October 1 2017: Greeting the Past - Cameron & Marshall, tag Maggie


Morgan Jackson
 

Cameron sauntered into the Inklings Bookstore, inhaling the familiar smell of the place, awash in the memories brought on by the odor of ink and paper. He'd ended up here, time after time, with Marshall and Maggie, to watch Marshall get lost in the newest arrivals to the shelves. He had yet to meet someone who loved books as much as Marsh.

 

Speaking of Marsh, Cam spotted him toward the back of the shop. As usual, he was taken by surprise by how tall and broad Marshall had gotten since high school. He'd been a lean, gawky kid, all the food and exercise in the world hardly putting any meat on his bones. It occurred to him that he might stop being surprised if he'd bothered to come back to Silver Lake more often.

 

He shook that off - he was home now.

 

"Marshall," he greeted the other man, a wide grin on his face. He waved as he drew closer, and his grin faded as Marshall hardly looked thrilled to see him again. 

 

Marshall sighed and draped a tablecloth over the corner display table. He was prepping a Halloween display. "Cameron," he said evenly. "What brings you back to town? A stopover before taking over another restaurant in another country?"

 

Cameron frowned at Marshall. "No..." he replied slowly. "Actually, I'm back. Like, moved back in with my folks and everything. That's temporary though - I'm house-hunting." He shut his mouth, suddenly aware of the verbal diarrhea.

 

"Oh, well... Good for you," Marshall said, determinedly focusing on setting up his display. "So what brings you by?"

 

"I... thought we could do something, get together with Maggie for your birthday. It's still tomorrow right? I don't imagine your birthday has changed." 

 

"I'm not available," Marshall said. And he really wasn't. The shop would be closed, as the signs in the doors and windows said, but he'd be spending the day with his mother. After that, he wouldn't have the fortitude to deal with anyone or anything else.

 

Cameron blinked at Marshall, tempted to argue because he had seen the signs at the front of the shop, but he wasn't blind. Marsh's body language was stiff, angry. "Well, okay then. I can see you're busy -"

 

"I am, actually," Marshall agreed. 

 

Cameron nodded and turned on his head, heading out of the bookstore with a frown. 

 

------

 

Forty-five minutes later, Cameron walked into Maggie's bakery, carrying a ridiculously large bouquet of Maggie's favorite flowers. "Special delivery!" he called, looking for his best friend behind the counters. 

 

He hadn't told her yet, that he was moving back to Silver Lake. She knew about the divorce - hell, she knew everything - and how it had left him feeling, but he'd kept this from her. Cam had wanted it to be a surprise.

It had been an early morning for Maggie, and though she still detested the idea of leaving the warmth of her bed, she had grown accustomed to the demands that came with owning a business. She realized, of course, that she'd have had these demands doing anything else, so she was careful to prevent herself from even mentally abusing the bakery for her early hours and late nights.

 

Like usual, she'd arrived at her little shop around six that morning to warm the ovens and put out the regular displays and determine offhandedly what she wanted to make first. That sort of decision making was always fun because regular customers seemed to like her enough to give new things a try. Still, there had to be some old standards available as well.

 

She had a good supply of the chocolate turtles she'd made the afternoon before, so that would feature prominently in the display case. She could do some dipped fruits pretty quickly as well, and people bought those by the half dozen or so at a time.

 

That did nothing to replace the pastry deficit, and although that was her favorite part, she hated the mess that came with it. With a glance towards the entrance to make sure the lights were off in the front- they didn't open for another few hours- Maggie began gathering the ingredients for her Andes Chocolate cupcakes. Those were pretty simple to put together, and they would look nice and take up some space while she focused on another, more important task.

 

Marshall's birthday was tomorrow, and though their relationship was strained, Maggie still wanted to do something that demonstrated her affections for him. Making him a cake would be something she could focus on while still working and taking care of her customers as they came in. The actual cake part could be made while she was mixing a batter for other cupcakes she would sell, and once baked and cooled, she could begin decorating it. That, unfortunately, would have to wait until sometime after the first morning rush.

 

As always, she had the lights on and the doors unlocked by 8:00, and she served coffee and sodas alongside Danish and other quick things. It kept her busy for an hour or so before things slowed enough that she could actually think about cake decorating. Something simple would do, especially because Maggie couldn't imagine Marshall appreciating a fondant covered cake with swirls of chocolate late and candy pearls. Plain chocolate might do in this situation.

 

She was standing at the counter, looking at the un-iced cake, her hands resting on her hips. Her expression was contemplative, which for her meant that her mouth was scrunched and her brows furrowed as she debated the best way to tackle an unwanted birthday cake. Even when she heard the chime that sounded as a customer entered, it took her a moment to draw her gaze towards the entrance, and upon seeing who it was, a wide grin spread across her face.

 

"Hey you!" Maggie said excitedly as she came out from behind the counter. "I didn't know you were coming for a visit."

 

Cam laughed softly and pulled Maggie in for a one-armed hug and a kiss to her cheek before passing her the flowers. "Well... it's not exactly a visit," he admitted.

 

He shoved his hands into his pockets and rocked back and forth on his heels, betraying a nervousness he'd been denying that he felt. "I'm moving back and, um, taking over the B&B. Actually, I am pretty much moved back. I'm just living with Mom and Dad while I house hunt."

 

Maggie's warm welcome more than made up for Marshall's cold shoulder, though Cam still felt the sting of that. Thinking of Marsh, Cam said, "And you're the second person to officially know that. I stopped by the bookstore first, to see Marsh." 

 

He shook his head and frowned, thinking of the encounter. "He was pretty cold. I wasn't expecting that."

 

 

Maggie returned the one-arm hug and accepted the flowers excitedly. She always liked receiving them, and it wasn't too often that the opportunity arose. 

 

"Oh?" she asked, curious over his confession. When they had all been nearly a decade younger, the idea of coming home to stay had always been hers alone, and yet somehow, it seemed that all three had turned to that now. Retrieving a vase from the small stash she kept for special kinds of orders, she deposited her flowers and then positioned them on the top of the display case.

 

 

"That doesn't sound like you." she observed, her expression sympathetic, especially since as much as she liked her parents, she never had a desire to stay with them more than a couple of days at a time. "But I'm here. I can help you house hunt. I'd even sign the paperwork for you if you wanted. I think I can still copy your signature well enough."

 

 

She let out a heavy sigh and nodded when he asked about Marsh. "Oh, he's downright charming these days." In her encounters, she'd known him to brief and distant, something that she hoped her chocolate cake and a miracle would cure. "I honestly don't know exactly why, either."

 

 

"He was always the quiet one of the three of us, but this... This was downright unfriendly. And I don't remember him being that way." Guilt seeped into Cam's expression. "I suppose I should have been a better friend, though. I didn't make a habit of coming back here except for holidays, and visiting with my family and you always took priority."

 

He shrugged. "I guess I won't have that excuse this year, at least. Though I hope I've got my own place by the holidays. I love Mom and Dad, but they keep forgetting that I've been an independent adult for a while. They keep asking me things like when I expect to be back, and tell me they'll have dinner waiting."

 

Cameron grinned at Maggie. "And you definitely need to come house shopping with me. If only to keep me from getting too bored and buying the first place I'm shown just to get it over with."

 

"Hard to be outgoing when you're competing with the two of us," Maggie mused if only because she used that to justify his behavior, and that made the snubbing hurt a little less. "You really can't blame yourself." Again, she used words she'd said to herself in the past. "He has to make an effort just like we do, and I don't think he wants to."

 

"I'm trying to help lessen the distance." The volunteered information was emphasized as she directed her thumb towards the half-baked cake. "It's not much, but I thought it would show that we think about him."

 

She grinned as he affirmed she could help with house hunting. "Isn't that what almost happened when we went to school?"

 

"You know it is - but I'm pretty sure that eternal house hunting is the ninth level of hell." Cam shrugged, smiling. 

 

He nodded at the cake. "Great, you soothe Marsh with food. I'll buy him some good booze. One or the other should work."

 

A thought occurred to him. "Oh, god, please tell me he drinks. Because, if he doesn't, he needs to."

 

It occurred to Maggie that she should have been able to answer that question without thought, and it only served as further proof that her friendship with Marshall had deteriorated. "I honestly don't know." How terrible was that? "But I think a birthday is a good occasion to indulge, and some people are a lot more receptive when they're drunk."

 

 

Cameron nodded at Maggie's words. "Let's plan to stop by his place tomorrow night? Cake and alcohol in hand? Is he still living in his parents' house?"

 

He winced as he asked that last question. "God, I really should have done more to keep up with him."

 

Cam knew that Marshall's father had died a couple of years ago, but beyond that, he didn't know how things had settled out for his old friend. It made him feel ashamed, despite Marshall's 'welcome' of him. And it made him understand it a little better - he'd have been pissed, too, if he'd been ignored for several years, and then had someone walk back into his life like no time had passed.

 

"Sounds like a plan. He wouldn't throw us out if we both go." She paused as it occurred to her that her assured tone was false. "At least, I don't think that he would." Having edible bribes would go a long way. If not, they could partake. It would t be the first time they had consumed that particular combination. 

 

Leaning back against her counter, she replied, "He's in the apartment above the bookstore, Or he was last time I talked to him about it." She loved her ship, but she enjoyed getting away from time to time. "He actually sold his parent's house awhile ago. I would guess because of the expenses and such." She had her own theories about it, but she'd never brought it up with Marshall.

 

Cameron sighed. He really needed to sit down with Marshall and apologize for being a terrible, self-involved friend. 

 

Behind him the door to the bakery opened, and he turned to see who the newcomer was. It took him a moment to realize that it was his sister-in-law, Adi. Thankfully, it took her a moment, too, then she smiled at him.

 

"Hey, you... I thought you were still in Italy," Adi said slowly. She refrained from mentioning the divorce. She'd heard it wasn't pretty.

 

Cam laughed and shrugged. "Not anymore. I decided it was time to come home permanently. I'm living with Mom and Dad right now."

 

Adi nodded. "I assume Kara and Leighton know?"

 

"Yeah, I called them when I actually got back."

 

"Taking over the B&B?"

 

Cameron nodded. "Dad's ready to retire, and so is Mom. And I think it'll be nice to be home."

 

Adi smiled and hugged him. "Well, welcome home. I'm sure Kara and Leighton will have everybody over for dinner, so we'll talk later. I'm stealing time from my lunch to get a friend a birthday cupcake."

 

"A friend, huh? Can I ask who?" Cam asked, raising an eyebrow at her. It would be a huge coincidence if it was Marshall, but if Adi knew him, Cam wouldn't be ashamed to pump her for information.

 

"Marshall Thompkins - he owns the bookstore," Adi said distractedly, perusing the display cases.

 

"Oh, you know him?"

 

"Uhm-hmmm... He fosters kittens and has his cats treated at the clinic." Adi was a vet tech at the local veterinary clinic. 

 

"Oh, huh..." Cam mused.

 

"Why the interest?" Adi asked as she asked for two cupcakes from Maggie.

 

"He's just a friend from high school. I stopped in to see him, and he seemed a little... withdrawn." Cam shrugged. "I remember him being quiet and shy, but not like that."

 

"He is quiet," Adi agreed. "But a lot of that is the stuff with his mom." 

 

She blushed and passed over her debit card to pay for the desserts. "But I shouldn't be discussing his business. You should sit down and catch up with him."

 

There was much more to discuss, ranging from Marshall to all the reasons that Cam was back for good. Maggie knew there would be plenty of time to talk, so, for now, she headed back behind her counter so that she could fill Adi's order. Once that was processed, she listened to the conversation between the two. The clear single boxes she used to sell cupcakes were stacked beneath the register, making the packing of Adi's items easy. From there, the clear boxes were placed in a blue paper bag for easy transport.

 

Her interest in their conversation peaked as Marshall was mentioned, though the news wasn't exactly new information for her. In a small town like this, you knew what other people got up to, even when they didn't exactly talk to you. She was at least happy to hear that there was someone else, someone he actually talked to, who would celebrate with him. It made the attempt she and Cam had agreed to seem a little less hopeless.

 

Upon accepting the debit card, she ran the strip through her machine and then handed it back over. "We're planning to visit him with some birthday stuff later on." Maggie assured her as she pushed the pin pad towards Adi so that they could finish up the transaction. "Though I think he'll definitely appreciate your choices. He liked the chocolate one before I took over here. Nice to see some things don't change." Mostly, she offered these observations to help avoid talking about more uncomfortable things.

 

Cameron sighed. He really needed to sit down with Marshall and apologize for being a terrible, self-involved friend. 

 

Behind him the door to the bakery opened, and he turned to see who the newcomer was. It took him a moment to realize that it was his sister-in-law, Adi. Thankfully, it took her a moment, too, then she smiled at him.

 

"Hey, you... I thought you were still in Italy," Adi said slowly. She refrained from mentioning the divorce. She'd heard it wasn't pretty.

 

Cam laughed and shrugged. "Not anymore. I decided it was time to come home permanently. I'm living with Mom and Dad right now."

 

Adi nodded. "I assume Kara and Leighton know?"

 

"Yeah, I called them when I actually got back."

 

"Taking over the B&B?"

 

Cameron nodded. "Dad's ready to retire, and so is Mom. And I think it'll be nice to be home."

 

Adi smiled and hugged him. "Well, welcome home. I'm sure Kara and Leighton will have everybody over for dinner, so we'll talk later. I'm stealing time from my lunch to get a friend a birthday cupcake."

 

"A friend, huh? Can I ask who?" Cam asked, raising an eyebrow at her. It would be a huge coincidence if it was Marshall, but if Adi knew him, Cam wouldn't be ashamed to pump her for information.

 

"Marshall Thompkins - he owns the bookstore," Adi said distractedly, perusing the display cases.

 

"Oh, you know him?"

 

"Uhm-hmmm... He fosters kittens and has his cats treated at the clinic." Adi was a vet tech at the local veterinary clinic. 

 

"Oh, huh..." Cam mused.

 

"Why the interest?" Adi asked as she asked for two cupcakes from Maggie.

 

"He's just a friend from high school. I stopped in to see him, and he seemed a little... withdrawn." Cam shrugged. "I remember him being quiet and shy, but not like that."

 

"He is quiet," Adi agreed. "But a lot of that is the stuff with his mom." 

 

She blushed and passed over her debit card to pay for the desserts. "But I shouldn't be discussing his business. You should sit down and catch up with him."

 

Adi smiled at Maggie after she typed in her PIN. "Well, good luck. Really. He needs to get out more. Actually socialize with people outside of the bookstore."

 

She held up a blue paper bag. "I'm going to take these over now. If you two are going to visit, you should do it tonight, or on the third. He refuses to do anything on his birthday, except for going to the nursing home."

 

She shrugged. "Let me know how it goes?" she asked, eyes flicking to Cam. 

 

He nodded. "Will do," he promised. 

 

"Great." Adi gave Cam another hug and then waved to them both as she headed out of the bakery.

 

Cam watched her go, then turned back to Maggie. "So, when do we want to launch the assault on Fort Thompkins?" he asked.

 

Maggie gave Adi a last wave before turning her attention back to Cam. "I say tonight. He won't be expecting it, and with both of us there, he might even tolerate us for a few moments." Besides, with both of them there, making an effort, she hoped it would show that they were genuinely making some repairs to their problematic relationships.

 

Cam nodded. "Tonight," he agreed. "I'll go get the alcohol, and buy some gift wrap. I have some things I brought back from Italy. Some for you, too, but you'll get those later."

 

He smiled at Maggie, more confidently than he felt. I'll stop by later to pick you up," he promised. He checked his phone for the time. "For now, though, I need to get going. I'm meeting Mom to go over the books for the B&B, and she hates when I'm late."

 

Cam waved and headed out - he had a scintillating afternoon of reviewing paperwork ahead of him.

wrap

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