“You’ve got another one.”
Mattie looked up to see Selene coming into the kitchen of the bakery. She had a mischievous look about her and held her hands behind her back.
“A note,” Selene said. She waited a few seconds before adding, “from Ian.”
It had been about a week since she last spoke with Ian. Since then, she had received her feedback from the Morrison cake; they were happy with what she delivered, but had hoped that there would be a more rich vanilla flavor. Mattie held onto that feedback for every minute of every day thinking about what she might have done wrong to make it not as tasty as they expected. Joan told her not to worry about it, but it wasn’t easy to let go. She worked hard and wanted it to be perfect. Negative feedback just wasn’t going to cut it.
That week she had thrown herself into her work. She came in early, helped prep the cafe, and then immediately jumped into her cakes for the week. She gave each one a lot of attention, but kept feeling off, like she could see the picture but the edges were out of focus. Mattie had almost forgotten about Ian in her effort to be as flawless as possible.
“I don’t want it.”
“What do you mean?”
“What I said. I don’t want it.” Selene brought her hands from behind her back and looked down at a small slip of paper.
“But, he left you a note.”
“Yes, I know,” Mattie said while immersing herself back into her work. Today she had been making a scone for the bakery to try and sell in the cafe. It would be an added pastry and something different than what was usually sold. Selene walked closer and leaned over the metal table so that she could level her face with Mattie’s.
“I’m not going to throw it out.”
“You call him then. Take him on a date.”
“Mattie, he isn’t interested in taking me out. He obviously wants to talk to you.”
“Not interested.” Mattie got up and moved to the sink to wash the rolling pin she had been using earlier. Not surprisingly, Selen followed.
“Are you kidding? Mattie, the man is trying to get your attention and I don’t think it’s very nice of you to just ignore him.” Mattie didn’t reply as she finished washing the rolling pin and dried it with a towel. She went back to the table, set down her tool, and went to grab the dough that she had prepped the night before. When she got back to the table, she addressed her shadow that had followed her every footstep through the kitchen.
“What will it take to get you to stop following me around?”
“Read the note.”
“Don’t you have a cafe to run?” Mattie asked. Selene didn’t reply, but shoved her hand toward Mattie. She looked down at her hand and then looked back at Mattie, waiting for her to make a move. Letting out a groan of frustration, she snatched the note out of Selene’s hand.
“Get out of my kitchen.” Selene smiled and bounced on her toes. Before leaving, she gave Mattie a tight hug and then bounded toward the door.
Mattie placed the note on the table and covered it with a bag of sugar. She dusted the table with flour and unpacked the dough. Kneading it a little, she shaped it into a circle and then began rolling it out. When it was about an inch and a half thick, she used a round cutter to make the individual scones. Once they were on a lined baking sheet, she brushed the top of the scones with milk and sprinkled on some coarse sugar and cinnamon. She set them back into the fridge and went back to clean up her work station while she waited for the oven to reach 425°. She piled all of her dishes into a corner of the table and put the cinnamon and flour back into the pantry. She moved the dirty dishes to the sink and began scrubbing them. Her mind drifted back to the note that was still pinned under the sugar. She wasn’t interested in reaching out if she didn’t want a relationship.
“You forgot to put the sugar back,” Joan said as she stepped into the kitchen.
“I’ll get it for you.” Her boss moved the bag and picked up the slip of paper underneath. “I haven’t heard from you and I was hoping I would at this point. Please give me a call or send me a text,” she heard Joan read.
Mattie spun around from her place at the sink and looked at her boss with wide eyes. Indignant, she exclaimed, “Joan! That’s a personal note and it’s private.”
“Well, you shouldn’t have kept it in such a public place. I assumed it was some sort of recipe or shopping list.”
“Could you please put it down?”
“I will if you tell me who it is from. It’s not signed.”
“That’s none of your business,” Mattie dried her hands and walked toward Joan. “Please give it back.” She held out her hand and Joan placed the note in her palm. The two women stared at each other in a sort of stand off. Joan’s blue eyes bore into Mattie’s and suddenly Mattie felt as though she was in an argument with her mom when she was little. She felt a compulsive need to give in and feel guilty even though she didn’t do anything wrong. Finally, she conceded. Looking down at the note she said, “it’s from this guy. Ian.”
“Was he the one who gave you a note last week?”
“Did you know him before or did he just happen to walk in?”
“He came for coffee, but I had... it’s complicated, Joan.”
“How is it complicated? A guy is trying to get to know you. Seems pretty simple.”
Mattie looked at the note. It was pretty simple, but things for Mattie weren’t and she wasn’t sure that she could open herself to anyone, let alone Ian.
“We...kind of literally...ran into each other at the supermarket.”
“So, then he came here?”
“Yeah, but not on purpose to see me. He just came for coffee and I happened to be working.”
“That sounds romantic. A type of meet-cute.”
“Please don’t turn this into something that it’s not.” Mattie stuffed the note into the pocket of her chef pants and went back to washing the dishes.
“Mattie, you should call this guy. It seems like he’s making an effort. Might be nice to get to know someone.”
“I don’t have time for a relationship right now.”
“Why is that?” Joan asked with an arched brow.
“Because I’m busy.”
“With what? Your sister’s wedding?”
Once again, Mattie was blown away by what Joan was saying. Turning back around, she asked, “How the hell do you know about that?”
“Well, Anna called me,” Joan stated, “and it wasn’t about a cake tasting. Not yet, anyway.”
“What the fuck?” Mattie said, turning back to the sink. She started scrubbing a pan as if she was trying to bust a hole through the center.
“She wants to talk to you.”
“I’m not ready to talk.”
“Matilda, Selene and I can’t be the only two people you talk to. I’m not sure you and I really like each other and Selene is a bit wacky.”
“Then why did you hire us?”
“Because I respect you and your work and she can make an amazing cappuccino,” Joan said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. Mattie stared at the corner of the sink trying to process the information she had just received. Not only was upset with her sister for keeping very intimate details about a future wedding secret, but now Anna had dragged Joan into their drama. She was beginning to feel like she was back in college cleaning up after her little sister. Only this time, she wasn’t sure she wanted to help with the mess. Maybe it was time to let Anna figure it out on her own. She took a deep breath and dried her hands on her apron. The oven’s buzzer went off, letting her know that it was fully preheated and ready for baking.
“The scones are in the fridge?” Joan asked. Mattie merely nodded in reply. She listened as Joan got the pastries and put them into the oven. She heard her set the timer and place it on the table.
“So, are you going to call either of them?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, for the record, I think you should.”
“I know you do,” Mattie said and looked at Joan, “I just don’t know that I want to deal with drama right now.”
Joan nodded her head in understanding and looked like she was contemplating something. She leaned against the counter and looked at Mattie intently. Finally, she said, “I know that it can seem like drama, Mattie, but it’s really just being there for your family. Anna might need you along the way for this part of her life.” Mattie scoffed at this. Anna had always needed her, whether or not she asked for it.
“Fine. I’ll call Anna,” Mattie conceded, “but I will not call Ian.”
“I’ll take that,” Joan said and began to walk back to her office, “I’ve gotta get some paperwork done. When you’re finished cleaning up, head home. You need the break.”
“I do like working with you,” Mattie said, “and I do like you, too.”
Joan smiled back and replied, “I know, Matilda. I like you too.”