*CONTENT / TRIGGER WARNING*
THIS STORY REFERS TO CHILD ABUSE, SELF HARM AND MENTAL DISORDERS IN A NON EXPLICIT WAY AND MAY BE A TRIGGER
PLEASE CEASE READING IF THIS IS OF ANY WORRY TO YOU
(Have a good read! I hope you appreciate this story!)
“Hello kids, today, we have exciting news for our freshmans : once again, Oliver Evans will participate in this year’s Christmas festival, his interview can be found in the school’s newspaper. He has asked for help in the shop during the holiday season and will select three of the freshmen from our school to help him. You can apply on the school’s website. He will write recommendation letters to the lucky few chosen for college in a few years. With such a celebrity on their side, they will be certain to be accepted in the school of their choice.”
-We should apply!” said Emily, a popular girl, to her best friend.
-We will never get accepted, you’re failing every single class we’re taking and my parents have their trial next week, the judge will decide how many years of jail they’ll go through. The social workers don’t even know what to do with me and my brother anymore.”
-Exactly, this would give us a nice image in front of the teachers you know. You wouldn't be the girl whose parents… yeah. And I would be a model student, with good grades.”
-If you want to be seen as a model student, you need new clothes.”
-What do you mean new clothes, these are perfect : my parents hate them!”
-Exactly! Emily, you should worry a little more. You can’t continue fighting with your parents like that.”
-But I hate them, I really do. I despise them more than anything.”
-At least you have parents, Maria sighed, they are so nice.”
Emily didn’t answer. She swung her long silky black hair over her shoulders and faked a smile.
She was wearing a pair of black tights under a very short black skirt, a leather jacket, a black sleeveless high heeled boots and heavy make up.
-If I could get a scholarship to a school, any school, my parents would be so happy and all. I want them to be proud of me.”
-Yeah, but they don’t care. They just don’t want you to get expelled so they don’t have to look for a new school.”
Emily’s black heels echoed on the floor. She was hurt, her friend’s cold words were like a knife in an infected wound.
-Yeah, I wish them luck with that. I bet you a lighter and a pack of cigarettes I’ll be expelled before the end of the semester.”
-Don’t say that! And you said you’d give up smoking!”
-I’m trying, and you’re not my mom, stop worrying about me like that.”
-I worry because I care. You are my friend. I don’t want you to get hurtand to end up in a hospital with a stroke.”
-Well that would be too bad if I died. Really, a lot of people would worry and cry.”
-I can do whatever the f*ck I want, you don’t know what it’s like to be me.”
-You’re so spoiled. Can’t you see you are loved! Your parents want you to succeed, they care. Your family is so nice and caring. My parents are going to jail. My youngest sister and I suffered with them for five years. She has no memories of ever being hugged by a loving parent. She doesn’t know what it feels like to go home and fing dinner on the table, a clean bed. She has never had a good night kiss or a dad joke. Never. Can you imagine? Can you? Because, you know you’re just making a fuss and trying to be a rebel. Deep down, you know you are wrong.”
Maria angrily stormed off. She arrived at the library and set her books down in the newsroom.
-You are late Maria.”
-Yes Mrs. Jennings, I’m so sorry. I promise to be on time tomorrow. Please don’t fire me.”
-It’s all right. As a punishment, you’re not going on tomorrow morning. I’ll send you an email during break to inform you of your work for monday.”
-You’re going on in twenty seven seconds, and your article better be perfect.
She sat next to another girl from the news team, Eleanor.
-Ready?” She whispered, a huge smile on her face. She must be so happy and normal, Maria thought. But if only she knew, she wouldn’t have thought that. But no one knew, not even the people that loved her the most. Because Eleanor’s secrets were her scars, and she hid them well.
-Yep. I have my notes.”
They put on headphones and Eleanor’s cheerful voice rang in the school’s hallways.
“Hello everyone. This is Eleanor, and it is seven thirty two. Please get to class before the bell rings. You all have eight minutes, and late students are kindly asked to go to the reception to ask for a late slip. Students are reminded that any unjustified absence or lateness will be severely punished… Thank you. So, Maria, hello and welcome to our morning school podcast. How are you today?”
-I am fine, thank you. How about you, Eleanor?”
-Well you heard the principal’s announcement : the Christmas festival is taking place soon. Is everyone excited? I sure am! What do you think, Maria?”
-I am excited as well, Eleanor, I just can’t wait for the festival, and we are so lucky to have a world known baker in our small village.”
-About that, don’t you have delightful news to share, Maria?”
-Yes, I do. This year, our festival’s special guest is Charlotte Miller. She has moved back to town and her shop will open on the twenty fourth.”
-Charlotte graduated two years ago, and has worked in the famous parisian restaurant the Jules Vernes, inside the Eiffel Tower. She, however, has decided to go back home to her roots and will spend the season with her family here. We all warmly welcome her.”
-I can’t believe it!”
-I got accepted! By Oliver Evans, for his bakery!”
-Yeah, I know! I’m just… Wow… It's great!”
-I wonder who will be there too!”
-Me too, I hope it will be cute boys. It could be a movie or a webtoon you know!
-Yeah. I’m so happy for you.”
-Have you checked your emails recently?”
-Well go ahead, maybee you got in too.”
-It would be very unlikely for both of us to get accepted.”
-Actually, three freshmen will be selected in our school, and we are three hundred, so it’s about one out of a hundred chances to be picked and for both of us to get in, a fifty percent chance.”
-That is not how math works.”
-Who cares, come one. Let’s go check my phone in the bathroom.”
-Wait, I think that… Oh. My. Gosh. I got accepted too!”
-See, I told you! Who is going to eat cookies and croissants in a cute bakery and flirt all break! Us, that’s who, yay baby!”
-Hello students. I am very happy to meet you all.”
-Hello sir.” Emily smiled uncontrollably. The chief baker was twenty-five, and he was already such a legend. He had grown in her small town, and had learned to fight for what he wanted. Everyone knew the story of the boy who loved to cook and had had to live with abusive parents until he turned fifteen. He was also Maria’s inspiration for this very reason.
-On this first day, you will spend most of your time in the shop. You will have unofficial shifts, depending on the amount of people at a time. I will come every fifteen minutes or so to check on you. The other employees can also help. I will be in the kitchen. Have a good first hour of work.”
-Thank you sir!”
The three students looked at each other. The best friends were still in shock from having been chosen. They didn't know the third person, a boy that had recently moved. He was a jock and was very popular. He immediately started a conversation with them.
-So, why did you apply?”
-I mean, do you have a reason?”
-Yeah, for me, it means I spend more time away from my parents, and they think I’m working and being a good girl and all.” Emily batted her eyes as she talked.
-Oh, that’s too bad, you don’t want to be with them?”
-No, I hate them.”
-I love my family, I actually really hesitated to accept because it means I’ll be occupied and won’t get a lot of time with them. How about you?”
-Me?” asked Maria.
-Yeah, did you just want to follow your friend?”
-Well, there is a reason… I…” She looked over at her sister, Esmeralda. The eight year old girl was reading Harry Potter, a cup of hot chocolate in one hand. She had been allowed to stay here with her older sister since they couldn’t stay home alone. Their parents were in court and they were going to be assigned a legal guardian. “I like to cook.”
-Cool! That’s also why I applied, cooking is my passion, I love to bake mostly. I can make meringues, and I love to…” He blushed, “I mean, yeah, I think it’s pretty neat!”
They spent the entire morning taking customer orders. It was long and tiresome, but after two hours of work, Oliver Evans said they could rest for a while. They sat on a couch in the shop, looking out the window at the snow falling.
Esmeralda walked over to their table, her book in one hand, her cup in the other.
The little girl cuddled next to her sister, and fiddled with her apron.
-Who are these people?” she asked
-Well this is Emily, my best friend, and this is Owen.”
-Hello. My name is Esmeralda. I am Maria’s sister.”
-Hello Esmeralda! Why aren’t you home? Don’t you want to stay with your family?”
-I am staying with my family. Maria is my sister.” She was confused by his question.
-I mean your parents.”
-Parents?” The word sounded foreign in her mouth. She repeated it like a magic spell. Like it would bring them back.
-Yeah, you parents!” Owen looked at Maria. She slightly shook her head which made him bush.
-I’m sorry. Are you orphans?”
-No. I wish we were.” said the youngest. She held onto her sister’s hand and looked away.
-Hey,” three students walked in the shop. They were loud and very obnoxious, “We’ll take… What do you say guys, three?”
-Yeah, three cakes.”
The shop had emptied and Maria answered with her quiet voice that they could come to her counter.
One of the boys rested his elbows on the table in front of her and smiled into her eyes. He smelled like toothpaste and christmas. He was your stereotypical skater boy, with wild hair and a black beanie.
-Hello beautiful.” She took a step back, surprised he so openly acted in front of her. Emily walked over and pushed her friend. She twirled her hair around her finger and batted her eyelashes.
-Who are you calling beautiful?”
-I can’t believe you’re dating !”
-I know, right !”
-So, are you free on friday night? After our last ship, Owen and I wanted to go to the carnival to spend our last night together…
-Sure! I’ll invite the guys over too.”
-If you want.”
-This is sooo much better than last year.” Emily was holding onto her boyfriend’s arm and smiling.
-Yeah, especially since you’re here this time!”
She blushed and kissed him on the cheek.
The boy had actually turned out to be quite a gentleman, which had surprised Maria and Owen. They were both happy for Emily, but they knew such a relationship would not last long.
-So, where is your boss, he’s coming right?”
-Yeah, he said we could meet him at the booth to help out if we wanted to, but it’s optional really.”
-Do you want to go, Emily?”
-Nope. You guys?”
-Well I was planning on going.” Owen whispered, embarrassed.
-Sure, I’ll come with you!” Maria and Owen headed to the stand.
-Thing one! Thing two! I’m so glad you could both come! Do you want a snack?”
-Yes please, can I have a croissant?”
-Sure Owen, treat yourself. How about you, Maria?”
-I’ll take the same thing.”
-How nice it is to have you both. Now can I ask you something important?”
They looked at each other surprised. The cook had asked them questions about their lives and had taken a special interest in Owen after he learned about his love for cooking, but he had always been a little distant and dreamy.
They walked to a little tent set up behind the counter.
-I am going to propose.”
His pale face had turned completely red and he looked down with a mushy smile on his face.
-I was an exchange student here a few years ago. The cooking school I attended was near here, and I fell in love. I came back only to learn she had switched schools and lived in a big city. But now, she has come back.”
-Wait… You mean your soon-to-be-fiance is…”
-I can’t believe it… It’s so exciting!”
-I’ve been a little absent lately, that’s why I wasn’t really here for you. I was often in her shop, giving her advice. We still have a really good chemistry.”
-I’m so happy for you!”
-Yeah me too! When are you proposing?”
-I was thinking at eight. When she will open her stand and do her speech, just walk over to her and kneel… Do you think she’ll like it?”
-Yeah, go for it!”
-Okay! Thank you!”
He walked out of the tent with a confident smile. The teenagers turned to each other and laughed. They had been so surprised at his request, that it all seemed comical to them now.
-So I guess we are matchmakers now!” Owen laughed,
-Not quite,” corrected Maria, “We just approved of the proposal. We actually knew nothing of Charlotte Miller.”
-Yeah. Her speech is starting any minute now. Do you want to go see?”
-And to conclude, I thank you all for this warm welcome under the stars and the snow."
Owen and Maria arrived just in time to see their boss approach the girl. She smiled at him. He got down on one knee.
-Will you marry me this christmas, under the stars?”
She didn’t cry or scream. She just helped him get up, took the ring. They kissed.
And for a minute, nothing else mattered.
Owen and Maria looked over at their friends. Emily, the cute boy, the cooks… Everyone smiled. Every single one of their problems seemed to have disappeared.
The sweet smell of pastries filled the air and snow started to fall from the sky.