Short Story: Buttercream
“Hello Bianca, Camille. Are you here for another cupcake lesson?”
“Yes, Fina,” Camille chirped, grabbing a bowl full of bright orange frosting off the counter. Despite having no formal training, Camille’s ease and confidence in the kitchen was impressive. Michelle called a few cupcakes over to the decorating table with a trill. Fifteen cupcakes drifted towards us, spreading out in groups of three in front of all of us.
“Here, Bianca,” Michelle said, handing me a knife and a bowl of butter yellow frosting. “You can use this white frosting for the base layer if you want. I’ll get a few more specialty knives to decorate with colors. Do you have any preferences?”
“Blue and green?” I asked. Michelle nodded, hummed a little song, and the two smaller bowls in front of me changed into a different color.
“Impressive,” I said.
“Miss Celia taught me that,” she said, blushing, but appeared pleased with the praise. “Magic with food works well with music, so there are all different ways to change a dish with just the right melody. I’m not sure why, but Fina says the incantations are rooted in a different type of magic from our usual.”
I plunged my knife into the bowl and the three of us set to work. Camille decorated one of the cupcakes with a diamond on top, her face scrunched in determination, her tongue sticking out of one side of her mouth. Her bouncy blonde curls draped around her cheeks and ears. She used blue tones to mimic reflective light with the white frosting, and the effect was overall wonderful, like a rippling mirror.
My creative abilities were about as clever as a wooden board. As usual, I settled on decorating the top of the cupcake like the leaves of Letum Wood, the only thing I knew well enough to duplicate. I tried to draw a trail with brown frosting on one, with green off to the side, but it ended up looking like it had fallen off the cupboard and smeared.
“Nice, Bianca,” Camille said. “That leaf looks . . . well, it looks very . . . well . . . green.”
“No cupcake is created equal,” she said. Even I snickered, then flung a smear of frosting at Camille, catching her on the cheek. She reached up with a light little slap, her eyes growing wide in shock.
“You threw frosting at me!”
I tilted my head back and laughed. The release felt good.
“It was so fun!”
A blob of light pink hit me in the nose seconds later. Camille peered at me with a triumphant smirk, still dripping emerald green frosting off her cheek. I giggled again. She looked absurd.
“You’ve got a booger on your cheek.”
Michelle’s deep laugh joined mine, then with a conspiratorial agreement, both Camille and I shot Michelle with frosting, catching her in the hair and on the forehead. She stopped laughing with a deep gasp, her small eyes lighting up in surprise. Camille and I froze. My eyes darted to the door. Would Fina get angry? Would Michelle?
Several large blobs of frosting lifted from the massive vat of buttercream in the corner and landed against the side of our heads with big splats. With a shriek of laughter, all three of us dove into a food fight.
The cupcakes we’d agonized over for almost an hour flew across the cupboard, smacking faces, arms, walls, and eyes. I shoved a glob of bright purple frosting from my face in time to smear Camille with bright red. It felt so wonderful to be so young and free for a moment, to shed the cape of convention and pain I felt I’d been wearing for so long and be an irresponsible girl again. I fell into the moment, enjoying every carefree second.
Fina’s sharp voice stopped us mid motion. Michelle froze, the glob of frosting she’d just sent my way landing right in between Fina’s eyes. My eyes widened. I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing.
“O-oh, M-m-miss Fina, I’m s-sorry,” Michelle whispered, the color draining from her face. She quickly dropped her splat of frosting and stepped away from the table, as if that would take away the incrimination. A silver decorative bead fell from her hair and landed on the floor with a light little plunk.
“What are you doing?” Fina hissed. Her eyes slipped around the room. One of the cupcakes I’d thrown peeled away from the wall and fell to the floor in a clump of crumb and frosting. Camille bit her bottom lip to keep from laughing. I stepped forward.
“It was my fault, Miss Fina. I threw Camille with frosting first, and then we threw it at Michelle. She had nothing to do with this.”
“And forced her to throw frosting at me?” Fina demanded. The little blue trickle still clung to the skin of her face. A giggle welled up in my chest, but I forced it back down.
“She wouldn’t have ever dreamed of doing it had it not been for me,“ I said.
Michelle stepped forward, her face flushed again and hands trembling. “Miss Fina, I—“
Fina silenced her with one raised hand, and the tight knot of fear in my gut doubld. We’d gotten Michelle in trouble, and I felt terrible for it. I’d have to work her out of this mess.
“We needed those cupcakes for the children’s story time with Council Member Jayne. Over two hundred school age children will be coming for their first trip to Chatham castle, and now look at these! All over the floor.”
Camille picked up a cupcake that had fallen onto it’s side on the table and righted it.
“Not all of them, Miss Fina,” she whispered quietly, then looked to the ground when Fina shot her with a terrible glare.
“We’ll replace these cupcakes, Miss Fina, I promise. And we’ll clean this up, and have them frosted in time for the children. W-we’ll even volunteer to read a few books to the kids in penance, if you’d like.”
Camille and Michelle shot me surprised glances, but I ignored them. Fina regarded me with a similar look.
“Or I’ll scrub dishes for you, whichever you please. Just don’t take this out on Michelle, please? This is my doing.”
The rigid muscles of her face relaxed slightly. She looked me up and down. A steady line of frosting covered the front of my high waisted brown dress and long sleeves. Colors of pink, yellow, and green swirled around the front in long lines of the rainbow. I couldn’t even imagine how much as in my hair. Fina’s shoulders loosened.
“Yes, well, I see that it wasn’t done in malice. Girls will be girls,” she said with a sigh. I looked at her in relief. “Sometimes all of us need a moment or two to be silly,” she finished in a calm voice. “Just have it cleaned up and those cupcakes replaced, you hear?”
“Yes, Miss Fina!” I cried. “Thank you. I’d hug you, but . . .” I held up my arms, displaying the artwork on my dress in explanation. She waved me away.
“Yes, that’s not necessary, just get to work. Girls,” she muttered, shaking her head. I caught a slight sparkle in her eye as she waddled away, humming something under her breath.
Michelle let out a long breath of relief.
“That was close,” she whispered. Camille and I smiled, then burst into another round of laughter when she peeled an entire cupcake off my shoulder.
If you’re loving these short stories and want more, don’t miss out on Short Stories from the Network Series, which has hundreds of pages of more Camille, Merrick, Leda, Brecken, Michelle, and more!
(All the short stories in this book are from the viewpoint of other characters in the book. Ever wonder what Merrick first thought when he met Bianca the first time? That’s in there!)
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