This is something I wrote last year.
Set between X-1 and X-2
A little bit o'fluff with bread.
Her small town sat on the U.S./Canada border, the people that lived there were used to strangers wandering through; heading north or running south. Her bakery stood on the south corner of the main street and her work started hours before dawn. All so that the everyday and trickle through customers would find fresh hot coffees, crunchy baguettes, warm cinnamon rolls and a truly wicked variety of pastries when the morning sun pierced the sky. Bored with the usual faces, Carrie was always checking for new ones. It gave her something to look forward to each day.
At seven a.m., she stood at her wooden table, rolling, shaping, sprinkling dough, taking trays into and out of the steaming oven beside her. Her long hair, once neatly bound up on top of her head, now curly tendrils escaping, her fair skin pink from the heat and everything, including herself, covered with a fine sheen of sugar and flour. As her fingers went about work they had done every day for years, she could look out, watch her endlessly changing teenage girls work the counter. Beyond the busy girls as they took orders, took money (Canadian or American, it all spent here), she could see the café tables. The customers, those with time to spend, sitting in front of the windows, basking in the bright sunlight. Some sat together, talking, planning, gossiping. Some solitary, reading the papers gathered from the larger cities, as their own had no local press.
If there were a few patrons that might look a little different from the regular, no one gave any notice. This town was too small and its population fiercely independent, to care about one’s nationality or mutation. As long as everything was quiet, as long as business went along as usual, the occasional blue-skin or extra appendage was not worth notice. Except she became of aware of him, as soon as he had entered the front door.
She had seen him before, just last spring, after the final cold snap, when the air was starting to smell of fresh growth and everyone was anticipating rains and thunder storms instead of blizzards and ice. He had come in every morning for a week, enough for her to mark him in her memory. His tall, lanky frame filling the entryway, the way he took in the whole place in a glance with his sharp eyes, his fists flexing. Then he would walk to the counter, careful to avoid contact with the other patrons. He would take a large mug of her black, roasted coffee and a sweet roll or Danish, perhaps a couple of slices of fresh baked bread with a small crock of real butter to a table. He always sat in the corner, with his back against the wall.
She had enjoyed watching him eat. While some others so quickly wolfed down her hard work, sometimes she wondered why they came in at all. They might as well have been eating one of those cardboard donuts or store bought bread toast as much as they seemed to taste what she created.
This man was different. She could see him savor each bite. He ate so slowly every time, she knew that here was someone that was really taking pleasure in her handiwork. He never spoke other than to voice his selections or thank the girls for a coffee refill.
To tell the whole truth, Carrie also watched him because he was good to look at. The brown hair that touched the collar of his jacket looked incredibly thick and soft, his alert face attractive and although not inviting, it had many stories to tell. She never saw more of his body than the way his worn blue jeans snuggled up to strong, muscular thighs, as he always kept his scuffed brown leather jacket on, opened only enough to show a faded flannel shirt inside.
When he did not come in again, (moved on to other cities she supposed, places that offered more of whatever it was he was searching), she used her sharp memory of him to lull her through the dull days, when no one but locals came in and out.
But here he was again.
She watched him step through the doorway, scan the room in an instant, flex his fists. He wore the same clothes as before, clean, but looking a little more worn. She presumed he had done some hard traveling since she had seen him last.
Now it was fall, the leaves gorgeous in their colors, the air turning crisp and cool. The nights were longer, the daylight more appreciated. Carrie was alone, her bakery was her life as it had been for so very long. She didn’t kid herself, she knew that it was all she had, that it was all she would ever have, but she never felt sorry for herself. She had chosen her life, her town, her profession. She was, if not happy, content with her choice.
But there was something about this man, the way she had become fixated on him from that week in the spring, something that warmed her from the inside when she thought of him. He had, not unwelcome, invaded her dreams on the warm summer evenings, when the light from the sun never seemed to dim. Though she could not remember the details later, she knew that he had been there, in her mind.
He did as before, taking his coffee and a chocolate éclair this time, to a clean table, sitting with his back to the wall. Carrie watched him eat, until she noticed that she was trembling, just a little, as she saw his tongue licking the rich, dark chocolate cream from his fingers. She forced herself to look only at her hands, forced herself to think only of what she was doing at that moment.
When she finally allowed herself to look up, it was midmorning and the rush was over. Her employees had left, heading for high school. Her customers were gone, off to work or homes. Carrie poured a mug of coffee, taking the last slice of fresh sourdough bread, slathered it with butter. She started around the corner of her counter, intending to sit down for the first time since two a.m., when she noticed that he was still there, just where she’d left him in her mind hours earlier.
“Can I get you something?” She asked. He shook his head, his eyes never leaving her face.
‘Okay,’ she thought, sitting at the table closest to her. He was making her nerves jump, just by looking at her.
“Have a nice summer?”
He shrugged for an answer and reached inside his leather jacket. She watched him pull out a cigar and his eyebrows arched in a questioning motion. Carrie stood up and walked behind the counter again, pulling out a small crystal ashtray from beneath it. She took it to his table, gathering her coffee and bread as she did. She sat opposite of him and lit a cigarette fetched from the pack in the pocket of her apron.
“My name is Carrie.”
She watched a smile curl the edges of his lips and he gestured back, over his shoulder with his thumb.
“I kinda figured that.”
Carrie smiled, a large, pink neon sign she had splurged on one year burnt brightly against the wall; ‘Carrie’s Bakery‘.
“Why are you here?”
She heard herself asking, watching him shrug again.
“Just passing through, Darlin’”
‘Whatever.’ Carrie thought to herself, crushing out her cigarette in the ashtray. Devastatingly handsome or not, she was getting tired of his non-answers.
“I’ve got to clean up and close.” She stood up, dismissing him. He caught her wrist as she turned away.
His voice was gruff. Carrie pointedly looked down at his hand holding her wrist and he immediately let go of her. She sat back down and took swallow of her strong coffee.
“How was your summer, Logan?”
“Frustrating.” His voice was a low growl and the smile disappeared. “I was looking for something that I never found.”
He took a hard puff off his cigar and the smoke rose in the air between them.
“So what will you do now?”
She asked, watching him as he answered.
“Go back to square one.”
Carrie took the last swallow left in her coffee cup, drinking in his attractiveness at the same time.
“Well, I’m glad you stopped back by on your way.”
She started to stand up, only to find her wrist in his strong, callused hand again. She sat back down and again he immediately let go of her.
“Do you want to talk?”
Carrie watched his face carefully as she asked. If there had been a hint of menace there, earlier, it was gone. Now there was just hurt and sadness when she looked carefully into his warm, brown eyes.
Logan let the silence grow between them again, unable to find words to express how deep was his disappointment. The four months that he had spent north of here, searching first the abandoned Alkali Encampment itself, then the surrounding areas. The entire time his emotions were in overdrive, always feeling as though he was so close to the answers, like they were hidden pictures out of some child‘s magazine.
Who he was, where he came from, what had made him. He knew they were all there, he just had not been able to get them to stand out in the landscape. He bent his head, stretching the muscles in his neck out of habit and pointed to his empty plate.
“I want something else as good as this was.”
For Logan, Carrie’s Bakery was a sensation orgy; the myriad of extraordinary smells, the taste and texture of the food, the warmth of the sunshine, the jazz or blues that circulated from evenly spaced speakers throughout, every time he had come in it overwhelmed him. It was intoxicating, calming and stimulating all at the same time.
“Let me lock up first,” She moved to the front door, changing her open sign to closed and throwing the bolts. “Let’s go see what we have left.”
Carrie walked back behind the counter area, feeling Logan follow her. Not troubled by the fact that she was alone with the man she had just met. Some how she knew she was safe with him.
She felt a wisp of curiosity cross through her mind about why he would ever choose her to spend the morning. Carrie did not hold any illusions about herself. She was no beauty. She was a little shorter than average and after a youth spent chasing the perfect body, she had given up to her own genealogy and let the curves appear where they wanted. Her hair was her best feature, she supposed, it hung to the small of her back, thick and curly, with more white strands appearing in the dark blonde every year.
Each summer she debated getting it cut short. When the heat made her more than uncomfortable, but by the time she would make up her mind to do it, to make the appointment, cool air would sneak into the valley. The thoughts would vanish by the first snow.
“Not much left, but I usually like it that way.”
Carrie stopped and turned to him, realizing just how tall he was as he stood beside her. She fought the sudden urge to touch his chest, to make sure that this was not a summer dream, continuing into the fall.
“What would you like?”
Walking quickly behind the large, flour covered butcher block she used to make her creations.
Logan smiled at her, he could sense her attraction for him and the conflict of emotions ran in plain view across her face.
“Make me something new.”
He shrugged out of his jacket, throwing it over the counter and moved around to one side of her wooden table, leaning against it.
Carrie skimmed through her memories of him, of what he had eaten each time he had been in her bakery.
“I have something.”
She walked quickly back to her small cooler, bringing back a tray of dough.
“This is my version of Irish Soda Bread.”
She picked up the softball sized round and held it up.
Logan bent forward, taking a deep breath.
Carrie shook her head, smiling.
He watched her roll the dough, noticing the raisons that she had mixed in earlier. She sprinkled flour on the wood, keeping the dough from sticking. Then she pulled a small clear jar of a dark spice from the rows and rows of similar containers. Logan moved closer to her, letting the sharp smell entrance him as she opened the jar.
Carrie nodded. She added sanding sugar to the mixture, saturating the dough ball with both, cut a cross in the top with two swift movements of a sharp knife. She sat the dough on a small metal tray near the oven.
“We have to wait, it needs to rest.”
Logan was still looking at all her spices.
“What else have you got?”
Smiling, Carrie thought she was starting to understand Logan’s fascination with her bakery.
They moved through the jars, opening each one as if were children at Christmas. Logan would savor the exquisite smells, sometimes unable to resist sticking his index finger into a particular one, letting the taste roll around and explode in his mouth. Carrie put the bread into the oven and they moved back into her walk in cooler, where she kept her jellies and creams. Logan was stunned at the complexity of all the different ingredients.
“You make everything?”
“The seasons change the availability of certain fruits, but yes, whatever is here, I make. This is my life.”
Tasting everything from Parisian crème to pumpkin fillings and late season blackberry jam, they stood close together in the small space, enjoying the refrigerated air after the heat of being near the ovens.
“You’ve got some chocolate mousse on your chin.”
Carrie laughed and without thinking, she reached up to rub it off with her thumb. A small electric shock jerked her hand back. Moving with his swift, animal grace Logan caught her wrist. He pulled it back to him, licking the chocolate off her finger. Carrie felt the air become charged between them as he held her arm, he started to lean down and she was ensnared in the depth of his eyes. She pulled back, breaking the moment and Logan immediately let her go.
“The bread is done.”
Her own voice sounded shaky to her ears, she turned away from him, walking quickly to the oven.
Logan watched her pull the bread out from the heat, wondering why she was fighting her feelings. Then the unexpected aroma hit him and he laughed.
“Popcorn. It smells like popcorn.”
It was thick around them, the salty, buttery bouquet. He could not resist reaching forward and touching the little round loaf, as if to prove that it was not a huge kernel. Carrie watched him in disbelief; the bread was so hot. Caught in the moment, they both watched the red spot on his finger turn into a blister, then it shrunk and disappeared, not even leaving a mark.
Logan looked to Carrie with slight impatience, the anxious wait for the condemnation, the knowledge that he was not a ‘normal’ human. What he found in her eyes was the heat, the intense craving she felt for him. Carrie turned back to the bread, using a knife, she cut two steaming pieces off. She moved a shoebox sized tub onto the butcher’s block and lifted off the lid. Logan saw a soft white powder inside. Carrie dipped each piece in and handed one to him.
She smiled as they both bit into their slices.
Logan closed his eyes as the tastes burst in his mouth. The crust was crunchy with a warm cinnamon and sugar flavor and the bread inside was soft, the powdered sugar Carrie had dipped it in melted against his tongue. Carrie watched the smile soften the too-used anger wrinkles around his eyes and on his forehead. He ripped off another chunk and dropped it in the container, then taking even smaller bites, he quickly ate the last of the bread.
“That was beyond words.”
She heard the whisper through her own daze of contentment.
Carrie stood paralyzed as he leaned down, her blue eyes trapped in his stare.
“No, thank you.”
His lips were against her mouth and she felt his tongue tasting hers. She gave into the moment, into the heat and let his arms pull her up against him. She could feel the strength in his body, the iron in his muscles as he held her. His lips never left hers. His kiss took her breath away. He pulled her up so that she was sitting on her wooden block table and moved his mouth across her cheek, then down her neck.
“You taste like sugar.”
She heard his low gruff words as he passed her ear.
Her curiosity about his body was satisfied as they quickly shed their clothes. Covered with soft black hair, thick enough that you could see it, but thin enough that she could appreciate the definition of his arms, legs and abdomen. He looked strong enough to take on the world. The air surrounding them was warm and inviting. Logan pushed her back so that she lay on the flour-covered table and reached for some small jars of spices. They had tasted so good alone, he had a feeling that they would taste even better on her. He tried ginger on one breast, nutmeg on the other. Carrie moaned as she felt his mouth devouring her, the bristles of his unshaven cheeks tantalizingly scrape her softness. Logan sprinkled the cinnamon down her abdomen, mixed it with granulated sugar. He nibbled and licked the trail he had made. Then he stood back, the thought of a certain sticky roll haunting him. Carrie started to sit up, but he was too quick, gathering a small pastry brush and a yellow container that he had watched her using before. He popped the lid, dipping a finger into the brownish-yellow mixture, then into his mouth. Fresh clover honey Carrie bought from the local beekeepers then mixed with real butter and brown sugar. It was sweet, it was sinful, and Logan could not get enough. Carrie felt the soft bristles of the brush touching her breasts, coating them, then his warm lips sucking the mixture off. She moaned as the sensations he was creating overwhelmed her. As he moved down her, Logan dropped the pastry brush and started using his fingers, rubbing the honey into her skin, mixing it with the cinnamon he had inadvertently left in spots around her belly button and lower. Carrie was lost in the moment as Logan continued in his trance-like ministrations to her body. There was not a spot of her that he had not touched with his hands, his mouth and tongue. The flour and corn starch between her body and the wood, the heat that still emanated from the ovens made her feel as though she were floating in a warm ocean, the waves rolling higher and higher inside of her.
When Carrie’s sea calmed a little and Logan’s feeding frenzy seemed to slow a bit, she sat up. Holding his face in her hands, Carrie started kissing him, tasting sugars, spices, her own flavor and Logan’s, she pulled him closer, wrapping her legs around his back, bringing him deep inside of her. Logan’s head fell back as he entered her over and over, gripping her waist tightly. Letting everything in his mind go, his stressful months, his tangled emotions, worry and fear for his friends back in New York, it was all gone. It was just this moment, this sweaty, sweet, sticky time here in this woman’s place that he found himself as close to nirvana as he could ever recall being. He shuddered against her as his climax intensified and finished.
Logan felt Carrie shaking and backed away from her, concerned. He saw her face, tears running from her eyes, a huge smile on her lips and laughter escaping.
“I’ll never be able to stand here again without smiling. You are a wonderful lover.”
He kissed her, his voice a friendly growl against her neck.
“Oh, I am not done. There are so many things in here, so much I haven’t tried yet.”
Then like adult children, they moved together through the small bakery. Nothing was safe; crushed almonds, pecans, chocolate chips, butterscotch and caramel. Strawberry creams and marshmallows, pineapple chunks coated with glaze, dark chocolate fudge and coconut flakes covered their skin, rubbed in between them as they came together again and again.
Finally, Carrie took Logan back to a large dish sink and they wiped each other clean with warm water and soft white wash clothes and towels. Dressed, Logan helped her clean the small bakery and Carrie set up for the next morning.
She glanced outside and was surprised to see the light waning, evening had somehow crept up on them. They left the bakery from the small back door and Logan was immediately assaulted by the smells, even in this small town, of chemicals and car exhaust. He walked with Carrie as she moved to her truck. Then she turned to him, still glowing, a smile still playing on her lips.
“I will never forget you.”
She said and stood on tiptoes to kiss him.
“I will be back.” He held her thick hair in his hands, pulling her close to him. “I have never experienced anything like this, anyone like you.”
Carrie reinforced her memory with yet another deep kiss, holding his face in her palms.
Then he was gone and she drove out to her small, welcoming house, looking forward to a long, hot bubble bath, an evening cup of black coffee and perhaps, some soup and salad. It would be a while before she would be able to eat anything sweet again.
Mmmmmm. Sugar, butter, cinnamon and Logan. . .