It started with the shop down the lane closing down.
Perhaps that was a lie. Louis, for one, hadn’t even noticed the shop closing down. He hadn’t noticed the signs in the windows, the pleas to visit their new location, or the empty windows that had stared at him for over two weeks, slowly gathering dust.
No, it had actually started with a question. His daughter’s, to be exact.
“What are they building there?”
It was only then that Louis had even noticed the construction tarps, banging of hammers, and paint-splattered workers. He frowned at the building in question, desperately trying to remember what it had even been. He eventually realised that the shop had once been in a hole-in-the-wall thai take-away with food so terrible that the only time he and Zayn had stumbled in there it had been two a.m. and they had been absolutely plastered.
Whether the hours spent hunched over the toilet the next morning were a result of food poisoning or copious amounts of alcohol, they’d never known but they hadn’t been keen to find out. Hence, the thai place had been given a wide berth from then on.
Blinking rapidly, Louis glanced down at his daughter, the six-year-old pouting at him.
“Sorry Georgie,” he apologised sheepishly. “What are they building, yeah?”
She nodded adamantly.
“Well I don’t know, baby girl.” Tightening his grip on her hand, he swung it while proceeding to gently tug her down the street. “There’s no sign so I guess we’ll have to wait and see.”
“There are lots of builders in there,” Georgia pointed out, still looking over her shoulder even as Louis pulled her further and further away. “Why aren’t you building it Daddy? You’re a builder.”
“I am an architect!” Louis declared, horribly scandalised. He flicked his daughter’s nose good-naturedly. “I draw the buildings, not make them.”
“You make them sometimes,” she grumbled, leering at him in an expression that was eerily similar to his own.
Louis huffed out a laugh. “Only because everyone else is terrible!”
Three weeks later and Louis was ready to march into the property himself if it wasn’t finished within the week. Everyday he and Georgia had the same conversation. Everyday she asked him what it was going to be when it was finished. Everyday Louis replied, as patiently as possible, that there was still no sign so no, he didn’t know – nor was he likely to find out any time in the near future. And no, Liam didn’t know either so stop asking him!
“Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!”
Groaning when he saw the shop front approaching, Louis pinched the bridge of his nose. “Georgia-Rose Tomlinson, I do not know what they’re building. It opens when it opens!”
“…it is open Daddy.”
Gaze whipping left so quickly he heard his neck crack, Louis winced when he saw it was true. ‘Sweet Nothings’ stared back at him in white cursive on a pleasant blue background while heavenly smells wafted out of the propped open door. People milled both inside and out and the gentle hum over music over a stereo was easily heard. Mentally kicking himself, Louis crouched down in front of Georgia and gently pulled her into his arms.
“Sorry love,” he whispered sincerely.
“S’okay,” she sniffed and fuck, it was not okay.
Enveloping the little girl entirely, Louis buried his head into her shoulder as she similarly burrowed into his chest. Kissing her neck, Louis glanced up at the storefront, frowning upon realising it was a bakery. His eyes then narrowed dangerously because they were being watched. The man behind the counter hastily averted his gaze and slipped out of sight. Too right to.
“Daddy?” Georgia asked, voice still quieter than he would like. “Could we look inside please?”
“Sure,” he said, rocking back onto his feet and whisking his baby inside. He did wonder at the obscurity of opening a shop on a Thursday of all days, when a Friday afternoon or Saturday made so much more sense. An interesting move when looking from a business perspective.
Looking over at the counter, Louis was immensely relieved to see that the worker from before was apparently gone. As Georgia ran to inspect the colourful treats located behind the glass, though not without a ‘no touching the glass, young lady!’, Louis swept a critical eye over the bakery.
It was nice, for a bakery he supposed. The hanging lights gave a homely, snug feel, but Louis felt them a little too low, a tad intrusive. An extra ten centimetres would have created the same mood but also increased the feeling of space. He approved of the use of wood over metals or plastics though, and credit was definitely given to whoever painted the sparrows across the walls in varying shades of brown. The fridge filled with water bottles and a sign reading ‘help yourself’ with glasses next to it was a nice touch as well.
Then he approached the display cabinet.
And the foreboding slammed into him. Because every product had letters next to it. Letters. GF, DF, V, O, VGN.
What. The. Fuck?
Lifting his eyes to the chalkboard menu spread across the back wall Louis felt physically ill. ‘Gluten-free’, ‘organic’, ‘vegan’, ‘paleo’, ‘dair-…’ Wait, what the fuck was a paleo? He had entered some hipster-trash establishment and it was more than time to get out. He had allowed Liam his over-sized, un-tied boots, and Zayn his headbands – though, admittedly, some of them had really been pushing it – but no, he did not condone this kind of eating.
“Daddy, it has sprinkles!”
Louis’ face soured. Of course Georgie would be immune to this new-age crap. It had colours, she would eat it. Muttering under his breath, Louis took a deep breath and then smiled brightly as he stepped up to his daughter’s side. She was pointing excitedly at a sprinkle covered cookie that was…raw and organic…? What even…?
“Can we get it please?”
“Can I just say, if the amount of biscuit dough Niall ate is anything to go by, those are delicious,” a new voice quipped.
Eyes snapping up, Louis recognised the boy behind the counter instantly as the one who had overseen his and Georgia’s interaction earlier. Judging from his awkward shuffling, he knew it too. Louis glared a moment longer. When the boy visibly gulped, he considered his point proven and slowly straightened, pointing at the biscuit with a finger.
“Organic and raw? It’s a biscuit. Explain.”
The boy blinked at his sharp tone but then his eyes – and weren’t they an enchanting shade of green? – brightened and he launched into explanation as though he’d been dying for someone to ask. “Well, organic means that all the ingredients are free of pesticides and harmful chemicals. And raw is for people following paleo diets. We use basic ingredients, so no processed sugar, only raw sugar, substituting chocolate for cocoa powder, that sort of thing.”
“And it tastes the same?” Louis asked suspiciously.
“Here,” the boy laughed, grabbing a biscuit and handing it to him, “Try it.”
“Oh no, I-”
“I insist,” he pressed, wiggling his eyebrows.
“Cheeky bugger,” Louis muttered, breaking the biscuit in half and handing half to Georgia, who took it in wonder. It wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t taste like what he was used to.
“…You don’t like it.”
Louis almost felt guilty for how heart-broken the boy looked. “Sorry mate, but I…” he waved his hand aimlessly. “This is just not for me. I’m not into this…hipster aesthetic you’ve got going on.”
Those enchanting green eyes narrowed and then they steeled over, the boy raking a hand through his curls. “You don’t like it because you’re determined not to.” Looking over the display, he selected two items and plated them, sliding them across the counter. “On me, because you will like those, even with your attitude.”
Louis openly gaped. “I could ask to speak to your manager Curly,” he pointed out.
He got a quirked eyebrow in return. “I’d like to see you try.”
Thoroughly miffed, Louis snatched both plates up and ushered Georgia to a table. Making a quick decision, Louis kept the brownie imposter for himself and handed her the less sweet looking Danish. Listening to Georgia rattle on about her day, Louis took his first bite…and nearly choked. Holy shit! He blinked at the brownie incredulously. Was food even allowed to taste that good?! He squinted at it, poking it cautiously and absolutely not looking for hidden marijuana.
“Yes please, thank you.”
Breaking out of his brownie induced haze, Louis saw their server standing beside the table. Able to now take in his entire frame, Louis had to admire the endless legs and the sweeping height that came with it. His long curls had since been tied up into a bun and…yeah, baker, that probably made sense.
“And my name’s not sweetie, it’s Georgia-Rose Eliza Tomlinson.”
The boy’s smile widened and…dimples, seriously? Who was this boy? “That’s quite a mouthful there. Can I call you Rosie?”
Georgia frowned cutely, as did Louis, though not so cutely. “Rosie?” he repeated coldly.
The boy shrugged. “Suits her, don’t you think?”
Louis sniffed. “Considering I named her Georgia, not really.”
“Daddy!” Georgia scolded, before tugging the baker’s sleeve tentatively. “Excuse me sir but can you…can you tie my hair like your hair?”
Louis hastily clapped a hand over his mouth to stop a laugh escaping. He’d never seen a grown man look more like a startled deer.
“Uh…” there was a pause. “If it’s okay with your dad…?”
Louis wanted to balk but knew he had no reason to. He eventually nodded. “Sure Curly, show ‘em how it’s done.”
“S’not my name,” he chuckled, before removing the elastic from Georgia’s hair with infinite care. “So…Throw it up…Roll a lil’ thing around it…It’s just that simple.”
The perfect bun that came out of the other side was not what Louis would have made had he followed the same instructions. His would have more resembled a bird’s nest. And yes, he spoke from experience.
“Is it pretty Daddy?” Georgia asked excitedly.
“Just like a princess,” Louis assured, asking her to tilt her head and hold still so he could take a photo, one to show her and two to send to Liam. His baby was adorable, sue him. Feeling eyes on him, Louis saw their apparent new friend looking between him and the empty plate smugly. “Fine, yes, I ate it,” Louis admitted, crossing his arms. “It was bloody brilliant.”
“Thought as much.”
Gesturing to Georgia to get her belongings with a hand, Louis swept to his feet, pulling out his wallet and handing over ten quid. “In this single instance, I, Louis Tomlinson, stand corrected.”
“This single instance?”
He waggled a finger. “Very few have been privy to such occasions.”
The boy laughed. “Should I be, like, honoured?”
“Yes, you definitely should be Mr…?”
“Harry, Harry Styles.”
“Well then Harry Styles,” Louis said, taking his daughter’s hand and tipping his imaginary hat. “Commit this day to your memory!”
With that, Louis left the bakery, completely unaware as to how much he would commit this experience to his own memory one day.