The day is blissfully warm. The sun is high and the sky is a deep shade of blue, like the one you see in holiday commercials for faraway places, a deep shade of azure. The streets are quiet, on account of it being rather early in the morning, and you can hear the occasional chirp of birds as you walk down the street. The village you’re living in is quaint, like the ones you see on TV in crime dramas like Midsomer Murders and Miss Marple, with its red bricked cottages, hanging flower baskets, and annual dog shows. Some days you feel like you should be carrying a wicker flower basket underneath your arm and singing little ditties. But then that would also mean that you would get some strange looks from the locals, faces twisted up in distaste that someone would dare do something so stupid.
You’ve turned down into a side street now, the alleyway small and claustrophobic and you have to squeeze past some bins that have been left by the side of the road, litter decorating the pavement. A crisp packet rustles in the wind, tumbling away from you, and you huff in irritation.
“Honestly, do people not know how to dispose of things here?” you mutter to yourself, looking around to ensure that nobody is watching as you do. Even the walls have ears here. You’d be out on your arse the moment someone heard a whisper of disapproval from your lips. The fact that you work at the bakery probably wouldn’t help your case either, as respected as Gwilym is.
The sweet scent of baked goods is wafting into your nose now, carried by the wind and your stomach clenches in hunger. Is that cheesy bread you can smell? It’s savoury and salty and it makes your mouth water just thinking about it. Curse Gwilym and his recipe testing. It should be a crime to make bread that smells that good this early in the day. You turn the corner, apologising to the dog that greets you, yapping excitedly for pets, and walk into the Bakery, the bell above the door jingling in welcome.
“Hello?” Gwilym’s voice is raised in question and you laugh to yourself for a moment, stopping to hoist your light jacket on a coat peg near the door. The shop is cosy, all dark wooden flooring and pale cream walls, there’s some beanbags in the corner, nestled away from the door, and a small bookshelf is next to it, crammed with beaten and dog-eared paperbacks of all sizes. Once, when there hadn’t been that many customers, you’d snuggled in there and had read two paperbacks in a sitting whilst Gwilym fussed around like a mother hen and made tea and cake. You’d queried whether it was against the rules but the look he’d given you had made you almost die from your stupidity. “I’m the manager, you goof.” He had said, rolling his eyes in fond exasperation, “What I say goes.”
“It’s just me, Gwilym.” You say, making your way to the kitchen, manoeuvring around the glass cabinet and peeking your head through the door.
He grins at you. “Just the person I needed!” he says. His eyes are shining and he’s bouncing around animatedly.
“What for?” You’re wary. The last time he said that he ended up making you sick from eating so much cake and you swear that you can never look at shortbread in the same light ever again.
“Taste testing,” he sings and you inwardly shriek.
‘Dear God, please let it be cheesy bread, or Florentines. This bitch loves a Florentine.’
If it’s cake, however, you will riot. You’ve had enough of icing them and you don’t want to have to do it again for at least another week. Who the hell orders 2,000 of them anyway?
“Alright, what do you have for me?” you say, shaking your hands together in glee as you walk into the kitchen.
The kitchen is painted white, tiles decorating the lower half of the room, blue and black, arranged in an artistic pattern, the oven is chrome, shining in the early morning sun. It’s the most expensive thing in the room. The counters are metal, wood would not do for such an environment really, especially not if you’re dealing with modelling chocolate and other meltable goods which you often very much are. The fridge is white, large and cool, located next to the sink. The microwave is beside that, tucked away on a shelf. The cupboards, painted in a pastel shade of blue, are wooden, and they close silently, ensuring neither of you disturbs the other. You know that the rest of the kitchen isn’t as artfully arranged as the set up appears to be. Silicon cake trays, Tupperwares upon Tupperwares, rolling pins, piping bags, whisks, and various other bits of baking paraphernalia are all crammed into said cupboards and there isn’t a day gone by where you haven’t accidentally upset something so that the Great Tower of Baking Supplies comes crashing out.
It is lighter in this room than it is in the main bit and your eyes are blinded for a moment. Has the room always been so white? Eurgh, your head’s hurting.
The kitchen is cool and your skin crisps slightly, goose pimples rising on your flesh and you shiver, squinting for a moment to lessen the glare of the light that is streaming through the large windows. Gwilym is holding out a plate for you, one of the posh little ones that you serve the afternoon teas on for the chattering, sniping old women that make it their life’s mission to gossip about everything and everyone.
“Ooh, breaking out the chintz, I see.”
‘Only for you,” He says, laughing at your comment. You grab the plate from his hand, and bite into the pastry. The pastry is just the right balance of sweet. Warm chocolate spread floods on to your tongue, and the accompanying tang of strawberries makes your palate go into overdrive. The puff pastry is buttery and flaky in all the right ways and you moan in pleasure, devouring the rest of it in one bite.
You’re fairly sure he’s blushing, not daring to meet your gaze.
“What is it?” You’re fairly sure that Gwilym cannot understand you, on account of your mouth being full, but he answers you anyway, eyes full of reverence for you.
“It’s a Nutella and strawberry roll.” He answers, a blush on his cheeks, as you swallow, licking your lips to get any flakes of the confection that you missed.
“Mmm. It’s really good.”
He flushes at the compliment, turns his head away for a moment. Oh my god, he’s managed to get chocolate spread on his neck, the absolute idiot. There’s a line of it down the left side, near his throat, following the curve of his Adam’s apple and you roll your eyes again at his carelessness. You’re surprised that he hasn’t gotten any on his shirt.
“You’ve – uh, you’ve got Nutella on your neck, Gwil.” You murmur, and he rolls his eyes.
“Fuck sake.” He whispers, more to himself than to you, craning his neck this way and that in desperate hope that he might be able to see the sticky lines on his skin. He huffs in irritation and you giggle.
“At least it wasn’t royal icing this time. That was a bugger to get out.” You mention and Gwilym gives you a look of pure betrayal when you bring it up.
“That was one time,” he huffs, almost fondly, “And I didn’t think that I was going to smear it on my head. I didn’t even know it was on my head until you pointed it out to me.”
You laugh, remembering his distress perfectly well.
Somehow he had managed to get icing on his nose, neck, and hair. You’re not sure how but part of you thinks that he’d done it deliberately, just to get on your nerves.
Gwilym can be tricksy when he wants to be, you’ve learnt that over the years, if he’s not being an absolute whizz in the kitchen, he’s being an absolute klutz in the kitchen. You love him for it, because even when he’s being an absolute disaster he’s still able to make the most amazing confections that you’ve ever seen. Nothing that you’ve seen on the television comes close.
“I need to clean up,” He says, running a hand through his hair to check that he hasn’t accidentally gotten icing there too. He does not need a repeat of that incident, thank you very much. “Can you handle things here? I won’t be a moment. The bread’s nearly done, the timer’ll buzz when it needs to come out of the oven. The kettle’s boiled if you want a cuppa.”
He’s gone out of the room before you can get a word in, tossing his apron off in irritation, managing to throw it on the door handle. The wash room is opposite the kitchen. It’s small but it’s what you want in a shop like this.
A moment later you can hear the water running in the sink and Gwilym is whistling a little ditty.
You sigh and pull on your apron, grabbing it off the hook near the door. It’s a little big for you, Gwilym had told you that it was supposed to be a back up for him in case something happened with his other apron but that hasn’t been the case so far so it’s considered yours. It goes to just past your knees and you swear that he’s done it to embarrass you. Who doesn’t have aprons in different sizes?
You’re broken out of your reverie by Gwilym returning, neck free of chocolate spread and a warm smile on his face.
“Better now?” You enquire, smiling.
“Very, all the better for seeing your pretty face,” He says, giving you a smirk.
“You charmer,” You’re rather taken aback by that actually. In all the months you’ve worked together he’s never been that forthright with you.
Of course, he is your employer and you suppose that that does play a part in your relationship somewhat but he’s never called you pretty, much less implied it. Certainly, not like this. Not out of the blue with no call for it. The other times have almost certainly been in jest.
Gwilym chuckles. “Only for you.” He sings.
‘Like the cakes. And the tea. And the reading.’ Your mind thinks and you have to take a moment, mind spinning as the reality sets in. Oh. How have you been so stupid? How could you not see this sooner? The icing and the spread were part of his plan all along. The aprons too. Everything done so that he could tease you and care for you at the same time. You have to hand it to him; he’s an excellent planner, and an even better actor.
His gaze is piercing, questioning you and your silence and you have to take a moment to compose yourself.
“I - I have a question.” He murmurs, scratching the back of his neck. He looks like a young schoolboy, body full of nerves and you smile.
“Yes?” Your voice is quiet, and you step towards him, shoes clacking on the linoleum floor.
“I - well - uh.” Gwilym is stammering, cheeks a full on red and he’s refusing to look into your eyes. Instead his gaze is firmly fixed on the pot of Nutella on the counter top, on the tray of cooling pastries, on the apron that he’d chuckled on the door handle. Ahhhh.
“I’ll ask my question first then.” You say. Your palms are sweaty and you gulp. ‘Fucking hell he’s my manager. If I’ve gotten this wrong that’s it.’
“Alright,” He concedes, nodding his head slightly. He runs a hand through his hair and still does not look into your eyes.
“Do you… do you love me?” It’s so cliché, you’re aware of that. Two lovers locked in a bakery shop on a sunny spring day, having a quiet heart to heart on the opposite side of the room, not daring to look into each other’s eyes. Like something out of a fairy tale, you think and snort. ‘I cannot believe I just said that.’
Gwilym looks as though he wants to laugh; perhaps he’s come to the same conclusion as you. “Yes.”
His voice is assured and he gives you a smile, walking over to you, closing the gap and grabbing the jar of spread off the counter. “I - uh… I tried to make a mess in the hope that you’d help me. It works in the romance novels.”
You laugh, “I didn’t realise you’d read Barbara Cartland.” You tease.
“It was Mills and Boon actually.” He mutters his head down and you laugh in disbelief, body shaking.
“You - you actually read- oh my god, Gwilym.” You sober up, tears in the corner of your eyes, “That’s kinda sweet if very weird.” You’re breathing heavily, and Gwilym gives you a wink.
“It worked, right?” He jokes.
“You’re actually unbelievable, has anyone told you that?”
“You,” He begins, before trapping you against the wall, “I believe, have told me that on many occasions.”
You giggle, “Oh? I must have not been in my right mind when I did.”
“I believe you meant it as praise?”
“Faint or damning?” You enquire and Gwilym looks shocked.
“I might have to kiss you to shut you up.” He says with a devious smirk on his lips.
“Please do.” You whisper, and he grins.
“Of course,” He whispers back, leaning down to press his lips upon your own. It’s sweet, you can taste the sugar from the tea he was drinking before he came in, the chocolate spread, and a hint of strawberries and he moans in delight. You’re blushing as he dips a finger into the spread and dots it on your mouth, before pecking it off with a thousand sticky kisses.
“Love you.” He murmurs.
“Love you too.”