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‘Careful. Please be gentle.’ JJ watches her trusted workmen delicately carry the flower wall out of the studio to be delivered to their final destination, a blushing bride in Maine. Downstairs the store is a hive of activity for the holidays, last minute orders in person since they closed the online order portal a week ago.
‘Yes ma’am we’ll be careful.’ Mitch, her trusted delivery man, says with a knowing smile. He’d done this for her too many times.
‘Bye-bye.’ JJ whispers to the flower wall sending her off with a wish and a prayer, as the men gently lead it to the service elevator. She does not do many of these anymore, flower walls used to be her thing before it became a trend. Now she only does them by special request, typically from someone who has an in with her. This bride used her in with an editor friend of hers.
‘That’s a real winner, the blues are so lush.’ Patrice, her shop manager says coming up behind her, ‘mixed with the baby pink roses and eucalyptus…’ he chef’s kiss his fingers.
‘Thanks mate. How’s it going downstairs?’
‘Crazy as usual but it’s been really good. Last minute walk-ins, one hundred and three.’
‘I know, I know we will be done in time for the holiday close, I promise. We have the petals guaranteed, the staff have been rota’d in with cover if needed, and we will still have enough for the children’s hospital and the Met shindig.’
‘We better.’ JJ knows she can count on Patrice; he is the second most hardworking person she knows next to her. Everyone on her team works incredibly hard especially around the holidays, in addition to winter weddings, Christmas floral arrangements are their biggest orders. ‘How are my munchkins doing?’ She looks over at the girls who are in the corner playing flower shop. Rocco is at training then getting together with his team later on so she is flying solo today.
‘Perfect as always. Do you have time now to go through the schedule for the holidays, I updated the folder.’
‘Give me a half hour, I need to call the team at Monte Madre.’
Earlier she’d had a stifled conversation with her father, the only kind they have, and she almost wished he’d say he was not coming, he’d never, but she almost wished he would. She knows why he is coming, there were two reasons for it. In his own way, he was trying to make up for… everything she guesses, but what part? The part where he marred her childhood, where he forced his ideals on her or where he gave her no alternatives. It felt like he too was punishing her for their mother leaving him. He never got over that. He never will. And JJ will always be a reminder of that. The other reason was to let her know he still disapproved of her life choices and thus would never approve of Rocco who has done nothing but try to win him over. It is warped, with one hand he is trying to give whilst taking away with the other. His in with Rocco is their children, he was the absolute best grandfather to them. He never forgot a birthday, a milestone, or a just because phone call; he was always there for them and that went a long way for Rocco, so JJ let him try with her father. If her father steps out of line she will step in at the pass.
‘I’ve invited a guest, I hope that’s alright.’
That was not a request. JJ knows. ‘That should be fine, you have a two bedroom suite. I didn’t know you were seeing someone. Is it serious? It has to be if you are bringing her around family.’
‘Hm.’ He doesn’t elaborate.
There was a time when he would call just to hear her voice, they would catch up on everything to do with life mostly hers, at the time she thought it was rooted in love but as she grew older away from home, she understood it was his way of making sure she stayed the course of his plans for her life. All her life JJ had done what was expected of her by her father, gone to his school of choice, studied what he wanted her to, worked in a corporation he’d not only recommended but got her the job in. He planned a course for her and she stayed it. Until one day she did a 360 course correct, and from that moment the fragile bond between them broke irreparably. Still, she will always try because he did not give up on her the way her mother had. He was raised by the strictest of Patricians who did not spare the rod, parents who expected him to stay their course of his life and he did. JJ rationalised his behaviour from that point of view because that way, it was easier not to stay mad at him. Anger is a pain too much to bear twice over, and she is angry at her mother, much too angry.
Shortly after the call from her father, her mother called. She ignored it; they’d already had their quarterly call and they are not due another until the New Year, so she knows she is calling because she’d heard everyone was invited on their holiday except her and Cleo. Her mother is trying but JJ is not ready, she may never be ready for that conversation. She’d heard enough conversations growing up, one that left a lasting impression on her; the reason why she will always try with her father but not her mother.
Outside her office, in the studio, Patrice is teaching the girls to open the petals properly, as usual Roma is busy poking into other buckets and Bella is paying close attention. Her two wildflowers as their father likes to call them. Roma reaches out to hug Bella who plants a kiss on her cheek laughingly. It brings a smile to her face; she and Rocco made a deal from the moment Roma was born, they would never have a nanny, they would always be with them, if not them then Rocco’s mother or his sisters, or her siblings when they are in town, but they should never be without family. They have kept to that promise. Her mother wasn’t there for most of her life, she was not about to do that to her children. It wasn’t easy, it was bloody hard raising children without much outside help for much of their lives, raising them as private as possible because their father was a well loved and well adored sports star so JJ had to walk that line tightly, keep their personal life personal, so much so, it is rare, extremely rare, to get any pictures of her with Rocco or the girls or she be on a red carpet with him; she’s hardly ever been. The people that know them; family and close friends, know them, no one else needs to.
Her cell phone buzzes with another call. Gyll. Her mother. She sends it to voicemail