The Promise of Passion Ch 01

Collecting two adolescent boys from the train station was more work than Melissa had previously imagined. For the millionth time, she thought it was utter foolishness on her part to have offered to pick them up. ‘They’re only kids,’ their mother innocently pointed out time and again, while their dad sniggered behind her.


Oh well!

Melissa had no idea if Carrie needed her eyes examined but she was quite sure that if they did not reach home soon, she would need a new head to replace the one that was quickly going insane.

The drive from the station to Velmont Town would typically not take longer than thirty minutes, but the boys had made her stop several times on the way, and even tried to sabotage the car when she refused.

Dale and Dean were a couple of years apart at 14 and 12 respectively. With his height, the first traces of a moustache, and the pale blonde emo swoop over his right eye, Dale appeared older than his age. Dean had darker hair and a shorter stature, but together the brothers could easily outdo a train full of children. On the course of the drive, they had complained that the food on the train was horrible and that they were still hungry, and Melissa had to stop at a restaurant, recognising why Carrie equated them with hungry crocodiles. After the meal, once they were out of a disgustingly long traffic snarl, Dale started feeling sick, the food having been far from fresh, and Dean realised he had left his bag behind. Melissa had to stop again and administer first aid to the older one, while the younger one (thankfully) found his bag.

And then it started to snow, covering everything in a thin white sheet until the town resembled a winter wonderland.  

For pity’s sake, it was April! 

The car would go one inch forward and three inches backward on the snow. The boys never missed an opportunity to brag that they could drive better than Melissa. They already knew so much that in a few more years there would be nothing you could teach them.

At four in the evening, when they reached the ever-bustling 8th Day Bake Shop, the western sky was parting to let a flicker of sunshine stream through. Dale and Dean hopped out of the car and ran inside, while Melissa remained put in the vehicle, drumming her fingers on the steering wheel.

“I hope they were not much trouble.” The caramel-blonde man came up to the window and asked, trying to hide a chuckle. Though only a year short of forty, Scott Webber looked older because of his rather large form. With the towel on his shoulder, the familiar apron tied around his belly, and the radiant smile on his round face, he was a picture of happiness, of a man doing what he loved.

“Don’t tell me,” Melissa rolled her eyes, turning on the combustion again. “They’re getting wilder by the day. What does their mother feed them?”

Scott laughed, the full-bodied sound making her smile for the first time that day. Behind him, customers strode in and out of the cafe, even an hour before closing time. In all the years that she had known Scott, the café had never had a slow day. Shelves always emptied fast and getting a seat was near impossible without a long wait. Scott was smart. He knew how to read the young consumers’ pulse. So every six months, he revamped the menu, removed the items that were not selling well, added twists to the ones that were, and introduced new items. From the spicy, sticky, and much-loved cinnamon rolls to the bagels, to the sesame purple tarts to the burritos, the fish rolls, and the cheese and sundried tomato quiche, 8th Day was the only restaurant in town with such a varied, handpicked menu.

But people loved the Webbers as much as they loved the bakeshop. Velmont Town was Scott’s hometown, it was where he grew up and returned to start his own business after retiring from the military seven years ago. They were also the only people Melissa could call her own there. Scott had done so much for her over the years. She could do that much for him.

“You must be hungry,” he said, giving a jerky nod of his head towards the cafe. “Grab a bite before you go.”

“No, thank you. I need a shower first.”

“Well, then, how about joining us for dinner tonight?” He offered. “Luke’s coming over for a holiday.”

Something shifted inside her. “Luke?”

“My brother. We could finally get him to take a break and celebrate mum and dad’s 40th anniversary with us here.”

“It’s alright.” She shook her head. “I wouldn’t want to impose.”

“On the contrary, I’m inviting you to dinner to say thank you.”

“Thank you?”

“For today. I know they can be difficult.”

Her shoulders drooped. “You don’t have to thank me. I love them.”

“I know. But we still want you to come over. I’ll make peppered fillet steak with parsley potatoes, and the boys will bake a cake.”

The mention of cake made a course of silent laughter run through her body. The last time the boys had baked a cake, the spatula had melted and become part of the mixture, and the guests had happily eaten away, commenting that the cake had an interesting flavour. Only Melissa was privy to the secret, and she was curious if they would do something similar tonight.

“Okay,” she relented with a nod. “I’ll be there.”

A triumphant grin spread across Scott’s face. “We’ll see you tonight, then,” he waved at her as she stepped on the gas. “We eat at eight. Don’t be late.”

Snow was melting from the front steps of the one-bedroom house when Melissa entered her driveway. Getting out of the car, she stretched her legs and walked up to her front door, heaving a sigh of relief when her living room came into view. She crashed into the sofa and closed her eyes. 

When she had first moved to the town, Scott had suggested that she buy a bigger house. He had said something about needs and situations changing with time and a small house could not be made bigger. But she had lost her heart to that little house from the moment she first laid eyes on it, mainly because of how warm and cosy it looked and also because it was right next to Scott’s house. Even after four years, she still did not feel the need for a larger house. It was not much, but it was home. She felt freer there than she ever had anywhere else.

An hour later, with the day greying and the air turning crisp, Melissa sat making an inventory list in the back room of her flower shop. She had sent the others away early and was planning to close in a short while when the happy tinkle of the bell behind the front door made her look up. Smoothing her hands over her black pencil skirt, she rehearsed her customer-friendly smile one more time and stepped out the door.

Her heart did a little somersault inside her chest as she caught sight of the man in the middle of her shop, the light from the small chandelier overhead shimmering on his dark curly hair. In the crook of his arm was a jacket, a pair of sunglasses tucked in the collar of his shirt. A large suitcase sat in the corner of the freezer. His hazel eyes surveyed the ornate floral displays, the sparkle in them unlike anything she had seen on that fateful night three years ago.

“Well, hello there.” She crossed her arms. “Fancy seeing you here after all this time.”

The brunet turned slowly and stared at her in wide-eyed wonder. His hair somehow looked curlier, like a bunch of noodles covering his forehead and falling into his eyes. The sides of his head were finely buzzed, the hair blending into the skin. When she smiled at him, his shoulders relaxed and his lips curved.

“Hey, Missy.” He instinctively held out an arm, and when she rounded the counter to come up to him, he held her in a somewhat hesitant embrace. “I totally forgot you run this place now.”

“Have been for the last four years.” Pulling back, she raked him with her eyes. “Why are you here anyway? Your brother must be waiting for you.”

“I know. He wanted to pick me up from the station but I said I could find my way.”

“I would be surprised if you couldn’t.” Melissa returned to her place behind the counter and folded her hands on the polished wooden top. “You grew up here, after all.”

The corners of his eyes crinkled when he laughed, the sound echoing through the small shop. “I love what you have done with this place.” Luke glanced around again. “I thought I would drop in to get some flowers for my family but I was not expecting to be so… entranced.”

“Thank you,” Melissa smiled. “What kind of flowers are you looking for?”

“I don’t know,” he shrugged, slipping on his jacket. “I was never good with it. What do you suggest?”

“I’d recommend this.” She carefully picked up a colourful bouquet of carnations, geraniums, and heliotropes. “The flowers here symbolize friendship and warm affection.”

His eyes widened again. “Did you make it?”

“Yes. Is it as good as the bouquets your mother would make?”

“No.” Reaching out both hands, he gently held the flowers. “It’s lovelier. How much for this?”

Her smile died. “This used to be your mother’s shop,” she reminded him. “I’m not taking money from you.”

“That’s a terrible way to run a business, you know.”

“I went to school with you. And you’re part of this town in more ways than you can imagine.”

“All right, you win.” Giving her another smile, he looked behind him at the door. “Do you think I can get a taxi from here?”

“If you’re willing to wait a few minutes, I can drive us to Scott’s house.” Melissa was already slipping off her apron and clearing the mess from the counter, feeling the weight of his gaze on her. “I’m supposed to dine with your family tonight.”

She went to the door and flipped the CLOSED sign, before disappearing into the back room. When she returned, he was waiting at the doorway of the storefront, watching dusk engulf the town as he hummed a tune to himself. He had put on some healthy weight since the last time she saw him, his nape had a faded haircut to match the sides, and as she stared at the neat, fit figure he cut in the slim pair of jeans, Melissa felt her heart soar.

He was still there. Alive and safe, a distant cry from the state she had once found him. Velmont Town had saved her all those years ago. It had given her hope and reason to live again. She hoped it would do the same for him. 

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