Pumpkin Sliced Sacrifice, Uncategorized

P.S.S. Chapter Four

To M/M Employees:
Budgetary cuts will be in effect immediately including the shut-down of bakery and meat departments until further notice. This is strictly temporary. Your job is not at risk and if you require immediate employment, we will find a place for you in a different department or at the Kalamazoo location.
Attached is a request form to fill out if you are in need of hours.
As always, thank you for being a part of the Miller Family.
Josh Miller

While it wasn’t part of her plan, it looked like she would be working a lot more closely to her mother than anticipated. Addy shrugged, mom deserves a day off about now anyway. That was something Maggie hadn’t experienced in years. Addy grinned to herself wondering what her mother would even do if it came to that.

When she pulled into the back, Maggie had already wheeled a cart out for Addy to load and roll straight to the walk-in fridge.

After everything had been shifted, put away, and accounted for, Addy cleaned the back. She scraped the two tables free of caked on icing, bits of dough and frosting, and swept the floor until all that was left to do was mop, which she would do at closing.

Addy put on a fresh apron and walked to the front as Maggie finished placing an order with an elderly customer. Though not fully packed, the store had more customers than usual for the early evening.

“Kayla wants to see me at the police station.” Addy blurted out. Maggie turned to her, startled. “I mean, she texted using her personal phone so I’m sure it’s not murder related.”

“Small talk has never been your strong suit.” Maggie moved towards the back and she followed.

“It’s a waste of time.” Addy shrugged. Her mom leaned against one of the just-cleaned tables, her shoulders slumped. She looked the most tired Addy had ever remembered seeing her. Looking a little closer, she saw a streak of grey beneath her usual blonde locks.

Maggie was the most hard-working person Addy had ever known, and that was just a fact. She sacrificed sleep, she never wanted material things, they always shopped at consignment shops, Addy wasn’t even sure Maggie had stepped foot outside of the state of Michigan before Addy chose her New York school.

“Why don’t you go home, mom?” Addy suggested with a hint of authority in her voice. Maggie looked up and chuckled as if her daughter just told her a joke. “I’m serious. I’ll close shop and work on the special orders. Go home and take a bath, drink some wine and get some rest.” She refrained from adding ‘for once in your life’, but it was nonetheless true.

“I couldn’t-I’m already asking way too much from you, and you’ve got your training tonight.” Addy made a face and Maggie narrowed her eyes. “What?”

“Yeah, so the Miller bakery is quarantined until further notice.”

“Oh my.” Maggie said, her voice soft as she looked past Addy.

“There’s good news to that though. Since the bakery is shut down – and I seriously doubt people are going to want donuts from there now that someone was literally ceviche’d back there – that means business here will be picking up.” Maggie finally focused on her daughter in front of her.

“You’ve got a point there.” Rather than looking relieved, Maggie looked more downtrodden.

“Mom, chill. There may be double business, but now there’s double March girls, so we’ll rock this.” Addy spoke with confidence, mostly because she knew her mother and she were a great team and she liked to think she inherited her mother’s work ethic. There was also a part of her that knew her mother needed to hear the vote of confidence.

Maggie relented, a first for her, and wrote down closing notes before taking the old Jeep home. Before doing a clean sweep of the front and wiping the case, Addy sent a text to Kayla, “Can’t make it to the station. Closing shop for mom, be here all night if you need me.”

 

As the last customers straggled out, Addy went through the motions of closing. She packaged the leftover pastries in boxes which would go to the church, wiped down the inside and outside of the case until it was clean, and soaked all of the trays and dishes in the back.

While she was wiping down the dough tables and pastry sheeter, the bell chimed indicating a guest had come in. She peered into the front and saw Kayla in a pair of jeans and a blue/green flannel, considering the boxes of pastries.

Without looking up, Kayla called out, “Is this the loss box?”

“We don’t have a loss box. Everything is either sold or taken to the church.” Addy informed her friend as she picked out a bear claw and bit into it. When she finally looked up to see Addy’s disapproving scowl, Kayla shrugged.

“I’ll go to confession.”

“Speaking of which, did you find out anything about the health inspector?” Addy started wiping down tables and chairs as Kayla cleared her throat.

“Off the record?” Addy paused to look up. Kayla was gripping the railing that separated the tables from the ordering line. Addy nodded, it wasn’t as though she was a reporter, after all. “According to her boss, Tara Altschul had already given Miller’s a passing grade, in all departments.”

Addy stood up, her eyebrows furrowed. “She wasn’t supposed to be there?” Kayla shook her head, a grim look across her face. “That means she was in town for another reason.”

“Yup.” Kayla stepped forward. She bit her lip and gave Addy a look of apprehension.

Narrowing her eyes, Addy said, “You need a favor.” Kayla nodded. “You need me to be a fly on the wall.” Kayla tilted her head from side to side.

“Kinda. You’re good at getting people to open up. Whoever did this has to work at Miller’s. No one else has keys.”

“I wonder if it has something to do with Burlap and the conversation I overheard.” Addy mused aloud as she started sweeping. Before Kayla had a chance to reply, a thought occurred to Addy. She and Maggie would be slammed at the bakery, and now she would need to wiggle her way into Miller’s for a pick-up shift.

“Your brain is at hyperspeed, isn’t it?” Kayla finally spoke, watching Addy’s expression change.

“Can I borrow Alex?” Addy asked, much to the surprise of Kayla, who quirked an eyebrow apprehensively at her. She explained that her mother could use the extra hands, even if it were just ringing up and doing heavy lifting.

“We could work something out.” There was an amused tone to her voice. Addy looked down at her watch and dug her phone out of her pocket. “Hey, remember, everything is unofficial.”

“Of course.” Addy squeezed her friend’s hand in assurance, the first physical contact they had made in years. It was odd, given that they had always had a close relationship before her move to the Big Apple, and Addy was a hugger, after all. Kayla left with a wave goodbye, sneaking another pastry behind her back.

She dialed the number for Miller Market and a young woman’s voice answered before transferring her over to the main office. “Josh Miller, what can I do ya for?” The voice sounded familiar, and it struck Addy at once. This was the same man she heard arguing with Bill Burlap in the bakery.

“Yes, hi. My name is Addison March. I was-”

“Ah, yes, you were scheduled for training this week.” Addy could hear what sounded like papers being shuffled. “I can give you a custodial shift, but until the bakery’s been cleared, my hands are tied.”

“No, no. That sounds perfect!” Well, maybe not perfect. Addy liked order and cleanliness as much as the next person – maybe a little more than the next person – but beyond her mother’s bakery, and the occasional tossing out trash from restaurants, she was not a big fan of cleaning up after other people.

“I’ll email you a schedule. Have a good evening, Ms. March.” He hung up without another word and within seconds her phone pinged with an email notification. Fortunately, her first shift would be midday the very next day.

With a satisfied smile, Addy locked the door and finished cleaning before turning to the mixer. The first special order called for a variety of pastries; easy enough, their pastries were all made from the same dough which called for layers of dough and butter to create a classic, flaky-like base.

After the dough was made, the differences between each pastry came down to folding techniques and any fruit or cream mixture, or chocolates. Addy made five pounds of pastry dough and set it in the walk-in refrigerator to chill while she moved to the specialty cake orders.

What differentiated their bakery from others was that the buttercreams, batters, and doughs were all made fresh and by hand. Nothing short of the coffee came from a box, tin, or tub. It was a fact the March women were very proud of.

The first cake was a round double layer chocolate mocha cake with a drizzle of caramel and the second was a full sheet vanilla cake with lemon frosting and tropical buttercream flowers and piped in cursive, “Happy Retirement, Ms. Madrigal”. Another order was for a variety of macarons, a specialty they usually only offered in February and March. The last special order was a two sheet coffee cake with a note attached in scribbled handwriting, scarcely legible, “extra drizzle, a jug of coffee and one of your frozen pumpkin coffees. Always a pleasure, Mags. J.”

J, as in her Jay from years ago? He wouldn’t be able to get away with calling her mother Mags. There wasn’t a soul who could get away with that. The only other person she could think it would be was Josh, but Addy had a hard time imagining him nicknaming her mom, let alone being casual enough with anyone to call them by their first name.

When the cakes were finished baking, Addy pulled them out and cooled them in the walk-in, then pulled out the pastry dough. The order called for a variety, so she pulled out baker’s chocolate, strawberries, pumpkin pie filling, and apple slices. She made chocolate croissants, pumpkin turnovers, strawberry cream cheese tarts, and mini apple strudels.

While the special order pastries were baking, Addy checked the clock to see it was well past midnight. Maggie would be coming in just a few hours to decorate and start work on the opening case treats. In an effort to lessen her mother’s already heavy work load, Addy decided to prep the doughs and batters until the pastries were ready to come out. She glazed the croissants and pumpkin turnovers, drizzled caramel sauce over the apple strudels before setting them aside to cool. She crumb-coated the cakes for her mom and set them back in the fridge before shutting down the oven and cleaning the kitchen for what felt like the hundredth time in the last 24 hours.

She didn’t get home until two-thirty and drug herself through her nightly skin care routine when her mom’s blaring alarm shook her out of auto-pilot. Maggie walked into the bathroom with far too much perk for someone who had to get up before the sun rose. She rubbed Addy’s shoulders and gave her a peck on the back of her head before nudging her out of the bathroom.

“I was done anyway.” She stuck her tongue out at the closing bathroom door and drug herself to her own room, collapsing in a heap atop her own bed. Ahhh, sleep.

Next Chapter!

 

 

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