My momma always told me that everyone deserves some sugar in their life. She'd lean over, that twinkle in her eye, sprinkling sweetness into her pies.
“We don't turn anyone away,” she chided, pressing the crust in meticulously. “Could you be a dear and get the oven? I think the cookies are done”
I wonder what she'd do at this moment. Would she know the words to say to an uptight girl like Blanche Revereux?
Well, there are a few choice words for that little bitch. If only the hierarchy implanted into my mind didn't scream at me to stop.
I press the dough in, sighing as it turns up lumpy and stiff. I got distracted, I guess.
We were best friends in high school, from our matching outfits to matching boyfriends. Our prom dates remained boring, yet perfectly catered to our needs. As if they were accessories.
Of course, I could swear we both saw him at the same time; Felix, dancing the last four years off with each girl he saw.
He took one look at Blanche and me, sniffing impertinently.
“Aren't you going to dance with us?”
He stared at Blanche, smiling through the plaintive air. “Are you two gonna ask politely?”
I had to admit; I was intrigued by him. Something was imposing, yet charming about his fake tough guy act. He could be a slacker when he wanted. He'd still be near the top of the class.
Still, it didn't matter if I liked him or not. Blanche had to approve of him as if she was some queen. I know what you're thinking, and you're right. It is insane. It's not like I had to make the same decision before for the other girls in our clique. Some people have normal friendships. I had a monarchy.
It didn't help when he won prom king through sheer luck, whooping with his other jock friends. I stood behind Blanche, a crown on her head for once.
That's how it's been. Blanche takes the finest of life's pleasures, and I settle for second best.
Not that I'm bitter.
We ended up at the same college, only a few miles away from our old high school. If someone were to mention that I'd be stuck in this town forever, I'd shake it off. What's bad about that? Everyone I know is here, and, besides; it's not like Blanche and I can't take vacations each year. I've been to more parts of Europe than anyone I could pick off the streets.
In other words, I stuck with Blanche, and it got me here. Why should I complain?
I curse, staring down at the batter below me. Rock-solid by now, I trash it, sighing. I'll never master that careless look Felix had to him, mastering looking lazy while staying productive.
Now, if I had to find someone who could pull off a feat like that, it'd be Beau, the musty smelling tennis star. One of Felix's friends, if memory serves. Maybe I could convince Blanche to take him?
I smile a little to myself, taking out a new batch of cookie dough, perishing the thought. For Blanche Revereux, only the best can suffice.
I check the time on the oven, peering into the tiny window to search for the cookies that weren't destroyed by the absentminded episode. Sure enough, they're fluffy and airy, like new moments of calm before the storm.
A little music drifts from the streets, a sparse beat accompanying tinny bells over a light piano riff. If only Momma had taught me how to play; the tune sounds similar to the song she used to play for me.
Could you believe that just for a second, I feel whole again?
I used to think that everyone had one single thing in their core that kept them weird, placing them differently from other people, whether it was some weird obsession or love, something that separated the Blanche's of the world from the people far below her. That's why I set my cookies apart from everyone else.
Have you ever heard of using avocados instead of butter? I know it sounds crazy, but that's why I do it. My momma always wanted to try it; I guess I'm just letting her legacy live on just a little more.
As the last batch finishes, I slump against the counter, a secretive smile across my face. They should still be warm for tonight if I can just get the right temperature for the container.
Exhausted as I am, I can't let myself catch a break. Sure, college is out for winter break; it doesn't shorten my list of duties. Blanche squealed with glee when I told her about my cookie exchange idea. I'm sure she'll just pick up some store-bought ones a few minutes before the party, but it's the thought that counts.
Besides, when she suggested for Felix to come to the party, I knew I had to get this done.
It's wishful thinking for me to think that he'll fall for me during the party. Of course, I'm more practical than that. I'll have to sneak him a few drinks and get him into the courtyard.
I race out into the snow, desperately twisting around to remember where I parked. The looming garage in the distance answers my question. When asked if she wanted a restaurant near her house or not, momma laughed. We live near the suburbs, beautiful boring houses placed neatly beside each other, unwilling to let any discrepancies come by. She moved the bakery all the way out downtown, overlooking the choppy seas. Sadly, I can't blame her. The view makes up for the tedious drive out here.
The square is filled with people this time of year, milling about in a hurried frenzy. A few snowy flakes fluttering from the near pitch sky serve as a reminder of the incoming winter storm. Small stores line the (inconvenient, yet pretty) brick roads, string lights hanging on in the chill wind with slow trembles, colored lights blinking on and off. My old red jacket flutters in the oncoming wind as I wrestle with the door, pulling the garage's entrance wide open.
The hovering lights spread my shadows across the parking area, distant grey walls pulling me farther away by the second. I click my keys nervously, beginning to feel a new sensation, a rush of fear spreading down my back.
As my boots clack across the waning lights, I pull my handbag closer, desperate to reach my car.
I'm stopped the moment my world goes black, clammy hands held lightly over my eyes. "Gah!" I scream, wringing the gloved hands off my neck. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
An innocent face peers down at me from the back of a battered green truck, a lazy smile playing. "God, Pecan, I thought you were used to that"
Beau clambers down the edge of his truck, stifling a laugh. I wince when he says my name, brushing off the hurt. It still aches when I hear my name like that. I remember the day like I remember to blink.
It was the day where we brought our parents to school in fifth grade. Momma and I made cookies for the whole class, filled with Pecans. Somehow, it wasn't even the allergic kids who caused the problem; they were moved to the other rooms.
I slipped in the flour after accidentally pouring it wrong. It was the first- and last- time I embarrassed myself in school. It didn't matter how much I tried to brush it off; I was always Pecan to Momma, and the whole school knew me as her now.
I can own it now. Pecan's a much braver person than I could ever be. It just hurts, now that she's gone.
“You could have killed me!” I smack Beau with my purse, pissed off. What kind of guy does stuff like that?
“I haven't seen you all semester,” he tells me, sidled against the side of the truck without contempt.
“I was studying,” I report back, knowing he can see straight through the lie.
“You know, I thought it'd be nice if I could'a scared you like that. Gotta admit; you know how to wield that purse like a weapon”
I sniff, turning away. “I don't suppose there's a reason for your intrusion?”
“You can drop the act, Princess,” Beau tells me, leaning into my other nickname. “I know there's a softer side under there.
“I heard there's a party up at Blanche's” he yawns, cute, lopsided grin occupying his face. “I was gonna go”
“Go then,” I sigh, revving the engine of my less dented corolla.
“I'll race ya,” he laughs, whooping at the grey skies as his car sweeps through the town at what is probably much too high a speed.
“So be it then,” I mumble, hoping there's nothing he can do to ruin this night.
“My, Pecan,” Blanche takes a short sip, admonishing my attire. “Couldn't you find something better to wear?”
I cock my head staring down at my practical, yet pretty boots, skinny jeans, and a jean jacket over my bakery's (admittedly, really comfortable, yet still stylish) logo. Everyone else is wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, laughing over barely passed finals and new futures. I'm overdressed, compared to them.
Well, except for Blanche. She can really layer, peeling the manila trenchcoat off one button at a time, revealing a long, flashy dress, silky smooth and conforming to every twist and bend in her body. The thin white dress shimmers in the golden light stretching from above.
In fact, the entire house seems to glow with a similar light. Blanche must have hired some people to decorate because even with her height she wouldn't have been able to reach the higher spots. Garland drapes like ivy, weaving through the opulent spindles holding her loft bedroom up. String lights stretch across the grand hall with a fervor, dangling with glowing golden bulbs.
I wasn't ever poor, but weekends spent at Blanche's always made me wonder how someone could be born into money like this.
"Walk with me, darling," Blanche pulls me by my jacket, dragging me into the icily light garden beside her grand house. I pull the sleeves down on my jacket, shivering at the harsh difference in climate, from my spot by the fireplace to the chilly wind biting at my neck. Blanche holds onto a thin parasol, looking unharmed by the winter's cold. The delicate parasol contains a few Japanese inspired paintings, pinks swirling with a frosty green. Ever since her mother told her of her descent from what was apparently minor Japanese royalty, Blanche decided to take a few cues, becoming obsessed with more minor details of the country's culture. At least she looked enough like a princess.
As we duck under a still thriving topiary, Blanche lowers her voice to a whisper. "I have something to tell you"
I nod, waiting for the hearty sentiment that's bound to come. She breathes in, looking excited.
"I'm going to propose to Felix"
And just like that, everything breaks inside of me.
"Do you need me to repeat?" she asks, not unkindly, but still confused. "I want to marry him. Pecan, I love him!"
When did she get so close to him? "Shouldn't you maybe give it some time? Maybe wait another month?"
She sighs, looking relieved. "I'm glad I told you first. You're so practical. Of course, Pecan, shouldn't you be happy for me?"
"I'm ecstatic," my voice sounds almost hoarse, cracking.
"What's wrong with your voice?"
"It's a little cold out here," I say.
When did she start? Was it prom? Maybe this was a bad idea; I've been pining after a guy that was already taken by my best friend.
I was pining after a guy I didn't even like.
After reassuring Blanche once more that she should be careful, I rush back inside. "I'll be in the kitchen," I declare, ignoring Blanche's questions. I just need to be alone right no-
My feet lose their holding, slipping everywhere before a hand reaches for my own. I reluctantly take it, being saved at the last second, the moment before I'd slip on the ice. Of course, the face that goes with the eyes is the exact face I don't want to see right now.
"Hey," Felix's voice is deep, rumbling inside my stomach. His eyes hold something a little more rueful than usual. "Is Blanche out here?"
"She's in the garden," I nod, tearing away from him. What is karma doing to my life?
His shaggy blonde hair taunts me, whipping around his crystal blue eyes in the shimmering wind. Before I know it, my short legs take me into the kitchen, where I find myself slumped against the crystalline white tiles of the wall, blinding white lights staring straight into my eye.
I don't stop the tears. There's nothing I can do, is there? Felix is going to end up with Blanche. As much as I want to be happy for her, I can't help but be jealous. I don't even like Felix, so why am I so angry?
A burst of laughter comes into the room in the form of a squadron of frat boys, all laughing it up. I curse, peeling away from the wall, trying to hide my face. It doesn't help that I've probably made out with at least half of them before at parties, drunken moments that ate up all the love I have left.
Beau pushes the rest of his friends away, moving carefully closer. "Are you okay?"
As the door slams shut, I break down. "No! She's going to marry him, and I'm always going to be underneath her! She's going to get everything, and I'm stuck here!"
"Woah!" He cradles my arm, not with much affection, but not without care either. "Slow down. Who's marrying who?"
"Blanche. She's proposing to Felix right now in the garden"
"Cool," he smiles, propping himself up against the stainless counter. I quickly push him off, wiping it until beads of sweat show up on my forehead. "What's so bad about that?"
"I like him," I roll my eyes, continuing to attack the counter. How could Blanche be so careless? There are even more stains than the one Beau just made. I need to get it all-
"You don't sound very sure"
"I am," I growl, pushing him aside.
He huffs, crossing his tanned arms, green eyes glimmering with mischief. "Listen, you don't have to tell me. Of course, you could keep cleaning up the kitchen, but where's the fun in that? I have a better idea"
"If it involves getting drunk and dancing with you, then I kindly decline the offer"
His eyebrows knit. "Why can't you just drop the act?"
"What act? This is how I act?"
"No, it's how Blanche wants you to act. What would your mom think if she saw you like this?"
"I'd imagine she'd be proud"
He snorts. "A stuck up brat who can't accept that good things can happen to other people?"
"If you're going to make me feel worse, then just leave!"
He shrugs, pulling out a few bowls. "What are you doing?"
"I want cookies"
"Then get some fucking cookies. There are tons of them in the dining hall"
"I want some fresh ones. I'll make them"
I snatch the bowl from him. "If you think you can hold a whisk like that, then you're not going to get any cookies"
He cracks a smile, relenting the bowl. "Then show me"
After furiously whisking the ingredients in the bowl, I continue to show Beau how to make the cookies, the thought of Blanche marrying Felix mellowing in my mind as we laugh over his mistakes, flour spreading all over him as he opens it wrong.
"Use these," he tells me, holding a bag of nuts.
"What are they?" I ask, arching an eyebrow.
"Pecans" he admits proudly. "I love them"
Something clicks in my mind. "What?"
"They're a type of food," Beau explains. "I like them"
"Oh," I nod, feeling stupid for thinking anything else. Was I just attracted to Beau? I shake my head. No. At least he had a metaphor to hide behind this time.
We set them in the oven, barely speaking for the time they cook, only checking our phone. Sure enough, Blanche proposed to Felix. The broken tradition is trending already. She's just like a little celebrity.
I push my phone back into my pocket, smiling as Beau readies the tray. "We should try them"
His smile grows wider. "What are you afraid of? I'm sure they taste amazing"
I nod, biting into the soft treat, swooning as the chocolate melts in my mouth, each pecan giving a tough sort of crunch, yet still satisfying.
It takes me a moment to realize Beau is kissing me, leaning down to reach my mouth. I can taste the chocolate on his lips, sweet and tangy with his arms around my back.
I push away at the last second, gasping. "What the hell was that?"
"I just thought... didn't you like it?"
I wipe my mouth. "Of course I like-" I stop short. Did I like it? What am I saying?
"I'll see you at the new years eve party, right?"
I swallow, still confused. "Yeah. I... I'll look forward to it"
He smiles back. "I think something amazing just started"
And as he leaves, I'm stuck with the sweet labor of our work, our love still lingering in each grain of sugar.