In NO PARKING by Valentine Wheeler, we met Marianne Windmere and got to know her community of Swanley, Massachusetts and the people and places that make it a home. This week, take a trip back to Swanley for another story with Give Way: what happens when a retired lawyer finds himself confronted with a gorgeous stranger delivering his package?
Everyone who grew up in Swanley loves Windmere Bakery: the muffins, the bread, the old hitching post out back and the framed historical documents Marianne hangs above the tables. Everyone has a story of something that happened there, whether it’s birthdays or engagements, divorces or–on one memorable occasion–births. But the two most important things about Windmere Bakery? The people and the food. So let’s play a game–pastry yourself, Swanley edition.
The baker herself, lifelong Swanley resident, tired of people asking when she’s going to retire: Cranberry-Orange Scone. She’s a little bit tart, a little bit sweet, and she’s made it through tough times and good ones, too. She’s as Massachusetts as a cranberry bog, but she likes to mix it up, too.
Marianne’s ex-husband and retired lawyer, former City Councillor and current–well, he’s figuring that out: Broccoli and Cheese Croissant. Not for everyone, but practical, layered, and with surprising depth–because Marianne makes hers with fancy cheeses, and switches them up weekly. Kevin spent years annoyed at the inconsistency, telling her he wanted to know what he was getting into when he bit into it, but lately he’s been embracing the adventure–well, he’s trying.
Egyptian immigrant, owner of the Cairo Grill, made friends very quickly by giving out free samples and throwing herself into the Swanley community: Almond Croissant. Sweet and layered, she’s got more resilience than people tend to see. She’s a brilliant chef and a good friend, and like a good croissant, she works harder than anybody gives her credit for–even herself.
Mail carrier, grew up in Swanley but moved away as a young teen, not back to stay but just helping out his family for a while: Lemon Bar. He’s a little sour, with a bit of a bite, but he’s not afraid to be bold and bright. He stands well on his own–and he knows how to stand out in a crowd!–but he could use something more substantial to balance him out. Don’t let his sweetness fool you.
A bakery employee, part-time student, the next generation of queer Swanley: Blueberry Muffin. Zeke likes to try new things occasionally, and he likes to keep his options open (like if Doris the mail lady ever decides she’s in the market for a younger man…), but deep down, he’s committed to family, tradition, and history. He brings half a dozen muffins home to his great-grandfather Joe every Saturday night so they’ve got breakfast for the next few days, and while he likes to say he gets a variety, it’s inevitably at least half blueberry.
Every close-knit community has a gathering place that’s all its own, whether it’s a pub, a green, or a community center, and Windmere Bakery has been the hub of Swanley for nearly two hundred buttery, sweet years.Catch up on Marianne and Rana’s story in NO PARKING, and read Kevin and Awais’s in GIVE WAY, out January 4 from Ninestar Press. And keep an eye out for more from Swanley!
About Valentine Wheeler:
Valentine Wheeler (she/her) lives in Massachusetts with her spouse and child and spends her days chasing mail carriers and citing obscure postal regulations. She goes by Lis in meatspace and her life’s ambition is to eat the food of every country.
Find her on twitter or goodreads and her work at Ninestar Press and the Future Fire. She also serves as Fiction Editor and Logistics Manager for Wizards in Space Literary Magazine, as Logistics Wizard and Managing Editor for Mermaids Monthly, and as a slushreader for various genre publications. Goodreads