Plus-sized florist Floribunda "Flori" Alexandris has no idea why Pen Swan should invite her to be a bridesmaid at her wedding, but she agrees anyway. At the church, she encounters the two best men; the biggest Scottish ginger she's ever seen and a cool blond Sir Galahad type. She has no idea which one she should shake hands with first, or whose hand to accept for the bridal waltz. Flori likes the look of them both, but that's nothing to their magnetic reaction to her. How to choose? The men have their own creative solution, but there's something exceedingly odd about Hamish McTavish and Gervais St Clair. They don't offer to drive her van, and when she runs off the road in the middle of the night, no mention of women drivers crosses their lips. So that settles it. They can't possibly be human.
Flori was trawling the Hook-Up website when the bell tinkled, and a woman stepped through the door of BB Blossoms.
“Welcome.” Flori closed the Hook-Up site without regret. She’d scrolled through eleven profiles, and the ones that looked real weren’t hot, and the ones that were hot weren’t real. Take Hotrod 45…real men’s hot rods just didn’t come in that size. She wanted to sit on it, not climb it with pitons and an alpenstock. She wondered what Hotrod 45’s face was like. If he had a face. The profile picture was all hot rod and hands. Three hands, if she wasn’t mistaken. Bad Photoshop job or was he really being pleasured by more than one woman? How did that work?
The customer was a slim person, whom Flori judged to a few years older than her own thirty-something, but she had the light step of someone much younger.
“Are you happy just browsing?” Even the red-hot poker lilies—Kniphofia uvaria—looked more normal than Hotrod 45’s purported appendage. Though maybe being stroked by two…three? women at a time had an enlarging effect.
The woman gestured to the sheaves of daffodils and great boughs of daphne. “I’m pretty sure you have what I want. Big beautiful blossoms. Colours, not all white and pink. And they actually have perfume.”
“We’re not called BB Blossoms for nothing.” Flori watched as the woman worked it out.
“Big Beautiful Blossoms.”
“Exactly. I’m no shrinking violet myself, so I lean to the showy end of the market.” Maybe she should make up a Hook-Up profile, and see who was interested in a BBW with lush breasts and—
“I wouldn’t say showy. More…” The woman hesitated, apparently trying to find the right word. “Exuberant.”
Flori’s attention came to the job at hand. “Big and beautiful. Yes.”
“I want to order some flowers for my wedding. Only not pink rosebuds and gypsophila. I did that the first time around.”
“I carry garden roses a lot of the year, but this is the roses’ down-time. When is the wedding?”
“Next week. We decided in a hurry. Is that a problem?”
“Not at all, unless you needed a special order. The flowers I have in are in season.”
“Daffodils. Those big yellow trumpets. Freesias. Those dark blue irises. Is goldenrod in season? And do you carry wattle blossom?”
“There’s not much call for it, because of allergies, but I can get some locally if you like.”
“I like. My first husband had allergies, so I spent nearly twenty years being careful of what I brought into the house. Now I can please myself, and Duffy. I ought to introduce myself. I’m Pen Swan, and we’re getting married next week while I can still get into the gorgeous wedding dress I’m having made.” She touched her stomach with a caressing hand. “Twins! I still can’t believe my luck.”
Flori felt a small pang. Her biological clock wasn’t ringing alarms just yet, but the chances of a family must be diminishing. She didn’t want a baby in isolation, but to bring one into a loving relationship would be wonderful. She sighed. “Congratulations, Ms Swan. On three counts.”
“Call me Pen.” The woman’s eyes narrowed suddenly as she looked at Flori. “I’d like to sketch you.”
“Oh, you’re that Pen Swan.” Flori put it together with the concept of sketching. “You had the Magic Cat show at Pelican Gallery. I saw it when I delivered an order to the Van Dyk College for their revue last week.”
“That’s right. I do mostly children’s books. The Magic Cat was a private project, but Duffy suggested I do up a show and Pelican had a weekend slot free after another exhibition was pulled. Do you have children?”
“Not unless you count grown-up nieces in New Zealand. The Cat isn’t only for children, right? He’s cat, universal, but cat, unique at the same time.”
“He is unique in the literal sense of the word.”
Flori wondered why Pen Swan would want to sketch her. Pen must have seen the question in her eyes because she answered it.
“I love curves.” Her hands described graceful lines in the air.
“Plenty of those on me.”
“Even your hair curves.”
Flori chuckled and ran her hand down the long dark waves. “One of the good things about being larger than average. The curve gene usually extends to a lot of hair, and I’m big enough to carry big hair without it looking like—well—big hair. How many arrangements were you considering?”
“Lots! We’ve booked a small church called St Botolph’s, a good way from here, and we want something portable so we can take them to the reception. We’ll provide our own vases. Is that plausible?”
“Certainly, since you’re looking at sturdy flowers. Do you need help with setting up?”
“You offer that?”
“I try to offer what people want. This is one of the quieter times in my business, and if I’m away, I call on a part-time assistant to take orders and mind the shop.”
Pen Swan still seemed to be assessing her. “Where do you get your clothes?”
“What an extraordinary question.”
Pen’s eyes twinkled. “I know. I seem to have left every inhibition behind since I got involved with my fiancé. I’m not trying to be offensive, but I know someone who could dress you beautifully. She’s a genius with line and colour. She’s made me dresses that give the illusion of a lot more shape than I have. She’s making my wedding dress in primrose silk. It’s one of those narrow silhouettes, by my fiancé’s request. It should make me look like a broomstick, but with Skye’s work, it will be perfect. She made the one I have on now.” She stood back to let Flori get the full effect of her graceful floral shift.
“I generally shop from plus-size catalogues. Local shops don’t carry much in my size, and the stuff they do have is depressing, unless you like navy and plum.”