Cracks in the Cone
CHAPTER ONE SPRINKLES SELFIE
My best friend Allie squeezed my hand. “Happy Sprinkle Sunday,” she whispered to me. Then she whispered the same thing into our other best friend Sierra’s ear. I could sense both the nervousness and the excitement in Allie’s voice. Sprinkle Sunday, I repeated in my head. It was finally here. And I did mean finally. I felt like we’d been waiting forever?—even though it had only been a week since the last time we had all been here.
Allie’s mom, Mrs. Shear (or, as I called her, Mrs. S.), had opened an ice cream shop after she’d divorced Allie’s dad, and Mrs. S., Allie, and Allie’s little brother had moved to another town. It was a whole lot of change, especially for Allie. But we were all really
happy when Mrs. S. offered the three of us (that’s me, Sierra, and Allie) jobs at the ice cream store every Sunday. That was why we called ourselves the Sprinkle Sundays sisters.
Aside from our making some extra moolah (which my mom said should go toward a college fund, but I had other ideas) with the new gig, Mrs. S. had given us all cute T-shirts to wear with the shop name, Molly’s Ice Cream. (Molly had been Allie’s great-grandma, and she’d taught Mrs. S. how to make ice cream and had inspired the shop.) Plus, I got to spend some quality time with my two besties. I’d been super-excited about it all week. Until . . . well, until Sunday morning happened.
I was almost late for work, which would have been bad, because the previous week at our trial session Sierra had been super-late, and Mrs. S. had made it clear that it shouldn’t happen again. But I slept through my alarm because I’d stayed up customizing my toilet seat with plastic fish and mermaid charms. It looked really cute, and it was going to make for a funny surprise for my guests. (Don’t judge—it was Allie’s idea, and it came out awesome.)
Anyway, I woke up to find Mom shaking me.
“Tamiko! You have to get ready,” she said.
I groaned and pulled the pillow over my face. “I think there are laws against waking up children by shaking them. It’s cruel and unusual,” I said.
Mom made a grunty sound. “Well, being late to work on your first day is cruel and unusual. Please get up—and pull your hair back off your face. You don’t want to get hair in anybody’s ice cream. That would also be cruel and unusual.”
“I’m up, I’m up,” I said. After my shower I quickly made two long braids in my hair and then pulled them back with a ponytail holder. Mom’s advice was usually annoying, but she was right about the hair. Nobody wants an ice cream sundae with rainbow sprinkles and Tamiko DNA. Yuck! With a little extra hustle I was able to arrive right on time for our first shift.
After we all hugged hello, we heard a shuffle near the back door. It was Mrs. S., walking in with a tub of ice cream almost bigger than she was.
“Can you girls please help me bring in the ice cream from the van out back?” she asked. “We sold out of seven flavors yesterday!”
The three of us looked at one another. I guess it was time to, you know, work.
“I should have refilled the flavors last night, but I was just too tired,” Mrs. S. continued, and then she turned to Allie. “Your dad was nice enough to bring them over to me today.”
Right, Allie’s dad. The weird thing about Allie’s parents was that they always used to fight when they were married. Not like huge blowout fights but lots of little fights, which made us all squirm. They bickered in front of Allie and her little brother, Tanner, and even in front of Sierra and me. I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to fight in front of your daughter’s friends, but we did go over to their house a lot, I guess. Nobody was really surprised when they got divorced, except for Allie. It’s always different when it’s your parents. But now that they were divorced, it was like they were best friends or something. They were super-smiley and helpful to each other. They probably got along better than my own parents, even.
We followed Allie’s mom through the back door to the minivan that she used to haul stuff back and forth to the shop. She rented a space in an industrial kitchen somewhere else in Bayville, where she made the ice cream and stored it in a big Deepfreeze. Allie’s dad was there now too, unloading the tubs, and Tanner
was helping him—or doing Tanner’s version of helping, which is to say, he watched us doing everything and complained that it was too hot outside.
“Hey, Mr. S.!” I said. “Hi, Tanner.”
Before I could get another word in, Allie’s mom took one of the tubs from Mr. S. “Enough talking!” she said. “We don’t want the ice cream to melt.”
“You heard the boss!” Mr. S. said, and we all laughed. Allie and Sierra grabbed buckets, and we lugged them through the back office and into the front parlor. I dumped the bucket into the bin marked VANILLA in one of the shop’s long freezers. A curved glass top was open in the back so that we could scoop, but the glass protected the ice cream in the front from sneezing customers and little kids with icky hands. Besides vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry, Mrs. S. had concocted some truly special and delicious flavors, like Lemon Blueberry, Banana Pudding, Butterscotch Chocolate Chunk, and Maple Bacon.
“There’s so much more vanilla than anything else,” I said, looking at all the flavors lined up.
“It’s Mom’s best-selling flavor,” Allie said.
“Really? Why would anyone get vanilla when there are so many cool things to try?” I asked.
“You know, I think part of the reason is that even the basic flavors are amazing,” Allie said. “Mom’s vanilla is the best vanilla around.”
“It is definitely the most vanilla-y,” Sierra chimed in. “I love it!”
“Vanilla-y! Is that even a word?” I teased.
“But also I think people just order the same thing out of habit,” Allie went on.
“Well, they can eat as much vanilla as they like, as far as I’m concerned,” Mrs. S. said, entering the parlor with a tub of ice cream. “They’re still giving me business.”
“I guess,” I said. “But I love all of the exciting flavors. Do you have any new ones coming out soon?”
“I’m trying a new recipe with lavender, but I’m not sure what other flavors to pair with it,” she replied. “I don’t want it to be too flowery.”
“Ooh, will it be purple? That is an awesome color for ice cream,” I said, thinking about all of the cool stories people would post with purple ice cream in the frames.
She smiled. “I could definitely make it purple. Hmm. Maybe Lavender Blackberry?”
Then she turned to Allie. “I’ve got a bunch of
ordering and bookkeeping to catch up on, so I’m going to leave you girls out front. You’re in charge, Allie. You know what to do to set up. The afternoon rush will start soon!”
Allie nodded. “We got this!”
Mrs. S. disappeared into the back, and Allie faced us. She had a serious look on her face.
“Okay, here’s the plan,” she said. “Sierra, you’re on the cash register because you’re the best with numbers out of all of us.”
Sierra gave a goofy salute. “I will make the mathletes proud!” she said.
“Tamiko, since you’re such a great people person, you can take the orders,” Allie went on. “I’ll fill them, and then you can hand them to the customer.”
“People person?” I asked. “You mean like a game show host? I can do that.” I held up a scooper like a microphone. “All right, customer seventy-seven, it’s time to play Hoop the Scoop!” I announced, and then pretended to bounce an invisible basketball around on the counter.
“Tamiko! Watch out!” Sierra scolded.
I looked over. The jar with candy buttons was wobbling. I’d almost knocked into it.
“A shaky landing for star people person Tamiko Sato,” I hissed in a sports announcer voice, but Allie just sighed.
“Watch out, Ms. People Person,” Allie said. “Or else you’ll be the one cleaning the entire shop tonight.”
“You wouldn’t,” I said menacingly.
“I so would,” Allie said, but this time she was laughing.
Then the three of us cracked up. We actually did have to clean the store—wiping down the counters and tables, sweeping up, and washing out all the scoops—but Mrs. S. had a service come in and do the hard scrubbing, thank goodness.
“All right,” Allie said once we caught our breath. “Can you guys help me get more spoons out of the storage room? And napkins. We need to refill the napkin dispensers too. And make sure all the ice cream cups are stacked up and ready.”
After refilling one set of supplies, I took my phone out of my pocket.
“I’m going to take some photos and post them,” I said. “You know, just to remind people that Sunday is a great day to come out for ice cream.”
I dimmed the lights just a little to take the perfect snap.
“Okay. Sierra and I can handle the rest of the stuff, I guess,” Allie said, but the way she said it, there was an edge in her voice.
Hmm. That was weird. Allie rarely had an attitude. The only time I’d really seen her get mad was when her parents got divorced and told her that she’d be moving and starting school in a new town. And to be honest that was totally understandable, because I’d be really mad about that too. But why was she annoyed now?
I wondered if I should tell her that good marketing is important for any business. I knew that because my brother, Kai, took marketing classes at the high school, and sometimes I helped him study by holding up his flash cards while I painted my nails.
Then I reminded myself that Allie probably wasn’t actually mad. Maybe she was just trying to manage Sierra and get everything perfect for our first official day at work. Sierra was my other best friend, but she got distracted a lot and wasn’t the most detail-oriented person. Plus she always took on too many things at once. We tried to help her, but sometimes
things were a mess. I think Allie and I were both a little nervous about her dropping some ice cream or ringing up someone for five thousand dollars’ worth of ice cream by accident.
Still, things were a little different now that Allie went to another school. When we used to see each other every day, we didn’t seem to have any problems, but now that we saw her only one or two times a week, things were different. She was still my best friend, but I didn’t know every detail of what was going on with her anymore.
I started snapping photos. First I took a picture of the menu sign where the flavors were written in colored chalk. I typed in the caption, Sprinkle Sundays squad goals: try a new flavor at Molly’s #IceCream #Bayville #Yum, making sure to throw in some hashtags so people knew how to find the store.
Then I started snapping photos of the shop. It was so gorgeous that sometimes I wished I could live there. I took a photo of the vintage metal letters behind the freezers, with light bulbs in them that spelled out ICE CREAM. Then I got a wide shot of the parlor, with the cool black-and-white checkered floor flecked with gold; the high counter with stools
looking out the window; and the three round, white tables surrounded by wire chairs. The chair cushions had blue- and cream-colored stripes, which matched the awning on the outside of the building.
There was so much to photograph! Above the register, light fixtures that looked like ice cream cones hung down from the ceiling. So cute! Then I moved on to the buckets inside the counter that held all of the toppings that customers could choose to put on their ice cream or have mixed in. I got a close-up of a bin of rainbow sprinkles, and then a jar of red and yellow and green gummy bears, and another one of some glistening blue gummy fish.
Then I grabbed Allie and Sierra and pulled us all together.
“Sprinkles selfie!” I cried, and I held out the phone and clicked.
“Let me see that before you post it!” Sierra said, grabbing the phone from me.
“Don’t worry. You look gorgeous,” I said, and I wasn’t wrong. Sierra had an amazing smile.
I handed the phone to Sierra so that she could see.
“It’s not bad,” Sierra said, looking at it. “Just don’t tag me.” Then she continued scrolling through the
photo feed on my phone. “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe that outfit Jenna wore on Wednesday.”
“I know! She looked stunning,” I agreed.
“Jenna Robinson?” Allie said. “I thought she always wears jeans and sneakers.”
“No, Jenna Horowitz,” I corrected her. “Remember her? She was in my fifth-grade class.”
Allie shrugged. “So, what was she wearing?”
“A black miniskirt and a long-sleeved white shirt with a collar, and black ankle boots,” Sierra reported. “It was so sophisticated!”
“Well, she did copy the whole outfit from the fall cover of Teen Trend magazine, so minus ten points for being unoriginal,” I pointed out. “But only Jenna would have the guts to wear it, so ten points added.”
I liked to pretend to score people’s outfits, almost like I really was a TV show host.
“Speaking of guts, did you read that chapter about the digestive system in biology?” Sierra asked. “That was so gross. But Mr. Bongort made it really funny, thank goodness.”
“Yeah, he was joking around the whole time,” I replied. “Cole was picked to reenact the bathroom bit in class,” I added for Allie’s benefit. “It was hysterical.”
“Cole is so annoying,” Sierra said. “But it was pretty funny, watching him not be able to find a bathroom fast enough!”
“Well, I wouldn’t know,” Allie chimed in, and there was that edge to her voice again.
Sierra and I exchanged looks. It was really hard for Allie when she felt left out.
Allie, Sierra, and I used to all go to school together, from kindergarten all the way through sixth grade.
“Well, Mr. Bongort is our science teacher. He’s very funny, and nice, too,” I told Allie. “And he lets us have five minutes of free time every day, and he wears zebra-print ties to school. I bet he eats a lot of ice cream. I should tell him about this place.”
“I need to get more spoons,” Allie said in a flat voice, and she left us.
Sierra’s eyes followed her. Then she walked over to me.
“Maybe we should stop talking about school stuff,” Sierra said. “You know it really hurts Allie that she can’t go to school with us.”
“First of all, Allie’s school is way cooler than MLK, so I don’t know what she’s complaining about,” I
said. “She’s always sending us bragging pics about Vista Green. How the lunch is like something from a gourmet café, and their computer lab is like something you’d see at NASA.”
“I guess you have a point, but I don’t want to see her hurt,” Sierra admitted.
I wasn’t done. “And second of all, what is wrong with us talking about what happens at MLK? School is our life right now. Am I supposed to not talk about my life?” I asked.
Sierra frowned. “I know, but—”
Allie came back into the room then, and Sierra and I clammed up. The little bell on the door jingled as two high-school-aged boys walked into the shop.
I looked at my best friends. Ready or not, it was time to sell some ice cream!