Sweet Confections – Chapter Four

THE NEXT DAY AT WORK, Rachel signed a form and sent off yet another flower delivery man to the local children’s hospital. This morning, she discovered her entire front porch overflowing with pale pink roses. As tiny as her porch may be, there were a whole heck of a lot of flowers. Some were in vases, others in baskets, and still more in floral boxes. On the front door, she found one little card that read, ‘Please meet with me so I can explain. I love you.’

Had the gesture been from another man—or more precisely, an eligible man—she probably would have turned into a mushy puddle and signed the dotted line for forever right then and there. But knowing Nico was married made her stomach turn inside out. She couldn’t leave them there for the whole neighborhood to gossip about, so she loaded them into her car and delivered them to Children’s Mercy Hospital on her way to work. The volunteers were wide-eyed and amazed as they helped unload all the beautiful flowers sent by an anonymous benefactor—or at least that was her story. She wondered what they thought now as more flowers came every hour. It had to stop soon, didn’t it?

“Shawna, could you please take care of the rest of the deliveries? I don’t want to be interrupted again.”

“Sure, Rachel. No problem,” replied the college employee as she served customers samples of Oreo Truffles.

She took a moment to look over the front shop. The minty green walls were accented with pictures of Sweet Confections desserts in deep brown frames. It reminded her of mint chocolate chip ice cream. The two cute cafe tables were filled. A mom shared a cupcake with a preschool-aged daughter and a set of women were drinking coffee and munching on goodies while they chatted. The shop was perfect when they opened five years ago, but their clientele had grown so much, they really needed to move to a new location. She sighed. She just hoped they could find what they envisioned in Crystal Creek. She and Kristen loved the little Kansas City suburb nestled on the edge of city and country. She needed to remind Kristen to chat with their Realtor friend, Victoria, when she attended the next Crystal Creek Women in Business meeting.

She returned to the kitchen where Kristen was busy mixing ingredients for cake batter. “Why can’t he take a hint? I told him not to contact me. Doesn’t he get it?” She took out her frustration as she kneaded and rolled out fondant for a baby shower cake.

“Well, let’s see. He’s a guy, Italian, and conceited. Those three things combined tell me he’s not going to give up easily. Look on the bright side, all those kids probably love being surrounded by their own little garden.”

“Ugh. Pink roses used to be my favorite. Now they make me want to puke.”

Kristen burst out laughing. “Don’t worry, you’ll find a new favorite flower.”

Rachel pouted as she checked the fondant thickness. Satisfied it was just right, she picked it up and draped it over the cake. She smoothed it, making sure there were no cracks. Mrs. McMullen, who was hosting her daughter’s shower, wanted a big splashy cake to display surrounded by five dozen little pastel pink and yellow rubber ducky cakes. Oh, how she hated working with pourable fondant. But at least that was done and now she could work on the best part—the display cake.

It was a replica of an old-fashioned bath tub with sugar bubbles brimming and sudsing over the edge. She enjoyed designing, then taking the drawing and sculpting a masterpiece—all out of yummy, delicious cake. She was sure Mrs. McMullen’s friends were going to drool in envy, but the first bite of cake would make them devoted fans of the bakery. Any cake could look pretty, but not many taste as buttery, creamy, and irresistible as a Sweet Confections cake.

The phone rang, breaking her concentration.

“Hey, Rachel, can you get that?” Kristen asked, as she poured cake mix into pans.

She dusted her hands off on her apron, then picked up the wall phone receiver. “Sweet Confections, this is Rachel.”

“Darling, don’t hang up. I just want to talk to you for a few minutes.”

The sound of Nico’s voice made her stomach clench. “I don’t think you have anything to say that I want to hear,” she said icily.

“Please, sweetheart, let’s talk. At least let me explain my side of the story.”

“Honestly, Nico, I don’t think I could handle seeing you without giving you a black eye. Do you know what I realized? I kissed a married man. It made me feel so disgusting, I considered washing my mouth out with peroxide. If I actually thought it’d help, I would have done it, too. I want you to stop calling, stop sending flowers and leave me alone. Because no matter what you say, I cannot, will not, have a relationship with a married man. Do you understand?”

She heard a deep sigh on the other end of the line. “Baby, don’t do this. We need to talk, then you’ll understand and we’ll be together. I can’t let you go, Rachel.”

“You don’t have a choice.” She firmly set the phone back in its cradle, severing her relationship with Nico.

“Now that’s the Rachel I remember.” Kristen slipped her arm around her friend’s shoulders. The phone started to ring again. “That’s probably him. Do you want me to answer it?”

She shook her head and picked up the receiver. “Sweet Confections.”

“She cheated on me first,” Nico said, his voice filled with anger.

“Does that make it okay for you to cheat? Or to drag me into this situation without any thought to how I might feel?”

“I love you, Rachel. I’ll leave her, I’ll—”

“It’s too late for any of that, Nico. No matter what changes you make at this point, you’ll always be the guy who cheated on his wife. There’s no justification for your actions and I’ll never forget how you lied to me. Never, Nico. Don’t call me again.” She hung up the phone, then waited. It didn’t ring again.

Kristen tugged on Rachel’s apron strings. “I think we need a celebratory lunch,” she glanced at her watch. “In about an hour when the cakes are out to cool. My treat.”

Rachel felt the first genuine smile form since Saturday. She did it. She was able to tell Nico off and she felt great about it. “Excellent idea. I’m suddenly craving Red Lobster.”

Kristen quirked her brow. “Of course you are. You always pick the expensive restaurants when I treat.”

“Hey, you did say it’s a celebration. How can you celebrate without seafood?”

The knots in her shoulders that weighed her down all morning finally lightened as they wrapped things up to a stopping point, then untied their aprons and prepared to leave. Everything really was going to be okay. One way or another, life was getting back on track.