-12-  Busy Bakery

Morning came, as it had each day since I arrived here in this world, in this city called Avondale, where Mrs. Thalica lived in her home and bakery with her two children.

As I cradled her from behind in my arms, in the bed she allowed me to share with her to my elation, Tally remained a smoldering ember of love. My face was gently buried in her dull copper hair, and as I drew breath after breath full of the sweet scent of her body, the thought of how I might one day tell my parents or my sister of these sudden developments in my new life, should I ever see them again, seemed trivial somehow as it came and went through my mind. I was my own man now, though only twenty-four, and had been so since the moment I woke up in a strange forest covered head to toe in blood and bewildered about how I would survive.

I, this fledgling novitiate adult, taking the smallest steps forward into my new existence, had by heaven’s chance crossed paths with the first woman who had ever shown me what it was that I had been missing in my life all this time. I discovered that there existed a woman not only to offer me a kind love and tender affection, not out of any obligation, but who wanted to on her own accord, for reasons I still have yet to fully comprehend.

And now, after a series of events which amounted to nothing impressive on my end, I have found myself in love and tenuously accepting the role of this widow’s husband and to her children, a new father.

Truth be told, I’m frightened.

I’m frightened I might not be good enough, for what she deserves in a husband, and for what the children, the two loveable innocent children of hers, need from a father.

I grew up in a nuclear home. My mother and father were both biologically mine, as was my sister my biological sister without any deviation. To the best of my knowledge my mother never stepped out on my father, nor he on her, though their marriage together had been tested many times over the years due to his job constantly taking him away from her for small stretches of time. My mother compensated for his absence with alcohol, but was a dedicated housewife when he was home. My father wasn’t the best either. As a provider, financially at least, I couldn’t utter one word of complaint that wouldn’t paint me as an entitled little piece of crap. But when it came to being present and active in the lives of his children, aside from a supportive word here and there, and this is where my fear stems from, he was not suitable in that role one bit.

I think the worst thing in the world is if I were to become a man similar to my father… to her children.

So I lie here, paralyzed with the gravity of the situation crushing me like the pull of the sun on the orbits of all its planets. Because I don’t have the confidence. I don’t have the confidence yet to be the husband she seems to desire. And I don’t have the confidence to be the daddy the little princess of the house wishes me to be either.

I’m just Gardavan.

A scared, undeserving man who was given a name, a second chance, a home, and now a place in a new family.

But, I will try.

Should I stumble, and I have no misgivings that I won’t, she has promised to catch me. I have knowledge of things from Earth, but it’s not absolutely. I certainly couldn’t make something like a firearm, or a circuit board. I couldn’t usher in hundreds of years of revolutionary change in a day.

But I could bake a mean banana bread.

I had confidence in creating a card game for a child to enjoy.

And I had Tally.

Without Tally, I have nothing. Only a corner in a filthy alley where I can curl up and die.

So, as it is now time to do, I lightly caress my new wife, and bid her to wake up so that we may start the day anew. Make bread and earn coin, and proceed through another day safely.


Downstairs, there is only a modest amount of work to be done today. Throughout the day yesterday I had made a tremendous amount of banana bread and cookies. Right now, Mrs. Thalica and I are making our respective doughs, hers the regular bread which she has been known for all this time, and I a cinnamon raisin bread, the occasional batch containing walnuts as well.

The children came downstairs, Trev wide eyed as usual, finding joy in being able to have both a cookie and a slice of banana bread for breakfast. Nefe had come down as well, but not having her day fare well from the start.

She had had another accident overnight, and her pajamas were soiled. Mrs. Thalica was there in an instant to comfort her, but the reason for this accident was pretty obvious.

And so, to alleviate it, Mrs. Thalica gathered her two children, and spoke with them about the future. The future between her and I, and the future role I would have with them going forward.


Soiled pajamas and all, Nefetina immediately rushed over to me clinging tightly to my leg. Thankful that my hands were not an unbearably sticky mess, I gently stroked her head, then leaned down to scoop her up, into a hug, not caring one bit about how wet her bottom was.

“Daddy!, Daddy! Daddy!, Daddy!”

Her little arms wrapped around my neck and she held on to me with all she was worth. While the reaction from Nefe was good, it seemed Trev wasn’t reacting with much interest.

“Mommy, why is Gard going to be our daddy?”

“It’s because mommy loves Gardavan, dummy!” Nefetina yelled towards her brother while in my arms, peering back at him.

“I’m not a dummy! I just want to know why! Mommy said our last daddy ran away! I don’t want a daddy who’s going to run away!”

Ah, Trev was worried about whether or not me becoming his father would result in being abandoned. As he had only heard about his father from his mother, it’s not unreasonable for him to have his own concerns with a new one coming into the picture.

Mrs. Thalica however was already prepared with an answer to placate him.

“He won’t be going anywhere, Trevorkane. He is going to live here with us, and won’t ever go off to fight in any stupid war. He and mommy are going to make bread together in the mornings, and we’ll all eat sup in the afternoon together just like we’ve been doing, and there will be plenty of time now for us to do things together.”

“He won’t leave?”

She hugged her son.

“I will make sure of it this time, Trevor. Gardavan will never have a reason to leave us. So will you give him a chance?”

He nodded.

“Okay. But… if… but if he’s going to be our daddy… does that mean he’s going to spank me when I’m bad?”

I love this kid.

He’s got all his priorities straight.

“Mrs. Thalica. Is that the common method of discipline around here when a child is bad?”

I was not asking her in order to criticize, for I had been on the receiving end of a good whap on the bottom more than once as a child, I’ve also come to understand that there are other less violent methods to achieve the same level of corrective discipline.

“That’s how it is. Why, was it different from how you were raised, Gar?”

“Me? No. I’ve been on the receiving end of a wallop many times growing up. But over the years, there were new thoughts on the matter of how much of it being physical was necessary. But, for now at least, until I can talk about it in depth with you later, I feel I should say that I am on your side if you feel that’s what must be done, though I do disapprove if it’s excessive.”

She sighed.

“Seems like he doesn’t want to be the one to spank you.” She said to her son.

“Good. I’m okay with him being my daddy then.”

She was outplayed.

“Do I have to call him daddy from now on, or can I still call him Gard?”

“You can call me whatever you want, Trev.”

“How about Mud?” he giggled.

“I like Spit more.” I laughed along with him.

“You won’t go away?”

I shook my head.

“Not even if your mommy threatens to spank me. And I know how strong she is.”

“Yeah, my butt is sore forever after she hits it!”

“Then let’s do our best not to do anything to make her angry, okay?”



“Yes, the Banana Bread is one copper.”

“Then, I’ll take three!”

“Right away!”

Have I said how amazing Mrs. Thalica is yet?

Right now Trev and Nefe are on their second delivery of the day. On top of that there has been a significant increase in foot traffic into the bakery. Almost everyone has come for the banana bread, though there have been steady sales on the cinnamon raising bread as well.

Then there was the matter of the cookies….

There were no cookies. They all sold out early on. It was rather insane actually how fast they sold out. I suspect that this was done in part by both Trev and Mrs. Windie, the gossiping daily customer and friend of Mrs. Thalica. She claimed to have a social network, and it appeared to be bearing down on us with some of its might.

I wanted to try and make batches of regular cookies, but Mrs. Thalica had stopped me. “You said you had a use for the blueberries and almonds, right? Let’s focus on that for tomorrow’s sales instead.”

That is why currently, the tray I would usually use for cookies is instead full of almonds. When making almond butter, much like peanut butter the first and most important step is to roast them correctly. Afterwards, since there is no electricity or mechanical grinder available, the only option is to make it like in the old days… with a mortar and pestle.

I can say that since beginning to make dough with Mrs. Thalica daily, my arm strength has improved. I’m still no match for her, but I’m slowly getting stronger, and able to last longer at the task.

While I have made plenty of homemade peanut butter in any number of my mother’s eccentric collection of blenders and food processors, once when staying at my grandparent’s from my mother’s side, I had learned how to make old fashioned fruit preserves which were stored in glass jars, and of course, peanut butter. I am actually not one-hundred percent sure almond butter is made in the same method as peanut butter, but I feel confident that I will get the desired result.

I wanted to start with the almond butter first, because the jellies are far easier to make. Let’s get the hard work out of the way first, and it will pave the way to the next opportunity.

Yes. Peanut butter cookies.

I feel the most important thing we’re going to need around here are some toothbrushes. I have no idea of the state of dentistry in this world, but I’m not confident that it’s the painless kind like I’m used to.

I especially don’t want the children to suffer any dental problems and toothaches. I would be sad if Nefe’s smile was affected. She’s really a cutie, just like her mother, after all.

It was when the children came back from their second delivery that Mrs. Thalica had enough of the flood of customers as well. She was determined to take a break, and so she closed the store, under the excuse that it was time for Sup. The store would reopen tomorrow and even more things would be available again.

With the store closed, it was time for everyone to relax after working hard. The reward I had planned was an almond butter and blueberry jam sandwich. I made a few, some from the plain bread Mrs. Thalica made, and some from the cinnamon raisin bread that I had made.

“Is this the thing you were talking about? The Pee-bee-and-jay?” My lovely but tired wife asked as she reached for one of the slices made from the plain bread.

“In spirit it is. I would have preferred to use a peanut, or even a hazelnut if I could get my hands on it, but I think this batch came out rather well. I hate to say this since it means needing to spend money, but we have need of some more pots or the like for storing this stuff.”

The kids munched away at the slices with the cinnamon raisin bread, and while both of them seemed quite satisfied, cheeks already sticky with the blueberry jam, Nefe seemed rather ponderous as she stared at her final bite of one particular slice.

“Daddy… can you make it with apples?”

Theoretically, as long as there was sugar and lemons, it was entirely possible to do so with most fruits.

“I… think so? I’ve never tried making it, but the way of making it should be pretty similar.”

“Can I help you make it?”

“Sure you can. I’d love to have a helper who knows her way around an apple.”

“Yay, I love you daddy!”

Not only the last bite, but another two slices were devoured by the bakery’s princess.

“Mmmh. These are quite delicious, Gar.”

“I’m glad you like them, Tally.”

“Can you make this… almond butter with the walnuts as well?”

“Probably? It was the first time making the almond butter for me, and it came out alright. I imagine the walnuts would work in much the same way. Do you happen to be fond of walnuts?”

She wore a strange smile for a moment.

“The… the children’s father… he knew of a walnut tree not too far outside of Avondale, and used to bring a small pouch filled with them home from time to time. This was before the war, of course. We used to enjoy shelling and eating them in each other’s company…”

Walnuts were a precious memory to her, it seems. Maybe that smile was the way she referred to her departed husband.

“Tally, you can speak about him as you feel.”

“…it would be rude…”

“No. Even if he’s not here, his existence cannot be erased, nor should it. It’s thanks to him I got to meet the hard-working you, and without him, there would be no Nefe or Trev. All that matters now though, is that I will be here to create new memories with you and the children, as well as new things to think fondly of in the future.”


“Yes, my love?”

“Let’s turn in early tonight.”

“Are you sure?”

She nodded.

“My um… moon is due soon. Any day, really.”

“Moon?” I asked, not sure what she meant. Not until she tilted her head downward suggestively.

“Oh. Oh!” I nodded my understanding to her. It was met with a seductive smile.

Looks like I’m going to be roasting a whole different type of nuts tonight.

Okay, it was a crass joke. I’m sorry.

When our snack-like Sup was finished, we actually had another order of business to attend to. A few loaves of the banana bread, which was mostly all sold out by this point, were put aside to be taken to Zedron. I hadn’t even had a moment of time to begin creating the card game I had spoken about, and I also had informed Mrs. Thalica of our need for more lemons and sugar as well.

With the children left watching the shop, and permission for Nefe to eat as many apples as she wanted as long as she looked after her brother, Tally and I went to pay the master merchant a visit.