"Do you think we'll get any business? Do you think anyone will come?" Ruby clasped and unclasped her hands nervously as her two business partners donned their aprons and their hairnets.
"Of course they'll come. Your business plan was perfect," praised Grace.
Henry jabbed Grace in the side with his elbow. "And not just because you helped write it."
"You don't think there will be any. . . unpleasant memories lingering?"
"It's been ages since anyone even talked about the Snow Queen," Henry dismissed the thought. "Besides, no one ever has bad memories of ice cream."
Grace added, "We planned everything, down to the last detail. The location is perfect: two blocks west of the elementary school, right across the street from the library, and immediately to the south of a stoplight. Every parent taking their child home from school or to the library to do homework will drive by us. And when they stop at the light, the kids will spot us–"
"They couldn't miss us," Henry chortled. "The building's painted like an ice cream cone!"
"And they'll beg their parents to stop. Then there was the survey we conducted last year, remember? Ninety-four percent of the five hundred seventy respondents said Storybrooke needs an ice cream parlor and ninety-one percent said if there were an ice cream parlor, they would frequent it at least once a month."
"And it helps that Granny took ice cream off the diner's menu, so now the only competition we have is the grocery," Henry added.
"Which sells only five flavors, compared to our thirty-two," Ruby added automatically. They'd been over and over these arguments a hundred times in the past two years, ever since Ruby had first floated the idea of opening her own business past Grace, who was studying business and marketing at Boston University.
"And then let's not forget the brilliant marketing strategy," Henry smirked.
"Yes, yes," Grace snapped. "You don't have to remind us every single day, Mills." For it had been literature major Henry's idea to name Ruby's flavor combinations after town leaders, a gimmick that had created tremendous buzz for the business, aided further by the trio's distribution of free samples during the opening day of the Little League season yesterday.
"Well, we all contributed," Ruby settled the argument. She most of all: all her savings and all her hopes were invested in this, her first independent venture. Granny was watching with a critical eye, peeved and at the same time proud that Ruby had ventured out on her own, not even asking for Granny's advice or assistance, beyond the posting of paper placemats advertising Ruby's Cool Treats on every table at the diner.
"And we all did brilliantly," Grace finished.
Henry dared to peek out from the kitchen into the shop, with its pretty little white wrought-iron tables and its pink-and-white candy-striped booths–and its big frosted windows, through which the aforementioned stoplight, library, and school could be seen. His smile wavered as he drew back into the kitchen. "Uhm, ladies."
"What is it, Henry?" Ruby fretted. "What's wrong?"
"We should've hired more servers. Look."
Ruby and Grace dared to peek. In a second they too had shrunk back into the kitchen and were gnawing at their lips. "Oh. . . my. . . gods." Grace gulped.
"There must be a hundred people out there." Ruby tried to breathe.
Henry peeked again and reported back, "That would be a conservative estimate. Check it out: my mom's out there, trying to keep people on the sidewalk. They're spilling out into the street and blocking traffic."
Grace peeked. "Looks like about forty percent kids, sixty percent adults," she said in wonder. "Huh! I thought our primary customer base would be kids."
A knock at the back door interrupted any further analysis of the crowd. The partners exchanged a worried glance as Henry opened the door to admit his Grandpa David, who was sporting his deputy's badge. "What's wrong, officer?" Henry quipped.
But David was grinning. "Your mom thought we ought to have someone inside, keeping the order. We flipped a coin and I won."
"That wouldn't have been your 'secret' coin, would it?" Henry winked.
"Shhh. Don't mention that coin to your mom."
"What's in it for me if I keep your secret?"
David shook his head. "You've spent too much time in the pawnshop. You're sounding like your Grandpa Rumple now."
"Well, I for one won't mind if we do as well in business as he has," Grace said.
"You may do better," David suggested, clapping Henry's shoulder. "Guess who's standing at the front of the line out there?"
"You're kidding!" Ruby peeked out, then reported back, "He's right. That's Mr. Gold and Belle at the front of the line."
"I think we're a hit!" Grace cheered. "It's ten a. m., partners! Time to open!"
Arm in arm, the trio stepped out into their shop, with David taking a position near the front door, where he could watch the crowd and the counter at the same time (not to mention the ice cream). "Here we go," Ruby drew in a deep breath as she unlocked the door and her partners took their places behind the counter. "Good luck, everyone–and thanks for making my dream come true."
She propped the door open and stood back, her arms open wide. "Welcome, everyone, to the grand opening of Ruby's Cool Treats! Step right in! Line forms to the left, please." She and David began shaping the crowd into an orderly line.
"Grandpa! Belle!" Henry greeted his first customers. "Thanks for coming. Seeing as how you're our investors, anything you want is on the house."
"We'll take you up on that offer, my boy, but for today only." Gold's eyes widened just a little as he admired the tubs of ice cream, shaved ice, sherbets, frozen yogurt, and gelato in the freezer case. "We may be investors, but we're also going to do our part to ensure a return on the investment."
Belle linked her arm through her husband's. "We can't wait to try all these wonderful flavors. Congratulations, Ruby!"
"You've done very well indeed, Ms. Lucas. And your business prospectus and marketing scheme seem to have been right on the money, Ms. Hatter," Gold praised them–but his eyes were still on the ice cream. "I counted ninety-three hungry customers outside, blocking traffic and thereby creating even more publicity for your shop."
"Thanks, Mr. G.! And the best part: wait'll you taste the ice cream!" Grace swirled her scoop in the air.
"I look forward to many a happy afternoon, doing just that. Henry, I'll have a scoop of Rumbellicious and a scoop of Baeberry in a cone, please."
"And I'll have a scoop of Rumbellicious and a scoop of Mo' Moe in a cup," Belle ordered.
The crowd fell silent as The Meanest Man in Town lapped at his cone, then pronounced for all to hear, "Delicious!" A cheer went up, the loudest from David.
His arm about his wife's shoulders, Gold stepped aside for the next customer to approach the counter. After that, the orders flew fast for scoops of Blue's Berry, Snowing (vanilla sprinkled with marshmallows and cocoanut), Rocky Regal, Ruby Raspberry, French Gold (French vanilla drizzled with butterscotch), Archie's Delight (chocolate mint with Gummi Bears), Hatter's Wonderland (blindfolded, Grace would randomly dish up servings from whatever three tubs her scoop happened to land in, then sprinkle on confetti), Goody Goody Granny's Gumdrops, Henry's Heavenly Hash, Grace's Grape, and Emma's Salvation (chocolate, hot fudge and cinnamon). There were even a few orders of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: a banana split topped with eight flavors of ice cream.
At closing time, every tub was empty and the cash register, overfilled. "Well!" Ruby surveyed her now-messy store. "We have cleaning up to do, ice cream to make, and a trip to the bank to run. I'd say we did good."
"One problem, though," Henry said. "Grandpa slipped me this note." He produced it from a pocket and read it aloud: "'My lad, kindly deliver a pint of Ring My Belle to the back door of our house tonight, after 10. I'll leave the door unlocked; come right in. I'll be waiting in the kitchen. Don't knock. We mustn't wake Belle, hmm? There will be a sizable tip in it for you. Love, Grandpa.'" Henry reached into his pocket again. "And then Belle slipped me this note. 'Henry, dear, Rumple's going to try to persuade you to sneak him some ice cream. Please remember he's on a diet and bring him sugar-free Jello instead. I've already left a nice tip for you with your mom. Love, Belle.'"
"So which one are you going to obey, Henry?" Grace snickered. "I wouldn't want to annoy either one of them."
"If I know them, this could go on night after night," Ruby warned.
"I'm going to rake it in 'til they catch each other. I'll deliver ice cream to the back door and Jello to the front door, then take the money and run!" Henry started back to the kitchen. "Come on, Ruby, you've got ice cream to cook–and I've got my fortune to make!"