“Excuse me, miss, will you please step outside of your car.”
Too ditzy to do anything but comply, the woman stumbled out of the car, almost falling to the ground while doing so, and slammed her car door shut behind her.
“Right, I want you to recite the alphabet,” The police officer commanded sharply - he meant business.
“Why? I’m not drunk,” The woman slurred. She saw the officer’s glare and decided it would be best to obey: ”A - B - C - D - E - F - G-” she paused.
“Do you want to continue?” the officer asked.
“No, no. I can manage! H - I - J - K… ELEMENO-P!” she shouted triumphantly before bursting into a flurry of confused mumbling.
“Let’s try something else,” the officer pulled a notepad and pen from his pocket and began to scribble his observations down in shorthand. “Can you stand one leg and hop in a straight line?” The woman’s reply was more confused mumbling interspersed with something along the lines of ‘please, I can’t even do that sober!’
“Ma’am, I am afraid I am going to have to detain you on suspicion of drink driving,” he pulled the woman aside and forced her wrists into metal cuffs. “Come on, I’m taking you to the station!” he directed her into the back of his police car. “Can you tell me your name?” He said, focusing his rear-view mirror on the lady on the backseat, who was trying her best not to nod off.
“Finally - something I can do! Gita Chandra’s the name!” she smiled, “But you can call me G-Dog Chandra!” She collapsed onto the car’s backseat, falling into a deep sleep.
The police officer sighed and, starting up the car’s engine, drove the slumbering woman to one of many of Inverness’ police stations.
14 Hours Later Gita woke up.
“Good morning, darling. Nice of you to finally wake up.”
Gita, barely able to take in her surroundings, rubbed the sleep out of her eyes.
Finally her eyes focused. She was seated at a table in a small cube room, lacking any points of interest other than a brooding metal door opposite. Across the table was a familiar face.
“Haresh! What are you doing here?” she exclaimed.
“Last night I got a call,” he explained, gritting his teeth in annoyance, “from Inverness police station. They said they picked you up ten miles from here on a slip-road, drunk.”
“Drunk?” Gita gasped, “Do you mean to say I was drink-driving last night?”
“Well, that’s what they are saying. Care to explain?” Haresh rested his hands on the table in front of him, interlacing his fingers with a dreaded seriousness.
“Oh, Haresh, I wouldn’t! You know I am the last person who would! They must have been mistaken!” Gita began but Haresh simply held up his hand, signalling her to stop.
“Tell me, Gita, what can you remember from last night?” Gita noticed Haresh had bags under his eyes - he must have driven all night long to get here, she thought. She racked her brain: no, she couldn’t remember.
“I thought so.” sighed Haresh, “I was wondering - where did you even get drunk? You said you were going to a floristry convention?”
“Yes, I was! I did! But... I can’t remember!”
“What is the last thing you remember?”
“I can’t - I can’t… Oh wait. I was at the flower convention, I was at my stall… and…” she was inarticulate - what if I did really get drunk? Haresh saw this worry in her eyes, the fear that Gita, a woman of high morals, could go on to betray everything she believed in. He softened his expression.
“Look, why don’t we get out of here?” Haresh rested his hand atop Gita’s reassuringly.
“Yeah, that sounds good.”
The couple collected Gita’s belongings and exited the station, travelling to the car-drop-off zone where Gita’s car sat among others towed from various places around Inverness.
“Hang on, how did you get here? Your car is still at the garage right?” Gita turned to Haresh.
“I drove in a rental. Cost me a fortune!” he explained.
“Ah - sorry,” she replied sheepishly.
“It doesn’t matter. I thought we could make the most of it though, spend a night in a hotel in the city centre?” Haresh suggested, beaming across the bonnet of the car.
“Oh, yes please!” she jumped at the opportunity of a holiday, “Who will take care of the shop?”
“Don’t worry! I’ve Zoe, Beth, Dan and Melody behind the counter!”
“Hmm. Not sure how I feel about that,” she giggled as she climbed into the passenger’s seat. With a splutter, the car started and, with Haresh at the wheel, they drove out of the police station car park.
Only when they had parked their car in Inverness’ Hilton car park - Bloomin’ Lovely sales were really picking up - did Gita notice a bouquet of flowers strewn across the dashboard. Haresh was climbing out of the car, unaware.
“Oh, these aren’t my stock!” she frowned and checked the label, “Crocus Pocus,” She read aloud, “Wonderful flowers for you all across the UK…” And then -
“I remember now! Haresh!” she grabbed his arm and pulled him back in the car, “Crocus Pocus! That’s it! I remember now!”
“Crocus Pocus? Are you still a little tipsy, Gita?”
“No - I remember now! I wasn’t drunk! I -” the memories had come flooding back. “I just received a bouquet of flowers...”
17 Hours Earlier
The UK’s annual floral convention was in full swing, and yet Gita’s stall was as empty as ever. Among her display of tulips, carnations, orchids and hydrangeas Gita rested her head in her hands, still tired from the exhausting drive up to Inverness.
‘I knew I should have gone for something more interesting than this,’ Gita mused, picking at the petals of a rogue lily.
Her stall was easily the least exciting of the selection. Various flower sculptures, patterns, cross-breeds and so on were the spotlight of the plentiful customer’s attentions, drawn in by their brightly-coloured sizeable banners, viewable from any point in the room. On the other hand, Gita’s stall was simple with an oak stall decorated with flowered pennant banners drooping from the two struts of the stall. Gita continued to fiddle with the rogue lily and had not noticed the woman approaching her stall.
“Hullo,” she smiled insincerely. She was young and pretty, but her old-fashioned clothes (by Gita's standard) and pout betrayed this. Her red hair rested on the shoulders of her slender frame.
“Hello!” Gita stood up to her (unimpressive) full height and gave the woman her signature cheery smile, “What can I interest you in today? Some carnations perhaps?”
“No, I’m not here to buy.” she murmured something about dead flowers under her breath before continuing, “I’m running a flower business myself, Hocus Pocus. My stall is just over there -” she pointed to an opposite, much more flashier stall, “I’m just browsing for inspiration. I believe you’re from the village of Foxgrove?” Gita only realised it then but the woman had an American accent, partially masked by her formal tone.
“Oh - I noticed you wandering around before. It looked like you were heading to my stall a couple times. I thought you were a customer! And yes, I am! It’s the second one in my chain. How can I help you then?” Gita smiled.
“You can’t. Not with that selection anyway,” she gestured to the measly collection that lined her stall.
“Oh,” Gita frowned, trying her best to ignore her snide comment “Well, your flowers are very nice. Are those Anemones I see?”
She nodded, “Wish I could say the same for you, but…” she shrugged.
“I’m Gita by the way. What’s your name?” she held out her hand, which she took warily.
“Candice,” she removed her hand a little too quickly, “I’d best be off, but here -” she produced a bouquet of white short-petaled flowers, “Have these. A present from me!” he smiled once again insincerely.
“Oh, thank you very much, Candice! You can take any flowers from my selection if you want in return.”
Candice glanced a judgemental eye over her display, “Nah, you’re alright.” With that she left returning to her stall.
‘What an odd woman’, Gita thought, 'and so young too! Much younger than more the florists here.’ She sniffed the flowers she had received. ‘Gardenias’, the label said, ‘from Africa, known for its -’ The rest of the label had been blacked out with what seemed to be a permanent marker. ‘How odd!’, Gita thought before returning her attention to the passing crowds.
She managed to stifle a yawn as her first proper customer of the day approached.
17 Hours Later
Gita held up her phone displaying the Wikipedia page for ‘Gardenias’ up in a not-all-amused Haresh’s face.
“Gardenias are known for their drowsiness-inducing properties, and as a result are used in many anti-insomnia products,” she read.
They were lounging on the luxurious king-sized bed in their Hilton hotel room. “See, Haresh? I wasn’t drunk! I was just really, really tired. I hadn’t slept properly in a day thanks to the awful traffic on the way up, and then I spent the rest of the afternoon by those flowers, AND when I had the air con blowing while they were on the bonnet so the scent was blowing into face the entire time! By the time the police stopped me, I had had so much exposure I must have entered a sleep deprivation trance!”
“Very clever dear,” he murmured as he lost a battle to tiredness.
“What a weird flower to give me!” Gita continued, “They’re quite expensive and she hardly seemed like she had taken a liking to me!” she paused, “Unless…”
Hit with sudden realisation she turned over the Gardenia label, where an expanse of Hocus Pocus branches were listed, “London, Suffolk, Lancaster, Edinburgh, Dublin, Manchester, Cardiff… Aha!” she exclaimed, “Hocus Pocus - er, Crocus - will be opening soon in the following locations: York, Fochabers, Durham, Bexley, Gateshead and… Haresh! Look!” she shook her husband awake.
“Hm? Yes, Gita? What is it?” he rubbed the sleep out of his eye.
Gita furrowed her brow as she theorised, “She must have known about the plant’s properties, don’t you think? To sabotage me.”
“Why would she do that?” Haresh had snapped back into attention.
“To give me a bad reputation, perhaps to bring down Bloomin’ Lovely sales or something...”
“Isn’t it clear? She doesn’t want the competition!” Gita explained but Haresh was none the wiser, “Look at the back of the label!” she handed Haresh the label.
“Hocus Crocus will be opening soon in the following locations: York, Fochabers -”
“Yes, yes, just skip ahead to the last one!” Gita commanded.
“... Erm - Gateshead… and Foxgrove! Oh!”
“You see now?”
“Yes, I do,” Haresh said, “Looks like Bloomin’ Lovely has got a rival!”
Gita was not happy.
Bloomin' Lovely will return next week with The Bear...