“Good evening, ma’am. It’s John Smith from the “Vortex Express”. I’d like to discuss the dates of the delivery with you if you have time now.”
“Um...what delivery are we talking about?”
“Whaddaya mean ‘what delivery?’ Four boxes of floral foam bricks, nine glass vases, a roll of green wire, a whole load of buckets with flowers to be delivered before the 20th of May?”
John heard nervous laughter on the other side. He didn’t know whether to be irritated or amused.
The owner of the Cockney accented voice stopped their soft laughing.
“Sorry, sir. I believe you called the wrong number. The person the delivery is for sounds like a flower shop owner. I’m only an artist, I’m afraid. I’m Rose Tyler, if that helps. Don’t believe you have any clients under that name.”
John is shocked and slightly irritated by the flirty voice. Why’d she go and tell him that? Why couldn’t she just tell him from the start that she wasn’t Miss Thompson? A simple “wrong number” would suffice. Not that he clarified if she was Miss Thompson...still...
John doesn’t want to be, but he’s intrigued.
He’s intrigued but his people skills are not perfect. Not perfect at all. And he’s just wasting time here, talking to some random woman from God knows where while his knees are complaining from lifting weights five floors up without a lift.
“An artist, are you? Do you fancy yourself a Van Gogh then? Or are one of those crazy lot who splatters paint all over the canvas and asks loads of money for that? No, I see," he sniffs and switches the hand that holds the phone, "you are the posh one, living off your daddy’s wealth and pretending to be employed, now, taking orders from the rich?"
He wishes to bite his tongue and swallow his words before finishing them but it’s too late.
“My father died when I was a baby. And I’m an Art teacher at school.”
John is blushing to the roots of his hair.
“Bastard!” the phone line goes dead.
John wishes to find a hole in the ground and disappear the moment the woman confesses the truth and calls him a bastard. He has no idea as to why he spoke like that to a stranger, so coldly, rashly, rudely, snidely. His grandmother would have been devastated if she knew just how he allowed himself to treat a lady (“I brought you up better than those hooligans in the streets, John, be a gentleman or I’ll wash that mouth of yours with soap!”)
He really is just a miserable bastard. He had no right to talk to the woman like that even if he hadn’t slept peacefully for three nights, even if his back ached from picking and carrying heavy boxes, even if Jack insisted on setting John up on a date (Heaven knows John doesn't want that).
John sighed and blocked the screen. No point in thinking about it - there was no way the artist lady would even speak to him if he called to apologise.
John still sends “I’m sorry for being an impolite bastard” message that evening.
He doesn’t receive a reply.
Three weeks later John is delivering the water bottles for the coolers in school when he stops to rest his arms and back a bit. He walks a little further down the corridor and pauses at the wall where the students’ drawings and art projects are pinned carefully. The mesh of textures and colours should irritate John (he’s not the one for bright colours, prefers the neutral ones). But he is strangely mesmerised and cheered by the eclectic and imperfect drawings of the kids, by insecure and shy pictures painted by the teens, by the teacher’s sure strokes where the students must have asked for help.
John was never married, he didn’t have kids and knew little about them, truly, apart from the knowledge he gained from spending time with Jack’s niece. Jack Harkness, his best mate, wasn’t the kind of man to settle down and have kids (although John suspected that there were a couple of little copies of Jack running around London from Jack’s nightly adventures in the past). Yet, the bloke was the greatest uncle one might wish for their child. Generous, attentive, kind and willing to listen. John often spent time with Jack and his niece when Jack babysat, and John was impressed and enamoured with the way the child thought, spoke and did things.
Children were naive yet naturally wise, cruel when it came to things that scared or saddened them yet compassionate towards anyone crying, uneducated yet so smart where the adults were acting stupid.
John’s musings are interrupted when the bell rings and the school children start collecting their stuff noisily, pushing each other in hopes to find the best place in the school yard for a lunch break. He hears a chorus of “Good-bye, Miss Tyler!” and his eyes grow enormously big.
Art class. Miss Tyler.
John starts to connect the dots. He looks at the plaque near the door and his heart jumps to his throat.
“Rose Tyler, Art Teacher”, the plaque states.
John swallows nervously and bends to pick up the empty water bottles when a pair of dainty shoes appears in his line of sight.
“Hello there! D’ya need help?”
John freezes for a second then straightens his back while lifting the bottles off the floor.
The beautiful young woman smiles at him kindly. She’s got brown eyes in a welcoming whiskey shade, yellow-blonde hair (the colour comes from the bottle, he’s sure) and wide, generous lips that must be so pleasant to kiss.
The pretty teacher’s smile vanishes when she notices the badge on John’s uniform shirt that says “John Smith” and her face falls, causing her to school it into a neutral expression.
“Ah, I see. Well, then, good day to you, Mister Smith,” Rose is about to turn away and walk without a second glance when John blurts out:
Rose stops walking but doesn’t turn to face him.
“Miss Tyler, I’m sorry for speaking to you the way I did. I had no right to...talk to you like that and to say anything about your father," somehow, the words about admitting his own guilt fall easily from his lips and he is shocked to realise that he honestly wants Rose Tyler to accept his apology and to forgive him. "I’m a grumpy old sod, me mate Jack says so regularly. Still, I’m sorry. It was no excuse.”
He wishes to make things right, to make her look at him, to make amends.
‘Only in your dreams,' the inner voice snides.
“On one condition only, Mr Smith,” answers Rose.
‘Or not,’ the hopeful voice in his soul flares.
John gulps. “What would that be, Miss Tyler?”
Rose turns to him and narrows her eyes, evaluating him.
“On two conditions, actually," John wonders if this is a smile he sees on her lips, "you start calling me Rose and you take me to the best chippy in London this week.” John can’t quite believe his luck.
He must look like a loon because Rose giggles and sticks out her palm for him to shake. John shakes her gently, humbled by the feeling of the small, warm hand in his.
He lifts his eyes to her face and finally comes to his senses.
“It’s only fair that you call me John, then,” he replies and scratches the back of his neck.
Rose hums, “You’ve got my phone number, then?”
John nods slowly, enchanted by the soft lilt of her voice.
“Well then,” Rose smoothes out the wrinkle in her blouse and turns on her heels after saying “See ya!” with a tongue-in-teeth grin.
Jonh waves hand to her retreating back before Rose turns around the corner.
John and Rose end up talking for hours and hours after sharing a meal.
They end up talking even more when they start dating a month later.