Chiffon's Cakery | Teen Ink

Chiffon's Cakery

June 26, 2022
By rshin, Newbury Park, California
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rshin, Newbury Park, California
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Author's note:

Many of the dishes described in this story are fictious culinary dreams of mine. Unfortunately, I do not possess the ability to create any of these, so writing about them will have to do. 

The lingering smell of death and illness in the hospital was weird. The taste of my lips salted with the ashy crust of grief as the doctor told me the news was weird. The pools of white lilies wilting a slow, fragrant end in my bedroom was weird. The sharp echoes of the past stabbing into my normal weeks were weird. ‘Weird’ is the only word I can use to describe these things, the only word that makes me feel something. Weird things I understand. And if I pretend I know what’s happening, I can move on, can’t I?

         And yet ‘weird’ cannot begin to express how weird today is. It’s been a year since my parents died, perfectly in time for my nineteenth birthday. My first birthday alone. It’s also been a year since Chiffon’s Cakery was in operation. Today would have been a celebration any party would envy. Every May 7th, they would bake me an excessively large birthday cake with flavors that sounded too elaborate for a kid (try raspberry-pistachio-gooseberry delight for your 9th birthday). And we lived like that for a while in the same picture-perfect suburban town. Flavonia: population of 2,000, interesting events of 0. It’s street after street of little stores and houses designed in a similar way, with the same boring people. But it’s nice enough. It was nice enough for us.

This year has dragged on forever, each day my memory of them fading more and more. If it’s been a bad day, I catch myself forgetting their names. Sometimes, I have to sneak into the empty, dusty master bedroom across the hallway to find glimpses of who they were. But a few odd momentos and pictures can’t sum up a life. Can it? All I know is that I loved them, I think. Emphasis on the “-ed”.  Death is the ridiculous place in time that changes the suffix of every single word. Everything in the past is in the past tense, including love. 

But no one wants to hear me moan about something that happened a long time ago. Ancient history, really. I open the curtains of my bedroom and let the sunlight pour in. They have a floral print in wonderfully hideous chartreuse. A shiver runs through me, cherishing the warmth as long as it lasts. I wish I could just stand here forever. But life goes on, slaps you on a carousel wheel, whether you want a ride or not. 

With a sigh, I force myself to brush my teeth, throw my jet-black hair curls short from an emotional impulse into a bun, and tie on a royal blue apron with the shop’s name meticulously embroidered on it. My parents started this business years ago with a small storefront off Mainstreet and two culinary degrees from Blythe University I found in the storage closet. 

It’s nearly an hour until opening, so I rush to get a few things in the empty glass display case. Birds have barely begun their morning ascent into the sky, and morning commuters are only beginning to stir. The next chunk of time is a symphony of clattering pans and removing things from the jaded old oven. A few mango mousse muffins and pumpkin scones later, I have quite the array of colorful desserts. I open the blinds and hesitantly flip the blueberry-colored sign from “Closed” to “Open.” 

A year ago, I could count on a few friendly faces coming in. But after everything, I’m afraid that their pity and a few half-hearted sorries are all I’ll get from them. It’s a Monday morning, so I don’t expect any business at all. Mainstreet is a little far away and since we haven’t been open in a while, no customers will have to go. For goodness sakes’ in all of Flavonia, there isn’t one person who wants a cookie or cupcake? To make matters worse, it’s raining. I’ll be miserable and cold today, great!

It’s noon now and having nothing to do except watch the gloomy gray clouds mourn for five hours straight, I’m severely disheartened. I just want something to happen. Even the birds in front of the shop are leaving from boredom. As if my secret pleas had been answered, I hear a crash outside and a muttered “Ouch!”

I perk up at the sound of action.

But instead, the action comes stumbling towards me, in the form of a little girl with fluffy brown hair frivolously decorated with daisies gently dampened in the rain today limping in and a bright yellow coat. She appears to be soaked to the bone and very bothered by everything, as if nothing mattered at all. My first real customer, albeit a bit underwhelming. 

“Hello! Welcome to Chiffon’s Cakery,” I say, putting on my best sociable, please-don’t-reject-me smile.

“You make those cakes, right?” the girl responds in a surprisingly low and aged voice for someone who looks at most 8 years of age. As ungraceful as her entrance was, she seems to have full control and grasp of our exchange, enunciating each word with a sophisticated tone. She sounds like a monotone waltz through the English language. 

“Yep! Are you thinking of any special occasion,” I respond, trying not to falter when I realize how awkward I am. 

“What would I get for a friend who fell off her motorbike and is now slowly recovering?” she asks, unfazed by her strange request. 

“I suppose a get well cake? I’d be happy to make a custom one,” I suggest. 

“ I can’t give you money. But I have a better idea. Follow me after you close, and I promise you I can get some more customers up in this place. I’m very persuasive,” I hear in a threatening manner. 

“That sounds great! What flavor did you want?” I say, beaming without trying this time. The way this girl conducts herself is fascinating. 

She ponders the menu, crinkling his eyes at the sight of these complicated and over-the-top names. For the first time ever, I feel like apologizing for my family’s carefully planned menu. But the little wheels turn in her head, jumping from experience to presence. Eventually, the girl gives up her attempt to comprehend.

“Something with oranges,” she settles on, curtly. 

I nod, scribbling down an order for a ten-inch citron blossom sponge cake with zesty orange rind buttercream. Suddenly, an idea pops into my head. 

 “Would you like to try it, first?” I ask.

She nods, trying to downplay her emotion, as I pull out a small square of tangerine-colored cake, decorated like a flower from the display. I hand her the piece on a small porcelain plate. She nearly snatches it out of my hands and shoves it in her throat without hesitation. A look of wonder spreads through her eyes, the specks of warm chestnut growing wider. 

“That is some good cake!” She claps my back a little too hard in a laugh. Or at least, I think it’s supposed to be a laugh- it sounds more like a hyena’s wicked howl. “Better than anything I’ve had, and that is high praise. What’s your name, miss?”

“Cecelia Cardamom Chiffon,” I respond before I can think. My parents had a penchant for alliteration and making my life miserable for their evil entertainment. I wasn’t one for their jokes. 

“Oh. Mine is something long, so just call me Rosie. That’s what everyone calls me,” she says, not bothering to brush off a trace of amusement at my full name.

I stare quizzically at this child with such a confident grasp on the world. Much more self-possessed than me. Tentatively, I ask, “What is it?”

She looks a little surprised I asked but responds, “Rosmarie Annalise Junebug.” A long, extravagant name, more ridiculous than mine makes me feel. 

“I think that suits you just fine,” I return. 


I fidget with the straps of my apron, waiting for an awkward exit to come. By surprise, it never comes. She just rolls her eyes. I announce it’s time to pack up, even though it is only 4 o’clock, and Rosemarie helps me clean up. For such a small girl, she’s surprisingly strong, carrying all of the boxes.

 My parents and I would go on small walks every night, but never have I studied my city this closely. It’s fairly small with familiar buildings at every corner, but as Rosemarie points out the historic meaning of each bench and small landmark, I feel like an idiot. 

“These statues actually line up to spell ‘Oakbury’, how unnessccesarily stupid.”

 Rosemarie halts suddenly, leaving me fumbling to stay upright. I look up to a grand gold building with bits of the paint flaking off. In all my years living in this place, I didn't know we had buildings like this. Aged, rich, and regal. So unlike everything I’ve known.

“Ah, there we go! Welcome. I’ll show you around! She’s gonna love you” she smiles with a glint of cruel amusement.

I’m not good with new people.

I recall my first day of school. I was a timid little 6-year old clinging onto my Dad’s arm for dear life. He had to follow me in that day. And Ms. Long was not a fan of middle-aged men sitting on her beloved colorful rug. 

Rosemarie grins and shouts, “Look what the cat dragged in!” 

My haunted legs pull me forward without my consent. I’m not one for new experiences, especially new people. I like familiarity, I like comfort. But right now, I don’t have much of a choice. 

I hate making small talk and dealing with strangers. The girl in front of me looks about my age and appears to be sickly. She is wearing a beige cashmere sweater with colorful embroidery and her right arm encased in a bright blue cast. 

It’s been too long without saying anything. Rosemarie’s unusually dark demeanor is no help at all. My social awareness is hypersensitive, but my ability to do anything about it is nonexistent. Well, there’s no time like the present to screw yourself over and over again. 

“H-hi! I’m Cecelia Chiffon, I run the bakery on Mariposa Street. Would you like some donuts?” I ask before my racing mind catches up with my lips. I hastily pull out a large pink parcel from my coat pocket. 

Helplessly, I hand the girl a decadent and cleverly-flavored donut. She eagerly takes an orange blossom donut, flashing me a grateful grin as bright as Rosemarie’s when she tried my cake. Rosemarie’s probably stupid enough to get into a motorbike accident. But she has a nice smile. 

“Thank you, Miss Chiffon. Please, do tell me how you met Rosie,” she asks warmly. My chest heaves with relief at her chipper disposition. Her tone is sweet, unlike Rosemarie’s, and pleasant. Almost like music. 

I recall the day’s events in vivid detail, growing more animated as the story progresses. Rosemarie cuts in with a snide mark every now and then. I like her interjections a lot. 

I’m reveling in my moment, saying, “So there I was, bored in the middle of the day. And I hear a crash outside-”

“It was a good crash! A crash is what you need in your boring life!” Rosemarie cuts in, breaking down laughing. 

The girl joins in, “Do you see why I have to cover her in flowers everyday?” Rosemarie gives her a dirty look, plucking a daisy out and throwing it at her face. 

“Shut up, I’m charming. Besides, I can do the hairstyle, as long as it’s on someone else,” Rosemarie demands. He gives her a doubtful stare and decides it’s the funniest thing he’s ever heard. I decide that, too. 

“Charming? Sure,” I quip, unaware my tone could cut so sharp. 

Rosemarie threatens, “I have a whole head of daisies, you really wanna go there?” That shuts me up for a while, when I can control my chuckling. The girl seems to share my emotions, giving Rosemarie a curious grin. 

“Rosie, you yell at me for being an idiot everyday, but your hair’s all ruined,” she grieves. She goes to fix her work but is harshly driven off by Rosemarie. 

I let out a yawn. It’s getting too late. Rosemarie flashes me a look of mischief. 

But before I can say anything, Rosemarie leads me behind the red velvet curtains into a back door. Creeeeek. She pushes open an aged oak door with a great deal of effort. I take a cautious step. As much as I like her, how do I know they won’t lead me to an uncertain doom. But it doesn’t look like I have much say in it. Up a rickety old staircase, anticipation slaps me in the face. We reach a platform with a single small white door leading outside.

This is it. Do I trust them or do I run away in fear? If I had any sense of my former self, I would make a break for it and leave these crazy strangers, but something tells me not to. Something stupid, in me. So I do it: I plunge out the door into the great unknown. 

To my pleasant surprise, I’ve been teleported straight into the stratosphere. The only thing visible is the great big midnight sky, looming with stars twinkling ever so mischievously over a navy canvas. Clouds from the long day’s drizzle leave their wispy remains behind. The pressure in my lungs fades into the air, drifting far away. It feels like stardust in my bones. A cool breeze clips my stinging cheeks, but I couldn’t care less. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve found a portal to Celestia. 

Right now, and perhaps forever, this is the only place I belong. A few minutes pass, and I hear the echoes of footsteps down the creaky staircase. Looking around to check if anyone is around, I collapse onto the tile underneath me, shifting myself into a comfortable lying position.  

I stare into the endless dark void aglow with starlight that whispers the wonderful truths of the universe. An eastern breeze slips in, quietly, like a pleasant unexpected guest. The universe is a beautiful place with unexplored adventures scattered everywhere. The only problem is, how do I reach the cosmos when I’m all the way down here? I lie here, soaking up moonbeams like precious silver. 

That is until I hear a chillingly melodic voice call, “Never took you for a stargazer.”

What am I doing? I’m the reserved daughter of two dead bakers, and here I am galavanting around on random rooftops staring at stars. The cherry on top of this mess is the fact that now that girl is talking to me. Oh crud, how am I going to dig myself out of this hole? Escape the theater and go back to my safe bakery? But I don’t want that. But I don’t know what I want at this point!

I take a deep breath and confront the situation at hand. I hate confrontation. My consciousness is snapped out of the sweet bliss I was in a minute ago like a bucket of ice-cold water dumped onto my head. My hands are trembling, and my pulse is racing at a million miles a second. 

“Didn’t think you knew me all that well,” I respond, mustering enough boldness to project it to the girl whose name I don’t know. 

She smiles a smile that makes her sunken cheeks flush a dainty rose color and her baby blue eyes glimmer with mirth. 

The girl says casually, “I guess not. I suppose a proper introduction is due. My name is Amelia Junebug.” 

When I don’t bother to say anything, Amelia stares thoughtfully down at the view of the city and laughs, “Welcome to the Green Theater”

I let out a deep breath and fall back down. Amelia takes a seat down next to me at a respectable distance. We sit and stare for what feels like years.

I startle myself when I say, “So you were stupid enough to get into an accident?” 

“I guess so,” she laughs, adding good-naturedly, “but I’m very excited about my cake. If it’s anything as good as that donut, I’d happily get injured again.”

“My mother’s recipe,” I say, almost a whisper.

Amelia studies my face, analyzing the timid shine of grief in my eyes. She looks like she wants to say something but stops himself mid-way. Quietly she murmurs, “I’m sorry for your loss.”

So she picked up on my dead parents, I’m sort of impressed I have to say. I feel the need to make a comment equally as thoughtful. 

“Do you sing?” I ask, noting the melodic undertones of her voice. I can’t sing in the slightest bit, but I appreciate a good tune.

Her eyes shoot up, glad I was able to match her sincerity. I sigh, relieved I was right. 

“Well yes, that’s how I make enough money for myself and Rosie,” she says with satisfaction.

I exhale, relieved at last. The social balance has been restored. But now I’m curious about a few things, about herself, and about Rosemarie. 

“So who are your parents?” I ask.

She ponders this and says carefully, “The owner of the theater. She’s our mother.”

I heave with understanding, a little skeptical at this new piece of information. So Rosemarie’s friend is more like her sister. There’s so much about these people, I feel like I’ve been selfish just worrying about my little world. Why did I stay in my small, small world when an entire universe is out there? Amelia continues on about their history. 

I ask, “How did you come to know Rosemarie? Are you two related or what?”

Amelia responds, “That’s a story for another time. We’re not technically related, except in spirit. I like to think of it like we met one day, and she begrudgingly tolerated lucky me.” The words sound embittering, but they come out naturally and sweetly. Like a summer night’s breeze. But it’s still spring, and a thousand possibilities swirl through my head from a circus ring to child abandonment. I don’t press, even though the mystery is killing me.

“So, if you don’t mind, what are you like? I’ve talked your ear off about myself,” Amelia asks, sounding a little concerned. She sounds like she’s walking on eggshells. That’s probably for the best.

“Well, my family’s run a bakery my entire life,” I start. “I just reopened today after a,” I continue, “hiatus. I’ve lived here my whole life and I’m an only child.”

Amelia shakes her head, “No, no, not the business card introduction. I don’t care what colors your eyes are or how many pies you bake a day. Tell me something about the real Cecelia Chiffon, not the things you have to do. What do you like, what do you care about?”

I stammer, confused why he would be dissatisfied with my answer. She hasn’t revealed much about himself. It’s the textbook definition of a perfect introduction. But there’s something else inside me. Something that knows exactly what she’s looking for.

I start, “I like raspberries and the color periwinkle. I hate crowds and thunderstorms. I really do love baking, I know it’s obvious, but I really do. I only care about pastry puffs and jelly fillings.”

Amelia shakes her head, “Don’t think that’s so.” 

I bluster and want to shout about the dozens of times I’ve ignored acquaintances in public areas. But somehow, I don't think that will get me anywhere. I give a sheepish grunt of disapproval and leave it at that.  

“Well, I used to like baking for charity. I did that until about a year ago,” I say, almost defensively. 

She responds after carefully studying my face. Can people just leave me alone? I don’t want to be observed under a microscope or dissected in the name of science. I sucked in science class! I’m really not that interesting, I promise. 

“And yet you agreed to bake me a cake. You were able to tell I sing,” Amelia returns after falling into her signature pensive state with that dazed smile. “That’s not selfish, that’s empathy.”

Her words strike my heart. Why did I agree to bake Rosemarie that cake if I knew it was a poor financial decision? I care too much about Amelia and Rosemarie for a closed-off person, right? I’m absolutely pathetic when it comes to dealing with these mushy feelings. It feels like cough syrup trickling its thick, potent path down my throat.

“Do you miss them? I mean of course you do, but is it hard?” She asks, curiously.

“Can’t say right now,” I mumble, unable to cope with the pressure. Right now, I’m not sure if I even remember them right. Did I even love them? Now Amelia’s staring back at me, ashamed she asked. The only thing worse than having your personal space violations accidentally violating someone else’s.

I dizzily drink in as much air as I can, a futile attempt to bring normalcy to my body. As if anticipating my exit, Amelia flashes me a final dazzling beam and says, “Happy birthday.”

How she knew it was my birthday will forever be a mystery to me, but one thing’s for sure: Amelia Junebug is a strange girl, perhaps stranger than Rosemarie. What am I saying, Rosemarie will always be weirder. I stumble down the stairs where I see Rosemarie waiting for me. How long has she been here? 

“So you got to know Amelia, what do you think about her?” Rosemarie states plainly. 

I search, looking for the right words, “Amelia’s nice. I like her. She knows a lot about me, more than I know myself.”

Rosemarie cocks an eyebrow, saying, “Good. I like her too. But she doesn’t know everything.” These words are puzzling. What does she mean about “everything?” There must be something more than aggression and sarcasm to this little girl.

We arrive in the scrappiest room I’ve ever seen. The aged walls are white, at least I think. They seem to be caving in, and I can’t see anything under the layers of posters, records, limp bouquets of wildflowers, and photos. Cluttering the rest of the space is an antique desk and odd things that look like they’ve come from a novelty shop. A mattress without its frames seems to be a part of the shag carpet, piled high with embroidered blankets. This embroidery, I’ve seen before on Amelia’s sweater. 

“You can take the bed, I’ll take the floor,” Rosemarie says, comfortably. The daisies in her hair have become limp. 

I shake my head, saying, “I’ll take the floor, it’s really fine.” Rosemarie splutters and insists that she will take the floor. 

“You’re the guest of honor, you idiot!” Rosemarie insists. 

This escalates into a two-way argument that ends up with Rosemarie throwing a pillow and blanket onto the carpet while I take a bed. I take my hair down from the bun and strategically position it onto a cushion that resembles a lemon. I feel my body sink into the mattress, staring at the two strangers I’m sharing a room with. Rosemarie gently weaves the flowers out of her shiny, straight hair. She picks the petals from each bud, opens the window slightly ajar, and blows them into the night, as if wishing the world her best. Rosemarie fades into a peaceful, serene trance. I watch her ribs heave up and down, signaling myself to try and sleep. 

It takes me a considerable amount of effort to shut off my racing thoughts about Amelia, about Rosemarie. I’m thankful that they replace the memories of my parents. In fact, they’re becoming blurry, remanances of my past. But I can’t just forget them. Not yet, not ever. As if possessed by a ghost, I run my fingers against the carefully sewn-on flowers. I can’t stop. 

The texture of the thread triggers a series of lights to flash into my eyes before I have time to fight them off. A man’s face without his voice, instructing a little girl to hold a silver needle. He speaks with inaudible enthusiasm. The girl starts to stab into a piece of fabric, but her clumsy fingers pierce the small blade into her hand, prompting a stream of scarlet blood to flow. Red liquid seems to drip ceaselessly as the girl and her father are fixed in fear. 

Blood leaks onto the floor, and I can see her scream in horror at the sight. And yet no noise comes from her mouth. The girl’s mother rushes into the room, even more dramatic than her child. She shrieks harder while her husband tenderly places a bandage on their daughter’s hand. They embrace, and the piercing light fades at last. 

I shake with the intensity of these visions, and they arrive one after the last. Each one is more vivid, but I am without the ability to hear anything. A sunny picnic at the park, a family vacation to a seaside town, a school play. Happy scenes that feel so morbid to watch, as if I’m not worthy to see these clips. Poison coats my lips while a suffocating grip restricts my lungs. Are these nightmares or real events? I can’t trust my brain, I can’t really trust anything. 

I scream and thrash around, unable to cope with these dreams. There’s no use in trying to get a good night’s rest after all, is there? Rosemarie stirs out of her slumber and stares at me. After a few seconds, she rushes next to me. hops next to me, afraid she may disturb me. 

“I’m okay,” I whisper, silently berating myself for waking Rosemarie up.

“That’s a lie, I’m not stupid” Rosemarie responds. She glances at me, afraid of messing me up even more. “Night terrors?”

I sigh and decide, “You could say that.”

We stay there, huddled together for a while. Rosemarie flings her arms around me and watches me fall asleep. I calm myself down enough to be still. Normally, I’d feel embarrassed, but for right now, I need to be comforted. Something close to a smile passes on my face, one reciprocated by Rosemarie. Although she can’t see it, I’m positive she’s able to sense it.

After a night of restless rest, I finally wake up, and Rosemarie is getting ready for the day. The sunlight is a rich butter color, and I know it’s later than it should be. With a start, I rise, disoriented and all. 

“Enough sleep for ya?” she asks sarcastically. 

I give a polite nod while Rosemarie motions for me to come forward. I take a few sleepy steps forward toward them. Rosemarie is grinning impishly while holding a basket of flowers, the picture-perfect example of mischief.

I ask mistrustively, “What are you doing?”

“Nothing,” Rosemarie says innocently, “Well, nothing bad at least.”

I do not like her tone at all. I give a comically large disapproving shake, but she just laughs and blindfolds me with a piece of black silk. Before I know it, Rosemarie plays with my hair, twisting it in a way I don’t think hair is meant to be twisted. And what’s worse is that I can’t see a single thing. By the time they’re apparently satisfied, I feel like a doll abused by a fashion-forward 4-year olds. At last, she peels off my blindfold.

The person in the cracked old mirror can’t be me. I’m plain and really just mediocre, not a figure of beauty or wonder. But this girl is something else entirely. She has these lovely loose dark curls, overlayed with beautiful blue flowers. Forget-me-nots, I think they’re called. This new hairstyle seems too elaborate for such a plain canvas, but it works so perfectly. The glittering dark hues of my eyes seem richer with the new addition of floral touches, and my skin glows in gentle aroma of sweet pollen. My simple apron outfit seems to be a masterpiece with the complimentary dots of periwinkle in my hair. 

“Thank you!” I shout, not bothering to cover up my excitement. I swear I’m vain or shallow, really, but this is enough to make me want to jump up and down from pretty, giggly joy. Ugh, I’m beginning to hate myself.

“Morning Cecelia! Care for a slice of toast?” Amelia chirps. I stare at the slim pickings: stale rye bread, an odiously colored jam, and an unknown fruit juice. I try not to look disappointed, but she is able to see my reaction. 

Amelia apologizes, “I know it’s not ideal, but I figured it’s alright.” I feel horrible, decorated in superficial flowers, supposed to be the guest of honor. 

“No, no! Thank you so much, all. But before I head off to the bakery, you don’t suppose I could make something? It’s the least I can do,” I stutter, horrified by my behavior. One thing I’ve never wanted to be is a brat. I remember this girl who came into the bakery two years ago, demanding a refund because her cake wasn’t frosted properly. That cake was a labor of love all three of us poured our souls into, a masterpiece of mascarpone and sponge cake that looked just like a pouring waterfall. Mom even found a way to make the blue frosting look transparent. Of course, we laughed off the incident, but it’s stuck with me forever, how someone could be so cruel to people only trying to help.

My speech is met with a warm reception and Rosemarie excalims, “Please do! Amelia can’t cook to save her life!” At once, I put myself to work, trying to find a nonexistent kitchen. With a waffle iron, a gas stove,  flour, butter, eggs, and a little improvisation I attempt to make a breakfast worthy of a place on the bakery’s menu. Everything was found in a small refrigerator backstage, and I don’t want to think about how old they are. I ask where I could find fruit, and Amelia mentions something about the garden in the patio to the side. 

Rosemarie and I go over to the said garden, in search of anything edible. Afraid our search was in vain, I notice a bush with little dots of golden fruit that looks like an enchanted berry. 

“Kumquats!” I yell, recognizing the fruit at once. We used to grow them in the herb garden before we got a produce supplier. They’re very tart with seeds sweeter than honey, a member of the citrus family. 

Rosemarie grabs as many as her hands can manage as I ponder what kind of dish I can possibly make with these. Kumquats are too tart for a decent loaf cake, but maybe I could make use of the waffle iron. Yes, this could work. Although there isn’t any sugar, I spotted some milkweed practically oozing with nectar. Wordlessly, I pluck a chunk of the plant while I instruct Rosemarie to go in. 

A few minutes later, I have whisked, combined, and poured my way to 5 sizable kumquat waffles. I really don’t know how it tastes but the presentation is far from lackluster. I'm even proud of the lightly hued cakes indented with nectar-filled squares. Nervously, I gauge the others’ reactions. 

Rosemarie is too stunned to say anything, simply shoving more into her mouth. Surely, they’re exaggerating their feelings, but it still feels nice. I take a tentative bite myself, my teeth puncturing into the crispy exterior, releasing a waft of citrus aroma. Oh my word, that is incredible. The thick, warm interior’s richness is cut with the flavor from the kumquats, lightly sweetened by the nectar and the seeds of the fruit. 

I look to watch Amelia’ reaction. She enjoys oranges, so this is perfect, right? I hope so. A subdued smile plastered all over her face, one I watch with satisfaction. Right now, I think it’s a wonderful world. It’s time to leave, though.

“I have to go,” I say begrudgingly. “But you’re welcome to dinner at my place tonight.” I add the last part, reminding myself of the ties of owing. I’d never want to fall short of my debt to these people.

“That sounds wonderful,” Amelia says encouragingly. She sighs in relief, watching Rosemarie look interested. Rosemarie is an interesting girl who needs more interesting things to do, I guess.

Rosemarie perks up at my idea, quipping, “Maybe Mother will come.” A wave of uneasiness hits everyone. Something is off. 

“She might be busy, but maybe,” Amelia murmurs quietly, abandoning the gentle enthusiasm he had before. 

I force myself to walk away, knowing if I don’t, I’ll never get the bakery back open. The path home is lonely and silent, a little too much for my taste. But I like quiet usually. Finally back home, I enter the glass doors to an abandoned building. A shiver of discomfort runs through me. By the next hour, I have whipped up a few popular items and flipped the “Closed” sign to the other side. The bell jingles its vaguely familiar tune, and a tired-looking man comes in. 

“Could I please have a double-fudge brownie?” He asks, barely keeping his heavy eyelids open. Strange, strange indeed, perhaps he needs a pick-me-up. I nod and slide a decadent slice of brownie into a tissue paper bag with the logo printed elegantly on. Just as I am about to hand this man his order, I remember Amelia’ observant tendencies. Although slightly annoying, it is sweet he cares. I pour a steamy cup of hot rich coffee. 

The man’s eyes grow wide at the sight, tracing the path from the old espresso machine to the marble counter. I gladly hand him both the cup and the brownie, pleased I was able to do something that sparked a little joy. 

“There you go, sir. Coffee’s on the house. Have a nice day!” I beam, carefully mimicking the effortless charm Raechel had when she first saw me with the donuts. The man hastily shoves a few crisp dollars into my hands, profusely thanking me. For the first time, I see a grin, mild as it may be, slip as he walks out.

“Sure glad that annoying little girl was right. This place really is the best,” he says, exiting. 

Years ago, my kindergarten had a little carnival before summer break. Snowcones, popcorn, and ferris wheels, the whole ordeal. And there was one cart that had the most colorful balloons, something I felt obligated to buy. Back then, my family was struggling with money, having only recently opened the bakery and all, so I glumly accepted my balloon-less fate. But then the worker attending the cart handed me the whole bunch. Up until now, I was puzzled why. 

Rosemarie really did find me new customers, although I wasn’t expecting her to at all. This feeling is finer than a million gold balloons, just like giving that man a free cup of coffee. Somehow, Amelia’ words don’t feel so stupid anymore. Giddly, I go through the rest of the day, greeting each customer with care and serving them with the most empathy I can muster. I feel like Mother Teresa, just in the body of a scrappy little baker girl. 

“Have a nice night!” I nearly giggle to a mother and son, each holding an apple strudel. My voice must be so annoying. What have they done to me? Now I’m some sunshine- student-body president-type, not that I’m complaining. I’m not a giggly person. 

A jolt of forgotten obligations slaps me in the face when I recall that guests are coming over for dinner. Very special guests. Promptly, I clean up the bakery with a now-empty display case and a register full of more money than I know what to do with. Up the stairs, I stare at the mess my living place is. I lock the master bedroom and clear off the dining table, placing the best china I can find. Finding it’s the appropriate thing to do, I even light a red currant candle hiding in the back of the cabinets I never bother to look in. It’s almost six. 

I break into a sprint, running down into the kitchen. I usually only make small meals for myself because life insurance only covers so much, but I scrape together a plan for a lavish feast. A dish of roasted potatoes, caramelized carrots, minestrone soup untouched from the day before and generously seasoned, and a huge pan of pesto pasta are the results of two hours of intense labor. It’s a good thing those people are always late. Carrying the last plate up along with a pitcher of sparkling lemonade, I hear the jingle of the front door. 

“Cecelia?” I hear Rosemarie’s call. She’s actually calling me by name. I hope she isn’t sick. 

I respond, “Up here! Go into the back and up the stairs.”

A few moments later, Rosemarie and a horribly Amelia come up. I falter when I see Amelia somehow worse than she was this morning, pale and generally unwell. I think some fresh air would suffice. So I move the spread outside in front of the store, savoring the sunset and my cooking. We talk for hours, eating for hours. It’s a perfect night to be with these perfect people. 

And so the days pass on like this. May goes by with her wild blooms till June rolls around, shining the place up with little glorious days. Bakery stuff in the morning, friend stuff in the evening. A lovely series of delightful visits, with every visit revealing more about these two. Amelia is apparently applying to art schools while Rosemarie is suspended every other week from regular school. From elaborate pranks like orchestrating a sabotage on the school’s pep rally to simpler crimes including- but not limited to- vandalism. Rosemarie is a tiny little felon, a funny one at that. 

One fateful Tuesday afternoon, I am busy whipping up a pan of carrot cake for an order I received over the phone for the first time. There’s something special about getting to use the bakery phone. It’s been a secret fantasy of mine since I saw my mom using it once. After that, we didn’t get any orders over the phone for years. There’s something about hearing a ring that makes me feel official, I know it’s stupid. Just as I take the fragrant, spiced loaf out of the oven, the phone alarms me again. I really hope it’s another order, the afternoon lull just began. Rosemarie’s advertising spoiled me with dozens of customers a day. 

“Hello, this is Cecelia Chiffon from Chiffon Cakery, to whom do I owe this pleasure?” I answer sweetly in my customer service voice, a voice that’s been in use more often these days. Not that I mind at all. 

“Hello, Miss Chiffon, this is an odd request, but am I to believe you are acquainted with one Rosemarie Junebug? I am Principal Lineus calling from Flavonia-Krev Elementary” an uncomfortable administrative voice calls. I am perplexed.

I say, “Why yes, is something the matter?” 

“You see, Rosemarie got into a bit of a situation and the usual contact, a Miss Amelia Junebug, is busy. Would you mind heading down to Flavonia-Krev Elementary?” the principal continues.

I am not surprised by any of this, remembering Amelia has art classes on Tuesday afternoons, but shocked I’m the one called instead. Don’t they have a mother?

“That’d be fine,” I agree. So I flip the sign from “Open” to “Closed” and jump into my little car. The school is all the way across town, and I am afraid this situation can’t wait. I slam my foot on the accelerator and speed through town. This was the same route my parents took every morning, when Mom drove I was unforgivably late and when Dad drove I was unusually early. They were so different, it’s strange how they got to come together. Opposites attract, or whatever.

Approaching the school basted in a hideous green color, I take a moment to breathe in the air. It reeks of childhood and nostalgia. Ah well, that’s not why I’m here; I still have to bust Rosemarie out of whatever horrendous offense she committed. I walk inside, my chest flutters with nervousness. About a million small eyes and whispers are directed towards again. Once again, a very nostalgic feeling. 

“Hello, are you here for Rosemarie Junebug?” the receptionist asks. 

I stumble out, “Yep, where should I go?”

“Right this way.” My knees grow weak with anticipation and anxiety. I hated this place with the smell of paperwork and the terrifying office ladies typing their way to my inevitable doom. But never have I once been inside the principal’s room. I was a good student, perhaps not the teacher’s pet, but a model of good behavior. My heart drops when I find the opposite goes for Rosemarie. 

“Hello Ms. Chiffon, please have a seat,” Principal Lineus instructs, relieved I showed up. From the looks of it, with Rosemarie’s smug face, he’s been having a rough day keeping her under wraps. 

           I oblige, taking the cushioned chair next to Rosemarie, facing the aged man. His creased forehead and silver streaked hair ache of longing for retirement.

             “Let’s get down to business. I screwed up, so what? Are you going to bite me?” Rosemarie challenges him with such ferocity, I see Principal Lineus shifting in his seat. 

I sigh, rubbing my temples. What did she do? I’ve only heard the stories, but the girl’s a living legend. I ask, holding back a laugh, “Did you steal another toilet? You have one at home for goodness’ sake!” I recall a particularly disturbing anecdote Rosemarie explained a few weeks ago with too much zest and animation to be normal. Then again, nothing about Rosemarie is normal. 

Rosemarie bursts into hysterical laughter, nearly turning purple. She snaps at Principal Lineus to explain the situation. I gulp, prepared for the worst; a felony, a misdemeanor?

“Ms. Junebug, um,” he splutters, prompted by Rosemarie’s harsh bark to continue, “disrupted a pep rally.” I cock an eyebrow. 

          “How, exactly?” I inquire. Rosemarie flashes an impish grin. 

Shoving Principal Lineus from his spot of narration, she explains, “So we were having a lame pep rally or cult meeting or whatever you wanna call it. And I, the genius I am, decide to add a little more fun into it. I basically hijacked the sound system and played a monologue of Principal Lineus’ caught on a security camera. It’s wonderful, I’ll show you!”

Principal Lineus begrudgingly loads a video file on his computer, the look of misery growing exponentially. I sense the twitch of amusement and horror on my face grow just as quickly. 

“What do you mean I can’t get a toupee replacement?” Principal Lineus exclaims on camera, agitated while yelling into his phone. It’s dark out at the time, after school most likely. “Please! My wife Karen left me a year ago, I need this,” he continues, throwing all the self respect he held as a principal out the window. 

I kick myself before I let out a snicker. Putting on a calm front I say, “I see, I will act accordingly. My sincerest apologies, Principal.” Rosemarie stares at the act I put on, unconvinced and trying to break me. I have to bite my cheek to not melt into laughter. 

“Thank you, Miss Chiffon. Rosemarie will leave with you,” he says, relieved by the grace I had to not make fun of his less-than-graceful moment. Actually, now that I think about it, I feel bad for the poor man. His wife left him and his bald head alone to cope with a stressful job. 

Rosemarie springs up from her seat and jumps towards me, clearly excited to do something new. I sigh as we head out the glass doors. When we reach the bakery, Amelia gasps with shock to see us. She’s covered in paint-splattered corduroy overalls, a charmingly rushed luck. I wish I could look that stylish when I panic. 

“Thank goodness you’re okay, Rosie! I was worried you got in trouble, it’s a good thing Cecelia was there. Thank you, Cecelia,” she mutters, fixing Rosemarie’s hair; a bun inlaid with asters today. 

I recall the story in great detail, and Amelia listens with polite concern mixed with weak amusement, making odd head motions as if tracing the steps of a familiar path. She may be problematic, but Rosemarie’s freaking hilarious. After everything Amelia smiles and decides, “Looks like you two had an eventful day, why don’t we get dinner, my treat. Also, Rosemarie, why would you ruin my artistry like that?” 

The three of us walk west into the sinking sunset, away, away, away, till we reach Amelia’s favorite Italian restaurant called “Primavera”. We tease each other and giggle as we stuff our faces full of mind-boggling delicious spumoni. Pistachio, chocolate, and cherry are three flavors I would have never pictured together. Three things that seem to blend into a sweet bliss, despite how weird they may seem in a group. And just like that our eventful day becomes a relaxed one.

“Amelia’s cherry, obviously. I’m chocolate, the best part, and you’re pistachio, the part no one really likes,” Rosemarie moans as she helps me unload a shipment of goods. It’s a bright Saturday morning, and I’ve been cooking up a special menu item.
I retort, annoyed, “I love pistachio! Besides, it won’t matter when I make the best dessert ever!” 

“You two keep it down. But for the record, pistachio is the worst flavor,” Amelia hushes us, giving Rosemarie a look of bashful comradery with the last part. She is applying for the local arts program at Blythe University, scrolling through different pictures of her various paintings and scrutinizing them until the end of time. 

Rosemarie smiles smugly, beginning to open the shipment of cherries the bakery received. I pop one into my mouth, savoring the notes of floral sweetness mixed with a gentle tart punch. I stare over Amelia’s shoulder, trying to view the pictures for myself.

“I’m not done yet!” she screams, for the first time ever. “Besides, you’ve only seen my embroidery, if you actually see my work, I want you to see my best!”

             “Ugh, everything you do is annoyingly perfect, Amelia,” Rosemarie says, somewhat encouragingly. 

I ignore them, encased in my own world of speculation and curiosity. I have an idea, how do I bring it to life? I stare back at Rosemarie who seems to be so full of life, and Amelia struggling to keep Rosemarie’s life in check. Then it hits me. 

I hop up, scribbling on a stray receipt my genius idea. Amelia looks over curiously, and I hide it, just the way she did. Amelia looks impressive and resorts to ignoring me all together. I work feverishly, lost in my own world like I always am when I bake. Pans clatter as I run into the counter, brushing off the initial plan in search of my inspiration. 

“You thought I was clumsy,” Rosemarie remarks sarcastically. I roll my eyes at her dramatically and return to my bubble of concentration.

A good chunk of time passes before I emerge from my trance with three plates of what I think might be simple brilliance. Three towering stacks of fluffy cakes colored with soft greens, pinks, and browns lie in front of me, the result of a mad stroke of motivation. I shove two of the plates in front of Rosemarie and Amelia, not bothering to say anything. 

They look just as stunned as I wanted them to look, wide-eyed and delighted. It’s really something if you can erase the smirk or scowl off of Rosemarie. I cut myself of piece with a dainty silver fork, making sure to include all three layers. Oh my. 

It’s better than delicious; it’s extraordinary. Pairing cherry, pistachio, and chocolate is nothing new, but I incorporated them in a different way. You get all of each taste equally, just in a subtler, slower burn. A simple whipped cream filling takes up the space in between the flavors, mixed with just the right of floral cherry extract. The chocolate is a soft, bitter cacao, perfectly balanced while a pistachio sponge cake complete with small chunks of green nut compliments it excellently. 

I bring the entire cake down, and we work on it just until opening. After a decent number of customers file through, Amelia, Rosemarie, and I stop for what should’ve been a lunch break. Except, we’re all too full from the spumoni cake to eat anything.

I thank them for helping me out, dismissing them for the day. Rosemarie nearly jumps out of her chair, galavanting to who knows what kind of trouble. Amelia stays behind, keeping me company during the time. 

She relaxes, “Rosie’s quite the character, isn’t she?”

I ponder her good natured words, digging deeper into their meaning. With Amelia, there’s always something else underneath an innocent cover. I match her tone, laughing, “She certainly is. Enough character to kill off a room of people. How do you put up with her on top of your art?”

A look of surprise flashes on Amelia's face for a second, immediately clouded by her cool disguise. She says quizzically, “We make time for the people we love. But you know that better than anyone else.”

Used to these empathetic, insightful, and yes, mildly intrusive thoughts from Amelia, I can’t help but grin. I say, off-topic and perhaps too-innocently, “I figure she would tire herself by now, getting in trouble.”

“Did I ever tell you, why Rosie does the things she does?” Amelia’s voice has grown raspy and hushed. 


Amelia shifts her gaze away from my eyes, nearly mumbling, “Rosie and I don’t actually have a mother. But she’s determined to draw her mom’s attention by pulling stunts. Nothing I can do, really, but to go along with it.”

“She’s still ten,” I whisper, full of understanding. Rosemarie is sharp and cunning, but at the end of it all, she’s just a little girl wanting her mom to come home. I used to be like her, till the day the doctor said Mom would never come home. No, I would have to wait to come home to her. 

My mother was a woman of shiny, happy things. Whenever she spoke, she declared. And her voice. Oh her voice was all of stardust and bright lights. Although my memory is much faded, I can hear her singing a dark old nursery rhyme with a special, vibrant twist. The kids at my school always said she sang it wrong, but I didn’t care. It was right to me. 

Amelia gives me a genuine smile, one filled with golden richness and sunshine, glad I picked up on what she was saying. She may not be as lively as Rosemarie, but Amelia has that rare ability to make me feel happy. Not ecstatic or jumping up and down with joy, just happy enough. 

I ask her about how she would decorate a cake, setting off a firecracker of enthusiasm. Amelia goes on and on about contrasting colors and layers until her eyes actually sparkle. That sparkle, I know for a fact, is the everburning flame of passion. 

“And the colors, oh the colors. I can show you if you’d like!” Amelia enthuses. Not wanting to interrupt her, I nod, pulling out a few odd colored pencils I use to sketch out plans. 

Amelia takes these odd pencils and begins. You can see it in her eyes, the head-in-the-clouds kind of excitement, as if she was lost inside a world of her own. Exactly how baking makes me feel. She doesn’t let me even peek at her work, like a true artist.

By the end, Amelia has created the most beautiful combination of purples and greens and blues possible. The low-quality pigment somehow shimmers with depth and complexity I never knew was possible. Shining colors shift and move under the light.

“Butterfly wings?” I ask, enraptured by her work. It truly is something else.

Amelia sheepishly smiles and modestly blushes, “It really is nothing.” I give her an exasperated look. Another sign of a fellow craftsman: annoying humbleness. So I go along with it. 

We stand there, tracing and dreaming and scheming and talking, and I swear her drawings come to life. Dimensions are interlocked and intertwined, aren’t they? They are when Amelia makes them. 

Ding! Rosemarie pokes her head out of the corner, buzzing with new adventure. I take a step forward, reaching to greet Rosemarie. But a ghastly look of horror meets my eyes. So horrendous and so terrified, yet so familiar.

Floating. Drifting. Off to undiscovered territory. That’s how the swings made me feel when I was little. I dreaded the feeling of my stomach sinking into my shoes as I lurched upwards and then down. Teetering up, falling, it was too much for me. I felt out of control.

And right now, I feel like someone stuck me on some swings. Rosemarie’s face says it all. Expecting the worst, I reel around to find my prediction was right. Amelia’s collapsed body lays on the floor like a wounded animal. 

“Her lungs are moving,” Rosemarie says with a tenderness, a sweetness I’ve never heard before. She sounds childish.

I assume the role of the adult commanding, “I’ll call an ambulance, just stay here and check her breathing.”

Rosemarie nods, cooperatively. Her timid eyes grow the size of saucers, carefully monitoring the labored breaths from Amelia. Perhaps the most horrifying scene is that frightened as she is, Rosemarie seems to know exactly what she’s doing. As if it’s happened before. 

I rush to unhook the phone, dialing the same three numbers, just like I did about a year ago. Not bothering with manners, I splutter the situation to the dispatcher, slurring incoherent blurbs of information. The dispatcher sends help to the bakery. Now I just have to wait. She has to wait. 

I put together a package of cookies. It’s going to be a long night for Rosemarie. Flashing blue lights flood through the glass walls, signaling a quick reaction from Rosemarie. She flings the door open, yelling at a team of paramedics. 

I don’t retain anything she says, but all I know is that whatever episode Amelia just had isn't foreign territory. I grab Rosemarie’s limp wrist and drag her into my car. We drive with such speed, but I can’t feel or see anything. 

           My heart rate clouds everything but the girl in the back seat, wordless and anxious. A scared little girl. Tears start to form in my puffy eyes, threatening to fall. But I can’t, not when Rosemarie is right there. So the traffic lights and cars all blend into a blur of flashing yellows and reds as I try to make it to the hospital. As if saved by some force, we make it. 

I hear the click of Rosemarie’s seatbelt and she bolts out as soon as the door is unlocked. I follow, taking my time. Marina Point Memorial Hospital, with its sterile, unwelcoming white exterior and gloomy view of the seaside. The waves wash over my soul, crashing and booming in furious stages.

I enter the hospital, trying to distract myself from the ocean mourning. It can’t be a good omen. 

“Hello, what can I do for you?” a receptionist asks gently. He looks so polished and put-together with clean scrubs and a freshly-washed appearance. I, in contrast, must look so pitiful, with my swollen face a brilliant shade of firetruck red. 

I say, not even trying to fight off the shakiness in my voice, “Amelia Junebug. A little girl with flowers and anger issues probably came looking for her.”

The receptionist nods, ignoring my frightful state and typing words into a computer so quickly I swear he’s writing nonsense. 

“She’s in surgery right now. If you go up to level three’s waiting room, we’ll have her doctor call you in after she’s finished, okay?” 

I nod, squeaking out, “T-thank y-you.”

“My pleasure Miss Cecelia.”

I cock an eyebrow out, suspicious. “How do you know my name?”

“I’ve met you before, a year or so ago-” he explains.

But I don’t stick around to hear the rest. No more deja vu. No more flashbacks. It’s not gonna happen to Amelia. I won’t let it. Not again. I punch a button with the number 3 on it, furiously looking for answers. Is she okay? My stomach turns and twists in a billion directions, drifting up and down. Blue scrubs blend into one single memory. 

Mom and Dad were lying on their deathbeds, supported only by a beeping machine. Their last words were so quiet I never understood them. And then a doctor comes in with a clipboard and a consent form. With a single signature, I took their lives. I took a part of my life with them. Too ashamed to look the doctor in the eyes, I only remember the color of his scrubs. An awful brilliant blue, nauseating to look at. The blue that stole my childhood. The blue that stole them.

“I told you, Dr. Incompetent. I should have your license revoked! Now, it’s Amelia Junebug with sickle cell anemia. Or do you need me to repeat that like you should repeat medical school?” a familiar boisterous voice yells.

Rosemarie takes charge of a terrified unnamed doctor, snatching her stethoscope and handling it as if prepared to smack the doctor with it. 

“Rosemarie?” I call out. 

Rosemarie whips her head towards me, dropping the stethoscope, “Ugh, finally someone.” I run towards her. 

“Dr. erm… Silber, apologizes for Rosemarie’s behavior. What is Amelia’s current condition?” I ask, amiably. 

Dr. Silber adjusts her crooked name plate, saying, “Ms. Junebug’s vitals are unstable at the moment. We are doing everything we can. You see her condition is worse than it was last time.”

I ask, puzzled, “So she’ll be fine right?” Rosemarie stares, fixated on the doctor. 

“Again, we are doing everything we can, Ms. Chiffon.”

I nod, glum at the vague answer. The only thing I can do is hope. But apparently, Rosemarie is dissatisfied by the lackluster response. She yells, “Give me an answer! Is she gonna die or not? I’ve been here a bunch, but I’m not an idiot!” Her voice falters, “Will Amelia die?”

Dr. Silber sighs and settles on, “It’s too early, Rosemarie. You should get some sleep.”

Dr. Silber tries to guide us towards a visitor’s room, but Rosemarie blusters and storms out. I chase after her, legs pumping in a dizzying blur. I’m afraid she’ll (or I’ll) run herself into madness. Hospital lights and tile spin beneath my feet as we move at the speed of lightning. Rosemarie decides the elevator is not nearly fast enough for her. We exit the building, headed for the pier. Finally, we reach a point where she is satisfied. 

“Rosemarie, are you okay?” I ask. 

A sickeningly sweet giggle and shout escapes her lips, “Let’s go to the carnival!”

The pier is alive with pink fluorescent lights and sounds buzzing about. Booth games with cheesy, colorful toys line the dusty road. Peels of laughter mixed with the aroma of fresh popcorn, a night any normal 10 year old would enjoy. Except, Rosemarie isn’t a normal 10 year old. 

Rosemarie grabs my wrist, jumping from game to game. She hands me a ball and tells me to win the giant panda stuffed animal. I give the ball my best attempt.

“Pathetic,” Rosemarie says, laughing at my pathetic throw which turns into a broken basket and a furious game attendant. I laugh too. It’s hilarious, so why do I have to force myself to laugh along?

“C’mon let’s go on the ferris wheel, it looks fun!” Rosemarie squeals, yes actually squeals with joy. I nod, trying my best not to seem disturbed by her cheery disposition. It's just so… unnatural. 

We enter a creaky purple cart, slowly and steadily heading upwards. Blythe is aglow with lit streets and the magic of the night sky. I feel as though my soul has been enchanted by a wicked sort of beauty. I turn to see if Rosemarie is thinking the same. She looks at me blankly. 

“Are you okay?” I ask, once again. 

Rosemarie’s expressionless face melts and morphs into something absolutely terrifying. The sparkle and fire in her eyes extinguish to dust, as if a part of her died. And perhaps it did. Tentatively, she starts with a throaty tone, “No. Did I ever tell you about Amelia?”

I stare back at her helplessly, so I just shake my head. 

She takes a deep, shaky breath, “So. She found me as a toddler. And let’s say I don’t have the best parents ever. Now I remember a lot from back then, but Amelia doesn’t know that. No, according to her, our mom is just busy and I’m her sister. That makes her feel like she’s in control. So I go with it, that’s what you do for the people you love.”

I interrupt, asking, “So it’s just you and her?”


“Are you ever lonely?”

“Only when I remember to be. And even then, I’m fine. But then her little hospital trips became a big thing and the medical bills were too much for her. She wanted to go to art school.”

“Wants to go to art school, you mean.”

Rosemarie sighs and quakes with tears streaming down, “Not the way she’s going. Did you hear the doctor?”

She dissolves into a whimper, “And she was good, too.”

Hot tears well up in my eyes, I’m gasping for breath. Rosemarie continues, “I get in trouble so that Amelia thinks she knows everything. I pretend I want our mom’s attention, so she thinks she understands it. That’s the thing about Amelia. She understands a lot. It makes her feel okay. And if she’s okay,” she swallows, “I’m okay.” 

“You don’t have to be strong, you know. You never got to be a kid.”

She looks up from her palms, dripping and puffed up, “Yeah well, maybe some of us just aren’t meant to be kids. Some of us just need to grow up.”

Her words shred me into pieces. I can’t argue with them, knowing exactly where she comes from. I decide to share my own story, “Did I ever tell you about my parents?”

My voice grows weaker and weaker, “We lived together my entire life. Happy, suburban family of three. Happy little bakery. And then in a second, they faded away. Gone in a car crash, just like that. So I had to grow up just like that.”

Rosemarie mutters, “That’s a pretty trashy deal.”

“Not as trashy as yours.”


I extend a hand, offering, “We can figure a way out, together. Just no more pretending or lying. You’re a nice kid, you know that?”

Rosemarie smiles and says gently, “Deal.” She says with a snarky afterthought, “Call me a nice kid again and I’ll slit your throat.”

“Touche,” I say, glad to have her back.

“Now, let’s get out of this trash carnival. I’m pretty sure there’s e. coli on this thing.”

The ferris wheel stops and we head out, braced for the worst to come. And then the worst comes.  

What do you remember when someone dies? Do you think about when they royally screwed you over? Do you remember what they left you in their will? I ponder these things as I sit in Amelia’s room right after her surgery. We spent the night here, munching on the cookies I made and anticipating the awakening of Amelia. Her operation was unsuccessful, and there were certain complications.

Amelia lays limp on her hospital bed while Rosemarie sits by her side, crisscrossed. I cancel the day’s operations, ready to spend my day watching Amelia. Rosemarie studies the heartbeat on the monitor, squeezing onto Amelia’s hand. A change on the screen happens, omitting a strange tone. 

            Rosemarie screams a blood-curdling scream and starts to thrash around. “No, no, no. This is all wrong. No! I won’t let it!”

            “Hey, hey, Rosie, it’s gonna be okay-“ Amelia’s pupils dilate and her eyes flutter shut. For a moment, the soft heave of her chest stops. But it comes back weakly. 

What happens next is too much for me to process all at once. I hear a doctor yell Code Blue! Rosemarie hops up, screaming something. But I sit there, useless. I want to scream or yell something, but I’m struck by paralysis. My sense of urgency is overshadowed by the sinister precursor of inevitable grief. A team of surgeons, nurses, and doctors flood in, making a beeline for Amelia. I’m not sure if they’ll be able to do anything.  

Rosemarie stands up, slurring incoherent insults and profanities at all the adults in the room, desperate for a solution. Any solution. A desperate girl in a sea of people who can’t give her anything. 

“Take care of Rosie, Cecelia Chiffon. Rosie, take care of Cecelia, okay? Then we’ll all be okay,” Amelia cries out in desperation, barely stammering the words out. She fights to keep her eyes open. But then I see she’s fought for too long. Rosemarie does, too.

The moment the little butterfly in her spirit flutters up into the sky is the same moment Rosemarie’s little butterfly’s wings are shattered into sparkly blue dust. Cold, haunted ashes of a former self. 

Carefully, I pick up one of Amelia’s hands. Her pearly bones poke through, lifeless.

“Time of death, 5:19!” a stern voice announces. Everyone files out almost immediately, quietly muttering. Well, almost everyone. 

Rosemarie curls up next to Amelia’s corpse, as if trying to forget a bad dream. But then someone comes in to collect her body. And like that Amelia becomes a thing instead of a person. Rosemarie sits and mourns. 

And like that Rosemarie runs away, this time too fast for me. I swore it wouldn’t happen again. But it happened again, twice.

The lights flicker off. I haven’t paid the electric bill since July. It’s been a month since I’ve washed my hair or since I got up before 10. But the bakery goes on, a mechanical sequence of transactions and cookery. I’m finally breaking even with my impulsive donation, but as of late, I have a tendency to order in. All the glitter and sparkle from them has drained completely. I am crumpling up a draft of a new recipe that’s failed to satisfy me yet again into an infuriating little ball.

I chuck it towards a bin, overfilling with similar scrapped ideas. These days, I haven’t been able to produce a single thought that pleases me. Any idiot with half a brain cell can follow a set of instructions, but it takes a baker to storm up new recipes. But I haven’t seemed to be much of a bakery lately. 

Ouch! A juvenile squeal of pain catches my attention, triggering a wave of deja vu. Just as promptly pops out a head with tangled hair somehow worse than mine and wilted white lilies woven in. 

“Rosemarie?” I ask impishly.

The girl nods soberly, indistinguishable from the one I once knew. My eyes drift to her hair in a catastrophic state. She catches on, ready to make a sarcastic remark and quelling herself at the last moment. I give her a puzzled look.

I say, “It’s still just me, you can say whatever twisted thing your mind cooks up.”

Rosemarie just looks up at the sky plainly, as if telling me something obvious. I nod with understanding, or at least what I think is understanding. 

“She’s gone. I’ll never be able to take her place, and that sucks for you. But, I can still be your cool cousin or whatever,” the words drift out of my mouth quickly and softly. When I’m done, I feel as if a thousand elephants have been lifted off of me.

Rosemarie cocks an eyebrow, “As if I’d be related to someone as ugly. But thanks I guess.” Her speech has a hint of her signature bite as well as a newfound gentleness. Or perhaps it’s hidden, rather than newfound. 

We don’t speak for a while. Rosemarie produces a small bottle of an iridescent liquid out of her pocket. It reads: I think this is what Amelia used in messy handwriting.

Promptly, I usher Rosemarie up into the kitchen where I pull up a chair right in front of the sink. I work diligently, removing the fragrant, dead white petals from her head, carefully undoing the knots of grief and pain plaguing her toffee colored waves. When I am done, she rolls her eyes at me, as if expecting me to do the same. 

So I hop up into the chair. Rosemarie drags a stool to elevate herself. She works with a tender grip, just as gracefully managing my curls tied up on each other. I drink in the strangely comforting fragrance of the conditioner, chemical, toxic fumes. When Rosemarie is done, she pulls open the back door, calculating a route in her head.

I match her urgent strides, watching the gears in her head turn and click as she formulates our path. We move swiftly through the familiar streets of the city, the sound of small town automobiles muffled by my racing heart. My pulse fires at a million miles a second as I’m convinced we’re going to slam into a car, only to dodge at the last moment. It’s like I’m finally


Flying, floating, at last it feels, right. We fly all the way to the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. A snippet of spring at the end of summer, how lovely is that? 

Rows of tulips and daisies and asters and peonies and buttercups and every other flower I could ever dream form a lush green meadow. Too many colors, too much.

“This is where she found me. I like this place a lot,” Rosemarie says, captivated by the field. A warm breeze passes through, rustling the grass at my feet ever so softly.

“I do, too,” I whisper. A wave of sweet jasmine hits me as I fall down into a pile of violets. 

We stay there, drinking in the day until the sun sets. And then the stars roll out. Gently at first, but in the end, the sky is dotted with stars. I see one twinkling back at me. My butterfly soars all the way up, free from grief and free from everything. I am where I should be.

Rosemarie, clutching a bundle of starry-eyed petunias, smiles a smile that’s everything of childish wonder. No agendas, no facades. Free at last, free from her past. We’re all just a set of shattered wings, at the end of the day. The only thing now is to soar.  

And I swear a star winks back at me. 

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