Somewhere to review books I'm reading without giving away any spoilers!
For those who have been reading about Daisy’s Christmas Gift Shop, here is a little bonus story of how Lily and Daisy first met.
Hope you enjoy it xx
The bombshell behind the bar lent over to hand the guy his change and jaws dropped around the room. Lily was tiny, no more than five foot, with black curly hair that framed a heart shaped face. Her lips were scarlet and her corset black. She was eye-catching. Especially in the Santa hat the manager had insisted they wear for every shift remaining until Christmas.
“Buy you a drink?” the customer said, handing some of the coins back across the bar.
“Thanks, I’ll take a glass of wine.” He smiled, until Lily continued. “I’ll have to have it after I finish though. Not allowed to drink when I’m working. But have fun with your friends, I think they’re waiting for you.” She grinned at him and somehow managed to send him back to his gang still feeling happy even though he’d spent money on her drink and struck out on getting to share it with her. She pressed buttons on the till, printed out a receipt for her wine for later and put it in a glass on the shelf. There must have been at least a dozen drink tickets in there already.
The door opened and three more people hustled in, sheltering from the cold wind and dark night outside. Two of the newcomers were of similar build, slim with mousey brown hair. The third was taller and obviously more confident. Lily could tell by the way he carried himself, shoulders back, head upright. Whilst his friends sought a table, he headed straight for her.
“Three pints of Kronenbourg please.”
So they were friendly enough that he knew their order without even needing to ask what they had wanted. Lily reached for some empty glasses and began to pour. “Out Christmas shopping?” she asked, nodding in the direction of the pile of bags at his friend’s feet.
“Daisy’s been buying some samples. Her “Romantic Boutique” opens next week and she wants to try a few ranges to see what works, frilly knickers or silk ones.” He made the quotation marks with his fingers. “Can’t see the point in it myself.”
“It’s romantic, apparently. Isn’t the point of romance getting knickers off rather than putting them on?”
Lily grinned at him. “I see we have similar hobbies. I’m Lily. Do you work nearby?”
“I’m Eli. That’s my friend Ben,” he pointed at the table behind him where his friend was busy ignoring their companion and staring at a mobile phone screen. “We started our new jobs today, thought we’d meet here for a celebratory drink.”
“What do you do?” Lily asked, handing the second full pint across to him and began to fill the third glass.
“I’m not entirely sure yet,” Eli told her. “But it sounds like it’s going to be interesting.” He handed her his debit card, waited for her to offer him the keypad to enter his pin. Payment completed, he lifted the glasses, holding them in a triangle formation as he carried them to the table where he handed them out to his friends.
Lily went back to her work, pouring glasses of wine and mixing cocktails, taking cash and making change. It was a busy evening, their central London location, close to the shops and offices, meant that the after work shift was often a busy one, especially when people were taking the chance to do a little bit of last minute Christmas shopping. Lily glanced at her watch, the one benefit of not having time to think meant that her eight hour shift had flown by and she was almost free to go.
“Can I have three more pints please?”
Lily turned to find the mousey haired girl at the bar. She looked distracted. She kept sneaking glances over her shoulder as Lily assembled the drinks. “Making a night of it?” Lily asked.
“Trying not to. Eli, the cute one who knows exactly how good looking he is, he wants to go on to a club. My brother, Ben, hates clubs. He finds them noisy and smelly and crowded. Eli won’t force Ben to go but he will ask him repeatedly until Ben gives in, anything to keep the peace. And then it’ll be two against one so I’ll end up there too, though all I really want to do is sit down with a hot chocolate and a rom com DVD.”
“Leave them to it?” Lily suggested.
“Can’t. Ben and I promised our dad we’d stick together. I can’t let Ben go somewhere he’ll hate and not go too.”
“It’s nice that you have each other,” Lily said. “This can be a lonely city when you don’t know many people.”
Finally the girl with the mousey hair stopped watching her friends and turned to face the bar. “You know me now. I’m Daisy.” She held her hand out for Lily to shake. “If we’re still here when you finish you’re welcome to join us. I can’t promise much by way of conversation, especially from those two.” She jerked her thumb in the direction of her table, “but I always think you can never have enough friends and I’d love to have a new friend to talk to. Their social skills leave something to be desired.”
Lily took the money Daisy held out, gave her change and then reached behind her for the pot of receipts. “Jack,” she yelled, “I’m done for the evening but I’m staying to claim my drinks.” She undid the apron that she had worn over her clothes, tossed it onto the counter behind the bar, picked up a couple of empty glasses and a bottle of wine and followed Daisy to the table.
“I’m telling you,” Ben was saying, “clubs are packed. This time of year they’re a cesspit of germs. We’d have all have the flu for Christmas.”
“Or we might get lucky under some mistletoe,” Eli said, raising his eyebrows. Lily noted how put out Daisy looked at his suggestion. Clearly there was some history there.
“Clubs don’t have mistletoe. Also, mistletoe is poisonous. And hemiparasitic,” Ben said.
“I wasn’t suggesting we eat it.”
Daisy tapped her glass against Lily’s. “Cheers. Welcome to the gang.”
Lily spread her receipts over the table. “I’ve got enough free drinks here for six pints and a bottle of wine. How about we stay and enjoy these then see what we feel like doing after that?”
“We don’t get paid for a month and Daisy won’t see a profit for some time, after she pays for her new stock,” Ben said. “Staying here for free drinks would make good fiscal sense. Thank you…”
“Lily,” Lily said, reaching out her hand for Ben to shake. He looked at it but didn’t take it. Daisy nudged him, and he reached out and shook.
“If it’s decided and we’re staying here, then I’m going to check out my options.” Eli stood and looked around the room, spotted a group of women in the corner, giggling over their tequila shots and packets of crisps. “I’ll be back soon. Well, hopefully I won’t, that one in the miniskirt seems to be smiling at me.”
“I’m going to play the arcade game. I got close to my high score the other day.” Ben left the table too.
“Looks like it’s just us,” Daisy said.
Lily poured them each a glass of wine and they cheers-ed again.
“Have you been in London for long?” Daisy asked.
“A few months,” Lily said. “I grew up in a village on the south coast but it seemed sensible to leave.”
“You wanted to go somewhere with more to do? There’s always something around here, a show or an exhibition. A new club. A new girl, if you’re Eli.”
“I’m very much enjoying that aspect of being in a big city. And a break from the neighbourhood gossips. I haven’t even met my neighbours yet. I love it here.”
“You had problems where you used to live?”
Lily took a sip of her wine before she answered. “It got worse after I got caught in bed with the vicar’s son.” She took another drink. “Might not have helped that I got caught with his daughter the week before. They were a beautiful family.” She gazed off, lost in her reminiscence. When she looked back Daisy had emptied her glass. Lily topped them up. “You have any good gossip yourself?” She watched as Daisy’s eyes drifted immediately to Eli. Definitely history.
“Nope. I’m not that interesting I’m afraid.”
“Is that a drawback when you want to open a romance shop? Eli mentioned it when he was at the bar earlier.”
“I’m hoping to support the love of others, not my own, luckily. Do you like working here?”
“Not so much. I like talking with people, but most customers come here with friends so we don’t get to chat for long. It’s the only part of a village that I miss.”
“Have you thought of working in a shop too? I’d offer you a job in mine but I have no idea yet if I’ll be able to pay anyone extra wages. Or myself. Maybe you just need to find the right shop?”
Lily grinned. She sorted through the papers on the table until she found a token for some crisps. She headed for the bar and returned with snacks.
“Do you like animals?” Daisy asked, ripping open a bag of salt and vinegar.
“Who doesn’t? But I’m allergic.”
“I got fired from the last cafe because I ate more than I served.”
“Fired for bonking a co-worker in the changing room.”
“Do you know any? I would love that!” Lily exclaimed.
“I was joking.”
“I wasn’t. It would be perfect. Do you know how many people have hang ups about sex? When it’s a perfectly natural and fun form of entertainment.”
“It’s far more than that,” Daisy spluttered.
“Not if you buy enough condoms. Daisy, you are a genius. Let’s finish this bottle and then go and get me a job. There’s a shop just round the corner. I bet they’ll hire me. I’m very persuasive.”
Daisy tried to protest but Lily wouldn’t hear any of it. She topped up their glasses and raised hers in one more toast. “I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.”
If you enjoyed this little introduction, you can read more about Daisy and Lily’s adventures in Daisy’s Christmas Gift Shop – which I thoroughly enjoyed. You can read my review here or buy yourself a copy from: