A gift for my good friend, a warm and sweet woman who played the Baker's Wife to my Cinderella. I love you!
Much as I was tempted to make this bittersweet, it was a gift, and so it was fluff. :) Thanks to my Baker for the editing help!
When Carolyn Tailor was ten years old, her mother sent her through the woods into the village to purchase fine white bread for winter solstice.
Martin was a small boy of thirteen with dimples and sparkling eyes, the only son of the late Baker, and he was learning his father's trade under his aunts' supervision. As he carefully wrapped Carolyn's baguettes for her, he bit his bottom lip as if completely focused on the task. Carolyn decided right away that he was cute (or so she would remember later).
Carolyn didn't see Martin again until she was fourteen and he was seventeen. The Baker's son was running the bakery almost on his own by then, though he still had the look of a boy only halfway grown into a man. Martin's strong hands deftly kneaded and stretched the dough, and Carolyn watched in fascination. When he looked up and grinned brightly at her, she quickly ducked her head and reached into her bag for a cloth to wrap her purchases. Martin chuckled and took a basket from the shelf instead. "Just bring it back whenever you next return," he said, arranging her baguettes in the basket, and the warmth in his voice made Carolyn's stomach flip in a way it never had before.
Carolyn returned the basket the next week. On her way home through the woods, she couldn't help feeling oddly disappointed that she wouldn't return to the bakery until summer solstice.
When Carolyn was seventeen and Martin twenty, Carolyn's father invited Martin to dinner at their house. The hours passed swiftly in his company, Carolyn was pleased to discover.
Martin came to call twice a week after that. A month later, he asked Carolyn's father for her hand.
The Baker came to her with her father's blessing and presented her with a heart-shaped loaf of bread. He looked so earnest and so nervous that she couldn't stop herself from giving him a quick kiss before telling him yes.
Being the Baker's Wife was a happy enough ending, Carolyn thought with a smile.
"A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread-and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness-
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!"
― Omar Khayyám (as translated by Edward FitzGerald)