A/N: It's been a very, very long time since I've published anything online. This is the first chapter of what I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2012. I'm kind of...half-heartedly editing it. Especially this beginning piece. It started out on a much more serious note than how it ended up.
A small synopsis is in order, since it's little hinted here! Else, my darling who had such trouble becoming her own person, will become involved with demons, angels, and the most adorable dogs. There will be a civil war, a struggle for capitalism, and more than a few sexual innuendos. And most likely some tea.
I'll be greatly revamping the 60,000 words that were written in November. This is my way of making myself actually edit, I suppose. And then edit more, based on the slew of criticism I expect.
Bright flash of light. A feeling of power. Light fades. People are kneeling. To me? What on earth is going on? Wait...is this even earth? Um.
It was a dream I'd had a few times. It was strange, but I had always had strange dreams. Sometimes it felt like the world was ending, other times I was sure that it would last forever, all because of me. And now this one, where I had this ambiguous sense of being a king. I guess that's the strangest part, really. I can't be a king. I'm a girl.
There's also the part where I earn just enough to live on by working at a cupcake shop.
I shook my head, trying to clear the strange senses in my head. Not a king. Not a queen. Not ruling anybody. Not today, at least. Else. I am just Else English with an English degree. College graduate working in a cupcake shop. It wasn't until my shower started to run cold that I really felt ready to tackle the day. Something about cold water in my cramped, bright white bathroom was always guaranteed to bring home the realization that today would be like every other day.
I watched the water build a steady boil (it's not true, by the way, a watched pot will boil if you're patient enough) and mulled over the dreams I'd had as a kid. The other kind of dreams. I was sure that I would grow up and be something fantastic. I didn't know what. Maybe a doctor, or an astronaut, or...something. I had big dreams. I always focused on my schoolwork. I wasn't just a nerd - I had plenty of friends. Some really close ones. But school always came first. Because that was my key.
My mother did not see things the way I did. Although she didn't stand in my way for most of my life, she never quite approved of my lofty aspirations. She thought that such things were unbecoming of me. Wouldn't I rather have a family? Didn't I see how much joy it gave her to take care of my poor, sickly sister?
I love my sister, I really do. I miss her. Leaving her was the hardest thing I've had to do in my life. Praying for her is the one thing that keeps me from leaving my faith. I hardly side with my mother on the faith healing thing, but I can't give up. If God can do something for her, even easing her way...that's enough. Although at this point, I doubt God listens to me anymore. Maybe I'd be better off making a deal with the Devil.
But no, I would not prefer to have a family. Truthfully, I've always wanted it all. If only life would give me the hours in a day to take care of a husband and three great kids as well as being the world's foremost something or other...that was my dream. I still can't accept that it's totally impossible. For now, though, it's impossible for me. Abandoning my mother and sister meant being cut off from my late father's family, my source for school funding.
Anyways, I felt like they were close to cutting me off anyways. The English degree I got when I was 20 was worthless in their eyes. And I think it made me look worthless. And the idea that I was going back to school to begin pre-med made them laugh.
So I do what I can with what I have. Barely full time employment in a cupcake shop? Well fine. I can't be humble - you've never seen cupcakes like mine. Simple, sure; the owner, Dave, thinks that fancy cupcakes are too kitschy. But each one is somehow more perfect than the last. Dave isn't around to see it very often, but I keep that shop immaculate. The other girls that help out may do their best to stand in my way (or at least, it feels like it sometimes), but I manage to keep things running smoothly.
I smoothed my long ponytail and gave myself a warm smile in the mirror. Dreams or no, it was time to get started for the day.
There was a certain feel to the air as I walked from the coffee shop to Belle Wrappings. I stood across the street from the cupcake shop, just looking at it. A certain lightness laid over the street. Traffic was starting to pick up, but it was still relatively quiet this early. My dream from the night came to my mind. I could almost feel that power.
It was strange. I never think of my dreams during the day. The feeling grew in my mind until I felt a little dizzy. Warmth spreading across my foot snapped me out of it, and the feeling faded. I blinked and looked down. Fantastic. I had dropped my tea. I sighed and adjusted my satchel bag. Could be worse, I guess.
I had almost lost myself in the rhythm I had developed for today. No two days in the bakery ever had the same rhythm, really. Depending on what treats needed to be made, whether I was trying out something new, or if I had one of the other girls helping out, things might be different from day to day.
"What do you mean, you're out of red velvet?" It wasn't often that customers' voices reached me in the kitchens. When they did, I knew it was only a matter of time before I was needed. Lissa, one of the counter girls, simply isn't up to the pressure.
When I emerged from the back, I could tell from Liss's defeated posture - hands nervously grabbing her apron, back slightly hunched, and blonde hair mussed from her jittering - that things were not going well. She was a good foot and a half shorter than the fuming man on the other side of the counter.
"Oh, hi! How's it going out here, Lissa?" Feign stupid. Don't let the customer realize that you realize how upset they are. Validation without acknowledgement.
Lissa turned to me and attempted a smile. That half attempt was not helping the situation, I was sure.
"Ah..." It always half surprised me to hear that nervous voice eek out of this girl. She could be so loud sometimes. "We ran out of red velvet like...an hour ago? And. Um."
"It's just ridiculous. This place needs to get it together." I could feel the waves of irritation rolling off of him. I offered my hand to him and gave him my best smile.
"Oh hey, I'm Else." It was obvious that he was reluctant to give in. It's hard to maintain that overbearing attitude when someone is being warm and welcoming.
"Ah...I'm Roger," he said as he gave in and took my hand.
"Well, Roger, we do normally do our best to keep everything in stock. But it's mostly just me back there making cupcakes all day." I gave him a half chuckle and gestured around the empty lobby area. "I know it doesn't seem like we have a lot going on, but it really is kind of hard to keep up. Especially when you're trying to predict what people will want." He nodded and shrugged.
"I know how it can be. My wife manages a dress shop."
"Oh yeah? Is that what you needed cupcakes for?" I was doing my best to engage him, but Lissa just seemed completely lost. I could tell she was wondering whether to hang around until everything was resolved, or if her presence was making things worse. "Hey, Lissa, can you go check the back for me? I think we might have gotten a shipment." Her face lit up as she nodded and scurried away.
"Well, no. See, my little girl, she's hosting some...some thing at school. Festival. Today's the first day and she wanted something special to open it up with. Red velvet is better than chocolate, apparently." Hopefully he could read how sympathetic I was to his situations as I nodded.
"Ahhh, I gotcha. I know it's always preferable to have things on the first day. Let me pitch something to you, though."
In the end, Roger and I worked out a few neat treats that were sure to be a hit at the festival. It had taken some time away from making more stock, but he ended up putting in orders for the next three days of the festival. The money he put down had made up a pretty portion of the day's profits.