this wouldn’t work but the least she could do now that they were here was go along with it. “Are you good with flowers?”
“No,” Dani replied, her voice was soft and just shy enough. Jamie lifted her eyebrows in surprise, but she gave her points for her honesty. “But, running a business is more than that, right?” Dani went on, “Surely you need help with other stuff. I mean, with clients or, the cash register, or…”
“Do you have experience with clients or cash registers?” Jamie inquired.
A beat of silence passed as Dani bit her lip, and when she released it she looked down again at the mess on the floor. “I could clean that,” was all she argued.
“Oh, God,” Jamie sighed, looked away from the stranger for a moment. She rubbed the back of her neck and although her mind emphatically insisted on just throwing this woman out of her shop, she felt a whole different urge to keep the conversation going. “Okay. My name is Jamie, I’m the owner of the place,” she started by properly introducing herself.
“Dani Clayton,” the other one grinned and offered her hand out.
Jamie’s lips were tingling with the effort to keep her smile at bay. “Nice meeting you,” she said, firmly stretching Dani’s hand, “Come, let’s sit.” After dropping Dani’s hand, taking quick notice of its softness and slight warmth, Jamie walked over to the couple of stools placed on one side of the counter of the shop. She perched herself on top of one, and this time she couldn’t hold back her smile as Dani tried her best to gracefully climb on the stool and keep up the professional appearance that she hadn’t even nailed from the beginning. “So, you wanna tell me what’s an American with no experience on the subject doing in my shop?” Jamie asked.
There was only the smallest bit of hesitation on Dani’s part, if only to find the best way to share her story on this particular scenario. “I arrived in London six months ago. I thought I’d gotten a job as an au pair but… it fell down at the last minute,” she shrugged.
“Did you fly all the way here like some Mary Poppins character and they turned you down?” Jamie wondered.
“Something like that.”
“It’s their loss, Poppins.”
Dani’s smile was back in its full splendor, but now she wasn’t trying to impress a potential employer, she was just smiling at Jamie. After a minute to gather her thoughts, Dani spoke up again, “Anyway, I am staying at a place nearby, and this is the most beautiful store I’ve seen around here so…”
“Is that flattery?” Jamie tilted her head, and when she expected the other woman to blush or back away, Dani surprised her by staying unperturbed and determined. “Right, well…” Jamie looked around her beloved shop and thought hard about it for a moment.
She only had a few months with the place, really. But it was already her entire world. One thing was making a living out of the thing she loved to do most in the world, but doing it in her own terms completely? It was a miracle. She didn’t want to risk it at all, but then, of course, having an employee didn’t have to change a thing, but maybe just make them a bit easier for her. It was true that she wasn’t the best at customer service, not when other people got on her nerves, thinking they knew the right way to handle flowers, thinking Jamie would let them be rude just because they would give her money, so what if she lost a couple of sales… so what if she needed a serious change if she wanted to keep her shop. She sighed gravely as her eyes moved past the broken pot on the ground, and then the one she broke when Dani came in. The place, the flowers needed someone else around so Jamie could properly take care of them.
“Listen, Dani, here’s the deal. I don’t want anybody else here. I have my way to do things, I have an understanding with my plants, and it works. But, I guess you’re right. I could use some help to keep up with the business side of things. Do you really want the job?” Jamie had to ask, presenting a last chance for both of them to back out. But Dani nodded with conviction, and Jamie ended up saying, “Then it’s yours. Let’s try it out for a week, see where that takes us, huh?”
“Sure thing, boss,” Dani answered, her eyes were sparkling with excitement.
“Oh,” Jamie laughed, shaking her head, “That’s unnecessary, Poppins.”
“Whoa,” Jamie did a double-take as she came out of the storage room and into the main area of her shop.
Dani was standing in the middle of it, with a broom in hand. There was a particularly distracting strand of blonde hair delicately falling on her face, and she was smiling. When she heard Jamie’s exclamation her face showed subtle signs of concern. Jamie made a mental note of the fact that Dani always looked, firstly, a bit too pretty, and secondly, a little too worried. “Something wrong?” Dani asked.
“This is so weird,” Jamie commented as she walked further into the store while carefully looking around, “I can see the floor.” She laughed.
“You are also dirtying the floor,” Dani replied. She pointed at the path Jamie had just walked. The owner of the shop took a look behind and noticed the few traces of dirt she’d left behind.
“It’s my shop, Poppins,” Jamie stated, turning around to look at her new employee. As she resumed her walk toward the counter Jamie passed by Dani, close enough to feel, like an inexplicable sweet strike of lighting, a rush of warmth when she heard the blonde woman quietly laugh at her words. Clearing her throat and hopefully her mind off thoughts of Dani’s laugh, Jamie rested her arms on the counter and asked, “Nobody came in while I was in the back?”
“Not really,” Dani answered. Dani had been working at the shop for a couple of days already, it would have been impossible for her not to notice the lack of clients or, at least, the lack of sales. She had let go of the broom to give all her attention to her boss, which resulted in her clearly noticing the spark of disappointment that took over Jamie’s features
It was a striking sight, considering that since the moment Dani met the other woman she’d thought of her as intriguing, witty, and self-assured. A dash of vulnerability didn’t look half bad on her though. Just a glimpse at Jamie’s eyes softening tugged at Dani’s heart, but then her entire posture deflated if only for a moment, it was an irreversible pierce on the curtain of a facade. For the first time, Dani was taken over a series of very interesting thoughts. One, there had to be more to Jamie than just a bold and beautiful shop owner. Two, she had been wrong when she had pictured Jamie like a monarch in her kingdom of flowers, when in reality, surrounding herself with all these plants, that must be to cover up something else. Three, that disappointed look in Jamie’s eyes? Dani would have done anything to get rid of it.
“Some people came close though!” Dani blurted out, “They, um, they looked through the windows too. But they, well, they walked away.”
Jamie scoffed, but Dani was pleased to see her standing up a little taller. “Who needs ‘em anyway.”
A thoughtful hum escaped Dani’s lips. “Jamie…” she tentatively said her name, but refrained from stating the obvious need a shop has for clients.
“Nope, I’m not hearing it,” Jamie sent a pointed look her way and walked around the counter to move toward the flowers, “Remember? I have my way to handle things, okay?”
Not too long later that day, Jamie was struggling to handle things. She blamed Dani. Truthfully, the American had stayed out of her way, hadn’t messed with anything in Jamie’s bubble of work with the plants, and was essentially the perfect co-worker. But her presence there… It was merely impossible not to feel affected by it. Jamie tried pretending Dani wasn’t there, or pretending she’d always been there, so it wouldn’t make a difference. But the difference was inevitable. It was a bit like having a ghost around, Jamie thought. The unfamiliar company, the lingering presence of someone else standing behind, the fine line between frightened and attracted. Plus, of course, a sure way to mess with her nerves.
Jamie felt on edge, she was being a little too rough in her treatment of the plant in her hands. And when she heard Dani call her, she snapped, “What?!”
Dani’s reaction was right in that fascinating spectrum that constantly surprised Jamie with the way this woman handled her emotions with a mixture of delicacy and intensity that shouldn’t be possible. Because the subtle downward tilt of Dani’s precious pink lips and a little crinkle around her eyes suggested she was upset by Jamie’s outburst. But then there was the impartiality and firmness in her stare, which held Jamie down and rendered her helpless. No wonder she was supposed to work with children, Jamie thought, Dani was the most mesmerizing embodiment of authority in its softest display possible.
“I wanted to ask if I may use your phone?” Dani finally asked.
“Oh, sure,” Jamie nodded, “Go for it.”
Of course Jamie didn’t want to eavesdrop on Dani’s conversation. It wasn’t like she wanted to have an insight into the personal life of her employee. Why would she be curious to know if Dani was calling a special someone that waited for her at home at the end of the day? However, the shop wasn’t all the big, and the phone was right there.
“Well, I got a job now!” Jamie laughed, she sounded delighted, but the conversation went all downhill from there. “Well, sort of. Yeah… No, I plan to stay.” After a brief pause and a little scoffing on Dani’s part, she continued talking with little pauses between each sentence. “I wouldn’t mind. He can… No, I don’t care, at all. That’s not what I mean. You know… It hurts me when you say that. Yeah, I know. Don’t you think I deserve my own chance to find real happiness? Alright, bye.”
It was bad enough that she’d overheard all that. The random fragments of the conversation didn’t say a lot though. But Jamie was determined not to cross a line, and at least pretend that she’d given Dani an illusion of privacy. But any and all previous intentions vanished the moment Jamie heard Dani say goodbye. In that last word, Dani’s voice had broken, and the next second Jamie heard her struggle to put down the phone and struggle to breathe, to not just start sobbing.
“Are you okay over there?” Jamie tentatively walked closer, and willed her voice to be as gentle as possible. “I hope that wasn’t a job offer. I intend to keep you around, you know?” Jamie said, utterly surprising herself with those words that a minute ago she wouldn’t have admitted not even to herself. She didn’t get an answer though, only saw Dani try to wipe away her tears. “You know, when a particularly annoying client comes here, at least one of us ends up crying. It’s not a big deal though. It’s good for the flowers. Tears keep them bright and healthy. That’s my trick, you see. That’s how the flowers steal all my joy and why I’m so bad with people. There’s your first gardening lesson, Dani.”
That got her a reaction. A little tearful laugh and a soft “Thank you,” from Dani instantly lightened up the mood in the shop.
“Chin up, Poppins,” Jamie said, this time walking closer and picking up the broom that Dani had left behind a while ago, “You don’t want to miss my sad attempt at cleaning the mess I’m responsible for.”
That earned her one more laugh from Dani, this time more certain. Jamie started to walk away, and Dani realized she couldn’t look away. She realized that not only she wanted to leave that awful phone call behind, but that she could do it, and instead she could focus on this charming woman in front of her. “Thank you,” Dani found herself repeating the words, her voice back to normal and her smile was small but genuine. Jamie looked at her over her shoulder, winked, and went back to work. Dani wouldn’t have ever expected working at a flower shop to be so constantly exciting, but maybe that was just a consequence of being in Jamie’s presence.
“That’s a shit idea.”
“Excuse me?” The man in the suit that had come to the shop to buy a big and strangely specific arrangement of flowers looked at Jamie, genuinely wondering what was wrong with his original idea for the arrangement.
“I mean…” Jamie’s voice was strained and her hands were turned into fists.
She knew she was right, she knew her flowers and she knew that what this guy was requesting was a ridiculous thing that she could turn into something beautiful. But, apparently, he didn’t want something beautiful. The offense for Jamie was nearly enough to make her throw him out of the shop. Instead, her eyes drifted to a place behind the man, to the counter of the shop, where Dani was standing, giving her a very pointed look that just silently screamed “It’s just flowers, Jamie. Calm down. You need this.”
“I mean, could you please repeat your request, sir? I’ll get to it while Dani over there will charge you for it, is that alright?”
Jamie’s sacrifice to disregard her talent in order to put together a monstrous arrangement of mismatched flowers paid off. Seeing the amount she just earned, Jamie was able to swallow down her pride and invite the client to come back anytime. Surprisingly, he seemed to like the idea. That was new, Jamie told herself. And after he closed the door behind him, Jamie turned to look at Dani and both of them burst into laughter. The shop owner tried to cover her mouth with the back of her hand, but the smile just refused to leave her.
“That wasn’t so hard, was it?” Dani was teasing her, and it wasn’t an unwelcome thing at all.
“It was unethical!” Jamie laughed once more. On the tip of her tongue were a few questions. How did you do it? How did you change my mind with just one look? Why can’t I get you out of my mind? “I should close for today,” was all she ended up saying.
“Oh, yes,” Dani nodded, her eyes still focused on Jamie’s face in a way that made both their hearts race. “I should leave then.”
“Yeah, probably,” Jamie laughed lightly in a way she wasn’t used to. Usually, she laughed at her own jokes, she laughed at other people, she laughed bitterly sometimes too, but never like this, so endeared she couldn’t hold herself back.
Her eyes slowly looked Dani up and down, as if she could find, in that light pair of blue jeans or that soft pink sweater an answer to her question. She got an answer though, but it came when she felt Dani hastily and timidly at once reach out to hold her hand. Jamie’s eyes flew to stare at their interlocked hands, at the complete rightfulness of it. Almost as a reflex, and mostly because she couldn’t help herself, she tightened her own hold on Dani’s hand, then she looked up at her.
“See you tomorrow,” Dani said, the words came out in a hurry. Her thumb moved over the back of Jamie’s hand once, twice, and then she let go. Dani had never hurried out of that shop as quickly in all the time she’d been working there.
Watching the other woman leave, Jamie was struck by the realization that there was no going back now. She had her answers to a few questions, but now there were decisions to make. The only two questions left in her mind were Who the hell knew Dani had it in herself? And who the hell knew Jamie’s own heart could even feel like this?
Hello! Thank you so much everyone reading and leaving sweet comments! :D
How are you guys coping? still crying? yeah, me too
Chapter 3: the day Dani offered a drink
One day, Dani honored the nickname Jamie had given to her and she entered the flower shop in a swift rush of wind, even carrying an umbrella on one hand. Jamie would have had a field day teasing her about it, but there were more pressing concerns. The fact that Dani was almost half an hour late, for example. Also, the way she was hurrying around the store like a tiny anxious tornado whispering "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," and of course, the way her blonde hair, carelessly tousled by the wind, was the most mesmerizing Jamie had seen in a while.
"Poppins, you're late," Jamie had to say. Even though it was obvious. Even though her displeasure as a boss was close to nothing compared to the amusement and even the concern she felt for Dani at the moment.
"I know, I know, I'm so sorry!" Dani exhaled and finally stood still for a moment in the middle of the shop after leaving her things in the backroom, "It's just... my mom called, again. Drunk, again." Dani attempted a laugh to badly cover up her distress, but then her hands balled into fists and she went on, "She always does this, you know? And then my routine was all messed up, everything went wrong, and I'm..."
"Late. Yeah, that... I'm sorry," Dani apologized again and, finally, for the first time that day, really meeting Jamie's eyes. It was still quite a surprise for both of them how a little bit of eye contact could change their entire days, could instantaneously soothe them, or excite them in a completely different way.
Dani had stared into those eyes as much as she could without crossing any boundaries since she'd started working with Jamie. Those eyes were still unfamiliar enough, they held no connection to Dani's troubled past. She couldn't lie and say that Jamie's eyes were generally warm and inviting at first sight. But she could say that she'd captured enough glimpses, enough sparks of warmth in Jamie's eyes to feel personally invited to stare.
When Jamie said, "Hey, no problem, Poppins. It's just one day. Nobody's even come in yet. It's alright," Dani believed her, but it didn't feel like enough. "Do you want to talk about it?" Jamie asked, for good measure.
"Not really," Dani softly shook her head and thought for a moment, then a small smile started to appear on her face. "Let me make it up to you, yeah? I could... I could make some tea! Is that alright?" She was already on her way to the small kitchen they kept in the back room of the shop.
"Sure," Jamie casually replied, and swallowed down her skepticism in exchange for the pleasure of seeing the other woman smile brightly again.
Dani took way too long for it to mean something good. Jamie's thoughts had moved on from skepticism to fear to nearly forgetting her sweet American employee was trying to make tea. That's when Dani arrived with two cups of tea and her mesmerizing smile still in place. "Here you go," she said in a sing-song voice, passing Jamie her cup.
"Cheers," Jamie murmured. She took a sip of the tea, she swallowed, she waited a moment… She watched with amazement how Dani also took a sip and didn't flinch at all. "I'm sorry, Dani, but this sacrilegious," Jamie shook her head.
"That bad?" Dani exclaimed, looking down at her cup and wondering what even could be wrong with it. She only looked back up when she heard Jamie's sweet laughter.
"You're banned from tea duties, okay?" Jamie was smiling though. She'd never in her life had felt the impulse of smiling after drinking a cursed cup of tea. "Come on, we have work to do."
That afternoon, Jamie was, as usual, pretty much lost in the familiar routine of tending to her plants. The comfortable silence of the store was broken suddenly by Dani's voice, and Jamie felt some kind of whiplash effect at the mixture of the displeasure of having someone disrupt her place of work and the unexpected joy of hearing Dani's voice.
"So... you said no more tea from me, right?" Dani called out as she walked out of the backroom again, "I wanted to make it up to you and I made some coffee."
"Coffee?" Jamie tilted her head, "That's more your thing than mine, Poppins. No offense though, I know it's not your fault being American."
“Ha, ha,” Dani sent a look her way that said she was holding back a smile. "Come on, you might like it." She passed one of the cups to Jamie and eagerly waited.
"Let's see," Jamie made the effort, she really did, but this time she didn't have the strength. She spit it back out.
Dani let out a sad little groan and looked down, "Fine. I'm not good at coffee either."
"No shit," Jamie cleared her throat.
The owner of the shop looked around them. The place was in order. No customers in sight. And there was the little bench where clients could sit and think of very original ways to make Jamie judge their choices in flowers, but that wasn't the point. The point was that all day Dani hadn't been herself, as it was obvious right then. The slumped shoulders, the thoughtful silence, and faraway looks. The only smiles from her the entire day came with her failed attempts at making a drink. Jamie couldn't stand to see her like that.
"Hey, Poppins, what's going on, are you alright?" She tilted her head slightly to invite Dani to look up and meet her eyes, once she did, the hurt swimming in those blue eyes was unbearable, "Why don't we sit here..." Jamie placed a gentle hand on Dani's arm and guided her to the bench. She noticed the other had grown tense, so she added, "And you tell me why on Earth you're so bad at making hot drinks."
Dani's laugh bubbled out of her with little regard for her usual preference of keeping her life private. And when she fell on the seat beside Jamie, she knew she wouldn't have been able to hold back the laugh, because now she wasn't even able to hold back her words.
"I guess it's because I had to learn how to do it myself," Dani shrugged, "Or, well, I didn't learn it seems." She laughed one last time before going into the real serious issue. "See, my dad died when I was just a kid, and my mom was rarely at home. Everything I know, I had to teach myself how to do it. My mom... when she isn't entirely distant she is a... pain in the ass. I'm sorry. I had to say it.”
Dani tried not to laugh, and tried to cover her smile with her fingers, but it was useless, and unnecessary. Because when she looked at Jamie she found a relaxed smile and attentive eyes that held not even a hint of judgment. She was just there to listen and, after an entire lifetime of holding back her thoughts and feelings, Dani was just ready to taste how it felt to let down her walls for once.
“And then this morning…” she started to explain as her boss nodded encouragingly, “She's... listen, there was this… boy, I guess,” Dani hesitated, tried not to make too much of the small change in Jamie’s expression. Was it just plain surprise? Disappointment? Did it matter? To hopefully find her answers, Dani continued. “I was engaged. To him. I mean, this... guy. And I broke- we broke up, I guess- I broke the engagement.” She finished with a shrug, and dared a glance at Jamie’s face that undeniably held a bit more interest now. “So, I made my way here, still trying to learn things by myself, you know? Things about myself, too. But now... Well, looks like he found himself a new girlfriend. And I'm happy for him! I really am. I seriously feel... not bad. At all. But my mom..."
“I take it she’s not too happy?” Jamie inquired.
The American shook her head sadly. “She blames me. She blames me for not wanting to get married,” Dani stated. Then there was a pause. She knew, she really knew that she could have perfectly left the conversation there. She didn’t have to say more, not really. But she also wouldn’t have forgiven herself if she didn’t say what was really on the tip of her tongue. “She blames me for not wanting to marry a man.”
It still wasn’t much. It was far from everything she wanted to say. But the meaning of her words was there in the open air for the taking. When Dani found the nerve to meet Jamie’s eyes once more, she knew the florist had perfectly understood. She didn’t know exactly how, but Dani knew that the look in Jamie's eyes said as much, if not more, than her timid words had expressed. There was something unexplainable in that look that demanded to be experienced to be understood. Dani only knew what it meant because that was the way she had caught herself looking at other women throughout her life. She’d just never had the luck, the startling pleasure of having that look returned to her.
A thoughtful hum from Jamie broke Dani out of her thoughts. “You know, Dani… you do deserve a chance to find real happiness,” Jamie whispered, not caring if it confirmed the fact that she had eavesdropped on Dani’s previous phone conversation with her mother the other day. She had to say it. And the touching expression in Dani’s expressive, beautiful, big blue eyes, made it all the more worth it.
“Oh…” Dani mumbled, chuckled lightly, a little speechless, “It’s okay, I guess. She was never a really great parent anyway.”
In a matter of seconds, Jamie’s mind went down a quick rollercoaster that began with how one day she really must do something about Dani’s little habit of dismissing her very real feelings under those adorable chuckles. Frightened by the casual thought of somedays in which she was a part of Dani’s life enough to meddle in something so personal, Jamie then crashed her emotional rollercoaster with a deflecting laugh of her own.
“Hey, are there any good parents around?” Jamie wondered, humor filling her tone.
As the two of them laughed together, Dani let herself fall back on the little seat they were in. She sighed, and ran her hands through her hair, just missing the way Jamie’s eyes followed the movement.
“What about you?” Dani asked suddenly, turning to face Jamie once again.
However, as soon as she’d finished her question, the two of them looked up quickly at the entrance of the shop, where a customer had unexpectedly entered.
Jamie was just thankful enough for the distraction, but she couldn’t bear the idea of disappointing Dani. So, she placed a hand on one of Dani’s hands that was resting on her knee. It must have been barely a second, but the electricity, the warmth, the unwillingness to let go was nearly overwhelming. Jamie gave a gentle squeeze to Dani’s hand and said, “That’s a story for another time, okay?” Swiftly, she stood up, winked at the blonde woman, and walked away with a confident smile in place, knowing that by the time this customer was paying for their flowers Dani would still be blushing.
At the end of the day, with Dani back in a more comfortable state of mind, Jamie found herself hesitating to close the shop for the day. She was just the slightest bit annoyed by her own resistance to part ways for the day. But she found comfort in the way the American was so obviously stalling her departure as well.
Only when she couldn’t come up with any more ways to avoid walking out of her workplace for the day, Dani turned to face Jamie and awkwardly mumbled, “So, I should go.”
“Sadly, yeah,” Jamie nodded. Not at all regretting her words as long as they made Dani smile like that.
“Jamie…” Dani said, suddenly rushing in quick steps to stand in front of Jamie, “I was thinking… about our conversation…”
“Yeah?” the florist breathed, considerably distracted by Dani’s sudden proximity and her earnest eyes.
“I would… I would like, someday, to hear your story,” the blonde said, and perhaps she saw the way the emotional walls came up behind Jamie’s eyes, but she didn’t falter, she pushed through, “Maybe, um, if you’d like, someday… Maybe we could get a drink together. You know, one that I don’t horribly make myself.”
The two women shared a laugh, followed by a moment of silence filled with anticipation. There was nothing Jamie wanted less than sharing her unpleasant life story. But there was also a whole beautiful and exciting array of things she wanted, she wanted them badly, more than she usually admitted to herself, and at the moment she wanted them with Dani. She could make a sacrifice or two, Jamie thought.
“I’d love that,” she smiled at Dani, saying goodbye for the night, and promising so much more in the future.
Dani had been working at The Leafling with Jamie for a few weeks already. Enough time to make it impossible for both women to deny the changes that sneaked upon them. Jamie couldn’t deny she enjoyed the company of the American, couldn’t deny she’d been good for the business, swooning their clients with her bright smile and sweet eyes and then taking care of more technical aspects of keeping a business with her unwavering determination and tenacity. Dani couldn’t deny she was falling in love with London, with the shape her new life was taking, with the little flower shop and… well, she couldn’t deny her time spent with the florist was usually the highlight of her day.
Together, they couldn’t deny the chemistry that was growing wildly between them. Their attraction for each other was an undeniable fact, of course, but it was also so much more, something big and powerful and impossible to name. Sometimes the thrilling electric pull between them was so strong it became almost uncomfortable, but still, they wouldn’t have changed it for the world. And perhaps, if it had been just physical attraction they would have been able to get it over with much sooner, or ignore and dismiss it entirely, but that wasn’t the case. Because, for every smirk of Jamie’s accompanied by a flirtatious comment, there were endless moments of breathless adoration whenever she watched Dani do something as simple as putting on her jacket on a chilly day. And then, for each time Dani had to tighten her hands into fists and force herself to look away from her boss at the most unexpected times, there were countless laughs, moments of comfortable silence, easy conversation, and difficulty in saying goodbye at the end of each day.
To put together all those sparks of desire that burst out of the two of them, plus the genuine care and interest that they started feeling for each other without any kind of warning… it made up for an interesting work environment that most days felt entirely too comfortable, exciting and familiar to feel like actual work. It was just a matter of time before they finally acknowledged that growing feeling that they were no longer just coworkers.
“So, you’re taking over my shop then, Poppins?” Jamie said on the afternoon of that fateful day.
In response, Dani only laughed. She was hunched over the counter of the store, looking over the shop’s finances, clearing up things a little bit, making notes, filling in spaces. Jamie was as good with plants as she was terrible at maths. A small accident with a client’s payment revealed that, so Dani offered some help. They closed the shop a little earlier and got to work on all the numbers until it was late, even later than usual. Dani was focused, as focused as she could be with Jamie peering over her shoulder. The florist had a frown on her face and her words, with that accent that drove Dani mad, spoken so close to her ear that made goosebumps rise on her skin under her purple sweater…
“How are you so damn tidy?” Jamie spoke with almost child-like amazement.
Dani hummed thoughtfully, made another note on the paper in front of her, and said, “I used to be a teacher.”
“Really? That's quite a jump from, um, assistant florist, I suppose.”
Again, Dani laughed. She turned her head to look at Jamie before answering, not taking into consideration just how close the other woman was. With their faces now just inches apart, Dani panicked, her eyes widened and she hastily turned her head back to the page in front of her. This way, she didn’t notice that with the sudden turn of her head, her hair, in all its golden and wavy glory had nearly struck Jamie in the face. The faint sweet scent of her shampoo did pretty much hit the florist in the face though, and Jamie had to use every bit of self-restraint she had left not to bury her face in Dani’s neck.
“It’s not that different,” Dani said when she finally remembered what they’d been talking about, her voice a little too high-pitched, so she cleared her throat and added, “The tantrums are pretty similar really.”
Jamie gasped at her. Jamie, who just that day had gotten as far as opening the front door of the shop with all the intention of yelling at a kid and his mother after the kid tore off a petal from one of the flowers on display on his way out. Jamie, who was only stopped by the surprisingly firm hold of Dani’s hand on her shoulder, pulling her back, soothing her down. Jamie, who, after hearing her sweet American employee tease her like that, had to physically put some distance between the two of them and moved around slowly to stand on the other side of the counter, or else she’d do something that could probably be seen as inappropriate, even if she felt the exciting suspicion that it wouldn’t be unwelcomed at all.
“Alright. I see how it is then,” Jamie laughed, still gaping at Dani, “I give you a job, I let you in, I open to you the doors of my humble, little flower shop. And this is how you pay me, huh? You mock me. Even after I survive your second attempt at poisoning me with tea.”
It was Dani’s turn to gasp at her, “You said this time it tasted better!”
“I’m sorry, Poppins, I think it was worse.”
“You’re unbelievable, Jamie,” Dani shook her head fondly and looked down to hide her smile, or her blush, or the adoration in her eyes.
That’s when Jamie noticed that this entire Dani had been shuffling with all the papers in the desk, putting it all away. She was done. With that realization in mind, Jamie disappeared momentarily into the back room of the place, and when she came out she was holding her keys, had put on her coat, and was holding Dani’s coat on her hand.
“Let’s go then,” she said, offering Dani her coat, holding it out for her.
“Go… where?” Dani wondered, knowing immediately that she’d replay this moment in her mind countless times, Jamie helping her put on her coat.
“I believe you offered me a drink that other day, right?” Jamie replied casually as she quickly went over her routine to close the place for the night.
“What?” Dani blurted out, and when the words clicked on her mind she added, “Like, right now?”
“Is it a bad time?”
Dani stared at Jamie for a second, seeing clearly that it was a genuine question, Jamie was waiting for an answer, and she could, technically, say no.
“No, no, it’s okay. It’s, um, perfect time. I’m really, totally ready,” Dani replied, nodded a few times for emphasis.
All she got as an answer was a truly dazzling smile from the brunette waiting for her by the entrance, holding the door open for her.
“It’s a nice place,” Dani said, looking around the cozy place with its dim lights, nice furniture, comfortable chairs, and interesting decorations hanging from the walls. Plus, two little facts that caught Dani’s attention more than the rest. One, the clientele was mostly women, one of the bartenders too was a woman and very friendly with Jamie. Two, what surely had to be an odd amount of plants for a pub. Somewhere there was the answer to why the florist was so fond of the place.
“Just my favorite old pub,” Jamie answered, draped over her stool beside Dani on the bar, “I’ve come here often for years. It’s close to the shop, and close to my flat.”
The casual mention of Jamie’s home, completely unintentional probably, had both women reaching for their respective drinks. It was going to be a very interesting night.
“So…” Dani said, putting down her beer.
“So you were a teacher, huh?” Jamie interrupted her. Which earned her one of those glares from Dani she was starting to get familiar with. She was conscious that agreeing to this… this, was a way of agreeing to share her story, as Dani had mentioned. But no one had said anything about stalling. “Did kids drive you so mad you had to cross the ocean then?” she added.
“No,” Dani drew out the word with amusement on her voice, “I actually loved it! I loved all the kids, really. Even the worst ones!” She laughed. “But they were just too many of them, you know? The job I had planned to take here in England was meant to be just two… and in the end, I ended up having to deal with just you.”
“Very funny, Poppins,” Jamie replied, actually impressed with the way the blonde had grown so much more comfortable around her these past few weeks, enough to tease her like this. “I don’t envy you though. You know I work with plants for a reason. I can barely stand people in general, let alone children. My job before the shop was at this big country manor where two kids lived. The little girl was adorable, I’ll give her that but… I could never actually work with kids.”
“Jamie…” Dani said, her expression had changed, intriguing the other woman, “Can I ask where that country manor was?”
“Sure…” the florist mumbled, suspiciously looking at Dani, “it was in Bly, some… Poppins, are you alright?”
Upon hearing the word Bly, the American had actually gasped, jumped a little on her seat, and almost dropped her drink.
“Yeah! Yes, I’m okay,” Dani stuttered, feeling more distracted than comforted by Jamie’s hand suddenly on her knee, “I just… that’s the place. I was, um, I was meant to take the job of au pair for two kids on a country manor in Bly.”
“Yes!” Dani exclaimed, seeing her own confusion and not entirely unpleasant shock reflected to her in Jamie’s expression. “I had a meeting scheduled with some Henry Wingrave but on the day I arrived, I was told he was gone! Suddenly! Left with his family to America or something. Which, ironic, considering that’s where I… you know.”
“Yeah, Henry and the kids… well, I’m not entirely sure what happened but almost overnight he made the decision to sell the place and leave with the kids. I, uh, I was the gardener there,” Jamie chuckled, shook her head a little, seemingly taken over the implications of this interesting piece of information. “For leaving a couple of us so suddenly unemployed, he gave us a really nice compensation, that’s how I managed to open up my shop in the first place. But…” she couldn’t find the words to say it.
“Yeah,” Dani sighed, completely understanding, “We could have met there.”
The florist nodded a few times and, after ordering a second drink, she said, “I don’t believe in fate, Poppins. But this is one sweet coincidence.” Delighted at seeing the way her words made the blonde woman smile at her, Jamie decided she wanted to see more of it. “Hey, so, maybe I do know a little bit of what happened there… wanna hear about rich people’s family drama?” she asked, a playful smile in place.
Dani laughed, but eagerly accepted the offer. They moved to one of the booths of the pub, got comfortable, and got started. For the next few minutes, she enjoyed everything about Jamie’s voice, her unexpected talent for storytelling, and the actual story. That’s how Dani found out about the tragic story of the family she didn’t get to work for, about a loving housekeeper and a hilarious cook that ran away to Paris, about a thief and his capture, about a brilliant woman that saved herself on time, and about a couple of sweet kids and all the ghosts that surrounded their past but certainly not their future. Jamie knew how to hold her entire attention, drawing her in, making her laugh in the right places, and almost making her cry in others.
“So yeah, if what you wanted was to work with just two kids thinking it’d be easier, Bly manor wasn’t for you,” Jamie laughed at the end of her story.
Dani had already shared all her “wow,” “really?” and “that’s amazing,” commentaries. Now she was resting her face on the palm of her hand and staring at Jamie with an expression that wasn’t unreadable, but just too significant to read at the moment. “You know,” she said, “that’s not actually the reason I quit working as a teacher.”
“No?” Jamie frowned a little, not seeing why the American would lie about it.
“Nope. The kids were fine, I just wasn’t comfortable at home anymore,” she admitted with the easy confidence of being in Jamie’s presence, and being a few drinks in. She looked at Jamie there, and hesitated, seemingly trying to make a decision. “You know… my mom, my ex, his mom too, they all tried to get me to quit teaching a few times,” Dani confessed, “They said it was too much work, that I should let him provide for me, whatever that means. They said I cared too much about the kids, and said I should start thinking of having kids of my own instead. Which made me freak out, of course. Maybe I really was, I don’t know, hiding from something, putting all my focus into my work instead. But that wasn’t the reason I quit! No. See, when I broke off my engagement, I decided I had to… live, you know? Just for myself. I couldn’t keep breaking myself into tiny little pieces to give to him, his family, my mom, every kid, to everyone around me. So… then I crossed the ocean.”
Dani finished her words with an embarrassed chuckle and another purposeful sip of beer. Jamie’s silence worried her enough to finally dare take a look at her. A decision she was about to regret when she met the intensity in Jamie’s eyes. Oh, Jamie had listened, she had really listened. To each of her words, to the untold stories in between the pauses, the true meaning of all of it.
“You’re really brave,” Jamie finally said, looking at Dani with an almost unreadable expression, but it did show her sincerity, “I hope you know that.”
“Oh… thanks,” Dani softly mumbled, drinking again, stealing Jamie’s heart again.
The brunette chuckled softly and after a sip from her own drink she sighed, “You’re really going to get me to talk huh?”
“Jamie, you really don’t have to, I was just…”
Dani shrugged. Jamie could tell, from looking into those bright blue eyes, that Dani wouldn’t pressure her, simply wasn’t the type to pry. But Dani had shared her story, it would be fair to share hers, right? Jamie was thinking she needed to share her story. For herself, sure. But mostly for Dani. Because here she was, all kindness, courage, intelligence, and she’d trusted Jamie.
At this point, it would have been plainly ridiculous to deny that there was a mutual interest there. But, Jamie wasn’t someone that liked taking careless risks. She wasn’t someone that enjoyed wasting her time on her wrong person. But that wasn’t what was happening here. That just meant that she understood what it was like to give time and effort to a lost cause. She wouldn’t wish that on anybody, she wouldn’t dare let Dani of all people waste her time on the wrong person, waste time on her. So, if to find out if maybe they weren’t the wrong person for each other they had to share a little more than they were comfortable with, then so be it.
“I want to tell you a story,” Jamie said finally, “it isn’t really my story. It belongs to someone I knew,” Jamie playfully winked a Dani and continued, “And it’s not exactly short. But I’d like to share it with you, Poppins, if you’d like.”
Dani gave her a little smile and nodded, “Okay,” she whispered. She had never seen Jamie nervous like this, and she was determined to memorize this moment of trust, to treasure it forever.
“Okay, here it goes then,” Jamie took a deep breath, and started the story, her story. Jamie told her about Louise and Dennis meeting, and starting a family, about Dannis’ lifeless job, and Louise’s games with other men. She talked about Denny, and Mickey, absent parents, pain, life-changing accidents, and scars. The story took them through foster care, and London, and then Jamie talked about getting in a lot of trouble without going into too many details, until she mentioned a dark place where she started gardening. Jamie told Dani everything about discovering gardening, and discovering herself, how that shaped up her perspective on people and plants, and lastly, she told her about a very special flower that sparked her belief that maybe, once in a blue moon, somebody just might be worth the effort.
In the end, Jamie, frightened by how unfrightened she felt by sharing her entire story with Dani, could only stare at all the emotions that threatened to overflow the blonde woman’s eyes.
“Jamie,” Dani whispered, her voice shaking. She looked almost pained to remain seated there. She reached out with a hand to grab Jamie’s and she held her tightly. There were no words she could use to express herself at the moment, but what she really wanted to do she couldn’t exactly do in a place full of people.
With her heart beating wildly in her chest, Jamie looked down at their hands, twisted her to hold Dani’s and brought it to her lips, kissing her knuckles and closing her eyes for just one moment, enjoying this moment as she had enjoyed every instant she had shared with the beautiful woman in front of her.
“I might have lied to you on just one thing though,” Jamie confessed after lowering their hands, but not letting go of Dani, “well, it wasn’t exactly a lie, just a massive understatement.” One look at Dani told her everything she needed to know. “This pub is not just close to my house. I actually have a flat right above it. Where, unlikely as it might seem, I keep a moonflower plant, and it should be blooming this season. I could show you, one night, if you’d like.”
Perfect, was the word that first came to Dani’s mind. Jamie wasn’t perfect, and neither was working for her, but the way it all made her feel, this night, Jamie’s careful invitation… that was all perfect.
“What about right now?” Dani blurted out, stuttering just a little.
“Yeah, tonight,” Dani smiled nervously.
Jamie couldn’t hold back her smile anymore. It was all just a matter of getting out of that booth, paying for their drinks, and getting Dani upstairs as quickly as possible. Jamie didn’t say much, she didn’t trust her voice wouldn’t betray her excitement. She tried to remain calm and reassuring, one of them had to, and Dani impressively looked like she was either about to faint or tear off Jamie’s shirt in the middle of the pub. But, even if her hand kept a firm hold on Dani’s hand, even if her fingers didn’t shake while turning her key on the lock of her door, even still, she could feel her heart beating out of her chest.
Jamie felt more alive than ever, so excited, and so goddamned lucky. She’d shared her story, expecting the worst, expecting Dani to run away, but all she got was Dani running toward her faster than before. Because she could tell, she could see now, that right from the day Dani walked into her shop, they both had been not so slowly running toward each other, toward this moment right here. This moment of Dani standing in the balcony on the back of Jamie’s flat, holding Jamie’s hand and staring at the moonflowers so completely endeared and with all her contradictions, with her sweet smile, with that American accent that Jamie had never loved so much…
“Whoa, they’re beautiful,” Dani said, tilting her head to better study the delicate white flowers. When she felt Jamie gently squeeze her hand, Dani turned to look at her and asked, “Worth it?”
“Completely worth it,” Jamie smiled, turning her body to face the other woman.
Dani wasn’t smiling though, her eyes were screaming with the same passion she’d felt as Jamie had finished sharing her story. Jamie felt entirely breathless at all feelings she could see in those beautiful blue eyes, if she had to stare at them any longer she thought she might die, and happily so. However, just a moment later she found herself closing her eyes, as Dani’s lips found hers. Dani had leaped into the kiss, she was kissing Jamie as if she had waited her entire life for it, and her hands were clutching at her as if they never wanted to let go. Jamie pulled back just for a second, just enough to smile at Dani, to take one good look at those eyes and then finally dive back in, with everything she had, kissing Dani again and again, for the rest of that night.
thanks for reading!!
sorry this one took so long, for some reason it was really difficult to write, but I really hope you guys like it!
I'll try to get the next update sooner. things will get even more fluffy
comments are really appreciated :D
i changed my tumblr to @daniwouldnever haha so you can find me there, always ready to talk about these two lovely flower shop lesbians!
Chapter 5: the nights
Soon enough, it became a bad habit- a good habit, according to both women. It was entirely too easy for both of them to figure out when the other one might feel like spending the night together. After that first night, after finally crossing that line, it was almost impressive how easily things fell into place. Their feelings for each other only strengthened, their longing stares lasted longer, the discreet touches were more frequent and their flirting definitely increased. The only difference now was they could do something about all of that.
On days when Jamie noticed Dani would stare at her for longer than usual, not even averting her eyes when she got caught. Or days when Dani realized that Jamie went out of her way the entire day to touch her as often as possible, little touches, just fingers brushing against her wrist, or hip, that turned into gentle hands pressing the small of her back when passing by, touches that got consistently more purposeful and less innocent as the clock moved on and on. And of course, on days when both of them too obviously hung back at the end of the day, stalling the moment of closing the shop and going home, until either of them caved in and, depending on how eager they felt, dragged the other one to the back room of the shop or directly out the door and to Jamie’s flat nearby.
So, Dani and Jamie started spending more and more nights together. Nights that were never boring but quite the opposite. Nights that were spent mostly in bed and mostly without clothes, getting acquainted and familiarized with each other’s bodies, fascinated with the scents, entranced with the tastes, and finally, simply devoted to each other. The burning passion didn’t dim with time, and they found they couldn’t picture that ever happening. Sometimes, random days would surprise them with a renowned hunger for each other, and they could turn into a dizzying combination of eager and hesitant just as on their first night together. They discovered that seemingly unending flame was growing, but also changing, taking different shapes and spreading inside them in the most delicious ways. It could be great flames that demanded immediate attention and closing the shop early. As well as it could be just sweet, comfortable warmth, all around them, as long as they were together.
“I should leave,” Dani mumbled in between feather-like kisses on Jamie’s exposed back and shoulders, “It’s getting late,” she added while her body continued to betray her words and held Jamie even closer.
“Hm, don’t leave then,” Jamie sleepily replied, though just the idea of Dani possibly leaving made her feel significantly more awake than she’d been seconds ago, and instantly determined to do whatever it takes to keep the American woman on her bed for a while longer, hopefully until morning. The florist wasn’t sure when they got into this habit, not the part about going back to her flat after work, but the part where they’d cuddle afterward, more specifically the part where Jamie had uncharacteristically easily turned her back to Dani and let herself be held by her.
“I have to. I have work in the morning,” Dani insisted, pressing her nose close to Jamie’s neck. Jamie, who was happy that she could tell Dani was smiling as she said those words. “I have a very strict boss, you know?” Dani playfully added, barely holding back her laughter enough to resume her kisses on Jamie’s neck, stopping for a moment to add just enough teeth to feel the brunette in her arms tense expectantly.
That was the moment that Jamie finally decided to turn around in Dani’s arms. “Stay,” she asked with a smile, staring earnestly into sweet blue eyes until her smile turned mischievous, “I heard, from an extremely reliable source, that your boss doesn’t even plan on opening up tomorrow.”
“Jamie…” Dani tried to scold her, but her protest died on the tip of her tongue when Jamie kissed her.
“Seriously Poppins, we can get there late at least.”
“Jamie, we shouldn’t-” Dani attempted to argue one last time.
“Stay,” Jamie whispered in between kisses, “Stay.” She won the argument that night.
“I’m exhausted!” Jamie exclaimed as she let herself fall on her couch. It wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world, but that day had been a particularly tough one, dealing with many deliveries and carrying too many things in and out of the shop, so she couldn’t even wait to get to her arguably more comfortable bed. As soon as her back hit the soft cushions she groaned, letting her body relax at last.
“That’s very romantic,” Dani teased her, walking into the flat right after the very tired florist.
Jamie laughed. She laughed wholeheartedly and in the process stole Dani’s heart for the… well, Dani’s had stopped counting how many times that had happened.
“I’m never too tired for you, Poppins. Come here,” Jamie said, holding her arms out for Dani, but the blonde avoided her and instead sat down on the couch just beside the spot where Jamie’s head was.
“We don’t have to,” Dani said softly, then patted her thighs and added, “You come here. You’re tired, it was a long day.”
Jamie shuffled on the couch until her head was resting on the other woman’s thighs and she felt infinitely more comfortable, but she could never stop herself from asking, “Are you sure?”
Dani hesitated for a moment, not because she wasn’t sure, but because it would be a first for them in this dynamic they were trying out. “I mean, um, I am- I am okay with it. If you, uh, if you’re okay with it,” she shrugged. As was usual, one grand display of confidence had drained her of all her reserves, and then she was getting a little tense and now that she had Jamie’s head in her lap without any intentions of going any further than that, Dani had no idea what to do with herself, where to put her hands, how-
“I’d love that,” Jamie interrupted her racing thoughts. She sounded more than sincere, and she was looking at Dani in that way that instantly made her feel grounded, calm, safe. Then Jamie reached out and found one of Dani’s hands, bringing it to her lips to leave a small kiss on her knuckles. “Will you stay?” she asked, moving their intertwined hands to rest on top of her stomach, easy, comfortable.
Dani took a deep breath, focused on the warmth and the hope that swirled in Jamie’s eyes. “Okay,” she agreed, as if that wasn’t exactly what she had hoped for in the first place.
“Sure,” Dani chuckled lightly and nodded. Now her other hand had rediscovered its courage and Dani started softly running her fingers through Jamie’s curls, earning a pleased sigh from the woman on her lap. “I can do that,” Dani smiled.
Dani woke up gasping for air. She was thrashing in bed, struggling to breathe and to make sense of her surroundings. Hastily she sat up in bed and slowly started to focus on the reality around her, outside of the dark dreams. First, she noticed her hands were gripping the t-shirt she was wearing, which wasn’t hers really. Then, one by one, she noticed the bed wasn’t the one she had back home, or even in the small room she had rented, but it wasn’t unfamiliar at all, and that was the case for the entire room she was in. That’s when the fog in her mind finally started to clear enough to let her focus on the soft but firm hand rubbing soothing circles on her back, and Jamie’s voice calling her, bringing her back.
“Dani? Dani are you okay?” Jamie softly repeated. She woke up hearing Dani cry in her sleep, and now she was sitting up beside her, trying her best to calm her down. “It’s okay, you’re okay, just a nightmare, yeah?”
In response, Dani only managed to glance at Jamie, just to make sure it was really her. Then she closed her eyes tightly, holding back tears that gathered on her eyelashes. She nodded and tried to hum a confirmation, but the sound came out broken, and she was still shaking.
“Hey, it’s okay, come here,” Jamie whispered, her voice as soft as Dani had heard her, “It’s okay, baby, I got you.”
Dani whimpered, she was still tense, but she gladly let Jamie hold her there in the darkness of the bedroom. She placed one of her hands on top of one of Jamie’s on her arms and attempted to speak. “I was going… I was being dragged home… I… Just a nightmare,” Dani sighed.
“Shh, it’s okay. That’s right, just a nightmare,” Jamie kissed the top of Dani’s head and continued to hold her. She didn’t ask for more information, she didn’t have to.
“Jamie,” Dani said, her voice pained and broken, but then she let her head fall on the other woman’s shoulder, and when she sighed it was as if the horrors of her dreams left her all at once. She cuddled closer and whispered, “I don’t want to go home.”
“You don’t have to, Poppins, it’s fine. We all have nightmares about America every now and then,” Jamie replied.
Naturally, a small chuckle left Dani’s lips, the final piece to make her feel like everything would be alright.
Slowly, they got comfortable, resting against the headboard of the bed, with Dani’s head tucked against Jamie’s neck, their hands leaving little touches here and there, soothing caresses everywhere. Eventually, Dani’s breathing evened and she was on the verge of falling asleep again when Jamie spoke up again.
“Poppins, you sleep?” the florist asked softly, and when she felt the blonde shake her head lightly she continued, “I meant it, you know? You don’t have to leave if you don’t want to. Here you have, um, well, you have me here for you, Dani.” At that point, Dani shifted her position enough so that she could look Jamie in the eyes, enough to see with the little light that came from the windows that Jamie looked unusually nervous. “The shop needs you, you see? And well, I know this place isn’t much but-”
The words were stopped short by Dani kissing her lips, but still, they were everything Dani had always wanted to hear. Jamie didn’t say the word home, but it wasn’t all that necessary when both of them could feel it everywhere around them as they fell asleep together again, with smiles on their faces.
After spending most of her life gladly sleeping all by herself, Jamie would have thought that she wouldn’t have noticed when someone else sneaks out of her bed in the middle of the night. That, actually, had happened, many times and, true to her word, she hadn’t noticed. That was, until she met Dani. Until she experienced what it felt to have Dani snuggled close to her an entire night. Afterward, everything was different. It looked like Jamie’s body had grown a bit too infatuated with Dani’s and, as soon as she felt she was missing that familiar warmth, she woke up.
Confused for just a few seconds, Jamie followed the little sounds she heard all the way to the kitchen. There, still confused but now incredibly endeared, she found Dani, wearing Jamie’s own brown flannel shirt, nothing else, and tragically attempting to make tea again.
“What are you up to?” Jamie whispered, walking into the kitchen.
“Oh! Hi,” Dani turned around with a smile, “I’m sorry, did I wake you up? I just, you know, couldn’t sleep and, um, I thought I’d give this a try.”
Jamie scratched the back of her head and squinted her eyes, she was still half asleep. But with Dani’s smile being pretty much brighter than the sunrise that was still hours and hours away, Jamie felt herself forgetting her exhaustion and instead walking further into the kitchen.
“Poppins you know that’s a terrible idea, right? Come on, let’s go back to bed instead,” Jamie asked, purposefully smiling in the way she knew was difficult for Dani to resist.
Effectively, Dani’s eyes stared for a second too long at Jamie’s lips, and then, as if waking up from a pleasant dream, she smiled guilty and confessed, “I also stole a couple of those cookies you have.”
Jamie raised her eyebrows in teasing surprise. “So you leave me all cold and alone in bed, steal my biscuits, my shirt, and spoil my tea, huh? Is that how this is gonna be from now on, Poppins?” All through the short conversation, Jamie had gotten closer and closer to Dani until she could sneak her arms around the American’s waist, and just from her playfully serious expression she had Dani starting to giggle, already familiar with the spark she could read in the brunette’s eyes.
“Jamie, Jamie,” Dani laughed, squirming slightly while the florist started to leave kisses on her neck and her hands held her tightly, tickled her a little, and attempted to drag her back to the bedroom. “The tea! Jamie- Jamie stop, the tea!” she continued to giggle.
Defeated, Jamie let her head fall on Dani’s shoulder and she groaned for a quick moment before gathering the strength she knew she’d need. “Alright, let’s see,” she sighed, accepting the cup that Dani offered. After both of them took a sip of the drink and a short, tense moment passed, Jamie put down the cup on the counter. “I could drink this for you, Poppins, that’s an improvement,” she shrugged.
“Oh,” Dani frowned at the cup still in her hands and, unknowingly, pouted, making it physically impossible for Jamie to not feel her heart joyfully scream at the sight and making her step forward to kiss that adorable pout away.
“It’s okay, baby. Look, just don’t make tea unsupervised, okay?” She met Dani’s eyes and both of them lit up when the blonde finally laughed. “There we are. Now, let’s get back to bed, shall we?” Jamie gently took the cup out of Dani’s hand, left it on the counter, and grabbed her hand to guide her back to the bedroom, “You look fucking great in my shirt but I’m starting to think I want to take it off you.”
Delighted, Dani followed her. “Yeah, right, you’re falling asleep Jamie,” Dani teased her, and neither one of them could hold back their smiles as they fell back in bed.
More often than not, their nights together felt endless, felt like an infinite little pocket of comfort where only the two of them existed. These spaces were filled with stories, secrets, easy laughs, occasional tears, everything in between. Silly declarations that came in wide smiles and deserved to be shouted from the rooftops, and the most tender confessions whispered against each other’s skin, spoken more in the shape of kisses than actual words. Whatever the night held for them, they knew it’d be good as long as they were together.
“So you’re good with kids?” Dani smiled one night at the end of one of Jamie’s stories.
“I am, yeah. I see it as a curse though,” Jamie added, blowing out smoke from her cigarette and offering to Dani, sitting beside her, who gladly took it after laughing to her heart's content about Jamie’s dislike of children and children’s admiration of her.
On a different night, “Dani, please tell me you’re fucking kidding me,” Jamie almost begged, shifting to stare directly at the blonde woman sitting on her bed, giggling like a little kid.
“I seriously love that movie, Jamie,” the American managed to say even though her laughter was just dying to burst out of her.
“Bullshit,” Jamie shook her head, “Poppins, please, admit you’re just teasing me.”
In response, Dani could only cover her face with a pillow while laughter rocked her entire body. At that moment, she couldn’t, for the life of her she couldn’t remember if she had genuinely liked the movie they were arguing about or if she just insisted on it to get that exact reaction from the woman beside her. All that mattered was Jamie’s outrage, and Jamie hands tickling her sides to get her to confess.
There were some other memorable nights. When Dani first kissed the one scar on Jamie’s right shoulder, and after hearing the story behind it kissed Jamie’s lips, healing them from the pain carried in her words. When Jamie held Dani’s hand the entire time as the American shared almost every memory she still had of her father. When Dani fell asleep in the kitchen and was startled awake by Jamie carrying her to the bedroom. When Jamie playfully talked about all the most boring facts about gardening that she could think of just to see how long it took Dani to fall asleep, but the blonde fought through with impressive determination and in the end, Jamie had nothing else to say. Well, she had something to say but she feared it was too soon, so she was happy to just kiss Dani with all the passion she felt and then some more.
Sooner rather than later, Dani started leaving little things here and there in Jamie’s flat. Sometimes just by accident, sometimes just for practical reasons, and often because of Jamie’s encouragement. Though one thing Dani never really bothered taking with her to Jamie’s place was pajamas, anything to sleep in. Not just for the exciting hope and often certainty that clothes wouldn’t be necessary at all. But there was also the appeal of stealing Jamie’s t-shirts throughout the night if she got cold or just felt like it. Jamie was quick to show her approval too. And Dani didn’t just borrow t-shirts, soon she started taking the florist’s soft flannel shirts, and eventually her sweaters too. This depended on the changing weather, a fact that brought to their attention the weather was already changing all around them, and so were they, snuggling closer as the days got colder, holding each other just a little tighter. Just two women in love, while “love” waited around the corner for them to finally claim the little word that had already found a place deep in both their hearts.
Chapter 6: the days that turned to months
The days turned to months, and Dani and Jamie continued to grow together with each passing moment. One day, Dani arrived at The Leafling particularly early. The street outside was pretty much deserted, and cold. Perhaps that’s what prompted Jamie to gleefully greet her with a “Good morning, Poppins,” and a bold kiss on the lips.
Dani closed her eyes, hummed appreciatively and a second after the brunette pulled away she opened her eyes. Not that she was really complaining, after all, it was a cold morning and that kiss was exactly what she needed to get warmed up. But still, she had to say, “Jamie…” in a halfhearted attempt at scolding the florist for her recklessness. It wasn’t exactly advisable to be careless with their kisses in public spaces.
“What?” Jamie scoffed and walked away with a smirk on her lips and a nonchalant air about her, “It’s my store, I can do whatever I want, including kissing my-”
Dani had to bite her bottom lips to at least pretend she was trying to hide her amusement at Jamie’s sudden struggle to finish her sentence. “Your employee?” she playfully suggested.
In response, Jamie sent an unimpressed look her way. But then Dani saw, clear as day, some playfulness spark to life in Jamie’s eyes as the florist started to smirk and walk backward, away from Dani and toward the back room of the store. “My… girlfriend?” Jamie suggested with a smile, right before disappearing into the other room, leaving Dani speechless and frozen at the front of the shop.
“Wait,” Dani finally broke out of her shock and said to the empty place, “Jamie?” she called out, hurrying over to the other room, where she found the brunette nonchalantly working over a small but beautiful flower arrangement. “Jamie,” she repeated.
“Poppins,” was all the other woman said, humor coating her tone as she looked over the shoulder at the blonde that stole her heart since the first day.
Dani looked at her with a sweetly familiar stern look, putting her hands on her hips, then crossing her arms, then back to her hips. She was adorably serious, demanding answers. “Jamie,” she insisted, right before a wave of vulnerability took over, “Did you mean it?”
Finally, Jamie dropped her playful facade. She took a deep breath and turned around, resting her hands on the table behind her. She nodded to the arrangement beside her. “These are for you,” she whispered.
“Oh,” Dani exclaimed, taken by surprise. This was new, and completely unexpected. One day Jamie had gone as far as saying she’d never given flowers to a woman before, feeling it was just wrong for a florist to give flowers, almost meaningless. So, that right there, had to hold a completely new, unprecedented meaning. It was, without exaggerating, the most beautiful, intricate, and delicate arrangement Dani had seen from Jamie in all the time she’d work in her shop. “They’re beautiful, I- thank you so much,” she whispered, her smile lighting up her entire face and making Jamie reflexively match that grin with one of her own.
“I figured it was about time,” Jamie shrugged, playing down the gesture. When she saw Dani probably about to ask again if she’d meant her words, Jamie blurted out the answer first, “I meant what I said. And I was… um, I was meaning to ask you, Dani…”
“Yes?” the American tilted her head, eyes going back between Jamie’s face and the mesmerizing flowers in between them.
“Do you- Would you like for us to slow down?” she asked, making a pause to take in the other woman’s confused frown, “I mean, if you’d like to slow down, I could, you know? If you’d like… one day at a time is fine by me.”
Dani took one step closer and asked, “Do you want to slow down?”
“I want you,” Jamie answered, more honest than she’d ever been.
“Then I don’t want to slow down,” Dani shook her head softly, her blonde hair swinging gently. “One day at a time is good, I’d just like them all to be with you,” she whispered, smiling almost timidly but not quite, and walking even closer. Her hands, clasped together in front of her were a perfect disguise of shyness, if not for the way her knuckles lightly brushed against the front of Jamie’s pants.
The brunette stared at Dani’s hands for a second before looking up with a breathless chuckle. “Poppins, you flirt,” she teased, right before pulling Dani as close as possible, and kissing her with all the eagerness and confidence of knowing they hadn’t yet turned around the “Closed” sign on the front door.
“Oi, Poppins,” Jamie walked around just in time to catch the moment Dani’s eyes snapped open and she straightened her back with worrying speed.
“Yeah?!” Dani answered, her voice a little shocked. She cleared her throat and with more calm and softly repeated, “Yeah?”
Jamie narrowed her eyes and walked up to the counter where Dani had been falling asleep a second ago. She rested her forearms on it and looked at the beautiful, sleepy blonde in front of her. “Poppins, you falling asleep?” she asked, doing an extreme effort to not start laughing.
“No,” Dani replied, as if the mere suggestion of her falling asleep at work was completely outrageous and not something that happened a couple of seconds ago.
“It’s okay,” Jamie replied, “Missed me last night?” Although they spent many nights together, sometimes Dani had to go back to her own place, leaving both of them utterly disappointed.
“A little,” Dani drew out the word and looked down shily.
Jamie quickly glanced to the window of the store and cursed the busy street and the strangers that could suddenly come in and interrupt a moment that would have been better lived in private. So, she uncrossed her arms and one of her hands traveled slowly over the counter to rest beside one of Dani’s hands, interlocking just their pinky fingers.
“Just a little? Should I be offended?” Jamie asked, and received a tiny smile from the other woman. “Did you have a nightmare last night?” Jamie whispered, treading carefully, and her heart ached when Dani’s response was a simple shrug. It was Jamie’s turn to clear her throat and gather her nerve. “Dani, I’m gonna ask you something, alright?”
“Oh no,” the blonde whispered back, all nervous eyes but sweet smiles.
The florist licked her lips nervously, and without a single care of who could possibly walk in at that moment, she moved her hand to more securely hold Dani’s hand.
“Dani, would you like to move in with me?” Jamie asked. She watched as Dani’s eyes widened in surprise, she wasn’t saying anything, but her lips showed the beginning of a smile that encouraged Jamie. “Doesn’t have to be right now,” Jamie looked away for a moment, “It’s a standing offer. I just thought, you know, you’d be closer to the shop and well, we already spent most nights there and-”
“Jamie,” Dani interrupted, which prompted Jamie to look at her face and find the most beautiful grin she’d in the woman’s face, “I’d love that.”
Despite Jamie’s reassurances, Dani was eager to move in as soon as possible. The actual process was equal parts fun and frustrating, but the results were more rewarding than they could have expected. With work and their relationship getting better and better each day, the women had gotten almost suspicious so, when the process of transforming Jamie’s flat into a place for two people to live in brought with it a handful of arguments, Dani and Jamie were almost relieved. At the end of each argument, when they were left with a little more knowledge on the person they were falling in love with, and the realization that they were both equally good at reasonably managing an argument, then they were truly relieved.
Jamie had a deeply buried temper that, although rarely, managed to come out explosively. Dani had no tolerance for being yelled at, but she recognized the effort Jamie put each time in immediately calming herself down, and earnestly apologizing in a way that made a difference. On the other hand was Dani, that alternated between silent anger toward Jamie and frantic frustration when angry at herself. But Jamie, infinitely patient, a great listener, and with an almost uncanny talent to know when everything could be solved with a good laugh, was there for her each step of the way.
Just a few days of officially living together, and Dani and Jamie were well into their way of knowing just how to handle big and small arguments, so they never turned into too much, never threatened to break them. They only got to know and love even more parts about each other, even the parts that weren’t flattering.
On good days, they discovered just how to get out of the smaller arguments. When Dani messed up something, or moved something around, messing with Jamie’s usual order and testing the brunette’s temper, she could make the most out of her big blue eyes and pouting lips. The result unequivocally was Jamie growing more frustrated, just to groan, “Fuck it,” and hold Dani’s face in her hands and kiss that pout away. Alternatively, when Jamie got in trouble with her adorably stern girlfriend, she was just starting to perfect the art of feigning innocence just long enough to get her hands on Dani’s waist and her lips on her neck, and then it was a matter of seconds until Dani’s anger melted in her arms and turned into sweet giggling.
At night, holding each other tightly, big or small arguments forgotten, Dani and Jamie usually had the same thought in their minds, and there wasn’t even a need to say it out loud. They were thinking of the future, of hopefully many more months, even years, spent with each other. Small arguments solved with a laugh, big fights that don’t even get to happen, because they know just how to step back, to breathe, to reach out, to listen, apologize, do whatever the right thing is at the moment. Laughing together at the people that said real love included screaming and shouting at each other, something that would never be the case for them, not for their passionate, gentle, patient, joyful love. A future of learning more about each other every day, of falling more in love every day.
It was a completely normal night. In fact, it was so easily an average, regular day in their lives, that it surprised Dani with the realization that it was actually everything but ordinary. She had finally settled into a routine with Jamie, and existing together, sharing a place to live, it was easier every day, and yet it was never boring, never lacked a special something. Working together, collaborating around the shop, and then around the house, it was the easiest thing Dani had ever done. Well, not exactly. The easiest thing she ever did was falling in love with Jamie.
That was why, on that particularly normal, completely common day in their lives, the words just couldn’t wait another second. Starting with breakfast, with Jamie frowning at Dani’s coffee, and Dani frowning at Jamie’s food. Then around the shop, with Dani smiling at the clients Jamie wished she could kick out, and Jamie smiling at Dani’s focused little frown of concentration when she worked. Including the evening, with Jamie almost halfway through a book and Dani rewatching an old movie and sneaking glances at her girlfriend. Then, finally, the night, with Jamie teasing Dani for stealing another of her flannel shirts, and Dani wrapping her arms around Jamie’s middle like it was the one place where they were always meant to be.
“Jamie,” Dani whispered her name, and when the florist, all messy brown curls and beautiful sleepy eyes turned around to face her, Dani smiled, and feeling as if she had been saying it every day of her life, she said, “I love you.”
“I love you too, Dani,” Jamie smiled. Her smile wavered, close to an overjoyed grin because this moment mattered, then smaller because it all felt so natural she can’t believe these weren’t the first words they ever said to each other, and then wavered just because she was emotional. “So much,” she whispered, right before one of her hands moved to Dani’s jaw to gently bring her forward for a kiss. A perfect kiss, exactly like the ones they share every regular night, and just as extraordinary as each kiss was in its own right, and then some more.
“Will you please leave that?” Jamie sighed, falling on the couch beside Dani, who had been ignoring her for the past hour while looking over the finances of the shop. With the way Jamie casually flopped on the couch, one of her feet immediately coming up on the cushions, and with all her focus on the pages on her lap, Dani would have never noticed her girlfriend actually was nervous.
“I would leave it to you,” Dani mumbled, still not looking up, but starting to smile, “but apparently you can’t do basic math.”
Jamie parted her lips in surprise, always taken by surprise but delighted to be on the receiving end of Dani’s shy teasing. She reached out to tickle Dani’s side, just enough to earn a good laugh from the blonde that stole her heart all those months ago. But then she brought them back to the subject at hand. She was a woman on a mission after all. “You don’t have to bring our work home, you know?” Jamie said.
It must have been something about the sudden soft tone of Jamie’s voice, or perhaps the way she so casually referred to the little flat as their home, but she finally stole all of Dani’s attention. “I don’t mind,” Dani smiled gently and added, still in a bit of a playful mood, “Your shop would fall to the ground without me.”
“What?” Dani tilted her head, genuinely confused and unknowingly reassuring Jamie that she was making the right choice.
“Our shop, Poppins,” Jamie smiled, it was a small, little nervous smile, but her eyes confidently looked straight into Dani’s blue eyes, and the American saw no hesitation there. “You’re right. The shop needs you, and so do I. You already make half of the work around there. Plus, I don’t think I can give you yet another raise without it coming across as inappropriate, you know? You should know I’m sort of taken at the moment.”
Dani giggled, feeling butterflies in her stomach still when she stared at Jamie. Whenever Jamie looked at her like that, like she was the most precious thing in her world, she could feel her own heart skip a beat at the feelings cursing through her. It was overwhelming in the best way, it was a combination of safety and excitement, it was the best feeling in the world. It also happened to be slightly distracting, so, “What are you saying?” Dani had to ask.
“I want you to be co-owner of the shop, Dani,” Jamie said, “I want us to share it, officially, legally, the whole deal. Equal parts. You, me, us.”
“Us?” Dani repeated, feeling a little bit like she was in a dream, until a wholehearted laugh just escaped out of her and reminded her this was real, and better than any dream. “Yes,” she answered, and quickly dropped the papers onto the small coffee table in front of the couch, “Yes!” she repeated again and again, showering her girlfriend with kisses as they got ready to celebrate the moment.
It was just another day, another milestone, another month. And it was everything for the both of them.