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Red came down the stairs to the most wonderful smells every morning. Granny's baked goods were to die for and she taught Red everything she knows.
Desperate to keep her young granddaughter out of trouble and off the streets Granny had turned her loose in the kitchen. From the tender age of twelve, Red has been helping her Grandmother make such delicious concoctions like Mocha Cupcakes with Espresso Frosting drizzled with caramel, Almond Honey Cake with Strawberry Ripple Cream, Tuscan Lemon Sage Muffins, and Walnut Streusel Bread.
They were just a few of Red's favorites.
"You're up early." Red gave her grandmother a kiss on the cheek while trying to avoid being burnt by the tray of blueberry scones Granny held in her oven-mitted hands.
"Well earlier than usual," Red amended, as baker's hours are always early.
"Darn arthritis is flaring up again. Couldn't sleep. So, I thought I'd make myself useful." Granny put the tray on the rack to cool and grabbed another to bake.
Red put on her apron, eager to get started helping when her grandmother stayed her hands.
"You haven't forgotten what today is have you?"
How could she? It was Mother's birthday. They celebrated it every year.
"It's tradition," her Grandmother said handing her a Red Velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting sprinkled with red hearts.
Red used the pilot on the stove to light the single candle and placed it on top. Red Velvet cake was her mother's obsession, and no one made it better than Gran. Her mother had such a craving for it when she was pregnant, that although it started out as a joke, it ended up how Red got her name.
They sang to mother and blew out the candle. Red cut the cupcake in half and they each ate their share.
Red came to be under her Grandmother's care when a stray bullet had killed her mother. Some gang dispute, that leads to a drive-by, forever changing her life. Red heard the shots, the breaking of glass and ran down the steps only to stop in horror at the sight of seeing her mother lying dead on the floor. Red could do nothing, in an instant, she was gone.
Granny, determined her granddaughter would not share the same fate, had Red move in with her. She worked tirelessly starting with baking and selling her cookies to the local schools for the children's after-school programs. Soon they requested muffins for the morning programs. Before Granny knew it she had her own cottage industry going. Requests for bake sales, birthdays and special events started pouring in. The proudest day of her life was when she had made enough money to get her granddaughter out of the hood.
Red worried, watching her grandmother wince in pain once more as she bent over to put something in the oven. Granny years were taking their toll and although she rarely complained, just by the sheer number of doctor visits and pills she had to take, Red knew her Grandmother's health was failing. She quickly swiped away a tear before her grandmother could see, and felt grateful when she heard the bell to their shop ring out.
"I got it!" She hollered to Gran before stepping through the curtain to greet the first customer of the day.
At first, she didn't see anyone but then a head popped up over the bakery case.
"You have quite an impressive collection here. I believe I may have a hard time picking."
Red blinked twice. He was gorgeous. For a moment she was dumbstruck. She wanted to say something but her brain just shut down, and then he smiled at her. This only made things worse as it made him even more attractive if that were even possible.
The bell rang again and in bounced her best friend of all time, Goldie. She was about to wave "hi" when her foot caught on the mat by the front door and she went sailing. She collided right into the handsome customer and they both went tumbling into the café table and chairs.
"Goldie, if you broke another of my chairs I swear...!" Granny ranted as she came out of the backroom to observe the damage.
Red dashed around the case in seconds, lending a hand to the man who somehow managed to save Goldie, the table, and chairs from receiving any harm. Unfortunately, he wasn't so lucky. He hit his head pretty hard on the corner of the table.
"Well, that smarts." He took his hand from Red's and gently touched his scalp, coming away with blood on his fingertips.
"Oh, I'm so sorry!" Red took the pro-offered towel from her Grandmother and dabbed it lightly at his scalp. His stature made it a bit of a reach but she managed.
"I'm fine. Thanks for asking!" Goldie sat on the floor with her arms folded, trying to appear offended.
"Good! Then get your bottom off my floor and get back here. I have work for you to do," Granny bellowed before disappearing behind the curtain again, knowing Red had things under control.
Goldie stuck out her tongue and made a face at the closed curtain. Red laughed while helping her friend stand. "You are so lucky he saved you and the table and the chairs, or she'd be garnishing your wages again."
"It's not my fault. I swear I'm cursed to make a mess wherever I go." Goldie pouted and Red just shook her head at her. It was sadly true.
"Goldie!" Gran hollered from the back.
Goldie quickly thanked the stranger and ran into the kitchen. Another crash of what sounded like steel baking pans falling over resounded, followed by a muffled, "Sorry!"