After plating the final dinner entrée of the evening, Jake was looking forward to cleaning up and heading home. It was the end of a long work week at his trendy cafe, TAKE A BREAK at JAKE’S. His hands were tired. Not only tired from the endless chopping, slicing, whipping, and all the other descriptive words that go with the life of a master chef, but he was tired from too much time on his laptop. What was he looking for? The computer was becoming his home base, and not in a good way.
“Why can’t I be happy? I’ve got it all, right?” His mood was wearing him down. The tune he sang was getting old. This was it, the place he had wanted to be for so long. He had achieved great reviews, a loyal following and was a guest chef on a popular show, CHIEF COOK AND BOTTLE WASHER. But he was alone and every now and then he held his own pity party. Not good.
Ever since he was a kid, he worked tirelessly in all ways food related. Food was his thing and not just eating it. Jake always kept a little garden at their house for his family. He was able to land a job working on a farm after his high school days were over. This became a good fit because at the time he was heading down the wrong path.
Looking back was not pretty. His buddies were trying to get him to be part of a new venture before their high school days were over. They thought it fun to scout areas of town at night to see where they could make a buck or two by taking stuff that wasn’t there’s, aka stealing. Open cars or trucks, sheds, and yards packed with stuff, were just waiting for their quick fingers. Jake went along with this, just because he thought these were his friends and friends help friends. Right? He’d usually come home late and his dad, who always waited up, would quiz him about his night. He lied so well, it started to make him sick. This wasn’t who he wanted to be. His mom, who he adored, had passed away and he was lost without her inspiration.
But soon, these, so-called fun times, all came crashing down when they attempted to take a car that was left with the keys on the seat. It started as the joy ride of the night until flashing lights and a siren brought that to an end. They opted not to play stupid and pulled over. “Okay! No one say a word. I’ve got this!” Bobby, the driver, but known as Bomba, knew how to play the game. He was the big shot and set the tone for the others. It was his way or no way. He instantly came up with such a ‘poor me’ excuse that Jake almost laughed. It was if they were pretending to be like a litter of puppies who went out to play and got lost. Unfortunately, that didn’t go over well. Jake’s father was not happy to get that phone call.
That moment in time seemed like yesterday, but he got through it, and went on to go in the direction he was meant to follow. How he got into a culinary arts school was surely a gift from heaven. His mom, he knew, pushed him to excel. He would not fail. And he did not, but went on to be recognized in the top level of his class.
With a fresh start, Jake made his way into the world, where fortunately, food was on everyone’s mind. He knew that he needed to find the right fit, and that would be a restaurant offering farm to table fare. This was his calling from the start and ingrained more so with days spent in farm life. He felt It, from the ground up, that this was the way to success, for him and anyone with a palate. The days were never-ending with his passion taking over his life, from actually spending time in the fields with farm hands to brain storming new and clever recipes.
Jake sighed and on his way home, contemplated which direction he was headed each day. He had one more stop on his ‘to do’ list. There’s got to be more to life.
“Don’t worry!” Maggie reminded her roommate. “I know it’s dark out, but I’m not going to be gone that long.” Samantha worried more than anyone she ever knew, but Maggie was thankful for her friend. It hadn’t always been that way with other friends in her life. She cared, and Maggie thought of a way to show her appreciation with her one and only best way; a uniquely created, yummy treat.
As she headed out and down the stairs of their brownstone, her mind was swimming with the latest ideas she had decided on to incorporate into the new theme for the month. Her bakery was still considered the ‘new kid on the block’. People were slowly finding her small place but she really needed to come up with a clever campaign. Marketing was her biggest concern and that had to come in the form of the products, first and foremost.
Who would of ever thought she’d be in the city offering what she was only famous for in her own kitchen? Maggie had somehow worked her magic and over time created her own tiny cookbook of secret recipes that always included a surprise ingredient. With that on the shelf, so to speak, it was time to venture into the wide, wide, world. And now, here she was, with a place to call her own, and her home away from home - BREAD and JAM by Maggie. Those two highlighted items were only a few of her many creative attempts. Breads were her number one thing and there were so many blends to offer. She was happy to support local farms nearest the city in the grains she used and made sure to only buy from them. The jams were her own endeavor. Many hours were spent, finding the right berry fields, gathering the loads she needed, then to jar up this priceless treat.
However, life wasn’t always this kind.
It was a few years ago but the memories would not leave. She lived in a small town and went to the local schools where everyone knew everyone. What your family did for work, who your mother and father were, and also all your aunts, uncles and cousins was everyone’s business. It was a good life with family in a friendly community, so she thought.
Maggie arrived to the upper school in quite good spirits on this Monday. It was a day that was to be really special. As a birthday treat, her mother was taking her into town to buy some bakeware. She was looking forward to picking out muffin tins, a Bundt pan and a bread loaf dish. The one person that was allowed in her mother’s kitchen was anyone that would or wanted to learn to bake. Her sisters were not interested and Maggie won the prize! Any time there was a special request, she immediately went into the kitchen and created a masterpiece for her family. Her skill set was ingrained, from time spent with her grandmother and also learning on her own. The farm nearby always had recipes that she used to create her own ‘food bible’.
The school day was over and Maggie waited for her ride. Soon, she spied the old truck in the distance. As it approached, she noticed that her father was behind the wheel. Where was her mother? He pulled over and told her to get in. Maggie didn’t say anything but waited for him to speak. Finally, he just said, “She’s dead. Your mother died.” Maggie didn’t know how to react. Her father was never one for showing any emotion. She only looked at him, started to cry and asked, “Please, tell me what happened.”
He told her to hush until they got back home.
They arrived to a house of strangers. Maggie was at a loss to what was happening. She had no idea who they were until one, stepped away to approach her. “You must be Maggie. I’m Detective Barnes.” He went on to gently explain why they were in the house.
Her father came up and put an arm around Maggie’s shoulder. Her sisters were sitting on the couch, crying and they motioned for her to join them. They sat together and each shared something she never knew.
“I knew we would finally meet that idiot.” One sister said this with a knowing glance to her sister.
“Me, too. Why didn’t we just shoot him!” Her other sister took her fist and hit the arm of the couch. She winked and nodded.
Maggie was lost. “What are you talking about?” Both sisters looked to her and said, “Wake up!”
It seemed that a guy in the neighborhood would stop by the house every now and then. It was usually when no one was home and he seemed to always need to borrow something. Their mother, who was friendly, invited him in. This guy soon took advantage of the situation and had his way with their mother. He threatened to harm her daughters if anything was to be revealed. She cowered to his demands. This went on until Maggie’s two sisters sensed something was wrong. Their mother panicked, told them, yet pleaded with the girls not to tell Maggie. Their dear father was a long haul driver away from home many nights but soon would finally be home for a while. The sisters were determined to confront the worst excuse for a neighbor, and had a plan. But before that could happen, the two arrived home to a horror scene from hell.
Their mother lay dead in the foyer. The two were shocked and devastated since they were only away from their mother for a short time. Who was to blame for this terrible wrongful end to their mother’s life? Obviously they knew the answer. Pay back would happen.
The surprise conclusion happened by the end of the week. The neighborhood sleaze guy, as they called him, was splayed in his driveway and shot dead three times; crotch, chest, head. The who, what and where of this crime was ongoing. Fingers started pointing, but the sisters had credible alibis. Their father was attempting to regain a sense of peace at a retreat lodge and was out of state. He drove non-stop to return to his family.
No one was held accountable as yet, and the mystery of the crime was still an open book. Maggie’s sisters were allowed to move on with their lives. They chose to leave the town and to this day she has no idea where they are. Their father remained broken in spirit and he became ill. What was Maggie to do?
She took on the role of caregiver and helped her father through the terrible loss. She could only put her feelings away for a while and somehow find a way forward.
It finally happened. A friend of her mother’s came to see her one day to offer any help Maggie needed. She made a suggestion that came to fruition. The group home, where she worked, became the place where her father could live in peace. This became a good fit for him. When she first brought up the idea, her father was very positive and encouraged her to find her dream. “Let me go,” he said, suddenly with a smile, “And I’ll let you go.”
Now, here she was, following a path that certainly was meant to be. Were they the bread crumbs she needed to follow to lead the way to her dream?
Maggie walked the city streets along the Fens feeling a slight breeze. It was comforting in a sense, as it reminded her of home. She smiled with good memories, not the bad ones, and reached her destination. The corner market had some of the best homemade chocolate and ginger cookies. These were to be the surprise in her latest breads. She swung the door open and let it close before realizing it fell against someone behind her. “Oh! I am so sorry.” She was quick to excuse her lack of manners.
“I’ve had it worse, believe me. No problem.” Jake smiled and was quickly taken with the young lady.
Maggie noticed he was wearing a jacket over his chef whites. The name was visible, just barely, but she had to comment. “Are you Jake, the owner of that café? I’ve been wanting to go there for such a long time.” Maggie was so happy to meet this popular guy, who she had seen in the news. Jake didn’t want others to notice him, since he’d had enough of that for the day, and motioned for her to step over to a less busy section of the small market.
“I am that guy, and who might I have the pleasure of meeting in a corner market, at night, in the bakery section?” Jake had to comment on what he noticed. “Hmm. I see that you’ve emptied the shelf of one of my regular customer’s selection of homemade cookies.”
Maggie was embarrassed by this hording but felt she needed to explain why she was there. Jake laughed and said he was only trying to have fun in the moment. “Wait!” he paused and with a thoughtful look added, “You’re new in town, right? And your shop is that bakery with the pretty cool look to it. What’s the name?”
BREAD and JAM by Maggie. She smiled, “That’s me!” and thanked Jake for the notice.
The two had a common food connection and Maggie felt comfortable with Jake as their conversation continued. But then there was a hesitation which made Maggie immediately stop talking. Jake looked down for a moment, then checked the time on his watch.
“I’m sorry.” Maggie felt she had said something that didn’t sit right with Jake. “I should get going and let you finish what you came in the store to get.”
Jake was beyond himself with a sudden feeling that spoke to him. New emotions were invading his mental space. He felt a new spark in his life and decided to take a chance and not let Maggie get away. Suddenly, he was a bashful teenager once again, but the words needed to be spoken.
“Maggie,” Jake asked with a pause. “Would you like to meet again?” He shook his head and laughed. “I mean, not here, but I think we should, I don’t know. How about a walk in the park tomorrow morning?”
That was the message that called to both of them. Mother Earth would welcome them with open arms and bare feet. It would be the grounding the two felt would bring them back to center. Maggie laughed at the idea and with a resounding YES! put her cookie basket down, grabbed Jake, and with a sudden urge, kissed him. He responded in surprise, stood apart from her, then they both laughed. It was a sweet moment!