Author’s Note:

Lyla is having a horrible day. Cranky and emotional, she’s ready to go home when Aaron bursts into the flower shop and begs for a bouquet so he can apologize to his girlfriend. Unfortunately, flowers aren’t going to solve this problem. Luckily, Lyla has another idea.

Under the broad scope of Erotic Couplings, you can expect this story to include oral sex, safe sex, self-loathing people in their mid-twenties, humour, a grumpy employee, and unrealistic telephone shenanigans.

This story is part of the When The Lights Go Out universe. These stories do not need to be read in any particular order; they all revolve around the same event and have some connections, but are stand alone pieces. You can find a list of included stories in my bio.


Look, I just have to get it out of the way so the rest of this bullshit makes sense: I had a huge fucking crush on my boss. Huge. Epic. A gigantic, disgusting, ridiculous, disgusting, borderline obsessive, did-I-say-disgusting-already, unbelievable crush.

Four years I worked for Owen. Four long, unrequited years. I’d never told him I had a crush on him, mostly because he was twelve years older than me and also my boss. I also happened to like my job, and while it wasn’t like there was much of a top to sleep my way to, I didn’t want to be that person.

He was the owner of The Enchanted Florist, the local flower shop, and he’d hired me after I dropped out of university and moved back home. I was mildly horrified to move back in with my parents at twenty, not because of my age but because I had no fucking idea what to do with my life. I was truly horrified to still be living with my parents at twenty-four, mostly because the only thing I wanted to do with my life was work at The Enchanted Florist.

What? I like flowers, okay? They’re pretty and they smell nice.

In my fervent daydreams, Owen would realize he was madly in love with me and whisk me away from my parents’ house, sign over half the business, and we’d run it together for the rest of our happy little lives in our happy little small town. It was a far cry from what I thought I’d do with my life. I had planned to be something important like a lawyer or a journalist or literally anything except a cashier at a flower store. I thought I’d make a difference; I’d go to rallies and protests and be this big social justice warrior who defended the little guy and always did what was right.

And then I went to college and realized that the idea of all those things was a fuck-ton less scary when I was in my safe little small town.

I wish I could have the dignity to say I flunked out of college or something, but the truth was that I left. It was more than I could handle, and I scurried back to my bubble with my tail between my legs and started working at the first place that would hire me: The Enchanted Florist.

I fell in love with Owen in the interview. Well, maybe not love. I fell in lust with his large hands and smooth, dark skin and big, calm eyes. I lusted after his deep, smooth voice and his skinny-but-not-too-skinny chest and his ass. God, did he have a nice ass. And I liked him, too. He let me be my snarky, cynical self, calling me out on my shit but was always the kind of person I knew I could rely on.

The day I found out he had a girlfriend, I was devastated. It was something like a month after I’d started working for him when she came in. She was everything I wasn’t: curvy, vivacious, wholesomely sweet with a melodic laugh. I thought she was perfect.

Well, until she cheated on Owen, broke his heart, and left him with nothing in his life but his flower shop and his shitty apartment two years after I’d started working for him.

I dreamed of being the one to comfort him. I wasn’t, of course. I was twenty-two at the time and he was thirty-four. He barely registered me as a woman, let alone one he’d hook up with. And I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that I wanted him, that he didn’t have to let his ex-girlfriend get in his head like that because lots of other people thought he was fucking sexy.

Like me, specifically.

I resolved that once he was a little less raw from the break up, I’d tell him. It was the right thing to do, you know? I didn’t want it to seem like I was jumping at the chance, but it was only fair for him to know I liked him. Or, you know, wanted to fuck him. Whatever.

Two years went by with me promising myself I’d tell Owen I wanted to sleep with him. Every day I’d chicken out. Every day I’d do my makeup perfectly and make sure my hair was in place. I’d wear clothes that were perfectly fitted and just revealing enough that they upsold the apology bouquets on their own, since men would sneak a peek and then feel extra-guilty.

And every single day, I looked at him, felt a fluttering curl of anxiety, and kept my mouth shut.

Then there was the day when it all went to shit.

It was the first day I knew before I got to work that I wouldn’t be telling balgat escort Owen I so much as enjoyed his company, let alone wanted in his pants. There wasn’t even a chance at a shot for me to make my case. It was so hot and humid that I walked into the shop looking like an absolute troll.

He didn’t pay me enough to afford a car, so I walked to work every day. The air was heavy and thick while I walked, so hot that I almost felt like passing out. Walking any faster than a stroll made me feel light-headed and like sweat was flooding out of my pores. Before I was halfway there, I could feel my mascara running and my foundation streaked across the back of my hand each time I wiped my forehead.

“The lateness is an issue, Lyla,” he said as soon as I walked into the blessedly-cool store.

“It’s hot as balls out there, Owen,” I said flatly.

He had absolutely no sympathy for what I was going through, getting on my case until I snapped at him. When he finally turned around, I nearly cried as his mouth twitched, his dark eyes sparkling as he tried not to laugh. He took in the sight of me and I felt redness that had nothing to do with the hot day surging up my neck.

“Maybe you should go wash up first,” he finally said, his voice trembling with laughter.

I told myself the salty sting in the corners of my eyes was just sweat and nothing more after letting myself into the bathroom in the back. That was convincing until a tear streaked down my face, and then another, until I was looking in the mirror at a miserable girl who was never going to prove she was old enough or mature enough or good enough to be with Owen.

I let myself cry for four minutes, then wiped my face and hurriedly fixed my makeup. It wasn’t as perfect as it usually was, but Owen was probably about to leave anyway, and it wasn’t like he’d ever notice. There was a spare shirt in my locker, since sometimes I got dirt or pollen or any number of gross things on me while I was working, so that at least took care of the sweat stains. Deodorant, a quick bun on the top of my head, and a deep breath were all I could do to handle the rest of my look.

Owen was already packing up his things when I returned to the front. He told me how to do the job I’d been doing for four years again, didn’t say anything as I flipped him off before going into the cooler, and waved at me with a slight smile when he finally had his shit together. I looked over my shoulder at him as he walked away, miserable and relieved and did-I-say-miserable-already all at once.

Just a few minutes later, the door chimed. I groaned inwardly as Alice McGrady walked in, knowing I was about to lose at least twenty minutes of my life talking to her.

“Lyla, dear!” she exclaimed as I exited the flower cooler.

“Hi, Mrs. McGrady,” I said unenthusiastically. “What brings you in today?”

“My God, if it isn’t hotter than the Devil’s bathwater out there,” she said, fanning herself. “So nice and cool in here, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, it’s hot out,” I said dully.

“I’m far too old to be walking out in this,” she said proudly. “Much too old. Could have fallen over and died, Lyla!”

“That would have been a shame.”

“You’re too sweet, dear.” She started wandering the shop, shaking the collar of her shirt as if to air out her saggy old boobs. “But you know, I walk every day, every single day I walk, and I wasn’t going to let a little bit of heat stop me! Healthy as a woman half my age, that’s what the doctor said to me the other day, and—oh! Do you know Doctor Worthington over at the clinic?”

“I know of—”

“Well, he was saying that Coach Bradley—you know, the volleyball coach at the school—Coach Bradley told him that he’d gone to some sort of gala event last summer and met some students he used to teach, back when he was teaching in… now what was it, where was he teaching? Hmm. It was before he moved here, you know, and…”

I zoned out, nodding and making unconvincing “mm-hmm” noises every once in a while. Mrs. McGrady’s lips were moving and her face was expressive, but I didn’t know how to politely tell her that I just did not give a fuck.

Nearly ten minutes later, she was still talking.

“…I think her name is Meg, and she’s living in the apartments so she must be neighbours with your boss! Pretty girl, she is, but you know, I always wonder when I see women like that out and about. It’s not my place to judge, of course, but—”

A sudden loud bang made both of us jump. Mrs. McGrady clutched at her chest and yelped as we whirled towards the front window.

“My God!” she gasped as I darted forward.

“It looks like a garbage can lid,” I said, peering out the window. “Wow, when did it get so windy?”

Mrs. McGrady walked up behind me. “I have no idea. When I came in, it was just sticky out there, you know. Well, sticky isn’t what it’s called, but that’s what I call it, because I really don’t like that word ‘muggy.’ It just reminds me too batıkent escort much of—”

“I think it’s going to storm,” I interrupted.

Between the time I’d arrived at work and now, the sky had completely changed. It wasn’t the pale blue of a hot day, but rather full of darkened clouds that seemed to have appeared from nowhere. I grimaced as I looked at the ones in the distance, so dark they were practically indigo.

“I doubt it,” Mrs. McGrady said. “I feel it my bones, you know, dear. Maybe a little sprinkle but there’s no chance of a big storm.”

“You should probably head home quickly, just in case. This blew in super fast.”

“Oh, I’m sure it’ll be fine, dear, I can—”

“No, really, Mrs. McGrady. I insist. I would just feel so… bad if you got caught out in the rain because I didn’t help you fast enough.”

She put a wrinkled hand on my shoulder and squeezed, claw-like fingers digging in painfully. “Lyla, you are just the sweetest girl I know. Why doesn’t an angel like you have a boyfriend?”

“Maybe I’m gay.”

Her mouth dropped open and she wrenched her hand back.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, I just assumed—”

“It’s okay,” I said. “I’m just saying maybe I’m gay. You never know, right?”

Her mouth tightened into a pursed knot of lines. “Of course. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

“Not at all.”

“Well,” she said in an uncomfortably high-pitched voice. “I suppose I should head back home just in case it starts to sprinkle. You have a good evening, dear.”

I bit back a laugh as I said goodbye. If I knew Mrs. McGrady, and I did, half the town was going to think I was a lesbian by noon the next day. Luckily, I was bisexual, so it was free advertising more than anything. I assumed there were as many women as there were men in town who would be interested in a girl who lived at home with her parents and worked in a flower shop—that is, none—but maybe something would come of it.

When the first clap of thunder shook the store a few minutes later, I wondered against my will if Mrs. McGrady had made it home okay. Seconds after that, it was like the sky split open; the first drop of rain hit the ground at the same time as the thousandth drop of rain, and it battered against the front window of the shop as the wind howled.

I watched it for a while. The world was smudged behind the rivulets of water pouring down the windows. Flashes of lightning and the occasional set of headlights driving down the road refracted through the water, making everything look like a surreal painting. It was pretty, in a way, and lonely.

After a bit, I started working again as the storm continued in the background. The windows rattled and the lights flickered a few times, but I wasn’t particularly worried. After all, Mrs. McGrady said it was just going to sprinkle, so it was probably fine.

I snorted with laughter as I counted the roses in the cooler. I was funny as fuck sometimes.

It was shortly after I made myself laugh that everything went silent and dark.

The hum of the cooler cut out first, just a fraction of a second before the lights disappeared. I blinked once, straightening up, and then blinked rapidly to make my eyes adjust to the sudden darkness.

“Great,” I mumbled to myself. A fucking power outage.

I stumbled my way out of the flower cooler to the till. Thankfully, there was an emergency light on in the front of the store, so I could at least see a little better. It wasn’t as quiet there; the store was almost creaking as the wind howled and the sound of rain was a dull roar, punctuated by thunder that seemed to be even louder than before.

I stopped myself from calling Owen right away. I could almost hear his voice in my head, telling me to be patient, to wait a few minutes and see if it came back on.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t patient, and less than five minutes later I called his cell. Predictably, he told me to wait it out. So I did.

I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

No one came into the store. It wouldn’t have mattered if they did; it wasn’t like I could sell them anything. I left the doors unlocked mainly in case anyone was caught in the rain and needed a place to hide. There was nothing I could do: prepping the deliveries for the next day required the computer, which was off. Inventory required lighting, which was off. Even cleaning wasn’t really feasible, since the emergency light was too dim to see anything, and I’d just have to clean it again if the power came back on.

I played games on my phone until the battery was almost dead, then stopped when I remembered I couldn’t just charge it like I usually did. I snooped through the papers around the till, went into the office and switched the product binders around to aggravate Owen when he eventually discovered it, and sat in his desk chair and twirled in circles until I decided it was completely overrated.

It was only when I couldn’t stand it anymore ankara escort that I called Owen again.

The phone rang three times before he answered, which was weird in itself. What was weirder was he didn’t say hello.

“Are you there, Owen?” I finally said. “Hello?”

“Hey.” His voice was so falsely steady that it was almost insulting.

“Okay,” I said suspiciously. “Look, the power’s still not back and I don’t know what to do. No one’s come in and obviously I can’t help them if anyone does, so can I go or am I supposed to sit here doing nothing?”

He didn’t respond, but I knew he was still there. I could hear him breathing, and something else in the background, a weird sort of rhythmic shuffle.

“Owen!” I said loudly. “Did you hear me? What are you even doing right now?”

“Yeah,” he said abruptly, clearly not having heard a thing I said. “I mean, just wait and see how long it lasts. I’m sure it’ll be back on soon.”

The weird shuffling sound got louder and my mouth dropped open. He couldn’t be…

“And if it isn’t?” I asked icily.

He had that flat, fake steadiness to his voice again. “If it’s not back on by seven, go ahead and lock up for the night, but I’m sure it will be. The storm’ll likely be over by then.”

More shuffling. A bouncing sort of shuffle. He was either jerking off and was too rude to stop while he was on the phone with me, or the bastard was fucking someone.

“Fine,” I said “Whatever.”

I think he thought I hung up, because the next thing I heard was a loud bang and then a woman’s laugh.

“You’re evil,” came Owen’s distant voice.

The woman said something I couldn’t quite make out, and then there was the sound of a bed creaking, some moaning, and more laughter.

I pulled the phone away from my face, staring at it before forcing myself to hang up. Owen was fucking someone. Owen was… Owen was with someone.

It wasn’t fair to say he made me cry, because he didn’t. He had no idea that I wanted him, and even if he did, that wasn’t his fault. Well, it was. It was his fault for being so attractive and funny and strong. But it wasn’t his fault I cried.

The storm raged on as I wept quietly behind the counter for no reason other than the guy I liked not being aware of the fact I liked him. I buried my face in my hands, wallowing in my own misery, until the front door of the shop opened a short while later.

The usual chime wasn’t there to let me know someone came in, but I didn’t really need a chime when the wind nearly took the door off its hinges and rain sprayed into the shop. Jumping off the stool behind the counter, I stared as a man stumbled into the store.

I vaguely recognized him: Aaron Mulch, who had been a few years ahead of me at school. He had stylishly messy hair and a pretentiously scruffy goatee, and the only thing I knew about him was he had a reputation as a total stoner.

Well, I guess I also knew that he’d been out in the storm and was dripping water on the floor of my store.

“What are you doing here?” I blurted.

He glanced up at me, brown eyes desperate as water dripped off his nose and hair.

“I need some flowers,” he said.

“You… what?”

He glanced around, then looked back at me. “I’m in the flower shop, right?”

I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, but it’s the middle of a crazy storm and the power’s out! Why aren’t you at home?”

“Because I need some flowers!” he repeated. “Come on, you gotta help me out. My girlfriend—ex-girlfriend—girl I want to continue being my girlfriend is pissed and she’s trying to break up with me.”

“Okay, the stupidity of being out in this weather aside, I can’t help you,” I said. “The power’s out, I can’t sell anything.”

“Come on!” he said. “Please… Lyla, right? Lyla Norway?”

“Northway,” I said tiredly.

“Come on, Lyla,” he said. “Help a guy out. I’m desperate here.”

“I can’t do anything with the power out,” I said again.

He stepped forward, his shoes squelching on the tile.

“Look, I’ll do…” He stopped, then frowned. “Are you crying?”

“Fuck off,” I said.

“Whoa!” he said, laughing. “That’s some hostile customer service.”

“No, hostile customer service would be telling you to get out, which is what I’m about to do.”

“Why’re you crying?” he pressed. “Come on, tell me. Are you scared of storms?”

“Stop it,” I replied, gritting my teeth. “I don’t know you, and I can’t help you. You need to leave.”

“Talk to me, Lyla. I’ll help you out, you help me out, we can have a whole exchange of goods and services just the way God intended it.” He leaned on the counter and grinned, water splashing from his clothes onto the countertop.

“Is your girlfriend breaking up with you because you’re so obnoxious or am I just that unlucky?”

There was that mean streak again. My eyes widened, horrified as I realized what I’d said. Aaron raised his eyebrows and for a moment, I thought he was going to get mad. When a grin spread across his face and he started laughing, I didn’t know what to do.

“Damn, Lyla. That was harsh,” he chuckled. “I mean, right on the nose, I gotta give you that. High five, bro.”

He raised his hand and I stared at it before half-heartedly pressing my palm to his chilled skin.



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