Just as things are finally getting to her three months dating record with Marcus, Jordan Fischer tosses his hat in the ring. Will Henley choose Mr. Right or the one she has lusted after from afar? More likely, will she make a disaster of both and be back to square one?
Come along for the ride as florist by day, disastrous dater by night Henley Gray attempts to find her fairy-tale ending.
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.64(d)|
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From the Disastrous Dating Files of Henley Gray
By Meghan Campbell
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2015 Meghan Campbell
All rights reserved.
"Henley, make a run to the store and get some stuff for the gourmet basket to fill the Napoli order."
"Sure Frank, do we need anything else?" I ask as I take off my apron and grab my purse.
"No, just don't take too long, we have a lot to get done today."
I grab some bills from the petty cash bag and head out the back door. I'm the head floral designer at Crescent Cove Flowers. Gourmet baskets, dozen rose arrangements, funeral sprays, wedding bouquets; it's all in a day's work around here.
Frank owns the shop and I've been working here for years, well as long as someone my age can do something and still get away with the phrase, 'doing it for years'. I love designing. I get to meet a lot of interesting people, be creative, play with flowers, and chat with my co-workers. Don't get me wrong, it has its moments. We deal with all manner of things like Bridezillas, grieving widows, jerky husbands that need to make up for yet another indiscretion, and hard deadlines. Not to mention when flowers you need for a huge funeral the next day come in dead. How about when they get delivered light pink when you ordered baby pink? Yes, those things really matter to brides and grieving widows.
Let's not forget about Frank. Frank is in his early fifties, a little bald on top and has deep crinkles around his eyes and on his forehead. He is tall, almost 6 feet and is helpful when it comes to reaching a vase off the top shelf. He has a little spare tire around his waist and sports plaid shirts and khakis most days. He is a bit crotchety and he thinks everyone, especially our customers, is stupid. His favorite phrase is, "people have no common sense." We hear that about fifteen times a day, especially after he hangs up from taking an order or talking to someone about a bill.
I can't really complain about him as a boss. He lets us do our thing, we get to gossip and chat in between customers and phone calls, and as long as the work is done on time he doesn't care how long we take for lunch. He is sort of like a father to most of us too. He has a crusty exterior but he would protect any of us girls like his own daughter and always slips a twenty dollar bill in my hand when we close up on holidays. He even orders us a pizza from time to time. I gotta give the man credit. He didn't name the shop something cutesy like "Buds and Blooms" or "The Stalk Market" or "Thistle Do Nicely". Perhaps it lacks a bit in originality but I like working at "Crescent Cove Flowers." I don't have to feel stupid every time I answer the phone to take a funeral order by saying, "Thanks for calling Petal Pushers, how may I help you." A full day of that and I would probably stuff a daisy down my own throat.
I hop into my little silver Honda and head the few miles to the grocery store. Today has already been a doozie and the last thing I need is some embarrassing run in with an ex looking like crap. I sneak a glance in the mirror on my visor to see if I should do any touch ups. It seems like no matter where I go in this town I run into someone and I never look my best. I survey the goods and decide a little lip gloss wouldn't hurt. The girl staring back in the mirror has mousy brown hair that my stylist wants to highlight, hazel eyes, and a body that isn't afraid of a few curves. I think the day they were giving out height and boobs a few workers called in sick. I'm what you might call 'petite' that sounds cuter than short right? In the boob department I've always been told that, 'more than a handful is a waste' and I really hope that is true because these B cups aren't raising any male eyebrows. At least not that I have noticed! These concessions about curves, height, and cup size help me sleep at night. I glance in the mirror again and pinch my cheeks a few times for some color. I've been told I have great skin so that helps, and I keep it nice and healthy, aka pale. I am a Florida native, but I am not a sun lover, go figure right?
I peek one last time as I pull into a parking space and decide this is as good as it gets. In my opinion I am not pretty, but I guess you could say cute. I mean no one has ever stopped to stare at me, either for being incredibly ugly or attractive, so I feel like that is a good place to be. I don't have the best track record with men. I do ok with kids and friends so that is some consolation. I even manage to get to work on time every day and pay my bills on time, or close enough that one reminder postcard is all it takes!
I live in a little town called Crescent Cove. It's mostly a retirement town on the west coast of Florida. It is right on the beach which should make it a great place for young people, except the over sixty-five crowd got here first and claimed it. I guess that is the advantage of being old, you get to places before the young people are even born so you can claim them first. It is the kind of town that offers Early Bird specials, if you like dinner at four o'clock, senior discounts, and forget looking for an apartment. All the affordable places to live are 55+ communities but I love this town anyway. I grew up here, born and raised, there aren't many of us. This is the place where most people come to retire. My parents raised me here but they moved away five years ago when my dad was offered a promotion and a transfer to Chicago. Since my mom is a nurse she decided she can really work anywhere. She was tired of geriatrics anyway and went to the opposite end of the spectrum and is working in a pediatric hospital and loves it.
Half of the tourism in this town is funerals. We have the beach, lots of parks, and there are a few places for young people to hang out, but it is the sort of town that you have to know how to make your own fun. It is also the kind of place you have to park half a block away when going to Wal-Mart, because the population here doesn't drive or park so well anymore if you catch my drift. So in reverence to my little silver Honda I park at the end of the lot.
As I am tooling around the produce department finding some nice oranges and a fresh pineapple for the gourmet basket I catch a glimpse of someone that looks vaguely familiar. His back is to me so I dismiss it and keep looking for the perfect bunch of grapes. As I head over to the cracker and cookie aisle I pick out some of the fancy kinds that I can't afford to buy for myself and place them in the cart. I spin around off in the direction of the candy aisle and bump my cart right into the back of the vaguely familiar form I saw back in produce.
"Ouch, watch where you're ..."
"Eli? Oh gosh, I'm sorry I didn't mean to bash into you! I wasn't looking where I was going," I quickly explain feeling foolish.
He moves in to hug me and says, "Henley, I haven't seen you in what three years? How have you been?"
"I've been good, still working at Crescent Cove Flowers, in fact I'm shopping for work right now. I can't chat long, lots to do." I say trying to move along as I talk. He starts to follow me and so I feel compelled to ask how he has been.
"So how have you been doing?"
"I'm ok, just broke up with my girlfriend," he says looking dejected. I give what I think are sufficient platitudes and scurry off in search of a box of chocolates and some fancy olives and jam.
I keep glancing ahead and behind me to try to avoid another run in with him, literally or figuratively. Eli was the guy I dated the longest since my high school boyfriend Gabe. A whopping six months. He is a nice guy but there just wasn't that, I can see this going somewhere, vibe and he had a few major flaws. Well my best friend Julia insists they weren't that major but to me it was a deal breaker. What are these horrible traits you ask? He chewed with his mouth open and sniffed constantly. It drove me to the brink of insanity. I mean get a tissue or an allergy pill or something. We would be watching a movie and it would sound like I was sitting with a piglet.
In retrospect considering the string of winners that have come after Eli I may have been somewhat rash in dumping him. There have been a few good ones in the meantime but I have done my best to run them off too, so it has been one long dry spell. I have a firm rule that I won't let anyone see my tattoo if you know what I mean until we have dated at least three months. There have been lot of first dates and even a few one month tangos but no one since Eli has endured Henley Gray more than ninety days. I try not to dwell on that as I unload all my things at the checkout.
The rain may finally be coming! See, I am finally in a sort of normal relationship with a nice guy named Marcus Grey, and no the irony of his last name is not lost on me. I sort of feel like any potential future nuptial arrangement would be a logistical nightmare. Can you imagine the DMV lady trying to understand why I am coming in to change my last name by one letter? I mean what is it with gray and grey anyway? Don't they mean the same thing? When we first started going out and I was in the 'scribble your first name with the boy's last name in your notebook' phase I felt a little short changed. I mean how romantic is writing Henley Grey instead of Henley Gray. See what I mean?
That episode prompted a little research. When I discovered that Gray with an A is the more American spelling and Grey with an E is the official British spelling I felt a little better. Who doesn't love listening to a hot British guy talk? Except Marcus doesn't have a British accent, but at least I can imagine his ancestors using a nice thick British brogue and I am reminded of a Shakespearean Sonnet and I feel all is not lost. That particular thought again comforts me as I pay the clerk at the checkout.
I met Marcus when he came in with his mom to order funeral flowers for his great Aunt who had passed away. She was ninety-two and had lived a nice long life and died in her sleep. You really can't flirt with a man that comes in to bury his wife, girlfriend, or mother. That is seriously bad karma, and even though I don't believe in karma I don't want to test anything either. When it is their ninety-two year old great aunt they are fair game! He was so cute. He didn't really flirt back much when he came in that first time but he returned the next day to ask a few more questions, about details we had already tacked down. Then he came in the following Monday to send flowers to his neighbor that had broken her leg. Of course he could have called the order in. I wasn't fooled. I also wasn't upset.
Every time he left the girls and I broke out into our normal girl gossip about a cute guy that had a good personality. That is part of the combo I look for. Now Macie she only looks for cute, hence the relationships with men that drain her bank account. We get lots of good looking ones in the shop, but they are either taken or a jerk. This one appeared to have two out of the four criteria I look for in a possible man. On his next visit we confirmed that he met all four of the 'Ideal Man' criteria:
2. good personality
When the bell over the door chimed, and Janice saw who it was, she practically shoved me up to the counter to wait on him. When I asked how I could help him he told me he came in to order flowers for another teacher that had just had a baby. So check box number three, employed! A teacher, good stand up job, I like that. You might be wondering about that last box, available, but Mr. Charming had the good sense to mention that, "My girlfriend usually would do stuff like this for me but we broke up four months ago." I was elated, I mean four months is a totally acceptable time frame to go after a guy and not worry about being the rebound girl right?
My co-workers are a colorful bunch. Janice has just turned fifty, never married, and has no kids. She has that mom look. She is soft around the edges and losing her battle with wrinkles and gray hair day by day but she tries. She wears mom jeans and lots of polo shirts with sensible shoes. It is somewhat surprising that she has mastered the mom look so well when she doesn't have any kids. She has a cat named Jinxie though, and to her that is the same thing as a kid. She is our resident mom, handing out sage, do as I say, not as I do, advice to the rest of us. She gets to hear about our boy troubles, money problems, and the, do I, or don't I highlight my hair, issues. Consequently I don't highlight my hair because I'm not disciplined enough to keep it up when it starts to grow out.
Then there is Cheyanne. She is in her early twenties, a little crazy, and comes in monthly with a new tattoo. A few of which I am a fan of and others I think are possibly the result of one too many alcoholic drinks being involved in the decision making process. I have one tattoo and I put it in a place where no business associate will ever see it but I can show my mom without guilt or embarrassment. Cheyanne is what men would call hot. She is tall, does yoga, paddleboards, and has gorgeous long, straight, thick blonde hair. She also has a figure that reminds me of Cameron Diaz. I should hate her on principle but she is too sweet and down to earth to be hated by anyone.
Macie is in her thirties like me, but she is experiencing all the mid-life crisis symptoms a decade too early. She can't find a man that won't drain her bank account, can't get her finances to match her spending and can't ever get to work on time. She chain smokes and always needs a ride home if we go out but she keeps the place colorful and gives us someone to gossip about every morning until about nine-fifteen; work starts at nine. Poor Macie is always fighting the same ten pounds that just won't go away. I embrace my extra pounds, it gives me character. I do get annoyed how a few extra pounds on a man or gray hair make him look distinguished or sexy, like George Clooney, on a woman you just look more like Roseanne. She usually keeps her shoulder length brown hair in a messy ponytail and wears jeans and a v-neck t-shirt every single day. At least we know what to expect. Besides her smoking and tardiness I would say that Macie and I could pass as sisters.
If I haven't already mentioned, I am terrible with men, especially letting them know that I am interested. In fact my dating life has been fairly disastrous. I have all these witty things to say in my head but they never come out, at least not when the guy is actually standing there. I have had a million charming, flirtatious, witty conversations in the shower or while driving but never with an actual man. I always come up sounding desperate or stupid.
So when I was waiting on Marcus and Frank called out, "Gray, can you take a look at this invoice when you are finished!"
Marcus immediately wrinkled his brow and said, "Uh, sure?" We all laughed. I told him that Frank was talking to me.
He said, "Your nametag says Henley, why is he calling you Grey?" I told him that my last name is Gray and Frank said both my names sound like a last name so what did it matter which one he called me. I have often wondered what my parents were thinking on that topic too. I mean my dad's favorite style of t-shirt is not a great reason to name your kid something. Even more embarrassing is that my dad's favorite shirt isn't just any Henley, but a gray henley! Hilarious right? Inside I am rolling my eyes, in case you were wondering. I am very grateful to Frank for his little inadvertent intrusion while I was dealing with Marcus though because it is what got us together in the first place.
Mr. Charming, as Cheyanne has been calling him, made the note that, "Hey, you could get married and you wouldn't even have to change your name!" In my head I briefly imagined myself holding the exquisite bouquet of orchids and calla lilies that I had just made for the Brewer/Stein wedding and kissing Mr. Charming at the altar. It was an altogether pleasant image.
"So what do you think about marriage?" Marcus had said.
"Umm, well we hardly know each other, maybe we should date first," I said, suddenly realizing that sounded sort of clever and flirtatious. Please let that have sounded clever and flirtatious and not stupid and desperate! Thank heaven he couldn't see the kissing at the altar thoughts that just ran though my head.
"I'm up for dating before marriage," Marcus says. And that my friend is how I finally hooked a decent boyfriend. We have been dating for about two months so it looks like it may just rain!
Excerpted from From the Disastrous Dating Files of Henley Gray by Meghan Campbell. Copyright © 2015 Meghan Campbell. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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