Not Today

“Not today, you don’t,” Arianna mumbled under her breath. The car sat in the driveway, engine silent. She turned the key again.

Rumble, rumble. The engine roared to life.

“Thank you,” Arianna told the shuddering beast. It was getting darker outside, and she saw the glimmer in the window go out. “Goodnight my sweet baby,” she whispered, as she backed out of the driveway.

Her apron rested on the seat beside her, clean and devoid of any life, folded neatly in a square. She knew when she was done, it would be tossed haphazardly, covered in white powder.

It was the curse of the golden handcuffs. It was a good job, a way of making money. But it wasn’t her first choice.

She had to admit, at least out in the open, that the benefits that came with the job were outstanding. If there were leftovers she could take them home. She worked in the dark so that she had time with her baby during the day. And she was well-loved by her customers.

But inside, her gut wrenched, her heart tore. She wanted ease, she wanted more. She just didn’t know how to find it.

When she arrived at the factory, there was a strange car in her spot. “New guy,” she muttered, sighing. She’d have to train tonight.

Walking in the door, the frown already upon her face, she stopped dead in her tracks. The feds were scouring the place, looking under tables, in boxes. Her boss stood to the side, flustered and angry. “What do they think they are doing?” he mumbled as his face turned crimson.

She almost turned and walked out. But curiosity, or some cousin of it, kept her standing there, mouth agape. One of them shouted out, and the others ran to his side. She strained to see what they had found.

Her boss rushed over. “What is this?” they demanded of him. He mumbled something Arianna couldn’t hear, and turned beet red. His brow furrowed and he started to stomp off. “We’ll have to test it, you know!” They shouted after him.

“Do your damn tests!” He bellowed in reply. “You’ll find nothing.” And he disappeared behind the slamming office door.

Arianna stood by the door, waiting. She watched them pack up their kits, stuffing things into them behind their backs so she couldn’t see, and then they filed out, slowly, into the parking lot. When the last one left, she let out a sigh and surveyed the mess.

She raised her apron up over her head and secured the ties. She went over to her station, robot-like in a dreamy trance. It was time to do the work. She sifted out the flour, poured in the yeasty water and waited for the bubbles to appear. She worked the dough with her hands, turning and tossing like she had for years now. She shaped it and caressed it just enough, stopping just before the breaking point. She lined the loaves up in their cradles, brushed the tops with butter, set them in the oven to bake and set about cleaning the mess.

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