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The calm to my storm, my sun when it rains

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The walls looked much better that morning, although the bags under Serena’s eyes had got a lot worse. It was with great reluctance that she had dragged herself out of bed that morning, loathed to work on Sundays under normal circumstances but needs must. With less than a week until opening, she really needed to get everything sorted.

There had been a delivery from the marketing company yesterday while she was painting. She hadn’t had a chance to open it yet. She ripped open the brown paper packaging and unfurled a large banner proclaiming the opening day of the shop. It looked perfect, exactly as she asked. The name of the shop, Serenity Chocolates, was written in a smooth font swirling across the banner. And the opening date of the following Saturday was large underneath. With the past couple of days having brought more than its fair share of disasters, Serena went over the banner carefully a number of times before proclaiming it disaster free.

She gave her friend Ric a call to ask if he could give her a hand putting it up. It was large and unwieldy. The last thing she needed was to drop it in a muddy puddle or something. Ric, an ex-colleague from her teaching days, came round quickly armed with a step ladder.

“Where do you want it?” he asked as he looked at the banner spread out on the floor.

“Right over the window I think,” Serena said.

She helped Ric manoeuvre the ladder into the correct place and she passed him the tools as he set about getting the banner in position.

“Shouldn’t your ever so macho girlfriend be doing this?” he asked.

Serena blushed, regretting ever having mentioned to Ric about how good Bernie looked when she did DIY around the house.

“Rewiring her son’s house, just my luck.”

Ric hummed in sympathy. “She back for the opening?”

“So she claims. But I’ve not had an update recently so maybe not.”

They sat inside sipping mugs of coffee once the banner was up. It was nice to have a catch up with Ric. They didn’t get much chance anymore, Serena being busy with her business and Ric overwhelmed with the relentless pressures of his teaching job.

The rest of the day was spent walking round town delivering the leaflets. She’d managed to persuade Ric to stick around to help and had promised Fleur a home-cooked meal and some rather expensive wine to get her onside. Truth be told, Fleur coming for dinner was really more about Serena not having to eat on her own again. She’d spent years eating on her own but since meeting Bernie, she’d found these enforced solitary meal very lonely.

The wind picked up when she was still a good mile from the shop and the rain soon followed. Tucking the remaining leaflets into her bag, she hurried back towards the shop as the wind tugged some of them free. She watched as the paper flapped away from her and then fell to the ground in a soggy heap. There was little point in retrieving them so she slunk away, her hair sticking to her head as the rain soaked her through.

She turned the corner onto main street, her shop at the other end, when she noticed something large coming towards her. She had just enough time to step out of the way when it blew past her. There was a shout and Ric barrelled past her. She turned in shock to watch where he was going and registered for the first time what it was that had blown past her. It was her banner. She let out a wail and then gave chase.

When she reached them the banner was wrapped around a tree and Ric was already busy trying to detangle it. Blinking back tears, she helped him and they managed to drag the sodden banner back to the shop. Spread out on the floor, it was clear that, while the ink hadn’t run, there were multiple large tears in it.

She put her head in her hands in despair. Ric put an arm around her shoulders in comfort just as Fleur walked in the door.

“What’s going on here then?” she asked in a bright voice, “Just because Bernie’s away, doesn’t mean you can play the field Serena!”

Ric turned and glared at her, indicating the ripped banner.

“Oh. Is that all?”

Fleur knelt down next to it and inspected the tears.

“Look, I think this is perfectly fixable. Let it dry out and then get some good, strong gaffer tape on the reverse. Do it carefully enough and no one will notice.”

Serena wiped her eyes. “You really think so?”

“I really do.”

Serena smiled weakly. “Thanks Fleur. What would I do without you? And you, Ric.”

“Had a nervous breakdown years ago!” Ric joked.

Fleur smiled. “Let’s leave it for the day. You owe me a very nice bottle of red.”

“Wait, you’re paying Fleur in wine?”

Fleur snorted. “Come join us Ric. Serena’ll even throw in a meal. Lobster thermidor was it?”

Serena’s grin widened. “You’re getting shepherd’s pie and you’ll be grateful!”

She turned to Ric. “And you are very welcome to join us.”