Chapter One: Brain Freeze
CHAPTER ONE BRAIN FREEZE
It was one of those surprisingly cold days in spring that made you realize winter still wasn’t completely over yet. I stared out the window of Molly’s Ice Cream shop, where I was working my regular Sunday shift with my two best friends, Allie Shear and Tamiko Sato. I pictured pulling my favorite sunny yellow sweater out of storage and putting on fuzzy socks when I got home later.
The town of Bayville was a beachside town, which meant that we usually had a steady stream of ice cream lovers coming through the shop. But on days like today, when the thermometer dipped below 50 degrees and the wind was blowing, people had their minds on other things.
“Earth to Sierra. Are you in there?” Allie teased, waving a hand in front of my face.
“She’s probably writing song lyrics in her head,” said Tamiko, who was holding chalk and an eraser, and staring up at the shop’s two giant chalkboards. One was for the daily special—something our social marketing and flavor genius, Tamiko, was excellent at dreaming up—and one was for Allie’s ice cream and book pairings, where our bookworm, Allie, appealed to the book lovers in town by matching a classic read with just the right treat.
But today both boards had been wiped bare, and Tamiko stood staring at the wall, as if she didn’t have a single idea.
“No lyrics in this head!” I replied. “At least not today. Anyway, Tessa writes most of our song lyrics. She’s the one with all the inspiration.”
Tessa was one of my bandmates in my rock band, the Wildflowers. And while we did write and perform our own music, I was the lead singer and left most of the songwriting up to everyone else.
“Maybe you should call her,” Tamiko suggested. “Because, girl, we need some inspiration here. Now. This place is dead! We need an amazing, fresh spring flavor to bring people in.”
“You’re right, Tamiko,” Sierra said. “We have a reputation for more than just delicious homemade ice cream. It’s our originality that keeps people coming back.”
“Agreed,” said Allie. “My mom can make anything work! Look how well all of the new dairy-free flavors have done.”
Thanks to some “inspiration” from Tamiko’s brother, Kai, Molly’s had recently started carrying one or two dairy-free flavors. I couldn’t believe how good they were—and made entirely with coconut milk!
“So then, where can we go for inspiration around here?” Tamiko wondered aloud.
“We went to the boardwalk a few times,” Allie replied. “It was fun, but I don’t think we’ll find any new inspiration there.”
“Maybe you should call Colin and ask him for some ideas,” I said, nudging Allie with my shoulder.
Allie had recently been spending a lot of time studying at the library with Colin, her longtime crush and her closest friend at Vista Green.
“Why would I ask Colin?” Allie asked, blushing furiously and wiping at an imaginary spot on the clean countertops. “I doubt he knows anything about ice cream flavors.”
Just then Allie’s mother appeared from the little office at the back of the shop, which we all called “backstage.”
“It’s awfully quiet out here, girls. What’s going on? No crazy new flavor ideas, Tamiko? No book pairings, Allie? Sierra can’t pour on her charm if there are no customers in here!”
I loved when Mrs. Shear said I was charming. Being charming wasn’t something I did consciously. I just happened to have a very outgoing personality and really liked people. When I was around a crowd, I lit up and felt naturally cheerful. What can I say? I’m a people person!
“No new pairings or specials yet,” Allie said. “It’s cold outside, and our brains are tired from all of our homework and eighth-grade responsibilities. We need something exciting to get our creative juices flowing!”
Mrs. Shear pulled something from her back pocket and laid it down on the counter in front of us. It was a brochure for Peg and Mary’s Ice Cream Museum and Factory.
“An ice cream museum?” Tamiko squealed. “How have I never heard of this before?”
“It sounds amazing!” I said. “Can you imagine the toppings they must have? And different types of cones?”
“And all the old equipment and hand cranks?” Allie added.
Mrs. Shear beamed. “I thought you girls would be interested. What do you think about the Sprinkle Sundays sisters going on a little ‘research’ field trip with me next week? Maybe on Tuesday? I can check with your parents and make sure it’s okay.”
We didn’t waste a second. All three of us screamed at once, “Yes!”
The only thing more fun than a field trip with your two best friends was a field trip to an ice cream factory with your two best friends.
“Do they have samples?” Allie asked. “They must have samples, right?”
Mrs. Shear nodded. “Oh yes, indeed. They have a movie about the old days of making ice cream, a production room, and even a ‘Flavoroom.’ I think this is just the thing we need to gear up for spring! When you have a year-round business based on a summer staple, you need to always be prepared to think big. Now, girls, put some music on, brainstorm, and see what you can come up with for today!”
Mrs. Shear left the brochure for us to look at and went backstage again to deal with whatever office work had piled up.
Tamiko browsed the brochure, while I put on an upbeat song from my current favorite playlist on my phone.
Allie stared and stared at the chalkboard before finally saying, “What do you guys think of pairing Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll with our Tea and Crumpets flavor? After all, the Mad Hatter tea party scene is pretty famous, and tea is a good drink for a cool spring day.…”
“I love it!” I said, clapping my hands. Allie always came up with the best ideas for book pairings.
Tamiko shook her head sadly. “You’re doing your job, Alley Cat. If only I could do mine. My mind has just been blank lately! I promise—I’m going to do better, or my name isn’t ‘Tamiko Sato’!”
I wrapped my arm around Tamiko’s shoulder and gave her a squeeze. “Knowing you, you’ll have five fabulous new ideas before tomorrow. Don’t worry. We’re a team! And we’ve got our factory tour to look forward to. We’ll get tons of new ideas!”
Tamiko nodded, but I could tell she still felt bad. Recently Tamiko had gone through a bit of a braggy phase, thinking she was the queen of just about everything—art, schoolwork, our jobs at Molly’s. She’d ended up hurting her brother in the process, and since then she had been more subdued than usual. I was ready for the old outrageous and outlandish (but not braggy!) Tamiko to make her return.
“We’re going to come up with something new and fabulous, or we’re not the Sprinkle Sundays sisters,” I said. I wrapped my other arm around Allie and pulled them both to me. “Get ready for greatness!”