Time for the last two things on my task list for closing. Sweeping and cleaning the glass cases. At the end of the day, even a slow one like Wednesdays, the exteriors of the baking cases were covered with fingerprints, handprints, and smudges. I’m sure some didn’t like this daily task, but I always enjoyed it. The mess and grime were signs of people’s eagerness to have one of my goodies. My favorites were those down low from children who regularly placed both hands flat against the cases, and sometimes their faces too. I always laughed at nose prints. They reminded me of my cat, Saffron, placing her face against the living room window at home.
After I was done, the cases sparkled. Now it was time to sweep the shop floor. The last thing I needed was some sort of insect infestation from crumbs left on the floor. As I swept, I searched for the brush, which I had heard move several times during Rich’s time in the bakery. I spotted it a good seven feet down the floor along the base of the counter. I continued sweeping but kept an eye on it. I wanted to see if it would move while under watch.
It didn’t, and once the floor was swept, I placed the broom back in the kitchen closet and returned to where the brush rested. I picked it up and grabbed my bag and the bank envelope as I walked toward the kitchen door. Before heading out, I dropped the brush into my purse. It was coming home with me. I wanted to run an experiment on it using something my grandmother had shown me when I was a teenager. But first I had to deposit the day’s till at the bank.
Outside, I made sure my bike and trailer were locked around one of the security stanchions that would keep a car from accidentally hitting the building. I had driven my car today, a rarity, and I didn’t feel like loading the bike into the trunk. All it meant was I’d have to walk to work tomorrow. It wasn’t out of the ordinary.
I hopped in the car and tossed my purse onto the passenger seat, then placed the bank deposit envelope on top of that. With all the change inside—I only deposited coins once a week since they had to be rolled first—it was heavy today.
I backed out of my spot and left the parking lot, turning right onto Founder. I had to remind myself that I still had a marshmallow rice treat to prevent myself from checking to see if Leafs and Grounds had more as I drove by. The bank was close, right at the top of the street, but its proximity to the coffee shop made it one of the more dangerous treks I had to make.
Mine was the only car in the bank’s customer parking lot when I arrived to make the deposit. For most, that would have signaled the bank was closed, but someone manned the business window for an extra half-hour each day. I grabbed the deposit envelope and my purse, then darted into the bank. The faster I could get in, the sooner I could get home and figure out that brush.
“Joanie!” the teller called, waving as I approached her window.
“Rachael. It’s so good to see you. How are you doing? How’s Mark?” Rachael and Mark had been my sixth match after I moved to Heartwood Hollow. They’d gotten married two years ago after a short engagement. It was the first wedding I attended as a guest since arriving here, but I had made their cake too.
“Oh, we’re fine, just fine. I was hoping to see you today.”
I set the deposit envelope on the counter with a thunk. “You were? How come? I haven’t seen you in a few days.”
“I’ve been sick,” she answered with a smirk.
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Oh, no, it’s for a really good reason.” Her grin widened into a broad, excited smile. “Mark and I are having a baby! I’m pregnant!”
“That’s wonderful news. Congratulations!”
“We just started telling people. I thought for sure I’d be found out sooner with as much as I’ve needed to call out lately. This morning sickness has been awful.” She unzipped the bank envelope and began stacking the coin rolls.
“Come by the bakery tomorrow. I’ll whip up some gingersnaps and lemon ginger scones. They’ll help settle your stomach.”
“Oh, Joanie, you’re the best. Thank you. I told Mark you’d have something to help.”
“Do you know what you’re having yet?”
She shook her head. “Not yet. We’re finding out in a few weeks. We’re really hoping for a little girl.” She’d moved on to counting the bills, then ran them through a sorter to confirm.
I smiled. I had a feeling they were going to get exactly what they wanted.
Rachael looked at her computer and keyed in a few things. The tiny printer next to her kicked to life, and out popped a receipt. She handed it to me. Her rosy cheeks revealed the slightest glow. If she hadn’t begun to tell people, they would have figured it out for themselves soon enough.
“Here, you go, Joanie. Anything else I can do for you?”
“Nope, that’s it for me today, but do pass along my congratulations to Mark.”
“Oh, I will. And I’ll be in tomorrow for those ginger treats, so I will see you then.”
“Until tomorrow, Rachael. Have a good night.” I grabbed my purse and headed back to the car.
When I sat down in my seat, the brush was sitting on the passenger side floorboard. I hadn’t even realized it wasn’t in my purse any longer. What a curious object.
By the time I pulled into my driveway two blocks later, the brush had moved once more. I could no longer see it. I killed the engine and exited my car, then walked around to the passenger side and opened it. I had to bend all the way over to feel underneath the seat. The brush was in the most inconvenient spot from this angle. I snatched my purse off the passenger seat and opened the rear door. I bent down once again, hoping I could grab the brush now. I reached under the seat, and I swear the brush had moved again. It was as if the brush didn’t want to go inside my house with me. Or maybe there was somewhere else it wanted to be. I needed to get this brush inside or else it probably would end up back at Ashley’s house. She only lived a street away. I leaned down as far as I could and turned so my shoulder almost touched the back footwell. I reached in as far as I could and felt the handle of the brush. I snatched it without hesitation so it wouldn’t have the time to escape.
“Ah ha! Got you.” Anyone watching would have laughed when I pulled a brush out and not some small critter that had jumped into and hidden in my car. Actually, that had happened once with a squirrel who was desperate for the bag of peanuts I had on the seat. I ended up having to bait him out with a peanut butter cookie.
“Look,” I started as I placed the brush into my bag, “I don’t know what your problem is, but you don’t have a choice right now. You’re going into the house whether you like it or not.” Man, this would have been a lot easier if it could tell me what was wrong.
I held the brush in my purse as I dug out my key. I looked up at my house and saw Saffron—Saffy for short—waiting for me in the front window, sitting on the back of the couch. She had her head up and as I approached the lock with my key out, she ran along the back of the couch to where it would meet the door when I opened it.
The door swung inward, and I pet my calico cat on the head as I stepped into the house. “Hi, Saffy. Did you see all that? I hope it gave you a good laugh.”
She sat up straight on the arm of the couch and stared me down, judging me, no doubt. I swung my bag off my shoulder and tossed it onto the couch. Saffy dove for it and stuck her head into the main pocket.
“Do you think there’s something going on with it too?” I asked as I closed the door behind me and kicked off my shoes.
Saffy didn’t answer, not that I expected her to, although if any cat could, it would be her. She continued to root inside my bag. I hoped I didn’t have anything important inside.
“I have a recipe my grandmother showed me once that I hope will help. I’ll be in the kitchen. Keep an eye on the brush, Saffy, I’ll be right back.”
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