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Homegrown Breads


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From an early age, Jaden Maxwell had showed a love for cooking and baking, and was surprisingly talented at it too. Even before entering high school, he was able to confidently fry simple meals like eggs and bacon, or even put together mouth-watering chocolate chip muffins for a bake sale. Needless to say, he was very much within his element when making tasty delicacies. The sight and smell of freshly-baked bread and rolls alone was enough to remind him of the good times he had growing up...and that he still had a lot to live for. 

Wanting to give something back to the locals, he had opened up a small bakery on Riverside. A humble and modest shop that was set up like a square and painted with warm colors such as white and soft browns. Tables and chairs were set up outside and surrounded by rows of bushes with blooming flowers and roses to give off a pleasant, inviting atmosphere. A large billboard was above the oak door displaying a large tree that had a variety of sandwiches and pastries growing on its branches. Plastered on it were the words:

"Homegrown Breads. Have A Slice Of Quality."

"Thank you, come again!!" Jaden called out to his latest customers as they left the store carrying their orders. He sighed and nodded to himself with a smile before turning back to fill out another order. Even though the bakery was just getting off its feet, it had already attracted a nice amount of business which likely had to do with the delicious food that came in considerable portions yet at very generous prices too. 


The young man took a moment to himself to look up at a portrait of a younger version of himself sitting with his Aunt and Uncle under the Christmas tree. Warm smiles everywhere. Hopefully, one day they'd be able to be together again...but for now, there were orders to be fulfilled.

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Lynn has always loved Riverside; other than the occasional cast iron fence or storefront that made her queasy (Lantern Hill was technically worse), it was pretty much her dream neighborhood. The quirky shops and galleries, the street corner cafes and hair in every shade of the rainbow always just made her smile. She used to share an apartment here, many years ago, and she still found herself here at least once a week, looking to see what new places had opened up. She also liked to stop by to visit her 'friendly rival' Andrew Orlando at The Never-Ending Story, to grab a copy of the Riverside Review and talk shop over a cup of coffee.


Her tummy now warm with caffeinated happiness, she idly wandered the streets until she suddenly got a whiff of something so utterly delicious, she had to stop and take a long slow breath through her nose to savor it.


Oh my God, is that challah? It smells simply fantastic!


Using her amazing sense of smell to literally track down the scent of the egg bread, the changeling soon found herself entering Jaden's shop, a lovely young woman wearing Teva sandals, khaki shorts, a No Doubt T-shirt and an ecstatic expression.


 Hi!" Oh, she was smiling like an idiot. "I was just wandering the streets just now, and the smell of you challah more or less dragged me inside! Can I buy a loaf?"

Edited by Heritage
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Well, here was an excitable one. Seriously, Jaden swore his newest customer had enough energy coming off her to power a nuclear plant for the next hundred years. He had to shake his head to clear his thoughts so he could focus again, "Umm, right...Challah, you say? Yeah, we just took a loaf out of the oven. I gotta say, that's an amazing sense of smell you got to be able to sniff it out from that far away..." Almost too amazing...Jaden thought to himself, only to dismiss the thought. It was none of his business since right now, he was simply a humble baker, not on hero duty. As such, he turned back to stick his head through a door, "Carl! Can you hand me that loaf of challah? Thanks." 


He shut the door before one could get a glimpse of the appearance of whomever handed him the bread. As the billboard out front proclaimed, the bread looked like it had just come out of the oven and had a thin layer of butter melting over the top. He set the entire loaf of bread down before her, "Here you go. That'll be three dollars....for the whole loaf. Anything else I can get you?" He asked with a smile as warm as the bread itself.

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“That’s not a bad price, sunshine.” The slightly Southern twang belonged to a dirty blond woman. She stood just inside the doorway to Jaden’s shop. It was the (in?) famous chef, Maybelle McQueen. She, like Lynn, came to Riverside fairly often. Not so much for the shops and galleries (though one never knew what old cooking gear was buried in the second hand shops), but for the cafes, lounges, and restaurants. She wasn’t spying, exactly. She just adored the art and science of cooking. Everyone had their own spin on even the most basic of dishes, and Maybelle like to sample whenever she could. Sometimes it gave her ideas for the Southern Queen, and sometimes it was just a good meal. Plus, talking shop with other chefs was always interesting, even if they didn’t agree on certain matters.


“How much for a dozen loaves, weekly delivery?” That said, today she was here on business. The Queen needed a new baked goods supplier, and Maybelle abhorred the factory made mass market companies. She wanted handmade and local. Granted, that meant coordinating with a dozen different small bakeries (with all the good and bad that owner-operator businesses came with), but she liked the unpredictability of it. It also meant the her customers flocked to her restaurant when she tweeted about a bakery delivery. “Roses Red closed down and I’m now I’m short bread.” She paused for a moment, realizing. “I’m Maybelle McQueen. Head chef of the Southern Queen. I’ve heard good things, thought I might stop in.”

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Well, it seemed the young baker was attracting all sorts of attention today. First, the rather excitable egg bread lover and now the owner of this place called...what was it?Southern Queen? Darn it, this was what he got for not taking in the sights more or taking advantage of the internet at the library. At the very least, the lady was kind enough to give a name, "Good day to you, Miss McQueen. Name's Jaden Maxwell. I'm the owner of this little shop here. You wanted quality you came to the right place." His words hardly sounded like boasting, but more like someone who took pride in their work and enjoyed it. 


"Excuse me?" A customer seated at a coffee table held up an empty cup, "Can I get a refill on that Deluxe Fruit Smoothie, please?"

"Oh, of course. One minute, Miss Mcqueen," Jaden picked up a pitcher carrying what looked like a pink-purple gooey liquid inside and went over to refill the customer's glass at no charge before walking back, "Sorry about that, but I'm sure you understand the customer comes first. As for your bread shortage, I might be able to help you with that," Jaden pondered for a couple seconds what to do. He didn't really have much use for money but he couldn't make himself appear suspicious either, "Tell you what, I'll cut you a deal. The first batch of loaves is on the house. Your regular customers enjoy them, we can iron out the details on payment later...if they don't, you won't owe me a cent."

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Lynn eagerly dug out three bills, which she handed over to the young baker before snatching the loaf like a greedy child, only to clutch it, close her eyes and take a deep flashback-inducing whiff of that golden goodness.


"Mmmmm; that's what Heaven smells like!" 


When Queenie arrived, it was a pleasant surprise; she hadn't seen the crime-fighting chef in some time. "Oh hi, Maybelle! It's Lynn Epstein, from Silberman's Books? We hung out together on a very memorable Christmas night a few years ago, in Puerto Rico!" She hoped that was enough of a memory jog to their shared past. "How goes the restaurant biz?"

Edited by Heritage
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Maybelle tilted her head, trying to remember. “Huh. I know you?” Then neurons fired. “OH! That thing. I’d just about forgotten about that.” She displayed a dazzling Southern Belle’s smile. “Nice to see you again. The Queen’s as busy as ever. I’ve got a good staff, though. The core members, at least. Is your bookstore all right? How are you doing for muffins?” She stepped fully inside the store as she spoke. Keeping one ear on Lynn, she spoke to the owner of the shop again. “Sounds pretty fair to me.” She showed off that smile again. She was in fine spirits today, that Maybelle McQueen. “I know better than to argue about getting free stuff.”

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"Of course. Not many people can turn down a chance to have free stuff," Jaden remarked in a good-natured manner to Maybelle's comment on getting free bread. He pulled out a piece of paper and a pen, laying them on the counter top, "Just write down your contact info and we'll get that order to you before the day is done. I won't even charge ya for shipping and handling," Chuckling, the young man let his gaze wander over to the other girl whom was once again displaying the amazing power her nose possessed. 


Of course, Jaden wasn't one to judge since he himself had seen far stranger things in his life. Heck, he was a walking, talking plant for crying out loud who just so happened to pull off a rather convincing impression of a human. He listened to their conversation, idly sipping a cup of water. The water having come from a jug next to him, "I take it you two know each other. If you want, I can pour you up some smoothies and you can sit down and chat. On the house, of course." Normally, giving away so much free stuff would seem suspicious but Jaden didn't really have much use for money at the moment.

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"The bookstore is going great, but I could use some help in the muffin department," she admitted ruefully. "Initially, I was doing all the baking myself, which I know was stupid, but I was too proud. Then I hired a kosher bakery in the West End, but we started to get busy, and they had a hard time meeting demand." 


At the suggestion of free smoothies, the young bookseller's smile was a marvel to behold, the kind that makes your heart skip a beat. "Really? Oh, that's awesome, thanks!" Heading over to the offered table, Lynn continued. "So yeah, I'm in the market for another supplier; it doesn't have to be kosher, at least not now that we're past Passover, but we do have a lot of Jews in the neighborhood who like the traditional stuff. I'll probably still use Katz's for some things."


Thr elfin beauty turned to look between Maybelle and Jaden. "I'd be happy to try both of your wares, to be honest; maybe send you both some business?"


Curiously, despite all her eager smelling and talk about baking, Lynn had yet to try any of her challah...

Edited by Heritage
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  • 1 month later...

“Sure thing, I’ve got some free time before dinner rush.” Maybelle tugged a battered business card out of her back jeans pocket. She handed it to Jaden. “Here you go. Last one I’ve got on me.” She took a seat next to Lynn at the table. “I can for sure get you on our list, but we’re a restaurant, not a bakery. Don’t expect the same kind of volume.” Her heart had in fact skipped a beat when Lynn smiled. She might have been straight, but nobody’s that straight. “My kitchen isn’t kosher, though we do stock a few things on request.” Considering the most popular lunch item was the BBQ pulled pork, this was perhaps an understatement.

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