Petunia's Tea and Cake Shop


Song of the chapter is ‘She Looks So Perfect'

Over a strong pot of black tea the next morning, Michael finally opened up about what had gone wrong between he and Calum and Ashton. Or, he tried to, at least.

“Okay, it all went down on this rainy night in...was it March? Or was it still February?” He paused and took a sip of his tea while Luke listened eagerly. “Well, maybe things had started to go south earlier, but that night was when it all changed.” Michael munched on his scone and still seemed confused about the timeline of events.

“Was this soon after you arrived?” Luke prompted.

Michael shook his head as he finished up his bite of scone. “No, when we arrived, everything was perfect. Well, between us, at least… We arrived in New York as planned after a long boat ride, eager to get started on our new lives. As you know, we had planned out jobs, a place to live, and saved enough money for that first week. However, when we got here, our housing situation was not quite what we thought it was, and our jobs had fallen through. We had barely enough money for that first week, so we had to find a job quickly. By the end of that first week, things were tight, and our landlord wanted rent. He was a bit of a hard-ass, and and wanted rent up front at the beginning of each week, and if you couldn’t pay when he came to collect, you were out. We thought if we explained our situation to him, he’d feel bad for us and let us stay a bit longer, but…” Michael shook his head as the memory played clearly in his mind.

“We just needed a few more days to find a job, and I promise, our first paycheck goes straight to you to cover this week’s rent.” Ashton had promised the landlord, but old, grumpy Alfred was having none of it.

“And why would I do that, when I could kick you out and replace you with paying tenants?” Alfred replied, running a hand over his dark mustache.

“Please, we’ll make it up to you. Our jobs fell through and it’s taking us a bit longer to find new jobs. We’re not from around here, and we’re not familiar with how things work over here.” Michael explained.

“Really? I thought that accent came from Brooklyn,” Alfred spat sarcastically. “No rent, no rooms.”

Alfred started to walk off when Calum added, “We can work it off, maybe help you out around here?”

“What could you possibly help me with around here?” Alfred was about to brush them off, but looked them over more thoroughly. “Though, I have a side business I could use some help with,” he added in a lowered voice and led them into his office.

“What kind of business?” Calum asked after the door clicked shut behind them.

“It’s not exactly legal…” Alfred raised an eyebrow and watched their reactions.

“I don’t know, we don’t exactly want to get deported back to Australia.” Ashton pointed out. “We need something that looks official so we can keep our visas.”

“Well, then we’ll make it official. You’ll work in...importing foreign goods.”

“What kind of goods?” Michael asked, voicing the thought on all their minds.

“Alcohol.” Alfred nearly whispered, but his face said it all; he was nearly smiling, a look that made his eyes crinkle in a way that almost seemed sinister.

“What’s illegal about that?” Calum questioned.

“You boys haven’t heard of prohibition?” Alfred cocked his head, and burst out laughing as they shook their heads. “To three young lads like you it’s probably hell; no alcohol -none.”

“Fucking hell is right,” Michael swore, and waited for Alfred to tell them he was joking.

“Explains why we haven’t been able to get a pint,” Ashton added.

“Well, you can get a pint, just not at a bar like you’re used to.You have to know where to go, and the secret password to get in; around here it’s good to know the right people. And lucky for you guys, I’m the right person to know.” Alfred smiled that creepy smile again, and the young Australians in front of him thought he looked like he was enjoying this far too much.

“What would you need from us, exactly?” Calum asked, mostly to get that grin of Alfred’s face.

“Can you drive?” He asked, and the boys nodded. “Good, then you three can take turns driving on your way to and from Canada tonight.”

“Tonight?” Ashton’s mouth fell open, and he glanced at the other two.

“You wanted a job, didn’t you?” Alfred reminded them.

“Can we at least think about it?” Calum asked.

“What’s there to think about? You either do this for me tonight, or you’re out on the streets.”

The three shared an uneasy look before turning back to him. “We’ll do it.” Michael voiced begrudgingly.

“Wait,” Luke interrupted Michael’s story. “Is this how it started to go wrong? Was Ashton not into the whole illegal alcohol trade?”

“No, no that wasn’t it at all. He actually got really into it, and, well, you know how good he is at talking our way out of any situation. He became very good at talking to the customs officers, police, and Prohibition Bureau agents who happened to stop us on our travels. And, Calum and I got very good at making convincing sheep noises, since Ashton’s choice of cover was as a sheep farmer transporting his sheep for slaughter.” Michael added with a smirk.

Luke snickered at that mental image, but wanted to hear the rest of the story. “So when did things start to change?”

“I’m bad with dates, you know that, but I think it must have been a month or two later...yeah, it was September. The leaves were starting to change, and it seemed so magical. I think we were all a little bit drunk -literally and metaphorically- but Ashton got caught up in something else.”

“Something illegal?”

“No, just listen.” Michael laughed and put his hand up to stop Luke from interrupting again. “We had come back from a delivery one day, and Alfred had us run it over to the speakeasy for him. Usually we just brought it to the warehouse, and someone else brought it over as needed. One of his gin runners had gotten caught, so he asked us to do it. We’d never been to the speakeasy before, so we were pretty excited to finally see it. It was quite beautiful, actually.” Michael paused to picture the glitzy, secret underground bar.

The first time the three of them entered that room, the lights had been low, but it was bright enough to see the shimmering chandeliers, the glistening bartop and the sparkling glasses hanging above it, the rows and rows of expensive alcohol running behind the length of the bar backed with a floor to ceiling mirror, and the impeccably dressed staff as they readied the bar for customers that evening. Yet, as Michael and Calum stood, mouths open, in awe of what was probably the fanciest room they’d ever been in, Ashton’s eyes were tuned to the stage at the other end of the bar, or more specifically, the girl standing on it.

“Oh my god,” Michael breathed as his eyes took in the sight before them.

“I have never felt more out of place,” Calum joked and looked down at their clothes, and noticed Ashton staring. He followed his line of sight to the girl on the stage, and teased, “I think she’s out of your league, Ash.”

“What?” Ashton snapped out it and turned to face his friends. “That’s not what I was, I mean she’s definitely...I would never dream of even talking to her.”

“Yes you would.” Michael added.

“Well, yeah, but I couldn’t, not in person, at least.”

“Ash, last week you convinced two Prohibition Agents and a customs official that Mikey and I were sheep.” Calum put his hand on Ashton’s shoulder and tried to keep a straight face. “I think you can talk to anyone.”

“What would I even say?” He panicked, and glanced back at the girl.

“I don’t know, what would Ashton say?” Michael asked him back.

“Something like…” Ashton sputtered for a moment as he watched her float around the microphone. “I heard you warming up, and thought maybe I’d died and gone to heaven, because you’re an angel.”

Michael gave him a shove while Calum laughed. “You can do better than that, Ash.”

“Can I? She just looks so....perfect, like an angel.”

“The Ashton I know can,” Calum added. “Remember this? Baaa, baaa!”

Michael joined in on the sheep ba’s and Ashton blushed as he tried to shut them up. “Okay, okay, hush, you’re drawing too much attention to us. We’re probably not even supposed to be in here. Just deliver the boxes, and leave - that’s what Alfred said.”

“He didn’t say we had to leave.” Calum smirked.

“It was implied!” Ashton hissed, and risked a glance back at the stage to see if she was staring.

“Just go talk to her!” Michael gave him a push in her direction, and Ashton stumbled a few steps before regaining his balance, and slowly, his confidence. He straightened out his shirt, adjusted his cap, and looked back at them with a thumbs up before continuing across the room, weaving between the tables and chairs, ending up at the foot of the small stage.

“Fancy a drink?” Calum turned to Michael with a mischievous glint in his eye, and they sauntered over to the bar. “Hey there,” he said to the bartender, who glanced at them, then continued putting glasses away.

“Alfred asked us to sample the product,” Michael said, trying to sound confident.

“And who are you?” The bartender asked with zero interest.

“We delivered the product,” Calum clarified, sounding a bit more convincing than Michael.

“You’re new, aren’t you.” The bartender looked between the two, before she leaned on the bar and crossed her arms. “Are you the sheep guys?”

The two burst out laughing, but nodded. “Yes we are.” Michael said proudly, yet with a bit of embarrassment.

“That was bad-ass! Here,” she reached under the bar for two pint glasses. “That deserves a free sample of the merchandise.” She flashed them a smile before turning to fill their glasses.

“Thanks,” Calum said and they took their drink. “Cheers.” He and Michael clinked glasses and turned to sit down, catching a glimpse of Ashton across the room.

“Looks like he finally figured out what to say to her,” Michael noted and took a sip of his drink. “God, this is good”

“So much better than the fake stuff they try to make around here.” Calum agreed, then looked back up at Ashton and the girl. “For her sake, I hope he remembers how to stop talking to her.”

Michael snorted a laugh. “Should we go over there and rescue her? Try to pull him away with the bribe of a free pint?”

They watched the couple thoughtfully for a moment before Calum shook his head; she seemed to be enjoying their conversation as much as Ashton. “No, I don’t think she needs our help.”
♠ ♠ ♠
A new chapter that didn’t take me three weeks to write!! The next chapter is going to be titled ‘Calum’ and we’ll here some more of the story from him.

Have a nice holiday, and thank you for reading and commenting! :D