The duet by Redent Falzon and Marlene Chetcuti was the inspiration for this story. If ever you are in Malta check them out. A lovely song, beautifully sung.
I wasn’t impressed the first time I met him. He was with a bunch of cronies in the pub, and they were loud and obnoxious.
‘Hey, pretty lady. Why don’t you and your friends come and join us? We could do with some female company.’ One of his pals made a grab for me as I passed their table, but I knocked his hand away.
‘No thanks,’ I replied, ‘we can hear you well enough from the other side of the room.’
‘No need to get shirty,’ he slurred. ‘Maybe you need a real man to sort you out.’
The thug stood up to block my way and I noticed Mike rise from his seat on the far side of the table.
‘And maybe you need to learn some manners. I’ve heard these can be pretty lethal on sensitive parts,’ I said, pointing to my stiletto-heeled shoes before pushing past him.
As I joined the group at my own table I caught Mike’s glance and his mouthed “Sorry.” Shortly afterwards, he helped drag the drunk guy out, and I was able to enjoy the rest of my evening in peace. Although the bar was near where I worked, I didn’t go there very often. Usually it was only the Friday after pay day, so I didn’t see Mike again for a few weeks. He was sitting in a corner with another man, chatting quietly as they put the world to rights, but he smiled and said Hello as we passed their table.
‘Wow. Who’s that?’ my friend Jane asked. ‘He’s tasty.’
‘One of the guys I was telling you about a few weeks ago,’ I replied, for some reason feeling a twinge of jealousy.
A few minutes later a waiter appeared at our table with two drinks, and a note. ‘With the compliments of the gentleman over there,’ he said, nodding in their direction before moving off.
“We’d be delighted if you would join us, but totally understand if you’d prefer not. This is to ask forgiveness for the unsavoury company from the other week. Best Wishes. Mike.”
Reading the note Jane stood up. ‘We’ve got to thank them properly. Come on. I bags the blond one,’ leaving me no option but to follow her. As Mike had dark hair I assumed she was interested in his friend. That’s how it all started. We double-dated for a while until Jane and Paul announced their engagement. Almost out of habit I carried on seeing Mike, although I knew he was not the man for me. He was great company, a good friend, charming, handsome and generous, but somehow the spark was missing. I knew he would like to take things further, but not wanting to lead him on I stopped answering his calls, and didn’t reply to his messages. That was the first time he sent me flowers.
“I’m so sorry if I’ve upset you, Donna. Please forgive me. Let me take you out for dinner on Friday to apologise. No strings, just friends. Mike. X”
The card was attached to a glorious bouquet of a dozen yellow roses. How could I refuse? We had a lovely meal, and by the time we were on our second bottle of wine I had the courage to explain exactly how I felt. He accepted my response with a sad face but good grace, and we were able to resume our former platonic friendship. We emailed each other most days, met up for the occasional meal or theatre trip, and became the ‘plus one’ for formal invitations. From then on, every Friday without fail, I received a dozen yellow roses.
It was at Jane and Paul’s wedding twelve months later that Mike mentioned he was considering taking up a job offer, working in New York for a year.
‘That’s great, Mike. I’ll miss you but we can still keep in touch.’
‘You could always come with me,’ he suggested. ‘On whatever terms you want. With the salary they’re paying me I can easily afford to cover your expenses for a year. We’ve always got on well and it would be great to have someone I love when I’m surrounded by strangers.’
It was the first time he had said the word “love,” although I’d realised long ago how he felt about me.
‘It’s a lovely idea, Mike, but you know it’s not possible. Take the job, have a wonderful time, and when you return we’ll have a celebration dinner so you can tell me all about it.’
He left two weeks later and I assumed my weekly flowers would stop. Not so. Every Friday, regular as clockwork, I received my roses. The months passed and although we still kept in contact, his emails became less frequent. It was nearly a year later I happened to pass the flower shop whose name I recognised from the card, and couldn’t resist calling in.
‘Good morning. May I help you?’ The assistant looked up from wrapping the bouquet of yellow roses on the counter in front of her, with the usual card bearing my name.
‘This might sound very odd, but every Friday I receive a bouquet of yellow roses from your shop. I was curious as I know the person who sends them is abroad.’
A smile crossed her face as she replied, ‘You must be Donna and the flowers are from Mike? It’s so romantic. Did you know yellow roses symbolise friendship and optimism?’
‘Yes, I’m Donna, and we are friends, but I wondered how I still receive them when he’s away.’
‘He arranged it in advance, it must be almost a year ago. Before that he called in personally, and as he was one of our best customers we promised we’d source and deliver them. Our agreement runs out in a couple of weeks. Is he due back soon? Will you let me know what happens? I love a happy ending.’
Feeling embarrassed I promised I would, and hurriedly left the shop. True to form the flowers arrived the following day, and for the next two Fridays. Then I received a text message, ‘Coming home. Arrive Thursday. Still love you. M. x’
He did come home but now it’s me who buys the flowers. The taxi from the airport was involved in a pile up on the motorway. Every Friday I visit his grave and place a single rose by his tombstone.
The dozen yellow roses I arranged for his funeral bore a card with the simple words ‘You don’t bring me flowers any more. R.I.P my friend.’
© Voinks September 2018
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