Hendumst í hringi
Spinning round and round
Höldumst í hendur
Allur heimurinn óskýr
The whole world a blur
nema þú stendur
But you are standing
25 was young to own a shop, even he knew that. However, no matter how hard he had tried, he couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Hyunsang had never been an academic person, always working just enough to pass his classes and get out of school as soon as possible. He was not bad in school, and certainly not stupid, just bored, never taking interest in a subject to the point of considering a career in a related field. Baking was and had always been his only passion, the only thing making him really happy and excited. Well, except music. That’s why he never went to university and decided to learn everything about cakes, and particularly his personal favorites, macarons.
At first, his parents had been against it, afraid of their son failing in getting a stable career and a well paid job. But they loved him, so much they helped him financially when it was time for him to open his own shop in a quiet neighborhood of a big city, understanding it was the only way to see him happy.
Hyunsang took pride in seeing the surprise in his customers’ eyes when they would learn he was the owner of the bakery, him, the 25 years old boy wearing a pink sweater two sizes too big and a baseball cap to hide the disastrous situation in which his hair were most days. Most of them thought he was a part timer or the son of the owner, sometimes asking for a discount or free things as if his young age would make him scared to say anything. But it didn’t, not anymore.
Truthfully, he was a shy person and had been an even shyer child and teenager. Making friends had never been easy even if he was quite good at keeping them once they were there. He liked to believe he was like a fire you have to light yourself. It takes a while to get it to burn, but once it’s there it feels like the warm feeling will never stop. Working in his shop had helped a bit. He was not afraid to look strangers in the eyes anymore and he would always be the first person to talk between him and his customers, a thing he would have thought impossible not even a year ago. Some days, Hyunsang was in a good mood and would be able to make small talk with every single person going through the door of his bakery. Sometimes he wasn’t and on those days, he would put his “customer smile” on and do his best to not let his anxiety take the lead.
Something that would always cheer him up and make him willing to give a free macaron or two was to see customers come with their dogs. He had made his bakery an animal friendly space just for that, his own dog and two cats always sleeping somewhere behind the counter or around the customers. And because Hyunsang wanted to make sure the dogs, and their owners, would come back, he always had little macarons made specially for them, with ingredients he was sure would not make them sick. The customers would smile, seeing their little companion wag their tails at the sight of the little treat, and that’s the exact moment he knew they would comeback, with or without their little furry friends.
“Would you like a napkin with it ?” Hyunsang asked the middle aged lady who had ordered three macarons and a coffee. She shook her head and with a slight bow, took her tray and turned around to find a seat. Hyunsang bowed deeper and made sure she had found an empty spot before continuing with what he was doing previously.
Not even a minute later, Hyunsang heard the little bell over the front door ring again.
“Hel-” his greeting died in his throat as he faced the person who had just came in. “Again, hyung ? It’s the third time this week.”
Jeonghun put a strand of his hair behind his ear with a smile. “I know but you know how much Jinho likes your cakes.”
“Not as much as you like him.” murmured Hyunsang under his breath.
“You said ?” Jeonghun bent a little over the counter as if it would make him hear what Hyunsang had said a few seconds before.
“I said which flavor.” Hyunsang lied with a half smile, customer rules be damned. He had enough of his bandmate coming every two afternoon to get cake for their other bandmate who could definitely survive without eating this much sugar on a weekly basis.
“Feels like a very Red Velvet day today. Did you know that I almost made Jinho hyung learn Peek-a-Boo on the cello ?” Jeonghun took out his credit card and handed it to Hyunsang, not even looking at the price or ordering anything for himself.
“Yeah, the very important part of your sentence being ‘almost’.” Hyunsang gave his card back to Jeonghun and went over to the coffee machine, ready to make him a free americano, like he always did. Yes, Jeonghun was getting on his nerves sometimes but if Hyunsang had to be honest for two seconds he would probably have to admit Jeonghun was his annoying best friend before anything else. “Aren’t we supposed to meet tonight ?”.
“Yeah, Pizza and a little bit of rehearsal at my place !” Jeonghun winked at Hyunsang when the younger put the americano on the counter. The baker made sure not to look at his friend to see the satisfied smile on his face.
“Your neighbor already complained about us being too noisy though.” Hyunsang pointed out, to which Jeonghun slightly nodded. “Let’s meet here after I closed the shop. And come with the pizza.”
“Would have faced my grumpy neighbors for Hoppipolla.” Jeonghun was pouting, Hyunsang didn’t even have to look at him to know.
“I know that and that’s exactly why I’m offering to meet here. I prefer that than seeing you on my door step in three days because you’ve been kicked out of your apartment or something.”
As Jeonghun opened his mouth, probably to say that was not how it worked, the bell rang again and a customer made his way to the counter, cutting their conversation short. With a wave of the hand, Jeonghun left the shop, a promise to be there tonight hidden in his smile.
By now, Hyunsang had his little routine when it came to closing the shop. He definitely couldn’t afford to have an employee so it was just him and himself, cleaning, rearranging everything, counting the money he had made and checking that he had everything he needed to make his cakes and drinks the next day. Truth was, Hyunsang was always at work, but it was what it took to keep doing what he loved the most for a living. It was worth every minute, no doubt. The first step was putting all the remaining cakes away, either in the freezer or in the trash can, something he hated doing but was forced to by the law. Most of the time, if he had the time to do it, he would give what he had not sold to people in need. Then he cleaned the shop, leaving the dishes for the end.
Cleaning the dishes was exactly what he was doing when Youngso pushed the door of the shop, making the bell ring for the last time of the day. His last customers, as they always were. A tot bag on his shoulder and his guitar on his back, the young man spotted the only sofa in the cafe and fell on it, resting his calves on the armrest to make sure his feet would not touch anything. He then grunted, like he almost always did when he had this tot bag with him.
“Coming back from uni ?” Hyunsang asked as he wiped his hands on his apron after cleaning the last spoon.
“I’m gonna die.” Youngso put his arm over his eyes to cover the warm lights hanging from the ceiling. “Uni is going to kill me and you’re all invited to my funerals.”
“How generous !” escaped Hyunsang’s lips at the same time Jeonghun patted Youngso’s thigh with a gentle “You can do this !”. That’s how different they were.
“I think I’m gonna drop out and start doing music as a full time thing. That’s what I will do after I graduate anyway, better start now.” Youngso said without opening his eyes.
“Kim Youngso you are going to graduate from university.” Maybe it was the fact he had used his last name, maybe it was the fact it was clearly a statement and not a question or a way of showing support but Youngso quickly rose to a sited position at the sound of Jinho’s voice.
“But-”, a look at Jinho’s facial expression and the conversation was over.
Hyunsang let out a quiet chuckle before coming closer to the three men.
What an unexpected and slightly weird bunch they made. Hyunsang was still amazed at how great they were as a band when they were all so different. They were not even from the same generation and Hyunsang was pretty sure Jinho could have been Youngso’s dad in an other life, but he wasn’t in this one. In this one, they were bandmates and friends. Friends that would biker, friends that would be here to chat at 3 am when you couldn’t sleep and friends who apparently made cake to give to your long time crush.
Jeonghun’s instinct was no joke. One day they were all competing in the same small talent show and the next, the three of them had a dm on instagram from an “i’ll” guy saying “Hey ! I saw you at the talent show last night and I really want to work with u ! hmu”. They all had different reactions. Jinho had searched what “hmu” meant, Youngso had replied “!!!!” which was apparently a yes and Hyunsang had left him on read, sending him a quick “let’s meet to talk about it” a few days later. That’s how they became a group composed of a classical musician, a semi professional singer, a baker and an excited high school student.
They had made it work, through hours of planning what their music would sound like, through mild arguments and heated conversation. Hoppipolla was born 4 years ago, before Hyunsang had opened his shop, before Youngso had entered university and way before Jeonghun had released his first ep. They had grown together, making sure to always support the others in whatever projects they had. That’s exactly why his three bandmates had eaten cake everyday for weeks, saying what was good and what wasn’t to a very vulnerable but open to criticism Hyunsang. They were the reason most of the cakes and macarons were sold in his shop until this day. Hyunsang had been the most grateful for them during these stressful moments, seeing them pass by the shop just to offer him a thumb up through the shopwindow.
Once the pizza was finished, the only pieces remaining in the box being the crust Youngso still refused to eat even if he was now 22 years old, Hyunsang stood up and went to take the last pieces of cakes he had left in the refrigerator for them.
“Jinho hyung, I’m not offering you one since Jeonghun came by earlier today and I don’t want you to die from a sugar overload.” Hyunsang took a seat and gave a piece of his favorite chocolate cake to Youngso and a piece of low fat cheescake to Jeonghun. Hyunsang had gave up on asking which fat he had to loose exactly.
“Hyung, why do you always buy cake to Jinho hyung and never to me huh ?” Youngso asked around his first spoonful of frosting. Hyunsang knew that the youngest knew exactly why that was the case but he probably really loved seeing Jeonghun blush like a highschooler, feeling Jinho’s wondering eyes on him.
Jeonghun took the biggest piece of cake that his spoon could gather and put it in his mouth to avoid answering the question he had no good answer to. Hyunsang already had a second piece of cheesecake prepared for him since he knew very well Jeonghun would ask for another one once the first was finished. He loved eating these cakes just as much as Hyunsang liked to create and bake them.
They practiced some of their old songs a bit and then spent a few hours improving their newest one. Just like that, as if time had stopped and went by really quickly at the same time, Jinho, Jeonghun and Youngso were packing their instruments and exiting the little shop, waving at Hyunsang from the outside as they left for the bus stop. He put his headphones on and cleaned the mess they made, making sure to turn off the lights and close everything before taking his leave, yawning while walking to his apartment.
He woke up earlier than the sun, just like every working day, doing his very quick morning routine as quietly as humanly possible in order to not wake up his roommate, Hakyun. His best friend was a night owl, sometimes drawing at his desk until Hyunsang would wake up to go to work. Frankly, they didn’t see each others a lot these days, living on two different timezone even if they were in the same apartment. As he took his keys and put his beret on, Hyunsang thought that they should eat together soon to catch up. Because today was Saturday, the busiest day at the bakery and the only day of the week when he made the effort to put a nicer outfit on, Hyunsang was wearing a beret, had curled his hair a bit and had put a beige jacket on. A last look in the mirror in the entrance and he was off to his second home.
Each of his mornings were as much of a routine as his evenings were. Opening the door, putting the sign to indicate it was still closed on it, taking his apron on the little hook in the kitchen in the back of the shop, taking the ingredients from the cupboards and starting to do what he did best: baking. Hyunsang liked to do the same thing everyday, taking comfort in knowing what he will do the next day and the day after that. The customers and the flavors of his macarons and cakes were the only things changing everyday.
Hyunsang pushed a strand of hair from his eyes with the back of his hand as he looked at the recipe he needed in his little notebook. Making the cakes already purchased for weddings or birthdays was always his priority. This time, the woman had asked for an eight person Black Forest cake, something Hyunsang liked to do but was not very familiar with. Maybe dressing in light colors had not been the best idea today, judging from how dark the dough was and how red the cherry syrup looked. Finishing it without a single drop coming in contact with his clothes, Hyunsang sighted and took a step back to admire his work.
“This will do.” he murmured to himself as he put it back in the refrigerator and prepared the box to put it in. The boxes he used were white, with little pink dots at the bottom of it and a drawing of a cake Hakyun had made to be the signature of the shop. It was exactly like the shop in itself, soft colors, drawings from his friend on the walls, pink details here and there. The only thing that was not on the little boxes was the big quote from the song Hoppipolla written on the wall facing the shopwindow, a little touch Jeonghun had suggested, not expecting Hyunsang to follow through it.
As Hyunsang was getting ready to prepare his macarons, the almond powder and sugar already on the counter, a little sound coming from his pocket made him aware he had a text. He took the device in his hand, not really surprised to see it was one from Youngso.
Hyung, can I work with you at the bakery ? I promise I will be a very efficient employee and you could totally pay me with salted caramel macarons and oreo muffins !
Hyunsang’s face broke into a smile, imagining Youngso’s pout while writing this text, probably already in the subway to got to class.
Go to class already or I’m telling Jinho hyung.
Hyunsang put his phone back in his pocket, knowing very well that Youngso would probably answer his text with a sad emoji or a meme of a crying cat.
Before he knew it, it was already time to open the bakery and start another day made of sugary scent, cute dogs, one or two rude customers and at least five people saying the music playing in the cafe was good. A routine he would probably never grew tired of, because every single kind word was stored in his heart for the moments he felt down, because every single time he would think about doing anything else, he would frown and shake his head, chasing the possibilities away. Of course this was not his dreamed life, but that was the closest thing he had ever experienced in his life. Here, surrounded by cakes, warm lights and sometimes by his friends, Hyunsang felt at home.