Lyrics of a Small Town, Page 3Abbi Glines
An older lady was placing muffins into the bakery display and looked up at me as the door bells chimed.
“Welcome to Signed Sips. How can I help you?” she asked smiling brightly. Her hair was the purest color white I had ever seen. She had it styled in a short bob that made her face look as if it were heart-shaped.
“I’m looking for a Mrs. Hillya Garry,” I said, returning her smile, glad to have found a friendly face since I was about to be annoying for a few moments.
The lady continued to smile. “You found her,” she replied.
This was even better. The nice lady was Hillya. She looked to be my gran’s age. This made sense. Another one of her friends. The kind I could picture my gran being friends with, unlike Lily who I visited yesterday at the penthouse.
I stepped up to the counter. “Hello, I am Henley Warren. My grandmother was Honey. She left me a list of things she’d like me to do after she passed away. I am to give you this letter,” I said and held out my hand to Hillya. When she reached out to take it, there was an odd expression on her face. She wasn’t close to tears or emotional. She seemed concerned almost. As if my gran had left her words she wasn’t sure she wanted to read. Knowing I had to follow this through I continued, “I’m also supposed to stand here while you read it. I’m sorry.” I added the last part because Hillya truly looked like she did not want to read the letter from my gran. Let alone have an audience.
Everyone loved Honey Warren or so I thought. Perhaps I was visiting the one person in this town who didn’t love my gran. Was this Gran’s way of making amends for something she had done. Hillya looked at the letter in her hand several moments then slowly opened it. I had expected her to ask me some questions first or tell me she didn’t have time to open it now.
Not wanting to stare at Hillya while she read the letter, I focused on the options in her bakery display. She had blueberry, banana, and praline pecan muffins. The cake donuts came in chocolate glaze, strawberry, and maple cream. Her cupcakes were works of art with pieces of candy bars, cookies and even tiny cupcakes as toppings. I glanced up as a girl came from the back carrying a tray of cookies and sat them down before helping the customer who had just walked in the door.
Hillya cleared her throat and I turned my attention back to her, hoping this wasn’t going to be something Gran had walked me into that was unsalvageable. If they had a grudge between them, I did hope Hillya could forgive Gran. She was gone now. There was no reason to hold a grudge. However, Gran doing anything to someone that would make them hold a grudge seemed unlikely.
“You bake gluten-free, dairy-free items?” Hillya asked me then.
I wish I had read that letter now. I had no idea what this was about and I had obviously been way off with my assumptions. “Uh, yes, I mean, not professionally. I just enjoy baking and I can’t have dairy or gluten... so…”
“You good with the low-calorie granola mixes and those bowl things that are all the craze?” she then asked.
I nodded. “Acai bowls? I make them for me,” I said.
Hillya folded the letter slowly and studied it before looking back at me again. “I’ve owned this place for thirty years. I’ve had to change it many times to keep up with the trends. Seems the trends have changed on me once again. Young people want healthier options. Nut-free options I have managed, but the gluten and dairy, I have not. I do not know how to make the granola bowls the way they want them or the best way to make them low-calorie. I will pay you twenty dollars an hour. Thirty hours a week. If you have any savory evening appetizers ideas, I am looking for those too. We add a full bar after four every day and stay open until ten. There are two different book clubs that are held here each month and we have a monthly author signing.”
I stood there, unsure what to say. I had never made any of my recipes for anyone other than me. my family, and some friends. My mother had tried and liked them and Gran had enjoyed my experiments in the kitchen but that didn’t mean others would. This woman was offering me twenty dollars an hour without even trying any of my creations. What had Gran said to her?
“Would you like me to make some of them for you to try first? Before you hire me?” I asked. I hadn’t wanted to get a job so soon, but I also hadn’t expected to get a job doing something I enjoyed. Something I thought I was good at, but I wasn’t sure other people would agree. At least not sure enough for twenty dollars an hour.
“Honey’s opinion is all I need,” she replied and tucked the letter into the pocket of her white capri pants. “I believe baking runs in your blood, even deeper than you realize,” she said with a smile that didn’t quite meet her eyes. “Can you start tomorrow morning? Fridays are busy and I could use the extra help. I get here at four, but if you could be here by five that would give me plenty time to show you things and you can tell me what all you need in order to make your creations.”
All I could manage was a nod. How could I say no to this? Well played, Gran. Well, played.
“Thank you,” I said.
The expression on Hillya’s face was sad, but there was something else there. Possibly hopefulness? Was her shop struggling that much? If it was on me to save the place that was a lot of pressure. “I believe we both have Honey to thank,” she replied. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning, Henley.”
When I was seated back in my car, I thought perhaps I should start reading all the letters Gran left before I delivered them.
“What have you gotten me into this time, Gran?” I asked, but of course she didn’t answer.
Starting the car, I pulled out onto the road and drove. I didn’t drive toward Gran’s house or the library. Instead I headed for the health food store in town. I needed to be sure they had what I needed before tomorrow morning. I didn’t want to show up empty-handed. I would feel better about things if I could walk in and bake some items right away for Hillya to try. I might also feel more confident at five in the morning if I spent my day today baking what I planned to do tomorrow.
Will had loved my banana bread and it was not only dairy and gluten-free but organic. Mom always asked me to make the dark chocolate granola bars and I could do those organic as well if I could find the right ingredients.
My mind began turning over all the different ideas and I grew excited about the possibilities. I was going to get to bake things that I created for people to buy. I would be lying if I hadn’t thought about it before but then I would push the idea away because I had no real training. I played around in the kitchen. I would have never had the confidence to apply for a job to do something like this, and yet, here I was with a job doing just that and it was all thanks to my gran.
Two banana loaves, two dozen caramel oatmeal cookies, one batch of dark chocolate granola and one batch of brown sugar granola later along with a new idea in the oven I didn’t have a name for yet.
It was well past six in the evening and I was covered in oat flour, batter of many different kinds, and happier than I had been in a long time. While humming a tune my gran used to sing in the kitchen, there was a knock at the door.
I wiped my hands off on Gran’s yellow gingham apron and used my wrist to push the hair that had worked its way free from my bun out of my face then headed for the door. It wasn’t until I rounded the corner that I saw who was on the other side of the glass door. Pausing, I thought of several things at once. First of all, my appearance. It was very likely I had flour amongst other ingredients on my face and in my hair. Then of course the most important thing, why was Saul here and was I going to open the door?
I didn’t even know his last name. His eyes met mine and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to turn and walk away now. Not that I was so drawn to him but because I had better manners than that. I wasn’t rude. Besides, whoever Saul was he had helped me not once but twice. I doubted he was here to be rude.
When I reached the door, I opened it and forced a smile I hoped was polite. �
�Hello,” I said as if he hadn’t just watched me contemplating not coming to the door.
The corner of his mouth curled as if this amused him. “Did I interrupt something?” he asked.
I shook my head no. “Not at all. How can I help you?”
He continued to appear as if he may laugh at any moment. “You got some flour on your nose and forehead,” he said, nodding his chin in my direction as he said it.
“I am baking,” I explained, refusing to reach up and wipe it off. With my luck, I would only make it worse.
“Then I am interrupting something,” he replied.
Was there a point to this visit? My smile was pointless. I was sure it looked as fake as it felt. I dropped it. “Currently it’s in the oven. I have a few minutes,” I told him, emphasizing the word few so he would get to the point.
He didn’t seem to care. Instead he looked around me and inside the house. “Smells good.”
“I hope so,” I replied.
His eyes shifted back to me. Then he reached into the pocket of his jeans, drawing my attention to the outline of his well-chiseled stomach under the thin fabric of his white tee shirt. I shouldn’t be looking at that but it was hard to miss.
“I was asked to drop this off to you,” he said, snapping my attention back to him and not his abs. He was holding out a small plastic card the size of a credit card.
Confused, I reached for it and immediately read what it said.
Hendricks was written at the top in the familiar gold letters of the hotel and condominiums’ emblem. Underneath it was my name Henley Warren. Then lastly, there was a long number and a barcode.
I lifted my gaze back to meet his. “What is this?”
“Entry card. Lily sent it. When the guard on duty comes to your car, you just show him this.”
Lily had sent me a card through Saul? I wondered how she knew Saul. Was he not just some employee? Did he find out who I had visited and alerted her to my having difficulty getting in the gate? I started to ask, but he spoke first.
“I overheard Lily asking a guard to have a card sent to you. I told them I knew where you lived and I’d drop it off,” he explained, as if he had read my mind.
“Oh, well, thanks,” I said. He didn’t ask how I knew the resident in the penthouse and I didn’t offer an explanation. We weren’t to be friends. He had made that clear.
“It was on my way,” he said. If he was concerned I was going to read too much into his gesture, he need not be.
“Of course,” I replied, realizing he was once again headed to the house party. “Well, have a good night and thanks again,” I said and started to close the door.
“One more thing,” he said, stopping me, and I paused to look back at him. “If Drake comes around, don’t take him seriously. He isn’t for you,” he said then turned and walked back down the stairs.
Had he just warned me off his friend? Had that been the reason he offered to bring the card here? I stood there staring at his back for a moment longer than necessary trying to process what he had just said and the way he had said it. There had been a definite smirk on his face. It had been slight but I had seen it.
Closing the door with more force than necessary, I growled in frustration. Saul might have been helpful, but apparently, he was also an elitist ass. An elitist ass who drove a beat-up old truck and worked at a condominium complex. Did his ridiculously good looks get him accepted by the trust fund brats down the street? Did I even care how he fit into their world? No. None of it mattered. He nor his friends were a part of my life and I did not have some hope that they would be. If he thought I was sitting around waiting on Drake to show up and flirt with me again he was sorely mistaken. It annoyed me more than it should that he thought I needed to be told not to take his friend’s flirting seriously. Those two had taken up the last of my time. I would be sure to stay clear of them. Both of them.
I had what I believed I was going to call a dark chocolate roll in the oven that I needed to get out and let cool then add the icing. I wasn’t going to dwell on Saul or Drake. They were not part of my plan this summer. After today, it was very unlikely I would see either of them again, unless it was them driving by to go party down the street.
The smell of books was not what wafted up to meet me when Hillya opened the back door to the café. The kitchen smelled of cinnamon, vanilla, caramel, and coffee. I held two paper bags in my hands that were filled with all I needed to make the items I had worked to create yesterday. I had one of the banana loaves with me as well as a plate with one of each of the other items I had made for Hillya to try. I had awakened at three unable to sleep any longer and made a fresh batch of the dark chocolate granola, deciding to try some goji berries this time, and I had been happy with the way they turned out.
“Good morning,” Hillya said, closing the door behind me, “I see you came prepared.”
“Yes, I hope it’s okay, but I wanted to try a few things yesterday and went to buy supplies. I brought some samples for you, if you’d like to taste them and see what you think.” I was still not sure of my baking abilities, at least not at this level. If she tried my samples and sent me packing, I would understand. I would possibly cry and eat my weight in oat milk ice cream, but I would still understand.
“You don’t do anything halfway. A go-getter. I shouldn’t be surprised,” Hillya said with a smile. “Let’s see what you got.”
We spent the next half hour on stools as Hillya enjoyed some of all my baked goods while she drank a cup of coffee. When we stood back up, I had my work schedule, and she had a list of the things I would need for her to order. This morning, I was to make all I could with the supplies I bought then put them out front to sell.
It was almost ten when the last of my banana bread sold. It had been what I had the most of so it had lasted the longest. The granola had been gone by nine and the dark chocolate rolls had been gone in the first hour. I was amazed. If only Gran could have seen this.
The bell chimed on the door, and I stood up from taking the empty tray that had been holding the banana bread out of the display case to greet the customer. Hillya was in the back working on lunch items and Jill had left after the morning crowd. She was a cashier that worked mornings, but I heard her say this was her last week so I wouldn’t be getting to know her.
Drake’s face lit up in a grin when his eyes met mine. He had his arm thrown around the shoulders of a petite brunette with dark brown eyes in a hot pink bikini top with a pair of tiny white shorts. “Good morning,” I said, returning Drake’s smile. The brunette didn’t smile or acknowledge my greeting. She was looking up at the chalkboard menu behind me with a bored expression.
“Henley,” Drake drawled out my name. “Are you gonna be making my morning cup of joe?” he asked.
“I’ll just get a water. I can’t get a cappuccino here. This place doesn’t have low-fat oat milk. I don’t do soy,” the girl said, glancing up at Drake obviously annoyed.
“I have low-fat oat milk,” I replied and went to put her order into the computer. The only reason we had low-fat oat milk was because I had brought some with me today. It was not something Hillya typically had. I wasn’t sure how to ring it up, so I just put it under special.
“It’s not on the menu,” the girl told me.
“No, it’s not, but I brought some in this morning to use for the dairy-free, low-fat banana bread I made,” I explained to her, keeping my smile in place. Her eyes widened some when I said that and her demeanor changed.
“You have dairy-free, low-fat banana bread?” she asked.
“We did. Just sold the last of it. We will have more in the morning. It is also gluten and nut-free,” I added.
The girl looked up at Drake. “Oh my god. Why didn’t you tell me they had things like that here? I thought it was just a regular coffee shop. I have to text Amy,” the girl said then walked off with her phone in hand
“Well, damn, girl,” he said impressed. “I’ve not seen her that excited about anything since I met her, but I just met her yesterday or was it the day before. I’m not real sure. Anyway, get her that drink shit she’s so pumped for and I just want an Americano.”
I added his order into the computer when he said, “Give me one of those strawberry donuts too.”
I put it in then went to the espresso machine to start on the cappuccino.
“Amy and I are coming in the morning at eight,” I heard the girl tell Drake.
“That’s great. Now, which one is Amy?” he replied.
“The redhead,” she answered him. “Want to come with us?”
“Will it end in a threesome or a blow job?” he asked hopefully.
The girl laughed. “Uh, no. Absolutely not.”
“Then no thanks. I’ll be in bed,” he replied.
It sounded like Drake asking girls about their feelings on blow jobs was common. I wanted to think it was just him being funny and making a joke… but I didn’t think it was. I was fairly certain if a girl replied that she liked giving blow jobs, he would take her up on it that very moment.
I finished her cappuccino and Drake’s Americano then placed them on the counter. She picked hers up and headed for the door. I put Drake’s donut in a bag and he gave me a lazy smile as he took it from me. “Now I know where to find you,” he said.
“I guess you do,” I replied. However, his buddy would not be happy about his looking for me. I also was not Drake’s type and he wasn’t mine.
“When do you get off work?” he asked me.
I glanced over his shoulder at the brunette talking on her phone just outside the door. “It appears you have enough company today,” I told him.
He shrugged. “She’s getting boring.”