Mark leans back against the counter and inhales sharply. "This might not be home, but it sure smells like it," he says, taking in the ever so familiar scent of a freshly baked sponge as Samuel pulls it out of the oven. "Just the way Dad used to make it."
"I should hope so," replies Jules, pushing past with a bowl of freshly made chocolate ganache. "I mean, that's sort of the point of a family recipe, isn't it?"
"Haha, very funny."
"How're those macarons coming along, Jules?" asks Samuel, opening a low drawer and pulling out a palette knife, then jumping back with a start as Jules pulls out a tray from behind a corner and puts it onto the counter. "Whoa. You certainly have been busy. What flavour?"
"Raspberry. Going to fill them with that in a moment," Jules replies, pointing at the bowl that he's set down. "Really pleased with how they turned out, actually. I just hope they taste good."
"Can I have one?" Samuel tries, even though he knows it's futile. By this point, it's more of a running joke, really; one they've had ever since they were young.
Jules shakes his head. "Not one of these, no. I'm gonna fill these up and then put them on display—you know, that twirly thing that Dad gave us when we were moving out?" Samuel nods. "Speaking of which, where is the damn thing? Can't remember for the life of me which box I put it in…"
Mark tuts. "Ah, you should take more care with your things, Julien."
"They're our things. We're in this together, remember?" Jules says, shaking a whisk at him, the last dregs of ganache still clinging to the metal. "Seriously, though; where the hell is it?"
Mark grumbles something Samuel and Jules can't hear, before disappearing up the stairs to take a closer look at some of the boxes the three brothers never really fully unpacked.
Once he's gone, the two remaining brothers take one look at each other and burst out laughing, as if on cue. Mark may be the eldest of the three of them and therefore of the opinion that he must be the most responsible, but the three of them are twenty-three now. No longer children anymore. The hierarchy that hung over their backs in the great house, like the one that hung over their town, is no longer present here. It's half the reason that they came.
A fresh start. A level pegging.
"Found it," declares Mark, coming back down the stairs, the aforementioned object clutched in his left hand. "First box from the door. You need to start looking harder before you call in the big guns, Julien."
"Okay, one? Don't ever call yourself the big guns again," Jules replies, and Samuel doubles over laughing at the comment. "Two? You're ten months older than me. If anyone's the big guns, it's Christopher."
"Christopher isn't that much older than you."
"Still the eldest of us and has three years of life experience that you never will, Mark."
Mark practically slams down the display piece onto the counter, and the clang rings through the kitchen. He takes several sharp steps closer to Jules, their faces eventually mere inches from one another. "Yeah, but he isn't here, though. He doesn't count, which means that in this house, I'm—"
Samuel throws the palate knife puts himself between them, holding his hands out "Whoa, whoa, whoa. No fighting in the kitchen." Mark's still charged, but he exhales sharply and turns away. Samuel doesn't put his hands down until Jules takes a few steps back, coming to rest against the wall. "I mean it, you two. We're grown adults now, and we came out here to get away from all that bullshit."
Mark spins back around. "You're right. I guess—I guess I just got so enamoured with the idea that I was at the top for once that I forgot to stop and think about you guys."
Jules rubs his palms together as he too comes towards his brothers. "Yeah, me too." He pauses, turning to pull a piping bag out of a cupboard above his head. "I guess it's weird for all of us. Not having those structures and rules constantly imposed on us."
"It is," Samuel replies. "That's why we came here, remember? To remove all of that prejudice?" He pauses for a second to undo the spring release of the cake tin he'd put on the counter earlier. "Back home, it's all about where your family came from and where you stood within the family. Here? In a completely different city, where no one knows us or where we come from? None of that applies here. All we have to worry about is going out there and making sure that whoever comes through that door gets their money's worth in the baked goods that we provide them."
Mark turns back around and nods. "I honestly can't believe that we're doing this. I can't believe that we're opening in an hour."
Jules laughs. "We are. We're doing this, and it's crazy, and if this is a dream I never want to wake up from it, because—ouch!" he yells, immediately swatting away at the offending object. He turns his head to find Samuel, cradling his left hand in his right, a bright smile plastered on this face. "What the hell was that about?"
"I was convincing you that you're not dreaming," replies Samuel. "Now you know."
Jules rubs his side. "Not the way I would want you to have done it, per se, but thank you," he replies. "Where did you put the piping nozzles?" Samuel pulls them out of another drawer that Jules hasn't even gotten around to opening yet and hands them to him. "Thanks."
Mark slips out of the room and to the back office as Jules and Samuel start working on their goods. Something about the movement gives the little shop an essence of home. The kitchen's not as busy as the great house was, far fewer cooks and far less noise, but the air of franticness and the smell that fills up the entire room is the same.
An hour later, when the cakes have been iced and the tarts have been filled and Jules' raspberry macarons sit proudly on display, the brothers step back and take a moment to look at every nook and cranny of the little bakery that they've bet their entire lives on. They let the butterflies in their stomachs free, and tell each other just how terrified they are to be starting this great new adventure, even though the opening is something that they've been building towards for months on end.
They steel themselves, open the curtains, and smile at the lady with the vaguely familiar face who comes by every morning to see if they're open yet.
Most days, they have to shake their heads and point at the 'Opening Soon' sign stuck on the door.
Today, though, they don't do that.
Today, Mark pulls a key out of his trouser pocket, slips it into the lock and turns. Jules smiles at the click as the door unlocks.
Then, and only then, Samuel grasps the sign behind the door with two long fingers and flips it from Sorry, We're Closed to Come in, We're Open, for the first time since he was fourteen and finally got his turn at the great house.
The three brothers smile at one another, place one hand on the door handle each, press down and pull.
Their first customer, that all too familiar lady, is greeted by the sound of a silver bell. It's the most beautiful sound in the world.