These vignettes are just a small glimpse at other characters when Polly isn’t around. They don’t change the story or add anything that you’d miss if you didn’t read them. The first four vignettes are based on stories you’ll find in Book 9.
This story, though, could happen at any time. It’s just one of many conversations that happen in the background on any given day.
All That Glitters
Jeff strode into the kitchen at Sycamore House and set his mug on the counter loud enough to get Sylvie’s attention.
“Yo, kitchen wench,” he said. “What kinda coffee ya got for me this morning?”
“Yo, strumpet,” she retorted. “Same as every morning. You know where it is.”
“Where’s Rachel?” he asked “Don’t you two have a lunch to cater or something?” Jeff poured coffee from the urn on the counter and went on through the kitchen to the table by the back window.
“No, it was more like a continental brunchey thing at the library. She’s taking care of it. I’m working on the cake for the wedding.”
Jeff pulled a plate of scones closer and turned it around a couple of times, looking for just the right choice. Before he could select one, Sylvie slid napkins across the table at him.
“Can you sit for a minute?” He gestured to a chair across from him.
She shrugged and sat down. Before he could say anything, she jumped up again.
“What?” he asked. “Don’t you ever sit still?”
“I need coffee.” Sylvie took her mug up from the prep table, refilled it, and came back to join him. “So what’s up?”
“Not much. I’m tired of my office.”
“Don’t lie to me, mister man. You never drop in for coffee unless you need to talk.”
Jeff sipped his coffee, looking at her over the rim. “You’re much too observant.”
“It’s a mom thing. Is it work? A boy?” She winked at him. “Heaven forbid, is it a girl?”
He chuckled. “It’s really nothing…” He paused. “It’s kind of work. Do you ever wonder if you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing?”
Sylvie set her jaw and then put her hand out to touch his forearm. “You can’t be serious. You aren’t leaving us, are you?”
“No,” he slowly shook his head. “No. Like I said, it’s nothing.”
“Don’t you nothing me, Jeff Lindsay. I won’t put up with that. You started something. You’ve put the fear of God in me and you will darn well finish what it is you’re thinking.”
“I love my job. I really do,” he said. “And sometimes I think that it’s just ridiculous how much fun I have here. I like everyone I’m working with and you know as well as I do that working for Polly is easy. She lets us do our own thing.”
“And she appreciates everything you do,” Sylvie interjected.
“Oh, absolutely,” he said. “She’s free with the compliments. But is it weird that I like working in small town Iowa? Am I staying here because it’s safe and I don’t have to fight through challenges to grab big goals?”
“Do you want to run a big hotel in the middle of Manhattan?” Sylvie asked.
Jeff looked up at her in shock. “What? No!”
“Chicago? Kansas City? Dallas? Do you want to live in a large city?”
He shrugged and grimaced. “It would be a lot easier to find someone to be with.”
“That’s crap and you know it. The reason you haven’t found someone is because you’ve spent too much time working. But, you should also know that if Polly thought you weren’t happy because you were lonely, she’d…”
“She’d probably go find a string of nice young men for me to date,” he said, rolling his eyes.
“Either that or she’d tell you to leave if that’s what you needed to do.” Sylvie scowled at him. “Is that what this is about? Finding the love of your life?”
He gave her a shocked look again. “No!”
“Then what? Why are you questioning this?”
“I hate to admit it, but…”
“But what?” Sylvie tapped an invisible watch on her wrist. “You’re wasting time big boy. Out with it.”
Jeff laughed at her. “You’re a tough woman.”
“Yes I am. You’re babbling about how perfect your job is and how easy it is to work for your boss and how much you like this place and in the middle of that, you’re trying to make something terrible out of it. Now why would you be that foolish?”
“Because it’s too easy.”
“Uh huh. Go ahead. Explain that to me.”
“I got an email from a classmate this morning. She just lost her job managing a restaurant for some big time chef down in Houston. She worked hard for that job and clawed her way to the top.” He pursed his lips. “I feel guilty. I didn’t do any clawing.”
Sylvie laughed and snorted through her nose.
“Stop laughing at me,” he said.
“I can’t help it. You’re an idiot.”
“I know.” He drew the words out. “But nothing this good ever happened to me before. What am I supposed to think?”
“I would never have pegged you for one of those dopes who looks for the grey clouds in every silver lining.”
Jeff grinned. “I’m usually not, but this email shook me up. Everyone knew that Kimmy was going to be a success. She knew it. There were days I wanted to vomit while I listened to her sketch out her plans for the future. Nothing would stop her. And now … she’s been stopped.”
“Do you think she’ll find another job?”
“Do you think she was happy?”
He sighed. “That’s the thing. I doubt it. But then I don’t know if she even understands the meaning of the word. She was always so driven. When the rest of us went out for drinks, she wouldn’t go. She said we were wasting time that could be put to better use. That girl worked all the time and when she wasn’t working, she was … well … working.”
“I can’t imagine what kind of life she’d lived up to that point to make her behave that way,” Sylvie said quietly. “You aren’t that person.”
“No I’m not,” he declared.
“And you don’t want to live her life, do you?”
“Only a little bit. Sometimes things are a little slow around here for me.” He grinned at her.
“Well, give yourself another year or two. With Polly opening new businesses in town, I think you’ll find yourself plenty busy.”
“It’s so strange. I always saw myself running one place – a big hotel. I’d take care of all of the needs of the guests and make sure that everything they encountered was smooth. Around here, I never know what I’m going to deal with next. Some days I’m helping guests at the hotel, and then in the middle of that, I have a Chamber of Commerce meeting to discuss some Crazy Dayz event downtown. Then, I’m managing a kids club on Monday afternoons or soothing bridezillas and their mothers, and now I’m adding a bakery.”
“And you hate it?” Sylvie teased him.
“Stop it. You’re right. It’s more than I ever could have imagined. I use information I never knew I had.”
Sylvie stood up and stepped back from the table. “So now what are you going to do?”
He glanced back and forth. “I don’t know?”
“You’re going back to work. You aren’t going to complain about it any longer. You’re going to be thankful you have what you have and you’re going to leave me alone so I can get this stupid cake going. Will you please tell Henry to hurry so I have a full-blown bakery?”
“Yes ma’am,” Jeff said, mocking in his chagrin. “I’ll be good.”
“You’re right, you will. And the next time you hear about one of your classmates failing in their high-powered job, remember that any one of them could have come to Bellingwood instead of you. You are a lucky man.”
“Okay,” he said. Jeff rinsed his mug out in the sink. “You really are tough.”
Sylvie hugged him. “That’s from being a mom. If you’d really needed a sympathetic ear, I’d have found it within myself to give that to you.”
“Good to know,” he said. “When I’m feeling sad about my love life, will you commiserate with me?”
“Nope, I’ll kick your butt. Commiseration implies that I’m feeling sad about mine. I don’t need that right now. If you want it, fine, but leave me out of it.”
“We don’t get to talk about your love life, do we?” Jeff asked.
“No you don’t. Now go back to work. This cake isn’t making itself.”