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Liam Stafford had worked with Mei-Lin at the bakery for a few months. He really liked her, but somehow they had never gone out together. Ever since his tumultuous break-up, Liam had been hesitant to ask women out. He’d been alone so long he’d forgotten what it was like to date. Maybe he’d invite Mei-Lin to an Indian dinner at Mughlai in Manhattan in a couple of weeks. He’d have his paycheck by then, and the food and atmosphere were great. If the weather didn’t require a cab, they could walk to the restaurant from the express train at 72nd Street. It was a nice neighborhood and they could cab back to the train afterwards.
A quiet young man with short, dark brown hair and green eyes, Liam was trying to get his Masters degree at Brooklyn College. He was studying to become a high school guidance counselor. Liam came from a broken home, and wanted to help kids to succeed in school. His mom had helped him stay in school growing up, and he wanted to help others stay in school and succeed in life, despite their problems at home.
He liked Mei-Lin not only because she was attractive, with long dark hair and pretty eyes, but she was calm and full of joy, unlike the last girl he’d liked. Liam wanted to be with Mei-Lin, and get to know her better. Maybe he’d get the nerve to ask her out on their next shift together at the bakery.
On Wednesday evening, Mei-Lin cleaned out the Bunn Coffee machine while Liam rolled down the metal gate that secured the bakery door. Parkview Bakery was located in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The owner, Jim Fischetti, a short balding man in his sixties, also ran a thriving antique business when he wasn’t popping into the bakery to say hello and look things over. The day to day operations were handled by French chef Pascale Giverny, a tall slender woman with short blonde hair in a bob.
The bakery sold lots of cannolis and éclairs, and the customers liked their croissants and scones, but Pascale had augmented her Parisian training with two years of training at Cafe Beignet on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, and the beignets at Parkview sold by the bagful. Customers ate them at home, in the park, on the way to work, and at the barstools and tables set up in the small brownstone bakery. They usually had them with their lattes, their Italian sodas, and even the now elusive egg-crème.
Hermann, a plump Colombian man with lots of curly dark hair, was the night baker. Hermann was kneading dough for the morning breads as Liam and Mei-Lin put on their jackets. It was after 11pm, and they were exhausted. They had steamed milk and bagged pastries for eight hours.
Before Liam walked home to his small studio apartment on Carroll Street, he would always escort Mei-Lin to the car service dispatch on Union Street, as she lived in Brooklyn Heights; a good distance away, and not safe to walk at night. The air was chilly that November evening, and as they walked, Liam asked Mei-Lin if she would go to Manhattan with him for lunch on Saturday. She said she would like that, but that he should understand that they were going as friends.