The lanterns flickered their malevolent flames as Sugar beat the eggs into a foamy sea. The fire in the grate melted her aching muscles enough to continue working for the eleventh hour.
Twenty-six years old and she was already exhausted, pink dress twirling between kitchen counters and cupboards. Her petticoats protected her modesty and the pencil holding her savory colored hair protected the food from contamination.
She'd baked enough bread, on to the biscuits.
'You work too hard...' Bailey chimed as he grabbed his jacket to leave. '...You'll miss the entire season at this rate.'
Sugar shrugged half-heartedly, looking up from her whisking. Bailey's lean and hungry stare, eyeing the mountain of scones, made her heart melt. She stopped to pack some into a hamper with an assortment of jams, freehand waving off his refusal.
'Fruit and nut, cranberry to boot...' She smiled.
'...Will soon provide the ultimate lute.' Bailey concluded, having heard the phrase a million times.
'Enjoy the feast. See you bright and early tomorrow morning.' Another smile and the wicker basket exchanged hands.
'You're a marvel, Miss Plum. Thanks to you we'll have a Christmas turkey this year.' Bailey's mind floated back to the many Christmas' his family had spent without even a sprout. Thanks to Miss Sugar Plum's generosity, they'd finally have a decent spread.
'We won't have a crumble next year if we don't defeat Miss Green at the Festival tomorrow.' Sugar muttered, returning to her biscuits.
The image of her rival appeared in Sugar's mind's eye. The licorice hair, known by Sugar's memory to lie below Miss Green's hips, was always tied back in an obnoxiously tight bun. Sugar's train of thought jolted to the chocolate chips on the counter. The same color as Miss Green's harsh eyes, she thought. She smacked the dough and rolled her eyes, making similarities between the rolling pin and Miss Green's wooden posture.
'It's a shame, Miss...' Bailey interrupted.
Her eyes refocused, 'What is?'
'... That we can't team up with Ever Green. Join forces, then there'd be no need for a competition.'
Sugar scoffed at the suggestion, not impolitely, but as if to say that the idea was unimaginable.
'I've tried to make her see sense. We used to be such good friends, now she can't even look at me. A civilized conversation would be a miracle.' She sighed, hands falling limp around the dough.
'Some friendships aren't meant to be.' Bailey sympathized, perching on the whittled stool by Sugar's station. He felt a sudden sense of Deja-vu, remembering a similar conversation he'd had with his daughter only a few nights prior. Sadly, he couldn't offer the same warm hugs and hot cocoa to his employer.
Lost in thought, she shaped her biscuits into hearts, then mumbled, 'Why? How can friendships end without a reason?'
'Everyone has their reasons.'
Sugar softened, 'Yes, well, I wish people would explain their reasons. They may be foolish.'
'They often are.'
A thoughtful silence loomed over the bakery for what felt like a lifetime.
'Pop these in the larder before you leave?' She smiled, removing her apron.
Bailey began packing away without question until he spotted the tiny Sugar Plum cakes by the window. 'What about these?'
He wondered why they'd never sold them, given his employer's name it seemed like a missed opportunity.
'No, no, those are... not for sale.'
And he didn't question it further.
Sugar took the cakes as she ascended the stairs to her small apartment, cradling them like a child.
'See you tomorrow, Miss Plum.' He called up gently. He didn't expect a reply, one never came, but he closed the door behind him a little softer than he would normally.
The cold hit Bailey like a ton of bricks, snow dusting his cheeks as he pulled his jacket tight. The only warmth coming from the lanterns lighting his way as he crossed the cobbled street.
He looked back, peering up to see Miss Plum, sat in her bedroom's bay window, reading a book. She looked fine, he concluded, and made the rest of the journey home.
Miss Plum, though she looked okay, didn't feel it.
She looked down at the only gift she'd ever been given, a journal of pressed flowers.
Sugar flicked through. There were many blank pages to fill towards the back of the book.
The full pages were decorated so beautifully. Lilac sprigs with lavender ribbons, roses, and forget-me-nots, wrinkled primrose by her favorite sunflowers. Each page held a different memory.
When she reached the last full-page, she huffed. And as if on cue, the knock at the door downstairs came.
Sugar ran as fast as her tiny feet would allow, almost tripping over the last step. Her toe would surely bruise by morning, she thought. Hastily, she pulled the door open, hearing the bell chime above the frame.
As always, there was no-one there.
The streets were empty, except for the sprinkle of snow and a whistle of the wind.
'Fudge!' Sugar cursed. She'd run faster than she had in previous years. She'd have to stay downstairs next year to hopefully greet the mystery gift giver.
And speaking of gifts, Sugar looked down at her feet to see the unsurprising box, staring up at her. Wrapped in gold paper and tied with a black satin ribbon. The package, as usual, was immaculately done. She felt bad pulling it apart.
Inside the box sat a new addition to her journal.
Sugar felt a chord strike her heart, a shiver run up her spine that wasn't from the cold, as she'd shut the door.
'A fond farewell or forever yours?' she mused.
Sugar took the present to her room, placing it amongst the other dried flowers.
With a heavy heart, she ate her Sugar Plum cakes and drifted into a deep sleep. Her imagination conjuring up happier days, spent in sunny meadows, running through flowery fields.
The ceremonial trumpets signaled the coming morning and Sugar shot out of bed. Her alarm hadn't gone off.
She smoothed the pages of the journal that had somehow managed to get squashed in her sleep and in haste, threw it into her bag.
It took only a moment for her to chuck on her usual pink dress and twizzle up her hair, a few strands escaping to frame her face as they normally did later in the day.
The biscuits still needed baking, she stressed, bustling down the stairs to the kitchen, wary of the final step and her bruised toe.
To her surprise, Sugar instantly inhaled the familiar aroma of baked goods. The biscuits were already in the oven.
Bailey, true to his word, had arrived bright and early.
'Thank the stars!'
The wooden huts glistened in the Town Square, shining with warm lights and twinkling glitters. The same stalls of assorted produce, ready for customers to scour and for judges to judge. It had all been the same for as long as anyone could remember.
Sugar arrived a little later than intended and instantly noticed something was different.
Opposite Sugar Plum's soft pink hut would normally be Mr. Chestnuts Toy Emporium, a sunny yellow stand with touches of pastel blue. But Mr. Chestnut was nowhere to be seen and his stall had been replaced by an elegant black and gold design.
It didn't take Sugar too long to figure out who it belonged to.
'Miss?' Bailey, holding armfuls of bread, came to stand beside her, wondering what could have stopped the woman in her tracks.
'Miss Green's stand is opposite ours, Bailey.' Sugar stared.
'What?' He turned, 'That doesn't make any sense! We're normally on opposite sides of the square.'
She looked equally as puzzled. 'I'll go speak to Marsh, surely there's been a misunderstanding. Would you mind taking care of things here?'
Marsh was easy to find. Center stage in the heart of the Town Square was his domain.
Sugar smiled up at her friend as he tested the microphones. He was on and off faster than the flick of a switch. He too looked like he'd missed his alarm that morning.
As she was about to approach him, someone came from the opposite direction and intercepted him first. Someone she'd hoped not to run into yet.
Sugar hid back, clutching her bag and checking her journal was still in there. She edged closer to listen.
'Mr. Mallow! Might I speak with you?'
Ever Green in her high-neck black dress and tight bun marched up to the plump rosy man with fury in her eyes.
'Miss Green, how lovely to see you. You look so... smart.' When Ever didn't respond to the reluctant complement, Marsh continued, 'What is the problem this year?' He hoped to keep the exchange short and sweet. The festival was supposed to be a happy day.
'You know darn well what the problem is. You've put my stand opposite Pips.'
Sugar's heart clenched at the name. She'd not heard it in so long.
'I'm not in charge of any of that this year, Miss Green. You'll need to take it up with my supervisor.'
Marsh caught eyes with the Reindeer Dance Troupe. 'Must dash, much to organize.' And he was gone.
Ever glared furiously, her hands balled, and her eyes squinted after the man. She could burn a city to the ground with that scowl, Sugar thought, just as the woman in question turned and almost bumped into her.
'Ever! What a surprise!' She stammered, unable to look away from the strong eye contact she was receiving.
'Miss Plum, it seems that our stands are opposite one and other.'
'Yes... so it does.' Sugar frowned at the use of her surname. She loathed the formality, the cold shoulder, the hardened expression on Ever's face. She looked nothing like the woman Sugar had known all those years ago. Ever used to be so carefree. It was hard to imagine now, seeing her so wrapped in her cocoon of sternness.
'Well... may the best baker win.' Ever eluded, offering her hand.
Sugar stared at it dubiously. It felt like a trick, but she took the gloved palm even so and replied, 'May the best baker win.'
Sugar returned to the stall and filled Bailey in on the exchange.
'We'll beat Green easily, Miss.'
She smiled, admiring her companion's competitive nature, especially since she felt so unmotivated herself. Ever so easily got under her skin.
'What's happening over there?' Bailey said.
She glanced over the street at the rival stand. It was thriving. Curiosity killed the cat, Sugar tried to remind herself, but when regular customers seemed to bypass them in favor of the dark side, she couldn't help being coaxed.
Bailey followed, surprised to see the rare mysterious smile on Ever's face as she handed out orders.
Sugar looked over the display with intrigue. What could be drawing her customers away? Salted caramel cookies, dark chocolate truffles, lava cakes, and assorted tarts but nothing out of the ordinary.
Sugar couldn't fathom what was so special about Ever's stand, until she saw them, sat prettily in the center. Her face drained of all color, her heart dropped, and she felt tears prickling behind her eyes. The anger built in her chest and exploded.
The shout caught Bailey by surprise, for he'd never heard Sugar raise her voice above a sweet scolding.
The customers around them froze and Ever's eyes did a double-take in her direction.
Sugar felt years of suppressed emotions taking over, her next words escaping in the form of a child-like sob. 'How could you?'
Fearing the tears that were about to fall, she turned away and retreated to her stand. Bailey followed swiftly behind.
'What's wrong?' He pressed when they were safely in their haven.
Sugar's eyes, blinded by unshed tears, managed to grab hold of her bag. She pulled the journal from it, planning to destroy each page, rip them up, scrunch them into balls, burn them in the fire, she didn't care anymore. She managed to open the cover when gloved hands took hold of hers and closed the book once more.
Light eyes met dark and Bailey took it as his queue to leave the kitchen.
The tears finally spilled over the edge and she repeated, 'How could you?'
'How could I what?' Ever's hands were firm, searching for eye contact as they always did.
'You're selling our Sugar Plum cake!' Sugar blurted.
Ever didn't respond, just stared at her blankly, so Sugar continued, 'You stop talking to me, for no reason I might add. No explanation and on the Eve of our first Festival together. We were supposed to be partners, friends, Ever! And you just left! You left and now you're selling the one thing we promised never to share with anyone? Why?'
Ever frowned, cheeks burning red, 'Oh, don't come off all high and mighty, you know exactly why I stopped talking to you, Pip!'
Sugar's tears suddenly halted. She stared at Ever, her brows knitted, jaw dropped.
'No, Ever, I do not.'
Realization suddenly dawned on them; the air thickened. Ever seemed to retreat into herself, eyeing the door. Sugar gripped her hands in a tight vice.
'Please, don't leave... Just talk to me.' Sugar pulled her closer, noticing the way Ever's hardened exterior seemed to give in to the gesture.
'I came to the bakery that night to drop off your present...' She began, glancing down at the book before continuing, 'And I overheard you talking to Mr. Mallow.'
Sugar thought back to that night, growing even more confused. Nothing bad had been said, not that she could remember. They'd had one too many glasses of sherry, that's all she recalled.
Ever continued, 'Mr. Mallow asked you about me, and you told him I was just your friend as you always do and I suppose, well I thought I meant more to you than that... or I hoped... It was silly...'
Ever confessed, trying to fight back her tears of frustration.
'... I then overheard Mr. Mallow telling you how he felt about you, how much he cared for you and I realized that night... you and I weren't on the same page. I decided to distance myself. Every time I saw you, it was a reminder of how I felt and how you'd never feel. Being cold with you was far easier than being kind.'
Sugar dumbfoundedly exhaled, 'How could you possibly know how I felt if you never thought to ask me?'
The expression on Ever's face dropped rather comically to one of complete perplexity and confusion.
'Marsh was never and is never going to be interested in me like that, Ever. He came over that night to thank me for setting him up with my cousin. Sadly, it only lasted the week, but truly he and I are just... friends.'
The final word hung heavy in the air. Ever had clung onto every syllable and seemed to drift into another world entirely, overanalyzing her memory to recall exactly what she'd heard that night.
Sugar decided to change the subject, 'Why did you decide to open your own bakery?'
'It's the only thing I knew how to do.'
'You couldn't have opened a florist?' She laughed, looking down at the book in their hands. She turned to the most recent page, the Dahlias. 'I kept everything, that should tell you enough.'
The knock on the door bursts their bubble.
Bailey apologetically stuck his head through the door, 'I'm so sorry, Miss but the Judges are here.' And he left again as quickly as he entered.
'You work too hard.' Ever softened.
'Yes, I have been told.' She smiled.
'Go on, I have some Sugar Plum cakes to remove from the stand. We'll talk afterward.'
Sugar glanced at Ever's reassuring smile and noticed the flickers of doubt peeking through. The assertive arch in her brow was returning and Sugar decided that she couldn't let her leave without making sure they were on the same page, quite literally.
The Dahlias sat prettily, she looked down at them and mumbled, 'A fond farewell or forever yours...'
Ever looked up, feeling a tightness in her chest. Sugar only smiled, squeezing the hand she still held.
'I have loved you for as long as I can remember.' Sugar confessed, resting her forehead against Ever's, she felt her heart hammering in her throat.
In the next sentence, she whispered, 'How long will you love me?'
There was no pause, no delay, no hesitation.
'For Ever, Sugar.'
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Hello Alex! I just cannot believe that this is your first story in Reedsy! I am honestly left speechless, because I cannot put into actual words about how amazing your story really was! You did such an amazing job for the entire story in general and making sure it fit the prompt nicely! I wish you the BEST Reedsy luck and journey, and I'll help you by liking, commenting, and upvoting ALL your stories and comments. I hope you have a lovely day! =)
Oh my goodness, thank you so much! Your words truly means the absolute world to me 🥰 I've always been so nervous to post my work and posting here is definitely easing the anxiety. Can't wait to read more of your stuff too and will always like/comment/etc in return. Got to support fellow creatives as much as possible! 🥰 Hope you're having a great Sunday!
Thank you so much Alex!!! :)
Hey again Laila, just thought I'd let you know that I've now started a blog as part of my MA, would mean a lot if you happened to check it out! https://www.alexandria.life
I am not from Midlands. I hope that's okay. As entrances go, this is like coming in through a window on a zipline, or perhaps floating down on a cloud. A pleasant breeze of a read. I can tell you've been at it for a while. I'll be waiting for more! I've got an exam to study for, so I can't get too granular right now. But don't worry, I'll be more critical (helpful) next time!
That's definitely okay! Where about are you from? Thank you so much for your comments and good luck with your exam!
I'm from the American Midwest... so, then again, maybe I am from the Midlands? In a way? Maybe the Midlands is a state of mind? Thanks!
Haha! Yes! The Midlands of America and the Midlands of the UK, how cool! ❤️
Hey A.G, I've now started my own blog! Would be awesome if you checked it out :) https://www.alexandria.life/
Welcome to Reedsy! I'm new as well! 🥰 Very beautiful and poetic! Good work! I look forward to reading more stories from you 😊
Hi, thank you so so much and welcome fellow newbie! So excited to keep sharing work on here and can't wait to read more of your stuff! 😊
Aww, thank you! I'll have another one posted by tomorrow yay! Welcome again! Newbies unite :)
Will be sure to check it out! 🥰
Hey D.Kase, I've started my own writing blog! Would mean the world if you could check it out :) https://www.alexandria.life/
Hi Alex! Wow amazing job on your first story! I actually cannot believe this is your first story, WOW. You write like a professional author! This was probably one of the best stories for this prompt that I read, and I'm deeply sorry I couldn't get to this sooner. As promised, I always make sure to read the stories of people who follow me, and I'm so so so so SO glad I stopped by! Keep writing, cause I can't wait for more.
Oh my gosh, that's such a lovely compliment. I can't thank you enough!! It's my dream to be a professional author one day 🥰 Thank you so so much for your lovely words! I also try to read/like/comment on as much as possible, will give your stuff a look tonight 🥰
No problem, you deserved it :D And thank you for offering to check out my stuff, though my work isn't as spectacular as yours, but hey, I try! Have a great day!
I'm sure it's wonderful! 🥰 Reading December 2 now and the first line has already grabbed me! 🥰 Crime is actually my favourite genre to read x
Aww thanks! Yeah me too!!
Hey Sapphire! I've started my own writing blog! Would mean the world if you checked it out :) https://www.alexandria.life/
So I visited your Instagram profile and you are beautiful. Coming back to the story. The romance was outstanding and the emotions of the character were presented well and the prompt was given perfect justice by your writing. Considering your first story you have done a great job. I would love your feedback on my story too.
Aw oh my gosh thank you so much! That's so sweet of you! And thank you millions for the feedback, it means the world! I was so nervous to post, but everyone on here is so lovely. I'm giving your story a read now, can't wait to see how you've interpreted the prompt :D
Hey Radhika, I've started my own writing blog, would love it if you checked it out :D https://www.alexandria.life/
Midlands and Masters student here too! What uni are you doing yours through? I'm going to read your piece and give you some feedback tonight.
Hi Anthony, Thank you so much, can't wait to hear your feedback! :D
If you would like, you can email me your piece and I will do line edits to give you a taste of what feedback will be like when you start your masters? Otherwise I can add a few comments here. My email address is email@example.com Oh, cool! I actually work in Cov! I'm doing my masters online through Hull so that I can juggle work and uni.
That would be wonderful! Thank you so much!
Hope the comments help!
They helped LOADS, honestly can't thank you enough! 😊
Hey Anthony, started the masters degree and a new Creative writing blog! Would be super grateful if you checked it out :) https://www.alexandria.life/
Hi! I loved the descriptions and imagery in your story. It was certainly an interesting piece to read, especially as this is your first story on Reedsy! It was well written and suited the prompt accurately! Keep writing! :)
Hi Akshaya! Thank you so so so much! That means the absolute world! Giving your stuff a read now :D
Anytime, Alex! After all, it's tremendous fun to put forward stories and encourage other writers like us :)
Hey Pear! I've started a writing blog! Would be super grateful if you fancied checking it out :) https://www.alexandria.life/
Sure! I would love to do that! :)
Welcome to Reedsy. I do like the story, but I had to keep remind myself when I saw the word Sugar it is a character and not an ingredients. I am not use to seeing sugar use as a name. Good Luck!
Thank you so much! 🥰
What a sweet story... now I'm hungry. I liked your characterization quite well. Good job!
Thank you so much Jeni! 🥰🥰🥰
Hey Jeni, I've now started my own writers blog :D I'll be posting more short stories there and some writing process stuff, would love it if you could check it out and let me know what you think :) https://www.alexandria.life/
Good Story Alex, i loved the way you named your characters!! Expecting more stories from you, Do read mine, hope you will love it!!
Thank you so much! I'll definitely be writing more soon 🥰 And will be sure to give your stuff a look later today 🥰
Hey Priyanka, I've now started my own writers blog, would mean the world if you could check it out and let me know your thoughts <3 https://www.alexandria.life/
Sure, My Pleasure ✨✨
This is a great first story! I loved you descriptions of the smells of the baking and your development of the story was very good. Your characters are believable and I liked the overall flow of the story. Well done! I look forward to reading more of your work in the future.
Thank you so so much Karen! That means the world, I'm so glad you liked it! 🥰🥰
Hi Karen, I've just started my own writers blog and would love your thoughts on it! I'll be posting more short stories and writing stuff over there too :) https://www.alexandria.life/
The story is wonderfully playful and sweet without being saccharine. The character names are great fun and unpretentious, and you can't help but root for Miss Plum. Nice world-building in a small space as well.
Thank you so so much for your lovely insight! 🥰🥰🥰🥰
Hi there, I've just started a seperate writing blog for further work, would mean the world if you checked it out :) https://www.alexandria.life/
What a lovely story, I really enjoyed the imagery. I can't wait to read more of your writing!
Thank you so so much Beth! 🥰🥰🥰
Hi Beth, I've now started my own seperate writers blog where I'll be posting more short stories and other writing stuff. Would love your thoughts on it :) https://www.alexandria.life/
I loved it! Good luck. I think I followed it and shared it on my Narrator/author Facebook page, but I struggle with social media sometimes lol! My daughter is in the process of trying to help me improve my skills, she got me a book and everything.
Oh my goodness, that means so much! Thank you so much! I'd love to follow your authors page! :) You're awesome! Love the stories I've read of yours already :)
I would love that! All the links are in my profile- but honestly, I use the Facebook one and my website the most- I'm still working on learning Instagram and Twitter.
Alex, that is story is perhaps the best first story I have ever had the pleasure to read. First welcome to Reedsy, second best of luck on your writing journey. Sue PS if you have the time please read my story WPA Cake, please leave a comment. Have a wonderful day. Sue
Wow, oh my goodness, thank you so much Sue!! 🥰🥰 PS: I'm on it now, will give it a read and a comment for you 🥰
Hi Sue, I've started my own writers blog! https://www.alexandria.life/ I'll be posting more stories over there plus other stuff relating to For Ever, Sugar. Would love your feedback over there :) x
This is an amazing debut! I remember my first short story, and it was nothing compared to this. My only critique is that you need to replace those 'apostrophes' with "quotation marks." I hate to sound like an advertisement, but downloading the extension, Grammarly, could take your writing to the next level. It would identify all the little grammar mistakes that distract from the brilliance of your writing. I use it when I write, and it's a lifesaver. But that's just my two cents. Keep up the great work, and welcome to Reedsy!
Hey Kate, thank you so so so much for this comment! I actually used Grammarly on this story just to check for mistakes but I've always been a bit unsure whether to use quotation marks or apostrophes. In "The Essex Serpent" by Sarah Perry, she uses apostrophes, but in "Miss Peregrines" by Ransom Riggs, he uses speech marks. Is it a preference thing, a genre things? I'm so unsure of which one is best to use or if there's a specific reason to use either. Can't wait to read some of your work and thank you for this wonderful message 🥰🥰🥰
Your welcome! I'm always happy to give feedback. I think the quotation marks are the more common method and the one an English teacher would advise, but I suppose it could be preferential too. Whatever you choose to use, try to make it consistent throughout all of your works. Happy writing!
It's so interesting! I'll have a play with both and see which one sticks 😊 Thank you again for pointing it out! 🥰🥰🥰
Hi, the story brings a new perspective to every reader about the genuine meaning of love. The transitions of every detail are smooth and transparency is showed in each character.I enjoyed reading your story.😊 Hope to read more from you.
Thank you so much Rachel! 😊 Your lovely comments mean so much! ❤️
You have a lovely style!
Thank you so much! 💖
Hey Daniel, I've now started my own writers blog https://www.alexandria.life/ would love your support :)
Awesome! I checked it out. I look forward to the graphic novel!
Thank you so much Daniel! Surprised myself on how much I'm loving creating it lol
Thank you so much :) 💖
Hi Alex, I enjoyed your story, it's a shame that the prompt pre-empted the reveal (I think the impact would have been even more powerful if we weren't expecting them to fall in love). I really liked the tone of the story, it was soft and descriptive, and felt really appropriate for the romance genre. I also really liked the ending because you tied it into the gift, which was a nice touch. In terms of feedback, there isn't much I can suggest tbh, but one thing I did notice was your use of the possessive apostrophe and "s". When it's a sing...
Hi Andrew, thank you so so so much for that feedback! I've always struggled knowing where to put apostrophes in terms of names/etc and this has helped LOADS! So glad you enjoyed the story and happy writing to you also! ❤️
You're welcome, I'm glad it was helpful. Writing is a never ending learning curve; when I look back at my old writing I cringe lol
It's such a wonderful journey, isn't it? I have notebooks full of stuff that I look at and think 'oh lord' 😂😂 lol
Hi Andrew, I've now started my own writers blog, would love your thoughts :) https://www.alexandria.life/
This is an amazing story Alex it’s so complex but easy to understand and I loved the little Christmas gift that Ever gave Sugar. This is an awesome story. Keep up the great work 👏👏
Thank you so so much Lily! ❤️❤️❤️❤️ So glad you enjoyed it! Can't wait to read more of your work too, I absolutely adored Breaking News ❤️
Thanks Alex I can’t wait to read more of your work either ❤️
Hi Lily, I've started a new writers blog where I'll be posting more regular writing updates, would mean the world if you could check it out :) https://www.alexandria.life/
Sure thing Alex