“Calm down Olivia, we aren’t out of business... yet,” My most trusted assistant Roberta assured me. She pushed a strand of her black hair off her face as she noted me, I walked back and forth, worrying make my face wrinkle with depression.
“Calm down, calm down?” I screeched at her, Roberta was too young to understand my dilemma, I might go out of business in less than a week if I don’t pay the rent for my bakery soon enough.
“Olivia…” She stood in front of me, blocking my way and placed her hand on my shoulder as I paused. “Don’t give up on your dreams, Victor can’t snatch them away,” She shyly smiled, I couldn’t help but smile with her as we hugged. Roberta was my bestie, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her always watching my back for me.
“Victor’s going down, I need a signature recipe, but what can I possibly invent at such short notice, the payment due in a week,” I massaged my forehead, headache again.
“No thanks, I have a lot to think about.”
Roberta shrugged and left me alone to ponder about how I’m going to save my bakery with my latest rival leading the game.
‘It’s on’ I thought to myself, no one has been able to conquer the national bake-off hosted at town square since my first win. Sweets and Treats was unbeatable… until Vic’s bakery opened next door. All my regular customers flooded over to his, I didn’t understand what was so special about donuts that look like snowmen or cupcakes that were decorated like footballs. It was just a gimmick, who cared about looks, my baked goods always carried the best of ingredients and were handmade with my love and affection. Each cupcake was perfectly golden brown on top and soft as a sponge, does Vic’s taste like mine? NO.
I tried talking to Vic, asking him to stop stealing my costumes but he would flash his movie star smile, smooth out his luscious golden hair and his dreamy sapphire eyes were… forget it.
Yes, he might be adorable to look at but I hated his guts.
“Jealous,” He read my expression so precisely, I was outraged with envy just looking at how his business was going so smoothly.
“Beginner’s luck, we’ll see at the bake-off,”I had challenged him, hoping he would back off but I’d induced him even more, he quickly agreed to the duel.
‘Stupid me, I should have kept quiet’ I blamed myself, I’ll never win this contest with Vic competing, he always had something up his sleeves… something I’d never thought about that could be the cause of my breaking streak of five time champion.
“What do I do?” I wined, my assistants don’t have a vivid enough imagination to think up recipes at the top of their heads, Roberta’s busy making tres leches cake for Mrs. Gen’s hundredth birthday and my dog Cookie is licking the frosting… wait licking the frosting?
“Cookie, shoo… don’t eat that, bad boy,” I pretended to chide him, who would scold the lovable pooch that melts my heart with his kisses.
He ran off guilty, I rolled my eyes and started on cleaning the mess he made.
“Oli, I’m going to deliver the cake, see that the caramel doesn’t burn, will ya?” Carmen, one of my other helpers called out to me.
“Ya, ya,” I replied worriless. Caramel burning was at the bottom of things I had to get right.
‘Great, now I have to do that on top of already being pissed about losing my job’ I complained to whoever but… myself and Cookie, not that he understood a thing I bickered about.
I sighed, what am I going to do?
“Boss, what are we going to do for the bake-off, Mrs.Veza is competing, we have to win this.”
“Ahh, don’t worry Jill, Olivia doesn’t have a chance against me,” I told my assistant, I grabbed the mixing bowl and threw in some random ingredients, baking each one of the cupcakes in perfect order. It’s been going like this all day, Jill and I were covered from top to bottom in flour, her short blond hair had shoots of powdered sugar, my pant had egg stains on it. It all goes to show how serious we take our jobs.
“How can you be so sure?” Jill teased my ability to be so confident.
“I just know, come on how hard can it be?”
She rolled her eyes, dusting her hands on the towel and left to go take care of a customer.
I laughed once Jill left, the kitchen door swaying back and forth stopped as I washed my hands clean, dried it and began to think of creating recipes that Olivia wouldn’t even imagine in a million years.
No offense, I didn’t really know much about Olivia, I never had anything against the girl, she was a great baker… gotta admit. She might be my rival and now going to lose the bake-off against me but her personality was… amazing.
The first time I met her, I instantly felt a spark between us… a chemistry.
The way her sepia eyes flickered back to meet my glance, her hazel, silky hair that she would hide under, never meeting my awaiting eyes.
Her cheeks would heat up the moment she glances at me…
I snapped out of my day dreaming, Jill had her hands on her hips as she handed me the baked cupcakes I’d put together blindly, she took a small bite of one, her eyes went wide as she spit the remaining in the sink, washing her mouth and grabbed the tray from my hand, and throwing them in the trash.
“What do I do now?”
“I don’t know, it was your fault,” She had a point, I had agreed to the competition despite Jills before warning.
“I didn’t think she was serious,” I countered.
She shrugged, getting started on cleaning the mess I’d made of the kitchen in less than a few minutes.
I rubbed my eyes, didn’t get to sleep much last night or any night since I’d agreed to compete against Olivia.
I had to win this… show my domination, but how?
“Yes!” I cheered, I’d been so loud that my costumes looked up at me in shock, wondering what had happened. I ignored them as I made my way to see Roberta.
“Roberta, guess what!”
“What?” She asked dully, definitely not interested in listening to me ramble about.
“I know what to make for the bake-off!”
“Oh boy, here we go again,” She complained, but only I noticed her slight smile of ease.
“Get ready Roberta, the contest is tomorrow.”
* * * * *
“Pss, there’s Vic,” Roberta whispered, bumped into me knowingly as she giggled under her breath, my cheeks turned red as a tomato as I noticed Vic slightly wave at me.
“Be quiet.” I kicked the heel of her shoe, she stopped teasing and focused on the task ahead of us.
“Welcome one and all to the National Holiday Bake-Off held in town square every year,” The mayor declared, people cheered and hooted as the mayor flashed a grin in return.
“Now, we shall meet our contestants,” He introduced everyone that had decided to participate, I groaned as the mayor talked about Vic’s baking to be ‘Unique.’ Whatever. I’m in it to win it.
“Aha, we have our 5-time chap, Olivia Veza, give it up to all our contestants.”
The crowd cheered.
“Now, on your marks… get set… go,” I grabbed whatever ingredients I could find in the nick of time, hustling over to check my recipe book, my apron was covered in flour but I didn’t mind, I was used to a messy outfit, my legs pained deeply as I shoved ingredient in my cramped hands and mixed with all my strength.
“Come on Oli, you can do it,” Roberta cheered from the sidelines, assistants weren’t allowed to help so my business was in my hands… I fail… my bakery closes for good.
I could feel Vic’s eyes tracking my progress but I didn’t care what he thought, I was only focused on my recipe.
“10 minutes left bakers,” The mayor chimed, he kept his eyes on Vic’s baking as if he had already thought of the winner, I didn’t like the look of where this was heading.
“10… 9… 8,” The crowd counted down the seconds as my hands felt on fire, I had to do the final touches perfectly.
“3… 2… 1, hands up.” I held my hands in the air, backing away from the work station… for the first time I saw my product. It wasn’t my best work, I gotta admit but better than most of the others… except… Vic’s. His cupcakes, they looked like they were made from heaven, I gagged at the look of his creation.
I was going to lose for sure.
He saw mine, a smile appeared on his face but seeing my worried expression he looked away, unable to look into my eyes.
This was going to be a close one, the judges had eliminated everyone else except me and Vic.
I waited patiently to hear Vic portrayed the champion, squeezed my eyes shut that the darkness evolved closer to me, then a spark of light appeared as Vic did something I didn’t think he had the heart to commit.
I was breezing through the cooking, no stress, no sweat, my pants surprisingly stayed clean till the end.
I had been done five minutes before the deadline, I looked over at my rival's messy counter, couldn’t help but laugh at her state, she glanced over quickly, her eyes gave me a burning sensation, she was not in a good mood… I knew so much that if Olivia lost this competition she would as well lose her job. I’ll have every single one of her customers to myself!
But… what about her?
Her eyes softened my heart in a way I’d thought was impossible, the way she shouted at me with authority was mesmerizing, she dazzled me so.
I felt something more with her. I felt a… connection.
A joint link that I never thought was there for me, now here she is, suffering because of me… I had to help her.
The judges had settled down to eat our desserts; only Olivia and I were left.
A light bulb appeared in my mind, I quickly dashed over to my work station, grabbed a bottle of sprinkles, ran over to the judging table before anyone noticed and sprinkled some of the colorful decoration on top of my cupcakes.
“Victor, what are you doing?” I heard Jill hiss behind me. Olivia gasped, cupping her mouth.
The judges gasped as the mayor almost fainted in shock.
One of the judges collected her thoughts as she spoke, “Victor, is disqualified.”
I sighed but nodded, backing off, watching Olivia receive the money she’d wanted with glee as she and a black haired girl hugged, tearfully. I smiled, at least she was happy, that was what mattered.
“You did that on purpose, didn’t you?”
“Maybe,” He grinned, I couldn’t help but hug him, after all he did save my business.
“Oops, sorry,” I muttered when I regained consciousness of what I had done… hugging my rival? What has happened to me?
“Don’t be,” He whispered, keeping his hands on my waist as his eyes took my breath away.
“But… we're rivals after all.”
“We don’t have to be,” He traced the outline of my jaw, I shivered from his touch but he continued to trace along my features without further hesitations.
“You’re cute when you blush.”
I didn’t say anything as he leaned over me, brushing his lips against mine. I let my guard down, my cheeks heated up the moment even more as he didn’t let me go. I couldn’t breath but I couldn’t let go as well.
He stopped, I relaxed my posture as he laughed.
“You have flour on your cheeks.”
“Opps, I’d better change,” I told him, a mere excuse to get away from his comforting hands. After all he wasn’t mine.
He must have read my mind as he took my hand in his own, never letting go as he drove me home.
“We can’t be rivals… not anymore,” He said, out of the blue as he looked at me.
“I have an idea, do you trust me?” He stared into the depth of my soul as he clenched my hand tighter.
“Yes,” I breathed, my heart believed him.
He smiled, swooping down for another kiss and driving off into the night.
I was in awe. What had he planned now?
* * * * * * *
“Welcome one and all to El cafe amoroso,” I announced, Olivia was by my side giving me a thumbs up as we cut the ribbon… together.
We heard the ‘wows’ and ‘oh’s’ flutter across the arrivals like wildfire, people kept coming in that our new bakery couldn’t hold it!
“El cafe amoroso’s a big hit.”
I beamed, Olivia and I had worked together to make both our dreams into reality.
“You know what… I’m glad we met… even as rivals,” Her eyes melted my soul as her hair flowed freely in the wind. I smelled the sweet smell of her hair, Rose petal shampoo.
“I’m glad you think that way.”
She huddled closer to me, keeping her hands locked into mine.
“I love you,” She whispered, once all our costumes had left.
“My love for you had no bounds,” I replied, she rolled her eyes as I kissed her.
“Rivalry turns into love,” I muttered. She laughed.
Who knows what the future holds for us… for now… she’ll always be the one for me.