Salt Water Taffie (Boardwalk Brides Book 1)

BOOK: Salt Water Taffie (Boardwalk Brides Book 1)
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Salt Water Taffie

 

By

 

Janice Thompson

Salt Water Taffie

Copyright © 2015 by Janice Thompson. All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the permission of the author.

 

All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, new International Version ©, NIV©, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

 

All of the characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events is purely coincidental.

 

ONE

 

 

“I’ll have a half pound of assorted taffies, hon. And don’t bother with the fancy box. Just put ’em in a plastic bag and I’ll be on my way.”

Taffie Carini glanced across the glass counter at her customer, a woman in her early sixties with wind-blown gray hair, and offered a smile. “Anything else?”

“No, I’m supposed to be watching my waistline,” the woman responded with a wink. “ ’Course, it’s getting easier to see every day, so I don’t know why I bother.”

Taffie forced back a grin and took several steps to her right—beyond the maple fudge and tiny mounds of white divinity, past the homemade peanut brittle, the crystallized rock candy, and countless rows of caramel apples—to the large glass candy jars. She kept on moving beyond the colorful jellybeans and the jars of licorice, finally landing in the taffy section.

Reaching for a metal scoop, she measured out a half pound of taffies in a variety of flavors, then threw in a couple of extra pieces for good measure. After pressing a CARINI’S
Confections
sticker on the bag, she closed it with a twist tie, and then returned to the register and passed it over the glass counter to her anxious customer.

“Oh, honey, I can’t resist.” The woman’s double chin became more pronounced as her lips curled up in a girlish grin. “Give me another half pound of the peanut butter flavored ones. They’re my favorite. I used to eat them all the time when I was a girl. My mama said they were responsible for some mighty big dental bills back in the day.”

This time Taffie couldn’t hide her smile. She’d visited the dentist on countless occasions as a child, as well. But who could blame her? When your parents ran the most popular candy and ice cream shop on Atlantic City’s busy boardwalk, you were bound to suffer a few casualties. . .er, cavities.

She made her way back over to the glass jar that held the peanut butter taffy and filled another bag, this time tossing in a good quarter pound more than necessary. Her parents wouldn’t mind. In fact, if Pop hadn’t disappeared into the back room to service one of the machines, he probably would have told her to double the order, just for fun.

“My parents used to come to this store when they were children,” the woman explained as she fumbled for her wallet. “I think they must’ve known your mom and dad.”

“Or possibly my grandfather,” Taffie offered. “He’s the one who opened the shop in the forties.”

“Was his name Gus?”

“Yep.” Taffie sighed at the mention of his name. Grandpa Gus passed away five years ago, but she still missed him terribly and so did the customers. Her parents insisted on telling folks he’d gone to “the sweet by and by,” something that always brought either a sigh or a chuckle.

A sound at the window distracted Taffie from her work. She looked over to see three elementary age children dressed in bathing suits. peering through the glass from the boardwalk outside. Their sticky fingers left behind imprints on the window she’d spent much of the morning cleaning. Still, who could fault them, especially since the stickiness came from the taffy she’d sold their mother just minutes before? Taffie gave them a wave and they skipped off, disappearing into a sea of tourists.

“Looks like I’m not the only one with a sweet tooth today.” The woman slipped a ten-dollar bill over the counter. As she did, her gaze shifted to the nametag on Taffie’s blouse. “Oh! Is that your real name?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Taffie sighed. She got this a lot. “I’m Taffie Carini. And yes, my parents did it on purpose.”

“How clever.”

“Yes.” Should she mention that her younger sisters, Candy and Tangie, had suffered similarly embarrassing fates? Having imaginative parents in the candy biz could be tough on a girl, especially a single girl in her late twenties. What sort of guy was going to take any of them seriously? No, the Carini daughters were destined to remain single. Loaded with sweets. . .just not the right kind.

“My husband and I don’t make it back to Atlantic City often enough,” the woman continued. “We live in the Midwest now. But I’ve still got salt water in my veins.” She giggled. “I guess you do, too. Salt Water Taffie!”

Taffie did her best not to groan. She got this one a lot, too. Stretching out her hand with the woman’s change, she smiled. “Have a sweet day.”

“Have a sweet day, yourself!” The woman undid the twist tie on one of the bags and reached inside for a piece of peanut butter taffy. She unwrapped it and popped the whole piece in her mouth as she made her way back out to the boardwalk.

Taffie glanced across the confectionary—beyond the small round tables and white wrought-iron chairs—to the turn-of-the-century style soda fountain on the other side. She watched as her mother schmoozed the customers, young and old alike, serving up malts, sodas, sundaes, and banana splits. Yes, Mom certainly had a way with people. And in August, as the last of the summer tourists made their way up and down the boardwalk, she knew just how to draw them in from the heat. . .with the promise of ice cream and old-fashioned sugary delights of every kind.

The double doors opened and, like the waves rushing the shore, a new batch of customers flooded the shop. Taffie tried to stay focused as she measured out half a pound of this and a pound of that. The children giggled as they sampled the sweet treats. Their parents, with childlike excitement in their eyes, peered through the glass at the homemade goodies. And the old folks sighed with joy as they reminisced about the candies that made them feel young again.

Taffie loved watching this scene play itself out over and over again. In fact, she loved pretty much everything about her life at the candy shop. Well, everything except the financial stuff. But something about the look of pure longing in a customer’s eyes made her happy.

She just had to wonder. . .would anyone ever look at
her
with that same sense of longing? Determined not to grow sad, she turned her attention back to her customers.

***

“Ryan, are you still in the kitchen?”

“Still in here, Pop. Checking out this oven.” Ryan Antonelli closed the door to the large pizza oven and turned to look into his father’s anxious eyes.

“So, what’s the diagnosis, son?”

“Busted heating element,” Ryan explained. “We’ll have to order the part. Shouldn’t take long to arrive. A couple of days, maybe. Three, at most.”

“Two days? Or three?” This time the voice came from his right. Mr. Petruzelli, owner of the pizzeria, entered the room with worry etched in his brow. “How will we stay in business if our main oven is down? What a mess!” He paced the room, muttering in Italian.

Ryan looked at his father and shrugged. Pop’s expression spoke volumes.
Antonelli’s Appliance Repair guarantees every customer will be satisfied, no matter the sacrifice.

“Tell you what, Mr. Petruzelli,” Ryan said as he tucked his flashlight back into his tool belt. “I’m headed to Philadelphia in a couple of hours. I’ve got tickets to see the Phillies play tonight. I’ll go by the parts store before the game and pick up the heating element myself.”

“Yes, that’s right.” His father patted him on the back and Ryan could almost read the relief in his expression. “Tomorrow morning, bright and early, my son and I will come by to make the repair. That way you can open for business at the usual time.”

“You promise?” Mr. Petruzelli asked, the wrinkles in his forehead relaxing a bit.

“I promise!” Ryan extended his hand and his customer took it, offering a friendly shake.

Mr. Petruzelli followed Ryan and his father outside, his words tumbling forth a mile a minute, undergirded by a hearty Italian accent. While Ryan loaded his tools in the van, the two older men took to chatting about the weather and the price of gasoline. He grinned as he watched his father at work.
You’ve still got it, Pop. You know just how to win over the customers, even after all these years.

Not that his father had to try. No, Victor Antonelli’s heart for the Lord came shining through in every situation. Ryan had witnessed it hundreds—if not thousands—of times.

He took his place behind the wheel, waiting until his father wrapped up with their now-happy customer. Then, with Pop onboard, Ryan pointed the vehicle toward Antonelli’s Appliance Repair—the small converted office at the front of the family’s house in Bungalow Park. Not much had changed in the disorganized office over the years. Pop still hadn’t quite managed to stay on top of things. But who could blame him? He’d suffered more than his fair share of challenges.

Ryan looked over at his father and relaxed a bit as he spoke. “All’s well that ends well.”

“Yes.” His pop flashed a smile bright enough to light up the boardwalk at night. “Son, you saved my neck back there. No telling what might’ve happened if we’d made Mr. Petruzelli wait on the part. Are you sure you don’t mind picking it up while you’re in Philly?”

“Don’t mind a bit. What time should we meet in the morning?”

“The restaurant opens at 11:00. How long do you think it will take to make the repair?”

“Maybe an hour and a half?”

“Let’s say nine, just to be safe.”

“Sure.” Ryan shrugged. He would do anything to help his father, and the past year had proven that. Laying down his own wants and wishes, he’d come to Pop’s rescue after the stroke, taking over most of the company’s repair jobs. Thankfully, the recovery time had been minimal and his father had recovered nicely. Now on a daily regimen of medications, he struggled to keep a healthy balance between work and rest.

Ryan did his best to carry most of the burden where the business was concerned. Sure, his older brother Luke helped out on occasion, but for the most part Ryan and his father tackled the commercial appliances of Atlantic City. . .together. There was hardly a business in town they hadn’t become acquainted with. School cafeterias, day cares, hospitals. . . You name the business; they’d serviced it.

Not that Ryan particularly enjoyed his work as a technician. No, under better circumstances, he’d stick to working with business promotions. His marketing degree had hardly prepared him for repairing dishwashers, garbage disposals, and the like, but Pop needed him. And as long as Pop needed him. . .

“Who’s going to the game with you, son?”

“Luke and Vic. Same as always.” He loved hanging out with his older brothers—most of the time. Since Vic’s recent separation from his wife, he’d been pretty sullen. And Luke, despite his twenty-nine years on Planet Earth, still spent most of his time forgetting to show up for work. More often than not, he continued to act like an irresponsible teenager.

As if reading his thoughts, his father reached over and patted his arm. “You’re the one I count on, Ryan. Sometimes I forget you’re only twenty-seven. You’re more mature than most your age.”

“Thanks, Pop. But keep on praying for all of us. I have a feeling it won’t be long before Luke and Vic realize they’re not kids anymore.”

“I’m sure you’re right.”

Ryan felt the usual twisting in his heart. Surely the Lord wasn’t finished with his brothers yet. And surely He saw to the very depths of Ryan’s heart. . .knew that his plans for the future didn’t exactly include appliance repair.

At least, not for long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK: Salt Water Taffie (Boardwalk Brides Book 1)
10Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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