2011 07 12: Lilacs and Orchids

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Mission Name: Lilacs and Orchids
Date of Mission: Jul 12, 2011
Locale: The Oleandar Flower Shop - Waldorf-Astoria - Midtown

Olivia stops in for some flowers on her way home from work, and Irina helps her out.

Irina Olivia

Evening in Manhattan, and the City that Never Sleeps is more awake than ever. Carlights and pedestrians weave by the windows outside, and the sales girl of the florist is just saying goodbye to the owner of the place, Irina. The latter is seated behind one of the store's tables, evidently checking the books and accounting the total sales for the day, but yes, the store is still open. Hotel hours can be demanding!

One of the disadvantages of basically being at the beck and call of the CIA's NYC field office director and handling vast quantities of paperwork is that the hours tend to…drag. And they definitely go well over 40 each week. There's certainly plenty of overtime to be had, at the very least, but it makes shopping hard…especially if you're the kind who likes to have fresh flowers around both at home and at work. Buy them for work during your lunch break, but good luck getting them home intact, and buy those for home on your way home, Olivia always says.

Thankfully, it's not much of a detour to get to the famous Waldorf-Astoria (arguably best known from the visit by King Jaffe Joffer in the movie "Coming to America" of course!) and its flower shop that keeps equally strange hours. With a blast of balmy New York summer air and a tinkle of the bell, Olivia enters from the street with the clopping of heels and the wrangling of an oversize computer/messenger bag and purse.

Glancing up at the entrance of a potential customer - as if the blast of warm air and the noise of the street outside don't immediately alert her to it - Irina temporarily puts aside her day-end paper work, but yet remains seated behind the table. Indeed, she watches Olivia for a moment, allowing the other woman to find her bearings and see the store for herself.

"Hello." She offers a greeting then, judging the proper moment so as not to startled Olivia. "Is there anything you are looking for, specifically?"

"Well, ah…I suppose lilac is a good place to start? I'm looking for things that are not too pricey, but fragrant. I buy flowers pretty much once a week, sometimes two, to keep my place colorful and smelling like…well, like a florist, I suppose!" Before she goes any further into the shop, she stops and smooths down the skirt, straightens the line of buttons on the blouse - they have a habit of getting all crooked when lugging around that bag - and brushing some loose hair from her face. "Something a little sturdy though, since I need it to get from here to my place alive and well, or it's no good! Do that, and you'll be my florist forever!"

Irina smiles lopsidedly at the prospect for a long-term customer, as she rises from her chair. "If you buy flowers on a regular basis, then you must already know nothing beats orchids if you want sturdiness and fragrance." She moves around the table and past Olivia, towards a shelf with two layers of orchid bouquets - white, pink, purple, and it's the purple one that she carefully gathers up. "This color goes with you." Irina inclines her head as she turns and holds it up to Olivia.

Olivia closes the gap between the door and the table, leaning in so the comparison can be made. "I guess I always went with lilacs because we had a few of the bushes outside my house when I was a kid, and those things smelled up the entire yard. Drew bees like mad though, which is pretty bad for me because, heh, you know," she says while she reaches into her bag. When she pulls her hand out, it's got an auto-injector of some kind clasped in her fingers and she's giving a strained smile with the 'see what I mean' turn of her head and eyebrow raise.

Irina has to lift a brow. "That… has to be inconvenient. I'm sorry." The orchid bouquet is carried over to a nearby empty vase, which she carefully adds water before planting the bouquet in it. "If you are allergic to bee stings or the like, you need to be extra careful what kind of flowers you have in your house." She pauses to make some adjustments to the bouquet, before turning it a few times to present the best view. "There. How does it look?"

"Well, that's the good think about having them inside the apartment instead of out. Hopefully, the building will do a good enough job keeping the bugs out so I don't have to worry." Olivia casts an awkward figure when she leans in to look close and smell, bending one arm at the elbow to simultaneously keep her purse from sliding down her arm but also to keep her hair out of her eyes, and using the other arm to force the heavier bag back up her shoulder and then move the blooms around a bit. "It looks alright to me, but you're the expert. What else could you add to it, just to make it a little more…well, to give it a bit more 'oomph' and variety, you know?"

"I know just the thing." Irina turns away and reaches for some greens in some of the planters on the floor. She picks out an assortment of exotic tropical foliage, including several wide, fan-like leaves, and a handful of long, straight leaves almost three feet in length each. She takes care in inserting each into the vase behind the purple orchids, arranging things so the greens surround but emphasize the purples, bringing the flowers to attention. "There, this is something I would put together for the hotel lobby too." She steps back and lets Olivia look at it, and at this point a slightly amused smile touches her lips. "Have you thought about getting a Venus Flytrap for your apartment?"

While the bouquet is being prepared and arranged, Olivia straightens back up and takes a look around the store, the selection, and between the bustling street and the slightly less-busy hotel lobby. "That's uh…those things are kind of creepy. I don't get enough bugs in my apartment to keep it fed, I'd guess. And I really, really, really don't want to have to buy bugs to feed the thing! No, no, no, just regular water-drinking plants for me!" The fact that the plant is being made up to be put against a wall or something - facing one particular direction - doesn't seem to throw Olivia.

That's precisely how it's arranged, too - it's meant to be viewed from the front. Meanwhile, Irina's smile broadens somewhat at Olivia being creeped-out. "Sorry, I was just teasing. I certainly don't have anything like that here." Turning back to the bouquet, she adds. "Obviously I don't know what colors you have in your apartment, but these colors go with you." She turns her head and appraises Olivia briefly. "They really bring out your complexion. And the shape of the flowers really compliments your figure."

That gets Olivia blushing pretty quick. "Ah, well…uh, thanks I suppose. I didn't know that flowers could have that kind of effect. Maybe I should carry a vase around with me all the time, huh?" Once again she reaches out - this time not leaning foward - and takes a feel of the different kinds of leaves. Her fingernails are done up in multiple colors, four quadrants each with the same color on diagonally opposing corners; some pairs of colors are red and blue, others are white and blue, some are yellow and blue or red and yellow…it's all mixed up! Those definitely don't match the flowers.

"With the proper lighting, you'd be surprised what flowers can do to men." Irina notes sagely, her arms crossing over her chest while she watches Olivia study the bouquet. "Have you seen rose petals on satin sheets? Trust me, it's enough to drive them insane." At this point she notices Olivia's nail paint, but being the consummate salesperson, she's not about to criticize the customer's personal fashion sense!

"Yeah, I've seen them…in movies! Heck, I don't think any guy I've ever dated would know what to do with them if I bought the petals and put the sheets on the dang bed!" Olivia jokes with a dorky grin. "But then…yeah, that's the caliber of men I seem to attract. Frustrating, but expected at this point. And with the way work's going - I'm on my way home just now, and this isn't unusual - that'll continue to be the pattern too!" From somewhere in the same bag that produced the auto-injector, Olivia pulls out a very fat wallet that looks like it contains 90% of the weight by volume of her purse. "Okay…what's the damage for something as big and gorgeous as that arrangement?"

"I usually charge about a hundred dollars for something like that to the hotel." Irina lifts a hand and half-cups her mouth, conspiratorially. "Maybe seventy-five for a walk-in customer. But I'll let this go for fifty, since it's almost closing time and I'll have to drop the price tomorrow anyway." Beat. "And I hope some attractive flowers around the apartment will help you improve the caliber of the men in your life." She has to grin to that. "It's either that, or you just need to meet guys at different places."

Olivia just gives a little chuckle to that, and nods with another 'believe me, I know' kind of look. "That sounds pretty fair and all. I'll have to remember to come in before close the next time too…and if the paperwork keeps up like it is now, it'll be the only time I can come in. Unless you're open at six in the morning or anything." The wallet is unsnapped, and she looks around inside in the card holders, finally pulling out a credit card. "This one isn't maxed…yet," she says with a sly grin.

Irina accepts the card with a quirked grin, giving it a quick wave. "Let's see if we can fix that." Heading back to the table, she punches in some numbers on the machine, before swiping the card. The box is then offered back to Olivia for PIN entry. "We don't open till nine, actually, but it's usually the other girls working in the morning…." She pauses to pluck a business card from the table, and is also offered to Olivia. Of course, the name on the card reads 'Nikki Montlick'.

That particular business card is taken with a nod, and slid tightly into one of the volumes of business cards in the wallet. "Could I have another, actually. It's uh…well, a habit of mine that I kind of keep contacts in duplicate. Yeah, yeah, I'm weird like that. Totally OCD about organization and mailing lists and contact info and the whole deal," she says with a casual wave of her hand, before picking up the little stylus and giving her big old Olivia T. Willows to the little signature screen.

At which point it only takes a moment for the approval to come through. Unhurriedly Irina rips off the printed receipt, along with a second business card, and hands both to Olivia. "There you are. I'll wrap the bouquet up for you in a minute. Mind if I ask where you work? I am, of course, always looking for opportunities to hand out more business cards, in case your coworkers are interested."

"They don't look too kindly on solicitors where I work. It's ah, at the CIA building, in the financial district? I'm a paper-pusher down there, going on…oh, phew, 6 years or so, I think? It all runs together, honestly. But I know a few other girls there who like to keep some tiny arrangements in their cubes, so I'll be sure to send them this way!" Olivia takes all of the materials back and starts putting them all in the proper places in the wallet, taking her time since it all needs to be wrapped up to go.

"Really? CIA? Like the Jack Ryan movies?" Irina raises a brow at the revelation. "Now I see why you are having trouble with meeting the right guys: they probably think you're spying on them or something." She quips, grinning even as she heads back to the vase. There, she starts to pull out some wrapping paper and plastic, rolling it into a cone shape around the stems of the bouquet.

"It's not like that, really. I've never had to run from terrorists or worry about my cover getting blown. I'm just dorky Olive doing paperwork all day. The biggest risk I run is carpal tunnel…or, well, I guess they call it a repetitive stress injuries now, to be more inclusive. I mean, how bad would it be to FMLA for typing too much?" What she leaves out is the embarrassment that basic small-caliber handgun training and all the little 'extra' courses taught there are some of the only failing grades she's ever earned.

"And bee stings." Irina reminds helpfully, while she finishes up her neat and professional wrapping. "Here you are, Miss Willows." How does she know her name? Why, the credit card, of course. "You don't need me to tell you to water this once or twice a day, preferrably keep it somewhere that the sun shines on. It can stay fresh for almost a week that way."

"Yep, and use that special little packet of fertilizer or whatever. Mix it right with the water, trim the stems before putting it in, the whole deal. Yep, I know all about that! I don't think many bees make it a point of getting to the top floor of the CIA building here, however." Olivia accepts the wrapped bouquet and takes it into the arm with the purse over the shoulder, adding one more thing to carry out. "I guess I should find another taxi to get this home, huh?" Cradling it close, she sort of nudges the door open with her opposite hand, shoulder, and butt, stepping out into the sidewalk traffic and waving frantically for a cab.

Irina is thoughtful enough to follow Olivia and hold the door open for the customer. "I hope you enjoy it!" She calls to the departing Olivia, even as a taxicab is hailed down and pulled along the curb. "Have a good night!" She adds, watching the woman board the cab before returning to her store.

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