The clock is ticking, the small hands rotating on cue as the seconds pass, as I wait at a table tucked in the corner near the window. The sweet aromas of freshly boiled sweets wafts softly over the counter from the kitchen at the back, tickling the senses of the customers roaming the store. Through a glossy window to the side of the counter, a confectioner is throwing taffy over a hook, throwing and wrapping the taffy in a constant motion.
Outside people come and go, people in suits walking briskly with briefcases to meetings, children tugging at their parents arms on the way to their weekend activities and couples sitting and laughing on the benches or walking hand in hand through the park.
She’ll be here soon, my Jasper, to join me here so we can look after Anaya’s confectionery for the day. Jasper’s parents had been reluctant at first, but due to her mother’s disdain for sweets, and being in a confectionery no less, it was agreed that they could take the responsibility off Alessia’s hands. We don’t know what it entails just yet, but we’re meeting them soon and the delicious scent of sugar is making me giddy. Or maybe I’m just excited- Either way, my girlfriend will be back from the studio soon, then we can start our briefing before we can officially be confectioners for the day.
“Jas, babe, there you are,” I say, wrapping an arm around her middle and pulling her close. She laughs, bringing my face in close.
“Eager, are we?” She says grinning, and I glance away feigning innocence and pulling a face, sending us both into raucous laughter.
“Did you get what you needed from the studio?” I ask, linking arms with Jasper, and heading towards the back door.
“Mhm, just had to pick up part of my project for me to work on this weekend for my midterms,”
“Oooh! Can I see?” I ask, dragging out the vowels, but she shakes her head, patting my arm playfully.
“Nope!” She slips her arm out from mine, running ahead into the back of the store. My girl has a head bursting with creativity, and flurries of thoughts that I could never dream to keep up with. From journalling to drawing to baking, there's ideas for them all, so it’s completely beyond me how she can contain them and create these ideas all inside her mind, let alone execute them in reality. It’s no wonder she became an art major. She’s good with her hands, and she makes her ideas turn out just as well if not better in reality. On the other hand, I’m studying business. I figured the knowledge would help with running the family bakery in the future, but it’s also just an easy cop out from having to make a proper decision.
When I catch up to her again she wraps her arm around my waist, and I let mine slip mine around her shoulders.
“Alright little labrador, let’s go meet Anaya.” She says, ruffling my hair.
“So who is this Anaya again?”
“Anaya is my mother’s friend, and she runs this confectionery shop. She just asked us to man the counter for the day.” Upon looking at my disappointed frown, she laughs, “okay and maybe, we might get to make some sweets while we’re here.”
Anaya briefed us about what we needed to do across the day and left us with a freshly boiled batch of watermelon candy and instructions to fold and cut the sweets as she’d shown us. “If we have time” there are two recipes resting on the counter for us to make, which we are definitely trying once Anaya leaves.
Jasper keeps her eyes on me, wearily, but doesn’t say anything. She knows that I am eyeing off the bags of ingredients on the counter, she knows that I’d much rather be playing with ingredients than manning the counter, but she doesn’t say a word, and instead leads the way back out to the main shop area to ask the assistant if they can manage the counter.
“Sorry dearie, I need a lil’ help out ‘ere during the lunchtime rush, would you mind staying for a while?” Jasper nods in response, offering a hand out to me so we can join the lady at the counter.
“Oh sorry darlings, but me thinks that Gregory out the back might need help with the liftin’ of things. Thank you, sweetie.” With a small wave, and a kiss to Jasper’s forehead, I jog back out to help mister Gregory with his lifting of crates into the storage area.
After hauling in the numerous crates of sugar, sugar and more sugar, Gregory waves me off.
“Ah thanks mate, I know you’ve been eyeing those recipes. Take this one, and go have a crack.” He says, throwing a sack of sugar to me, and nodding in the direction of the kitchen.
“Thanks Rory, I’ll see you around.” I say grnning, and run back inside.
Within the kitchen I find a plethora of ingredients, on shelves, cupboards and every surface is so pristinely clean that I can see the reflection of every other surface in it. It’s a baker’s dream. In our bakery there's traces of flour everywhere. Grains hidden in the cracks of the tiles, dusting each benchtop and in sacks sitting around the kitchen.
Scanning the recipe quickly I search the shelves for the ingredients I need, setting the bag of sugar Rory gave to me on one of the shelves, deciding to use the existing jar of sugar that’s waiting on the bench. With all the ingredients and mixing bowls, pans at spoons ready to go. Jasper must still be helping at the counter, so I begin creating the mixture, and when she comes in she’ll get to taste my wonderful concoction. I’ve brought the pan to the heat and mixed my various ingredients and all that's left is the sugar, and heaps of it. I grap the jar, sliding it across the benchtop towards me to open it, pick it up, and…. It goes all. over. the. floor.
“Connor,” Oh boy. She sighs, her eyes darting between me and the sugar spilled all over the floor. “How.” I glance up sheepishly, the glass jar still in my guilty hands.
“Look, I didn’t know the bottom part had a crack!” I say defensively, attempting to raise my hands in surrender, only for the rest of the remaining sugar to come pouring out. Oops. “I’ll clean it up, I promise,” I carefully put the jar back onto the counter as she chuckles to herself quietly. While she’s looking in another direction I look around the benchtops for sweets, and find a watermelon flavoured lollipop, one of Jasper’s favouries.
“Jas, think fast,” I call, and she turns around to catch the lollipop that I sent hurtling towards her. She fumbles with it, grasping at thin air a few times before finally catching the actual lollipop.
“Ooh, my favourite flavour. Thanks, Con,” She grins with glee as she digs her nails into the plastic of the wrapper.
“Good morning!” A child’s voice cheered happily.
“Hello there,” I say, bowing down to speak at his level, trying not to laugh at Jasper inching behind me with the lollipop still in her mouth. “What can I get for you today?” The child’s eyes are wide as he takes in all the shapes and colours before him. The mother laughs, easing her arm out of his tugging grasp.
“What are the green circles?” He asks. “W-ah-ter-me-el-o-neh?”
I chuckle, patting the kid on the head. “Not quite mister. They’re watermelon lollies. Would you like some?” He nods eagerly. “This is my beautiful girlfriend, she likes watermelon sweets too! Do you want to have a lollipop too, just like her?”
“Yes puh-leasee!” He is so excited, he’s jumping up and down on the spot, watching us package his sweets into a little bag and hand it to him, and it makes me grin. Kids are pleased by even the simplest of things, and their happiness is so full to bursting that it’s contagious to the people around them. Their little smiles bring the bigger smiles that have been hiding away for a while back into the light, even if just for a moment. They create pure happiness out of nothing, like how just spending time with someone special, even if you’re not doing anything in particular can make you happy, because they are themselves, like how Jasper makes me happy. And I hope that maybe one day, in addition to each other, we can have our own little smiles to brighten up our lives.