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I hear my dad’s heavy footsteps as he walks back into the room, but I still stand there with my eyes closed, knowing that’s the only thing that is holding my tears at bay.

Dad wraps me in his arms again. “It’s going to be okay, bug.”

I nod my head against his chest because I don’t want to upset my dad. He’s been my rock all these years, and I don’t know what I would do without him. He always knows how to cheer me up.

“How about we go see my sister? She’s missed you about as much as I have.”

I nod my head again because seeing my Aunt Patty is exactly what I need. I worked at her bakery all through high school, and it’s where I’ve always been the happiest. Going to the bakery is like going home to me. It’s where I fit in and where I’m most comfortable at—and my dad knows it.

I hug my dad tight and wonder if he knows he’s the one that kept me sane all these years.2Carrie“My baby!” Aunt Patty exclaims, bustling around the counter to come and greet me. She wraps her arms around me, and I take in the sweet smell of her. She’s holding on to me so tightly I can’t even breathe, but I don’t dare complain. It feels so good to have been missed. Patty pulls back a little but keeps her hands on my shoulders. “I’m so glad you’re home, Carrie. I hope you’re looking for a job, because I could use your help around here.”

I look around the bakery and back at my Aunt Patty. “Yes!” I tell her instantly. We live in a nice size town, but finding jobs is sometimes hard. “I would love to work here with you again.”

Aunt Patty reaches behind the counter and hands me an apron. “Well, let’s get to work. Donald, have a seat. I’ll bring you a coffee and your favorite pie.”

My dad rubs his hands together excitedly. “Ooh, I get my favorite pie? Thanks, sis.”

Patty sets the plate in front of him and waves off his thank you. “No thanks necessary. You brought my girl in. You can even have seconds.”

My dad’s already digging into his pie, and my heart swells at Aunt Patty’s words. It’s right in this instant that I know I’ve made the right decision. Coming home to my dad, my Aunt Patty, the bakery—and even my mom—was the right decision.

“Let’s go, sweetie. We got work to do.” Aunt Patty nudges me.

We get started, trying out a concoction Patty put together, and while Patty is away helping a customer, my dad leans over the counter. “The whole town is going to be happy that you’re back. You always tweaked Patty’s concoctions, making her good dishes even better.”

I just smile and shake my head. He knows I love coming up with new dishes. “Thanks, Dad.”

“Sure, honey. You need to do what makes you happy. Don’t worry about your mother. She’ll come around. Just give her time,” he assures me as he sneaks another piece of pie from out of the display case.

He walks away, already digging in, and I try not to let his words get to me. Because I’m sure he knows as well as I do that my mother is not going to just let this go or come around. At least not anytime soon.

The rest of the afternoon, Aunt Patty lets me play in the kitchen, getting things prepped for the next day.

My dad had driven me to the bakery, so after he got his fill of coffee and pie, he left with the promise of picking me up later.

As I put the finishing touches on the glazed cinnamon roll, I find that my cheeks are hurting. I smile and flex my lips, realizing that my cheeks are hurting from smiling all afternoon. I haven’t been this happy in a long time. It’s more than just working with my Aunt Patty or even being back in the bakery that I’ve always loved. It’s like I can finally be myself here. I can come up with ideas, try new recipes. There’s nothing like peeking out in the restaurant and seeing the satisfied smiles as someone bites into a pastry that you worked hard on preparing. This is what I’m meant to be doing. This is what makes me happy. I gave up my dream once because I felt I needed to do what my mom wanted. But after living through the misery of the last three years, I know that from now on, I’m going to follow my heart. I’m going to do what I want. And I’m going to be happy doing it.

When my dad picks me up, we go straight home and have dinner. Even my mom nit-picking over what all did I eat while I was at the bakery is not going to get me down. Or her comments at the dinner table. “You do remember that the last time you worked at the bakery, you gained weight. You sure you don’t want to try and get a job at Chrissy’s gym or something?”

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