Petunia's Tea and Cake Shop

Luke's Mom's Buttery Scones

~ Two Years Ago, Australia ~

Luke, Ashton, Michael, and Calum sat around a table near the back of their favorite pub. They were meant to be celebrating - one last hurrah before they embarked on their trip nearly halfway around the world to new York. Yet, instead of drinking in merriment, they were staring mournfully into their pints. The four of them had planned on emigrating to the US since they were young, enticed by the tales of success and hope for the ‘American Dream’, but a recent tragedy had thrown a wrench in their plans. Luke’s mother, Mary, had fallen ill, requiring Luke to spend the money he had saved for his ticket on her healthcare, and he insisted on not leaving her here alone without any family to care for her.

Luke was disappointed that he had to stay behind while his three best friends left for a new start in America, but he was devastated at the bleak news of his mother’s illness. She was all he had, besides Ash, Mikey and Cal -who were practically like his brothers- and Petunia, of course.

“Who would run the shop? I have to stay.” Luke shook his head and looked down at his dog at his feet.

“Of course, we wouldn’t expect you leave while your mother was sick. If it happened to any of us, we’d do the same.” Ashton explained, and the others nodded in agreement.

“We’ll just wait until she gets better, then we can all make the trip over together - like we planned.” Calum stated, and again the others agreed - except Luke.

“No, no I couldn’t ask you to stay.” He shook his head. You’ve all made plans and bought your tickets; don’t stay back on account of me.”

“We’d be staying for your mum, not you,” Michael joked. “Luke, we know you’d do the same for us. It just wouldn’t be fair for us to go, and leave you on your won to care for your mum, and run her shop.”

“Yeah, well…” Luke was going to say ‘life isn’t fair’ but they had all experienced enough hardship to know that fact first-hand. “It would be even more unfair of me to expect you three to wait around for my mom to get better.” He shrugged and added, “She may never get better.”

They were all quiet as they took this in and silently agreed. They had each lost people to the Great War or the deadly flu epidemic over the last few years, but none more than Luke who last saw his father and older brothers as they left for Europe in uniform. If his mother passed away as well, luke really would be on his own, and the three guys around this table would be the only ‘family’ he had left.

“Go. Go to New York, like we’ve planned, and I’ll join you...when I can.” Luke paused and swallowed hard at this thought, knowing he could probably never leave his mother even once she recovered. Things would never be the same. “Don’t let me ruin it for the three of you.”

“You’re not ruining it-” Ashton started off, but Luke cut him off.

“No, really, you guys go on ahead, and I’ll be over as soon as possible.” Luke tried to smile confidently, but it was clear to his friends he was anything but.

It took some more persuasion, and Ashton even offered to stay back with Luke, but four days later the three left on a ship to America. Luke and Petunia saw them off, standing on the pier looking after the ship long after it had disappeared beyond the horizon. He watched their years of planning and saving money float away across the Pacific Ocean, and if it weren’t for Petunia’s sturdy form leaning up against his leg and her soft, rhythmic, snores, he may have drifted away too.

~ Two Years Later, New York City ~

Petunia sat by Luke’s feet under the counter in the tea shop, where he sat on a stool and leaned on the counter between the cash register and a pyramid-shaped display of tea tins. He stared absently at the wall across the shop from him, barely noticing the two customers sipping tea and chatting at one of the tables near the front window. His mother’s shop in Sidney had been much busier, and Luke yearned for that bustling environment to keep his mind preoccupied. Anything to keep his mind off of the inexplicable changes in his best friends and the illegal activity occurring under his feet. He couldn’t hear him, but Luke knew Calum was down there getting the space ready for business.

Calum had been in and out of the shop all week with paint, furniture, glassware, lights, and various decorations for the bar, and each time he knocked to come up the ‘secret’ stairs behind the counter, Petunia barked and Luke’s heart raced. If he had customers, Calum made sure to loudly tell Luke he was just putting the items in storage beneath the shop. It seemed obvious to Luke how suspicious it was, but his two customers continued talking over their tea as if nothing were off.

‘Maybe they’re spies’ Luke started to wonder, when the bell over the door rang as it was opened, and Luke anxiously snapped his head in that direction.

“I’ve got another box of ‘tea’ to put in storage for you,” Calum said and winked at Luke.

“Thanks,” Luke mumbled, and quickly moved out of the way so he could open the hatch to the staircase to the basement. The contents of the box clinked as Calum climbed down the steep staircase.

“Jars of tea,” Calum amended with a smirk, and Luke rolled his eyes before shutting the hatch on him. “Wait, I need to tell you something.”

Luke opened the hatch again and came face to face with Calum. “What?” He mouthed.

“Michael is arriving today with the product. He’ll be on the train -the one that runs out back- and he’ll need our help getting the goods off,” Calum whispered.

“How? The train goes too fast, won’t it all break?” Luke whispered frantically.

“The train may be persuaded to come to a stop at a convenient location.” Calum explained with a glint in his eye.

“I don’t know, I don’t like the sound of this.” Luke shook his head.

“It’ll be fine, I know what I’m doing, mostly,” Calum shrugged. “Come down when you get a chance, I’ll explain it more.”

Luke nodded and closed the hatch again. He sighed and returned his stool to its spot behind the counter, and Petunia settled in around his feet again. He did not like the sound of this, and was trying to think of ways to get out of Calum’s plan when the bell over the door rang. His head sprung up to greet his customer.

“Welcome to Petunia’s Tea and Cake Shop, what can I-” he paused. “What can I help you with?”

“Just looking around,” Ashton answered, and observed the selection of teas on sale. The two customers caught a glimpse of his badge, and hurriedly left, not wanting to be mixed up in whatever was going down. Ashton smiled as he stopped in front of the glass display of cakes and pastries. “I remember the scones your mum made - they were absolutely delicious. So buttery despite the wartime rationing. I never quite knew how she managed that.” He looked up from the scones to Luke with a smile that didn’t reach his eyes.

“Would you like a scone?” Luke offered nervously. Something in Ashton’s eyes didn’t look right, and made Luke feel even more anxious than he already did. “I’d give it to you on the house, of course.” He added with a bit of a laugh.

Ashton raised an eyebrow as he considered this. “Is this your mom’s recipe?” He asked.

Luke shook his head. “Unfortunately I didn’t inherit the baking gene, and even if I had, she kept all her recipes up here,” he explained and tapped his temple. “Except in her head, not mine, obviously.”

“Well, I’ll pass on the scone for now, then, since I’m on the clock.” Ashton said, and sat at one of the empty tables by the front window.

Luke nervously bit his lip and realized that if Ashton was here ‘on the clock’ then it was not a friendly visit. What could he possibly want? “Can I get you something else, or some tea?”

Ashton didn’t answer right away, instead looked out the window at a passing car. “Tell me, how did your mother get those scones so buttery? I know you didn’t own a cow, so you must have been getting some extra butter somewhere else. Margarine just doesn’t have the same taste.”

Luke swallowed hard and wondered why he was being interrogated about his mother’s scones. “Well, you see, she was friends with Mr. Rangely -you remember him?- and his dairy cows produced more than he could use, so he helped out his friends with what was left over.”

“In exchange for?” Ashton lifted an eyebrow, and it hit Luke: he was testing him, gauging Luke’s tolerance for illegal activities, particularly the trading of contraband, such as rationed butter, or alcohol.

“Well,” Luke paused, since he knew Ashton knew that his family didn’t have a lot of extra money (if any). “She would give him some of the leftover biscuits and pastries at the end of the day, and sometimes helped him out with little things like the washing.”

Ashton nodded. “Bartering, basically.”

Luke nodded emphatically. “Exactly.”

“Say,” Ashton started as he suddenly got up, “You wouldn’t happen to know anything about a truck turned over at the railroad crossing a block over?”

Luke suddenly remembered Calum’s mischievous statement that the train might be persuaded to stop behind the shop, long enough for Michael to get his shipment of illegal alcohol off the train and into the basement of the shop. “No, I haven’t heard anything. Is the driver okay?”

“The driver was fine, maybe a little shaken up, but the truck is ruined. They were working on getting it towed when I walked past, and figured I’d stop in here to see if you knew what was up.”

Luke again shook his head and was about to deny any knowledge of the crash, when he heard the familiar sound of the train coming. He bit his lips and began fighting with the tea cups hanging behind the counter. The train barreled closer and closer, until the breaks screeched on and slowed the train to a halt.

“You look nervous, what’s wrong?” Ashton asked and leaned on the counter to stare at Luke.
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I finally finished this chapter; sorry it ends on a cliff hanger! I wanted to include a bit of their backstory as well. Also, I changed Luke’s mom’s name because I couldn’t use his real mom, she seems so nice!

Thank you for reading and commenting!! :D