She wasn’t really paying attention; the burning coffee had gushed out from the chunky mug and down her chin. It scalded her bottom lip numbing it into a state of insentience. As her fingertips traced the outline of her swollen under lip it already felt as big as a deep fried banana.
“Oh shity, shit shit!” she yowled out.
Standing up she delicately spread her legs not wanting to stand in the puddle of hot brown liquid that had accumulated on the tatty linoleum by her bare feet.
It looked as if she had peed herself. A line of coffee drops ran down the front of her soiled tee shirt and onto her shabby knickers then the java rivulet ran down the inside of her left thigh.
She needed the caffeine kick this morning of all mornings. It was the final interview in the Sloan Avenue flagship store. She had wanted to be calm and collected to be in the zone. Was this accident a bad omen?
Anne Mathers possessed a unique highly attuned sense of colour and style, her family and friends thought it was the ADHD that coursed through her twenty four intense hours a day. The neuro transmitters throbbed with force now with so many thoughts barreling along the electronic tram lines in her head as she got ready.
If she could secure the job it would get her onto the first rung and into the industry, once in she knew she could drive her way to the top.
Anne had lost her direction in life; six years earlier her mother had died leaving her alone and poverty stricken. She had drifted from dead end job to dead end job, alone and insecure she had allowed herself to be used and taken advantage of.
Until that is, while sheltering from a biting cold day in the Piccadilly Waterstones bookshop she opened a fat glossy coffee table book on Ikebana.
Three hours later and her head was still buried deep in the book. The security guard who had been hovering over her and was itching to kick her out finally got the nod and asked her to buy something or leave. Anne left the warm comfortable surroundings but her consciousness had been turned. She walked around to Jermyn Street and re-entered the store by the back door. She could never even think about forking out ninety six pounds for the book but she wanted it more than she had ever desired anything.
She took the stairs down to the ladies toilet in the basement and removed her tatty overcoat. She scraped together her hair into a loose pony tail. Confidently striding back to the shelf she once again slipped the Ikebana book out. With her overcoat draped over her right arm she slipped the heavy book inside the outer garment and folded her arms around it in a tight grip. She cradled the heavy tomb like book as if it was a new born baby in her arms, she could not turn back now.
She breezed out of the front door of the bookstore; the security guard did a double take as he caught sight of her. But his train of thought ended when an elderly man tripped and fell. Anne walked out into Piccadilly just as a number nineteen bus came to a halt. Without breaking stride she stepped on board and headed upstairs. She sat waiting for the weighty hand to be laid on her shoulder; her heart beat so hard it made the large book pulse on her lap. No one followed her no one came, the book was hers.
From that day of criminality onward flowers had enthralled her, the blossoms completed her.
She had then worked for a year on a small flower stall located on a pavement near Bond Street tube station. The money was okay the clientele was great but all she cared about was perfecting her craft, honing her skills. She turned every day bunches of flowers into works of art.
One regular client, the editor of the largest lifestyle magazine in the UK, introduced Anne to a business friend of hers, a lady known as ‘H’. H was a jet setting stylist to the rich and famous and owned several high end interior design businesses. One thing led to another and here she was. H wanted a florist an artistic specialist to work closely with her wealthiest and most famous clients.
But H was a hard woman to please, a compulsive perfectionist she usually only gave you one chance. Wiry thin and blonde with a penchant for black and leather H was in demand in every high net worth corner of the globe.
Anne dressed entirely in grey, her damp hands shaking ominously with nervous tension. She had been given free rein in the huge Sloane Avenue flower shop owned by H. She had the choice of every local and exotic flower and plant she had ever seen and plenty she hadn’t.
H had watched intently for a few minutes before her constantly ringing mobile had taken her away. The last glance she flashed at Anne was not one of empathy or approval.
Her confidence was leaving her just when she needed it most. Fuck it she said to herself, I know I have a talent I will show her.
About forty minutes had passed when H breezed back into the show suite set up for the Dubai client for Anne to enhance. She had pulled it off embellishing the fine sophisticated interior design to perfection. H prowled the premises, her face stern straight without emotion.
“That is just gorgeous Anne oh my god that is just so stunning sweetheart”
H was blown away by the symmetry of each minimalist arrangement and how Anne had managed to tie in and harmonise the unique colour of the suite using the stalk of the Calla Lily.
The now gregarious high flying H wrapped her arms around Anne.
“When can you start my darling, I need you for Paris next week and then a client in New York who spends thousands on flowers every month, he will love you” H stood back for a moment and asked Anne, “what happened to your bottom lip dear?”
Slumped on a wobbling hard wooden chair rammed against the grubby wall in her tiny kitchen she tried again to sip at a mug of hot coffee. It had been an exhausting day she was emotionally and physically frazzled.
She ran her palms over her face a few times. And then a calm mature voice broke the silence.
“Congratulations Anne you will be fine now”
Frightened she turned her tired head slowly, in the reflection of the grubby kitchen window she could see her mother.
“Mum oh mum oh I miss you so much mum” She blinked and spilt her coffee once more as she quickly stood up.
But when she got to her feet, there was no one there.