When Rosemary left Javier he became filled with despair, the kind of despair which quickly turns to the most intense dull sadness. His days were occupied with gentle weeping, and sleepless nights struggled to pass. He hid the sadness from his friends, because it seemed like the British thing to do, even though his broken heart pumped Spanish blood. Nobody noticed his cries for help whenever he declined a social invitation with the words ‘I’m watching the Sopranos’, even though he’d often stated his dislike for the show in the past. Always on the verge of doing something dramatic and dangerous in his mind, he never got passed the getting out of bed stage. The closest he came to self harm was the time he held a pillow over his face, but he found the attack far too relaxing and fell asleep.
Nine months later, on a fresh winter morning, Javier was sitting alone on a park bench. Watching the pigeons and eating an apple Danish pastry he began to whistle. Suddenly his sadness lifted. The grey cloud that had been pressing on his lungs for three quarters of a year was gone and he could breathe easy. Although many would come to the conclusion that nine months is the exact amount of time is takes to recover from heartache, Javier could think only of the pastry.
Never wanting to be sad again, Javier took to the study of pastries, and to a lesser extent, cakes. After a year of hard work he became one of the all time great pastry chefs. In his eyes, each and every dessert he baked was a miracle capable of curing any form of sadness, from grief to loneliness. Knowing this gave him great responsibility, and so, he opened the world’s first free bakery.
The bakery was a success, Javier was happy again and his life had a newfound sense of purpose. There was only one problem – his bakery was in his home town, where everybody knew him. Every day men and women would come to the bakery and make small talk. ‘How are you?’ they’d say. ‘What’s going on? I hear you broke up with Rosemary. How are you coping? Do you think you’ll get back together?’ Little did he know that the sadness had become a part of him, like the blood running through his veins, hidden away and forgotten about until a cut or a graze. The daily wave of questions about Rosemary was slicing at his skin and he could feel the sadness leaking out again.
Javier did the only thing that seemed logical – he left the country and left the continent, building a small bakery at the foot of the world’s seventh tallest mountain. It would be nearly four years before he had his first customer, but once news got out about the free pastries Javier’s bakery become the most talked about in the world. Word of mouth is a powerful tool, but when that word is ‘free’ people become crazed. Men, women and children, sad and happy alike, came from across the world to sample Javier’s mythical pastries, but he was just one man.
Demand smothered supply, meaning that the bakery was open for just one minute a day – the final moment before dawn became sunrise, after that there was nothing left. People would queue for days, sometimes weeks just to get their hands on one of one of Javier’s croissants.
Javier would often lie in bed wondering if his pastries were the best in the world. Why would people travel thousands of miles if they weren’t? Maybe his customers only queued for days at a time because the desserts were free. He needed to know for sure, and so, one morning, many years after Javier had tasted that Apple Danish on a park bench, he unlocked the door of his bakery and let the first fifty customers in. What they saw on the wall drove them to madness: ‘All Pastries $1’. Javier decided that a dollar was a reasonable amount to pay for the best pastry in the world. If people were willing to pay that dollar he would be re-assured of his skill as a chef. What Javier hadn’t anticipated was the collective mind of a group of people who had been waiting for ten days on the promise of free snacks. The price was irrelevant, the sign could have said one cent or a million Euros, and the reaction would still have been the same. Men, women and children began to tear the place apart, for reasons which Javier would never learn, many of them had come equipped with baseball bats and petrol cans. In the seconds it took for dawn to become sunrise, Javier’s bakery became nothing more than a pile of burning planks turning to charcoal at the bottom of the world’s seventh tallest mountain.
As Javier looked down at the rubble and his broken dream he saw the last Apple Danish he would ever bake, squashed and broken. Picking it up with the plastic tong attached to his belt, he placed the pastry in cellophane bag. He wanted to be alone. Pushing through the crowd he began to march up the mountain. After six hours of walking he looked down at where his bakery once stood. There were still thousands of people waiting, looking like ants, unaware that they were queuing for nothing. Javier began to feel sad again. As he raised the apple Danish to his lips, ready to seal up his pain, he started to feel comforted by his sadness. It had been a long time since he’d felt this badly, it was like being re-united with an old friend. Nostalgia, even for terrible things, is better than nothing.
Upward he climbed, guided only by his subconscious, for what could have been days. Time had been replaced by sadness. Finally, when there was no place left to climb, Javier gathered his thoughts. He’d reached the top of the world’s seventh tallest mountain. He had failed in curing sadness for all mankind through pastries and cakes, but he’d climbed a very tall mountain. It was an acceptable consolation prize. What should have been the loneliest place in the world was slightly less so, because Javier wasn’t the only person at the top of this mountain. Across from him, in a moon white wedding dress, was Rosemary. She was crying. Sitting down beside her, he asked:
‘Run away from a wedding?’
‘Yes.’ she sobbed.
She nodded. ‘I guess you want to be alone. I’ll leave.’ he said. ‘Would you like some of this before I go?’ he asked, offering Rosemary his apple Danish. Accepting it she broke it in half and handed him the bigger piece. After taking a bite Rosemary stopped crying and chewed in silence. A minute later she spoke the words Javier had been waiting to hear for nearly six years.
‘This is the best apple Danish I’ve ever tasted.’
Javier smiled, as he began to descend the mountain Rosemary called out to him.
‘I’m sorry,’ she said ‘I’ve missed you, you know?’ Putting her hand on his neck she pulled him closer to her, and they kissed. When it was over Javier looked down at the apple Danish in his hand, thought to himself for a moment, and then threw it away. As they both watched it fall hundreds of feet, Rosemary took Javier’s hand.
The sun began to set, casting shades of blood red onto Rosemary's dress. They kissed again. He tasted the pastry on her tongue and he was happy. It really was the best pastry in the world. She began to say the words Javier had been waiting to hear for nearly six years and nine months.
‘I never stopped…’ But the next two words were lost in a scream, as Javier pushed Rosemary off the seventh tallest mountain in the world.