“You did what?”
April Moore held the phone away from her ear until the rumbling thunder that was her father’s voice reverberated inside her head. This was never going to be an easy call to make but she wasn’t one to shy away from a painful job. She’d already put it off for far too long.
“I’ve got myself a shop.”
“That’s what I thought you said. April, this is ridiculous. You don’t know the first thing about running your own business. What on earth possessed you to be so, so irrational? I thought I knew you but this takes things to a whole new level.”
She counted to ten before answering. He only had her best interests at heart, he did, just as he did for all his four daughters. “Darling Daddy, if you think about it, I’ve had more experience than most.”
“Is that right? When? Tell me that. You worked in a garden nursery but you weren’t in the office. You were some glorified weed puller or something. Nor did you do anything remotely organizational when you worked at the florist as a glorified assistant. Another boss that took advantage of you as far as I can see.” He covered the mouthpiece and mumbled. Her mother was probably asking what all the fuss was about. Perhaps it would have been wiser to call her instead. At least she would have taken the news a bit calmer.
But back to her experience. That wasn’t true. She’d almost single-handedly run the place for weeks. And she’d told him at the time, too. How easy it was to forget the good she’d managed to do and only focus on the bad.
“Actually I did. I ran the office when Margery got sick, remember? I told you about it. I even asked your advice on something to do with the banking system she used.” At least she’d mentioned it to him even if she hadn’t gone into too much detail.
In the end, April had worked it out for herself. She chewed on her lip, the first niggle of doubt creeping up her spine with its multiple legs itching her skin. She brushed it off, refusing to give into thoughts that would only cripple her. This was going to be her time to shine. She wouldn’t let it fail. It was too late for second-guessing her impulse buy this time.
A resigned sigh came over the phone. “Two weeks from memory. That hardly makes you a great candidate to be a business owner. All that money we spent on you getting your design certificate, learning to ‘dress’ people’s houses and you never even attempted to use what you learned. Waste of time and money, if you ask me. Then I thought you wanted to be a marriage celebrant. You even wrote a bunch of speeches for when you get your license. You’ve registered into the course and it’s supposed to start soon. Don’t tell me that’s another ‘fad’ you’re going to ditch before you start. And just where did the money come from?”
That was last month’s idea, the celebrant. Sure, she had a way with words and it sounded good at the time but did she really want to marry people when she couldn’t find happiness herself? It seemed like too much responsibility and too boring when she sat down and gave it serious thought. She’d have to do what they wanted and her creativity would probably shrivel up and die a painful death. How long could she look at loved-up couples and be happy? Just as well she’d only paid out a deposit for her course. How was she going to tell him the next part?
“And what exactly is this shop going to be?”
“Um, kind of a cross between a florist and a gift shop.” At least he’d gone past the money question. “It’s what I love, Daddy. I’m good with flowers, you know that, and I love rummaging around looking for that special thing that sets my designs apart from everyone else’s. I want to do party and wedding decorating as well as sell flowers.” Why did it feel as though she had to convince him? She’d already made the commitment and no amount of angst from family members would change that. “I’m going to be using my design degree too. I thought you’d be happy about that.”
“I don’t understand how you can use that to make flower arrangements.”
“What I’m going to do is advertise a service, Daddy. If I can go to someone’s house or business and dress their rooms with what they already have on hand, I’ll not only give them a new look but save them money as well. You know, like you see on those fashionable television shows where someone goes in and makes everything look fabulous? That kind of thing. But I want the shop as well so I can supply that special something as back up as well as the flowers.”
The way he said it made her feel as though the idea was going to be a massive flop. “I’m good at putting things together. You know that.”
Her mother consoled her father in the background and April smiled. Good on her for putting out the flames. The girls could always count on Mom to help keep their father calm. Living in a house as the only male probably tipped him over the edge more than he liked.
“Honey, you’re good at everything you do. That’s the problem. Once you tackle a project and learn how to do it, you move on. I don’t want to see you do the same with a business that you’ve had to put money into. Your mother and I want nothing more than to see all of our girls happy. You know that but I worry more about you than the others.”
April sighed. “Because I’m the flighty one. Yeah, I know.” She screwed her face up in disgust. It was true and normally she didn’t care when people gave her a hard time about how often she changed her mind and updated her lifelong dreams. But hearing it from her father, especially now she’d signed on the dotted line, hurt. There was more to come though. She might as well spit it out and get it over and done with. “Daddy, there’s more.”
A strangled cough came over the phone before silence met her words.
“You know you and Mom were making noises about moving to Cherry Lake to be with the girls? Since you’re coming up to retirement and all. Well, I’ve got a shop there.”
“You did what?”
“I signed a lease on a shop there in a large building that has a doctor’s practice in one side and it’s even got an apartment upstairs I can live in. It’s close to Mari’s hotel. At least that’s what she said. And I can help her if she’ll let me once she gets the wedding business up and running again. I want to do her wedding displays, make the bride’s day the best it can be. I can help her. It’ll be fun working together.” She held the phone away from her ear knowing there was going to be some serious yelling any second. She was right.
His voice rose to a higher octave and she grimaced. “You don’t even know where the shop is? April, did you not even bother to go and look before you leapt?”
“It was too good a deal, Daddy.” When the realtor said he had another interested party, she had no choice but to make an offer unseen. Hopefully, he wasn’t leading her on, and Mari had assured her they were pretty honest in the small family-run business, even if he was a newcomer to town. She’d find out shortly when he handed over the keys. How bad could it possibly be? “I couldn’t let it slip between my fingers. I can live over the shop and save money there. Really make a go of it.” She could. She would. “There was someone else looking at it.”
“I suppose the agent told you that, did he?”
“Yes. But it’s too late now. I’ve signed the papers.”
The tone of her father’s voice changed to resignation. “When do you take over?”
“I get the keys today. I’m already in Cherry Lake, Daddy.”
Dr. David Morrison turned off the stereo as the last strains of the opera died away, leaving him bathed in a sense of peace. The perfect way to start what would no doubt be a hectic day. He rinsed his coffee cup in the kitchen sink, placed it in the draining tray, and folded the tea towel, lining it up on the oven door. He straightened the chairs at his dining table and brushed off a speck of dust from the blonde Scandinavian timber.
It’d been an early start to his day. An uninterrupted jog through town, along the lakeshore and back home again before breakfast with his little friend. The scratch on the mudroom door was followed by a plaintive whine. “Oscar, you can’t come in when I’m not here. You know the rules.”
Why his elderly aunt had thought to leave him the small wire-haired terrier when she passed on, was beyond him. He understood leaving him the house as he’d always loved it and she was a spinster, with him being her only relative besides his parents. She knew he didn’t like animals much, especially her boisterous Oscar. The little brown and white dog made it his mission in life to jump all over David every chance it got. Each visit he made to Cecily when he was home to see his parents, was fraught with tension between him and her faithful companion. Oscar would target his leg every time he walked in the door, either jumping up running his claws down his shins or humping it without a care in the world.
“He likes you, dear.” Aunt Cicely had been bedridden for the final years of her life and the dog was keeping her going more than modern medicine was, David was sure of it. It made it hard to be too angry when it gave her such pleasure and peace in her last months.
“So long as he leaves some skin on my legs, I’ll like him back.” How could he tell her dogs weren’t really his thing?
“You’re such a good boy, David. You don’t have to keep checking on me, you know.”
“You’re family, Cecily. Of course I want to keep an eye on you. You were the one who looked after me when my parents were both working. Before and after school, wasn’t it, from ever since I was little? It’s you I have to thank for my love of opera and my interest in travelling. Those vacations when you and I combed through cathedrals and farmer’s markets in Italy.” He sighed with pleasure. “Not many young people get an education like that. Still today, the sound of opera makes my skin tingle with excitement, brings back the best memories of us together. I certainly don’t get that from the parents.”
She smiled, her eyes bright with the memory. “No, you don’t. Nothing wrong with having educated taste buds where music is concerned. I loved my time living in Europe, seeing the ballet and attending the opera. It’s a shame I couldn’t take you as an adult, darling, but my health didn’t make that possible. I do love the time we spent together. Made up for me not having a family of my own.”
It wasn’t a surprise to him when the will was read and he’d inherited her house but along with that, came Oscar. David opened the door, quickly putting his foot out to stop the dog sneaking into the living room. “No, you don’t. You’re not getting another chance to chew on my leather lounge, you little rascal.” He bent down and patted Oscar, stroking the hair from his eyes. “I’ll take you for another walk after work. Now behave and don’t chew anything today. Try and leave something intact in the yard too, there’s a good boy.” The back door had a doggy door and the yard was fenced. It wouldn’t be a hardship for him to spend the time outside like a normal dog would but Oscar was more inclined to laze on the lounge taking a selective chew every now and then on the corner if David wasn’t looking.
He checked the living room was tidy before he picked up his car keys and shopping list and, with a second glance around the room, he let himself out of the house.
The drive to his office only took a few minutes. Cherry Lake was beautiful this time of year as the snowy mountain caps receded and the thaw gave way to new shoots of grass and leaves. The chill still hung around but only early in the morning and it was bracing to start the day that way.
He parked behind the two-story building that held his office and made a quiet note to have the yard tidied and the paths cleaned. The trees needed feeding and it wouldn’t hurt to add some color to the containers by the back entrance either. It was a wasted effort to do so in his own yard with Oscar being in the habit of digging up the plants. David walked in the back door and called out good morning to his receptionist and long-time friend, Monica. “Busy day ahead?”
“Right. I’ll get my coffee and be back in five minutes.” David dropped his briefcase off in his office and turned on his computer before heading out.
He checked his Fitbit as he walked down the side street and came out onto the main road, crossing over with the break in the traffic. One benefit of having Oscar was the way it made him go running more often. Seven miles this morning and the dog hadn’t even faltered. For an animal that had never been more than a couch potato before, in the twelve months David’d had him, he’d outdone himself. The view over Flathead Lake never ceased to amaze him. The huge expanse of water rippled under the early morning sun. The boats had begun to come back after their winter hiatus and he noticed a seaplane landing, sending up a wave of spray behind it. And it was all his for the taking every morning. Made getting up earlier well worth the effort.
“David. Good morning.” An elderly couple waved as they did a fast walk along the main road on the lake side.
He lifted his hand and waved back. “Hello, Jean, Brian. Lovely morning for it.”
They nodded as they powered along.
He sidestepped a jogger with his dog, dripping in sweat from a long run. “Morning.”
The café came into view and the smell of coffee wafted out the door. His shoulders relaxed as he stood in line to place his order. The short dose of sun and the smell of his morning pick-me-up had the same effect every day.
“The usual, David?”
He gazed into the cake display case, seeing if anything would tempt him to add something to his order for morning coffee. Nothing new apart from a brownie that looked far too health conscious for his taste buds.
“That’s a new gluten-free brownie we’re trying. Loaded full of seeds and grains. Tastes amazing.” The barista handed over his coffee. “Can I get you a slice?”
“No, thanks. It looks too much like bird seed to me. I enjoy healthy but not into something like that.” He took the cup. “Thanks for this.”
End of Excerpt