“Ben, what am I supposed to do?”
“Relax, Andy. Cillian will forgive you after a while.”
Andy bit his fingernails, his nerves working up a fit. “It’s different this time. She’s going to leave me. I can feel it in my bones.”
A rattling sigh drifted down the line. Andy clutched the phone to his ear like a lifeline. “I know she loves those over-the-top apologies in romance dramas. Is there anything that you and Mary watched that can help me?”
Ben hummed in thought. “There was this one ridiculous scene I watched recently.”
“What is it? What did they do?”
“The guy wanted to apologize for being a loud jerk. So he invited her over for dinner and threw petals all along the way from the entrance to where he was. There was some freaking balloon arch where he stood. Oh, and candles. So many candles on the floor and on the table.”
“Candles,” Andy murmured. “I can do that.”
“Yeah, maybe that will work.”
“Okay, I’ll do it. It’s worth a shot.” Andy sucked in a long breath. “Thanks, Ben.”
“No problem. Anything for you, man. I’m so thankful Mary doesn’t like all those crap.”
Chuckling, Andy shook his head. “She would probably hit you on the head instead.”
“Yeah, she would. Anyway, I gotta go. Talk to you later.”
Andy hung up. He surveyed his spacious loft apartment, imagining how he could decorate it. Balloons could hang from the railing and down the staircase. He had a bunch of candles for emergency purposes but he could run out to the store and get more. Petals, he could get from the same store.
He frowned. Cillian liked it when he went the extra mile. What else could he do that wouldn’t take too long to get? Then, it hit him.
With a solid strategy in mind, he headed down to the store, grabbed all the necessary equipment, and went back to his apartment. He started with the balloons first, inflating them painstakingly with his own mouth. His weak lungs burned with the effort but it had to be done. Wheezing, he tied all of them along the staircase and railings.
Next were the candles. He laid them out in a line to form a pathway from his door. Then, he sprinkled the petals along the pathway. Now, for the final touches. He hid his assortment of stand fans behind potted plants, bookshelves, and cabinets while making sure that the generated wind would still reach the pathway.
It was tedious, tedious, tedious work that he absolutely hated doing. Every time the fan was directed an inch too low, it would blow away his petals and snuff out the candles. He scurried back and forth more than a hundred times before he hit the sweet spot.
By that time, his sweat-drenched shirt was sticking to his skin. He quickly jumped into the shower, put on a decent long-sleeved shirt and pants, and headed back down again. Cillian had told him she would pop by to get her things before she went to the gala. She should be here anytime now.
A chime of the doorbell sent a flutter of anxiety down Andy’s spine. Speak of the devil- he corrected himself - his angel.
“The door’s unlocked,” he called out. “Come in.”
He straightened his back and exhaled a short breath. His heart pumped like a racecar on its last legs. This was it.
The sound of heels on marble resonated in the apartment.
He put on his best apologetic smile, his fingers clutching a small bouquet of flowers.
Cillian stepped into view.
Andy’s breath was stolen away. She looked magnificent in that flowing yellow gown. Her face was framed by dancing strands of hair blown by the artificially generated wind from his stand fans.
When Cillian saw the intricate pathway he had laid out, her eyes widened in pleasant surprise and she smiled. A beautiful smile that stopped his heart.
His lips curled up in relief. She would forgive him, wouldn’t she?
She walked towards him in almost slow motion and he savored every second of it. His plan worked! And boy, was it a gorgeous plan.
His gaze trailed down from her lovely eyes crinkled in adoration to her plump lips smiling for him. He lingered on her decent cleavage and then his gaze dropped down to her shapely legs framed by the long gown blowing in the wind and covering the candle-lit pathway-
Was the yellow material aglow… with fire?!
Andy’s eyes widened in terror. He had overestimated the amount of generated wind!
The yellow gown must have been made especially for catching fire because, in a matter of seconds, the flames from the candles had licked away the trailing material and edged their way up to Cillian’s rear!
He rushed towards Cillian, running like someone had set him on fire. Cillian’s smile grew wider, imagining that he would grab her and spin her around. When his arms wrapped around her thin waist, she gasped in pleasure.
He lifted her up but instead of spinning her in a horizontal circle, he spun her straight to the floor. Landing with a loud thump that might have cracked her spine, Cillian yipped in agony. Andy rolled her around and around until she realized with horror that a burning sensation was spreading across her ass.
“Andy, what the hell are you doing?” she screamed in anger and pain.
“Your gown was turning into a flaming ball of fire!”
“Wha- Get off me!”
As she struggled in his stifling embrace, Andy raised his hand and brought it down on her behind. She yelped, “What are you doing now??”
“Can’t you feel the fire??”
“Yes, I can!” Shoving him off her, she struggled to her feet and appraised what was left of her gown and her rear. Her mouth fell open at the dangling material that now hung just above her darkened underwear.
Red fury bloomed across her cheeks. She pointed an accusing finger at the cowering Andy. “I don’t know what gave you the idea to do this but this is it! We’re over!”
With that, she stormed out of the apartment, leaving a stunned and traumatized Andy frozen to the spot. He surveyed the disaster area. Blackened petals were strewn on the floor, candle wax dripped all over it, and a pile of yellow gown ash gathered at his feet.
Groaning, he tilted his head back and squeezed his eyes shut. If anyone were to look at his pained, innocent face, they would think he was bemoaning the loss of Cillian or dreading the cleanup of his apartment. But he only had one thought in his mind.
He was going to kill Ben before Mary did.
Lessons to learn for ConCoct agents in RomCon:
Take into account fire hazards when designing and procuring elements for romantic scenarios.
Less is more.