Courgette folded around her cup of coffee as if it were the last flame in a dying world. The icy wind beat around her furiously, threatening to whip the brightly colored scarf from her neck. It was a wind that couldn’t make up its mind which way to blow, so it seemed to choose them all with a determined ferocity. The small alcove around the door provided a small respite while a gloved hand managed to find the keys in her coat pocket. Soon, she was inside the warm(er than outside) shop, fumbling frozen fingers over the keys of the security alarm to halt its incessant beeping.
The next moment was her favorite of every morning – the calm break between the world outside and the world of her dreams. She took a deep breath, drinking in the stillness of a morning still too early for the bustle of customers or cars on the road; then exhaled, expelling the stress of her overdue electric bill, the term paper that would be due at midnight, and having still forgotten to phone her mother like she’d promised to do over three weeks ago. Time to do what she does best.
Within moments, she’d shed her layers of protection from the February tundra and wrapped herself into the pristine maroon apron of Wittlinger’s. Making her way to the counter, she cinched the waist tie into a perfect singular but sturdy knot just above the left hip – just as they say to do in the employee manual. In the mirrored wall behind the counter, she checked her hair and arranged her nameplate perfectly above the right breast. Courgette, it read; which caused her to frown slightly.
It wasn’t such a bad name – it truly did sound lovely – but it was her mother’s mistake that was most embarrassing. She’d once overheard a French mother calling her child by a pet name, ma petite courgette, mistaken it for the child’s actual name and thought it sounded lovely… so six months later, she gave her own daughter the same name. She didn’t know she’d just named her child Cucumber. Living where she did, it wasn’t so much a problem. No one really spoke French and when they did, they still found it endearing. If she made it into the chocolatier school she wanted, though, she was certain it would become her primary point of ridicule. But there was no time to focus on such things now.
The cappuccino and hot chocolate machines had to be powered on and warmed up, the temperature inside the shop must be set to precisely 20 degrees centigrade (the optimal temperature for sampling chocolate), the mirrors needed cleaned and, of course, the chocolates must be prepared and laid out.
The truffles were her favorite to set out – presenting the greatest challenge due to their rounded shape. But a successful pyramid of the tiny treats was quite the intrinsic reward. Courgette could not wait to learn how to properly craft them by hand. However, that was dependent upon that one letter she was eagerly awaiting to arrive in the mail..