Matt woke up to the sound of his phone alarm. It was still dark outside, so it took a few tries for him to successfully grab his phone and turn off the alarm properly. Matt couldn’t help thinking that his not dropping the phone like most days was a sign that today would be a good day, not that most days were bad.
By the time he drove to the cafe where he worked, the sun was just beginning to rise. With a slight yawn, he parked his car behind the cafe, walked to the back door - and froze in place when he saw a distinct package outside the door.
Matt rubbed his eyes, pinched himself, and even walked around in a circle to make sure he wasn’t seeing things, but it was still there: a brightly colored baby seat with a cover shielding its contents from the elements. It was a wishbaby, waiting to be brought inside its new home. While wishbabies often went to couples, they could also go to a single person - the important thing was the longing for a family.
Logically, this wishbaby had appeared at the cafe in order to reach the person who made his home above it: Matt’s co-worker, Pierre-Edouard. With nervous hands, Matt took out his phone to call him.
“’Ello?” Pierre-Edouard said, his accent thick the way it was early in the morning.
“There’s a wishbaby outside the door.”
There was a pause, then some rustling. Matt looked up and saw Pierre-Edouard standing at the upstairs window. “I’ll come downstairs and get the door for you.”
“Okay.” Matt ended the call, put his phone back in his pocket, and walked to the door. He carefully lifted the wishbaby, then waited until he heard the door open. “Thanks, Pebbles,” he said as he hurried inside.
“Of course. A wishbaby outside of my door means I have a child to meet!” Pierre-Edouard and Matt walked to the break room, where Matt placed the baby seat on the table. “I hope you weren’t outside very long, little one.” He carefully peeled back the blankets to reveal a sleeping baby in a pink onesie.
Matt gasped. “She’s so cute!”
Pierre-Edouard touched her forehead, which prompted her to open her eyes. “Hello, sweetheart. I’m Papa.”
The baby cooed. Matt couldn’t help smiling. “What’s her name?”
“Aurore-Rose. It's dawn right now, and the roses are blooming.”
“Aurore-Rose Bellemare,” Matt said slowly, hoping he wasn’t butchering the pronunciation. “Hi, cutie. I’m your Uncle Matt.”
Pierre-Edouard laughed softly, then frowned slightly. “How am I supposed to work here all the time and take care of her?”
“I’ll help,” Matt said, forcing himself not to think about why he said that so quickly.
“If she came just to me, then I should be able to take care of her.” His frown deepened.
“Accepting help so you don’t get overwhelmed is taking care of her,” Matt countered. “It’s really no trouble.”
“Thank you… though I’m not sure how much that helps if we both work here all the time.”
“Good point.” Matt looked at the clock on the wall and gulped. “It’s time for set up. I’ll get started, you switch in… at some point?”
“Okay. And maybe you can get Nikita to start working sooner.”
“I’ll ask him when he comes in.” Matt waved goodbye to Aurore-Rose, then hurried to the kitchen.
Nikita, a baker who was also the earliest of the cafe’s usual customers, came in at his usual very early time. “Good morning, Matt!”
“Hi.” Matt hurried to the cash register. “Your usual formula?”
“My wife’s the math teacher with the formulas. My usual is a large caramel macchiato with two pumps of hazelnut syrup and five shakes of cinnamon.” Nikita blinked. “Actually, that does sound like a formula, but you don’t usually call it that.”
Matt blinked. “Oh, no, I’m so sorry. I was thinking about needing to check Pebbles’ shopping list for formula.”
“It’s okay.” Nikita paid for his drink and stepped towards the pickup area. “Why does Pebbles need formula?”
“He got a wishbaby this morning. A girl. Aurore-Rose. I’m probably butchering that pronunciation.” Matt started making Nikita’s drink. “Also, can you start working here any sooner than we originally said?”
“Let me see…” Nikita hummed to himself, probably checking something on his phone. “We originally said the beginning of next month, but I can start… Monday. I know that doesn’t help this week.”
“It’s still a huge help.” Matt gave Nikita his drink. “Thank you so much.”
“Of course.” Nikita sighed as the usual morning crowd began to come in. “Good luck.”
It took more effort than usual for Matt to remember the customers’ usual orders and favored topics of conversation. In fact, Matt was pretty sure he got a few names wrong when greeting people as they came in; fortunately, they were too nice and polite to say anything unkind, especially when Matt mentioned the wishbaby.
By the time Matt’s lunch break rolled around, he was more exhausted than he’d ever felt. Doing the backroom tasks like prepping supplies was harder than usual because he was also keeping an eye on Aurore-Rose. Working the front was harder than usual because he was also thinking about Aurore-Rose (as opposed to his usual thinking about Pierre-Edouard). In short, it felt like a miracle that anything got done.
Matt plopped into the chair in the breakroom and began to eat his sandwich. Aurore-Rose cooed curiously. “You’re far too young to appreciate an egg salad sandwich,” he informed her. “Actually, since your father doesn’t like them, I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t like them when you’re big enough to try one.” He sighed. “But don’t get me wrong - your father is a very good and very brave man. He left chiropractor school back in France to follow his cooking dream to Sweden, then he came to the US to keep trying at his dream. And after trying his luck in a few different cities, he moved out here to Colorado with just his savings and a dream of running his own cafe. I saw his help wanted ad online, knew I wanted to get out of the marketing technology industry before it destroyed my soul, and applied without knowing very much about any of this stuff. He taught me so patiently with an incredible amount of soapy water to practice… I suppose the rest of it was inevitable.” The baby cooed again. “No, I’m not telling you the rest of it.”
There was a knock on the door before it opened. “How are my two favorite people doing?” Pierre-Edouard walked over to Aurore-Rose and gave her a kiss on the forehead. “Are you being a good girl for Matt?”
“Yes, a very good girl for Uncle Matt!”
“Good. I’d hate to think she was disturbing your lunch.”
Matt shook his head. “A Bellemare could never bother me.”
The end of the day came rather abruptly for Matt. He walked around the counter and towards the entrance to do his usual task of locking the doors and flipping the open/closed sign, but Pierre-Edouard was already there with the keys. “You were taking longer than usual with the receipts, so I figured I’d get started on breakdown. Technically, we closed five minutes ago.”
“Oh.” Matt checked the clock, saw that Pierre-Edouard was right, and went back behind the counter to grab the cleaning supplies. “It’s been an unusual day, I guess.”
“Yes, but it will get easier.” Pierre-Edouard rocked the baby carrier slightly as he moved to the cash register. “Did you talk to Nikita this morning?”
“I did - earliest he can do is Monday. He felt bad he couldn’t help this week, but as I told him, Monday is better than the original date.”
Pierre-Edouard nodded. “We’ll have to talk to him about his exact role. I’d feel bad leaving him in the back a lot, even though that was the original plan, considering that’s where Aurore-Rose will be.”
“Yeah. I’ll talk to him again in the morning.”
“I’ll do it,” Pierre-Edouard insisted. “She’s my daughter.”
“Okay,” Matt agreed.
Sure enough, the next morning, Matt was joined at the counter by both Pierre-Edouard and Aurore-Rose as soon as Nikita arrived. “Hi, baby!” Nikita greeted in a very high-pitched voice, the kind people used for little ones. “You’re a cute little sweetheart! Yes, you are!”
The baby squealed happily. Pierre-Edouard rocked her as he spoke: “So, with Aurore-Rose here, whoever’s in the back is also something of a babysitter. I know it’s not what we talked about when we said you’d be baking almost full-time, but -”
“It’s no trouble,” Nikita said quickly. “Baking has to happen back there. I’ve done baking with my own family in the kitchen, so I can watch her while I’m baking here. But I imagine you, too, want time with her, so I can be at the counter sometimes. Maybe 70-30 instead of 90-10?”
“Sounds good,” Pierre-Edouard said.
“I agree.” Matt gave Nikita his drink. “And I can also be in the back with her sometimes.”
“Yes, that’s what I said.” Nikita tilted his head slightly, then shook his head as if clearing his thoughts.
The rest of the week was a blur for Matt. In addition to babysitting during the workday, he had to get everything ready for Nikita to start baking in the cafe. Plus, there was an unusual warm spell, which prompted a sudden interest in iced drinks Matt didn’t feel as confident making. Quite frankly, the moments he got to spend watching Pebbles and Aurore-Rose interact served as much-needed moments of peace.
Before Matt knew it, it was Monday morning and there was a minivan parked next to him behind the building. “Hi, Nikita.”
“Hi, Matt,” Nikita smiled and waved. “I hope you don’t mind me intruding on your little world with Pebbles and the baby.”
Matt frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, you must not want other people with you and your crush.” Nikita chuckled as Matt dropped the key to the back door in shock. “Don’t worry, I only see it because I’m good at noticing these things. I don’t think he’s noticed.”
“I know he hasn’t noticed - he hasn’t fired me.” Matt picked up the key and unlocked the back door. “Honestly, I suggested hiring someone else in part to have a buffer from my feelings.”
“That makes sense.” Nikita followed Matt inside and pulled the door shut. “You know, he -”
“Good morning!” Pierre-Edouard came into view, Aurore-Rose just waking up in the carrier. “Are you ready for baking and babysitting, Uncle Nikita?”
“Of course!” Nikita gave Matt a look that indicated he planned to return to the interrupted topic. “I’m sure she’ll be an absolute angel!”
“She always is.” Matt waved to her and got a coo in response. “I think she knows me! She knows her Uncle Matt!”
“Of course she knows Matt.” Pierre-Edouard led them to the kitchen so they could start getting ready.
Matt and Nikita didn’t overlap for more than a few seconds during the morning, so Matt supposed he wasn’t really surprised when Nikita joined him for lunch and closed the door firmly before sitting down. “So, you and Pebbles.”
“Not a thing.”
“But it could be.” Nikita dangled a finger in front of the baby so she could grab it. “You say you know he hasn’t noticed your feelings because he hasn’t fired you. I say he wouldn’t fire you if he felt the same way. He’s probably as nervous as you are about speaking up.”
Matt blinked a few times. “What makes you think he might feel the same way?”
“He looks at you when you’re not looking at him like you’re the best thing about this place - it’s the same way you look at him when he’s not looking at you.”
Nikita nodded. “And did you notice he doesn’t tell Aurore-Rose that you’re Uncle Matt? You’re just Matt. I’m not saying I mind being the only uncle around, but it’s pretty clear.”
Matt thought back to that morning. “I guess? But what do I do about it?”
Before Nikita could answer, there was a knock on the door, then the sound of someone shoving. Nikita stood up and opened the door. “I must have closed it too hard. Sorry!”
“It’s fine,” Pierre-Edouard said. “Just checking in on all of you.”
“We’re good,” Nikita said. “We were just talking about Aurore-Rose learning things, like how I’m Uncle Nikita and Matt is Matt.”
“Uncle Matt,” Matt said.
Nikita furrowed his brow. “Is that so, Pierre-Edouard?”
“I’d rather not,” Pierre-Edouard said.
Matt stared at Pierre-Edouard, but didn’t say anything. Nikita stood up and left loudly. “Bye!”
As soon as the door closed firmly, Pierre-Edouard walked over to Matt. “I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, but I do feel more than just friendship for you. I think it took Aurore-Rose for me to realize that I want to build a family with you, starting with her.”
“I…” Matt leaned forward slightly. “I feel the same way.”
Pierre-Edouard smiled, then leaned forward to kiss Matt briefly. “We can decide the logistics after work tonight. Stay here with her and me for dinner?”
“I’ll stay here with you two for as long as I can.”