Meet Annie and a customer determined to ruin her day…
He walked into the room like an admiral piped onto the quarterdeck.
You know the type, wrinkling his nose at the displays. Handsome in that Mr D’Arcy way, all chiselled cheekbones, flashing eyes and a flowing, immaculately trimmed mane as dark as his soul. Captain Blackheart come to burn the village and sail away with an innocent maid under each arm.
I flicked the fringe out of my eyes.
He’s not going to throw YOU over his shoulder.
Corporate Raiders don’t pick vertically challenged nerds when they’ve got hot and cold running super models lined up to sample their Lamborghinis.
A pity. You could bounce fifty-cent coins off those abs.
I got the usual level of support from my team.
The way Tamsin bolted into the store room, you’d think the man in the thousand dollar suit walked in carrying an AR15 and Dave suddenly discovered his unappreciated creative genius could be turned to dusting the Victorian dinner service after all.
So, muggins faced the music as usual. “Can I help you?”
“Is this all there is?” Captain Blackheart tossed a hand at the displays as if flicking ash off a cigar.
A warehouse the size of Dad’s machinery shed stacked to the roof wasn’t enough for him?
“We display a sample of our stock.” The next bit stuck in my throat. I usually add ‘some of the more representative pieces’ but I feared that wouldn’t go down well, so I skipped to, “we have more in our storeroom, our lock up in Balcatta or we can order from the Eastern States.”
The corners of his mouth curled in distaste. “How long does that take?”
“Is there a deadline?”
“I beg your pardon?”
A took a step back. A perfectly reasonable question, I thought. No need to bark at me. But I had let my unease seep into my tone. Our days are filled with little old ladies and harmless alternative lifestylists, not dangerously good-looking pirates. And, to be fair, his shipmates would leap to tug their forelocks at his every whim.
I made an effort to put a smile in my voice. “We can organise air freight—”
“Whatever.” He picked up a porcelain vase with the tips of his fingers like a nappy.
I clasped my hands so they wouldn’t rushing to catch the vase when it slipped.
“Do you like that sort of thing?”
Then why did he pick it up? You break it you bought it, pal.
Those vases go for two thousand bucks. I can’t imagine why. They’re seriously horrible. We haven’t sold any in the ten years I’ve been at Adorable Things. Not the most brilliant of Mrs Worthington’s brainwaves.
“What do you like?” I asked.
I’ll admit it. I blushed because my mind went to five-star penthouses with four poster beds. But, honestly, why did he come to Adorable Things at all? It’s not as if you could stumble on it accidentally or mistake it for a New York gallery.
“I don’t like anything.” He planted this heels, hands on hips and turned a slow circle of disdain for our showroom and everything in it.
It was so sad.
Adorable Things used to be such a warm and welcoming enclave.
There’s a reason I have dedicated a third of my life to massaging Mrs W’s flights of fancy into sufficient sales to keep the place afloat. I love it for all its quaint, whimsical and totally impractical oddities. Well, I used to. It’s run down a bit. Heaps, actually, since Mrs W’s stroke. Who knew who’d buy it in the state it had sunk to? No-one like Mrs W, that was for sure.
Captain Blackheart hissed an angry breath. “Some poor bugger has to sort this out.”
“Adorable Things is for sale.” I don’t know why I told him. What did he care? I suppose because I’d been dreading the impending doom.
“No, it’s not,” he said.
“It’s not for sale.”
“Yes, it is, I can show you the ads. There’s a fixed date auction.”
“No, there’s not.”
I detest confrontation. Hate arguments. I walked the long way around the block to the bus stop for six months after horrid Mr Barclay next door complained about Egbert barking at birds. Who’d be upset at the world’s sweetest Beagle puppy getting excited over Galahs chewing up the lawn? They’re hunting dogs! It’s in their blood. But people like Captain Blackheart turn me into a monster. Superior types who think they own the world. Barging into a place they know nothing about and pouring scorn on everything. I’m afraid I lost my temper.
“Look. I’m sorry you’re disappointed. I know you’re the customer and they’re always right and so on. But if there’s nothing here you want to buy, there are plenty of other stores, you know.”
His eyebrows bunched in one of the fiercest looks I’ve ever endured.
I wanted to melt right into the concrete.
“There are millions of crappy stores. This one’s my problem. The auction’s cancelled because I put in a bid they couldn’t refuse.”
“You mean…” Horror made me squeak.
“It’s not hard, is it? I own this place.”
This dropped into my head from a writing club prompt, but it cries out to me now as the opening clash in a Sophie Kinsella style enemies to lovers cozy romance. What do you think?