Too Many Toppings!
CHAPTER ONE LATE AGAIN
I checked the time on my phone as I hurried down the sidewalk—1:12 p.m. Whoops! I was late for my most important, most favorite activity of the week. Well, one of my most favorite activities. I had a lot of favorites. That was sort of the problem.
“I’m late! I know! I’m sorry!” I declared as I burst through the front door of Molly’s Ice Cream parlor. The bell tied to the top of the door tinkled merrily, but that was the only merry thing that greeted me. My two best friends, Allie Shear and Tamiko Sato, were both in a whir of activity, taking orders and scooping ice cream.
Tamiko glanced up and gave me an icy stare, colder even than the ice cream. Ouch.
Even the customers in line seemed annoyed. Maybe I shouldn’t have announced my lateness quite so . . . loudly.
I quickly tied back my long, curly brown hair and wished I’d thought of that on the way there. Customers didn’t want hair in their food, and they probably didn’t want to see me tying it back as I was dashing to the counter!
As quick as a flash, I washed my hands, donned an apron and a huge smile, and took my place at the register. I was the best at math, so I usually took the money and made change, while Tamiko, master marketeer, took orders and tried to convince customers to choose exciting new options that she often invented on the spot. Allie, whose mother owned the store, made the cones and shakes. We all did a little bit of everything, truth be told, but the three of us had been working together every Sunday afternoon for a few months now, and we’d gotten into a very comfortable and efficient rhythm of who did what.
There was no chance to explain my lateness with customers waiting. But with all three of us pitching in, we made quick work of the line and soon had the
shop to ourselves. I took the opportunity to wipe down the counters, paying extra attention to the area around the toppings bar.
I felt really bad about being late. I wanted to apologize, but I was scared to bring it up because I knew Tamiko and Allie would be mad. And I hated when my friends were mad at me. I was pretty sure I hated that feeling more than any other feeling in the world.
“Today must be your lucky day,” Tamiko said finally.
I could hear the edge in her voice. It made my stomach queasy.
“What’s lucky about being late?” I asked. I knew it was better to just say it than to try to pretend it hadn’t happened.
“You’re lucky because we were low on rainbow sprinkles, and my mom ran out to the store to get more before you got here,” Allie explained. Her voice was less edgy, but I could tell she was annoyed too. “So she won’t know you were late. Because we won’t tell her.”
“Yeah,” said Tamiko. “You’ll get away with it. Again.”
The bad feeling in my stomach grew worse. I
didn’t like getting away with something. I wasn’t trying to get away with anything. I really wasn’t.
“Thanks for understanding, you guys,” I said. “I really do have a good excuse! My soccer game yesterday got canceled because of the rain and rescheduled for this morning. And then the game was 3–3, so we went into overtime. . . .”
Allie sighed and rubbed a gritty spot on the counter with her thumbnail. “That’s the problem, Sierra. You always have a good excuse.”
“Since when is having a good excuse a bad thing?” I asked. I half smiled, trying to bring a little cheerfulness to the situation. After all, we were only talking about twelve minutes. Twelve minutes! I didn’t technically have to be there until one o’clock. I was sometimes much later for things.
Allie glanced at Tamiko. They seemed to have an entire conversation with their eyes in mere seconds.
Then Allie said, “Because I’m waiting for the day when you tell somebody else that the reason you need to leave early is because you have a responsibility to be at your job at Molly’s. Which my mom pays you for. Why is everything else more important to you than being here?”
“It isn’t more important!” I protested. “Really. I love my job here—you know that. I’m just, well . . . I guess I’m just so used to being late that this isn’t really that late to me. Anyway, I figured you guys would understand.”
“We do understand—you’re taking advantage of your friends,” Tamiko said. “And it’s not cool, Sierra.”
Wow. Another ouch. This day was just getting worse and worse. Tamiko was always outspoken and said exactly what was on her mind, which I loved about her. But occasionally, when it was directed at me (or at one of my faults), it could hurt a little. But I couldn’t deny that it was true: I did count on our friendship to keep me from getting into too much trouble. Working at Molly’s on Sundays was my job. I needed to take it just as seriously as soccer, and softball, and student council, and all the other things I did. Because they were all commitments I had made. And even more important, they were all so much fun. That’s why I committed to so many things in the first place. I loved activities, and meeting new people, and being involved in lots of stuff. It made my head spin, but in a really good and exciting way. I was not the type of person to sit around. I liked to go, go, go!
Sometimes it was hard to explain that to people who liked things calm and structured, like Allie. Or precise and efficient, like Tamiko.
“Listen, you guys. I am really, really, really, truly, with cherries and Oreos and sprinkles on top, sorry. Okay? I’ll stay later today to make up the time.”
Allie sighed. “I know, Sierra. It’s just that you’ve said that before.”
Just then Allie’s mom, Mrs. Shear, breezed in. “I’m back, girls!” she called, her arms full of economy-size tubs of toppings. “And they had so many yummy-looking things at the store that I had to try a few new things.”
She went straight for the toppings bar and showed us the spiced nuts, lemon curd, nut brittle, and peppermint she’d bought. “Tamiko,” she said, “I’ll leave you in charge of coming up with interesting new treats that use these. You always have good ideas.”
She patted Tamiko on the shoulder and flashed me a smile as she headed toward the back of the shop, where the storage and little office area were. We all called it “backstage.”
“Now, I’ll be backstage for a while doing some paperwork, but feel free to come back if you need
to talk to me,” Mrs. Shear said. “And, Allie, please put some music on. . . . It’s dead in here!”
Allie obediently turned on the store’s speaker system and cued up a song on her phone. It was a fast-paced song and sounded out of place as my two friends and I stared at one another, not sure how to go on after our disagreement, especially since Allie’s mom was back and might overhear us.
I was grateful they hadn’t told on me, and truly sorry for being late. But I believed I had a valid excuse. I played right fullback on my soccer team, and my sub hadn’t been there. I’d had to play. But there were two other employees here at Molly’s working, and both were able to do the cash register. Was there something else they were mad about? Or was it really just my occasional lateness?
The three of us worked for a while in stony silence. Allie and Tamiko were stiff and awkward, and I felt so miserable that I debated whether I should just go tell Mrs. Shear I’d been twelve minutes late so that she could reprimand me. Maybe then my friends would let me off the hook. But if Allie had wanted her mother to know, she would have told her, and she hadn’t. So I didn’t want to get her in trouble for covering for me.
Ugh. It was all so awkward.
Finally an older lady came in and began studying the menu.
“What can I get you?” asked Tamiko, turning on her special Molly’s charm. “We have lots of one-of-a-kind treats that aren’t on the menu, so just tell me what you’re in the mood for, and I’ll make it happen!”
The woman, who was wearing a beautiful print scarf and pearls, looked amused. “One of a kind?”
Allie jumped in. “Yes! Here at Molly’s all of our ice cream is homemade, and we constantly have new items on the menu that you can’t find anywhere else. Molly’s is completely unique.”
“I like unique.” The woman smiled, studying us. “Are you three friends, or just coworkers?”
“Friends,” I said quickly. “Best friends. They’re my two best friends in the whole world.”
The woman nodded knowingly. “I have two best friends too. We’ve known each other since we were kids. Three can be a hard number for friendships sometimes, but I’m glad to see you girls have it all worked out.”
I didn’t say anything, and neither did Allie or
Tamiko. I wasn’t sure we had it all worked out, especially today.
“I have a good feeling about you girls,” the woman said. “How about you surprise me with something of your choice?”
Tamiko clapped her hands with joy and, with a sly look at me, whispered something into Allie’s ear. Allie nodded and quickly got to work.
Tamiko told me what to charge, and I rang it up on the cash register. When Allie presented the woman with the finished product, a frothy milkshake made with three scoops of vanilla ice cream, flavored with spiced nuts, lemon curd, and peppermint.
“Mmm. It looks heavenly,” the woman said. “What’s it called?”
Tamiko beamed. “It’s called a forgiveness float. Because even though friendships can sometimes be spicy or sour, forgiveness is sweet.”
The woman took a sip and beamed. “Well done, girls. This tastes exactly like forgiveness—especially the little bit of lemon curd!”
She slipped a five-dollar bill into our tip jar and gave me a wink as she walked out the door.
“Thanks, you guys,” I said, relieved to have been forgiven. “I mean it.”
“You’re welcome,” said Allie. “Just don’t make the forgiveness float a permanent item on the menu, okay?”
“Yeah,” Tamiko agreed. “Promise us you won’t add one more thing to your schedule, Sierra. You can’t handle it, and we can’t either.”
I nodded vigorously. “I won’t! I pinky-swear promise.”
The three of us linked pinkies, and just like that, the day got better.