This story is by Casey Anderson (C.J. Anderson) and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
Buzz! Alex’s heart went giddy-up as he looked down to see a text notification from Holland.
Alex and Holland had been best friends since childhood. But for a while now, Alex wasn’t quite certain when, he had begun experiencing I-want-to-be-more-than-friend’s feelings for her.
Holland: OMG – Emmerson, the super hot temp that I was telling you about … He just asked me out!!! Eeep!!!
Alex closed his eyes and kicked himself for procrastinating. For months, he had been formulating a plan in his head; one that would express his true feelings to Holland once and for all. The only problem was, in his head she always felt the same way about him. In reality, there was the chance she didn’t feel anything; and how would that affect their friendship?
Even if it didn’t make things awkward, how could he stand by and watch her be with someone else … again? How could he be there to pick up the pieces after another failed relationship like he had always done for her … again? He couldn’t. He knew that now. Because the mere thought of her being with someone else was driving him mad. He needed to get his butt in gear. Commence Operation Get Out of the Friend Zone.
Alex typed in the web address for Bloemer’s Blossoms. The flower shop belonged to Holland’s family and had been in the Bloemer family for over five decades.
In a staggering sense of irony, Holland had never received flowers from anyone. She always shrugged, chalking it up to the phenomena best known as “the cobbler’s children have no shoes.”
Although she feigned indifference, Alex knew the impossibly romantic Holland longed to receive flowers; not as a wish list item, nor as a means to receive attention, but given as a gesture to show she was cared for and cherished.
An error popped up: “Bloemer’s Blossoms ordering system is down”.
“Just my luck,” Alex muttered, and before he could talk himself out of it, he picked up his cell phone to call the flower shop.
“Bloemer’s Blossoms, how may I help you?”
“Hi, Grandma Bloemer. How are you?”
Holland’s Grandma had always insisted that Alex address her as Grandma Bloemer.
“Alex? Is that you dear? I haven’t seen you in ages. As a matter of fact, I haven’t seen Holland either. Tell her to come see her grandma, will you?”
“Of course, Grandma Bloemer. I’ll tell her.” Alex answered.
“Oh, thank you dear. Now, what can I help you with? Your sister’s birthday was last month, your mother’s birthday isn’t until next month.”
He cleared his throat and stammered, “Erm … uh … well you see … I erm …”
Alex filled his lungs with air. He tried blowing it out slowly, but instead, the intractable words spilled out of his mouth like a waterfall, “… the-flowers-are-for-Holland.”
“Oh? What’s the occasion?”
Alex couldn’t answer. His hands were sweaty and his heart raced so fast he thought he might hyperventilate.
On the other end, he heard Grandma Bloemer ask, “Are you finally getting up the nerve to tell my granddaughter your honest feelings, dear?”
Alex sighed, “How did you know?”
“I’ve seen the way you’ve been looking at her since graduating and returning home after college,” she said.
Alex wondered if anyone else had noticed the way he looked at Holland other than Grandma Bloemer.
“I’ll send you a confirmation email when the ordering system comes back up.” She finished taking his order and that was that.
Late morning an email confirmation from the flower shop arrived in his inbox. He noticed that the flowers had been addressed to Holly, the name Grandma Bloemer used for her granddaughter, instead of Holland.
Alex slapped his palm to his forehead. Oh no! He had forgotten to remind Grandma Bloemer that he had only ever called her granddaughter Holland. Even worse, he realized, Holland’s boss was named Holly. The flowers were going to be delivered to the wrong person!
In a panic, he quickly redialed the flower shop in hopes that the flowers had not yet been delivered. He was too late.
Alex didn’t want Grandma Bloemer to feel bad so he said nothing about the name mix-up. He would have to figure out another way to fix this problem! That’s when the proverbial light bulb lit up in his head; Spencer!
When Alex met Spencer, they had both been pranking a mutual friend and they both knew that night they were destined to be friends. Shortly after this, Alex accepted a position at Harlow & Langley Financial (HLF), where Spencer also worked.
Without wasting another minute, Alex sent Spencer a message.
Up for some shenanigans today?
Spencer didn’t reply, but he did arrive at Alex’s cubicle within the next minute.
Alex explained the situation. He had only just finished speaking when Spencer said, “I’m IN!”
The design firm where Holland worked as an assistant was within walking distance of HLF, on the third floor of the Brody Street Building.
In order to access the third floor one had to pass the security station on the entry floor by being an employee or having an appointment.
The plan was for Spencer to distract the guard while Alex would sneak by and take the stairs up to the third floor.
Upon arriving at the doors of the Brody Street Building, Alex saw the bouquet of purple tulips still sitting on the guard’s desk. They hadn’t been delivered to the third floor yet! This was going to be easier than he had thought.
Alex turned to Spencer and said, “New plan. See those flowers? That’s them. You go distract the guard and I’ll take care of fixing the name on the card.”
Spencer nodded in understanding but when the two of them went to enter the building they saw a tall, very good looking young man, flowers in hand, stepping into the elevator.
Alex exited the spinning glass door into the lobby just as the elevator door swooshed closed.
Spencer was right behind Alex.
“Shenanigans?” Spencer asked with a crooked grin.
“Yup,” Alex answered.
Spencer was easy on the eyes and could turn on the charm with the ladies. It just so happened that the guard on duty was female and it took no time at all for her to become mesmerized by the seductive Spencer.
The guard, now chatting up Spencer, sat facing away from the stairwell, distracted. Alex nonchalantly walked past the security station, shoved the stairwell door open, then sprinted up the stairwell.
The image of another guy’s hands around Holland’s flowers replayed in Alex’s mind. Fairly certain it was Emmerson’s hands, Alex clenched his fists. Taking the steps two-at-a-time, his heart thumped and the adrenaline rushed through his veins. By the time he reached the third floor he had concocted a new plan in which he would tackle Emmerson, then rush off with the bouquet.
Alex stepped into a hallway just around the corner from the receptionist area, allowing Alex easy access to the offices. Emmerson had exited the elevator and now strolled down the long hallway leading directly to Holly’s office.
Concealing himself in the shadows of the tall potted plants lining the hallway, Alex followed Emmerson. Pretending he was a spy was nerdy, but at least it was helping to get his nerves under control.
Emmerson was almost to Holly’s door when Alex started the countdown. When he said one, he would attack Emmerson, grab the flowers, and flee.
Three … Two …
Holland’s silhouette appeared up ahead. Alex chickened out completely and ducked into a nearby restroom. Resolved to the fact that he would now have to retrieve the flowers from Holly’s office, and deliver them to Holland himself, he texted Spencer.
Spencer replied, “You owe me,” and met Alex in the stairwell to discuss the new, and hopefully final, plan.
While Spencer entered the third-floor hallway, Alex waited. He was truly going through with this. No matter how it turned out, he now saw Holland, not as a life-long friend, but as a woman–one he wanted in his life closer to his heart, and he needed to tell her.
A smiling emoji face with horns appeared in Alex’s texting app. Spencer’s signal that he had successfully persuaded Holland’s boss to leave her office. It was go time!
Alex crept out of the stairwell and padded down the hallway to Holly’s office without being detected. He jiggled the door handle and found it unlocked. Scrambling to the other side of the enormous office he grabbed the flowers off the desk. He had just set off to walk back to the door when the doorknob rattled.
Rushing behind the desk he flung himself underneath, still holding the flowers.
There were soft footsteps, the door opened, and then closed again. Alex let out a sigh of relief and wriggled out from his hiding place. When he had almost made it back to the door, he heard voices coming from just outside in the hallway. Alex flung himself into the coat closet just as two people entered the office.
A-Choo … “I thought I told you to remove those awful things. You know they exacerbate my allergies,” Holly complained.”
“Sorry! I came in and they were gone. I assumed Emmerson took them out already.” Holland apologized.
“No matter.” A-Choo … “I’m on my way out. Lunch with a hottie I just met, Spencer.”
“You don’t mean tall, ripped, tattoos and a well manicured beard Spencer, do you?”
“That would be the one.” A-Choo …
Spencer was taking “High and Mighty Holly” to lunch? Had he lost his mind? Alex contained a groan. He was going to owe Spencer big time for this one.
“Dust my entire office before I get back. I want all the pollen gone. Every trace. Toodles!”
The door clicked shut then Alex heard Holland grumbling.
“Oh, I’ll dust something alright. I’d like to take that feather duster and stick it right where the …”
Alex’s phone buzzed and buzzed and buzzed. Someone was calling him. Eh-oh! Holland was still in the office. All Alex could think was … BUSTED before he fell forward as the door opened out, falling flat on his face. Alex rolled over to his back with a groan. Having saved the flowers by holding them out to the side, he now looked up to see Holland, hands on hips peering down at him quizzically, her eyebrows pinched together.
Holland grasped Alex’s hand, and helped him to his feet. He whistled nonchalantly as she took the flowers, then attempted to step stealthily out of the office.
Holland grasped the hem of his shirt, pulling him back.
“And just where do you think you’re sneaking off to?”
Alex hung his head. “Just read the card.”
Holland read the card aloud. “Skeeball and Pizza?”
She beamed. “Does this mean what I think it means?”
A sudden pang of expectation swept through Alex. Fidgeting, he stood with his hands in his pockets. “What do you think it means?”
“This,” Holland answered then gave him a sweet, short kiss right on the lips.
She pulled away and said, “Yes. A thousand times yes.”
Then she kissed him again.
This time … for real.