Shopping is fun, but hectic at Christmas time. The miserable weather wasn’t helping. Christy stopped in front of the Cold Stone Creamery. The store was empty in the freezing cold, in spite of the bustling foot traffic outside. She pushed the door open and walked directly over to the register. There was no need to view the selections.
“Do you need any help to pick your Creation, Ma’am?” a short, skinny girl in a brown ponytail asked from behind the counter. Her accent was distinctly Southern U.S.
Christy winced. She couldn’t recall exactly when she had graduated to “Ma’am.” Whenever it was, it was too soon. And why are the kids in ice cream parlors always so skinny anyway? It’s almost false advertising isn’t it? She shook the thought away as she shook off the question and leaned forward a little so as not to raise her voice.
“You can add whatever I want, right?” she asked.
“If you want it in your ice cream, you get it in your ice cream,” the girl answered proudly, obviously excited to have a customer. “That’s the Cold Stone experience!”
Immediately, a box of Nerds candies emerged from Christy’s purse and she set them on the counter. “In plain vanilla, please.”
The girl gulped and her eyes went a little wide. “Um, I’m so sorry. I can’t… we can’t… it has to be… from inside the store.”
“It’s food… government… it’s business… you understand, health regulations,” she stammered, trying to make it sound more official.
Not much of a store policy, Christy thought, but she smiled politely. It was worth a try. “Thanks anyway,” she said. She picked up her candy and started back out of the store. At least policies-that-aren’t-really might make a good topic for a blog post. Before she could reach the door, the girl called out.
“Excuse me, Ma’am.”
The moniker wasn’t getting easier to hear. Christy stopped and turned around. There still wasn’t anyone else in the store to delegate it to.
“Aren’t you… don’t you… aren’t you the lady who writes PCC Advantage?”
Christy’s eyebrows stretched involuntarily. She wasn’t used to being recognized by strangers off campus, and for the moment she could only muster half a nod.
“It is you! I didn’t realize you were famous and stuff,” the girl said. “I could have made you a ‘Vanilla’ Creation.” She framed the word with her fingers and made a couple of large obnoxious winks like a lash was super-glued to her eye. “Let me just fetch some vanilla from the other freezer.” Her neck developed a twitch that really needed to be seen by a doctor.
Christy looked around trying to avoid her smirk. There really was no one else in the store. Suddenly, she felt like a teenager again. She sneaked over to the counter and waited for her young server friend to turn her back “fetching” some vanilla. The Nerds were back out, the box was open, and she actually giggled when she caught herself looking nervously over her shoulder as she reached over the counter and spilled a handful of the irregularly shaped candies onto the icy granite slab.
She watched as the girl worked the ice cream until it was smooth. The rhythm in her hands was almost musical, like she must be singing a song in her head to the beat. The green and red candies were quietly scooped and folded and the unfamiliar rhythm was never lost.
“What are you singing?” Christy asked.
“In your head… you’re singing something.”
The girl laughed without missing a beat. “Haha, that’s really cool you could tell! It’s a song from one of my dad’s old CDs. ♫♪ Ooh Baby, Baby, it’s a wild world…♫♪ she trailed off awkwardly and the chopping stopped for a second before she recovered. “I wasn’t singing it really, I don’t know the words. I just really like the piano.”
“How old are you…” Christy leaned forward for the name tag, “…Annie?”
“Seventeen,” the girl answered.
“And you read my blog?”
Annie stopped kneading the ice cream. “Oh yeah! I read all your advice and stuff. I want to be a Creative Writing major come fall.” Embarrassment washed over her face and she ducked her head, quickly grabbing for a basic cone and scooping the white, red and green mixture into it. “This looks heck of yum,” she said. “And really Christmasy!” She handed it over the counter and stepped to the register to ring it up.
Christy had all but forgotten her ice cream. Writing advice for young adults seemed like a great idea when she started it, but the thought of someone really planning their life, their future around her words had never seemed quite so real before. The feeling of responsibility was almost daunting. She found herself in one of those rare moments where nothing seemed like the right thing to say so she quietly paid for the cone.
“Joyeux Noël!” Annie said handing back the change. Her drawl sounded ridiculous in French.
“Joyeux Noël, Annie!” Christy felt as if her smile would never fade as she turned to the door this time.
“Oh, how’s your Vanilla Creation, Ma’am?” Annie called after her.
“Ma’am” suddenly felt like a welcome title of respect. A warm blush spread from Christy’s chest up into her smiling cheeks. She hadn’t tasted her ice cream yet. She stopped and ran her tongue along the frozen treat. Hints of watermelon and cherry were already mingled with the rich creamy vanilla, followed by the bursts of tart flavor as the little crystals melted on her tongue afterward.
“It’s awesome! It’s just awesome!” she said. “Thank you so much!”
© 2011 Anne Schilde
I checked; Cold Stone Creamery will NOT add your ingredients to their Creations. 😦