Sixteen-year-old Bella sat nervously in her chair. “Think about something else,” she told herself, yet the wandering of her mind always came back to her love, the baker’s son, Cody They have always been friends, more than friends. When they were little they would spend their summer nights together, skipping smooth rocks on the sandy riverbanks. She would shout to her father an excuse to get out and away so she could be left with her beloved Cody She went to the bakery and picked up her lovely Cody These were only when they were little though they were always the best memories, before they knew they liked each other, pondering over the thought of your crush liking you back. But this was before the arranged marriages and the boring Paul and the insufferable Lia. She remembered the nights all too clearly…
* * *
Cody stood straight and tall in his black suit and his red tie, trying to look good for his father. Cody had to admit it, he was not an orderly man, strict and fierce, he would much rather be in the kitchen smelling the delightful fragrance of dough and flour always ready for work. “Seventeen-year-olds are ready,” announced his father every morning, yet Cody had never thought he would take action. He was not ready for this; he needed Bella, the one he truly loved. He remembered chasing the fast fireflies in the spring with only one thought in mind: Does she like me too? This was before all the decisions were made for them with the arranged marriages. Lia was unbearable and how he hated Paul. The memories were the only things he had of when things were normal. Those memories were his favorite yet he remembered them way too certainly…
* * *
“Papa,” I yelled, “I’m going to the bakery to get bread then talk to Cody”
“Are you sure?” asked Emily suspiciously She hated secrets and yet she always knew them before you knew them yourself Bella, who was thirteen years old, had to give her little six-year-old sister credit. She had so many things hidden under her pink bonnet that you could mistake her for a genius, yet she was always underestimated for being so small. She was born early and going to be small anyway At least Bella didn’t underestimate her most of the time.
“I’m just going to the bakery,” I replied smoothly, not to raise her suspicions any higher than they usually were. I pulled on my leather coat. My sister and I always had leather coats because our father was the tailor. We always got the best clothes and we had such a variety. You should see my closet.
“When will you be back?” asked my father. Leonard Johnson had a way of sneaking up on you, yet it wasn’t surprising. He would pop up and you’d always be happy to see him. At least most of the time.
“Around nine,” I answered, still in a cool tone of voice. I had not looked back but I could sense Emily was still watching me with a close eye. If someone was watching, even Emily’s three dolls, Sandy, Mandy, and Randy, I would make sure to keep my secrets. They were all differently made with different materials and were different sizes and shapes, yet Emily insisted they were triplets and for that I could not change her mind. Before anyone could ask any more I slipped out the door.
I was always bewildered by the night, so calm and peaceful, yet it always represented dark and hatred. This confuses me but I don’t mind. I know that one day I’ll understand them just like my father. Fathers knew everything and if they didn’t they would find out. Just last week I asked my father what the stars where made of I haven’t gotten the answer yet. It seems it is taking him longer and longer to get the answers, but I’m confident he’ll figure it out, just like always.
“Hello Mr. Chipmen,” I called.
“Bella,” the little ones shouted. All five of the children ran up to me like a swarm of bees. After all, I was known as the town babysitter. I was so good with kids (thanks to Emily) and they did all love me too. The sad thing was that was the only thing I was known for. Other than the simple girl. Everyone thought of me like that. Everyone that is except Cody
“You must go in,” I insisted. “Your mother no doubt has supper on the table.”
Four of them scurried in, following their grumbling stomachs, envisioning their mother’s famous steaming rolls and soft and smooth mashed potatoes. Yet one stayed behind too eager with curiosity.
“Where are you going?” asked the small and little Rachel. Rachel was Emily’s best friend and she had the exact plentiful amount of cleverness. They knew exactly what the other one did, exchanging others’ secrets and confidential information. They ran around the town acting innocent and sweet but I knew better.
“Where are you going?” I shot back lightheartedly Rachel was sweet and I loved every kid in the town like a sibling.
Rachel bought the act and said, “Home of course,” and she put her hands on her hips but the beam on her face told me she was playing. She trooped in right after her siblings and I could see through the window I was forgotten. I let out a sigh of relief and looked onward to find my king and his castle. But Rachel was not fooled so easily and a pair of eyes was following my figure until I turned the corner and was out of sight.
* * *
My eyes kept drifting toward the door with one thought racing through my head: Is Bella here yet? “Of course not,” I murmured. I was always hoping still that for some reason she might have come early.
Working at the counter was busy and boring. At fourteen there is almost nothing that can keep my attention for long. I work like a robot doing my orders yet not feeling or truly understanding them. I looked out the glass front window noticing the backward letters BAKERY I didn’t even have to read the letters, knowing this place well. I looked beyond that and I wished I could see the fountain, which was being blocked by the cottages ahead. I hoped I would soon be sitting there with Bella. Who could ask for anything more?
“Cody,” I faintly heard a shrill voice from the back.
“Coming,” I sighed. Though being the cashier is the most boring job in the store, it did have the best view. I walked through the doorway to the back, noticing the cobwebs draping the crown of the entrance. “I’ll probably have to clean that,” I moaned, for whenever Renee was running the store I was the one doing the work.
Since my sister was sixteen she has been married to Patrick, who is actually quite likeable, at least from my point of view. Renee hates him. They were in an arranged marriage. A baker’s daughter and the butcher’s son, a perfect couple. WRONG! They are completely different from each other. Anything you can think of they think oppositely about, like where to live and how a twenty-four-year-old mother and a twenty-six-year-old father should raise their kids. After all Renee’s misery she takes it out on me when they work the shop. “Why me?” I always ask, yet there is persistently no response.
A broom was immediately pounded upon me. I looked aimlessly down at my feet. “Clean the front waiting room,” a shrill voice cried and this told me it was Renee. Though I was still looking uselessly at my feet a little smile crept up my face like the little engine that could, slowly but surely I squeezed the handle of the broom to control my excitement, being able to watch for Bella.
I scurried out of the room, making sure I was concealing my face for I could not contain my smile any longer. I walked through the doorway grinning from ear to ear but hiding it from Patrick who was working the register. He would have told Renee because he did love her, yet his love was not returned.
As I swept through the waiting room I noticed who was here. Mr. Duncan, Mrs. Barren, Mrs. Landau, Emily… why was Emily here? Did something happen to Bella?! My smile collapsed, my feet took me as fast as they could to Emily.
“What are you doing here?” I practically screamed.
“Wow,” she stepped back. I had obviously scared her. “Can’t I just get bread?!” she yelled. If she had gone any further I probably would’ve gotten a spanking.
“Sorry,” I grumbled. I was now on Emily’s suspicious list. She would be watching all the time.
“SWEEP!” shrieked Renee. I was relieved I had an excuse to leave Emily Soon I would probably find one of the triplets lying around carefully hidden yet in a perfect place to watch. Last time I acted suspicious Mandy was found atop the oven where no one looks. How she got up there I cannot tell you, but she was placed as if looking down upon us like a ruler to his subjects.
I resumed my gazing through the window, staring past the cottages, wishing I were the fountain always looking up at the sky I would spew water and grant wishes, but could I grant my own? Being with Bella. It seems so simple yet it would be so complicated. I did not like thinking about it so I did not let my mind wander far about my future. I only had fantasies about being with Bella, yet it would never be the real thing. I am not going to think about it, I told myself sternly, yet I missed the part of what I would be when I grew up and what my children would be like. NO. Don’t think, get back to work.
Then the door slowly opened and the bell swung, alerting us a new visitor had arrived. RING, RING, ring. It gradually got softer and softer. Could it be? Yes, it was Bella. Her long black ringlets draped her shoulders, bouncing as she moved about the room gracefully. Her eyes green as emerald begged me to say something romantic about them but I could not do that. As much as I love Bella I was just as shy. That is why I was known as the quiet one. Everyone thought of me that way. Everyone that is except Bella.
Her eyes brightened as she glanced at me. I think they glimmered more than the prettiest diamond in the world. She started walking toward me. I wondered if she was feeling just as shy as I was. I started walking toward her too, adding butterflies to my stomach with each step. There was a moment of silence but I didn’t mind. Just being with her was good enough.
“Do you want to go to the fountain?” asked Bella timidly, adding pink to her cheeks. It seemed as though she had been building up her courage brick by brick to say that. This time my eyes brightened.
“Of course!” I yelled enthusiastically. As quick as I could I hung up my flour-covered apron and ran out the door. I was holding her hand at the time and I don’t know if I’m imagining it but she seemed happier than ever before. We were off. READY SET GO.
By this time Patrick had run to Renee, telling her I was gone. He had hoped that even the slightest touch of love would reward him with love in return yet Renee had not noticed. All she did was shriek at the top of her lungs, “CODY!”
“Did you hear something?” asked Bella.
I had, but my reply was, “No.” Nothing could spoil this moment. I was with Bella and there was nothing more I could ask for… except that she felt the same way too.