Story for the Day: The Glaoustre Dairy Bakery
Glaoustre, a small municipality in the south of Frewyn, is known for its superior dairy production, so much so that everything in the main town belongs to the famous Royal Dairy and its adjoining abbey, but the pride of Glaoustre is perhaps the famed Glaoustre Dairy Bakery, which boasts of producing hundreds of different baked goods, every single one of them containing dairy in some way. Everything therein from the head baker to the cream cheese cupcakes are well-known and impossible to resist. Even Breigh Donnegal as master dairyman cannot deny himself a visit:
Her gaze fell everywhere, looking first at the men sitting on the tavern terrace, rapt in ardent rumination, their backs bent and their heads bowed as they studied their game boards with furrowed brows; flat caps, fashioned from swatches of varied twill, sitting like dollops over the noses of napping workers, vibrating with the incessant rise and fall of their owner’s chests; looking then at the children galloping after one another, chasing down the fritter carts with their copper coins held high, all of them clamouring against one another to achieve the head of the line; and her gaze settled on the bakers alternating the display in their bow-window, changing out the old exhibition to suit the approaching faire, bringing out fine cream cheeses and soft rounds dotted over with blue mould, hanging braided breads from the casement, and resting a few cakes, sitting in high wrought complacence, on tiered treys. She paused to watch the baker and her assistant arrange the cupcakes, each one different from the last, being placed in order of colour and size. She stepped unconsciously toward the window and craned her neck to gain a clearer look of the braided raisin breads being wreathed round the front pane, whereupon Breigh stopped and turned toward the window to see what was so intriguing to her.
“Sure look good,” said Breigh quietly, eyeing the cakes. He stooped, spied the hanging breads, smiled at Aibheann, and turned back. “Fresh too. I can smell that through the window.” He inhaled. “Aw, no,” he moaned, turning away and trying not to smile.
Aibheann grew concerned. “What is it?”
Breigh gave her a serious look. “I smell cinnamon.”
“Is that a bad thing?”
“Aye, sure is for me. Anythin’ with cinnamon don’t last in the house.” His brow furrowed, and he averted his eyes. “Now I’ve seen it…” He sighed and his shoulders withered. “…Chune.”
Aibheann raised a hand, stifling a laugh, and apologized.
“It’s none yer fault, girl.” Breigh’s eyes darted about and he pined, rueful and disappointed. “Shouldna looked. Now that smell’s gonna follow me.” He hummed and deliberated. “Sure wouldn’t mind gettin’ some if you wouldn’t mind the sharin’.”
“Sharin’?” Aibheann asked, somewhat alarmed.
“Aye, knew you wouldn’t wanna share.” Here was a sagacious grin. “Gotta have everythin’ to yourself. Well, guess we’ll just have to get somethin’ for each of us.”
Breigh smirked and winked at her, and before Aibheann could ask what he was about or catch at his meaning, Breigh was gone, moving toward the bakery and passing the threshold with his usual fluent alacrity, taking his long strides on silent feet. The bell atop the door peeled as Breigh entered, the tinkling and plangent sounds drowned out Aibheann’s timid tones as she begged him not to buy anything for her. He turned momentarily back to her, catching her anxious entreaties from the corner of his eye, and though his playful grin betrayed his having heard her, he feigned ignorance and continued into the shop, closing the door behind him and standing directly in front of it, to bar her from entering after him and trying to stop any attempts at a purchase. Aibheann’s heart sunk under many vexatious sensations: to spend his wages on her, and on something which she deemed unnecessary, when he had already done so much for her—it was too much kindness. If there were such a thing as excessive thoughtfulness, she conceived, he must be guilty of it, and she approached the bow window, where she saw Breigh pointing to the cakes and pretending not to notice her ardent shakes of the head by speaking with the baker’s assistant.
“Aye, yer ahfther spoilin’ that girl now somethin’ rottin, are ye?” said the assistant, speaking to Breigh and nodding toward the window.
Breigh’s lips pursed in a smile. “Well, you hung the cinnamon braids. You know I’m comin’ in if you hang ‘em.”
“Aye, sure they summon you, but yer not pointin’ to the braids, Maesther Breigh.”
Breigh’s colour heightened. “No harm in cake,” he murmured, scratching the back of his head and looking demure.
“No, sure, there ain’t no harm to it, Maesther Breigh,” the assistant replied, taking a large box from the wall and beginning to fold it. “Just enjoy seein’ yis happy, like. Don’t think ye’ve bought cake s’much since ye las’ seen yer mam.”
“Aye, well,” said Breigh, with a nervous laugh, “never an occasion for eating cake by myself.”
The assistant scoffed. “Sure, I’m not hearin’ this. There’s always occasion for the cinnamon bread, like, but there’s no occasion for cake? Ye hearin’ that, Mifeadh?” calling back to the baker behind the counter. “Needs no occasion for bread but needs it for cake. Me own ears ache to death from what they’re hearin’!”
Upon hearing such an untoward declaration, the baker leaned over the counter and planted her fists firmly on her wide hips. “Ach, shure, b’y,” said she impressively. “There do be always the occasion for cake.”
“What’s this occasion then?” asked Breigh.
Mifeadh raised a brow. “Because.”
Breigh waited for more of a justification, but when there was only a humph and a determined glare, he could not but be amused.
“Sure’n that’s good enough reason,” Mifeadh demanded, folding her arms. “Good enough for me, good enough for you. Cake don’t need nothin’ after the because. Cake’ll be what it is. Flowers don’t need nothin’ to be flowers. They do be sproutin’ outta the ground and no one asks ‘em questions, but cake—cake does gotta have a reason. The reason for cake does be itself and that’s that. That sister o’ yers sure’d tell you the same, b’y.”
Breigh would have agreed and affirmed that everything and nothing at all would tempt Martje to a slice, but he only gave the baker a knowing smile and allowed the roguish glint in his eye to convey all the derisive remarks he would ever make on that subject. He only smiled and tried not to appear too self-satisfied.
“Sel,” Mifeadh bellowed, “give the b’y a good lot o’ those cheese cakes there—the small-uns-- and some o’ those cupcakes for the gerl, and don’t ye mind it, b’y,” holding up a hand when Breigh produced a few coppers with which to pay her. “Ye do keep me in good dairy, sure, and we do make a well-livin’ from those what know they don’t need no reason for cake. Sel, ye just give that box here to me and I’ll tie it up—don’t be takin’ his coppers. Master Breigh o’ the Royal Glaoustre Dairy’s money does no good here, I be tellin’ ye that. Ye think o’ puttin’ that coin on the counter, b’y, and I’ll put ye over into the oven to bake ye the while.”
Breigh could not argue with so forthcoming and determined a woman; he had learned well from his time spent in his mother’s house that women of stout feelings and resolute characters should never be denied their command: their offices were those of mothers and sisters, the house their providence, the family their pride, their home all the peace that their efforts could promise. A woman so attached to the domesticities of life as his mother and sister were must never have her governance questioned, her ascendancy over her children a happy and glorious reign, her management of the oven and stores unmitigated, her supremacy of the farm unchallenged. The terrible flout and ferocious glare he was receiving from across the counter confirmed his notions of privilege, and Breigh was silent and subrisive.
“Occasion for cake,” the baker muttered, mechanically wrapping a ribbon around the box her assistant had given her. “Shise—of all the nonsense I heard talkin’—t’is Gods’ Day, b’y,” in a louder accent, “that do be a reason if ye need a-one. Celebratin’ the Wyn Abhaille- sure’n that’s more than enough reason. The Gods be smilin’ on ye, and yer asking why for cake. Tsk! Sure’n the Gods gave ye reason enough to be celebratin’ -- that new gerl ye got what’s waitin’ for ye outside. That do be more than enough reason for cake for every meal o’ every day.” She lay the box on the counter, adjusted the ribbons and curled their ends with a flourish, and pushed it toward Breigh. “There, b’y, and ye best ye don’t be mindin’ what Sel says about spoilin’. Ye spoil that gerl till she’s fermented.”
Breigh succumbed to quiet guffaws and laughed heartily into a raised hand.
“The both o’ yis’ll be havin’ cake till yer blue and mouldy,” said the baker, with a firm pout. “Gods’ know the both o’ yis need a spoilin’. Here, Sel’ll give ye the raisin bread too, ‘cause ye’ll be needin’ it come breakfast. And Ye’ll be comin’ back for some o’ that ginger and spice bread th’ morra, b’y, or I’ll be sendin’ Sel to the dairy after ye. Take that bread, there’ll be no gainsayin’.”
“No gainsayin’ in it,” said Breigh, accepting the bread being given him. “if there’s cinnamon in it, you’ll have to pry it from me to get it back.” He took the box from the counter and tucked it beneath his arm as he moved to go, and he nodded his thanks to the baker and her assistant.