He looked at her, his big brown eyes burning into her soul.
‘That will be £48 please sir,’ she stammered.
He smiled at her and handed her the money. Here stomach did something funny, it sort of lurched – no – it somersaulted – and then he was gone. She gazed after him, lost for a moment in time, as she replayed the last ten minutes.
‘Earth calling Miss Millie Jones! Back down to earth please Miss Jones!’ said her employer in a sing-song voice. Millie giggled; embarrassed to have been caught out and to have made it so obvious she had been bowled over by the handsome young man.
‘Sorry Mrs Carson. He wanted to order a bouquet of flowers for his mother’s birthday.’ She looked down at the order book and reread the note that she had made. ‘White lilies and pink carnations – to be delivered tomorrow morning.’
Mrs Carson peered over Millie’s shoulder as she read the address and smiled.
‘I think he may be out of your league young lady. His mother’s a prominent politician and his father owns the big factory on the corner of Ryland Place. He went to Eton and then on to Cambridge.’
Milly shrugged her shoulders. ‘Just my flaming luck,’ she said sadly.
It was four months before she was to see him again.
She’d been asked by a girlfriend if she’d like to make up the numbers for a girly night out at a club in town. Of course she’d agreed – where else would she spend Saturday evening! She was fed up of staying in and watching The Voice with her parents – and she could wear her new red dress!
The evening started well. They were a fun crowd of girls and she felt comfortable in their company. They laughed as they all danced together around their handbags and then sat at one of the corner tables and ordered some drinks. A couple of hours seemed to fly by and then one of the girls laughingly said, ‘Hey girls, check out the talent!’ as a group of young men walked into the club.
Then she saw him and her heart flipped! He saw her at exactly the same time and he looked puzzled, obviously weighing up how he knew her.
‘That chaps looking at you Milly,’ said the girl sitting next to her, ‘Who is he?’
‘Never seen him before in my life,’ lied Milly.
She held her breath and her heart raced as she saw him making his way across the room to her.
‘Hi,’ he said, ‘how are you?’
‘I’m fine, how are you?’ she replied.
‘It was at the Dawson’s party, wasn’t it?’
‘That’s right,’ she lied again.
‘A good night that! Can I get you a drink?’
‘Oh, thanks,’ she said and got up to follow him across to the bar, her legs feeling as if they would buckle underneath her at any moment.
‘What’s your name? I don’t think we got that far before, did we?’
‘Millicent Jones – and yours?
‘Tommy, Tommy Osbourne. I recognised you the moment I walked in. I think you wore red the last time we met, didn’t you?’
There was that smile again, the one that sent her stomach into spasm.
‘So what’s your story Millicent? Where do you work – or are you at Uni?’
Her heart was beating wildly. How could she tell him that she was just a Saturday morning flower girl, otherwise unemployed! But before she knew it she had blurted out, ‘St. Andrews, I went to St. Andrews. I was there at the same time as Wills and Kate – but I can’t discuss it – sensitive – I’m sure you’ll realise that.’
Why – why, why, why – did she say that! He looked so impressed! She knew at that moment she was way out of her depth and couldn’t go back – somehow she had to keep up the lie!
‘So where are you working now?’ he persisted.
‘I’m between jobs at the moment. How about you?’ she said quickly, trying to deflect the conversation back on to him and to gain thinking time.
‘My mum wants me to go into politics with her, and my dad wants me to go into the family business with him! Parent’s eh! Hey, enough of work, we’re here to enjoy ourselves, let’s dance!’
Milly – or Millicent as he called her, stayed ‘between jobs’ for the next month, side-stepping every conversation about work – or lying about it.
They enjoyed each other’s company very much and gradually became closer until she knew it wouldn’t be long before he would expect to be invited to meet her parents – to be invited into her home – into her two bedroom, council house home on the other side of town – the rough side.
She’d been on the internet and looked up his politician mum and his computer company dad. She had found out where they lived – in the poshest road – on the poshest side of town – where all the houses cost well over a million quid!
How could she invite him back to her shack! What would he think of her parents? They weren’t high flying business people! Her dad worked on the production line at the car factory a few miles away and her mom took in washing and ironing and did a bit of cleaning. They didn’t even have a car! She’d told him they were away skiing – but they couldn’t stay away forever! She always got him to drop her off outside her friend’s house – told him she was staying with them while her parents were away, so couldn’t invite him in.
One Saturday he picked her up from outside Marks and Sparks’s in town. He hadn’t yet twigged she always had some excuse ready meaning she had to be picked up in town and then dropped back at her friends – but he would any day now, and she knew it, and dreaded it.
He opened the car door for her and she got in and as they drove off he said, ‘I’ve just got to pop back home to give dad a file he needs to look at before tomorrow morning. It won’t take a minute.’
When they drove up the long drive to his home, Milly couldn’t believe her eyes. It was the most beautiful house she had ever seen. It was far better than all the posh houses she had seen in the magazines at the dentist.
The next blow hit her as he parked the car outside and said, ‘Come in and meet the folk. I won’t be long, just need to give Dad this.’ He held up a file.
‘No, I’ll stay in the car and wait. They’ll be busy. I can’t just muscle in on them.’
‘Don’t be daft! You don’t know my folk! They’d give me hell if they knew I’d left you outside in the car and hadn’t taken you in to meet them. Come on.’
He got out and she reluctantly followed him up the steps to the front door. After giving her a quick peck on the cheek, he opened the door and ushered her inside. The hallway was bigger than the whole of Millie’s house! Her heels sank into the thick pile rich red carpet. An ornate marble table stood proudly in the centre with a chandelier hanging above it. She was shaking as she followed him across the hall to some double doors and as she walked into the room both his parents rose up smiling to greet her.
‘Hello Millicent, we’re very pleased to meet you at last! We’ve heard so much about you!’ said his father.
Milly felt as if she should curtsy but restrained herself and just held out her hand. They laughed – and went in and kissed her on both cheeks!
‘I hear your parents are away Millicent,’ said his mother, ‘you must come here for supper one evening. You could stay in the guest room if you like.’
‘Thank you,’ she managed to whisper, ‘that’s very kind of you.’
‘We’re not staying Mum – just needed to give Dad this file for his meeting tomorrow morning. We are off now for dinner at The Russell. Have you been there lately?’
‘We ate there last week with the Sandersons darling – it was as delicious as ever. Give Marco my love – and don’t let him rush you off next time Millicent!’
‘I won’t,’ said Milly, backing towards the door.
‘Let me out of here!’ she thought as she clasped the door handle between sweaty fingers.
After that evening Milly knew that things couldn’t go on the way they were. She really, really, really liked him and she knew that he also had feelings for her. It wasn’t fair to let him live this lie and she knew she must end it. She’d dug herself in so deeply and told so many lies that he would never forgive her – and she couldn’t bear to see the look of disgust in those beautiful brown eyes when she told him the truth! So, totally ashamed of herself, she sent him a text telling him it was all over – telling him that she had met someone else!
The next few weeks were dreadful. All she could think about was Thomas. She looked dreadful, with dark yellow circles under her eyes from crying. Her friends were all worried about her – and she hadn’t been able to tell her parents about him at all. How could she tell them she was ashamed of her own home? How could she be so ungrateful to two people who had given up so much for her? She hated herself!
Then, one Saturday, while she was working in the florists, a young lady walked in. She’d never seen her before but she thought she reminded her of someone.
‘I would like to order a bouquet of flowers please,’ said the young lady. ‘White lilies and pink carnations?’
‘Yes certainly. When would you like them for?’
‘As soon as possible please.’
‘Would you like to write a card?’
‘Well, I’m ordering for a friend of mine and they have already written a card, if you could attach it please?’
‘No problem, I’ll see that it’s put on the flowers for you.’
The young lady paid her and then left the shop.
‘What is it Milly? What do they want?’ called Mrs. Carson.
‘Lilies and carnations, Mrs Carson – ASAP. And they’ve left a card here to go on them.’ Milly shouted back.
Within the next hour Mrs Carson had made up the most beautiful bouquet of flowers that Milly had ever seen.
‘Could you possibly deliver these for me Milly? It’s not very far away.’
‘Of course Mrs. Carson, I’ll go now.’ Milly took the flowers and then looked at the address – and she frowned.
‘Mrs Carson I think there’s been some sort of mistake. The address says ‘The Flower Shop High Street. That’s here!’ She then looked up and saw Mrs Carson smiling at her.
‘I’m sorry Milly, but I’m afraid I told him the truth. I couldn’t bear seeing you both so unhappy!’
Milly then turned the card over and read:-
MILLY, I LOVE YOU! I DON’T CARE WHERE YOU LIVE! PLEASE COME BACK TO ME! ”T”