Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sugar and Spice

A Short Story

Anna had never cared about learning how to cook.  But when she learns what the prize is for the pie contest at the annual fall festival, she knows she has to give it a try.

“Anna, did you hear the news?”
Her friend Susan had entered the office out of breath.
Anna looked at Susan with a blank expression as she set her purse down at her desk.  Susan was ready to burst, Anna could tell, but it was Monday, and she wasn’t ready for any news.
“I won’t even be awake until I’ve had my morning cup of coffee,” Anna said sleepily.  “Save it until then.”
“No, I can’t wait any longer,” Susan nudged her.  “This is too good to keep to myself.”
“Let me guess,” Anna mused.  “Rob finally gave in, and you’re getting the new car?”
Susan laughed.  “This is far better news than that.”
“Well now you have my full attention,” Anna said, putting down the cup of coffee she was pouring.  “What could be bigger news than the new car you’ve been talking about for the last two weeks?”
“Connor Winston Bradley the Third.”  She spoke his name with her nose up in the air.
“Why do you act like that?  He isn’t the snob that everyone makes him out to be,” Anna said in his defense.
“How would you know?  He's been snubbing you for almost a year.  People say he’s changed since he took over his father’s company.  That’s why he’s the most sought after bachelor in this town.”
Anna was annoyed .  “Is there a point to your bringing him up, or do I have to guess?” 
“It just so happens that your old friend is judging the pie contest at the fall festival.”
“So Connor will be there—so what.  I know he and I haven’t talked since college graduation, so I’m sure he’s forgotten who I am.”  Anna reflected for a moment, realizing she still missed him.
“Well this is your chance to finally get that date with him,” Susan said enthusiastically.  “Not only is he judging the contest—he’s the prize!”
Anna pushed a wisp of blonde hair behind her ear.  “What are you talking about?”
“First prize for the pie baking contest is a date with Connor.”
“Well then I’ll lose for sure,” Anna said with a chuckle.  “We both know I can’t cook.”
“Well you’ve got until Saturday to learn,” Susan said, looking at her watch.  “You think about it—I have to get to my desk before Mr. Anderson catches me talking on company time.”
Anna did think about it—all day.  In fact, she couldn’t keep her mind off Connor.  She knew she wouldn’t have a chance at winning that contest, but the festival might be a great place to bump into Connor.

After her long day finally ended, she stopped off at the market to pick up a few ingredients so she could give the baking thing a try.  Her first attempt gave way to a big mess.  When her doorbell rang, she looked around at the flour covered counter, and the chunks of dried crust sticking to the floor, and scrambled to clean it up.   
“Hello,” her mother’s voice called from the other room.
“In here, Mom,” Anna called back.
“What happened here?” her mother asked.
“Oh nothing,” Anna said, trying to downplay the mess.  “I just thought I’d bake a pie.”
Her mother tried to hide her smile.  “You—just bake a pie?  This wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with a certain pie contest would it?”
“Okay, you caught me,” Anna confessed. 
Her mother reached into her purse and pulled out an old envelope stuffed with papers.  “I thought you might be trying to get yourself into that contest, so I brought you something.”
“What is it,” she asked, watching her mother open the envelope.
“These are your Grandma Annie’s recipes,” she said.  “And here is the apple pie recipe that won many a heart over the years.  This pie recipe worked on your father.”
“How can pie do all that, Mother?  It’s just pie,” Anna said sarcastically.
She put an arm around her daughter.  “You know that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach—and this pie is just the thing to do it.”
Anna humored her mother and took the recipe.  Then they tasted the pie she’d just baked. 
It was awful. 
She served a bite to her begging dog, but even he turned his nose up at it.
“Oh great!” Anna complained.  “If I can’t even bake a pie that a dog who will eat out of the trash can turns his nose up at, how do you figure this recipe is going to help me?”
“The secret is to make only one.  And make it Saturday morning so it will be fresh.  That way you won’t have a chance to back out,” her mother said as she was leaving.

All week, Anna was tempted to try the recipe, but she’d promised her mother she wouldn’t.  When Saturday arrived, she woke early so she would have plenty of time to make the pie that she hoped would win first prize.
While the pie baked, she showered, then, put on her yellow sundress, and tied her hair with a yellow ribbon.
Satisfied only by the smell of the pie, she crossed her fingers and drove the warm desert to the festival. 

When she arrived, she stood in the long line at the check-in table to get her number for the contest. 
She suddenly felt uncomfortable in line between what looked to be more than twenty women, who were toting pies, cookies and cakes of various flavors.  Anna was tempted to step out of line, until Connor walked by and winked at her.  She smiled, holding the pie proudly, and her eyes followed him as he left the tent where the judging would soon begin. 
After not seeing Conner for so long, she had to wonder if he’d even recognized her.  He, on the other hand, certainly could not be mistaken for anyone else; his thick, blonde hair still hung in his face, and his muscular build was even more appealing in his blue dress shirt that matched his eyes.  
After her pie was checked in, Anna walked over to the carousel, where she planned to meet Susan. 
Instead, Connor was standing there smiling, his blue eyes sparkling in the bright sun.
“Susan said you’d be here,” he said. “I told her I’d be happy to wait for you.”
They hugged, then, stood silent for several minutes.
“It’s good to see you again, Connor.” 
“It’s been a while, but you haven’t changed a bit, Anna.”
“It seems you have,” she said.  “You’re the talk of the town.”
“I’m sorry I haven't kept in touch with you, but I’ve been so busy running my father's company, I haven’t had time for a social life.  The contest was actually my father’s idea.  He's been complaining I never leave the office, and was hoping this would give me a chance to meet someone and settle down.”
“I wish you luck,” Anna said, swallowing his comment hard.
 Over the loud speaker, the announcer was calling number seventeen from the tent where the pie contest was being held, and paging Connor to the judging station.  Anna looked at the number she held in her hand.  It was number seventeen they were calling—her number.  She looked at Connor and they both smiled.
“I was hoping it would be you,” he said, as he took her hand in his.  “Let’s go get a piece of that prize-winning pie.”
Copyright © 2004 by Samantha Jillian Bayarr
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