Chocolate To The Rescue


hadley_icon.gif megan_icon.gif

Scene Title Chocolate To The Rescue
Synopsis Megan comes into the bakery after a terrible weekend to get some comfort.
Date June 29, 2009

Piece of Cake Bakery

The front room of the bakery is a long and narrow one. A great glass window covers the wall facing the street, so that anyone outside can see in. The door is glass as well; on bright days the shop is filled to the brim with sunshine. Drop lamps abovehead help at night, casting a warmer and softer light. Classic black and white tiling collects smudges more often than not on the floor and walls. In the back is a hallway which leads further to the kitchen, a small bathroom for customers to use, and a set of creaky stairs that go up to the second floor. The entire building is warm, and the air is redolent with the scents of pastry both savory and sweet, cookies, muffins, chocolate and fruit, bread and more.

A long, waist-high counter is on the left after stepping inside. The top is flat so purchases can be set down, and baked goods of all sorts are on display inside. Down at the far end is the cash register: leaving means walking past all the tempting wares all over again. Though it isn't particularly fancy, a coffee machine next to the register has a sign that reads "Donations": the cups and plain coffee are free, but change dropped inside goes to local charities. Three small bistro tables sit along the right wall; it's a tight fit, but three (or four if they're close friends) people can sit at each to enjoy a bite before going on their way. A bell above the door jangles merrily whenever it's opened.

Mid-afternoon then, and the bakery is in a bit of a lull. The after-lunch crowd has already gone, and the pre-dinner crowd is still a few hours off. So the little radio is turned up a bit to allow the classical music and talking-heads to be heard easily. Mrs. Hadley is perched on her stool by the cash register, bent over a crossword puzzle. She's got her glasses up and her tongue caught in her teeth in concentration, because crosswords are Very Important Business.

It's been a couple of weeks since Megan's been in… though she did warn the proprietess that she might be scarce a while. She was volunteering for some clinic work out on Staten Island, heaven help her. When she steps into the shop today, she looks… off. A bit pale, a lot tired, drawn. But she offers a smile for Hadley and her crossword puzzle, pulling a crumpled piece of paper out of the pocket of her comfortably scuffed jeans. "I think it's time to redeem this for something so ridiculously chocolate that it's going to make me sick for a week," she comments mildly. "How's business, Mrs. H?"

The merry jangle of bells above the door are enough: Mrs. Hadley looks up with a bright smile. While it starts out as the bright-smile-for-customers, it turns into the brighter-smile-for-Megan once she's put name to face. "Well look at you, too skinny as usual! Come in, dear… we'll find something just right to fix you up." The old biddy eases down off her stool, pencil set into the curve of her ear. There, now she can bobble along the aisle behind the counter, heading towards the good stuff down at the end. The chocolate is what draws them in through the window, after all.

Megan wishes fixing her up were so simple. She follows the tiny woman to peer into the case and see what might tempt her nonexistant appetite, needing the company today more than she really wants the food itself. But Mrs. Hadley has always been a sweetheart and the atmosphere in the bakery has a way of soothing the soul a bit. "Oooh," she says, injecting a bit of forced cheer into her voice for the woman. "Now there's an evil concoction. Chocolate volcano brownies? I think you got me!"

"You go sit down," Mrs. Hadley instructs, with a flick of fingers at one of the nearby tables. "And I'll warm it up in the microwave so you can have it dripping all over your fingers. Then we'll sit down and have a nice chat. Go go go!" Orders given, the Queen of the World pulls the case door open with a bit of squeaky wheel to pull out the brownie with a bit of wax paper. It's popped into the ancient microwave in the back; she hums while she works, and like usual, she couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. Nobody's ever told her so, one assumes, but it's as plain a truth as the daylight in the sky.

Hey… chocolate fixes almost everything, right? And Mrs. Hadley's easy camaraderie is a little bit of a balm to a woman tired of crying. Megan smiles and heads toward a table. "If the coffee's still fresh, that wouldn't hurt my feelings either, Mrs. H," she offers in a tone laced with amusement. "Have you beat today's crossword in the paper already?" Carrying a tune in a bucket doesn't seem to much matter to her.

A little paper cup of coffee then — it must be fresh enough — and soon enough Mrs. Hadley is bringing over both warmed treat and warm'ish drink to the table. She claims one of the seats herself. "I cannot for the life of me figure out the four letter word for an underground launch site," she informs with a psst of annoyance. "But I'll get it eventually." That much she sounds quite certain of. A lean across the table lets her set a hand lightly to Megan's arm in a patpatpat. "Now then, do you have a young man yet? You can't escape answering forever, dear!"

"Silo," Megan supplies without even thinking twice. Military background and all. The question about her young man, though, makes the redhead look down at her brownie. "My young man decided to move in with me this past weekend, Mrs. H," she tells the woman quietly, and then finishes the thought, "And then promptly got himself killed in an accident." She can't tell the woman more than that, she doesn't even know the details herself. "It's been kind of a rough weekend," she admits, toying with the chocolate confection.

Her response starts out pleased: "Silo, that should work!" and "/Really/, how lov…" And then ends on a faint gasp. Mrs. Hadley is up then, no hesitation, no maybe-maybe-not. She moves around that little table and over to wrap her arms around the younger woman in a tight hug. She smells of soap, and flour, and raspberries, and she just squeezes as much as she possibly can. "Oh, sweetheart."

The hug is actually appreciated in far more ways than the nurse can articulate. She wraps her arms around the bakery's proprietess and hugs her tightly, just remaining in that comforting embrace silently for a long while. And then when she finally pulls away, she manages to wipe her eyes a bit and smile. "Now that, I needed far more than chocolate. Thank you, Mrs. Hadley." She draws in a deep breath. "I didn't mean to just blurt that out like that, I'm sorry." She doesn't often share her personal business. "I think I just needed to say it out loud."

Even after that long while has passed and Megan has pulled away, Mrs. Hadley holds on for a few seconds more before she retreats back to her seat. Not entirely though: she reaches out to take one of the younger woman's hands in both of her own. "When Mr. Hadley passed away," she informs quietly, "It took me weeks and weeks to even start moving again." That has all the tone of a sorrow long-swallowed, resigned if not accepted. "So you just blurt out whatever you need to. And if you try to pay for that brownie, I will fine a ruler to smack the money right out of your hands," is added in warning.

Megan laughs at the woman across from her, relief in her expression as she holds on to Mrs. Hadley's hand tightly. "Thanks," she says softly. "I don't even know what the hell to do with all this. I'm so mad at his boss for sending him out, Mrs. H." She shakes her head. "And that's just stupid, too, really. Things just happen. But I waffle back and forth like mad. But …. I can't afford to sit in my apartment wrapped up in my blanket. My boss told me to take whatever time I need, but….. I need to be busy, I think."

"I wish I knew how to help you feel better, dear. Other than chocolate," is added with a rueful expression. Mrs. Hadley holds on for all she's worth — not much, given the givens — all the while. "I bought the bakery to keep busy. You should find something, definitely, to keep your mind off of it all as much as you can. Just don't think you're not allowed to be mad or upset, Megan Young." The old woman says that part decisively. "Because anyone who says otherwise will need to come talk to me."

Megan smiles at the older woman. "Now that's just crazy talk, Mrs. H. You'd hurt someone!" she quips easily. Resting her elbows on the table, she studies the older woman and asks, "You ever stop missing Mr. H?"

She studies Megan for a long moment or three before answering with a sigh, "No, dear." Mrs. Hadley looks like she really wishes she had another answer entirely. "We were sweethearts in high school, oh… oh, so long ago. It was different back then, of course. You didn't move in with someone before you went to church together." While it's clear she understands how the young folks do their thing these days, there's also a touch of disapproval there; sometimes you can't get rid of it all. Still, she shakes her head and adds, "He was a football player. So handsome, my Jimmy!" A squeeze to Megan's hand punctuates that one. "No," she repeats. "But you'll find out how to carry it, until one day you'll realize it's not such a heavy thing anymore."

Megan nods slightly and smiles. It amuses her a little bit that Mrs. Hadley is giving her crap at Megan's age about moving in — especially since Mrs. H has given her crap about having a guy since the day they met. This is the first one she's invited to move in! "He's not the first soldier I've buried, Mrs. H," Megan says softly. "He's just the first one I thought I might keep." She doesn't release the older woman's hand, her smile a bit sad. There is acceptance in her face — she's an ER nurse and a soldier in the US military; death is no stranger in her life. "It's a little harder this time to lace up my boots and keep on going. But it's not like I have much choice," she says. "Getting drunk over it didn't do anything but make me puke. Curling up in a corner and crying all weekend didn't do anything but give me a migraine. So… I'll save that for when I get home at night, and I'll spend the days getting out there and doing something about the ones I can help."

"I never could have handled what you do, over and over again, dear." Mrs. Hadley says so in an odd sort of tone, a strange note that's gone a heartbeat later, maybe never there at all. "So very brave." Another squeeze punctuates that declaration. "And so much stronger than anyone ever gives you credit for. Well, I don't know that drinking to tears is a good idea, you're right about that, but you /are/ quite skinny even now and so you should eat all this chocolate before I get it in my head to start setting more in front of you."

Megan laughs, then, and picks up her fork to toy with the now-cooled volcano brownie. It truly is an evil confection, but one of the best Meg's ever tasted. "You outdid yourself, Mrs. H," she tells the woman after a nibble. "If I keep coming in, I won't be skinny anymore," she quips. "I'll be as big around as I am tall if I eat like this regularly."

"Which is just as it should be." And Mrs. Hadley looks quite, quite pleased with the very idea. "All these skinny girls wandering around, it's a wonder anyone eats anything at all these days. My Jimmy used to tell me, Estrid, Estrid if you try to lose any weight I will start putting cookies right in your coffee in the morning, don't you dare!" She laughs a little at herself at that memory, a hand to her chest, smile returning for a moment. "Are you doing good work, over on that Island? It's helping people? That's what will make you feel better, you're absolutely right."

With a brief nod, now nibbling on small bites with her free hand though her other has yet to release Mrs. Hadley's hand, Megan says quietly, "I am. There's a company out there called Chicago Air that's running a volunteer food-delivery program — soup vans. We run them in shifts, and they've got me running that as well as a small clinic, since the university hospital is entirely overwhelmed. It's good work." She grimaces a little. "Auggie was flying the supplies in for us, he was a pilot. His boss tells me the accident happened on the ground though. We don't have any details yet." She forces a grin and a wink. "He liked me with a little bit of meat on my behind too, Mrs. H… what is it with men and hips, I wonder. Too old for baby-making, so must be just a guy thing."

She gives one more squeeze before she lets go with a gesture at the brownie: both hands. "I always imagined it was so they could grab hold!" Mrs. Hadley brings her own hands up over her mouth when she says so, laughing at herself and her own joke; if she doesn't, who will? A quick shake of her head dismisses the giggles, if not the faint color in her cheeks. "Would it help… I have left-overs, dear. They get old enough that nobody will buy them, but there are muffins and bagels and cookies, perfectly good ones, that I send off to the shelters. I can set some aside for yours too?"

Megan actually chuckles along with the older woman, a wicked, knowing twinkle in her blue eyes when Mrs. H blushes along with her own words. "I'm quite sure that's exactly what it is, naughty lady," she chides with a tone of amusement. "If you'd like to send the stuff you can't sell, certainly… I can take it with me. Though it might be easier to send up to St. John's," she tells Mrs. Hadley. "The shelter up there is always in need of extras." Being as they're a way station on the Evo underground railroad and all.

"St. John's," Mrs. Hadley repeats, with a bobbled-head nod to cement the name. "I'll see if I can send my new helper down with them." Her grin twists wry. "I found another stray, but we'll see how long he lasts. He doesn't seem to be willing to get up off his behind, and you know how I feel about that." Her tongue clicks lightly against the roof of her mouth, a chiding sound. "There's always a few who think they can just coast along."

"Isn't that always the way?" Megan asks mildly. "I had three volunteers that I ran off in the first week out there because they thought I was being too hard on them. But frankly? If you're going to talk crap about people who're doing the best they can and been cut off from basic amenities and are scared to death? You don't need to be on my convoy, mister. Out the door you go. 'Specially if you talk shit to a homeless vet in front of me," she says in a stern, no-nonsense tone. "Pardon my French, Mrs. H."

The old woman claps her hands together, a sharp sound in the otherwise peaceful little shop. "Exactly so," Mrs. Hadley agrees… though without the French. "Are you going to go to the fireworks on Saturday, dear? I might stay up late this time!" Her grin flashes up for a moment. "Maybe if I close the bakery early and take a nap, I'll be able to watch the whole thing."

Megan grins at her companion. "They'll be beautiful; I'm sure I'll see them. Not sure from which side of the river, though." She's managed to nibble her way through most of the deadly chocolate brown on the table without even realizing it. Picking up her coffee cup, Megan feels somewhat better for the first time in several days. "I love the trifle, by the way. Very festive," she says with a nod toward the special. "Probably the last really god strawberries we'll get this season — it's getting late for them."

"I've had to use them frozen more than once," she admits on a sigh. Mrs. Hadley glances over at the display, then shakes her head and straightens up. "I'll just pick something else for the summer! Maybe I'll start a little contest, so all of you who come in regularly can do a little vote on what the special should be." She hums a little to herself at that idea, another tuneless wobble of song. "Well, if you're here in the city, I will certainly keep my eyes open for you, out in the Park." A nod quite agrees with herself on this point.

"I'll see if I can be in the Park. Tell you what…. I'll do one better. If I get back to the city in time, I'll pick you up myself and take you up?" Megan offers with a smile. "I can't promise, now, so if I'm not here on time, don't go waiting on me so you miss it. But I'll do my best, okay?"

Mrs. Hadley beams, a smile that all but splits her wrinkle-laden face in two. "What a lovely idea! You just give me a call here at the bakery and you let me know." She leans over to give Megan's hand another squeeze, then takes up the plate as she rises.

Megan smiles. "I'll do that," she promises quietly. Because you know what? Helping out a friend's a better way to spend the holiday than a bottle of rum on her balcony. She pushes her chair back, a last swallow of coffee and a tossing of the cup into the trash later, and she says quietly, "Thanks for the company, Mrs. H." She's got a few things to do today to put her head back into the right headspace to go out to Staten tomorrow.

"You take care of yourself, dear." Mrs. Hadley shifts the plate to one hand so the other can patpatpat to the younger woman's arm again. With that, she's bobbling back towards the counter, humming under her breath all over again.

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