Copyright ©Amelie Rose
The first bouquet arrived at 10 am on the first Friday in June.
It arrived by courier and contained no note. The scripted handwriting simply said, `To Ms Stephanie Pringle, CEO, Buchans Finance.
The flowers were lovely and, although she was due in an important meeting, she took a few moments to admire them.
`Who could have sent these?’ she wondered, and made a mental note to call the florist later and ask. They must have forgotten to enclose the note, she thought as she strode down the wide corridor to the board room.
“What a fabulous bouquet,” observed Susan, her secretary, as she returned from somewhere on the second floor with a vase large enough to accommodate the huge bunch. “He must be very keen,” she added with a smirk.
Stephanie ignored the comment but, as the day wore on, she became aware of the staff’s preoccupation with her `zillion dollar bouquet’ as she overheard one employee calling it.
No doubt they were all speculating about who had sent them but if even she didn’t know, it was unlikely they would come up a name and she dismissed it from her mind, forgetting her earlier resolve to call the florist.
At home in her modern apartment, she immersed herself in work. Not for her the luxury of free weekends – several reports needed her attention and there was the staff pruning budget her Board had instructed her to prepare.
She stared at the pile of employee profiles she would have to wade through in order to put a proposal together – who stayed, who went. It was not a task she relished.
All they wanted, the most obnoxious of the Board members said, was a five per cent reduction. From his experience that would not adversely affect morale or production.
She had argued that staff already had a full workload and, to them, the cut might be seen as the tip of the iceberg. But the decision had been made and, if she wanted to stay abreast of company development, said the obnoxious one with barely disguised menace in his tone; perhaps she should say less and simply do as she was asked.
Ever since his admission to the Board, it seemed that Dave Underwood was determined to put her down at every turn. Despite her excellent track-record, in less than six months he had managed to cast a shadow over her ability to run the company and, little by little, her power was being sifted away.
He was clearly not a man who took kindly to rejection and his influence with several of the more pally Board members was undoubtedly effective.
She recalled their first meeting. At first she had been taken by his smooth good looks and intelligent dialogue and when he asked her to lunch a few days later she’d been happy to accept.
Unfortunately, that was to be the beginning and the end of any pleasantries between them.
By his third whiskey she was wishing she’d never met the man and when, without batting an eye, he invited her to his apartment for an afternoon of sex, she simply rose and walked out. They had not agreed on anything since.
For a moment she allowed her thoughts to dwell on one of the more engaging members of the Board. If not for Cy Godfrey’s support over the past months, she may have told them what they could do with their fancy job package.
Not that she wanted to leave. Apart from the monthly Board meetings it was a great job and, with luck, Cy might eventually notice that his CEO was also an attractive woman.
By the end of the week the flowers had seen their best and were dispatched in the cleaner’s trolley. She looked at the empty space and decided to put the mystery sender out of her mind. If he wanted to remain anonymous there wasn’t much she could do and she was too busy to dwell on it.
She didn’t think about the flowers again until the first Friday of July at precisely 10 am.
This bouquet was even more glorious than the first.
Her curiosity peaked she tore open the attached envelope but again the note card was blank.
Feeling mildly irritated she picked up her desk phone and dialed the number from the card.
Thank you, said the girl at La Florista when she told her what lovely flowers she had just received, they always liked to hear from satisfied customers.
But no, she was not at liberty to divulge the name of the person who sent them. That would go against company policy.
And no, she could not discuss what the person looked like.
She was very sorry but nor could she say if the person lived locally.
Disappointed, Stephanie thanked the girl and put down the phone. This really was getting rather strange. For several moments she studied the beautiful bouquet then, shuffling a pile of folders to one side, she pulled a jotter pad towards her and began to write.
John Bayley – Ambitious, pleasant – married
Peter Flanders- Gay – not a chance
Austin Browne – Attractive, helpful – possible?
Dave Underwood – Arrogant – definitely not!
Henry Rosemount – Stuffed shirt – too pompous
Cy Godfrey – Sports mad, nice but tickets to football match more likely
There were several others on the Board plus another five males in her office and she jotted them all down. When she’d finished she looked at the list and shook her head. No way to any of them.
So who did that leave? The mail boy? Someone outside of work?
She shook her head. The pressure of her position ensured a cold dateless private life; a price she was once quite prepared to pay.
But that was before, when she was climbing her ladder of success. Now that she had it all, her values seemed to have shifted and she saw her fat salary package as a poor substitute for a pair of loving arms and someone to bake apple pies for.
The following day during her morning briefing with Susan, she found her gaze wandering to the flowers. Red dahlias, her favourite, and masses of white rosebuds, tied together with fronds of feathery green and whitery. The frothy display screamed `love and romance.’ Whoever it was knew she adored flowers.
She looked back at Susan, who was giving her an odd look, and fidgeted uncomfortably in her seat. It was so unlike her, she was normally so focused and in control. Those darned flowers were distracting her. Who in hell could have sent them?
It was no good, she thought, she just couldn’t concentrate. The mystery sender had a hold on her mind and it was driving her nuts. Why didn’t they just tell her? It was a lot of money to spend for no thanks or recognition.
Knowing she was going to get little done she told Susan she had a headache and took a pile of work home.
On the first Friday in August at 10 am, a third bouquet arrived. It was Black Friday, although she barely registered it at the time. The office was agog. This arrangement was far more magnificent than the two earlier ones.
“I’m going to have to go out and buy more vases,” fussed Susan. “I’ve never seen so many flowers in one bouquet. Aren’t they gorgeous,” she sighed.
Stephanie turned the envelope over, in case there was a name on the back, a small twitch jumping beneath her right eye. Her hand shook as she fingered open the flap and pulled out the card, her eyes widening in amazement as she saw that this time there was a message.
Dear Stephanie [she read]
I hope you have liked the flowers as much as I’ve enjoyed sending them. This is a first for me.
I realize you maintain a very private personal life and I’ve wanted to ask you out for months but wasn’t sure how to go about it. I thought if I surprised you enough with something you love you might allow me take you somewhere nice for your birthday (I had a sneak peek at your file and saw your preferred gift was flowers! And that your birthday is next week).
And just so you know this is really me, I’m also reverting to form and enclosing two tickets to the ball game tomorrow night. I hope you’ll come.
The smile that crossed her face as she folded the note back into its envelope was one of relief. He was right, he had surprised her. Setting the note aside, she picked up the telephone handset and dialed.
At this moment, dinner and a football game with Cy Godfrey was about as perfect a birthday treat as she could imagine.