The smell of freshly baked goods travels through the morning air. People bustle through the streets, but surround one area in particular- The Sugar Mill. The first day of sales is today, and the good people of Kiko Lake want to know what all the buzz is about.
The lake itself is quite nice, nice people, nice scenery- but being a small town, new things like the opening of a novelty cupcake shop- well, this is quite the big deal. Kiko Lake has had a decent bakery for a very long time, but nothing like this. The owner of The Sugar Mill is from Neopia Central; therefore, the shop itself is bound to be something special. And besides, when’s the last time Kiko Lake Treats sold a cupcake?
The outside of The Sugar Mill is fairly impressive. Although not huge in size, the shop carries a 'cute' factor. The windows are bordered with windowsills and panels, painted in an elegant pink. The building itself is a creamy white, with a cobblestone pathway leading up to it. The door is a stale yellow, the color of baby chicks at Eastertime. And finally, to top it all off, the white picket fence adds a much needed old fashioned touch to the place. It's perfect, top and bottom.
People of all kinds gather outside. Kikos, reporters from nearby towns, and even petpets all line up for a try at the lake’s newest sweet. When Annie, the owner of the shop, pops her little head out the door, everyone knows it's time.
“Hello, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Annie, the creator of Kiko Lake’s newest shoppe, The Sugar Mill. I’m sure you all know by now that we specialize in making the most magical of cupcakes...” The Gelert is dressed in a white skirt and light blue top. Her brown hair flies in the weak breeze. Her neck is particularly long, and so are her legs. But not out of proportion long, just long.
“And so, I am, with all my heart, hoping that each and every one of you finds a certain something in our cupcakes that you have never tasted before. So, without further uncertainty, let’s open the doors to The Sugar Mill!” People begin to clap at her encouraging and lovely speech as Annie cuts the princess pink ribbon leading to the entrance of the shop.
People begin to pour into the shop like water in a glass. The inside is just how Annie described it- magical. The interior is painted in a mint green, with modern pictures of butterflies and stars hung on the wall. The till area, the area where the cupcakes are located, is beautiful. Pink drapes frame the stunning view of the lake through the window. The wall is pasted with rows and rows of delicious looking cupcakes. Flourishing colors of red, pink, purple, greens and blues light up the room. The cupcakes smell like light fluffy dreams. People look through the glass that separates them from their dream cupcake. They literally have a cupcake for everyone.
“Let me inform all of you of the different types of cupcakes we have in here. First of all, the bases of our cupcakes are chocolate, ergy fruit, vanilla, strawberry or tchea fruit. The other flavors we get through our icing, which can come in anything from starfruit to ham if we’d like! Let’s take a look at all of our flavors. First of all, we have the Lime cupcake. Its base is a vanilla, and the icing is buttercream, made from real limes. And put elegantly on top is a lime gummy slorg- and I swear it’s not real, my friends!” Everyone laughs a cheerful laugh as Annie passes out samples of the Lime cupcake.
“Now what we have here is one of my absolute favorites,” she says while holding a beautiful purple colored cupcake. “This is my grannie’s grannie’s old recipe and is still living up to high expectations even today. It’s cleverly named Jhudora's Cupcake, after the faerie herself. In fact, we’ve even had her pre-taste the thing! And I promise you that even though she may be evil, the only evil this cupcake’s been up to is being evilly delicious. Go on, try a slice.” Annie passes out another sample of Jhudora’s Cupcake.
“And for my last trick, I am going to show you our newest cupcake, and the one I am most excited about, the Kiko Lake Cupcake!” Everyone’s eyes begin to light up and Annie picks up a gorgeous cupcake.
“The base is made of rich, creamy chocolate, and the icing is an aqua color because of the tchea fruit flavoring. On top are a few pieces of Strawberry Kiko Candy, supplied by the very store, Kiko Lake Treats.” People ooOoo and aaaAhhHh at the marvelous creations of Annie the Gelert. Everyone is especially impressed with the Kiko Lake Cupcake, well, everyone except for one.
Mr. Crawlley, an old Kiko, has lived in the small town for years and years. He’s seen it all, every one, every thing. And if it’s one thing he doesn’t like- it’s newcomers from outside Kiko Lake. And he especially doesn’t like it when they barge in and create a business like they own the place.
“Who do you think you are, Miss?” the Kiko shouts out in the crowd.
“My name’s Miss Annie,” she replies, sensing his doubt in The Sugar Mill.
“Well, my name is Mr. Crawlley, and I have lived here all my life. I’ve never seen anything like you. And neither has this town. And you, you outsiders, think that you can come in here like nothing else and take away the innocence of this good town and its people? Our little town’s charm is wanted by so many that will never achieve it. And we want to stay that way. First a cupcake shop, then a mini-mart, then towering buildings that reach the atmosphere! Do we want that? No! And we don’t want you here either, Miss Annie.”
Everyone's voices hush as they want to hear Annie’s response. It would have to be good, to dig herself out of the hole Mr. Crawlley has just made for her.
“Mister Crawlley. Why don’t you have a taste?” She parades the silver tray of cupcakes in front of the old man's face.
“Take your pick, any pick. They aren’t all the same, but I feel like you are a coconut person?” He looks up at her and takes the white cake off the tray.
“I am a coconut person. I went to Mystery Island once as a young lad and ate a hundred of them,” he mutters as he takes a bite of the small cupcake. “This tastes just like it.”
“Well, good. There’s nothing like bringing back an old memory, right?”
The old man delivers a menacing stare and replies slowly while standing up, “Yes. There is nothing like bringing back one. And you know, your store, it’s taking back all the memories of this quaint town, erasing them and penciling in new, awful ones. I’m warning you now, stop what you're doing.”
Annie can do nothing else but stare at the old man as he walks towards the doorway of the store. The rest of the night goes fine, and everyone loves her cupcakes, but she can’t help but think about Mr. Crawlley. At about 8 o’clock, it is about closing time. A middle aged woman sits on one of the stools in the shop, stuffing her face with a chocolate-mint cupcake.
“He’s been a grouch for a very long time, Annie, but he always hasn’t been that way...” The woman looks up at Annie, knowing that she is thinking about today's mishap.
“I would think not. He seems like a hurting Kiko, and I would presume that there’s a story behind that...” Annie takes a stool next to the woman and leans in to hear her tell the story.
“Well, he was the loveliest of old men. Charming, funny and sweet- unbelievably sweet. He cared about every soul on this lake. His wife, Rose, was also quite the joy-” Annie interrupts the woman suddenly.
“Yes, unfortunately. Everything went downhill from there. His happiness, his charm, everything. Now he just sits in his house and reads the Neopian Times. Sad, really, since I know deep down that he’s a very nice man. I wish we could see him back to normal, just once, but, I doubt that will ever happen. His birthday’s this Saturday, did you know?”
“Oh, no, I wasn’t aware. Well, perhaps a little magic is all Mr. Crawlley needs...”
For the next four days, cupcakes are flying off the shelves. Everyone from anywhere near Kiko Lake is determined to have themselves a little slice of dreamland. Reporters and cameramen from all across Neopia are showing up on The Sugar Mill’s doorstep for an interview with the famous Annie. Which she is happy to give, but her mind is on other things- most importantly, Mr. Crawlley’s birthday on Saturday. When asked by the reporters, “What plans do you have for the future of your company?” she always replies with a cheerful: “I have big plans for Saturday, that’s for sure!” And everyone, soon enough, wants to know just exactly what her plans are.
When Saturday rolls around the corner, The Sugar Mill is closed. Everyone questions what was happening. Perhaps a remodel? Maybe a new cupcake? But Annie is not inside The Sugar Mill; in fact, she is just the opposite, she is walking on her way to Mr. Crawlley’s house with several boxes in her hands. She neomails the woman from the store five days ago.
“Hello! This is Annie. Yes, ha ha. It’s nice to hear from you as well. I have a favor to ask of you. Would you mind getting Mr. Crawlley out of the house for about, hmm, an hour or so? Great! Also, can you tell all of his friends to meet at his house at 5? Yes? Thanks so much!”
Annie’s blue shimmery dress sparkles as she works wonders on the old man’s backyard. Out of her several boxes come ribbons and bows, and a lot, and I mean a lot of cupcakes. Everything was color coordinated, everything white and blue. It really is quite stunning. When the guests start to arrive, they can think nothing but the same.
“So this is your big plan for Saturday! You got everyone stumped for a long time, you know!” Guests tell Annie as they stream through the yard door. When she gets a neomail that Mr. Crawlley is on his way over, everyone is flustered with excitement.
Annie tells the crowd that when the birthday man arrives they should sing the largest, proudest and most heartfelt rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ anyone has every sung before. And soon enough, the old Kiko enters his back yard.
His eyes light up like a child in a candy store. Everything is perfect, the streamers, balloons, tablecloth and cupcakes, everywhere.
“Happy birthday, Mr. Crawlley... happy birthday to you!” Everyone cheers as Annie emerges from the crowd with an extremely large coconut cupcake with a single blue candle sitting on top.
“Make a wish!” And with that, Mr. Crawlley blows out the candle and the party starts. Everyone who is anyone in the town is there. The owner of Kiko Lake Carpentry, and the glass bottom boat tour guide. Just everyone. Later in the evening, Mr. Crawlley approaches Annie.
“You throw one heck of a party, I’ll give you that!” They both laugh.
“So you’re enjoying yourself?”Annie asks.
“Yes, quite a lot, actually! I haven’t had this much fun in a long time. And yum, all the coconut cupcakes I could ever eat! Annie, I hate to say it, but I think I may have been wrong about you. You are an inspiration to everyone.”
“Thank you, Mr. Crawlley, I really appreciate it.”
“Heck, you can call me George.”
The pair of them laugh the night away and now, George even helps out with The Sugar Mill from time to time. Annie is as cheerful as ever knowing that she could make this man less lonesome and happy after so many years.
Thank you to my lovely Ancalle for inspiring the character of Annie!