Solace ~ h.s.

If he weren't there... I don't know what would have happened.

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59. ⪻ 59 ⪼

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Today’s the day.

Belle’s opens today and I couldn’t be more excited, or nervous. We’re talking about my dream from when I was young finally coming true. I can’t seem to wrap my head around it just yet; I’d be on cloud nine if it weren’t for the nagging stress and nervous breakdown I fear will make an appearance today. I’m not feeling as stressed about the day to come, perhaps thanks to Harry.

What can I say? Getting laid does relieve some stress, and going for three rounds last night and another this morning has increasingly lowered my anxiety and stress by the hundreds. And Harry’s suggestion for keeping my stress at bay… “picture last night and all your worries will just wash away, doctor's recommendation”.

Which leads us to where I currently am: sitting in my office with my head down on the desk, taking deep breaths and trying to picture Harry’s God-like body hovering over mine. I’d be aroused if it weren’t for the panicky feeling creeping throughout my entire body.

“Annabelle, oh!” I jump out of fright from the feminine voice at the door of my office, snapping my head up to see Ruby.

I’m not sure if I was more frightened by the fact that I was snuck up on or the fact that Ruby sounds more excited than I’ve heard her be. She’s usually pretty monotone, or soft spoken, this is the most animated I’ve ever her her.

“You alright?” Sighing, I nod my head at Ruby, trying my best to put a smile on my face. Let’s face it though, she can see right through the smile. She, and my other employee, have had first row seats to the stressed baker that is myself. It’s not a new sight at all.

“Yep.” I reply, wiping a bit of eye makeup from the corner of my eye.

“You’ll never believe it.” Groaning inwardly, I fall back against my chair, bracing myself for what she’s about to say.

“Please tell me nothing is on fire.” I beg.

Ruby laughs and shakes her head at me whilst stepping further into the room. She’s followed into my office by my other employee; a young lad still in university, but completely committed to the bakery and everything about it. Sometimes I have to beg him to go to classes, that’s how dedicated he is.

“God no.”

“Don’t freak her out like that, Ruby.”

“Thank you, Ian.” I mutter, sighing deeply as I brace myself for the news to come.

Both Ian and Ruby have happy looks on their faces, so whatever news they have for me, it must be decent. Maybe everything is all set and ready for opening or Harry is finally here to calm me down before opening.

“Okay, what is it?” I finally ask, having prepared myself as much as possible in such little time.

Ruby smiles the widest I’ve ever seen and glances to Ian, who has a matching happy expression. They both motion out of my office and into the kitchen, perhaps out to the storefront too but I can only see the semi-tidy kitchen.

“There is literally a queue wrapped nearly around the entire building.”

My jaw nearly drops at her confession. I figured, well hoped, people would come, but never in a million years did I expect there to be such a queue. I almost didn’t believe Ruby, too afraid that she was, for some reason, lying to me.

“You’re serious?” I find myself asking, not knowing whether to believe her or not. Her and Ian nod their heads.

“Bloody serious.” Ian answers. He rounds my desk and extends a hand out for me. “Now, your time for meditation is over, Annabelle. We’ve been working towards today for months now and we are more than ready. It’s showtime.”

Nervously, I gulp looking between the two excellent bakers I’ve hired. They both seem so enthusiastic and confident whereas I, their leader, appear to be anything but. I assume it has to deal with some sort of fear of failing.

I’ve worked towards opening a bakery before. Nearly a year ago, when I was with the man who shall not be named, I was in the process of purchasing a bakery and funding everything. When everything went down the toilet, I didn’t know if I’d ever get another chance. I’m scared there is still time for me to fail; have this bakery slip out from under my fingertips in the blink of an eye.

“Annabelle?” Blinking, I realize that I’ve probably been staring blankly at the two for several seconds, if not a minute. My eyes scan both of their faces before I reach out and take Ian’s hand, allowing him to help me up from my chair.

Upon entering the kitchen, everything seems to be moving in slow motion and even more so once I’ve passed the threshold into the storefront, behind the counter. My jaw nearly drops at the sight through the clear glass windows that showcase the front of my bakery.

There are probably about a hundred people just standing outside in their winter coats, huddled together with smiles on their faces. I recognize some of their faces, parents of the children at Edward’s school, doctors who work at Manchester Royal, and even a couple people I worked with at Smith and Carlton Publishing.

I’m nearly in shock with the amount of people that have shown, my shock only heightening when they notice me and begin applauding me through the glass. Before I have too much time to take everything in, the main door of the bakery is being opened from the outside and a slightly winded Harry and his mother are entering.

“Annabelle, dear!” Anne exclaims, rubbing her hands together before rushing over to me and wrapping her arms around me.

“Hello Anne.” I greet, hugging her back tightly.

“Now, that is a crowd.” She mutters after she’s let me go. “How are you feeling?”

“Nervous, but good.” Anne gives my arm a little squeeze before, walking from me to Ruby and Ian. She’s become quite close with them as well over the last month and I know she’s excited to help out today.

“Babe.” My attention is drawn from Anne and my bakers to Harry, smiling largely at me.

“How’d you do all this?”

“I didn’t do anything but put a poster up in our breakroom and mention it to the other doctors and nurses. I don’t think this was my doing at all. It’s gotta be -” Harry is interrupted from finishing his thought by a pounding on the front door and a near cry for help from a familiar voice.

“Let me in!”

Both Harry and I turn to see Niall pressed up against the glass, with my potential customers giving him odd looks. Some of the people just laugh at him, poking fun at the doctor. Harry rushes back over to the door, opening it for Niall before closing it back up and telling the customers it wouldn’t be long now.

“This is insane!” Niall exclaims, being the most energetic of our whole group. Then again it is nearly ten in the morning, so a lot of us aren’t exactly too cheerful yet. “Do you know how many people are out there?”

“A lot?” I guess, laughing lightly, a bubble of nervousness felt in the pit of my stomach.

“A fück ton!”

“Do you have anything to do with the crowd?” I ask Niall, narrowing my eyes at him slightly. He seems more giddy than usual, which is a hard emotion to scale with Niall since he’s giddy all the time. Niall merely shakes his head, but keeps a sly smirk.

“Depends; are you angry or not?” I shake my head. “Then yes, I did have something to do with all those people.” I open my mouth to say something to him, thank him, but nothing seems to come out. “It wasn’t really hard, honest.

“Had a mate over one night and he had one of those chocolate rolls that you made for me, for my birthday. He went crazy over them and asked where I got them. We got to talking and I told him about Belle’s opening at the end of the year. He works at Capital Manchester, you know the radio station. He may or may not have broadcast about Belle’s yesterday during the five o’clock hour.”

“Oh my God.” My entire body is frozen at his confession.

There are thousands of people who listen to Capital FM, and not only did he broadcast about my bakery but he did it at an extremely popular time of day. Literally thousands of people have heard about my bakery, give or take a couple hundred people. That only makes me feel like passing out.

“I - I -” Once again I’m lost for words. “Thank you.” Niall gives me a tight hug, holding me to him for as long as he possibly can, before Harry is clearing his throat and muttering something about me being his girl not yours.

“Annabelle,” All three of us look over to Ruby, who is standing in the doorway between the kitchen and storefront, “it’s ten.”

Nodding my head, I still feel the pit of nervousness eating away at my stomach but I try my best to push it away. I can’t have my anxiety ruin the single greatest thing that is going to happen to me, professionally at least. I take a deep breath before motioning everyone to gather around.

Ruby and Ian emerge from the back kitchen, both tying their aprons around their fronts. Anne follows, tossing me my apron and spares for Harry and Niall. It didn’t take long to beg Harry to help out, but Niall drives a hard bargain; not only will Harry receive free treats, but so will Niall as well.

“Okay, seeing as I’m the owner and head baker, I suppose I should give everyone a pep talk before we open, but I’ll keep it short because I like to be punctual.” Everyone laughs. “I’ve wanted to open my own bakery for a very long time and I can’t quite believe that it’s finally happening. I never thought this would happen after everything that’s occurred in the past, but I’m happy that it is.

“Ruby, Ian, thank you for joining the team, you have no idea how much you’ve helped over the last couple of months. I would literally be nowhere near ready to open Belle’s without you. Niall, you’ve done so much for myself and Edward and I can’t possibly thank you enough. Free sweets is only a fraction of what you deserve for everything you’ve done. Anne, you’re amazing and without you I wouldn’t know my true potential as a baker. Ever since that banquet, I wanted to open my own bakery so you’re very much to blame for all of this.”

Anne laughs, stepping forward to give me a hug all whilst sniffling as if she’s going to cry.

“I love you like a mum.” I admit, my words causing her to start full on crying, which wasn’t exactly what I was going for. She lets me go and goes back to where she was standing, leaving me with one last person to thank.

Just the thought of thanking Harry for everything has tears welling in my eyes. Honestly, there’s not enough words in the dictionary to express my gratitude towards him and his selflessness.

“Harold.”

“Annabelle.” He smiles, but rolls his eyes at his nickname.

“I love you so, so, so very much; more than I’ve ever loved anybody in my life. You’ve been by my side through a lot of horrible things I’ve gone through, and you’ve been by my side through a lot of great things too. I honestly can’t find the words to thank you, because I don’t know where I’d be if you weren’t by my side…”

Feeling the warm tears start to drip down on my cheeks causing Niall to step in between Harry and I.

“Alright, enough with this sappy crap.” He announces, patting my head before pulling Harry and I in for a hug. “Let’s open this bakery!”

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