When I See Your Face, Part 29
4 months later
“Bye and thanks once again!”
She waved cheerfully and walked out of the bakery with an empty plastic crate under her arm, careful not to slip on the ice-covered pavement.
This was the third time in a row that the baker’s wife had bought her cakes. The first time, roughly two weeks ago, she had offered the lady and her husband a free slice each of three of her best cakes. They had liked the taste and placed a tentative order of two cakes of each variety. Those had sold out in record time, so last week and the day before, they had ordered 4 of the same three cakes. The baker’s wife had promised her that she would place the advertising leaflets on the counter. On those, Cathy offered a whole cake-on-demand of the slices available at the bakery if given one day’s notice.
Standing at the bus halt, she went over her weekly schedule in her head. Tomorrow was Friday, which meant she had to deliver a set of 47 cupcakes to the IT company around the corner from where she lived.
A month ago, she had approached the cafeteria supervisor with some leaflets and a tray of cupcakes, trying her utmost to convince the young man that serving something nice and sweet at least once a week as a brunch or with the afternoon coffee would make a positive impression on the staff. The supervisor had referred her to the Office Manager and she had succeeded in letting her give a trial run. Her cupcakes, which she had colored blue and white and topped with a computer symbol made out of icing, had been a hit.
Ever since that day, once a week, she delivered a cupcake for each staff member to the cafeteria. The Customer Care Manageress had ordered a set of 60 cupcakes for her forthcoming birthday party, if possible decorated with a tiny cat on top of whipped cream. She had accepted and surprised herself with being bold enough to ask for an advance to buy all the ingredients.
Stepping from one foot onto the other in the cold and watching her breath create white clouds in the air, she made a mental list of ingredients she would need for the Santa-shaped Christmas cake that a kindergarten had ordered.
Business was growing, slowly but steadily. She was already making enough money to cover the cost for the ingredients and have a little spare cash at hand. On Saturdays and Sundays, she worked as a waitress at an Italian restaurant not far away, which gave her enough income to start paying back the loan she had taken.
The several thousand pounds she had managed to obtain from a private creditor after much to and fro and throwing around her weight by mentioning the Nolan company were allowing her to pay the rent and cover the food expenses as well as get started with her business by buying some important baking equipment. She had created and published her website, which had already provided her with one wedding cake order two months ago, and printed a set of leaflets. During the week, she spent her time travelling the neighborhood to approach potential customers with cake samples and distribute her flyers.
Much of what she did reminded her painfully of Michael’s ideas and tips but felt exactly right.
The bus slid to a halt in front of her. She stepped aboard, found a seat at the back and dropped the crate to the floor. Taking her brightly striped gloves and her matching woolen hat off, she rubbed some life and warmth into her fingers and thought back on the past four months.
The bus in which she had fled the village had taken her to this big city that looked so much like the one she had left behind yet also provided her with what she needed for a new start.
After pawning her mobile phone and using the money to pay for a bed in a group room in a youth hostel that had a breakfast buffet included in the fees, she had spent a whole day on a park bench, hugging herself and thinking hard.
The morning after, she had woken up to the noise of boisterous school children and been filled again with that strange determination to take things into her own hands. The following days had been spent researching on her laptop, tapping into the hostel’s free Wi-Fi and cheering herself up with some nice cake photos whenever despair threatened again. With hardly a cent in hand—living on the generous breakfast, the rolls and odd apple or banana she pilfered from it and the water from the filter in the hostel’s common room—she managed to survive. Deciding against a job search that would take too much time without getting her anywhere, she had approached several creditors and finally found an open ear and full purse to come to her aid.
The next steps had been comparatively easy. Buying a handful of warm clothes and the most important baking utensils, she had commenced baking and getting her business rolling. Within several days, she had been able to move out of the hostel and into a two-roomed apartment that she shared with a History student only three years younger than her. With the girl mostly sleeping over at her boyfriend’s place, she had the kitchen mostly to herself and poured all her hope into baking.
She was waiting for a confirmation email from a catering service that was thinking of including personalized cakes for special events on their list. If she landed that deal, it would bring more financial stability.
What was missing in her life was not so much security and hope rather than someone to share it all with, someone who would care and support her whenever doubts paralyzed her again.
* * *
Cathy pulled two letters out of their common letter box and climbed the five flights up to the apartment, hoping that as usual, her flat mate wouldn’t be at home. While climbing up, she scanned the envelopes of the letters. One was clearly some advertisement or other, touting from the front that she shouldn’t miss the opportunity of her lifetime. The other looked more promising and felt quite heavy. At the front, her name and address were written in slanting cursive letters that looked somehow old-fashioned. Was that another customer? She turned the envelope over and stopped in mid-track, unable to breathe for a moment. Among an address, two words written on the back in the same neat print jumped out at her: Aunt Grindle.
She trembled, not sure whether it was from standing still in the unheated stairwell or from shock.
How had Mrs. Grindle, the kind old landlady at the village guest house, found her address? Why on earth would she write to her? Did she want to read the letter? Why should she bother?
(To be continued tomorrow.)
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