*Nainika’s note* It is OK to hate Morgan. (like more than ok to hate him) He's an arse. But I haven’t ever written a story from a…villain? I’m gonna call him a villain because he deserves it…but I’ve never written a short story from a nasty person’s perspective, so I hope it’s turned out good!! Also, I included A TON of background information about the setting, so this story is a teensy bit wordier than what I normally write! (Sorry about that. Head’s up, I think it’s about 2,900ish words:) Yes, there will be a part 3 - it’s inevitable. Hope you enjoy…and have a great day!!
five years ago
I was in deep, deep, chocolate mousse. But it was inevitable because I was falling for Natilee. Me. Morgan Serril, a lowly kitchen boy with a passion for baking had fallen in love with the Princess of Magnolia. Which was why I had to leave. I just had to. I couldn’t risk my own neck because surely that was what was going to happen. King Maxim and Queen Nehara were definitely going to hang me for my feelings. No, better not risk it. Although it would hurt to leave her, I wasn’t the one for her. I’d rather be alive and in love with someone who I could love without strings attached than hanging from the gallows, in love with someone who I couldn’t afford to love, and someone who couldn’t love me back.
So I ran. I resigned from the castle kitchen. I took my last paycheck from my boss, Urgann, and fled to the neighboring kingdom of Pallas. I didn’t tell anyone where I’d gone, let alone Natilee, and I never looked back. I started my bakery on a loan and a promise to boost the kingdom’s economy and quickly forgot my old life and the reason I’d left.
one month before Princess Velora’s ball
“NO, NO, NO!” I yelled over the din in my kitchen. Instantly, everybody stopped moving, staring at me with mixed expressions of amusement and terror. I was holding the leaflet that the royal scribes of King Niklaus and Queen Eleonore had sent out to the town this morning, explaining that the holiday festivities this year were canceled due to the Kingdom of Magnolia’s crown princess’s coming-of-age-ball. The usual festival, I had won the past five years in a row against my competition, the bakery run by Wilona Heath, and I had intended to make that six years during the festival this year. But instead, we were competing for the chance to go to Magnolia for the ball. It was a very prestigious event, and only the best of the best were invited to such parties.
The country of Zaire was divided into four kingdoms. Magnolia, Pallas, Kaina, and Legér. Each kingdom was ruled by one of the four houses. Magnolia was ruled by the House of Saena, Pallas was ruled by the House of Gagea, Kaina by the House of Xior, and Legér by the House of Llath. Only King Maxim and Queen Nehara’s daughter, Velora, and King Jabor and Queen Farissa’s son, Dray hadn’t had their coming-of-age ball yet, but as Prince Dray was only fifteen, he still had three years before the Kingdom of Legér had to have their ball. It had been over six years since a kingdom had had a coming-of-age ball, which meant I had never had the opportunity to compete to go to one. The only one I’d ‘been’ to was for Princess Natilee’s ball, but I was hard at work in the kitchens, slaving away to create the desserts for her spotlight. I shoved Natilee out of my thoughts. She had given up the right to reside there. Although the contest was canceled, it still meant I could win again. If I were to enter and win, then that would mean the title of Best Baker in Pallas would be mine once more.
I turned to the rest of my staff, who were still staring at me.
“What are you looking at?” I snapped, “Get back to work.” Immediately, the chatter of the kitchen started back up, and I stomped out of the kitchen and into the front of my bakery. The CinnaMan Bakery had been born from the shell of an old cobbler’s shop that I had turned around to fit my baking passion. Over the past five years, it had grown from a small shop to a bustling bakery. My only competition was the bakery right across the street, Queen of Tarts. I glowered at the hand-decorated sign swinging above the entrance. Wilona Heath had moved into the empty shop right across the street three years ago, and ever since then, I’d had to compete with her over my customers. Let’s be clear. I hate competition. I will do anything, and I mean anything to remove any threats to my title.
“Morgan?” I turned to find my clerk, Lukius, hovering nervously behind me. I rolled my eyes. Lukius had been a pity hire. I had owed his father some money, so I compromised with him and hired his son instead. He was rock dumb. There really was no other way to put it. The boy didn’t know what he wanted to do with life. And, he was a clumsy oaf. I stuck him in the kitchens, he almost burnt the place down toasting bread. I put him to work on my financial affairs, and he’d accidentally spilled coffee all over significant documents of mine Finally, exhausted at the amount of extra work he’d caused me but unable to let him go due to his father, I’d crossed my fingers and put him to work as a clerk. So far, he’d been accident-free, but I was just waiting for the slip-up.
“Yeah?” I asked, crossing my arms. This better be good if he was interrupting my brooding session. He took a deep breath, the freckles smattered across his pale face in stark contrast with his bright red hair. I swear this boy was a monstrosity.
“So, I was helping this customer, andIaccidentlylockedthemoneyboxwiththekeyinside, andI’msosorryIdidn’tmeanit.” He rushed through the last words, but I managed to understand what he was saying. I groaned loudly, and Lukius flinched as if I was going to hit him. God’s help me, I might. This day was stupid, this boy was stupid, the royals were stupid. I wanted to punch something.
“AAARGH!” I yelled, storming over to the front door. Luckily there weren’t any current customers inside my bakery, or I might have kicked them out. A few years ago, I would have, too, and not been too concerned about it since I was the only bakery in the kingdom. My customers had no other choice. But now, they’d run across the street to Wilona’s bakery, and I’d lose even more customers. I flipped the open sign around. I was closing early for the day. I’d had enough. “STAFF MEETING” I roared, stomping over to a table and leaning against it. Slowly, my five staff members came trickling in, warily looking at me and each other.
When I’d first started CinnaMan Bakery, I’d wanted to keep staff to a minimum, because I hated depending on others for my personal visions, goals, and aspirations. However, once my customers increased, and my platform took off exponentially, I’d grudgingly accepted more staff to work under me. I was still the main baker, but I’d hired Aryn as an additional baker when I needed to focus on decorating the baked goods, Marita and Elindine as helping hands, Lukius as a clerk, and Oda as my financial person.
They formed a semi-circle around me, and I turned and glared at each and every one of them in turn. Technically, none of them had done anything wrong, but it felt good to take out my frustrations on them.
“Who can tell me why I closed early?” I asked softly, anger lacing my words. Lukius hung his head, ashamed, and everyone turned to him, grateful that they weren’t the wrongdoer in this situation. I stared at Lukius until I saw the tips of his ears bright red. “Yes. Lukius locked my money box with the key inside. But that’s not all. My festival is canceled because of Princess Velora, and I WANT TO WIN THIS COMPETITION!” Everyone flinched as I shouted the last words and thumped my fist on the table. I started pacing. “From now on, I want extra hours from each one of you, more commitment to me, and tip-top performance, because if you don’t exceed my expectations?” I stopped pacing and looked at them. “You’ll be fired. You’re dismissed.” I waved my hands at them and walked over to my office. Poking my head out, I shouted, “And I’ll be at the bank for the rest of the day, due to Lukius’s incompetence.” I grabbed my coat off the hangar, and stalked over to the door, the blustering wind that greeted me, a cold blessing to the heat of my anger.
My bakery was located in the middle of town, so walking to the bank was a fairly short walk. Grumbling and muttering to myself, I briskly walked down the street, not paying attention to the people around me. If they were in my way, they deserved to get bumped in the shoulder.
I walked into the bank, the bell jingling, which was enough to set me off on another muttering tangent. Seriously, why do people have to announce everything? It’s just plain annoying. I was too busy complaining to myself to notice I wasn’t alone in the bank on this delightful day. Some lady was in front of me, talking to the teller about his freaking kids. Honestly, it was like the entire kingdom was going off its rocker. I cleared my throat quietly behind her, but she didn’t notice. I cleared my throat a little louder, but she didn’t notice, still jabbering on about his second daughter and how she was so interested in history. Blah, blah, blah.
“Excuse me.” I finally butted in, and the lady turned around. I took in her turtleneck sweater and light blue jeans, then lazily dragged my gaze up her body to her eyes, glad to see her blushing. Good, my leering was enough to get a reaction out of her. Then I realized who she was, and my smile grew. It was Wilona. Even better. This day wasn’t turning out so bad. I brushed past her, careful to make her think I was interested. Coincidently, this was the first time, she and I had come face to face. Usually, all I saw of her was when she walked in and out of her store, an hour later than me in the morning and an hour earlier than me in the evening. (Strategically timed so customers would prefer me over her) And if I ever did run into her outside of my store, I’d turn my face and not look at her. So it was pretty satisfying to pretend as if I was interested in her. Oho, that was an idea, a really good idea. I mentally high-fived myself.
“My clerk locked my money box with the key still inside. I was wondering if I could get to my lock-box to grab my replacement key.” I told the teller. He nodded.
“May I get your ID, sir?” I rolled my eyes, but pulled out my wallet and gave him my ID. He scanned it before handing me my lock-box key and my ID. I didn’t bother to say thank you, but strode over to the back of the bank and opened the door that led to the lock-boxes.
“57, 58, 59, ah, 60.” I got to my box and inserted the key. Opening it up, I rummaged around all my important stuff, most regarding the bakery, but some real personal items, like my parent’s legal documents and whatnot. I grabbed the velvet pouch that held all my spare keys and the spares of the spares and pulled out my money-box spare. I shoved everything back in the box, and closed it, nearly jumping out of my skin when I saw Wilona standing next to me. Covering my fright by scowling, I locked up my box and brushed past her, intending to get back to my bakery as soon as possible.
“Wait, I want to talk to you.” I paused, my hand on the door.
“About?” I asked shortly. I wasn’t aware that I had anything to say to my arch-nemesis.
“You’re the owner of CinnaMan Bakery, right?” I walked over to her.
“Yeah, why?” She shifted, looking anywhere but at my face. I instantly got suspicious.
“Are you entering the contest? To, uh, go to Princess Velora’s ball?” A lightbulb went off in my mind. I knew exactly what to do. But I schooled my expression into something that hopefully looked like boredom.
“Yep, and I hope to win it too.” She flushed.
“Well, I was wondering if you wanted to, um, work together?” I immediately snorted. Me? Work together? Work with someone else? Work with her? No way. Not ever. Never. Ever. End of story. Hurt flashed in her eyes, and it was immensely satisfying to know that my actions had caused that. But I wanted her to trust me. I steeled myself, then gently placed a hand on her shoulder, gritting my teeth inwardly.
“I’m sorry, but I really prefer to work alone. How about instead, I take you for lunch next Friday?” She blinked up at me.
“Like, a date?” No, no, no, never with you, scum. But I pasted a smile on my face.
“Yeah, like a date.” It took all of my might not to scream my real intentions at her, but I nodded along like it was the best damn idea in the world. But I knew exactly how to string a woman along. Natilee-No I wouldn’t think about her. I brought myself back to the present to find Wilona smiling. “Right, so I’ll meet you at that new restaurant at the end of Main Street around, say 7?” I knew perfectly well that she closes at 8, and myself at 9, but that was part of my plan. She opened her mouth as if to say something, but closed it and nodded.
“7 is fine. See you then!” And with that, she strolled out of the back room, and the door swung shut behind her. I stood there for a few minutes, my brain churning with ideas on how to sabotage Wilona Heath. Oh, it was going to be so much fun.
Friday night, one week before the ball
I rubbed my hands together, the cold making my fingers numb. I was waiting by the new restaurant at the end of Main Street for Wilona, who by this point was completely and absolutely smitten with me. I had been making a point to drop into her store almost every day, claiming I couldn’t stay away from her. I had brought flowers, adorable pastries that I’d had Ayra make, and little gifts, all while strategically placing other, not as nice gifts, in her store. I’d dumped salt in all the sugar containers, finely-sifted flour in the powdered sugar, and once I’d bought a couple of mice from the pet store, and set them loose in the kitchen. To say it had been hilarious as I watched customer after customer streak out of Queen of Tarts after discovering my surprises, would be an understatement. I was glued to the window, chortling with amusement as I watched Wilona try to call her customers back, claiming that she didn’t mean to do it. And then I would hurry into the store, consoling her as she sobbed in my arms, all while gleefully planning my next round of gifts. She didn’t suspect a thing, and I was very happy with how the weeks had progressed.
“Have you been waiting long?” Wilona’s voice jolted me out of my reprieve, and I turned to find her dressed up in a long red dress, a bit bold for technically our first date, but I didn’t care. It wasn’t as if I cared about her at all. What it did do, however, was bring back a memory of the glimpse I’d caught of Natilee coming down the steps at her ball. I shoved that thought out of my head and locked the door on those thoughts for good measure. Forcing a smile, I offered a smile and my arm and escorted her inside. Sitting at our table, we talked. Well, Wilona talked, and I made all the right noises at the right times, and the right words of encouragement when they were needed. I was only half paying attention, but when she started talking about the contest, my ears perked up.
“…and I was thinking I should drop out of the contest.”
“What? No, you can’t!” I immediately said, but inwardly, I was jumping for joy.
“Yeah, I don’t think it’s the thing for me right now.” I sympathetically smiled.
“Well, maybe next year, huh?” I said.
“Yeah, maybe.” she sighed. We finished dinner and walked outside. To be honest, I didn’t even taste anything I ate, I was so impressed by my scheming. Wilona stopped outside and turned to me.
“Hey, Morgan, I just wanna say thank you for everything. I really appreciate it. And,” She looked down, a blush on her cheeks, “I think I may be falling for you.” She looked up at me, and I smiled down at her. She didn’t know how much I detested what I was about to do, but I did it anyway. I leaned in and kissed her softly, all the while already dreaming of myself as the only bakery on Main Street once more. Oh, that would be simply delightful.