The Little Things


hadley_icon.gif laura_icon.gif lucrezia_icon.gif

Scene Title The Little Things
Synopsis Two women stop by a bakery to buy themselves each a little treat.
Date June 26, 2009

Piece of Cake

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.

Just after the after-work crowd, but before the after-after-work crowd; the bakery is in a lull. Tucked away as it is, the setting sun is casting orange light across the black and white floor and tinting white frosting on pastries inside the counter to shades of yellow and red as well. A radio is piping NPR's classical music through the air. Down at the far end, perched on a stool near the cash register, is one Mrs. Hadley. The old woman is hunched over a bit of paper with a pencil in-hand, eyes squinting through bifocals and tongue caught in her teeth while she works. It looks like Very Serious Business, whatever it is.

This is precisely the sort of place that most Americans who shared the same number of zeros as those found in Lucrezia Bennati's bank balance might consider 'quaint' but never actually step foot in. To the Italian woman, however, the Piece of Cake bakery is a welcome reprieve from what equates to an almost insufferable level of cloistered captivity in an otherwise posh apartment that she can't even rightly call her own.

The first thing the dark-haired woman does when she enters the shop is draw in a deep breath, filling her nostrils with the sweet smell of something other than smoked cloves. Ah! Fresh bread. Few things in the world might make an Italian happier than the scent of tasty treats made from scratch… presumably.

When the bell above the door jangles merrily, Mrs. Hadley peers over the rim of her glasses at the woman stepping in. Her smile is a cheery sort of thing — unfamiliar, but really, if someone's going to spend some cash, this is just the sort of woman who'd do it. So she tucks her pencil behind her ear and eases down off the stool. "Hello, welcome to the Piece of Cake!" She bobbles down the aisle behind the counter so she doesn't have to shout, stepping with a bounce that speaks of someone comfortable and at home right where she is. "What is it I can do for you, dear?" An evaluative sort of gaze travels along what can be seen of Lucrezia before she suggests with both brows arching up, "A nice bit of scone? I have this lovely blackberry jam to go with it."

"Ah! Ciao, mama, ciao," replies the aging actress with a charmingly warm note measured in her tone. Her outward appearance might initially lead one to believe that Lucrezia leans more toward the colder depths of the personality temperature gauge but her body language and tone of voice surprisingly suggests that the opposite is more likely to be true. "No scones today, I think, signora, but… perhaps some bread. Do you have the long loaves? Maybe a hard roll?"

The word 'quaint'… probably isn't in Laura's vocabulary. Anywhere. The bell jangles again as the younger woman adds herself to the population inside the bakery — all three of them, now. She ducks around Lucrezia with a brightly apologetic "'Scuse me!" — not to do anything so rude as interrupt the Italian and the proprietor, but so Laura can get into better position to peruse the offerings on display. From her professional clothing, one might guess that the young woman is a straggler who properly belongs in the after-work crowd.

The rattle of Italian flows past Mrs. Hadley like so much wind, but at the very least it deepens her own smile. Such a pretty language. "Of course, of course… I'll be with you in just a moment, dear," she notes to Laura before heading down to the end of the aisle. Baskets are arranged in a little 3x3 block against the wall there. It's with a bit of wax-paper that she pulls a baguette out and offers it for Lucrezia's view. "They're fresh from this morning." It's set on the counter for easier perusal. "And I have a sourdough or two from just a few hours ago as well…" Inside the counter, bits of fluffy lemon nonsense sit next to dense chocolate muffins and whole fruit pies. It's a wild mishmash of offerings, not a bit of it organized in any sensible way. It can't be helped, some advice just spills out willy-nilly; she adds sidelong to Laura again, "Take a look at that bit of upside-down pineapple cake, it's very good for a skinny little thing like you!"

Lucrezia can't help but turn her head in order to give Laura a look that could be construed as rude — or, maybe startled might be the proper adjective in this particular case. The Italian woman trundles aside in order to allow Laura better view of the baked goods. She even makes a gesture toward the other woman once her attention returns to the kindly-eyed Signora Hadley and says, "Go right ahead. I haven't made up my mind."

"Oh!" Laura hadn't expected Lucrezia to cede her position of priority, which apparently makes more of an impression on the younger woman than her startled look. She flashes a grateful, albeit impish, smile at the Italian, then chuckles at the store's proprietor. "I don't think I want pineapple today, but I'll have to remember that for next time! I was actually thinking cherry. Turnovers, maybe?" There are always turnovers around, surely.

Laura's unexpected arrival and intervention was timely. While Estrid attends to the young businesswoman, Lucrezia undertakes a task she has only rarely even considered undertaking in the past, oh, twenty-something years… she discretely removes what few bills she had tucked away into her pants pocket and counts them out in order to determine just how much she's got at her disposal to spend on such superfluous things as fresh bread. For all of the zeros there are to be found in the Italian woman's accounts, she doesn't happen to have easy access to any of them right now, which means her stash of American money has dwindled down to a sorry sum and what funds she has left are stretched uncomfortably tight. But, what is life without a little pleasure? Just the smell of the baguette is enough to sell her.

"Aw," Laura looks disappointed, but only for a momentary instance. "Perhaps another day, then, on that. Apple is fine!" the young woman concludes. She smiles at Mrs. Hadley. "Two, please." Moving up a step closer to the counter, she catches sight of Lucrezia counting bills out of the corner of her eye, and considers the Italian for a moment. "Is that what you're getting?" she asks the older woman, nodding towards the baguette.

Laura hardly needs to tell Mrs. Hadley twice. The old woman ducks down and opens the back door of the counter with a squeeeeak of unoiled wheels. "Well, if you want me to start setting one aside for you sometimes, you just give me a call, or let me know ahead of time," she informs Laura absently. "I don't mind making sure there are a few kept back if cherry really is your favorite." If she notices the careful checking of available funds, there's no sign of it. She simply tugs out a pair of turnovers with another slip of waxed paper and closes the little door again. "Did you want these warmed up? Or wrapped up for later?" A grin flares, laughter rising to color her voice. The wrinkles on her face suggest it's rarely far from the surface. "Though you'll have to let me know what name to put on it, if I do set them aside for you. I certainly can't write 'that sweet, skinny little girl with the blonde hair' on the card and have it fit."

Lucrezia lifts her head from her careful counting and considers the younger woman's acquisition quite carefully before putting on a pleasant smile and remarking casually with a gesture to the French loaf, "Just this one. For now." While she isn't wearing a frown or going out of her way to seem sad, per se, there does appear to be something remarkably sad about her, if only for the moment. Maybe it's something behind her eyes or the subdued fashion in which she smiles. Whatever it is, she doesn't wear it very well. It make the Italian woman fidget uncomfortably.

"Mi dispiace," she says abruptly but still smiling. "…I've just noticed the time." It's a quarter til seven in the evening. A few folded bills — a sum sufficient enough to pay for the bread and leave behind a little less than a dollar's worth in change — are laid out on the counter in a gesture meant to be both subtle and obvious. Hello. I'm about to take this baguette and walk out of your store but rest assured I'm not stealing it.

Before she reaches the door, however, she offers one last little sample of Italian hospitality and adds, "Both of you ladies have a very good evening. Ciao!" And, thus, with the tinkling fanfare of the tiny tin bells over the door, Lucrezia leaves.

Laura tilts her head as the woman abruptly takes her leave, considers the closed door for a moment longer, then shrugs dismissively and looks back at Mrs. Hadley. "Oh! No, no, that's quite alright. But my name's Laura," she offers anyway, smiling brightly at the elderly woman. "If you could just put them in a bag, that'd be fine."

Into a bag it is then. "Laura then, such a pretty name." Mrs. Hadley tucks the pair of turnovers into a paper bag and folds the edge down with crisp lines to make sure it stays that way. "Well, if you change your mind, you just call, and we'll be right as rain." She bobbles back over to the register and drags pen and carbon-copy pad out. To write a receipt. By hand. Old people, sheesh. "And I'm Mrs. Hadley," is added with a nod to cement that name, though her tone is absent due to concentration. At least the letters are neatly cursive'd, all curly-ques and obvious formal training once upon a time. "You come back any time, dear." Nor is the register electric: it DINGs aloud when she hits the button to open it up, both to gather Lucrezia's cash and handle Laura's own payment.

Accepting the bag, Laura trades her own cash for it, along with her copy of the receipt. "Thank you, Mrs. Hadley," she replies. "I'll be sure to keep that in mind." Stuffing her change into a pocket, Laura turns and starts for the door, swiveling back around when she gets only a few steps away. "Have a good evening!" she wishes for the woman, before she also ducks out the door and back into the city at large.

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