“So are you going to show me your house?” Clara asks.
“Not yet. You’ve seen the bakery. I do two days a week, I cook the soups, though now I have some help to do that. I supply the cheesecakes on weekends and ice-cream for milkshakes that are an occasional special. I’ll also bake cookies and buns as required when I’m working. I like it here a lot. Heidi is the owner, you met her already.” Blue says and they leave.
“Where next?” Clara asks following Blue as he sets off at a brisk place.
“This will be a florist soon, Will, my boyfriend was going to apprentice here but he has to delay a while.” Blue says not leaving space for questions.
“And this?” Clara asks as they stop again.
“This will be the ice-cream parlor. Cheryl is helping us get set up. She and Ocean are coming to stay for the summer. Do you want to see inside?” Blue asks.
“Yes.” Clara says fascinated. The place has been gutted already the previous occupants all too ready to go once they had a place to go and Arnold wasted no time.
Blue walks Clara through the expected configuration.
“Come on we need the car next. We can come back for yours.” Blue says and Clara follows along delighted that Blue is back to being self-assured and practical.
“Where are we going?” Clara asks.
“To show you the ice-cream factory. Well factory is pushing it, it’s a converted farm but we’re up to code now for commercial production so you’ll need to put overalls and foot covers on.” Blue says as they get out and he opens the door. Again Blue walks Clara through every aspect, showering her all the equipment and going through the flavors and what he is working on. In his head Blue is pretending Clara is an investor and giving her the facts not wanting an opinion.
“And can I try some?” Clara asks.
“Yes we’ll take a few containers back to the house. I would especially like your opinion on the vegan ones I’ve made.” Blue says.
“Vegan ice-cream on a dairy farm?” Clara asks and Blue grins back. For a second Clara sees Blue as the cheeky five year old he was and her heart shakes.
Blue helps himself to some containers from the freezer and they are about to get on their way.
“Hello Blue, unusual to see you on a Saturday.” Arnold says looking Clara up and down suspiciously.
“I wanted to show my mother around. We’ve grabbed some samples to take home too.” Blue says.
“Pleased to meet you. I’m Arnold, Blue’s business partner on the ice-cream.” Arnold says sticking out his hand.
“I’m Clara.” Clara says shaking it.
“Are you staying a while?” Arnold asks what Blue hasn’t dared.
“A few days.” Clara says and Blue exhales.
“You are in for a treat with the ice-cream. It is going to be huge.” Arnold says.
“I have no doubt it will. My son is a very talented cook.” Clara says and Blue wonders why she’s still here and what she is after.
“We best get on. She’s not seen the house yet.” Blue says.
“See you Tuesday.” Arnold says and Blue nods.
“Oh actually I have a favour to ask.” Blue says.
“Go on.” Arnold says.
“I have a friend coming for the summer. He’ll need a job. I was hoping he could do one day a week with you. He has no dairy experience at all but is a quick learner.” Blue says.
“No problem. Remind me a week before he gets here. Any chance he could work with Larry on the cheese?” Arnold asks.
“Absolutely.” Blue says thinking that’s a great idea.
“Perfect.” Arnold says and they head off.
“Lets go and get your car and you can follow me.” Blue says.
“Actually, I don’t see that I’ll need it, if I am staying with you. Lets go and return it to the rental place now.” Clara says.
Blue freezes the reality of this woman being in his house is paralysing him.
Then he stops and smiles. He is so proud of his house and wants to show momma what he has achieved. If he can’t cope he can take her to the airport.
“Sure I have a lot of space. But I do leave early for the bakery Monday.” Blue says.
“That’s fine. I’d love to see Heidi at work. I saw how fast that bread sold.” Clara says.
“Always a little slower than cheesecake but rarely lasts more than an hour on the weekend. Locals know to buy it on a Friday.” Blue says with a smile.
“Your soup was selling well before lunch. Lots of tradesmen came in for it and poured it into thermoses.” Clara says.
“Its just soup. You had it, you can make better. But people like that its mostly local ingredients and we seem to be the first place to do it. Which is ridiculous but it gives Heidi a steady trade.” Blue says.
“People were talking about the vegan soup as we left. Seems you have more than a local following.” Clara says.
“People are mad for soup. I cannot explain it.” Blue shrugs.
“Have you plans to increase production?” Clara asks.
“Not you too.” Blue sighs and Clara drops it, puzzled by the irritation.
Blue drops the ice-cream home and then goes to the city to meet Clara at the car rental place. On the drive he doesn’t allow himself to think. He can’t process what is happening. Clara being here or what Chris and Bea are doing.
Blue has never read a gossip magazine in his life, he still only uses social media rarely and has no idea what could happen if Chris and Bea’s story takes off. They are a very attractive pair and both can lie convincingly and be utterly charming. They could become huge and Blue could easily be the villain of the piece and he has no idea.
“Shall we have some food in the city?” Blue asks Clara.
“Are you trying to delay me seeing your home?” Clara asks.
“No, I just thought you might want something different to what you have at home while you have the chance.” Blue says.
“I’ll be here a few days. I’m tired from travel.” Clara says.
“Okay. I should be shutting the chickens in soon anyway.” Blue says and they drive to the house.
“Oh my. This is all yours? How did you afford it?” Clara asks getting out the car. The freshly painted house looks all the more impressive.
“Sheer luck.” Blue says.
“Is it a wreck?” Clara asks.
“Upstairs was in places, actually it wasn’t so bad in the end. Gervais paid for the refurb. Downstairs mostly just needed cleaning and new furniture.” Blue says holding his breath as he opens the kitchen door.
“This is lovely.” Clara says.
“I’ll get the fire going and then see to the chickens. Drinks things are over there, help yourself.” Blue says.
“I can do the fire go and do your chores. I’ll get some tea on.” Clara says and Blue nods.
Blue is so on edge as he does his chores. He wants to drop his hurt and pain and just enjoy some one on one time with momma but he can’t, shouldn’t. His walls are up high and he is not going to drop them however fake nice she is. He doesn’t trust her for a minute. He’s so conflicted and exhausted by the effort.
He goes inside and washes off and joins Clara by the fire.
“So how did you afford it?” Clara asks.
“Come outside before it gets too dark, let me show you all of it first.” Blue says.
“Am I going to find a drugs factory?” Clara asks.
“No, come see.” Blue says and Clara comes out with her tea in hand.
Blue shows her the garden, and the fields and his plans for each.
“So for the third time. How did you afford it? All that land and this beautiful home and still be able to give Gervais the second house?” Clara asks more insistent.
“Lets sit.” Blue says and explains about Abby and how she sold him the house and how Gervais gave him the land and how he’d planned to include Gervais on this house and changed his mind. He tells Clara all about Mike and Gladys and how he sold pies and gingerbread and about his seniors yoga and private clients.
“And Will? Where does he fit in?” Clara asks.
Blue is unsure if he wants to share. He hates not being able to be open and worrying that anything he says could be used against him. Against his better judgement he explains everything, why he left, how hurt he had been that Clara hadn’t stayed with him, Spence forbidding him from seeing Will, Gervais and Spence, everything.
“I don’t understand. Did you keep seeing him in secret?” Clara asks and Blue tells her about going to the meet and getting together.
“It sounds like you finally have someone who is right for you.” Clara says.
“Birch and Gervais were right in some ways. Gervais was just the wrong time.” Blue says.
“Will has true ambition and focus. Gervais has neither of those, he is lead along.” Clara says.
“Are you mad I dropped out of school?” Blue asks.
“No. Not with all you are doing. I’ve only looked around down here but this house is so impressive, the ice-cream plant or whatever you call it is really something.” Clara says.
“Want some before dinner?” Blue asks wanting to show off to his momma what he has achieved.
“Set me up a tasting.” Clara smiles.
Blue puts a small scoop in 6 glasses and hands Clara a spoon.
“Go left to right.” Blue says.
Clara starts with the vanilla as directed and tastes each in turn.
“What’s the price point and margins?” Clara asks and Blue talks through what the options are and the costs per flavor are right now.
“So since you left college you’ve learnt a lot. More than those expensive two years?” Clara asks.
“Not more, just different. You wouldn’t let me take business classes.” Blue says.
“Well clearly you didn’t need them. This is very good. The strawberry needs work, its not sure if its an adult or kids flavor at the moment. The caramel is your winner. The pistachio is the vegan one?” Clara asks.
“Is it that bad?” Blue asks.
“No it’s excellent, the coconut is there but not too much and much, much better than most vegan options. Have you tried using soy?” Clara asks.
“Didn’t work for me. I am experimenting with oats. Almond milk works well but would be too expensive, but I might use it for an adult no added sugar special.” Blue says.
“Interesting. Well you are doing very well. Very well. I hope your siblings don’t fuck it up for you.” Clara says.
“You’ll be affected far more than me. Everyone at home will know your business.” Blue says.
“No doubt but they will all be too scared to gossip about me in public.” Clara says.
“And are you still letting Chris and Bea live with you?” Blue asks.
“I can’t cast them off when they have no one else because of me.” Clara says.
“I bet Paul will milk the story for all he can, the wronged father, cast off for the rich bitch.” Blue says.
“I expect so and I’m sure there will be a dramatic reunion on TV. I’ll be there when they need me.” Clara says.
“But not when I do.” Blue says.
“That’s not fair.” Clara says.
“It is. You are always making me feel shit when I need support. You’ve given up on me. You threw money at me and dismissed every problem I ever had as my own fault. I’m a lot better off without you.” Blue says.
“You think you’re more important than you are. I didn’t have the energy for your childish boyfriend troubles.” Clara says.
“Finding out about Chris and Bea was life changing and you didn’t have time for me, no time in 19 years to mention it. You spend all your energy on them and I don’t exist. You pushed me away, over and over. You’re only interested in me now when I’m happy. Now that I’m not a problem and not asking for anything you’ve come back into my life. I don’t get it. You didn’t need to be here to warn me. You don’t care about my businesses. You don’t give a shit and I want you to go. I’ll call you a cab.” Blue says.
“Blue please. I know I haven’t always got things right. I thought we got all your issues out before I bought the houses. Why do we always have to cover old ground? Your life is good. Why do you feel so hard done by?” Clara asks.
“Because none of you three see how you push me out. Somehow they get you and I am left on the outside hurt and alone. You don’t see when I’m hurting. You expect so much from me and I can’t do it anymore. I can’t keep trying to please you to make you love me. You don’t. I have moved on from being a mess. I accept that you are the way you are but I don’t want anything to do with it. Yes your money helped me get this house but the jobs and businesses are all me.” Blue says.
“Oh I don’t know. You met Gladys because your upbringing meant you couldn’t not help and while others might have helped with her shopping only someone with your values would stick around and mow the lawn. The values I gave you. So much of your life here has happened because of skills and values you learned through our lifestyle. Yes you are applying it all yourself but you are not doing it all of your own back.” Clara says and Blue deflates.
“Why are you here?” Blue asks again.
“I needed to warn you about your siblings. That was my primary motivation. I was also curious to see how you were getting on. Come on lets eat. We can get through this Blue. I can’t be who you want me to be. You can’t be who I want you to be. We can find some middle ground. You’re doing so well, building a wonderful life. I am so proud of you. All you are doing, all your plans, all of it is very right for you. I would very much like to meet the people who have helped you.” Clara says and Blue sighs.
“I’ll call invite everyone to lunch tomorrow. Is reheated dahl okay? You’ve zapped my energy.” Blue says looking in the fridge.
“That sounds perfect. I’ll do it, you make those calls.” Clara says and Blue nods passing her the pot of leftovers.
“I best warn you. I have told Mike everything and he hates you. He might be pretty angry on my behalf.” Blue says between mouthfuls.
“He’s the farmer who gave you a job?” Clara clarifies.
“Yes. I’m good friends with his sons who are my age. He’s the first real father figure I’ve had and he is pretty protective of me.” Blue says.
“I imagine they all are. I wish I’d had a brother or close male friend who could have been that for you. You never gelled with a teacher or anyone. I am really pleased you have him, even if he hates me. You clearly feel you need someone in your corner.” Clara says and chips away at Blue’s wall again.
“I understand why you hid us away and I understand although don’t agree with you not telling me I had a father. But somewhere like here would have been better for us both. You less of a queen and me less isolated but similar values. I got home last Sunday after a trip and a friend had painted my house.” Blue says.
“You think I’m the queen at home?” Clara asks.
“The red queen. I know you had it tough momma. I know that people were hard on you for being a single mom. I know they were dismissive of you getting the retreat back in to shape. I know they shunned me too. I didn’t notice any of it at the time, not really. You did a good job shielding me. But now you own so much, run so much, know so much that you are like a queen or dictator or something. Roe is the only one who is close to challenging you and she doesn’t too much in case you take it out on Katelyn.” Blue says.
“I would never. I love Katelyn and want the best for her.” Clara says.
“I’m just saying.” Blue says and Clara is lost in thought.
Blue clears the plates.
“Caramel ice cream?” Blue asks
“That would be lovely. Your dahl has improved no end. You sell it at the bakery instead of soup sometimes?” Clara asks.
“Yes.” Blue says.
“Why do you bristle whenever I ask about the soup?” Clara asks.
“All the farmers want me to make them into a business, boost the farms. I’ve too much on to even think about it. Everyone is always asking, the farmers, the deli owner even Spence and Andy and now you. I’m just not tempted.” Blue says.
“Why not?” Clara asks.
“Anyone can make soup. Anyone can make good soup with the produce that is grown here. I’m not interested in the business side. There is no challenge for me. I’ve told them they can do it without me.” Blue says.
“What if it was me?” Clara asks.
“You?” Blue asks.
“I have done it before. It would be a nice project for us.” Clara says.
“I don’t want you here long term.” Blue says.