The Bakery–not the most original of names for a bakery, but that’s what it was. For generations, Mila’s family had owned The Bakery located in a cute, little farm town in the south of England. However, with a few mainstream bakery branches popping up in the town recently, Mila was losing business. That’s where I came in–Cathy, twenty one, newly graduated with a degree in business and hospitality. I could’ve gone for a better paying manager position at a big name hotel, but something about Mila and this little place made it feel like home. So I decided to rent out a room in her large family home and make myself comfortable earning only what I helped make.
Mila, a little older than myself at twenty five, was a struggling businesswoman mixing tradition with new technology in order to stay ahead of the game. I often suggested relocating to a vibrant and lively city where tradition attracts interest and tourists, but she said that this was and always will be where The Bakery resided.
“Two cheese and onion pastries please.” Joe was the son of a local farm owner that was always popping in to buy his dad and himself lunch in between their hard labor.
“Here you go.” I handed them over to him. He always took his time taking them out of my hands. A smile ran across his face as our skin touched for a lingering moment that couldn’t have been no more than a few seconds but felt like hours.
“Cathy we have things to do in the back here, you know. I’ll take the front.” Mila came storming out in her bossy work-mood. Although I was following family recipes, Mila insisted that my cooking added something new which people liked. That’s why I was to work in the back for most of the day.
Mila wasn’t to be messed with during the work hours. She was lovely when we got back home but was strictly business during the day. I let go of Joe’s hands, noticing his lips curling into a frown, and rushed past Mila into the back room.
“Why is it she’s always called in the back when I’m around Mila? Is there a problem or do you just want to keep her to yourself?” I could hear Joe worked up and defending the way Mila treated me at work. I personally didn’t mind it. She was, after all, my boss and the store owner.
“I don’t know what you mean.” Mila’s voice sounded hesitant.
What did Joe mean by that? Why would Mila want me to herself? I wasn’t going to run off and marry a man I barely knew leaving her business to rot. She knew I was devoted to helping her no matter what happened.
“It’s a small town. People talk you know.” I heard the door slam and Joe leave. I couldn’t quite understand what he was getting at. It’s not like I had a problem with the way I was bossed about in The Bakery. That happened in every job.
I popped my head around the door frame back into the front of the shop to see Mila angrily counting today’s earnings. She shot me a look which, without words, I knew to mean get back to work.
I began to bake the rest of the pastries and pies for the day, but unfortunately a lot of them went to waste. We only had one or two more customers after Joe had been in and the ones that did come weren’t being their usual friendly selves. It seemed Mila had not only annoyed Joe but the whole town just for being a businesswoman.
Eventually evening came, and we sat at the dining room table, on opposite ends, both eating our soup. I kept looking up at her to say something, but all she did was bite a chunk out of her bread roll and slurp the soup from her spoon. I’d never seen her in such a mood since I’d known her.
“I’m going to bed. There’s a fair at the market tomorrow so business should be better. Make sure you’re up early. I shouldn’t have to keep waking you up like a child.” She stormed off sulking upstairs and left me with a chill cold enough to freeze my soup.
I went to bed confused and slightly offended. What had gotten into her? Both her and Joe had never had a problem before. In fact, they were quite friendly the first few times he came in. It was only these last few weeks that there’d seemed to be tension between them. Maybe there was some history between them, and Joe’s advancements toward me had struck a nerve? If that was the case, then he was out of the picture. I valued Mila more than that.
Dawn in this small town meant being woken up by the early-rising farmers whose old machinery could be heard miles away. I somehow managed to ignore this from time to time, but I found myself staring at the ceiling with wide eyes as soon as the first blade of grass was mown at least twenty-minutes away from the house.
I didn’t want to annoy Mila so I got dressed and headed straight down to The Bakery. She wasn’t in yet which meant I could open up early and do my best to make more money. I wanted to impress her. I felt as though she wasn’t satisfied with what I had to offer, and for some reason it really bothered me.
Several customers came in talking about the fair and asking how Mila was doing. They seemed to be concerned about her well-being as if something was off with her, but I reassured them that she was as fine as she usually was. A few of them even mentioned her spat with Joe which was hardly anything more than a few sentences to each other, but I guess anything was gossip in a small farming town like this.
By the time she arrived, I had sold over twenty pastries and about a dozen pies. I was quite proud of myself and hoped she would be too.
“That’s great. Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves though. It’s hardly anything compared to what we need.” I was a little disappointed; she put a damper on my winning streak of sales.
“But well done.”
I got distracted by her praise and accidentally placed the pies in the oven with my arm skimming the edge.
“Ouch!” I screamed as a tiny burn formed. I immediately rushed over to the sink to run it under cold water.