The timer went off just as the simple syrup on the stove began to boil. Singing along softly to the staticky radio, Olivia went over and flipped off the stove burner. Then she opened the oven and pulled out the cinnamon buns.
There was no reason to make anything, no special occasion. But Mia was sleeping late and she had the house to herself. So she’d been cooking whatever she felt like for the past hour. So far a lasagna was cooling on the counter, three different types of syrups were ready to go into containers, and the cinnamon buns looked ready to go.
This was how it used to feel at Keegan’s. Like every order was part of a puzzle and she was putting it all together. It had been satisfying to make good food from scratch. But now she reheated frozen food more often than not. And it always ended up worse than people expected.
But here she was in charge. And that means that the icing was homemade. And there were lemons sitting on the counter, waiting to be turned into a lemon loaf. And until her daughter woke up, the biggest challenge in her life would be how to time putting in the lemon loaf and the quiches she had prepped over on the kitchen table.
She knew this was all cafe food. Except for the lasagna, it was all part of the fantasy she’d been carefully cultivating. That she was the owner of a cute little cafe. As she stirred powdered sugar and milk together, carefully whisking them, she could imagine this was her career. Not throwing bagged soups into a boiler as she filled out paperwork and bussed tables. No, she was brewing espresso drinks. Making homemade treats. Selling good food. Not working herself to death before she turned forty.
Did it have to be the Limerick building? Or any commercial building at all? Maybe she could start her own business selling treats from her kitchen or something. Plenty of people did that. They’d bake cookies and pies and sell them at farmer’s markets. Not that New Winslow had a farmer’s market, but maybe she could go to surrounding towns and do it.
But that would require equipment and a permit she couldn’t afford. Likely the owner of the property would have to deal with the legal aspects. And that owner was currently five weeks into a six-week rehab stay. And she had no idea what to expect when he got home. So that idea was out of the question as soon as it arrived in her head.
Olivia flipped to the lemon loaf recipe in her cookbook. It was simple enough, but looked kind of bland. She’d add an extra lemon and maybe a brown sugar glaze instead.
Humming to the oldies playing on the radio, Olivia went to the counter to retrieve her scattered ingredients. Brown sugar was the way to go. And maybe she’d have time to get those quiches in before Mia woke up.
Roman was chopping vegetables behind the grill at New Winslow House of Pizza as he watched Celine prepping their pizza bench for the day. It was nine in the morning and they were setting up the shop with about an hour left until opening. He was nearly dozing off as he chopped onions, but he just needed some coffee before they started and he’d be fine. Last night he’d been up until nearly sunrise, squinting at the blurry scans of an old pamphlet on his phone. Nothing in it seemed to be particularly new, but he’d wanted to be sure he looked over every inch of it before setting it aside.
The knife slipped, jerking Roman’s concentration back to the task at hand. Right, it was time for some coffee. He set down his knife and walked over to the coffee maker, where the first batch of the day was brewing. “Coffee?” he called over to Celine.
She didn’t answer as he poured himself a cup. “Hey, babe?” he tried again.
Celine jerked her head up. “What?”
“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you.” He held up the pot. “Coffee?”
“Oh, yeah, thanks.”
He poured her a cup too, pouring a little milk into both of theirs. Then he brought them over and handed one to Celine. She took it with a small smile.
“Thanks,” she said, taking a long sip.
Up close, he could see there were dark shadows under her eyes. He knew he was a hypocrite to get concerned, but this was unlike her. She was far more of a morning person than Roman was, so by this point she was usually upbeat and energetic about the day. “You okay?” he asked.
He half expected her to get irritated, but she just nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
Her eyes flashed. There was the irritation he’d expected. Roman wasn’t stupid, so he just went back behind the grill and returned to his food prep. As he pulled out some green peppers and began to chop them, he stole a glance over at Celine. She’d been looking at him, he could tell by how she quickly looked away as soon as he saw.
They’d been together for over fifteen years and they’d never avoided each other’s gaze like that. Even at their most angry moments. Sure, he was a hypocrite, but he’d never claimed to be anything else. So he’d keep worrying about her if he had to.