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Cooking Classes

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Franky moved quickly between the cooking stations making sure everything was prepped and ready for her next class. Today was the first day for her new group of students. She had started teaching classes at the local community centre and saving up the money she needed to make her dream of owning her own restaurant come true. She usually taught adults, mostly the basics, with some specialty classes like cake decorating thrown in sometimes. Today however, was the first time that she’d be teaching a class of children, and fairly young children at that, so she’d called in extra help in the form of her friends Liz, Boomer, Allie and Bea to make sure that none of the kids had to handle anything too sharp or too hot.

Franky was just finishing up when she heard the excited voices of the kids coming in through the doors and making their way to the various classes that would be happening that afternoon. Being that her students were so young, most only 4 or 5 years old, she had just eight in her class, so that each of her friends only had two that they had to keep an eye on.

“Okay everyone,” Franky whistled to get their attention and saw eight small faces turn toward her. “Coats and bags over there,” she said pointing to the hooks along the back wall, “then find a station and put on an apron.”

They all did just as she asked, and Franky was about to start her lesson when she noticed that one small girl was still standing at the back of the room looking around nervously. The brunette knew that feeling as she was a shy child herself at that age before life made her toughen up, so she walked over to the girl and crouched down so she could be at her eye level.

“Hey, what’s your name?” Franky asked in a calm, soft voice so as not to make the child even more nervous.

“Emily but most people call me Em or Emmy.” The girl took a deep breath then pointed to Franky’s arm where the bottom part of her colourful Phoenix tattoo was just visible below the rolled up sleeve of her chef’s jacket. “I like that, it’s pretty.”

“Aw thanks bub,” Franky smiled at the girl. Looking up she saw that Liz had an open spot at her workstation, and she thought she would be the perfect one to help bring the small blonde out of her shyness. “What do you say we go over and meet my friend Liz and she’ll help you with stuff today, okay?” The girl nodded slowly after a second and followed Franky over to where Liz was standing.

The tall brunette leaned over and spoke to her friend quickly and softly so that Emily wouldn’t hear her and feel embarrassed, “Hey Liz, this one seems really shy so just do what you do best, yeah?” Liz smiled and gave a nod as the child approached.

“Hey love, my name is Liz.”

“I’m Emily.”

“Oh such a beautiful name! Here’s your apron love, let me just tie it in the back here for you.”

Franky moved to the front of the class and began teaching. They were making chocolate chip cookies today which basically meant that the kids were just learning how to measure and mix ingredients together while Franky and her friends helped them with the ovens. Everything was going well, and soon the room was filled with the delicious smell of baked goods.

********

Bridget was looking forward to the end of this day from Hell. The prison seemed to be hurtling itself toward a state of chaos, and she had been running around all day trying to talk everyone into a state of calm and avoid a major incident. Today was also just the second day that she was looking after her niece. Her brother was away on business for the next month and she was the only one who was able to look after the young girl. All of the grandparents lived too far away and Emily’s mother had passed away just a year ago. She loved her niece dearly but she was used to only having herself to look after, so it was going to take a few days to establish a routine with the girl. She had let Vera know that she wouldn’t be able to put in any overtime for the next while and the governor had been more than understanding.

There were only a few minutes left to her work day and she was looking forward to picking up Emily at her cooking class and hearing all about what she had learned. Bridget had made the decision to sign her up when she saw the flyer posted at the centre on her way to one of her yoga classes. She thought it would be good for the young girl to have something to do while she was staying with her to keep her mind off missing her father and maybe she’d make some new friends too. Emily was a sweet child but she was still very shy and Bridget knew that this might be just what was needed to help bring her out of her shell even just a little bit.

As she was packing up the last of her things, the alarm sounded.

“Attention compound: This is a lockdown. All prisoners return to your cells immediately. I repeat, this is a lockdown. All prisoners return to your cells immediately.”

“You have got to be kidding me.” Bridget didn’t have time for this. A lockdown meant that no one was allowed in or out of the prison but she needed to leave on time today.

She lifted her bag onto her shoulder and made sure she had her keys and swipe card with her. Maybe if she could find Vera and remind her of what they had talked about then she would make an exception and let her leave on time. She spotted her just at the end of the hall and jogged the few steps to catch up with her.

“Vera, do you have a second?”

“Not really but go ahead.”

The governor seemed stressed, and Bridget figured it had been a bad day for everyone so she decided to be quick and to the point. “I know it’s a lockdown, but I really need to leave today. Normally I would stay, but today I just can’t.”

“Sorry, Bridget but protocol states that no one enters or leaves the building.”

“But I have to pick up my niece and we agreed that I’d do no overtime while she was here.” Bridget looked at her, pleading with her eyes for the other woman to understand.

“This isn’t overtime, it’s a lockdown. I have no control over it.”

“I understand but please Vera, I’d really appreciate it.”

“I’m sorry but no. There are still prisoners unaccounted for. If I let you go and something were to happen to you on your way out, I wouldn’t be able to live with that. Please, go back to your office and wait.” Bridget stood her ground but she knew she wasn’t going to win. “Please?” Vera asked one last time.

Bridget turned and walked back toward her office muttering a “fuck” under her breath as she went.

She entered her office and quickly looked up the number for the centre and dialled it on her phone. A sweet older lady picked up and she quickly explained the situation. She waited while the woman went to confirm that one of the instructors was able to stay and look after Emily. When she was told one of the chefs, by the name of Franky, was able to stay as long as needed, she breathed a sigh of relief.

“Oh tell her thank you so much and I’m so sorry to do this. I’ll owe her.” The woman on the other end told her not to worry and hung up the phone. Bridget knew her brother would probably be upset for her leaving his daughter with someone who was essentially a stranger, but what other choice did she have at this moment? She sat at her desk and settled in for a long afternoon of watching the clock tick.

********

Near the end of the class, as the kids were helping to clean up, Franky began handing out colourful boxes so each of the kids could take home the treats they had made.

She saw Liz approach her out of the corner of her eye, “Franky love, we’ve got a bit of a situation.”

Liz didn’t look too panicked so Franky assumed that it couldn’t be anything too bad. “What’s going on?” She asked as she continued handing out the boxes with Liz following her.

“Emily’s aunt just called. I guess she’s looking after her while her Dad is away on business, and she’s gotten held up at work. She works at Wentworth and apparently something happened and the prison is on lockdown. She’s okay but no one’s allowed to leave.”

“So there’s no one who can pick her up?” Franky asked glancing over at the small child.

“I’m afraid not. It’s just her here, no other family nearby.” Franky took another look over at the girl and watched her packing up her cookies. Liz continued, “I’ve still got her aunt on the phone, I told her I’d let her know what we could do.” Liz was nervously playing with the edge of her apron.

“Tell her not to worry. I’ll stay with her until she can get here.”

“You sure?” Liz asked and Franky nodded. “She’ll be so grateful. I’ll go tell her now.”

As Liz made her way back to the phone in the office, Franky approached Emily and bent down to talk to her.

“Hey.” She smiled and Emily returned it although maybe a bit cautiously. “Your Auntie called and she has to stay and look after something at work, so she asked if you could stay here for a little while longer. Does that sound okay? You can hang out with me. I have something I could use some help with.” Franky thought that by keeping the child occupied with helping her it would take her mind off the fact that her Aunt wasn’t coming to pick her up on time and all the other kids were leaving.

The small blonde nodded and ran over to put her coat back on the hook by the door. Franky didn’t really have much experience looking after kids, and her own mother hadn’t been a role model to follow, but she had a soft spot for them and she was confident that she could handle this for a few hours.

Franky took her phone out of her pocket and made a quick call.

“Hey Kim, listen, I’m really sorry but I need to cancel tonight.”

Kim didn’t even give her a chance to explain. “What the fuck Franky! We’re supposed to be meeting in an hour!”

Franky tried her best to keep things calm, “Look, I only have a minute, okay? One of the kids in my new class has to stay behind for awhile because her Aunt got tied up at work so I’m going to wait with her. We’ll re-schedule though, yeah?” She hated to cancel plans, and judging by Kim’s reaction, she hated it even more, but Franky managed to smooth it over by saying she’d make it up to her.