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“Good morning!” she chimed as James trudged into the bakery. “How are you feeling, James?”
“As well as you might feel after a night of drinking,” James replied. He then noticed the ignorance in Diane’s eyes. “I feel fantastic.”
“Well, good,” she murmured. “Because there is fair in the park across the street which means…”
There was a loud clatter of pats and then a wet splat from the kitchen.
“Derrick made it here before you, James,” Diane smiled. “What does that tell you?”
“That he couldn’t meet rent and slept in the kitchen?” James replied.
“Very funny, you know quite well that I pay you two…”
Derrick wandered out into the store still wearing his pajamas. Upon seeing that we were in fact in the store he leapt back in surprise knocking over a display of muffins. After stumbling back to his feet he smiled at us with a toothbrush in his mouth.
“...in peanuts?” James suggested. “You know if we ask for tips and split them we could afford to rent a coal bin for a week.”
“Derrick, get dressed and start baking,” Diane snapped and then turned to me. Derrick slid into the kitchen, somehow tripping over yesterday’s dust particles and no doubt face-planting into the flower stack. “As for you, James, remind me why the old man sent you sent back to the kitchen while I take the counter?”
“Well, that’s simple,” James replied and groped at his non-existent breasts.
Diane breathed fire and James took that moment as his que to return to the pots and pans. Once inside the kitchen he walked over Derrick’s body like a carpet.
“Derrick, please, for the love of God, collect yourself for today,” James begged. “There is a slew of Britain’s most putrid that is ready to ooze its way through the doors and you’re playing Persian rug.”
“Sorry, sorry,” the young man murmured as he climbed to his feet for the third time since opening his eyes.
The two worked the kitchen well despite all of Derrick’s clumsy mannerisms. James took off his wet coat and started the ovens. One after another they began to hum and warm up the room. Brushing Derrick’s things aside James began creating varieties of dough that would make the wonderful muffins, cakes and delicacies that the bakery served. While he did that Derrick began with the most basic, but their biggest sellers, the breads.
You could not go wrong with bread and the smell of the baking dough soon began to waft into the main store. James found it delightful and warm which is exactly what he needed after last night. He had hit the nail on the head with salary. Ever since the boss put her in charge of salaries she found a fantastic way to save on money by cutting costs.
James and Derrick weren’t earning minimum, but they were earning less than they needed to pay some important costs especially with the district they all lived in.
“James, we can’t go on like this,” Derrick replied. “I’ve been eating old muffins for a week now and still don’t have enough to keep up with payments.”
“That much is clear, Rickey,” James muttered kicking one of Derrick’s stray socks to the corner of the room. “I will have a talk with her at the end of the day.”
“It sounded like you left a good impression this morning.”
“What can I say? I’m a charmer.”
The two laughed to themselves as they worked while Diane continued the financing in the front of the store. She hated the sight of the store in the early mornings. It was so dark and blue without any of the golden breads or colourful cakes. Everything felt so empty, so she tried not looking up from the cash register.
In an hour it began to fill out and Diane watched as James carried out everything. He was silent throughout the chore. The bakery filled up the moment the doors opened and orders were sent through to the kitchen one after another. There was enough baked goods to keep the masses happy, but there were special orders for cakes shaped as peoples faces or a muffin that contained something unusual like pineapple and banana.
Once the day had ended, James and the flour covered Derrick walked out into the front of the store and confronted Diane.
“Diane, there are church mice with better living conditions than us,” James told her. “You know as well as I do that the salary you have assigned to us isn’t enough to pay rent let alone food. I’ve borrowed enough money from my friends and I am sure the kid has tapped his parents dry.”
Diane stood there silently, arms crossed, having expected this conversation eventually.
“When I was working finance everyone got the same salary,” James replied. “You can’t just cut it in half. The only reason we haven’t taken the issue to the boss is because you know you would be back to washing bread pans for Derrick.”
That last comment didn’t do James and Derrick any favours, but he wasn’t much for sugar-coating despite his chosen career.
“Things aren’t going well,” Diane told them. “There are shortfalls in the business that need to remedied and that means a smaller salary for all of us until the last payments are made.”
“What payments, Diane?” James asked.
“You did the finances. You saw those large payments going towards BBN. The boss is in debt, not covering expenses. I looked back in the records and he began these payments since buying this place.”
James and Derrick looked at each other then back at her.
“And you?” James asked.
“I’m out of the apartment at the end of the month,” Diane shrugged.
James had to admit, it was smart of her to pick on something he missed for so long, but it made sense. The boss was really sly keeping it from the staff, but it definitely made sense. Diane was boosting the payments to avoid another hit of late due fees, lower the interest.
“Need a roommate or two?”
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