Flowers for Emma – A Valentine’s Day to Remember

I bet you thought Valentine’s Day had come and gone. But my lady Femmes and I are celebrating love and romance the entire month of February. We love to write romance and wanted to share our stories with you. But we want to hear from you, too. Share with us one of your valentine stories, or even a funny one. It can be about a loved one or even a sweet gift you received from one of your kids. Comment on our blog all this month to be entered for a chance to win a bouquet of flowers with a box of Valentine’s chocolates!

I hope you enjoy my story.

Hugs,

Maria

Flowers for Emma

Valentine’s Day sucked if you were single, a restaurant owner, or a florist. Emma McBride was two of the three and not having a good day. She’d gotten up at four, skipped lunch, broke a nail, and pricked her fingers on more rose thorns than she could count.

McBride’s Flowers had been started by her parents over thirty years ago. As a young girl, she’d helped her mom make arrangements by handing her the flowers. Emma knew the names of practically every flower known to populate the planet by the time she’d turned six. When her parents announced their retirement last year, Emma bought their business. Now the proud owner of the most exclusive flower shop on Long Beach Island, demand for her unique and classic designs spanned the New Jersey coast and beyond.

Today, after close to fourteen hours on her feet, all Emma wanted to do was go home and relax with a glass—or three—of her favorite Chardonnay, takeout from Vincenzo’s Restaurant, a slice of tiramisu, and the DVD of When Harry Met Sally. But rather, she sat in a deserted parking lot, a bouquet of flowers in her lap.

Emma clicked off the ignition and glanced down at the paper with the last-minute delivery order. What weirdo had flowers delivered to the beach on Valentine’s Day? Barnegat Light State Park was deserted and she didn’t like the thought of wandering down towards the beach…alone…and in the dark. She opened the glove compartment and removed a flashlight.

Gathering the arrangement of red roses, daisies, miniature carnations, and Asiatic lilies, Emma headed towards the entrance to the lighthouse, known fondly as “Old Barney”. She knew the way by heart and could probably have found it without the flashlight, but better to be safe. How many times had she come here with Luke O’Brien—her high school sweetheart and last boyfriend? Too many to count. She shook away the painful memories and hurried towards the picnic area around the side of the lighthouse.

She rounded the corner and gasped. White lights had been strung through the trees. A red cloth had been spread across one of the tables. Atop it stood a bottle of champagne and a covered plate. Candles had been artfully arranged along the table and their glow winked out in the dark of the night. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to make the evening special for some lucky girl.

“Um, hello,” she called out. “I have your flower delivery.”

She scanned the surrounding beach, looking for signs of anyone. Clearly someone was here. Maybe she arrived too late and the happy couple was off celebrating somewhere.

Then, she noticed a shadow by the lighthouse and goose bumps ran along her arms.

“Who’s there?” she asked, instinctively taking a step back.

“Hi Emma.”

She stood, dumfounded, as Luke O’Brien stepped out of the darkness.

Her tongue felt three times its normal size. “Luke. What are you doing here?”

“The day I left, I told you I’d be back,” he said.

She arched an eyebrow. “Really? It’s been so long, I must have forgotten.”

The nerve of the man, returning a year after having had broken her heart. She threw the flowers in the sand and turned away.

“Wait!” he called out and started jogging towards her. “Please, Emma. Don’t go.”

“Why not, Luke? Why the hell not?”

“Because I’ve missed you.”

She sucked in a breath. After dating in high school and three of the past four years, she’d missed him, too. More than she’d allowed herself to think. Now, with him standing in front of her, it took all of her willpower not to jump into his arms.

“Too bad I haven’t missed you.”

He flinched as though wounded by her words. Too freaking bad.

“Okay, I deserve that. Can we talk? Please.”

Something about the way he looked at her made her heart lurch. Maybe she needed to talk with him, to purge her mind of the hurt he’d inflicted on her, in order to move on with her life—without him.

She crossed her arms around her stomach. “Fine. You have five minutes.”

He ran a hand through his gorgeous mane of brown hair. She’d always loved his hair, soft and silky to the touch.

“First, let me say I’m sorry I left you.”

“Right. Let me see if I remember correctly. Something about you feeling suffocated and needing to get away—to California.”

“My father wanted to retire and have me take over his real estate business. With my sister living out West, the responsibility fell on me. I hated to disappoint him, but I couldn’t live up to his expectations. My mother had also been at me, pressuring me to marry you.”

She arched an eyebrow. “Such a horrible thought?”

He stepped forward and grabbed her hand. “I’d been planning on it—long before my mother’s nagging. I’d planned on proposing to you last Valentine’s Day. But—”

“But what?”

“My father and I had a big fight that day. He told me he was disappointed in me and that I couldn’t handle the responsibility of the business let alone a marriage.”

“And you believed him?”

“He had me doubting everything I’d accomplished and what I wanted for my own future—one I wanted to spend with you.”

“So, rather than fight and prove him wrong, you did the exact opposite.”

He shifted his eyes down to his feet. “I’m not proud of it.”

Emma didn’t know what to say. Luke’s father tapped into his son’s insecurities to guilt him into taking over the business. Rather, it chased him away.

“What happened once you left?”

“I went to San Diego to visit Tracy. I’d only planned on staying a few weeks. But something happened out there that made it difficult for me to return home. I was biking with my brother-in-law, John, when a car lost control and crashed into us.”

“Dear God. Were you both all right?”

“I had been in the lead and only got tapped. I broke my arm, a few ribs, and had some minor cuts. John broke both legs, injured his spine, and suffered a serious concussion.”

Emma clasped his hand. “I’m so sorry, Luke. How is he doing now?”

“Better, but it’s been a difficult year. Their son, Michael, has a learning disability. Tracy could barely cope with a recuperating husband, let alone a ten-year old boy.”

“So, you stayed.”

“Yes. I couldn’t leave them. Tracy needed my help. Didn’t you get my texts?”

She snorted. He’d sent her three brief texts over the past year, none of which explained why he stayed away—or if he’d ever return.

“Your texts were vague. You could have called me and explained. I would have come out and helped you.”

“Which is why I didn’t call.” He squeezed her hand. “You had just bought the flower shop from your parents. Besides, I needed to handle it on my own.”

She yanked her hand out of his and whirled away. “That’s fine, but did you expect me to sit around and pine for you?”

He stepped towards her, moonlight shining down on his handsome face. “No…but I hoped it wouldn’t be too late. Is it, Em? Is there someone else in your life?”

Emma almost wished there was, so she’d have the satisfaction of hurting him as much as he’d hurt her. But she couldn’t keep the truth out of her heart or voice. After all this time, she was tired of pretending…and aching for him.

She shook her head and saw him sigh in relief.

He picked up the flowers she had discarded.

“These are for you.”

She stared at the flowers he pushed into her arms, her tears falling onto their soft petals. As she inhaled their sweet fragrance, she felt her resolve weakening.

“So now what?”

“I’m back, for good. I convinced Tracy and her family to move back here. They’re staying with my parents, at least for now. It turns out Tracy had gotten her real estate license in California. She’s going to take over my dad’s business.”

“And what about you?”

“I got my old job back at our high school. Em, please believe I would have come back sooner if I could have. I wanted to start a life with you, but after the accident, things got complicated. By the time things were under control, so much time had passed…and I didn’t have a plan. What would I have offered you?”

“Your love.”

“You’ve always had that. I’ve never stopped loving you, Em. You’re the only girl for me. Please forgive me and tell me you still care for me.”

More tears fell on the flowers. Her heart ached with what they’d lost the past year and the thought of never having Luke in her life or feeling the deep love she had for him.

“I dated other guys but…” She sniffled softly. “I’ve never stopped loving you either.”

“Oh, Em.” He cupped her face and kissed her, a sweet joining of lips that pledged a lifetime of tomorrows.

“Things will be different this time. I promise,” he said.

He dropped down on one knee and reached for something in his pocket. Holding up his hand, she saw the twinkle of a diamond in the moonlight.

“I’ve carried this around with me for a year, always planning to come back and put it on your finger. A year ago, I was lost and confused. But now, I’m very clear on what I want. And that’s a life with you, complete with a house and a bunch of kids. Please Em, will you marry me?”

Marrying Luke had been her childhood dream. One she’d thought had been lost. Now, staring into his eyes, she saw his love and knew they were fated to be together.

“Yes, Luke. I’ll marry you.”

He slipped the ring on her finger, pulled her into his arms, and kissed her until she was breathless.

“When?”

She gave him a bright smile. “How about this day next year? I hear February weddings are very romantic.”

“Sounds perfect.”

And a year later, with Old Barney behind them, it was.


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23 Comments

  1. Maria, your story is so romantic! I love a winter beach scene with an old simmering flame. Nice job. Oh, and the lighthouse at the end was the perfect touch 🙂 Michele

    Reply
  2. Thanks, Michele. Glad you liked it. HAD to have a lighthouse in it 🙂

    Reply
  3. Lori

     /  February 20, 2012

    Nice job Maria. I think you nailed the feeling of hurt she had. Loved the showing you provided of her seeing what he went through and letting him into her heart again.

    Reply
  4. hieubietusa

     /  February 20, 2012

    tôi có thể không ngừng khóc
    wǒ bùnéng tíngzhǐ kūqì
    我不可能停止哭
    No matter where I would read this, my comment would be
    “I can’t stop crying”

    red-eyed Joe

    PS: Yes…I found some phrases to lift…”Her tongue felt three times it’s size” Oh yes…that’s a keeper

    Reply
  5. Great job, Maria…such a sweet story. I’m glad she didn’t string him along at all and was honest about her feelings.

    Jaye

    Reply
    • Oh, and one more thing…still waiting for you to write the infamous lighthouse lovemaking scene, lol!

      Jaye

      Reply
    • Hi Jaye. I thought about the lovemaking scene but kind of hard with a short story. I will want to savor that scene a bit. Have it planned for either a re-write of ACFL or a future book. But definitely have it planned!

      Reply
  6. Nicole Doran

     /  February 20, 2012

    Awesome story Maria! I love the Jersey shore setting…and found myself transported into the romance, with the strung lights up and candles on the table. I should print these stories for my hubby for a little “nudge” in the romantic gesture direction…LOL!
    Nicole

    Reply
  7. Hi Nicole. I’m glad you liked the story. I like your idea of wrapping up the stories for your hubby. We all could use more romantic gestures in our lifetime! I hope it works!

    Reply
  8. Jenna Blue

     /  February 21, 2012

    Maria, I can’t stop feeling like “Awwwww, so sweet!” And so real too, as there were some hurdles/hurts to overcome…so well done! So enjoyed! Kudos!

    Am loving these shorts from all you ladies!

    Reply
  9. I love the setting (of course)! Great job Maria!

    Reply
  10. Great story, Maria. Short but sweet! And who could resist beach romance?

    Reply
  11. Karen Bryan

     /  February 21, 2012

    I enjoyed your story, Maria! And I love LBI too!

    Reply
  12. Dolores Docimo

     /  February 27, 2012

    Great job Maria! I was able to see & feel the romantic beach setting and I just loved it. I really felt the tenderness of this story & the shore setting. I look forward to more of your stories, as I see a great deal of talent and promise in your future.

    Just a quick story about a sweet gift I received from my little grandson who gave me a solitaire ring 2 years ago, (he is 8 years old now); anyway, I asked him if that meant that we were engaged & he said “yes”. Well you just can’t make a Mom-Mom any happier than that. I told him that he was the only boy who ever gave me a ring other than his Pop-Pop and that is the sweetest and most special thing that has ever happened to me since his Pop did it 49 years ago.

    Thanks for sharing your talent with me.

    Gratefully,
    Dolores

    Reply
    • I’m glad you enjoyed the story and could feel the emotion between the characters. Thanks for sharing the story about your grandson. He is a special little man.

      Reply
  1. My Valentine Short Story « Maria K. Alexander

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