The girls sat on the back porch of the bakery sipping their coffee and munching on the warm cinnamon rolls that Fireweed had left with them. The morning was bright and warm and all memory of the wind and rain from the night before seemed like a dream sequence that was best left in the tent. Curiously, the locals that surrounded them on the patio seemed completely disinterested in the make-shift campsite that blocked most of the seating area, and they went on with their morning rituals, cramped off to the side of the back porch. Only a small, shaggy, Husky pup watched them from outside the fence that separated the patio from the road. Laura was the first to speak.
“I don’t know Sarah. We didn’t come all the way here just to work a nine to five job. We came here for an adventure. How are we supposed to surf all day when we have to work?”
“We could surf on our days off Laura. This seems like a pretty frikin golden opportunity to me. Our own apartment? In downtown Tofino? C’mon. Let’s do this.”
Both girls giggled at the thought of Tofino having anything that could be called a downtown.
Laura unstuck a dreadlock that had become wrapped around her cinnamon bun, flicking it back around her head with her buttered hand, where it stuck, a clump of powdered dough still attached.
“Ok. I’ll do it. But there is no way I’m working the morning shift in a bakery Sarah. Do you have any idea how early these kind of places open? And, if I hate it after a few weeks, I’m quitting and you’re quitting with me. Got it?”
“Sure. Here comes Fireweed. So, it’s a yes?”
“Ya. Why not. Let’s tell her we can move in right away. Our living room down here is getting crowded.”
Fireweed stepped out of the sliding glass doors and onto the patio. She crossed her arms and looked at the girls with obvious pity, her lower lip pushed out and her eyebrows raised.
“So, what’s it going to be girls? Am I your boss and landlord now?
Sarah smiled, her eyes squinting up at the woman in the morning sunlight.
“Yes mam. We would like to take you up on your offer, if we can.”
“Great. Come with me. I’ll show you your apartment so you can clean up this Rainbow gathering you seem to have set up on my patio. Leave your stuff for now and follow me.”
The three women walked in through the indoor seating area and up a staircase to a door that Fireweed unlocked and walked them through.
“Here are the upstairs bedrooms. There are two for you to choose from. I’ll assume you will take the one with the kitchenette attached, but you’ll have to share that with whoever I decide to give the second room to, so be prepared for that. Are you two lesbians?”
The girls looked at each other, faces slightly blushed. Laura fielded the question as best she could.
“We really don’t like labels for our relationship.”
“Right. So you’re lesbians. I’d prefer if you did opposite shifts in the bakery if you don’t mind. If you decide to get in a prolonged lover’s quarrel, I don’t want the customers to suffer for it. Laura, can you do the morning shift from four in the morning till two in the afternoon, and Sarah, you can work from noon till eight when we close?”
Sarah looked at the immediate fear that washed over Laura’s face when she heard the designated shifts being offered and quickly made a move to circumvent her growing hesitancy.
“This sounds great, but would it be possible for us to switch that around? I’ll do the morning shift and Laura can do the afternoons? I’m a bit of an early riser, so it would just fit a lot better.”
“You weren’t an early riser this morning, but, sure, whatever works for both of you. Here are the keys to the place. These work from the back staircase off the patio. I’ll give you a different set of keys for the bake shop once you’ve proven yourself a little. You both start tomorrow, so be good tonight, especially you Sarah. There’s lots to learn here in the mornings. That’s when we bake all our goods for the day and you’ll really need to pay close attention to what we’re doing. Now, go grab your stuff off the patio and haul it up here through that back staircase before someone starts squatting in your tent down there.”
With that, Fireweed turned and descended down the stairs, back into the restaurant. The girls turned to survey the make-up of their new home. The place looked lived in. Clothes hung in all the closets, shoes were piled up by the door, food sat out on the counter, buzzing with fruit flies, and there was a distinct odor that smelled something like over-ripe avacado and patchouli. It actually wasn’t that unpleasant.
Just as Fireweed had predicted, Sarah and Laura immediately chose the bedroom with the kitchen. The window beside the bed in this room looked down on the back patio where their tent still stood. It had glorious red curtains that seemed to defy gravity as they danced and swirled with the wind that seeped in through the open windows. The bed was a futon that had no less than a dozen pillows covering the white duvet beneath. Someone had hand-painted driftwood of varying shapes and sizes and hung them all over the walls of this room. The second room was much smaller with only a single bed, a desk, and a window that looked out at the crossroads where bakery met grocery store met post office -downtown Tofino. This was a perfect location for living in the heart of Tofino and this was a well-paying job for such a small town. Both the girls became more and more excited to start their new life up here, in the crow’s nest, a term they both quickly decided would be their apartment’s new name. Sarah was a little more excited than Laura, who was already having second thoughts on the employment that was pending downstairs. She looked out the window of their new bedroom at the brilliant sun that lit up her face. She closed her eyes for a moment and breathed in deeply. This, she thought, could work. Opening her eyes with the exhale, she glanced down at the patio.
“Sarah! Some guy’s going into our tent with his dog! Let’s go get our shit and haul it up here before it becomes part of the seating area.”
“Oh, that’s funny. Give me a kiss first.”
The girls stood holding each other in the warm breeze coming in through the window, staring into each other’s eyes. The curtain washed over their bodies as they closed in for a kiss that melted all fear of their new predicament away. Sarah pulled the remaining fragments of buttered dough from Laura’s hair.”
“You need a shower. You smell like cinnamon and sweat. And don’t forget to brush your teeth. You taste like cat shit.”
The girls laughed as they headed down the back staircase, holding hands the whole way down. Neither cared who saw them now. This was a new life and it was one where judgments would no longer matter. Fuck the world. Fuck their parents and their old-fashioned views on what a relationship was supposed to look like. Fuck that guy and his dog, who were now stretched out inside their tent on the porch. All of this was about to change.
The first morning shift down in the bakery went well for Sarah. She was at work fifteen minutes early, a time where Fireweed and the other bakers enjoyed coffee and cigarettes on the back patio. The sun had not yet risen, but a warm, pink glow lit up the eastern portion of the sky, above the hillside across the back alley, where a configuration of more modern architecture laid claim to the edge of Tofino’s downtown core. Gentrification was attempting to elbow its way into the town, building by building. The Common Loaf Bakery stood in its way at this end of town, and it wasn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.
Sarah was introduced to the other staff over steaming cups of coffee in the early-morning, ocean-chilled air. Her co-workers were all girls, except for one boy who wasn’t there yet. His name was Eric and, apparently, he was always late for morning shifts. The other girls names were Louise, Gretchen, Rosie, and Cherub. Each had a similar reason for being in Tofino for the summer -surfing and adventure. All had worked at the bakery in seasons past, and none were considered locals. They all returned to various towns across Canada, once the tourists wandered away in the fall. Only Cherub had stuck through a Tofino winter, and she said it would be her last. Once the rains came in October, and the wet air cooled enough to bring a chill through every layer of clothing, Tofino was no longer for the meek-hearted. At that time, it was best left to the fishermen, the salmon-farm workers, and the families that had inhabited the peninsula for generations.
No one talked much for the first hour of the shift. The girls all stood around a thick wooden table kneading dough in the back room of the bakery. Each baker was kneading a different kind of bread and the essence of all the ingredients combined in the warm, moist air, making an eclectic cloud of delicious flavors that meandered about the room. The work was a comforting meditation that Sarah knew she could grow to really enjoy each morning.
Eric showed up at around five, his dyed blonde hair matted on the side he had slept on. He was wearing sunglasses when he walked into the back room of the bakery. Cherub looked up from her sourdough loaf and rolled her eyes.
“Jesus Eric. You look like shit.”
“Thanks Cherub. I’d say you look like shit too, but it wouldn’t be true. You can somehow still look good on day five of a three day rave. You gots the genes baby. Good genes. Me? Not so much.”
“That’s not genetics Eric. It’s because I don’t eat fifteen unknown press tabs and skip food, water, or sleeping for five days when I go to a festival. This is Sarah. She just started today. Her and her friend Laura moved in upstairs last night.”
“Hey Sarah. Where you from?”
“Originally, Surrey, but I grew up in West Vancouver.”
“Well, I know way too many jokes about girls from Surrey to touch that one with a ten-foot pole. I better just start working. Where’s Fireweed?”
Gretchen grabbed a broom and shoved it in Eric’s hands.
“Instead of Gretchen, you can call me Fireweed today. She’s gone to Port Alberni for supplies. Go sweep and mop the front. And, get that done before you go on the computer and check your emails today, ok?”
Eric smiled and took off his sunglasses, revealing a swollen black eye.
“I already checked it before I came to work, and, yes, my eye is black.”
Louise stepped over to Eric and tilted his head back towards the light to inspect the damage.
“It’s just bruised. You’ll be fine. Are you gonna tell us how the other guy got it much worse?”
“I wasn’t fighting. I bit it on the rocks surfing. The board smacked me upside the head. Hey Sarah? Do you surf?”
“No, but I really want to learn though.”
“How bout I teach you today after work? I can drive us to a different place than where I got the black eye. I know a place with nice calm waves to learn on. More private. We’re both off at the same time. What do you say?”
If you would like Sarah to accept Eric’s offer of a private surf lesson, turn to Chapter 9
If you would prefer to turn down the offer, turn to Chapter ??