Wind and Cake (Final Part)

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The Contest: Child’s Play

 

The rest of the kids came around 8:05. There were twenty kids including himself, ranging from ten to seventeen. All of them came and sat down on the chairs and assembled into their friend groups. (One of the groups made it a big fuss for all of them to sit down together just to end up going on their phones.) Once Peter had finished frosting a few dozen cupcakes and put them on the display case, he sat down on one of the remaining chairs. The eighth grader to the left of him gave him a sideways glanced before slipping on some headphones. Over to his right was the ninth grade girl that could pass for a senior. Her dark brown eyes slipped off her phone screen to Peter. He noticed her immaculate makeup and curled strawberry blond hair.

She noticed his bland face and thought of it as a canvas for her makeup brushes.

            Peter scanned the rest of the table for familiar faces: a handful of kids that used to be in his class, five freshmen, two juniors, and half a dozen fifth graders. Half of them looked genuinely interested. The others looked like their parents had forced them to get out of the house and do something with their lives.

“Hey,” the girl to his right leaned in, making him jump. “If we have to get into, like, partners or something, can you be mine? Cause I literally have noo idea what, like, any of this is…” She picked up the fondant roller and twirled it around her manicured fingers. “And my friends are idiots, so.”

He gave her a few blinks and nodded slowly.

She grinned, popping her shimmery pink lips. “Thanks!” She went back to her phone.

“Alright, everybody,” Emma announced in front of the table. She pointed to the kid left of Peter. “Hey, Alex, headphones! Peter, tap Alex, please. Okay, good morning everybody! Today we’re going to have a little contest.” She rubbed her brown hands together. “We will give each of you a recipe, and with your group of three—or a partner—you will have to bake the item in the given amount of time. My brother Jace and I will select four groups to continue on. The rest will be eliminated and have to work up front and sell to incoming customers. This means that we must be done by noon, when the shop opens. Any questions?”

A rising fifth grade girl named Noah shot her hand up. “What are we going to make?”

Emma smiled. “Glad you asked. You all will be given a standard white cake, fondant, and plain buttercream frosting recipe. With your equipment, you must roll and shape the fondant in order to create the theme of summer.” A few of the girls snickered—apparently one of them was named Summer.

“Everyone get into your groups and go to one of the ten stations we have set up around the kitchen. Get there in two minutes so you can have plenty enough time to bake. Let’s go, move it people!”

Nearly everyone leapt out of their chairs to assemble a team. Peter turned to his right before seeing the freshman girl walk off with two of her friends. Even the spaced-out guy Alex had found a partner and was walking over to a station. It wasn’t long until it was just Peter and a junior boy, dressed in all black, were sitting at the table.

“Hey, Miss?” The boy—who Peter now realized had feathers stuck in his hairspoke in an exhausted groan. “Yeah, um, I gotta go. My snake died.”

“Well you can’t—”

“Yeah, thanks.” With that, the feather-headed boy slumped out of his chair and groaned all the way out the bakery.

Emma put her hands on her narrow hips. “Sorry, Peter. I’m assuming you wanted to work alone anyway. You can go the last station.”

Peter stood up, pushed his chair in, and kept his arms by his side as he walked over to the tenth station. He gave his pasty hands a wash and scanned his area. Bowls were filled with spoons and spatulas, electric mixers were plugged into their outlets, and the ovens were all preheated to 400 degrees. At the speed of light, Peter went to work. He began to heat two sticks of butter in the community microwave—even though he had been the last to start, he was the furthest of the other groups.

In the thirty seconds he was by the microwave, he gave the rest of the kids a look. A group of fifth graders were trying to mash the butter in a bowl so it would mix; three older girls didn’t bother melting the things and tossed it into the mixer; Alex and his bespectacled partner were staring into space.

A smile pricked at his lips before quickly failing. Why did he ever think he would fail?

He dropped his newly softened butter into the mixer with sugar, flour, baking powder, salt—all sifted, mine you—and egg whites alongside it. Peter put the mixer on a medium speed and let the batter be until it was perfectly mixed and smooth. He then poured the batter into two pans and placed them gently in the oven.

No one else had even measured their egg whites yet.

What newbs.

        While the cakes were baking, for precisely 27 minutes, he began to make the frosting. He made that in ten minutes and began to prepare the fondant. He went back to the table to grab his fondant roller (most of the other kids had snatched them up without knowing what they were called). He dusted a small area with powdered sugar and kneaded the yellow, doughy substance with all his force. When he could no longer, he took the roller and smoothed it out till it was exactly one-eighth inch thick.

He stuck a toothpick in the cakes; he slipped on an oven mitt and placed them in the freezer. Peter would wait over an hour, till ten. And then he would frost the cooled cake with his blue buttercream and cut out suns and stars and other summer shapes he deemed fit.

And at ten o’clock, that was what Peter Johnson did.

———–

         Around the eleven hour, Peter was completely done. His cake was painted in blue, adorned with yellow shapes that most associated with summer. The others were sloppily picking at their fondants, frosting their cakes before cooling them, and (the already mentioned) some were still staring into space.

And around that eleven o’clock hour, Jace had walked in from the front door.

 

 

What’s the Use of Feeling Blue?

 

“Seriously?” Jace threw his arms up and he made his way over to the boy. “No one paired up with Peter?”

He placed his hands on Peter’s shoulders and smiled at his cake. “Well, it looks awesome, dude. I’m really proud of you.” Jace rustled his blond hair and walked away.

Peter hadn’t realized he was holding his breath till Jace was no longer gripping his shoulders. His cheeks then burned, furious that he couldn’t hate the boy that said that a life here was not enough. That a life here with the bakery and his family and his friends was something that he was all too eager to leave behind. With all the other things Jace would let go of, Peter would instantaneously become an obscure, distant memory.

He knew his existence didn’t mean much to the world or to many people in fact. But to mean nothing to the person he cared about the most—

“You’ve got thirty minutes, everyone!” Emma declared, clapping her hands. A few girls squealed at the limited time left.

Peter kept his eyes locked on his cake, now looking like a thing of utter disappointment.

 

————-

 

The rest of the cakes were average. Green frosting and pink fondant pieces, yellow frosting and crumbled fondant pieces, and in one special case, no cake at all. Naturally, Peter’s cake was rated first. Alex and his partner were eliminated along with a group of fifth graders and two sets of high school girls. Throughout the tasting and observation process, Peter was motionless.

Noon had come soon, and sure enough the first flood of customers had come rushing in. The eliminated groups reluctantly went to the front of the store to serve the oncoming clusters of hungry people. The rest of the kids had sliced up their cakes and left.

Except for Peter.

He sat on the steps outside the bakery, letting the wind blow his hair around his face and diluted eyes. Peter had been sitting on these cold, shaded steps for over thirty minutes. He didn’t have any strength in his legs to walk back to the flat or to Clementine’s lake. There seemed very little reason to live, let alone walk.

Now, I know I complained to not have a purpose.

And I originally believed Peter knew his purpose in life.

But what does a broken twelve year old know?

            The reason Jace was so important to the boy was due to the fact that, unlike his father, he genuinely seemed to care about Peter. He had been the one to teach Peter—at the mere age of eight—how to bake, how to chop, how to frost and create. Jace was the only person who had given Peter something to be passionate about. He was one being out of the tiny, tiny, tiny friend group Peter had that made him feel vaguely important.

His fondest memory of them together was when Peter was nine and Jace fourteen, just out of middle school. Jace had taught Peter had to make a Tres Leches Cake, which took forever because of the caramel-making process. Perhaps that was why Peter loved that day so much—he had spent over five hours with him, standing on his tiptoes to see beyond the counter before Jace found him a stool. The cake itself Peter didn’t really remember; that wasn’t what was important.

Suddenly, the doors behind him flung open. He whipped his head around to see bright pink shorts.

“Peter, you forgot to take your cake.” She cocked her head. “Why are just sitting here? Is something wrong?” She shut the door and sat alongside him. “Peter?”

Peter’s gaze travelled up to her eyes before subsiding back down to the ground.

Emma nodded. “You’re still upset about the whole Jace thing, huh? Peter, don’t listen to me. Jace is the most responsible and reliable person I’ve ever met. When he says he’ll visit, he will.” She gave Peter a gentle poke. “We were talking earlier, and he said that he didn’t want to move very far for college. He still wants to come back and help out this place as much as he can.”

She sighed and stood up. “I guess I was wrong. This place means a lot to him.” Emma opened the door and before stepping in said, “Peter, he cares about us, okay?  Please don’t doubt that. You mean just as much as him as he means to you. Alright?”

Then she was gone.

After a few more minutes of pondering and sitting, Peter decided to stand. As he threw one short leg in front of the other and stuffed his firsts into his pockets, a song from a cartoon Clem loved popped into his swimming head.

Why would you want to be here?

What do you ever see here?

That doesn’t make you feel worse than you do?

And tell me, what’s the use of feeling blue?

            He began to hum, an uncharacteristically thing of Peter to do. Soon, he was mumbling the words to himself, loud enough for passersby to hear. He freed his hands of his pockets and began to snap.

Yes, of course we still love her.

And we’re always thinking of her.

But now there’s nothing we can do.

So tell me, what’s the use of feeling?

What’s the use of feeling?

What’s the use of feeling blue?

            Peter repeated the song until he reached his flat, which—so brilliantly—was completely empty.

 

 

Cyan Frosting

 

The week was over much faster than Peter could ever hope. For once, the days didn’t drag on end. Friday came by and smacked him in the face before he could sing another song.

He had taken advantage of this week. He had went out and bought groceries for himself with the fifty dollars he still had, he went over to Clem’s and watched this beautiful thing called Netflix, and cooked himself a large dinner to last him at least two weeks. The sun was no longer a thing of blazing heat, but now more of a ray of hope amongst a small gathering of clouds. Not entirely happy, but nearly there.

Peter had walked into the bakery that Friday afternoon and let himself in to the back doors of the kitchen. He washed his hands and proceeded to make a frosting. He thought to himself, “What color?” Pink? Blue? Green? This time when a smile pricked at his lips, he let it take over his small, round face. Still smiling, he added in a drop of turquoise food coloring and two drops of sky blue. Peter stirred the buttercream mixture about and observed his creation.

Blue and green make cyan. And cyan would forever be Peter’s favorite color.

————

It was late now. Peter had greeted a surprised Emma, washed a few dishes, baked some meringue pies, and sat around until the sky was dark and the bakery was near closing hours. When the doors opened, Peter did not bother to look up. Emma had been going in and out the doors all day—

“Hey, Peter!” The voice that called him was not Emma’s. He looked up to see beautiful green eyes and curls and a dirty apron.

“Hi, Jace.” Peter nearly fell flat on his face from hearing his own voice. “How is it going?”

He laughed. “It’s going great. How about yourself?” He came and sat down by Peter.

The younger boy felt his tongue knock around in his mouth, similar to the words bouncing about in his brain. He gripped his hands together. “Good.”

“I’m glad, buddy. Hey, I’ve got something for you. Been meaning to give this to you for a while now.” He handed him a coffee-brown book, the cover a masterfully photographed chocolate thing. The book was firm, and as Peter flipped through the pages, a bit of money fell out. A couple Benjamins. He picked it up and handed it to Jace.

But the older waved it away. “No, keep it.” He smiled again—Peter loved how often he smiled.

“So…you like it?”

Peter was speechless.

Well, more speechless than usual.

            So instead of speaking, he jumped off his stool, and hugged a sitting Jace. The older boy was stunned for a second (Peter had never said more than a few sentences at a time to him, let alone hug him at of nowhere) before embracing him back. Peter felt Jace’s warmth shift over to his cold body.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” he laughed again, a lovely jingly thing.

Peter nestled his head into the groove of Jace’s shoulder, letting all his worries and sadness drift away as he held the person he loved the most.

———–

And it was always here I realized that my purpose was not to steal from the weak and the sad, but to observe their lives and see why they were the way they are. So now I breeze about, on moonlit nights and sunny mornings, letting myself fill hair and jackets and skirts and coats and anything else.

So I thank you, Peter Johnson.

For chasing your purpose.

And helping me find my own.

~

Wind and Cake (Part Two)

Part Two

lucks and losses

featuring:

cold yet caring—not enough—the contest: child’s play—what’s the use of feeling blue?and cyan frosting

 

 

 

Cold yet Caring

 

Peter had slipped out of Clementine’s house around five in the morning. He had walked back to his flat in dark, pensive silence. The world around him was dimly lit by old streetlights and nothing else. To walk about in a familiar place—usually blinding with heat and chatter—that was now so empty and black was beautiful to him.

If it weren’t for the constant fear of being jumped.

He ended up at his house a little past six. When he walked up the stairs and past two other doors, he found the door to his flat wide open.

Peter stood for a moment. Vomit began to rise up his throat; he swallowed it down. He walked into the pitch-black hallway, closing the door behind him. He flicked on the lights, holding his breath as he walked about. He was safe, he was alone—

“And where have you been, young man?” An old figure with a tired voice emerged from his room. The clack of her heels made him look straight into her black eyes.

“Hello, Ms. Simian. Why are you here?”

She folded her arms, stepping into the light enough for Peter to notice her burgundy turtleneck. “I know you’ve been alone here the whole week, Peter. You left this morning. I got worried.” She crossed one of her stick-thin legs. “Where did you go?”

He bunched his jacket into his hands. “A friend’s house.”

Ms. Simian sighed and walked to him, heels sharp and violent. “And your father?”

Peter shrugged.

She huffed. “I figured as much.” Ms. Simian now loomed above him. “I know your mother left on some blasted yoga expedition or something rather. Completely ridiculous. I’m surprised you don’t have any damned bruises on your face again.”

No reply.

She sighed once more.

Not only was Peter’s entire existence a sigh, all reactions to his doings constituted one.

Especially to Ms. Simian.

            “I hope you know that if you ever feel scared or unsafe, you can always knock on my door. I’m just across your flat, Peter. Do you understand?” She pursed her crimson, lipstick-lined mouth.

“I suppose.”

“Good.” She click-clacked past him and walked right out of the door. There was a small sense of safety when it came to the seven decades (and some) old woman, like her turtlenecks and knee-length skirts and her unnaturally black bushel of hair. It was the kind of safety that made one feel as if they were staying at their strict grandmother’s house—a grandmother they knew loved them but wasn’t fond of showing it. That was how Peter felt about Ms. Simian.

He didn’t hesitate to throw himself into the shower. Of course, the place was cheap and the only settings the water had was rust-filled or freezing cold.

Peter chose the latter.

He dressed, swallowed a bit of toothpaste, and eyed his hair.

It was ugly, he thought, just like his XXXL shirt he had fished through his father’s closet to find. Ugly like his scrawny arms and legs.

Alas, there was little time for self-hatred as Peter peeked at the clock that read half past six. He would have to leave his house soon in order to make it to the bakery before any of the other kids. It would give him plenty enough time to pick a spot in the room, in the corner, preferably by himself, but he wasn’t picky. He would block out everyone else.

Except for the older hybrid.

Peter slumped down on the toilet. He hated that boy Jace with a passion. Isn’t it obvious? The way he judged his every facial feature, the amount of times he flinched whenever Jace made eye contact with him, let alone putting a hand on his hair?

Or maybe I’m bad at understanding his poorly expressed emotions.

            Whatever the feeling is called, he hated it. With a deep, red, burning passion. It was distracting, honestly. It derailed him of his purpose. It went against everything he stood for. He was not supposed to care about anyone. But he did care about people, and no matter how much it would take for him to accept it, he knew that people cared about him too.

He hopped off the toilet and started out the door, closing it firmly behind him.

 

 

 

 

 

Not Enough

 

When Peter entered the bakery, he could hear the rustle of footsteps and the clatter of dishes behind the storage room door. He would make an attempt to call out, but his voice could barely project above a mumble. His eyes floated up the dark wood of the walls until they met a brightly blinking digital clock reading:

7:35 A.M.

He took a seat at one of the tables and began to observe the place he considered home. The walls and the floor were the same calming shade of dark chestnut, and the chairs were silver and tall. Each of the fifteen tables were adorned with a small, glowing candle in the center; surrounding them were black boxes filled with napkins and cream and sugar packets. The ceiling was high and held five fans.

The Sweetwater’s bakery gave off the bold, profuse smell of coffee, and at random Peter could smell the baking of cakes and chocolate things. It was his favorite scent. His eyes drifted to the clock again; five minutes had passed.

Peter sighed and laid his head down on the table. He wasn’t tired, but he didn’t have any large amount of energy. He was about to shut his eyes before a voice made him poke his head back up.

“Why are you here so early, Pete?” A buck-toothed Emma Sweetwater, with pink braces and one long, raven braid, swung the storage room door wide open. “Hello?”

Peter gave her a long glance up and down. He realized she was wearing all pink except for her classic green shoes, the ones she had worn since third grade.

“I… I…”

She rolled her eyes. “You just wanted to talk to my brother, didn’t you?”

Peter didn’t bother to respond.

“Yeah, okay, I thought so.” Emma wiped a bit of sweat off her upper lip. “C’mon, you can help us set up for the class today.”

He stood up and followed the girl into the other room. Once inside, he saw a long, rectangular table with at least twenty wooden chairs. Each chair had a small fondant roller in front of it. To the left of the table was a large kitchen already filled with dirty dishes, bowls of frosting that needed to be colored, and half-baked sweets.

“Wash off the dishes and put them in the dishwasher. Once you’re done with that, frost those cakes. You might need to add some food coloring to the cream cheese frosting. Got it?”

Silently, he walked over to the sink and began to scrub plates.

“Sooo, Pete,” Emma sing-songed whilst sweeping the floors. “How’s your summer been?”

More scrubbing.

“Mine’s been okay. Kinda boring. I’ve mostly been here.”

Now he was stacking dishes upon dishes in the washer.

“My brother’s been applying to some colleges.” She gave him a side look to see if this topic had sparked his interest. She was correct: he had gone completely still. “He’s only got one more year till he’s done with high school. Can you believe how old he is? He’s going to be gone soon.” She swept the crumbs into the dustpan. “And we’re not even in middle school yet. I don’t know, just something I think about.”

Peter slowly closed the dishwasher. “What…colleges?”

“Who knows? One week he says he’s staying in Florida, next week he wants to go all the way to New York to go to Cornell. Hopefully he chooses a middle ground and goes somewhere in North Carolina or something.”

He swallowed and grunted a bit as a reply. Peter slowly walked over to the bowls and looked in. He added a bit of blue dye to the creamed cheese frosting and gave it a stir.

Peter couldn’t see it, but an ugly grimace spread across her face. “But yesterday he got a letter back from Cornell that said he was on a waiting list. I’m not sure what that exactly means, and I don’t think he really knows either. Still, it… scares me. I’m going to miss him. I really take him for granted, Pete. Once he’s gone, it’ll just be me and my mom and this place.” She gestured to the air about her.

“He says he’s going to visit us a lot. He says that he’ll miss us, but I can tell deep down he’s excited to go. He’s been excited to get out of here for a long time. A long time. I’ve always known that this town, that this bakery, that this life… it’s never been enough for him. And his poor girlfriend—”

“Stop,” Peter spoke. Emma shot him a narrowed eyed look before noticing his glistening cheeks and the rivulets of tears streaming down them. She rushed over to him.

“Oh my God, Peter! I’m… sorry. I didn’t know—” She began to hug him.

Peter couldn’t hear it, and he couldn’t feel her embrace.

Not enough, not enough, not enough…

Wind and Cake

A Hybrid

 

Beads of sweat were gathering about his neck by time Peter had reached the bakery. The sun was at its biggest, brightest, and most violent at the scalding hour of noon. The sign of “Emma Sweetwater’s Bakery” had not yet dimmed to black, meaning that whatever happened to the strict closing time on Sundays at noon had not been enforced today.

Upon seeing that, Peter slowed his pace down to a walk, inhaled, and went through the doors.

            I laughed at his face; I thought this drippy boy was about to drop dead.

Emma and her older brother Jace were hybrids to Peter. With a father sporting ebony skin and long, dark curls along with a porcelain-skinned mother with waist-length blond hair and green eyes, they truly were a fascinating sight. Whilst Emma got the milky skin and straight, raven hair, Jace had received a different set of genes.

“Here’s the little guy I was waiting for. How ya doin’, buddy?” Peter did not know what Jace was saying. His golden skin and emerald eyes had him lost. Instead of speaking, he dropped the money onto the counter, eyes locked and jaw rocking side-to-side in waiting. Out of the corner of his eyes he could see the darkened ambiance of the bakery, completely empty apart from the seventeen year-old hybrid and the sad thing.

Jace flipped a dark curl from his eye. “What’s this for?”

“Summer program. Costs… fifty. Right?” His blue eyes began to waver.

“W-well, it is, but, Peter, can you even afford this? What did your mom say?”

Peter shook his head and began to mumble even quieter. “She’s gone. Won’t come back until September. She’s in India, on a yoga trip.”

“What about your dad?”

“He’s gone too. Maybe at the bar. Maybe with the police. I don’t like him.”

Jace sighed and looked the twelve (who could pass for eight) year-old boy right in the eyes. “I’m sorry, Peter. I can’t even… imagine going through—you know—any of the stuff you are.”

Peter stayed silent.

The older boy ran a hand through Peter’s jagged blond hair, in turn making him flinch. “You’re cool, Peter. You don’t have to pay for this.”

Peter was still quiet.

“Well, I’m sure you already know, but the classes start tomorrow till Thursday at eight, sharp.”

Still nothing.

“It’s not required to bring equipment, so don’t think you have to. It’s all provided here—”

“Jace,” Peter said hardly above a whisper.

“What’s wrong, Peter?”

He reached across the counter and grabbed one of Jace’s finger. “Thank you.”

For a moment, he was lost. Then he laughed, a delicate sort of thing. “No problem, little guy. Hey, are you excited for middle school?”

Peter frowned and returned his hands down to his side. “No. I cried when I started elementary school. I’ll cry harder when I start middle school.”

“Nah, it’s not that bad,” Jace began to say as he untied his black apron. “You stay with your own friends, the classrooms are big, and the teachers give you a little bit more space. Not a lot, but, you know, it’s cool. Trust me.” Jace gave the younger boy a wink before turning his back to him to face a stack of dirty dishes.

Peter’s faint brows pinched together. “Don’t do that.”

Jace turned. “Do what?”

“Nothing.” Peter cast his gaze down to his dilapidated shoes.

He left Jace to close the bakery.

 

Burnt Cookies

 

Little Peter Johnson is quite the bore, isn’t he? A yawn in a universe of infinite possibilities. Another depressing sight that makes his way upon the world, silent and bumbling.

Oh, do you think you’re so much better?

            It’s later in the day, I growing stronger as the sun begins to set. Peter had been gazing at the lake in Clementine’s backyard, dipping his naked toes into the water. She had sat alongside him and decided not to speak for a few minutes, then a few hours. It would have been a failed attempt if she had, anyway; it’s not like Peter would have said anything back to her. The most the boy had talked all that week was with the hybrid baker; truth be told, he actually had not spoken at all that week until he saw Clem earlier that day.

He had been entrapped in the lonely chamber that was his flat for nearly the entire week. Peter had asked his father for fifty dollars the following Sunday.

He was struck across the face with a belt for asking.

Later on in the night, Peter awoke to a few loud swears and the slam of the front door. A couple hours later—around three in the morning—his father came into his room and slapped the money across his face. He called him a few awful, awful names before leaving Peter to feel absolutely shaken.

I know I’m no saint, but the things he says and does to that boy is truly despicable.

            Nonetheless, Peter had his money, and his father had left the house for a whopping six days. Six days! This had left him plenty of time to procrastinate going to the bakery and isolate himself from the rest of society. He would stare out the cream-colored blinds, peeking between the gaps at the bright sunlight. He would be brave and take his father’s shirt, which hung down by his ankles, and then run his hands up and down the broken radio. Then he would eat a bit of mustard and (if he was lucky) a few stale saltine crackers. By the time the day had ended, he had lost another pound. If he kept his diet conditions up, 100 pounds would soon shrivel down to double digits.

“Peter,” Clementine mumbled, watching the orange reflection of the sun bounce off the water. “I… I know he’s probably going to be back soon. You can sleep over here if you want. My parents don’t care.”

He nodded. “Thanks.”

“No problem.” She splashed her toes about in the water and waited till the sky was a deep black. “We should head inside. I don’t feel like scratching off anymore mosquito bites. C’mon.”

~

“Well,” the girl announced much too loudly in the deep of night. “You’ve got that class tomorrow. You should practice.”

Clementine began to rifle through her cabinets and scour through her fridge. “We’ve got some flour, eggs, sugar, and a couple chocolate chips. Can we make cookies?”

Peter hopped off the toddler stool. “Do you have any baking soda? Powder? Salt? Vanilla? Is the butter softened or will we have to microwave it for thirty seconds?”

The left side of her mouth curled upward. “Is this the only way you’re gonna talk to me?”

He nodded. “Can you answer my questions?”

She began to tie her hair back into a tight bun. “Nope, nope, double nope, and I don’t know what that means.”

Without another glance, he began to preheat the oven to 325 degrees, find bowls and spoons and sifters, and began to slowly and precisely measure ingredients into a large pink bowl.

“So… am I gonna help you, or…”

“Crack two eggs in a different bowl. Pick out the shells.”

Clementine snorted. “Yeah, like I still get shells in the batter.”

“You do. You did it last time.”

She rolled her eyes. “Fine.”

As she cracked the eggs, with Peter’s back facing her, she shot him a long glance.

Not a thing of lust, but of worry, mind you.

            She dumped the cracked eggs into the bowl and watched Peter stir it exactly fifty-three times. They placed them on a tray, put them in the preheated oven, and waited for a few minutes.

Whilst they waited, they sat down on her living room couch and stared at the flashing screen above them. Peter had never watched T.V. before he befriended Clementine, so it confused and captivated him greatly. They said nothing throughout a full episode of Voltron.

“Clementine,” his hoarse voice croaked.

“Yeah?” She turned the T.V. down a few notches.

“I’m scared.”

“Why?”

“I’m scared to fail.”

“You won’t.”

“In front of people. In front of…other people.”

“You’ll be fine, Peter.”

“Clementine?”

“Yes?”

“How long are these episodes?”

“Twenty minutes.”

He slumped into the couch. “I failed already.”

The two shared a burnt cookie before dumping out the rest of the batch. They fell asleep to Lance, one of the paladins of Voltron, talking about how much he missed his family back on Earth.

Peter, before he fell asleep, thought to himself that there were very few people on Earth he would miss if he had the opportunity to leave it.

Wind and Cake

(Inspired by The Book Thief )

Has a child ever walked past you on a particularly bland day and say how much of a waste of air you are? Or perhaps you have said such a thing to another person who you believed was entitled to this label?

Well, I’ve got a bit of news for you.

You’re not a waste of air.

And neither is the obese man breathing through his mouth like his nostrils are always clogged.

            See, I am one of the rare resources provided by this atmospherically differentiated Earth that you humans can never deplete of. Can I be polluted, filled with toxins set off by factories and automobile emissions?

Yes.

But that’s neither here nor there.

            Truthfully, I do not know my purpose here on this planet. I am a burden in places of ice and snow, but as I travel in the scorching, humid areas I am a praised delicacy, if I may be so vain. These mixed climates—these mixed reactions—have led me to be somewhat of a nuisance.

My breezes may fill up your shirts and travel through the gaps of your six-layers-thick winter gear; gusts of me may ruin your freshly curled mane or make your skirt fly up at the most unexpected (and downright most inappropriate) of times.

Yet none of the aforementioned things is as bad as when I snatch something away from you, high, high, high, waaay into the air, to the point where you would look foolish trying to retrieve it.

What can I say?

I’m a thief.

(Also, it’s not my fault if your skirt flies up on a day I’m feeling rather…interactive.

I’m sure many can’t complain—I one of them, to be frank.)

            The incident with the snatching has become a common trope used to signify human error or lack of good luck. But you see, it’s not that at all. If I come and take something out of your hands, or I push it away so you are no longer in grabbing range of the item, it means it has a purpose. Something I want. Something I need. Do the things I take ever have a purpose? I’ll give you a hint:

N-o.

            However, when I take the items I can—meaning they’re not too heavy and I can carry it away with ease—the look on the devastated humans faces give me something to smile about. Whether it be a flimsy paperback book that I drop ever so gracefully into a stinking mud puddle, or a little boy’s green Kroger balloon that floats up into the infinite firmament, or an essay that a teenage girl didn’t even want to write in which *magically* floats into a nearby trash can, I have to be honest, the feeling is always the same: pure joy.

They jump, they scream, fly about, run to it as fast as they can, knowing the entire time it’s too late. And I give a small smile, then I dash about and I’m on my way to cool down those sunburnt dudes down by the pool.

See? I redeem myself.

            For hundreds of thousands of years, I had thought this was my purpose. To torment and (later on) help humankind.

Until the day I met Peter.

 

 

Part One

the baker’s cookbook

featuring:

sad blue eyes—a loud girl—a hybrid—and burnt cookies

 

Sad Blue Eyes

The boy was a depressing sight.

Even before I had swiped the green bills from his hands.

I could sit here and say that the saddest thing about him was his oversized jacket he was sporting in mid-July (which in turn filled his forehead with a thick sweat.) I could lie and say it was his pale, soft cheeks, burning from the scorching Florida heat. Heck, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say it was his poorly cropped, sandy blond hair that shaded his eyebrows.

All could say that the most depressing thing about this child—only accounting for his appearance and nothing else—were his soggy, blood-shot, blue eyes. When fifty dollars blew out of the boy’s hands, the onlookers did not stop to help him. Instead they cast him sad, pitiful looks. And said things like:

“Look at him! He’s so little! Are you lost little boy?”

“Where’s his mom?”

“Oh, it’s that first grader that wanders. Lucky kid, his parents don’t even care. Wish my parents were like that.”

He ignored them all.

Peter threw his small stubs of legs in front of him, keeping his arms still by his side. He kept his eyes locked on the money twirling about the air—he had to, he needed to.

This was his purpose.

These few dollar bills were all the baby-faced Peter had. If he wanted to fulfill this dreary life he had lived thus far, he would have to get it back.

But his stride was too short, and his 5 foot one stature was one foot too small to reach it. Tears began to form in his eyes, and I nearly returned the thing to him at the sight of his sad blues looking even sadder.

I hold onto it for just a second longer before my snatchings are snatched away from me by a boisterous figure.

 

A Loud Girl

“Hey, Peter!” I wave her hair about and nearly take the cap off her head, but she’s got a tight grip on it.

Clementine is the prepared kind.

                She started to weave through the crowd of people to get to Peter. A thing to note about Clementine: she’s everything that Peter isn’t. Her coffee-colored skin, sharp hazel eyes, dark hair that stopped right under her ears, and solid build complimented the lacking features of Peter Johnson.

“Here,” she said as she placed the money in Peter’s hands, holding them a bit as she did. “Keep better grip of your stuff, silly.”

Peter failed to smile. “Thanks, Clem,” he murmured.

Clementine crooked her head to the side. “You’re going to be late. I’m pretty sure that place is shutting down for today in ten minutes. I told that buck-toothed Emma to keep it open for a bit longer, but you know she doesn’t listen to anything I say.”

He repeated before running off: “Thanks, Clem.”

When he scuttled away toward the direction of the bakery, Clementine couldn’t help but grin.

“Idiot.”

With that, she stole a bike from a rack and cycled back home.

As you can tell, I like Clem.

 

(I’ll be posting the next few parts later. Let me know if you like it!)