|Isobel Brandt \\ Persephone (praxidike) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-03-14 08:40:00
|Entry tags:||persephone, uke mochi|
how about another cupcake
Who: Alice & Isobel.
What: Isobel catches Alice at her bakery just as its closing.
Where: Rosemary & Thyme.
When: Saturday evening
The sun spread orange and purple wings across the sky as it sank into the horizon, which presented a constant reminder that Isobel was running late. She'd finally gotten the yellow tulip delivery she'd ordered a few weeks ago, ones that she intended for the Spring season. Taking one, she'd planted it in a nice orangey pot with a green and white polka-dotted ribbon, finished up what little business she had left to deal with, and started on the drive home. She couldn't remember how late the new Pax tenant's shop was open, but Isobel sincerely hoped the young woman wouldn't be put off by a late night customer.
Parking was always a difficulty in L.A., but the late hour cleared the street enough that she found parallel parking across the way from Rosemary & Thyme. The OPEN sign was still lit, and Isobel quickly grabbed her things, hurrying across the street after waiting for two cars to pass, carrying her precious cargo to the opposing sidewalk and through the bell-chimed door of the bakery. She noted a young woman standing behind the counter, near the till, and sucked in a careful breath before approaching.
"Alice?" Isobel grasped the plant between both hands as though it would ward off any mistaken identity, the tulip drooping forward a little from the mishandling. Isobel quickly righted it. "I am so sorry I'm here late, I don't want to keep you past closing, I was just hoping I could give you this, and maybe pick up some dessert?" She held the plant up, applying a timid smile to her face, hoping to God she wasn't making a fool of herself.
Alice glanced up at the door, her eyes wide. She blinked for a moment before glancing at the large clock that decorated one of the walls. Long after five, the sun had set, and she still hadn’t flipped her open sign to closed. “Hi,” Alice replied, her voice conveying her surprise. This wasn’t the first time something like this happened. She found toward the end of her later shift on Saturdays to be often peaceful and quiet. It gave her a chance to do photos during the golden hour and then she often took to updating her site from her perch beside the register.
“Sorry, I completely zoned out,” Alice continued, realizing that her simply hi wasn’t going to do it. She ran a hand through her fiery red hair and smiled at the woman. “I’m sorry, blame it on the long day, but have we met?”
"Oh, no, we haven't. Well, we have, a little, but not face to face. I'm from Pax? The apartment complex?" The plant in its little pot in her hands lowered, Isobel withdrawing a little. "Am I interrupting? I'm so sorry if I am, it's just, the open sign was on, so I thought..."
“Oh!” Alice exclaimed, her face lighting up. She hopped off the stool and stepped closer to the counter. “No, don’t worry, you’re completely fine. I’m happy to welcome a new neighbor at any time! Please, come in. You said you wanted to get dessert? And, oh…” Alice looked at the flower in its little pot, her smile softening but still warm. “Is that what you wanted to bring me? It’s lovely.”
Isobel held the plant up a little higher, then offered it to Alice. "Yes, it's a housewarming gift. Tulips aren't really meant for that, but we got a spring shipment of flowers in so I thought it would be a nice touch. For your apartment, or here at the shop, I mean, you can keep it wherever you like." Her eyes roved around the small bakery, impressed.
"This reminds me of when my shop was first starting out." Her warm gaze came back to Alice's face. "How long have you been in business?"
“It’s only been a few months. The six month anniversary is coming up, but business is going well. I’ve already hired some help and I may be able to get some more. I just find it really hard to, like, leave. Like I’m abandoning my baby to people who may not know what’s best for it.” Alice moved out from behind the counter to approach the woman in a more friendly, informal way. She smiled at the tulip, happy by its bright presence. “I think I’ll put this in the window so it can get daylight! It’ll be a nice addition to the shop.” She reached for the little pot as her face became thoughtful. “You’re… Isobel, right?”
Isobel laughed, lightly smacking herself in the face. "Yes, yes, I am. Isobel St. Germaine. I'm sorry, I'm just...I'm always a little addled after a long day. I swear I'm not usually this weird.
"But I know what you mean," she added in response to Alice's previous statement. She crossed her arms carefully over her chest, hands cupping her elbows. "I have a few people helping me out, and they're a godsend, but there's just still so much I feel I'd rather oversee myself. Obed has the same problem, it's why we see so little of each other during the week." She shook her head, an amused frown crossing her lips. "Do you have a spritz bottle? That would be best for watering it, they're a little fragile. A little every day is best, and hopefully once the flower passes you could keep the pot and regrow it from the bulb." She chewed her lip, an apologetic smile curving her mouth. "Sorry, I don't mean to be bossy, I just try to make sure people know what they're getting into. Bad reputation starts when my plants die just a few days after delivery."
“I understand completely,” Alice comforted, taking the plant and sitting it gently in the window sill. “My mom had a garden at our place in DC. She had a bunch of spring flowers like this. They’re just beautiful.” She stepped back and admired the plant before turning back to Isobel. “And your business! I wanted to talk to you about getting some edible herbs and flowers from you, if that’s even possible. But we don’t have to talk about it right now. Here--” she held out her arms and smiled. “Welcome to Rosemary & Thyme! I am happy to chat and definitely want to, but I don’t want to ignore that you said you wanted dessert. Do you want to look at anything in particular while we talk?”
"I was hoping to see what you had," Isobel replied, rearranging her purse strap over her shoulder. "I don't suppose you have any cakes? I was thinking maybe something like a strawberry cheesecake, if there's anything like that left." She glanced at the display case, which was well picked over at this hour, biting the corner of one lip as she read over the handwritten placards that were in front of every row. "I love your lettering; do you do all of this by yourself?"
Alice followed Isobel toward her displays, clutching her hands behind her back and smiling down at what was left. “Yeah, I hand write it all. I sort of flip flop with what I have in stock and try to put out themed desserts depending on the holidays or just whatever is in season, so it seems like a waste of money to order printed signs.
“Come over to this display. I have some strawberry items in here. Tarts big and small, tarlets and napoleons. They all have cream in them, so not quite cheesecake but close?” Alice stepped aside and slipped her hands into the pockets of her pink apron as she bit on her bottom lip. Maybe she should add cheesecake to the list of items… “I also have macrons as well, different flavors but strawberry is in there.”
Isobel pointed at one of the few napoleons left on their little paper settings, her finger just outside the glass.
"Can I get two of those? We're not big on sweets, but I think Obed will like it, and they look small enough for one person each. You bake all of these yourself? Are they family recipes?" She started to reach into her purse for her wallet, struggling to remember if she had cash.
“Of course!” Alice replied, bouncing forward to loop around to behind the counter. She pulled one of the classic white cardboard boxes that were already built and ready for food. Grabby a small, paper doily that looked like a flower or a snowflake--depending on the type of person you are--she set it on the counter and grabbed tongs to pull the plastic sheet that held the collection of napoleons. Sitting it on the counter as well, she slipped plastic gloves on and gently began to place each item into the cardboard box.
“They aren’t family recipes, actually,” Alice replied finally, her eyes studying the napoleon and she slowly moved it into the box with enough room for the other. “When I was a teenager, I started baking and making dinner and stuff for my family. We were all over the place and it was the only time we really sat together and I really liked doing all of that. But over the years, I started to just take these standard recipes and tweak them until they sort of became my own.”
She grabbed the red and white baker’s twine and looped it around the cardboard box, tying it neatly on top, before looking at Isobel again. “The napoleons are one of my favorites because they have this sort of soft sweetness to them. I feel like they’re almost refreshing and certainly best eaten when still a little cold. They pair really well with a dessert wine too, if you’re into that kind of thing.”
Isobel smiled fondly. "We are. Well, Obed is more than I am, but he's in the wine business, so that works out rather well. If you tell me what you like, I might be able to get him to part with a bottle. What do I owe you?" She had her wallet in her hand, the threadbare thing looking secondhand and worn. It had two credit cards and some cash, along with Isobel's ID and a few other cards sticking out of one side.
“Oh, nothing!” Alice replied with a smile. “Neighbors get their first treat for free.” She pushed the little box forward on the counter, toward Isobel. “Plus, you brought me a decoration for this place and offered me a bottle of wine if you can manage it.”
"Oh!" Surprise writ itself plainly across Isobel's face, before she brightened, tucking her worn wallet back into her purse. "I don't want to be taking advantage. But thank you. I really will get you that bottle. What do you prefer? Or if you'd like Obed to surprise you, he's really very good at giving suggestions. He knows what he has much better than I do." She picked up the little box holding the sweets with the same measured care as she'd carried the tulip pot. Misgiving made her mouth curl. "I really feel like this isn't worth one little flower, though! You put so much effort into it. Are you sure I can't pay?"
Alice waved her offer away. “No, don’t pay. Enjoy the treats and spread word about the shop, that’s all I ask, and even that I don’t expect.” She stepped back and pulled her apron off before returning it to the little hook where two other aprons hung. “And I suppose I’ll leave it to him to pick the wine. I like stuff that I can sip while reading, you know? Whatever type of wine that would be. I guess if it pairs well with scones, that would be nice.”
She moved out from behind the counter and flipped the open sign to closed before turning back to Isobel. “Anyone from the apartment who comes in gets their first treat for free,” she added with a shy shrug.
Isobel offered her a warm smile in reply. "I'll be sure to let everyone I know know," she said, even if that's not very many people, she added inside her own mind. "I'll talk to Obed tonight about the wine. Which floor were you on again?"
“The fourth! I’m the only one living there right now, so I’m sort of easy to spot since I have a wreath on the door.” Alice returned to the counter, this time standing on the other side with Isobel. “Are you sure I can’t get you anything else? Please don’t feel like I’m rushing you, I’m really glad you’ve stopped in! I have tea, coffee if you like that late at night, all these other little things that aren’t super sweet.
“Oh!” Alice’s eyes brightened, a finger lifting slightly as her mental lightbulb went off. “Actually, I nearly forgot. I did want to meet with you at some point to see if I could by chance buy herbs and edible flowers from you. We don’t have to do that now either, but we can set up a professional business meeting if you’d like. And of course… I understand if you don’t want to. I saw how much care you gave the tulip, it practically brightened in your hand, so I understand if you’d rather have your plants be looked at and cared for than eaten.”
"No, no, that would be fine!" Isobel moved the little box holding Alice's dessert from one hand to the other, reaching into her purse for a business card. "Here, that's the best way to get ahold of me. We also just got our website updated with the latest offerings, so you could go through and tell me what you're looking for? I love seeing my plants used in different ways. That's what they're for, you know? I just don't want them to be potted and then forgotten. That's a heinous way to treat something living, in my opinion." She offered the little card to Alice, pleased at how well the interaction was going.
"And I really don't want to keep you late. If you've been here all day on your feet, well, I know exactly what that's like, and I do appreciate your kindness, but don't let me make you work more than you need to. If you're on your way home, maybe I could give you a lift? Or if you drove, I mean..." She shrugged, trying to be congenial in the right way and still feeling like she was sticking her foot in her mouth.
Alice’s eyebrows rose and her lips formed a small o. “Um,” she replied briefly before turning to look at her counter where her laptop lay. “I do have a car but I actually Ubered here this morning. I was supposed to close the shop before sunset, so I was just going to walk home. I figured it would be a nice chance to be outdoors. Now that it’s dark out…” She looked wearily at the windows of the bakery. The sky had grown dark, the colors of the sunset done for the day. While she never had anything happen at night, no assault, no threats, she always felt a little uncomfortable with being out alone after sunset and the idea of a walk was making her uncomfortable.
“You know, I think it would be great to have a ride back to the apartment,” she finally replied, turning to look at Isobel once more. “If you don’t mind. It’s either I walk back, which I don’t really feel comfortable doing in the dark, or get an Uber. So since you’re going to the same place I am…” She smiled feeling like she was on the cusp of gaining a friend.
"Please! It would be my pleasure, especially since we're both headed in the same direction anyway," Isobel replied. "You're in a nicer part of town, but with L.A., you just never know. And it's a very short drive, compared to a walk!" Isobel dug into her purse for her car keys, and pointed to the simple four-door (she'd kept her used 2002 Prius, despite Obed's offer to upgrade her vehicle; the size of their apartment was already one source of contention in their relationship, she didn't feel like adding another when her own car was already perfectly useable) across the street. "See, that's as far as you'd have to go. I'll even let you pick the music." She grinned at Alice. "Just let me know when you're ready to go."
“Okay!” Alice agreed with a nod. “Thank you so much. I just gotta pack some of my stuff and I’ll be ready!” She was already on the move, making her way around the counter and flicking off the lights for the dessert displayed. “Just give me one minute!” She called as she disappeared into the kitchen area.
It wasn’t long before she returned, the swinging of the chef door showing that the lights had been shut off and in Alice’s arms were a large Strand bag. Returning to the counter, Alice slipped her laptop into the bag and opened the register to empty it of its funds and neatly put them into a locked box that also disappeared into her bag. Within was already her binder for tending to her funds.
With her keys in hand and her bag over her shoulder, Alice looked at Isobel. “Okay. I just need to flick off the lights and lock up, but I’m ready to go!”
"Great," Isobel replied, moving toward the bakery's front door. As soon as they were outside, Isobel waited long enough for Alice to lock up before looking both ways as they crossed the street toward her Prius. Isobel hit the unlock button on the key fob, lights on the vehicle flashing to indicate it was unlocked. She pulled open the back seat and set her purse and the dessert box carefully on the seat, and then slid into the driver's side, reaching for her seatbelt. "So how are you liking the apartment complex so far?"
“Oh, it’s nice,” Alice replied with a nod as she hugged her bag to her chest, not due to discomfort, but a desire to not take up more space than necessary. “I love my apartment itself and I have a friend who lives there too. The building is a little odd, but I think that’s just because so few people live there right now, you know? I’m all alone on my floor, for instance. Which I like, but at the same times it’s creepy sometimes. How long have you lived there for?”
Isobel was looking behind her, watching for traffic so she could pull out into the street. Once they were moving, though, she glanced at Alice with a light smile. "Since the opening. Our floor is a little more full than most, which is kind of weird, since it's one of the more expensive ones, but I agree. It's sort of creepy sometimes. But I've been seeing new people pop up here and there, so hopefully it'll just keep getting fuller." She didn't want to linger overly long on the idea that there was something wrong with the apartment complex, at least, no more so than she already believed; there were too many things riding on the success of the apartment, of her and Obed's living accommodations, for her to acknowledge other things might go wrong elsewhere. "But that's so nice that you moved here because you already knew someone. Who's your friend?"
“BB? I call her Brittany, though. We went to highschool together. She moved out to California awhile ago and convinced me to follow when I was trying to figure out where to go.” She shifted the bag on her lap, her eyes watching the passing storefronts and the few people on sidewalks. “It’s nice having someone who is here that I already know; it’s a comfort whenever I feel a little homesick. I was living in New York before this, but New York isn’t super far from DC--that’s where I grew up--so I could always go home for the weekend if I had to. Now… returning home is a little harder. Are you from California?” She pulled her gaze from the window and looked at the woman.
Isobel shook her head, taking a left and bringing the tall tower of Pax into view in the distance. "Texas. Um, a small town near Austin. Not really worth mentioning, not to someone from D.C.," she replied. "That seems like quite a move. You didn't want to open your bakery back home?"
Alice smiled shyly and looked at her lap. “Oh, I couldn’t have done that. There are world famous cupcake shops over there. Of course, there’s Sprinkles out here but I don’t know… it just seemed more possible. Plus, I was tired of the cold and snow over there. And DC is so expensive for shop rental, much more than what I have here.
“But Texas!” She exclaimed, looking up at the woman with less shyness. “Were you in the country or is it in the outskirts of Austin? I’ve never been, but it always sounds so neat.”
"Elgin," Isobel offered, as though that were an answer. "It's... I mean, if you're into country stuff, horses and country music and tumbleweeds, it's all right. It's more in the country, about an hour's drive from Austin. I just use that as a pinpoint because otherwise people never know what I'm talking about." She flashed a smile in the rearview, though it was less excited than her previous expressions. "California is a huge improvement. So it sounds like we both made good decisions." She brought them to the street running along the backside of Pax, driving around and turning to pull into the parking lot.
Then she brought her Prius into her designated spot next to where Obed's Tesla would have been. The sight of the empty spot made her sad for a moment, but she pushed past it, instead glancing at Alice. "See? Much faster than walking." She undid her seatbelt and climbed out, moving around to the back of the vehicle to get her purse and the dessert.
Alice mirrored Isobel and was out of the car and closing the door firmly behind her. “Thanks so much for the drive. It was nice, even if short, just getting to know someone else who lives here.” Alice came around the car and waited patiently for Isobel to get her things. “Do you need help carrying anything?”
Isobel slipped her purse over her shoulder, and grabbed the dessert box, putting it on a stack of paperwork held precariously together with a thick, red rubber band. She shook her head, closing the back passenger door and shifting things around in her arms for a moment so she could pull keys out of her pocket.
"That's OK," she replied, smiling, and moving toward the sidewalk, waiting for Alice to fall into pace alongside her. "It certainly makes me feel better that you're home instead of still out walking in all of this. What time do you have to go back in the morning, or do you have a day off tomorrow?"
Alice grimaced. “Well, the bakery opens at six tomorrow morning but I usually head in at four. It gives me a chance to get all the baking going.” She kicked at a pebble on the sidewalk, sending it off into the ditch where a few other pebbles were. “I do have a car though, I don’t want you to worry about that. It’s just that today was one of my later start days--I opened at 10--so it was fine going in and I figured I’d be able to walk home during daylight but… well you know, I just sort of lost track of time.
“I’ve never been super comfortable at night though, so I always avoid walking around by myself then. You’re definitely a lifesaver. And we saved on gas and helped the environment! Two people in a Prius going to the same location--much better than getting a Lyft.” She grinned but already there was sleepiness in her eyes. While Alice already had another accomplished baker on her staff, she still couldn’t quite let go of the bakery and was always there, six days a week, from the hours before it opened straight til close.
They walked through the front doors of Pax, Isobel greeting Stephan who was, as always, dressed impeccably and wrapped up in a book behind the concierge desk. She tapped the elevator button, remembering to hit the fourth floor button for Alice before the doors closed. It was never not strange to tap the Deluxe floor button for herself.
"Well I hope you have a restful evening. Should be easy with an empty floor, right?"
“Yes, definitely,” Alice replied with a slight smile. Restful, creepy, whichever. The elevator dinged and the doors swished open, producing the long quiet hallway with Alice’s lonely wreath being the only decoration. “Thanks again for the ride. I hope you enjoy the desserts!” She gave a wave before stepping off, straightening her back to make her way down the hallway as the elevator doors closed behind her. But once they were shut and the elevator began taking Isobel up and away, Alice walked a little more quickly, glad to be home and tucked away for the night.