I tapped my foot impatiently as I stood in line to sign up for the baking contest that would be held during Wewoka’s Annual Holiday Festival. It was the first year that they added it to the festival, and I was jumping at the opportunity to show other people my skills. Also, not only would the five-thousand dollar grand prize help my bakery, but if more people tasted my pastries, they would come to my bakery more, too.
I walked up to the table where two elderly women sat on the other side, papers sitting in front of them. The woman on the right smiled at me, handing me a form and pen.
“Just fill this out, and as long as you qualify, you can be a competitor in the competition. If you have any questions, ask for Suamalie, A.K.A. me,” Suamalie instructed. I nodded and walked to the unoccupied chair off to the side. Sitting down, I sighed. This was it. This was my big chance to make my baking known.
After five minutes, I had filled the entire form out, so I handed it back in and walked out of the town hall. Once in my car, I turned on my music through the radio (a mix of Eric Church, Luke Combs, Kelsea Ballerini, Miranda Lambert, and Carrie Underwood).
After fifteen minutes, I pulled my car into the parking lot of Kovaa and Kevin’s Kupcakes. Kovaa and Kevin’s Kupcakes was the business that I had started eight years, five months, and seventeen days before with my best friend, Kevin. We split everything when it came to the business; costs, profits, and what you got to take home free.
I got out of my car and headed inside. Even though the shop was closed, Kevin was still working. As I walked in, he was finishing wiping down the tables.
“Hey, Kovaa. I was looking at our profits in the last month, and they’ve been going down at an insane rate. If we don’t do something, then we’ll have to close,” Kevin gushed. My eyes went down to the floor
in disappointment. That meant that if I didn’t win this competition, Kevin, our employees, and I would be out of a job.
“Oh. That’s not good. But, I signed up for the baking competition during the festival today. That’s where I was while you were here cleaning up. Thanks for that, by the way. We just have to beat everyone else, including Lasai, and business will shoot way up. Okay, Kev?” I said hopefully.
“I don’t know, Julie. The only good part about it would be beating Kovaa and Kevin across the street. That I would love to see,” I admitted. A smile slowly formed across my face at the thought of winning, especially up against Kovaa and Kevin’s Kupcakes. I hated those two. They were snobby, goody-two-shoes, and insulting.
“Lasai, think about it. We would get great publicity, the five-thousand dollars could help us with everything, and, yes, we would get the upper hand on Kovaa and Kevin. It’s a win-win for everyone! On our side, anyway,” Julie snickered. She had a point--a good one, too. But, I was too shy to have my baking be tasted by some of the best bakers in the city of Wewoka. Especially Tamera Campbell, Tia Landry, and Roger Evans--celebrity actors known all across the U.S..
“Come on, Julie. I don’t think it’s possible.”
“For the last time, don’t you want to beat Kovaa and Kevin? We could have the ability to rub it in their faces for a whole year. All the way up until next year’s festival. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”Julie clasped her hands together and grinned. At that point, I couldn’t help myself.
“Fine. I’ll get us signed up. Let’s beat those cheaters.”
The day of the competition had finally come! Kovaa and I stood in front of our business computer, looking at the host of the festival through the screen. Due to COVID-19, we had to do everything virtually. All rules were being told to us through the Zoom meeting.
“Now that you have heard the rules, I have the pleasure to tell you what your challenge is. You all have to make one cupcake. Two feet tall and two feet wide! You all have five hours! We will be sending in a cameraman occasionally to check in. See you at the end!” the announcer shouted. Kovaa and I hung up, looking at each other with worry in our eyes. This may have been what we were training for, but boy, was it going to be hard.
“Two feet by two feet. Big cupcake. You do decorating, I’ll do the baking and carving. Flavors, though. Flavors, flavors, flavors. Fruity? Savory? What?” I asked. Kovaa closed her eyes and thought for a moment before snapping her fingers in a breakthrough.
“Okay, we’ll do a chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting, and a hazelnut filling. We’ll need four times the amount of everything. And how am I presenting? Snowflakes and mistletoe?” Kovaa shrugged and marched into the kitchen; I jogged after her.
“That sounds great, Kovaa. We better get going right now. Five hours isn’t a lot of time.” I shuffled over to the pantry and pulled out containers of flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Kovaa getting the butter, eggs, and milk. After gathering up the rest of our tools, we set to work.
Lasai and I worked tirelessly for five hours. Baking, stacking, carving, and decorating took a lot out of us. Not to mention the excessively joyful cameramen and -women that came in to check on us each hour. It was quite annoying, really. But at the end, Lasai and I had a beautiful lemon, two-feet-by-two-feet, winter-flower-decorated cupcake.
As the two of us waited for the judges to come in, Lasai and I spoke quietly to each other.
“You didn’t put too much salt in the frosting, did you?” Lasai worried.
“Of course not! You put all of the flowers on, right?” I tapped my foot impatiently. How long would it take for those judges to get here?
“Yes. Oh, here they come. Looks like they’re saving the worst for last--Kovaa.” Lasai elbowed me while he put his mask on. Reluctantly, I put mine on, too, before we walked up to the counter to meet the judges.
“Hello there. You must be Julie and Lasai. I’m Tamera Campbell, this is my twin sister Tia Landry, and our best friend Roger Evans. What have you made for us today?” Tamera queried. My face broke into a grin being in the presence of the oh-so-famous trio in front of us.
“So nice to meet you. We’ve made a lemon cupcake with strawberry frosting, and a raspberry filling. For decoration, we decided to go with the flowers that bloom during the holiday months here.”
The judges listened intently as Lasai explained our cupcake and I cut them three slices. My partner and I watched as they each pulled their mask down and took a bite. No one said a word until Roger spoke up.
“As Ernie would’ve said, this cake was the bomb! Your flavors kinda exploded in my mouth, a fruity goodness that I just want to keep eating. I think my only problem with this cake was that it was a bit too sweet. Other than that, awesome job.” Roger grinned at us before putting his mask back on.
“Wow, guys. This cake blew my mind. I actually disagree with Roger on this one. But when do I agree with him? Anyways, I think that this cake had just the right level of sweetness. I did think before that it would be really too tart, but it was great. Keep up the good work,” Tia instructed. I nodded wordlessly and Lasai squeezed my hand.
“Well, I’m sure you two know that I love to indulge in sweet treats. And I gotta say, this is one of the best cupcakes I’ve ever had! It was just… a beautiful eruption in my mouth. My only critique is that there should be some savory, a little bit of saltiness, to balance it out perfectly. But, terrific job in the end! Alrighty, then!” Tamera cried. I stifled a laugh at her iconic Jim Carrey phrase. Lasai’s shoulder rubbed up against mine as he chuckled to himself.
“We’ll see you when we announce the winner through video chat. See ya’ later, sweet thang.” Roger winked at me as he and the twins walked out of the shop.
I smiled under my mask and waved as three of my favorite celebrities walked out of Kovaa and Kevin’s Kupcakes. They had just come in and judged our cupcake. Tia had said that she loved chocolate and nut pairings, and that there weren’t any flaws in our pastry. Tamera had other ideas. According to her, our cupcake was delicious but not moist enough. Roger had noted that the flavor combination was tasty, but the chocolate could have been a bit sweeter.
Kevin reached over and hugged me, squeezing tightly. The former worry in the room relaxed, along with my shoulders. In the hug, I realized that I had been tensed up the entire time. Once Kevin and I released each other, the two of us remembered to take off our masks.
“Thirty minutes, and we’ll know. We’ll know whether or not our baking is good enough to get a five-hundred dollar grand prize. Oh, wouldn’t that be amazing, Kev?”
Kevin rubbed the back of his neck with one hand, using the other to get the computer out from under the counter.
“I agree. It really would be fanastical, huh?” Kevin said. I nodded my head vigorously; winning would be more than fantastical. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how I would describe it. An over-whelming feeling, it would be, a feeling that would fill me up with an indescribable joy.
For thirty minutes, Kevin and I took the time to talk over the competition, and cool down from the baking extravaganza. At the end of the thirty minutes, Kevin logged onto the computer and the Zoom meeting. The local host was there again, grinning from one ear to the other.
“Hello, bakers! It’s good to see everyone’s faces again. There’s no need for me to talk for too long. Here’s Roger Evans, Tamera Campbell, and Tia Landry!” The host disappeared, and the three celebrities showed up on the screen.
Julie and I watched intently while the trio showed up on the screen. Roger stood in the middle, linking arms with the twins. A ladies’ man, as always.
“Hey, everybody! Me and these two lovely women next to me are now going to announce the winner. First of all, the finalists were partners Kovaa and Kevin, duo Lasai and Julie, and Robin and Robin! After lots of deliberation--is that the right word?--we have decided on a winner. Congratulations… Lasai and Julie! Amazing job, you two.” Roger smiled and stepped away, leaving just the twins on the screen.
“Lasai, your cake was so moist. And I loved the lemon flavor,” Tamera announced. “Julie, that buttercream was off the charts! Great job!” At once, Tamera disappeared off of the screen, and Tia was the only one left.
“Kovaa and Kevin, Robin and Robin, you guys did a wonderful job as well! Second place is Robin and Robin, your prize being one-thousand dollars. Third place is Kovaa and Kevin, and you two will receive five-hundred dollars. Again, everyone still did an awesome job! Hope to see you soon!” Tia grinned. She waved, then left the meeting which shut it down.
Julie screamed joyfully, then jumped into my arms. I hugged her back, as hard as I could. This was amazing! So was this hug. I held Julie tighter, both of us laughing and shouting out, Julie crying a bit. We stayed there, both of us in each other’s arms, for I don’t know how long.
When we released each other and I looked into Julie’s eyes, I realized something.
I’ve been looking for my forever all of the time I’ve been an adult. And all of this time, my forever has been right in front of me.
Five-hundred dollars. Still good, but it wouldn’t do much to help us. I sauntered over to one of the two-person tables in the corner and sat down. Sighing, I ran my hands through my hair. Kovaa and I had worked so hard on that cupcake, and now all we got out of it was a measly five-hundred dollars. We were going to go under. That was the sad, but honest, truth.
Kovaa, tears rolling silently down her face, went and sat down next across from me as she stated, “We worked so stinking hard on that cake, and what do we get in return? Five-hundred stupid dollars that can’t do anthing to help us. We might as well close up shop right now. No reason to keep it open when we’re just gonna go bankrupt.”
Her words hit me like a train, because, even though I had already realized it, that was the cold, hard truth. And there was no avoiding it. It was practically useless to try to.
“We’ll find a way to make it work. Maybe have a fundraiser, or something else. Don’t worry, Kovaa,” I instructed. Kovaa nodded, and the sadness in her eyes hit me. I couldn’t stand to see her like this, so I decided to confess.
“Kovaa, you listen to me. I have two things to tell you. First of all, I’ve been saving money for this business since the day we started it. Any extra money that I had, I put it away for the business. For a time like this. And, one more thing. Kovaa, I know I’m going to sound crazy, and it’s really out of the blue, but, gosh dang it, I love you, Kovaa.” I sheepishly smiled. It was quite awkward, really. In movies and books, it’s all so romantic. But it was so weird. Finally, after a moment, Kovaa replied.
“Well, maybe we won’t fail after all. Thank you so much, Kevin. And, Kevin, I… I love you, too.”