Linzer sandwich cookies with heart cut-outs and red jam.

Speed Writing #6 – Pannetone Papers and Poor Choices

He had just dropped the last of the bread dough into a pan when his cell phone started to vibrate in his back pocket.  He quickly brushed his hands off on the front of his apron before reaching back to blindly turn it off.  It was his five-minute warning.  She was like clockwork.  While she’d only lived in the upstairs apartment for about two weeks, he already had her morning schedule down.

“I’m going out for panettone papers, do you need anything?” he called to Elise, his boss and the owner of the bakery.

“Can you bring me two dozen eggs?”  She responded from behind the double-decker oven on the other side of the kitchen, her usual location this time of day.

“Sure thing.”  He pulled off his apron and hung it on a peg near the back door, then went out into the alley.   

When Elise first opened the bakery, she’d converted the old garage into storage.  Anything that couldn’t handle the heat of the kitchen, especially consistent heat day after day, and perishable supplies were kept out here.  In the winter, it was a nice break from the heat to walk the fifteen feet to the store room.  Normally the alley was quiet and empty.  But that had changed about two weeks ago. He hadn’t actually even met her yet, didn’t know her name, but somehow just the sight of her could turn even the worst day around. Sure, she was pretty, but it wasn’t just that.  There was something else about her, and he couldn’t quite put a finger on it.

He was going to have to hurry if he was going to make this look natural.  He punched in the lock’s code, waiting for it to beep cheerfully at him before walking into store room.  The lights came on before he’d made it two steps.  He gathered up his supplies and hesitated, peeking out the window for just a moment.  As he tugged the door to latch it, he heard footsteps on the wooden stairs from the apartment.  He had to take a deep breath to squelch the jolt of energy he felt the timing it so perfectly.

The stairs ended about six feet away from the bakery’s back entry.  When he turned around she was halfway down the steps, and looking at him.  “Good morning,“ he called, smiling warmly at her.

“Hello.”  She looked a little different today, With streaks of blue running through her blonde hair.

“I like the new look,” he said.

She blushed, then nearly missed a step, and blushed harder.  “Um, thanks.”  She looked down at her feet until she made it to the cement landing.

He couldn’t quite keep the grin off his face.  He’d flustered her.  That was a good sign, right?  Unless, of course, he was freaking her out.  After all, he was kind of stalking her, if you wanted to be technical about it.  He hadn’t thought about it that way, and a wave of guilt washed over him. “Have a great day,” he said, feeling a little awkward, as he ducked his head and rushed back into the bakery.

At what point had he crossed the line from harmless flirting to creepy jerk?

He disabled his timer and intentionally avoided making supply runs during her morning departure the next day.

On Friday, he was tucking the rye loaves under a towel for their final rise when he heard her coming down the steps.  He really wanted to see her, to feel the way his heart sped up and his stomach dropped when she met his eyes, but he turned away from the back window, making a point of not watching her.

“Her name’s Carina,” Elise said, startling him.

He looked up, surprised to find his boss right beside him.  “What?”

Elise smirked.  “My new renter. Her name is Carina.”

“Oh?”  He nodded, trying not to seem too interested.  Even her name was beautiful.

“She misses seeing you in the mornings,” she added.  “She asked me if you’d gotten sick or something.”

“Uhh…”  He felt his face go hot.  He shrugged, trying to sound nonchalant.  “I guess I’ve bumped into her a few times.”

Elise cackled.  “Dude, you were setting an alarm to keep tabs on her.”

“You noticed that?”  Oh god. What did she think of him?  “Why didn’t you tell me I was being a creep?”

Prompt: This really cute guy rented the apartment over the bakery/flower shop/store where I work, and I keep trying to find excuses to be outside when he comes home.

Modifications: the cute renter is a woman

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Author of adult and young adult speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, dark fiction)

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