“So, what’s the difference between living in New York and living here in Maine?”
Jeannie scoffed. “Do you even have to ask?”
A feeling of nostalgia coursed through her body as she strolled down the street. Jeannie had not felt this exhilarated in what seemed like forever. It was a literal breath of fresh air. The more she walked around the town, the more memories she remembered. Jeannie had made a lot of memories in that town, some of which she was glad she hadn’t forgotten.
“Well, did you like anything about New York? Anything at all?” Cathy asked her.
Cathy Leatherberry was Jeannie’s only friend who still lived in Chickadee Cove. They were best friends growing up, and even after Jeannie was forced to move out of the town she was born in, she and Cathy kept in touch. Their childhood was one of the few things Jeannie could reminisce about and smile. They got into a lot of trouble as kids—and got punished together, too. Like the time they accidentally set Jeannie’s kitchen on fire while trying to turn on the new stove. Jeannie recalled how furious her mother was. Their parents had grounded them for two weeks and had banned them from seeing each other.
“Well, I didn’t hate New York,” Jeannie explained. “There’s so much going on all at once, it’s incredibly busy and everyone’s in a hurry. I liked my job there, though. Teaching kindergartners is as great as I thought it would be, but I’ve longed to open a bakery since I was a kid, Cathy. So, when I saw the opportunity, I took it.”
“I’m glad you did. I didn’t realize how lonely I was without you here,” Cathy answered. “But aren’t you going to miss Lily? I mean, you must be so worried that she’s far away from you.”
Jeannie sighed and grabbed Cathy’s hand to pull her closer to the sidewalk as a newspaper van sped past.
“I tried so hard to convince her, Cathy. For weeks we spoke about her moving to Beverly Hills. Lily was so adamant. I’m still not comfortable with it, but what can I do? Like it or not, she’s an adult now.”
“Barely an adult,” Cathy said. “She just turned eighteen, did she not?”
Jeannie nodded. “She did, in February. It’s as if she were waiting for it. You know, we spent days arguing. Her refusing to go to college, the partying, late nights…it was all too much. But finally, I sat her down and talked to her about it. She is passionate about the whole modeling thing, and she was hellbent on chasing her dream. I didn’t have the heart to stop her, and she wanted my support.”
Cathy pulled out a water bottle from her bag. “I understand that. As long as she’s safe.”
Her children were the most important things in Jeannie’s life. There were four—three girls, or rather women, and one handsome man. Her eldest, Emily, was a college professor in Washington. Jeannie missed her the most. After having Emily when she was only twenty-one and struggling to finish college, she’d been mostly alone, and Emily had inadvertently become her best friend. Jeannie was proud of her daughter’s accomplishments, especially at her age, but she wished she saw her more often.
Her son was the second child. Mason was a soccer player in Spain. He always acted like the eldest child, even to Emily. Jeannie admired how he took his sisters’ issues seriously. They could always count on him.
“I don’t know if it’s safe to ask you this, but,” Cathy scratched her nape. “How’s Luka?”
“I don’t know,” Jeannie said with a poker face. “I don’t want to think about Luka. Not when things are looking up in my life. We got divorced, and I stopped worrying about him from the moment I signed on the dotted lines. End of story."
“Duly noted,” Cathy said again, taking a sip from her bottled water. “I’m with you on that. Plus, you know I supported the divorce. I’m glad you’re over it.”
“Thank you,” Jeannie said. She glanced at Cathy with a questioning look on her face. “You’re drinking a lot of water today.”
Cathy swallowed. “That’s what diabetes does to you. I am constantly thirsty, and I’m not exaggerating. I carry my water bottle with me everywhere. By the way, I have to pee, too. There had better be a restroom at the shop.”
Jeannie chuckled. “Cathy, we’re just going to see the place. I haven’t even paid for it yet.”
“You’ll love it, trust me. I saw the place. It’s spacious, perfect for what you need it for. Trust me on this.”
“Okay, I trust you,” Jeannie said without hesitation. “So, how are the twins and Travis? I was thinking about visiting, but I haven’t made the time yet.”
“The girls are fine. Travis is fine, too. He gets into a lot of trouble in school. I get a call from his teacher at least once a week. It’s really stressing me out.”
Jeannie tilted her head to the side. “Why does he keep getting in trouble?”
“Throwing his food at his classmates, pulling their hair, kicking, screaming, constantly saying no. It’s a lot of things. His father is considering taking him to see a shrink.”
Jeannie squinted her eyes. “Oh, he’s going through that phase. He’ll grow out of it.”
“Well, Derek doesn’t think it’s a phase. He is concerned. We saw this movie titled ‘We Need to Talk about Kevin’ and since then, Derek has been having serious concerns about Travis’s behavior. Sometimes it’s hilarious to watch him freak out when Travis does the slightest weird thing.”
“We need to talk about Kevin?”
“Yes. You haven’t seen the movie?”
“Cathy, I barely have the time or will to go through social media,” Jeannie said. “I can’t recall the last time I actually watched a proper movie.”
“You should see the movie,” Cathy said. “Derek and I watch movies on date night. Every Thursday. It’s the one movie he could watch without falling asleep ten minutes in.”
Jeannie preferred books. Somehow, it was easier for her to sit on her patio and read a book for hours than sit through a two-hour movie. But sometimes she had no problem seeing a movie. She just hated watching them alone.
“How’s Kelly?” Cathy asked. “I hated that I couldn’t make it to her wedding. The pictures made me cry. The ceremony was beautiful, Jeannie.”
“It really was,” Jeannie answered. “She lives in New York with her husband, and she calls me almost every day. Of all my children, Kelly is the least problematic.”
When Kelly informed Jeannie she was engaged to David Patterson, the son of a famous pharmaceutical director, Jeannie was shocked. Kelly was only twenty-two, fresh out of college. She had known David from her first year in college and they had dated since then.
They arrived at the shop and were immediately met by the agent outside. It was less than a ten-minute walk from her house, so Jeannie already liked the location, coupled with it being in the middle of the town. The shop was the entire ground floor of a 5-story apartment building but had a separate entrance and clear windows that gave a magnificent view of its interior from outside.
“Welcome,” Peter, the agent, said, ushering them in. “Please look around, ask questions…I’m here for that.”
The first thing Jeannie noted when she walked into the shop was that it needed some work done. The good thing was that it was minimal, and most of it was just things she wanted to change. Jeannie already knew how she wanted the interior to look. She had it all planned out in her head.
“So…what do you think?” Cathy asked, pulling her aside. “It’s a nice place, isn’t it?”
Jeannie gave the place another quick glance. “It is, Cathy. But isn’t it too pricey? I think I can get a cheaper option somewhere else. I don’t know. Perhaps we can look around the area?”
“This is the only shop available, Mrs. Miller,” Peter cut in. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t help but overhear.”
“It’s Ms. Miller,” Jeannie corrected him.
“Oh, please forgive me.” Peter cleared his throat awkwardly. “Like I was trying to explain, this is the only shop available for lease. The others are on secluded streets, you know, less crowded areas, so it’s typical they are cheaper. This shop had been a café until last year when the proprietor had to leave because of a bump in rent. I have someone else coming to check this very place at two o’clock. If you don’t take the space, they most definitely will.”
“Take it, Jeannie,” Cathy whispered. “It’s an excellent area, and you will have a lot of customers. You don’t want someone else taking it away, do you?”
“Oh, he is just probably saying that because he wants me to take the space. These agents will say anything to make you sign the lease.”
“Trust me. It’s a suitable area,” Cathy said. “I did my research before I called Peter. No one else on this street has a bakery, and there is a construction company up ahead. I’m sure that the workers there will slowly turn into customers. Construction workers are always hungry. Plus, it’s not that far from my office, so I can always stop by, too.”
Jeannie stood with arms akimbo. “Don’t get me wrong, I love the place. I love the layout, the location, and the construction of the space. It’s really spacious, but I’m on a tight budget, Cathy.”
“Tight budget?” Cathy scoffed. “Jeannie, you have four children. Three of which are well to do. Just ask them for money. They’ll do anything for you.”
Jeannie shook her head. “No, Cathy. This one is on me. I have wanted a bakery for as long as I can remember. I dreamed of accomplishing it myself. That’s why I saved for it. I don’t want any handouts. This is my dream.”
Cathy brought both hands to her hips. “Jeannie, you worked hard raising your children with barely any help from their father. I think you have some right to ask them for a favor. If it doesn’t sit right with you, ask to borrow it. You can give it back when the bakery is in business.”
Jeannie sighed and shook her head again. She scanned the room one more time and bit her lower lip. What if she didn’t find a better option and someone else took this one? Jeannie knew she would regret it. But spending over the amount she’d budgeted for the lease would make other expenses sting a bit.
“What do you say, ladies?” Peter asked. “You won’t find anywhere better than this. But if you want to take the chance, I could show you somewhere else. However, I guarantee this space will be taken by tomorrow.”
“Fine. I’ll take it,” Jeannie said.
There was no use going anywhere else. It was perfect for what she wanted to do. She had only to accommodate the extra cost to her budget. It would not be easy, but it was doable. She had an online business she ran for her handmade knitted baby wears. She could make the money lost from there.
“Great,” Cathy beamed. “Oh, I’m so excited, Jeannie. I’ll be here as much as I can to help.”
“Awesome. I’ll get the papers ready then,” Peter said. “Are you two sisters, by any chance?”
Jeannie lifted her eyebrows. “Sisters? Why do you ask?”
“You both look alike,” Peter explained. “I see Mrs. Leatherberry all the time, but I’ve not seen you around here before. I was wondering if you were sisters…and if you just moved into town. Just curious, that’s all.”
“I just moved back,” Jeannie explained. “And no, we’re not sisters. Although I understand why you would think so.”
Jeannie and Cathy exchanged knowing looks. It had been quite a while since they had gotten that comment. They had spent most of their teenage years convincing people they weren’t related. But Jeannie couldn’t blame them. They had the same shade of honey-brown hair, the same height and stature. Back in high school, they would sometimes wear matching outfits to mess with people. The only obvious difference was in their eyes. While Cathy had light brown eyes, Jeannie had ocean blue ones. Now that they were older, there were visible differences between them, but they still looked similar. For instance, Cathy was curvy while Jeannie had kept her slender build.
“It never gets old,” Cathy said. “I used to be so excited when people mistook us for each other.”
“Me, too,” Jeannie said. “They would always mix us up.”
Cathy stood in front of Jeannie and placed both hands on her shoulders. “I’m proud of you, Jeannie. You’ve done everything right. I’m also glad you’re back here with me and trying to achieve your dreams. You deserve it.”
Jeannie went in for a hug. “Thank you, Cathy. It’s good to see you again, too. “
“So, have you decided on a name for your bakery?”
“No.” Jeannie shook her head. “I’m terrible at coming up with names.”
Cathy stopped to think. “By any chance, did you use any of your children’s names as a password for anything?”
“That’s the name of your shop then,” Cathy said.
Jeannie chuckled, slowly breaking the hug. “I am not naming the shop after any of my children. I can’t pick one.”
“Well, then name it after yourself. You can call it…Jeannie’s. What do you think?”
Jeannie shrugged her shoulders. “I’ll think about it.”
Jeannie stood in the room with both hands on her hips. Had anyone told her she would be renting out her own space three months ago, she would have laughed it off. She was turning forty-eight in two months. She’d always planned to leave it all when she turned fifty and go chasing her dreams. But she wasn’t fifty yet, and here she was, living her dreams. Happy and fulfilled. Her children were living their lives; happy, too. What more could she ask for?
“Oh, Jeannie,” Cathy said, excited. “I need to introduce you to someone.”
Jeannie arched her eyebrows. “Who?”
“Aaron Horn. The most eligible bachelor in town. He’s handsome, and he’s only a bit older.”