It was looking to be an average summer weekday.
Franz woke up early in order to help his mother open the bakery. Ever since he was a boy, his senses had been utterly drowned with the smell of berries, the taste of sugar, the feel of kneaded dough, sight of white flour spots on cloth, and sounds of ingredients whisking. Luckily this Tuesday, he was only expected to man the cash register.
The morning brought a rush of customers, as usual, but now that the day had wandered into the afternoon, business had slowed considerably. His sister was taking inventory while his mother and her bakers prepared more fresh pies and cakes below in the shop’s kitchen. His grandmother had started the business before he was born. It had an old sort of charm with the Victorian-era wallpaper and paneling. It was a good place to sit and read a book while eating a scone.
Then came a most unusual occurrence.
Alanna Thackery walked into the shop with an armful of books and a large smile aimed directly at Franz. He uncrossed his arms and gave a small, curious wave. It had been exactly two days since they had met at the Mocha Chip Coffee Shop and his mind had seemed to replay that Sunday afternoon on loop when he wasn’t otherwise occupied.
“Hi Franz!” she greeted him, her eyes bright. She set her pile of books down on the shop counter and took a seat as if it was something she did everyday.
“What…what are you doing here?” he asked, scratching his head with bewilderment and not paying mind to messing up his already messy blonde hair.
“A little birdie told me you worked here,” she smiled, “I figured I would stop by and thank you because I loved
all these books you recommended. Science Fiction really has so many themes and it's fascinating!”
He smiled slightly at that thought, half impressed she had read them all in two days. He could relate, though, because he had stayed up early into that very morning to finish reading his current novel. He put his hands in his pockets and leaned against the wall across from her, “So which book was your favorite?”
“Definitely the Princess of Mars
, I had to go to the library to check out the rest of the series since the coffee shop only had the first. I am actually coming back from there, got the rest of the series to look forward too,” she indicated toward her pile of books.
Franz nodded in approval. He liked that series a lot as well.
They got into a discussion about the book series and before Franz knew it, he had been lured out from behind the register, and onto the stool next to Alanna where they talked more about the other science fiction books she had read. It filled him with a certain kind of joy that she had enjoyed them so much. They were so lost in their discussions about books that neither noticed a brooding, dark-haired boy staring at them through one of the shop windows.
Reggie Orbinson looked upon his friend, who was usually quite silent, seeming to chat endlessly and freely with the girl that had wounded his own heart and pride. It made his blood boil. He didn’t know whether he was angrier that she could as easily lead Franz along with her kind and innocent facade or that Franz seemed to enjoy
it. One thing was for sure, he'd never seen Franz so happy before. He cracked his knuckles and decided not to make a public scene, leaving them and inwardly grumbling to himself.
Franz’s throat held a new sensation. It was dry. Was this what is was like to talk too much? He’d never been able to discuss at length his interests with another person.
Reggie was his friend, but Reggie and he had an understanding and it wasn’t based in mutual interest.
He decided he enjoyed Alanna's company; she was so engaging and he even was surprised that he wasn’t annoyed at her perpetual upbeat attitude. Franz had always been a cynic, but being around Alanna gave him an odd sense of…hope? Hope for what, he couldn’t tell just yet.
“If you aren’t busy Saturday night, I’m playing bass for a Battle of the Bands competition in Memosa Bay. Would you want to come watch?”
Alanna looked struck for a moment, her eyes wide. He thought maybe he was being too
friendly, he had only really met her two days ago. That feeling of hope had driven him to ask, to cultivate a new friendship. He felt some of that hope dissipate at her stricken expression.
“What band are you playing with?”
“Um, I’m not really sure what Evelyn Jane named us…” Franz rubbed the back of head trying to recall if she ever mentioned a band name. He noticed several people had entered the store. He’d have to go back to the cash register soon.
“Evelyn Jane? You’re in a band with Evelyn Jane and Reggie?” she asked, clearly bewildered.
She bit her lip, and looked contemplative before breaking into a smile and saying, “I’ll definitely be there on Saturday!”
“It’s at the Fame Theater,” Franz added.
“I’ll look up details when I get home.”
With that, she grabbed her library books, thanked him again for the book recommendations and quickly left the shop like she suddenly had somewhere to be. Franz didn’t think much of it, and it was good she had stopped distracting him because there was a queue of three people waiting in front of the register with baked goods in hand.
He took his place and started ringing up the first customer. His actions seemed to go into auto-pilot then. Adding the totals, taking the money and counting change.
His thoughts wandered back to Alanna and their conversation about the books; he smiled to himself because maybe now he had more than one friend. Alanna said she would come see him play.
He was in the middle of counting the cash haul for the day and locking up the register when his mother accosted him. “Franz, who in the world was that girl that visited you today?”
He had to quickly remind himself that the kitchen had windows into the bakery sales area and his mother could have probably seen him slacking off and talking with Alanna for most of the afternoon.
“A new friend,” he shrugged.
“Oh I see,” she smiled and winked.
He groaned, “Not like that…”
“Either way, you must invite her for dinner. I want to meet her.”
“No excuses. I must meet the girl who can pull more than three sentences out of my son. Am I clear?"
He clenched his jaw and frowned. That didn’t sound like a good idea. He couldn’t expose Alanna to his family and risk losing what little friendship if any he had with her.
However, his mother was a fierce woman and single mother who had raised twins and ran a bakery at the same time. She didn’t get to where she was in the business world by taking ‘no’
for an answer.