Friendship and love

“Howdi,” I smile as I enter the bakery this Monday afteroon. “Been to see the doctor to check up on my boob pain.” I instantly feel the need to explain why I cancelled my morning delivery of fresh buns. “How are you? Nice weather finally.”

“Hi,” Bakerman smiles at me. “I am fine. Indeed fine weather today. Took a walk along the beach. Do you have a result from the doc?”

“You have an apartment by the sea?” I look at him in amazement, discovering once again something new about my friend. “Wow.”

“Yes,” Bakerman smiles fondly. “I used to live on the black sea.”

“Wow,” for a moment my mind lingers on the joy I find each time I walk along the shoreline and for a moment forgetting the worry about my own personal health. “Probably nothing but hospital scan tomorrow. There’s no lump in any case.”

“Ok. That’s a relief,” Bakerman takes the issue seriously. “Maybe just a reaction to your period.”

“Yes probably something like that,” I do my best to brush off my worry so I turn the subject to other worries. “I’m working my ass off. Can’t wait for the au-pair to arrive. By the time the Star returns I will have a serious business again. Wish I could go for walk by sea. Last time I went was at Easter in Normandy.”

“Soon you will have time again,” Bakerman nods at me encouragingly. “Sounds great that you are busy.”

“Oh glorious quality time with kids,” I smile as my eyes glaze over remembering the good times. “It is great but this is getting too much for long term by myself.”

“Don’t worry you are tough underneath your marshmallow exterior,” Bakerman teases me.

“It should be the other way round,” I ponder a little on what he just told me a little too innocently. “Tough outside and soft within. It should.”

“Yes,” Bakerman confirms eyeing me cautiously.

“How do I reverse that?” I demand to know more.

“Practice,” Bakerman retorts. “It’s all about how you see yourself and think about things and of course behaviour.”

“Hmmm very cryptic,” I go on thinking about the subject. “So I need to stop thinking marshmallow and Tin-Man. Instead I am a chocolate chip cookie with honey inside? That way you mean? Just by how I think about myself? Ok.”

Love and general and relationships in specific are situations we are continuously evaluating. How do we react when we meet love on our path and it asks us to continue the journey together? How do we strike the right balance knowing that love can be both enormously rewarding and endlessly frustrating at the same time? And why is it so damn hard to come to a compromise? Just how much compromising is acceptable and when is it too much?

And what kind of a friend am I to the people closest to me? Who are the people of my inner circle? Friendship is a great promise and is of utmost importance in our daily lives. Because love comes and goes, jobs are found and lost, but friendships are made to last forever.

Or is it the other way round?

* Disclaimer : Any resemblance between the fictional characters in this story and any persons, living or dead, is a miracle by chance more than by choice.

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Free bread, last chance!

Bakerman had invited me to a sample sale of his new baguettes. It was nice. Lovely little nibble bites and lots of smiles from the locals. We live in a village. At the end of the day, everybody knows a little bit about everyone.

“You are very quiet,” Bakerman had made his way across the room. People had started to leave and I was just considering doing the same myself. “What’s wrong?”

“Hi there,” I greet my baking friend. “Nothing really. I didn’t want to keep complaining about the usual. My mother, work stress, money problems and Wim’s health. So I just got busy with some stuff and couldn’t think of anything else to tell you.” I give him a meek look which reflects my inner turmoil. Then I am quick to change the subject. I don’t like having the focus on myself for too long. “How are you? How are your sarnies? How can you make a baguette taste like an éclair?”

“I make a secret sauce,” Bakerman winks at me. “The eclair has no sugar in it and is very easy to eat. The Oban is being fixed right now so I will do some bake tests in it to get to know it and use the expensive stove for the first time.”

Bakerman had just stuffed his face with an entire mini-éclair. “Ovan,” he repeats again, his face turning a dangerous colour red. “Oven,” he finally spits out with great frustration.

I throw my head back with amused laughter. Laughing with friends is a great way to let go of the negative energy and allow for the light-heartedness.

“Shitty thing is I will have to move in six weeks to a new kitchen,” Bakerman looks around his current little bakery. “Thanks for the correction. How are you? Any new Reiki clients?”

“No, I’ve stopped advertising Reiki and meditation after throwing money away for 3 weeks,” I pull a funny face to highlight my annoyance. “Maybe I should create a Facebook page and try some social media marketing instead.”

“Yes,” Bakerman nods at me encouragingly popping another mini tart into his mouth.

“Yes the right mindset and all,” I say pensively. “I’ll give that a try when I have the time. I am now creating my slides for the video training. And learning new stuff about social media marketing. And seeing to new and existing clients. Very very busy. Only generated an extra 1.100 euro though this month.”

“That’s cool,” Bakerman replies nodding at me again.

“Didn’t make my 1.500 target,” I correct him. I have set myself solid targets for each month. Generate more income than the same month of the previous year. Gain at least one new client each month. And then a target amount to put aside in savings each month. I am continuously tracking my progress and pushing myself to perform, for my own sake. “But I did get a new client so that’s something.”

“Keep going,” Bakerman smiles at me with that penetrating blue gaze. “Maybe I should consider learning Facebook marketing and SEO and come back and sell the service. I will have to go out and cold call clients too for my sandwiches. I am very cheap. 1.50 euro for a veggie one.”

I shudder as I hear the term ‘cold calling’. In fact, I can see goose bumps appearing all over my arms. I must be allergic to the idea. Hate it. Absolutely hate cold calling. “I am pricing myself cheap because I am desperate for clients,” I sigh a little ashamed to admit this. I’m a posh lady. My time and know-how is worth more than that. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

“Try being expensive and give a discount out of empathy instead,” Bakerman whispers to me. “Hard to raise your price if they think your value is cheap.”

“True,” I answer as my thoughts start drifting off in all different directions. My head is swimming with images and thoughts related to many different subjects. In my mind they are all intricately connected, though I know in reality they are not.

“Also explain the difference between instant gratification and delayed gratification,” Bakerman reminds me of his favourite sayings. “You provide more delayed success that is longer lasting then a short term win that is gone in a day.”

“Yup I do,” I say as I realize this is true. I’m finding back part of my value and the feeling alone makes my eyes sparkle.

“How are your kids?” Bakerman suddenly changes the subject, eyeing me carefully.

“Anyway first I need to complete those slides before I chase new clients,” I say summarizing my work priorities. “Only done one third of the slides so far. Deadline is eighth of March.” I sigh as I take a sip of my sweet English breakfast tea. “Kids are doing great. Hockey for Winston three to four times a week. Lilly loves the piano. Willem loves the piano and loves to eat.”

“Are you writing dialog for your slides?” Bakerman asks and I can tell it’s a trick question.

“No, no dialogue. Just keywords and some bullet points. I would like to do on screen demos,” I lay out my plan for the online video trainings in Google Adwords. It’s my opportunity, my moment to try for passive income. After all, I’ve been talking about this wish and desire for what, about a year now?

“Wim got worried last night,” I give him a conspiratorial look. “What if Marc turned up now, or in five years to claim the baby? What rights does he have? This is his quality time with Willem.”

“Do you need a baby grand piano for the lounge?” Bakerman looks up suddenly as if a brilliant plan had just emerged to the front of his mind. Or some psychic interference, who’s to say?

“I have a piano in the lounge,” I tell him realizing Bakerman never got any further than my kitchen. “Renting it.”

“I think Marc has visitation rights but you could argue he gave them up by complete rejection and no financial support,” Bakerman reassures me. “I assume you got over your vanity crisis?”

“Yes I did,” I chuckle my cheeks flushing bright pink.

“Wonderful,” Bakerman beams back at me.

“In fact the law says he can’t claim anything now unless I let him,” I tell him, my head held high and a certain note of haughtiness in my voice. “He had twelve months to claim paternity and he didn’t. So he has lost any rights he might have had. And me too. I can’t pursue him now anymore if I changed my mind. Twelve months is up.”

“Nice to hear Wim is getting into surrogate fatherhood,” Bakerman cajoles in a soft voice. “How is Wim doing? Pity we can’t be friends Wim and I. Yes it’s for the best to let Marc disappear forever.”

“Marc is a jerk!” I say a little too loud. I look around me to see if nobody noticed, but there are just a couple of old biddies hovering over the last of the strawberry tarts in deep discussion. “You don’t like Marc, do you?”

“No I don’t,” Bakerman pulls up his nose. “I didn’t think he was a wise choice for you.”

“Anyway, Wim is ok,” I sigh with relief, and then smile to show my optimistic confidence on this matter. “First round of chemo went well. He was tired for three days, a little sick but not too much. Extremely sensitive to cold stuff. I continue my Reiki on him. My kids love Reiki too.”

“Very good,” Bakerman nods, pouring another cup of tea for us both.

“I just wanted a baby,” I say a little too exasperated. “And that’s what I got.”

“Yes. Good you accept that truth,” Bakerman nods, stirring his cuppa with a little spoon. “Santa came early that year when William was born. Willem.”

“I love that little baby,” I smile fondly as I picture my babies.

“It let me type productions without correcting me,” Bakerman waves his mobile phone at the old biddies who just ate the last of the strawberry tarts. They look at him a little alarmed and then quickly scuttled out of the bakery. We’re the only ones left.

“I love all my babes,” I smile a bigger smile now, laughing again at the thought of the old gossiping women leaving the bakery. “Haha!”

“Me too,” Bakerman joins the banter. Somehow he understood what I was getting at. So I pull another funny face at him and laugh even louder.

“No it still interferes with my inability to spell,” Bakerman is still fiddling around with his mobile. “It’s stopped snowing. Yay. I can go outside now.”

“Switch it off,” I urge him with the voice I use when commanding my littles.

“How?” Bakerman looks up at me to gauge my mood.

“It’s freezing here,” I suddenly notice the temperature has dropped now the bakery isn’t filled with half of the village. “I don’t know. Mine doesn’t autocorrect me.”

“Yours knows you can spell,” Bakerman teases me.

“Yes I do,” I state wisely.

“You are very clever,” Bakerman compliments me. “So when I write you will correct the English and spelling, OK?” He looks up at me and meets my puzzled expression. “I mean articles.”

“Yes when are you going to write?” I ask him sipping the last of my tea. “Then we can discuss recipes.”

“Good question. I haven’t thought of a subject yet,” Bakerman scratches his head. “Any suggestions?”

“What kind of articles are you writing?” I need to know more details before brainstorming wildly. Making assumptions is never good, I learned the hard way.

“You are funny,” Bakerman laughs at me jolly faced.

I pull another funny face at him in reply. I shouldn’t make assumptions, yet he expects me to know these kind of things.

“Life skills,” Bakerman starts summing up on his fingers. “Sometimes communication skills, intra-person stuff. Thought about charisma as a topic.”

“Yes charisma would be great,” I enthusiasm. Bakerman must have many personal skills he can write about. After all, he knows how to sell. He knows how to talk to people. He watches and observes the entire village all day long, every day. He has life knowledge and knows what people are like. What makes them tick. “I’ve discovered I can indeed sell. I am getting new clients. I can sell.”

“Is the sandwich shop in Keerbergen still for sale?” Bakerman enquires.

“I wouldn’t know,” I start out hesitantly. “You’re not coming back!”

“Yes you can and if you overcome your fear of rejection you will be an excellent sales person,” Bakerman has still not given up on my hidden talent for persuasion. It is so well hidden, I still haven’t found it to this very day. “I might. I will give it a little more time and then decide. I still feel like a round peg in a square hole.”

“Poor Debbie,” I wink at Bakerman.

“Yes,” Bakerman teases me again. “Too bad, so sad.”

“I still want to become filthy rich,” I say nonchalantly getting up and putting on my warm winter coat.

“See you later,” Bakerman waves after me.

I head off home feeling like I’ve stretched my comfort zone with line breaks.

* Disclaimer : Any resemblance between the fictional characters in this story and any persons, living or dead, is a miracle by chance more than by choice.