Before the morning sun was up, and when the winter’s cold still bit into the darkness of the district, I made my way towards the deli at the end of the street and round the corner towards the bakery. Work had already started on the new Mich Café that Marie told me about a few weeks ago. From the looks of it, it would be spectacular. Evenings would never be as quiet here again.
The baker, Gustav, is a wonderful gentleman. Stocky built and a heart of gold, he recently opened shop in the district and gathered a cult following in a relatively short time. Though he was not there that morning, his minions have prepared everything for me: Croissants, bagels, sourdough, hot-cross buns, viennoiserie, and panettone, though I would never be particularly fond of raisins. But Marie liked them.
By the time I finished with nonsensical business transactions (I would always have to spend an inordinate amount of time insisting to pay for the bread), the streets were slightly warmer and the sun was breathing life into the district. Some early risers were already on their way to work. Slightly envious, but grateful to what I have, I made my way back to my building.
Marie was already eating bagels.
“How dare you?” I snapped with a pinch of humour. “You know it is a Thursday and breakfast is on me!”
“I must be getting old, then,” said the disappointed Marie, as she placed her cold bagel in a bag. For the birds I presumed.
“Never worry, I brought panettone for you!”
“That’s is so LOVELY! What a fabulous way to start the Christmas spirit.” She grabbed the bread and dug her fingers inside, emphasising that she would have it all for herself.
“Don’t worry, raisins are too morbid for me.”
“I don’t belIEVE you!” aghast, and I never wondered why. “When I become Queen I will order nothing but raisins to be served!”
“And I would then have to dethrone you.” I sat down and admired the viennoiserie collection. I concluded that the Gods themselves ate nothing but baked products.
“So tell me so-” she was interrupted by an overflow of bread in her mouth. After she swallowed: “oh excuse me, but the bread is just too good! – ” and I thought of what the bread felt like between those lips – “so tell me something, did you manage to find work?”
“Yes, in loose terms. I am working part time now.” I indulged in the viennoiserie.
“You need to tell me more as I make tea.” She stood up and headed to one of the forgotten corners of the building I never adventured in. “I can hear you don’t worry!” she continued as she disappeared from sight.
“I should be getting an OK by January!” I yelled into nothingness. I could hear her trying to find spoons in what I assumed to be a metal factory.
“Oh that’s great!” she replied with a few moments’ delay.
“I do like the work; it is quite interesting!” I was running breathless with being loud and made my way into the labyrinth corridors, hunting for the little kitchenette. “I believe I have good chances on this one!” I continued, while looking left and right into empty hallways.
“That’s good news! Better than your old job then?” Her voice was clearer. I was heading in the right direction.
“Yeah I think-” and I had to stop in my tracks as I was an inch too close to bumping into her she was trying to make her way back.
We were both startled, and for a long minute I looked at nothing but a little piece of crumb on her lips. Our eyes met. I glanced back at the lips. Swallowed. Looked into her eyes. I don’t recall either of us breathing. I don’t recall the tea settling in the cups. I could hear nothing but my head throb.
I regained my breath. Slightly lifted my hands –
“Here’s your cup!” with the most wonderful blush I would see for years.