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Opposite where she stood behind the bakery counter, another counter lined the far wall, with a door behind that one too. Photographs of sickly happy grinning couples plastered the wall and wedding cakes and cupcake favours were positioned behind the glass of the counter. Yes, she remembered now. Elsie had told her that alongside the bakery and coffee and cake area, they also planned weddings. Last night she’d thought it was a strange combination—selling bread and weddings—but now, looking at the exquisitely decorated wedding cakes, it made sense. They baked wedding cakes, so why not expand into the wedding planning market? By the looks of the happy couples emblazoned on the wall, it was a successful sideline.

Closing the door to the flat quietly behind her, Jessie walked towards the door leading to the kitchen.

‘... and Pippa’s face. You should have seen...’

As the door swung open, Jessie jumped back just in time to avoid a nasty bang to the face.

‘Oh. I’m so sorry. You must be Jessie. I’m Teresa.’ Placing the two trays of pastries she was carrying on the counter, Teresa rushed back to her. ‘I didn’t knock the door into you, did I?’

‘No. I’m fine.’ Jessie smiled. ‘Nice to meet you.’

‘Good to meet you too.’ Teresa hugged her quickly before taking the trays again and sliding them into position under the counter. ‘I’m sorry if we woke you.’

‘No, you didn’t. I didn’t mean to startle you.’

‘No worries. Come on through and grab yourself a coffee.’ Grinning, Teresa held the door open for her.

‘Thanks.’ Stepping into the kitchen, Jessie smiled at Elsie. ‘Morning.’

‘Morning, love. Did you sleep okay?’ Pushing a large ceramic mixing bowl slightly away from her, she wiped her hands on her apron. ‘Do you want a coffee?’

‘Yes, please. Yes, the bed was really comfy.’ Jessie slipped onto a stool opposite where Elsie had been baking.

‘Oh good. I’m glad. I bet you were out like a light after all that travelling?’ Placing a mug of fresh coffee on the table in front of Jessie, Elsie resumed her position behind the mixing bowl.

‘Yes, something like that.’ Taking a sip of coffee, Jessie let the bitter liquid rest in her mouth for a few seconds. Elsie didn’t need to know she’d lain awake until at least two in the morning, images of Kelly, her scan photo and Brad swimming around her mind.

‘Where is it you travelled from?’ Teresa kneaded bread mixture on the surface of the large steel table, which filled most of the room.

‘Rugby in Northamptonshire.’

‘Ooh, lovely.’

Jessie nodded. The town was lovely. However, the recent family drama not so much.

‘Look, love. I don’t expect you to wake up this early every day. Teresa comes in and helps with the morning’s baking. I don’t ask my volunteers to. This voluntary arrangement is as much about you having a bit of a holiday as it is about the volunteering.’ Elsie began spooning cake mixture into cupcake cases.

‘Thank you, but I don’t mind.’ Her favourite time of the day was waking early and taking a coffee out into the garden and listening to the birds’ morning chorus. Even more so since she’d moved back in with her parents.

‘Have you had much baking experience? Not that you need it. There’s plenty to do here besides baking.’ Elsie wiped up a piece of mixture she’d spilt.

‘No, not really. Well, I used to work in a bakery years ago in my early twenties, but since then I’ve been working in offices.’ She grimaced before taking another sip. After she and Brad had split up, she’d left her job working for him and since then had taken any temporary job using her administration skills that she could lay her hands on. There just hadn’t been any permanent jobs local to her come up, not ones she was particularly interested in any way. No, she wanted to work for a company she believed in this time. A company she felt was making a real difference to the world. In a good way. Until then, it seemed jumping from temp job to temp job was the only way to go.

‘Well, you’ve probably got more experience than many of our volunteers then, love.’ Elsie picked up the tray of cupcake cases and headed to the back of the kitchen, where two large ovens were situated.

‘What would you like me to do?’ Slipping off her stool, Jessie stood up.

‘Oh, sit down and enjoy your coffee. We’re about covered here now, I think.’

‘Okay.’ Sitting back down, Jessie wrapped her hands around her coffee mug, grateful for a bit more time to wake up properly.

Checking the time on a large wall clock hanging on the back wall, Teresa slipped her apron off. ‘Right, I’d better get going and get the school run done. I’ll see you later.’

‘Yes, see you later, Teresa, love. Thank you.’ Elsie nodded as Teresa pulled open a door at the back of the kitchen leading into a small courtyard behind the bakery.

‘Right then, Jessie. What would you prefer to do with your time here, love? Wendy, who you met last night, and Molly usually plan the weddings. Wendy also decorates the wedding cakes, but Molly is off on her holidays with her partner, Jude, for a few weeks so we have an opening in the wedding planning department if you fancy that?’

Wedding planning? Jessie frowned. ‘I... I’ve never done anything like that before.’

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