Christmas Town ~ The Bakery
“But Mr. Patisserie even your name means pastries!”
“I don’t care if my name means schmuck we are not going to make cookies and donuts and foo foo things. This is a bakery! We bake breads and sometimes cake. Maybe in the big city they do things crazy but here we make bread. That’s it! Now make some bread!”
Janet sighed as she watched Mr. Patisserie walk into the back of the bakery. He didn’t understand she was only trying to help. When she left Christmas Town five years ago she had attended the Addison school of Pastry. She was a star pupil too. As instructor Mrs. Bella Martin said “You were born to make the pastry”. She graduated with honors, but in the city a pastry chef was not the easiest job to get. She was expected to apprentice for years for little pay at the nicer restaurants and the not so nice ones, all she did was open a bag and add water for even less money. Eventually she ran out of options and moved back home. Mr. Patisserie gave her a job in the bakery and helped her get an apartment above the café. His help was why she wanted to make croissants or macaroons or, heck, even chocolate chip cookies. Anything to shake up the business and get people to come in.
She sighed even louder as she passed the empty display cases on her way to the kitchen in the back. They weren’t empty because the product was sold out they were empty because Mr. Patisserie old and set in his ways. The bread wasn’t even that awesome and Janet brought most of it to the churches the next day. She didn’t dare to tweak the recipe. The old baker had caught her once and just about had a heart attack. So Janet was stuck trying to convince him to let her do a trail period of croissants. She had had no luck so far.
Opening a bag of flour to start a new batch, Janet heard a weird wheezing sound. She put down the flour and crept towards the office. The baker had forbid her from entering the office, but the door was ajar. She peeked and saw her boss lying on the floor.
“Oh no Mr. P!” she went to his side. “Are you ok? Mr. Patisserie? Stan?”
She shook him, but he didn’t respond. He looked, well, dead. She stood up; his cell phone was on the desk. She grabbed and called emergency services. She followed the instructions of the lady on the phone. Thankfully he wasn’t dead, but Mr. P didn’t look good at all. As soon as the fire dept. showed up, everything happened in a blur. It seemed like every fireman in the town had showed up and before she knew it, Mr. P was bundled up on a gurney and whisked away in the ambulance to the big city hospital. Janet was left standing in the door of the bakery. Alone.
Later, after she closed the bakery and brought the unsold bread to the church, Janet hopped on the bus to go see her boss. He was in ICU and it seemed he had a rather bad case of pneumonia. It would be few days before he could even have visitors. She was a little shook. Pneumonia! He hadn’t even coughed around her! At his age, she didn’t know, but thought that pneumonia could be fatal. She googled it on the bus ride home. It turns out that the elderly sometimes have no symptoms at all! She was thankful she was there when he collapsed.
The next morning Janet got to the bakery early. She was determined to keep things going while her boss was in the hospital. She automatically started to make bread. It wasn’t until she had the dough in the kneader that it occurred to her that perhaps she could go ahead and make something different to go along with the bread. She thought about it for a while. It almost felt like a betrayal to Mr. P. She looked around the kitchen. She had enough bread made for the day. What could it hurt? If what she made didn’t sell she would tell Mr. P he was right. But if they sold, they would maybe make some money for once.
Her mind made up, Janet set about making Macaroons. She gathered all she needed including the large bag of coconut that she had spotted weeks earlier in the store room with the chocolate that she had secretly ordered when she thought she could convince Mr. P. Humming Janet made several dozen chocolate dipped macaroons. She moved the bread from the big window and put them in the display case by the counter and arranged the macaroons in the window.
It was warm inside the bakery so Janet opened the door. She stood there looking at Christmas Town. It was always a bit funny to her to see the town covered in snow. Everything except the bakery. She knew it was because of the warmth from the ovens, but Janet liked to think it was because they were a warm beautiful oasis in a sea of cold. Someone clearing their throat brought her back to reality. There was Mr. Johnson looking at her.
“Hi” she said. He was rather handsome and rather single. She blushed at her thoughts.
He smiled at her, “Could I come in or do you need a special invite”
Janet was still standing in the doorway. She rapidly moved in side with a mumbled “of course.” Unfortunately she was holding the door open and when she moved it swung close right in Mr. Johnson’s face.
“Oh no!” She exclaimed. “I am so sorry. Oh are you hurt? Let me get you some ice. Come sit down. Oh I’m sorry”
She led the poor man to a chair and totally ignoring his claims of good health, ran off to get some ice from the freezer. When she came back, he was standing by the counter. She ran to him and put the ice of his face. Well that’s what she wanted to do but she stumbled over her own feet and literally threw the ice at him. He got it right in the chest. Janet turned bright red as he looked at her, then the ice. She wanted to sink into the floor. He continued to stare at her. She wasn’t sure what the look on his face was but all she could think to do was blurt out
“Would you like to try our new macaroons?”
He burst into laughter. It was a deep rich laugh and it was infectious. Despite herself, Janet started to giggle as well. It wasn’t until the bell on the door warned them that someone had come in the bakery that they were able to stop. Janet looked to greet the customer. It was one of the children, maybe one of the Smiths kids. The poor child was looking at the grownups with wide eyes, pretty sure they had lost their minds.
“Hi. Can I help you?” Janet asked.
The little girl shook her head and fled the bakery. Smiling Janet turned her attention to Mr. Johnson.
“Do you always attack your customers?” he asked
“No not normally. I am so sorry about everything.” Janet took a deep breath. “Well Mr. Johnson. What can I get you?”
“I came in because Macaroons are my favorite cookie! I would like half a dozen and throw in some bread too. I have never been here before. I didn’t know you made other things beside bread.”
Janet confessed, “We usually don’t but Mr. Is in the hospital and I thought I would try some new things.”
“You should try new things every day”, he said as he bit into a macaroon. “These are beyond delicious.”
Janet smiled, “Thank you Mr. Johnson”
“Oh please call me Joe. I’ll be back tomorrow for more!” he replied as he left the bakery.
The macaroons were a hit and the bakery sold out of everything including bread by noon. Janet was ecstatic until she realized had nothing to bring to the church this day. She spent the next few hours making some more bread to take to the church and was out of the bakery early enough to take the bus to the hospital. She still could not see Mr. Patisserie, she wasn’t family. In fact, Janet wasn’t even sure he had family. She watched him lying in the bed with all sorts of tubes and lines going from his body to machines. No one should be in there alone. She was just going to have to find out if he had family and let them know that he was ill
The next few days Janet made macaroons and croissants and beautiful brightly colored petit fours. She made eclairs and decadent cream puffs along with a variety of bread. She sold out every day by noon and every day Joe Johnson stopped in for some macaroons. He would stay while she was cleaning up and they would talk. Just about every subject was covered from why a pastry chef would move back to town to how she made such great coffee to Joe’s ex-military career to Mr. P’s missing family. Janet loved talking with him, it was easy and the conversations just flowed. For the first time in years, Janet was content.
It was the fourth day that Janet got a call that Mr. Patisserie was moved to a regular room. She was glad he was feeling better, but worried he would not approve of what she had done. That day Joe also came in with news. He had found Mr. P’s family. Janet didn’t even know he was also looking. She had been searching every night to no avail. Joe had had better luck. It turns that Stan Patisserie had a widowed sister in the city. With Joe at her side, Janet called the elderly lady.
Maude Patisserie hadn’t talked to her brother in years. Not for any reason just life got in the way. Janet was surprised that her boss had never mentioned a sister. Maude laughed and assured her that Joe was a stick in the mud but they loved each other. Joe volunteered to go get Maude and the three of them went to the hospital together to see Stan. Mr. P was looking so much better and was deep in conversation with his sister with Joe and Janet left the room to get coffee in the cafeteria.
“I have to tell him” Janet said as she put down the paper cup of coffee, “I have to tell him I went behind his back and made more than just bread.”
She sighed. She had had so much fun and had been so content these last few days, she didn’t want it to end. But it wasn’t her bakery and she wasn’t the boss and it wasn’t her decision. A tear crept out of the corner of her eye. Joe reached over with a napkin and wiped the tear away.
“Hey now, don’t cry. You will have your time again. I promise. Besides when he sees how prosperous the bakery has been perhaps he’ll changed his mind.”
“Sure” Janet gave a half smile.
They sat in silence and drank coffee for an hour, giving Maude time with Joe before they went back up to the room. They visited a while, but when Janet could see her boss was getting tired she mentioned how she had to get up early to open the bakery and should go. As Maude and Joe left the room, Janet hung back.
“Mr. P” she started “I have a confession.”
Her boss looked at her and barked “Yea I know you been making all kinds of stuff at the bakery and you feel bad.”
Janet’s eyes widened “How did you know?”
“You thought you were the only one visiting?” The whole damn town has been here today. They all love the bakery, its so good blah blah blah.”
“I’m sorry. I will stop” Janet hung her head.
“Like hell you will! I forbid you to stop! I hear everyone is buying. That’s more money! I like it. When I get out of here, I hope you will stay and do what you doing because Maude and I are going to Hawaii. She convinced me I should retire so I will. The bakery is going to be your problem now.”
“What?” Janet stammered
“Well I have been looking for someone to turn the damn thing over to. You do a good job. Turning it over to you.”
“Thank you! Oh my! What do I say? How?”
“Don’t get all excited, I still want a cut, money is money. We will work it out when I get back from Hawaii”
Janet gave Mr. P a hug and went to tell Joe who she ran into because he was standing in the door. He instantly put his arms around Janet and smiled down on her.
Janet looked up into his brown eyes that were as deep as his laugh.
“I get the bakery! I, I get to stay!”
“Yes I heard” he laughed. “By the way Mrs. Bakery owner, do Bakers work on Friday nights?”
“I don’t stutter?” He replied looking down at her. “If Bakers don’t work on Friday night, I would certainly love to take a particular one to the Christmas dance.”
It took Janet a minute to realize that he was asking her out on a date. A date! Could this day get any better. She was to get a bakery and the most handsome man in town just asked her to the dance. She grinned at Joe.
The smile left his face as he looked at her questioningly “Well?”
She grinned even more “Yes! Yes! I mean No! Bakers don’t work Friday nights so yes I will go to dance.”
His grinned returned as he hugged her harder.
Maude and Stan Patisserie laughed as Janet blurted out, “Could this Christmas season get any better! No! No it can’t!”
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