can stay here?â
âIâm afraid not,â Cherie says. âWe need someone with experience to man the store while weâre gone.â
âBut Iâm not that experienced!â I say. âI only worked at a cafÃ© for about a week this summer.â
I expect Briana to flash me a smug look, but sheâs nodding. âYeah, and setting up chairs is definitely not for me.â
But Cherie has clearly made up her mind. âI appreciate that you want to help out with the wedding, Rachel, but I think my way makes the most sense.â She turns to Briana. âSetting up for events is part of the job,â Cherie says, pursing her lips. âIâm sure Chef Ryan told you that when he hired you. If youâre not up for the task, I can find someone else for this position.â
I expect Briana to throw down her apron and stomp out of the bakery. Instead, she lowers her eyes and mumbles, âOkay, fine.â
Oh my goldfish. I donât think Iâve ever seen Briana Riley back down from anything. She must really need this job. I guess that means Iâm stuck with her. But I donât care. The pineapple gods must have heard me after all. Theyâre giving me a second chance, and Iâm not going to let anything mess it up.
When I meet Dad for dinner at Mollyâs after my shift at the bakery, I find him peering into the display case at the front of the cafÃ© where they keep all the fancy desserts.
âWhat do you say, Rachel Roo? Think you could make me one of those?â he asks, pointing to a crÃ¨me-filled torte on the top shelf.
âFor you, anything,â I say. Iâm dying to tell him about my plan to convince Chip Ackerson to let me back on the show, but I donât want to jinx anything. So instead, I try to focus on how great it is to finally be back at my favorite restaurant with Dad.
As we make our way toward our usual table in the corner, I hear a familiar jolly laugh echoing nearby. I glance over to the other side of the cafÃ©, and sure enough, thereâs Mr. Hammond, my former vice principal and my momâs new boyfriend. And with him is my mom.
Oh no. If they see us, are they going to want us to sit with them? I canât imagine anything more awkward.
âUm, Dad?â I start to say. âMaybe we shouldââ
But I donât get a chance to convince him to go elsewhere because just then Mom turns toward us, and her face lights up. âRachel!â she calls, waving. Then she must spot my dad standing next to me because her smile falters. But itâs too late. We have no choice but to go over.
After some stiff hellos and introductions (even though my dad and Mr. Hammond technically already met at my baking competition over the summer), the dreaded words come.
âWe just sat down and havenât ordered yet,â Mr. Hammond says. âWhy donât you two join us?â
My dad doesnât even hesitate. âSure! If you donât mind.â
Mom gives a little nod, but I can tell she does mind. And so do I. Not only had I wanted some alone time with Dad, but I canât imagine what the four of us will talk about. You canât chitchat about the weather through a whole meal, can you?
For the first few minutes, we focus on our menus and some general talk about how great Mollyâs is. It flows so smoothly that I start to wonder if I was being a paranoid panther. But after we order our crepes, thereâs a looong silence when weâre all staring at our silverware. Finally, Mr. Hammond turns to my dad and says, âNow that youâre back, what are you planning to do for work, Ted?â
Dad clears his throat. âThatâs still a work in progress. But Iâm sure something will turn up.â
I can see Momâs jaw tighten. Dadâs been paying child support since he left, but I know it hasnât helped out as much as sheâd hoped. And now that he doesnât
David C. Jack; Hayes Burton