Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!
2 hours 53 min before the funeral of the mob boss Rosario Tangorello.
My mood isn't great, even for someone stuck in an exquisite church at an exclusive address on a lovely Saturday morning in May.
The bright side is that this isn't a wedding, because as much as I hate funerals, I hate weddings more. I am a florist, so for me the funerals are lilies and carnations. Weddings are roses, and roses prick even through gloves and flannel shirts. Not to mention they stink to high heavens.
Today, it's funerals and I would have finished an hour ago, if I didn't get distracted by my cell phone. I was scrolling through the comments on my incognito Instagram account and then... Poof! It's as if zombies ate my brain, I got distracted so much.
Because of this unfortunate event, the load of stupid, stupid, stupid white carnations isn't in the van. With the tempest Sheila, My-Boss-from-Hell, unleashes, you'd think I've misplaced a secret assassination squad in Baghdad, not five dozen buds in cold storage in LA.
"Bryn, you just don't get it!" Her voice drops to a dramatic whisper, as she waves at the gold-fringed coffin. "Have you any idea who our client is?"
The occupant of that sarcophagus would not hear her if he were alive, but the whisper is an improvement on the chainsaw-buzzing of the first sentence.
Sure, I know who the dead guy is or was. He popped up on the local news feed on Twitter. The name's Tangorello. A scary Italian mob boss, whatever they called them... godfather? in the eighties' movies about the hard life of the mobsters.
The coffin-dweller in the fancy church is more of a mafia god-grandfather judging from his pictures. Tufts of silver hair making the last stand around the ears, hooked nose, thin smile on bloodless lips, starched tuxedo collar squeezing his wrinkled neck. He isn't even trending... sheesh.
Sheila's screeching comes back, magnified by the church's terrific acoustics. "You don't mess a petal with these people. A petal! And you are missing an entire arrangement!"
She looks at me expectantly.
Guess it's my turn to speak.
"My bad." I pop in and decimate scorching-cinnamon gum. It hits me like cocaine... or I imagine it would. Espresso is my poison, please and thank you. "Will get the carnations in a jiffy. He won't even get bored waiting, Boss."
Before Sheila points out that it's an hour drive to LA from here on the Pacific Coast Highway crawling with tourists and that the south-central LA is grid-locked this time of morning, I jog for the exit.
What else could I do? Sheila already tried the other two Floribunda staff, laid out by the summer cold. One didn't pick up her five calls, the other said in a drugged, nasal voice that she can't crawl to the elevator, let alone drive out to Malibu fucking Beach on the account of being sick, Sheila, fucking sick.
That left Bryn Williams, the woman of action, to save the day... I won't make it back in time, but I want my gold star for trying. Not that Sheila would give me one, mean, mean Sheila.
And here, here when it happens. The point of no return event, the thing.
He is sneaking into St. Luke's, when I am leaving it.
I wear overalls embroidered with 'Bryn' to customize me to the clients. He wears Armani... and he wears it well, despite the raw vibe in the snap of his jaw that doesn't pair with Italian suits.
Gosh, I am too young to meet men at funerals. Actually, I am twenty-four, so maybe I am on the tailend of being too young for anything. But not a wizened crone yet ether.
Regardless, it hits me like a truck at the line that cuts off the bright Californian sun from the mysterious interior of the church: he is not like me and I am not like him.
And we freeze in the doorway, eyeing one another, absorbing our differences:
A. the man I would soon come to know as the mob hit man Matteo Scali, and
B. yours truly, a poor, obscure, plain and little florist, who dreams big.