I had been waking up to the intoxicating smell of pastries for as long as I could remember, and yet every morning I was still left in amazement, and salivating by the mouth-watering aroma of fresh batches of cookies and cinnamon rolls that lined the display windows of the bakery downstairs. There were many perks of being the daughter of a baker and waking up to that smell was by far the best, and as I made my way down the stairs of our small apartment and into the bakery below, I realized that the closer I got to that smell the more delightful it became. The smell filled my nose and seemed to take up the entire space, blanketing the entire bakery in warmth.
"Mhmm" I sighed into the air, stealing a sweet off the cookie pan in my mom's hands from over her shoulder, earning myself a slap to the hand, but it was to late, I had already gotten what I wanted. Saying that the sweets tasted even better than they smelled was an understatement, they tasted absolutely heavenly, even when I thought my mom couldn't possibly outdo herself she managed to prove me wrong yet again.
"This is delicious" I moaned through a mouth full, moving around from behind the display cases and into the front.
"Yeah" my mom laughed "And they weren't for you" she smiled, trying to feign madness, but in reality I knew she didn't care. She was just to good of a baker, and her baking was just to hard to resist.
"Mhmm" I hummed again, licking the evidence of the treat from my fingers "New recipe?" I asked. My mom was always trying to come up with new ways to make our bakery standout from others, and she hoped that introducing new flavors might keep people out of the new bakery down the street and into ours. Ever since that bakery had opened business had been slow, although my mom wouldn't admit it to me, I knew we had been struggling. She tried to convince me that it was nothing, saying that business had just been slow for a few weeks, but the truth was that we were in deep trouble.
"Yes!" my mom exclaimed, I was glad that she still had faith that we could be rescued. "It's a Cinnamon roll macaron with cream cheese, vanilla, and cinnamon filling."
"Call it whatever you want!" I exclaimed "It's delicious" I leaned over behind the display counter, trying to quickly grab another treat from the baking pan, but my mom swatted my hand away once more. "Don't you need to get to school?" she asked, placing the macarons in the display case with the rest of the sweet smelling sweets, I'd have to sneak another later. "You don't want to miss the bus on your first day back"
"You're just trying to get me out of your kitchen" I smiled
"And out of my sweets too" my mom laughed in return. I leaned back over the display counter again, this time planting a warm kiss on my mother's cheek before I turned on my heel, tugging my backpack tighter to my body as I called to her on my way out the door. "I love you"
"Have a good day" came her reply and the sound of the door chime followed me as I made my way out the door and into the warm air. Although it was now fall, the weather did not resemble typical fall temperatures at all, it was humid and warm, and there was absolutely no need for a coat or even a small sweater, but that was just fine with me, because that meant the walk to the bus stop would be nice and easy. Our bakery was on the very last corner of Alfred St, and was only 15 minutes away from the local high school, which meant that I was the very last stop, and the very first drop off on the way home. To say that I wasn't looking forward to going back to school was a severe understatement, I was absolutely terrified, but not of my classes or my teachers, only one particular person. A person who had made it her entire life's mission to ruin my own. A person who made sure that I was always had to watch my back, because I never knew where or when she would strike. I always tried to feign confidence when I was around her, to pretend that she didn't get to me with her witty remarks by trying to come up with my own so that I was never left vulnerable, but secretly I was always crying inside. I didn't want to worry my mom with my stupid high school drama, she already had enough to worry about with the bakery and the bills, so instead I sucked it all up and pretended to be all right, and the only person who knew how I really felt was the only reason that I was willing to endure the horrors of high school all over again
As the bus rolled to a stop in front of me, I searched through the stained and finger-print ridden windows for the one face that could always cheer me up and make my day, and when I found him, I was happy to see that he was staring right back at me with the most precious smile I had ever seen. The doors of the bus flew open with a loud hissing sound and I nodded hello to the bus driver as I climbed on board and made my way into the fray of loud students, all talking and laughing, abuzz with excitement about the new year. I wish I could say the same.
"Hey" Callum greeted me as I sat down beside him in the bus seat, and in that moment I realized just how much I had missed him over summer break. His parents were flying doctors and they had taken a trip to some third world country that I had never heard of before to volunteer with some prestigious medical program, so Callum had spent the better part of the summer tanning on a foreign beach while I had spent most my time between working at the bakery and studying at the library.
"Hey" I smiled back. I missed him so much. "Did you get tan-ner?" I furrowed my brows and he chuckled.
"We went to Sierra Leone, and my parents were cooped up in hospitals and houses most of the time, so I had to entertain myself"
I knew it.
"Ohhh" I cooed in a sing-songy voice, bumping his shoulder with mine "Meet any girls?"
He rolled his eyes at me and shook his head "Why?" he inquired "Jealous"
"You wish" I laughed
"Don't worry" he joked "You can be the flower girl at our wedding"
"How thoughtful" I laughed with him. I had missed our banter. Callum had been my best friend since I could remember, our mom's had been friends and by default we had been inevitably pushed together. He had been there for all of my important milestones. He was there the first time I lost my tooth, though he had been the one to pull it out because he claimed I was being to much of a 'baby'. He was there when I first learned to ride a bike on my own, and was the one to help pick me up when I fell. He was like the big brother I had never had, but even better than what I could have imagined. Though sometimes I felt guilty for hanging around him. Callum was smart, loved to party, on the varsity soccer team, and he wasn't necessarily ugly..he was the definition of a typical high school jock om paper, but he had thrown out all popularity he had by being associated with me. People still talked to him, and he was still invited to parties, but most of the time he refused to go because he knew it wasn't my 'scene'. He got me, and he made so may sacrifices for me, but sometimes I wondered if it was my turn to start making sacrifices for him.
When we pulled up to the school the student parking lot was filled to the brim with cars, students standing all around them, laughing and hugging one another like they hadn't seen one each other in years instead of months. We filed off the bus one behind the other and, staying close to Callum, I merged into the fray of students, all flowing towards the double doors of Redwood High School, just as the loud chiming of the bell echoed throughout the parking lot and the halls of the school. The school was officially open. We were all packed tightly together, like sardines in a can, all barely shuffling forward, trying to get through the doors. I was being pushed and shoved every which way, and I barely managed to keep Callum in front of me. Once we had made it through the crowd without drowning, Callum grabbed my arm and pulled me down the hall to the left, which was lined by tall red lockers on both sides, their height almost that of the ceiling. We stopped at the first one on the left and I waited as Callum spun his combination and again as he placed in two books and a binder.
Being back here made my skin crawl, there were to many bad memories. Callum must have caught me looking around nervously because the next second I knew, his caramel brown eyes were in front of me, concern etched into every feature on his face, he already knew what I was waiting for.
"Breathe Haley" he turned to me, closing his locker shut. "Just avoid her if you see her" he advised me, but if only it were that simple. She would find me wherever I went, there was no hiding from my fate. "And remember to breathe" he repeated "Don't let her control you, and don't eat lunch alone"
"You could always skip class and come eat with me" I cooed, batting my eyelashes at him and giving him the best puppy dog face I could muster, but he had been my friend for so long that he was practically immune to all my tricks.
"You'll be fine" he laughed, patting the top of my head and turning on his heels, walking back the way he had come. Someone yelled his name and in seconds he was surrounded by a crowd of boys, all on the soccer team I assumed, and I was left standing in the hallway by myself like a loser and mentally writing my own will in my head.