Two mornings a week Blue gets up at 4 to go to the bakery, he helps Heidi with her baking and uses the kitchen to make cheesecakes and his items for the fayres. Blue makes a few batches of his cinnamon buns to add to the glorious pastries that Heidi makes for the breakfast trade.
They work out which items freeze well and which become a daily special. They work really well together. The orders for whole cheesecakes and pies both Heidi and Blue’s recipes come in and they have to close the list for Christmas orders as they seem to be feeding the whole town.
Blue makes and paints a board with slots on, at the top each side are the two soups of the day and underneath they list the vegetables and which local farm they came from. It’s a simple thing that makes them both smile. Two outsiders trying to give back to the community that has embraced them.
It turns out Abby is the owner of next door. She comes in for lunch to discuss Heidi’s plans and Blue holds the fort at the counter, he has just about got the hang of the coffee machine which is a lot more sophisticated than the one they use back home. Though through lunch soup and sandwiches are what fly out the door.
“What I suggest is I give you a peppercorn rent for six months. If business is poor you can hand the lease back to me no problem. If business is good you put an offer in and buy the place.” Abby says.
“Even if business is good I might not be able to buy.” Heidi says unsure, not wanting to let Abby down.
“You’ll be fine. Any way I heard you needed to find a new place to live. The apartment above the shop next door is perfect for you and it will be better for you to have just the one landlord, me, knowing I won’t sell from under you.” Abby says.
Blue brings over a mug of soup for Abby with some squares of soft white bread, crusts removed, just the way she likes it.
“How did you end up owning next door?” Blue asks curious.
“My husband’s passion was real estate, he never wanted to farm, that was my passion. He built and bought a many buildings here in town. I have quite the portfolio you know. I don’t parade it and not many know unless they read their leases properly. It is a lot for me to manage at my age and I’m trying to reduce it but as you know developers make my teeth hurt and there are too many fly by nights like next door.” Abby says and Blue nods, happy that Heidi is going to benefit. A customer comes in so Blue gets back to work.
“The apartment would be perfect, I take it this place was divided more recently. How did you end up with half?” Heidi asks.
“I sold the bakery the whole building to the last bakers. They divided it during divorce. The wife getting the top two floors and a third of this floor. The husband two thirds this floor and the basement. I bought next door back from the wife after a year, she couldn’t cope living next door to his work. It was too confusing for the kids. They moved back to be near her mother. He remarried and his new wife pushed the catering despite not being able to cook the business failed and you came along. so if you are asking about access from upstairs to your kitchens yes we could reinstate that to make your mornings easier.” Abby says.
“Best not until we know if I can make the business work for the bigger space.” Heidi says.
“As you wish. Though between us I know you’re a sure bet.” Abby grins.
“Blue’s soups are helping. We’re selling out of bread faster and we’ve had to stop taking orders for pies and cheesecakes for Christmas week. I want to push the coffee and cake side more. If we have space then we’ll get the school run moms in the mornings and you and your friends in the afternoons. Right now everyone is in and out. I never make anyone a second cup.” Heidi says.
“You need to take on some staff. I know you tried before and it didn’t work out but you need to bake more and you’ll need a busboy.” Abby says.
Gladys comes in and joins them just at the right moment.
“I feel like I’m about to have my arm twisted.” Heidi grins.
“Blue fetch me a bun and a cup of coffee, and one of those cookies for Abby.” Gladys says. Blue looks over and smiles, glad that he isn’t the only target of Abby and Gladys plans.
“Go on tell me quickly, I need to get up to Mikes.” Blue says once they leave.
“Sorry to leave you through lunch. They want me to take on a couple of apprentices, I told them I’m not qualified but they are sending some along tomorrow to interview, along with a young mom who wants to do lunchtimes while her kids are in school.” Heidi grins.
“Can you afford all that?” Blue asks.
“I don’t know. I need to run the figures. I’ll work it out. You can train them how to make soups and cookies.” Heidi grins.
“I guess so. I like our arrangement but it would be good if it could be more flexible. I must run I’m late already.” Blue says kissing her cheek and running out the door.
On the mornings he works in the bakery he spends the afternoons working for mike. Once he’d done a big clean the house doesn’t need so much maintenance so they agreed two afternoons, one cooking, one cleaning would work best.
It’s a cleaning day and Blue whizzes round collecting laundry setting a load on and getting on with the housework. Despite it being winter the house feels much lighter since Blue cleaned the windows and aired out the rooms.
Blue browns off some meat and throws it in a crock pot with vegetables and stock. He finds the process weird but Gladys has given him some straight forward recipes and he’s getting on with it. Mike and his fulltime men appreciate it. The year round guys had mostly kept out of Blue and the other causal workers way but are nice enough to Blue now.
“Could you come in Friday for the day rather than Thursday? The boys are coming back Friday night and it would be good if they came home to a clean house and hearty meal. I know you’ve filled the freezer but my boys will probably clear that in days so anything extra would help.” Mike says after dinner feeling a little shy, he really wants his sons to come home to a home and not a cold neglected house.
“For sure. I don’t have a fayre on Friday. That way I get to nap after baking too.” Blue grins.
“How is the house coming along?” Mike asks.
“Everything is cleaned and prepped downstairs for painting. I’m going to use the old formal dining room as a bedroom as nothing for upstairs will go through and chip the fresh paint. I can paint it and then get carpet in. I have heaps of old furniture to get rid of in there now though. Do you know anyone who does restorations or anything? It’s good stuff but needs work and it’s not my style.” Blue says.
“I’ll ask around. Although if there is someone Gladys will know.” Mike grins.
“I thought you might know someone further afield.” Blue says.
“So how about fixing your upstairs? Have you worked out how bad it is?” Mike asks enjoying the company, not wanting Blue to go yet.
“I’ve had 3 guys in to quote and they all came up with wildly different issues that need fixing. I don’t know who to trust. I think it’s only the bathrooms and the 1 bedroom floor that need real work doing, I think it got damaged due to a leaky or broken window. The rest feels safer than I first thought, it all creaks but its not rotten but I want reassurance you know?” Blue explains.
“Let me call a guy. I’ll come with him, he won’t rip me off, I married his sister.” Mike grins.
“Why didn’t you tell me you had a brother in law in the business?” Blue asks.
“I thought you’d feel obligated and I wasn’t sure if you’d find you could do it yourself.” Mike says.
“I don’t have the time or the interest, it would just be to save money. I want to get on with the clearing and planting, started on my business. I found a heap of good onions and potatoes. Did I tell you? And there are fruit bushes that will be fine. I’m far happier outside than in.” Blue says.
“Like me. I’ll bring him by Thursday afternoon, stop you from napping too long.” Mike grins.
“Thanks. I’ll be a bit later up on Friday, I want to get you some flowers for here. This town needs a florist.” Blue says.
“It does. The bakery and the butcher have brought some of the old life back. The butcher might be selling fancy burgers and weird fashionable meats but they have a good grounding too. A few more places and we’ll be truly bustling again.” Mike says.
“Where I’m from we had one store, and it acted as farm shop, agricultural supplier, second hand clothes store, stationer, and bait shop. It was crazy but it was all we had. That and a volunteer run café. Farmers and hippies.” Blue grins.
“But you’re not a farm boy yourself. Or are you a younger son who isn’t inheriting?” Mike asks, Blue so rarely talks of home and he’s curious.
“No Momma and I had a little more land than I have now, much smaller house though. We don’t get along, she prefers my siblings and home is too remote to do anything small scale.” Blue says.
“Did you have trouble at school? You’re so smart and organized I cannot imagine you failing out.” Mike asks.
“I had great grades, academically I was good, personally not so much. 2 years was enough, another 2 would have been a waste of time and money. I spent the summer living wine, learning all I could. 1 didn’t want to wait any longer.” Blue says.
“Abby is probably the smartest woman in town and was one heck of a farmer. She also left school at 14. Sure it would have been a different time but not everyone needs letters after their name to be educated.” Mike says.
“I think that’s why she likes me. She is a lot like my momma in some ways. Helps people out without shouting about it. Works with people to make something of them. But she hasn’t got a vile bitch streak. Like my mother.” Blue grins but fails to hide the pain and Mike nods.
“I’ll see you Friday. Thanks for the meal tonight. I know meat isn’t your thing but it tasted great and the guys appreciated it too.” Mike says.
“Gladys has taught me a few simple things. Do you think the/ d go for fish pie?” Blue asks.
“Sounds good to me.” Mike grins.
“What are your son’s favorite meals? For Friday?” Blue asks.
“Pot roast and sweet potatoes.” Mike grins.
Blue looks terrified.
“Don’t worry I’ll get the meat in the pot. You just need to keep an eye on it and whip up some of your beautiful veggies and dessert.” Mike says.
“Good.” Blue says relieved.
On Thursday Blue is just back from the bakery when Mike and his brother in law Wilson arrive.
“The electrics are all fine. I had those checked but the floor creaks and there is an issue in one room.” Blue explains.
“Honestly?” Wilson asks after taking his time going through each room.
“Yes please.” Blue says.
“You should replace the staircase…..” Wilson begins and takes Blue through his recommendations.
“Do you have time in your schedule?” Blue asks at the end.
“I do, things are quiet for me in the new year, I could project manage and get a plumber in for the bathrooms.” Wilson says.
“It’s going to near wipe me out but once its done, its done.” Blue says thinking aloud. He needs to run the numbers, he was worried this would be the case. Still once it’s done he’ll feel like he can start living but he’ll have to be a lot more modest in his business plans for the land and put more effort into finding yoga clients and the baking. He knows he won’t be able to sell as much after the holidays.
“Get back to me as soon as you can. Here’s my card.” Wilson says and the head downstairs.
“Would you like some muffins?” Blue asks. He’s been experimenting with new flavor combinations.
“Sure. Wow what’s all this?” Wilson asks looking at the pile of furniture in the dining room.
“I need to get rid of it. I have no need for a formal dining table and the chairs and desks are not my style. I was hoping I’d find people who would want it for restoration projects, its all good stuff but it might end up as firewood.” Blue says.
“I do a little as a side line but it’s hard to get commissions without much of a portfolio.” Wilson says.
“I had no idea.” Mike says and Blue looks at him strangely.
“Really? I built your boys desks and bookshelves. Okay they might be a bit plain but I do love wood. Some of this only needs a polish. I’ll knock some money off the bill in exchange for the lot. Mike your boys can drive it up to me when they’re here.” Wilson says.
“I don’t need anything for it.” Blue says.
“Yes you do boy. Anything saved you can spend outside.” Mike says and Blue nods, he needs to stop thinking like a rich kid.
“I’ll call you Monday once I’ve rechecked the figures. What should I do to prepare?” Blue asks.
“I’ll email you a list of things you can get done yourself and the adjusted quote.” Wilson says.
“Why the long face boy?” Gladys asks that evening.
“The house. Mike’s brother in law Wilson came round and gave me the full rundown. The jobs were what I was expecting but its going to cost a lot but I think less to get it all done than to do it piece by piece but it near wipes me out. It would free up my time.” Blue says.
“Muriel said her daughter in law’s yoga teacher has run off to India leaving them in the lurch. I said I would see if you could take it on in the new year.” Gladys says.
“Where?” Blue asks.
“About 20 miles away. Give Muriel a call. We all love your class, you’re wasted on us but we have good fun.” Gladys says.
“So you think I should go for it with the house and work will find me.” Blue laughs.
“Yes. You have so many talents. You will be baking less in the new year and people always start new fads in January so you get out and teach and find some of those rich clients you want. Let Wilson sort out the house and you’ll be ready to house seasonal workers when they arrive.” Gladys says.
“If I can afford beds.” Blue grins.
“Ahh we’ll work it out. Get it done Blue. You don’t have to decorate and furnish every room right now you can take a bit of time.” Gladys urges.
“You just want me gone from under your feet.” Blue grins.
“Oh nonsense.” Gladys smiles.
The following day Blue tries to put all thoughts of money and the house out of his mind. He gets the flowers and stocks up on chips, candy and frozen pizzas for Mike’s boys, buying them the things his friends enjoyed. He feels a pang of missing Andy and Robin as he picks up their preferred junk options.
At Mike’s he flings open the windows despite the cold. Puts fresh bedding on all the beds and flowers in each room. Things he wished had been done for him.
Mike and his guys come in for lunch and Blue serves up one of his soups.
“I saw you in the paper. Well they didn’t mention you but it said your cheesecake was the best they ever tasted and I said to my wife they weren’t wrong.” Ian one of Mike’s guys says.
“What paper?” Mike asks.
“The city paper, the weekend section, big piece on how the bakery is a must visit.” Ian says.
Blue has a look from his phone and is delighted. He texts Heidi and asks if there has been a stampede and she calls him right back.
“We’re sold out of near everything. I’ll be closing up as soon as the last of the soup is gone. Not one cake left. Took me by surprise as they said it would go in in the new year.” Heidi says.
“That’s awesome. I’m so pleased for you.” Blue says.
“Can you come in tomorrow and get some cheesecakes done? I think it’s going to be a huge weekend.” Heidi says.
“Of course. If I can get someone to cover me at the fayre. I’ll come in and bake and then go set up and then join you if I can get cover.” Blue says.
“I’ll buy all your stock.” Heidi says.
“Seriously?” Blue asks.
“I mean it. By all means leave to drive the old girls to the site but I need you.” Heidi says.
“I’ll see what I can do.” Blue laughs.
“I am off to restock once I’m done, email me your shopping list.” Heidi says.
“Busy down there?” Ian asks.
“Crazy, she needs me tomorrow but I’ve a fayre to do. Would any of you be able to drive Gladys and Muriel and help them set up?” Blue asks.
“My boys will do it.” Mike says straight off.
“Is it the one at the school? My Jane is organizing it. I’ll call and see if she can help.” Louis the shyest of Mike’s guys says.
“Thanks Louis. Heidi is buying all my stock, well I’ll send in the gingerbread houses so I’m not needed but Gladys and Muriel have all their tree decorations and things. Your boys will no doubt need to sleep in.” Blue says and Mike laughs at the truth.
Mike’s sons Tad and Larry arrive within half an hour of each other just after 6. Mike sorts out the meat as Blue carries the side dishes to the table.
“Dad this looks lovely but I’ve been a vegetarian for five years now.” Tad sighs.
“But pot roast was always your favorite.” Mike says confused.
“It is mine, pass your plate.” Larry says and tips Tad’s portion onto his.
Blue smiles and splits his tofu and cashew dish onto two plates and hands one to Tad.
“Wow thanks.” Tad says.
“The sweet potato casserole is safe too, the marshmallows are vegan, I made them. I know it doesn’t exactly go but the tofu needed using up so I brought it with me as your dad asked me to stay for dinner. I’m Blue.” Blue says with a grin.
“We guessed that.” Larry says with a smile and they all tuck in.
“So is it a gay thing? Being vegetarian?” Mike asks awkwardly.
“No.” Blue and Tad say together and laugh.
“I never heard of anyone making marshmallows.” Larry says.
“I thought I’d try, they’re not that great alone but okay in the casserole.” Blue shrugs.
“They taste great. The house looks and smells so much better dad. You look a lot better too.” Tad says
“Dad do you have a girlfriend? I mean it’s okay if you do.” Larry asks.
“No I do not have a girlfriend. Blue has been helping in the house a couple of days a week so it would be more welcoming for you two. I knew the flowers were a bit much.” Mike says good naturedly.
“Are you kidding? They are great! No one ever bought me flowers before, girls just don’t.” Larry says.
“Mom didn’t go in for flowers often but it feels like home again.” Tad says quietly.
Blue serves up a plum pie for dessert with caramel ice-cream. He doesn’t stay long, wanting to let the family be together.
“Blue call if you do need help for the fayre and I’ll send these guys down on Sunday to get the furniture.” Mike says.
“Thanks. That would be great. It was good to meet you guys, I hope we can all go out sometime.” Blue grins.
“They’ll get you to some parties, you need a night off.” Mike grins.
Blue smiles all the way home, happy that Mike has his boys home and they are clearly happy to be there.
Blue explains about the bakery to Gladys and she says Jane has already been to see her and everything is sorted.
“Oh goodness. That’s great.” Blue says.
“Heidi needs you. That is more important for you both.” Gladys says.
“You won’t have my cakes cluttering up the space.” Blue grins.
“You’re already on to bigger and better things.” Gladys says.
“All down to your welcome and help. You’ve been great to me.” Blue says.
“Its mutual boy. Now get some sleep and don’t wake me in the morning.” Gladys grins.
Blue and Heidi work diligently producing as much as they can without compromising on quality.
Their hard work pays off as there is a long line waiting outside when they open the doors, half an hour earlier than usual for a weekend.
The cheesecakes and breads are sold within an hour and Heidi and Blue look at each other in shock.
“We best put a sign up that we’re out.” Blue says and Heidi nods mute.
After the early rush they sell coffee and cake at a steadier rate and Blue goes in back batches of cookies and gingerbread that can be done quickly.
They bring out the soup and sandwiches at lunch and again there is a big rush. At its peak Gervais walks through the door. Blue gulps like a goldfish for a second.
“Grab an apron, wash your hands and give us a hand. We can talk later.” Blue says. He hadn’t told Gervais where he was and he hadn’t yet said yes or no for Christmas, knowing it was a little unfair on Gervais but he’d barely had a minute to think the last few weeks.
Gervais sweeps through the small room clearing cups and wiping tables and gets in back to assemble more sandwiches and heat through another pot of soup.
“Whoever he is, he’s super helpful.” Heidi says.
“Oh god I just set a stranger to work in your bakery.” Blue laughs and Heidi cracks a smile.
“I’m Gervais. Blue’s bestie come to stay for the holidays.” Gervais says shaking Heidi’s hand as she sets the sign to closed.
“You’ve been a great help.” Heidi says as they clear the last of the day away.
“He should earn his keep, rocking up uninvited. How did you find me?” Blue asks.
“I had news alerts set up for cheesecake.” Gervais says.
“I don’t understand.” Heidi says.
“Gervais guessed the article was about my cheesecake even though I wasn’t named.” Blue says.
“I knew it was you from the way they described the first bite. So I got in the car and drove straight here. I was going to find you this break whether you agreed or not. The article just speeded things up.” Gervais says and Blue nods feeling happy that Gervais cared enough to track him down. Blue hugs Gervais tightly.
“Do you need us tomorrow? Do you want us to start prepping now?” Blue asks.
“Go, enjoy the rest of the day and get some sleep. We’ll do the same tomorrow. With three of us we should be fine.” Heidi says and the boys nod.
“Can we see your house? Have you moved in?” Gervais asks.
“We need to collect Gladys from the fayre that I should have been at Where’s your car? I walked this morning.” Blue asks and Gervais walks them back to it.
“I’m excited to meet her.” Gervais says honestly.
“This is Gervais, visiting me from home. Can he stay tonight? I’ll fix him up at the house tomorrow.” Blue asks.
“Yes but don’t be too loud.” Gladys says falling about into giggles with Muriel.
“We’re exhausted and have to do it again tomorrow. It was crazy we were out of bread and cheesecake straight away.” Blue says and recounts all that happens to the two ladies who he knows love all the gossip.
“We sold your ginger bread before we unpacked. Jane bought a house per kid and that was that.” Muriel says.
“Wow. And how did the ornaments do?” Blue asks.
“Steady, we have just enough left for the last fayre on Wednesday. We could do with something of yours to get people over.” Gladys says.
“Sure. Gervais can do something if Heidi needs me. He knows my best stuff.” Blue says and directs Gervais to Meryl’s place.
“Are you mad at me for coming? I know you hadn’t decided.” Gervais asks in bed later.
“No, you didn’t tell anyone where I was did you?” Blue asks.
“No I lied to Robin told him I was going to a spa for a week and then to visit W and AB for Christmas.” Gervais says.
“I’m flattered you tracked me down. I didn’t think anyone would see that article, as its local.” Blue says.
“I had to see you. I have missed you so much and I needed to see this new life, needed you to see me here.” Gervais says.
“You will love my house. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” Blue exclaims.
“What?” Gervais asks worried about the sudden change.
“I was meant to go over a quote for the house and work out if I could afford it. It wipes me out other than a bit for living costs and I needed to work out how close it will be.” Blue says.
“I’ll cover it. You concentrate on your business.” Gervais says.
“No, I wasn’t trying to hit you up. I’ll not be destitute. I can make money.” Blue says.
“I know you can. I made your life so difficult for so long that I’d like a chance to make it easier.” Gervais says.
“You sweetie.” Blue says and kisses Gervais nose.