Just Cookies: Part Two
Ress had a pleasant dream of holding an immense giant ribbon and waving to a crowd of humans and Neopets alike as they cheered. Confetti rained from the sky, and everyone applauded and begged to know her secrets.
She waved and waved, but suddenly the cheers were interrupted as a small, white Usul sprinted through the parting crowd. She stood before Ress, breathing harshly as the confetti rain stopped.
"Mom. Wake up!" she said, and Ress dropped her ribbon.
"Mom. Mom! Wake up, we have a problem."
She opened her eyes, and stared sideways at her Usul. White was always up and energetic in the mornings, and Ress envied the way her pet could wear a bow and still look commanding.
But not today. Today she wanted to boot her Neopet from the room and climb back in under her furs.
"Aren't you supposed to be getting your four foot recommended hours of sleep?" she groaned, and White pressed both her paws into her owner's back and shook.
"Get up! All the cookies are gone!"
This woke Ress up. She shot out of bed and quickly dressed before rushing into the kitchen. She pushed her long hair out of her face, staring at the empty table and the shreds of red and orange tissue paper flung everywhere.
"What... What happened?" she cried, and White shrugged.
"I-I don't know! They were all here last night, weren't they?"
Ress dropped into one of the chairs and stared forlorn at the table. What on Neopia?
"You were the last one up. What did you do?" White asked, and Ress turned on her with a dark look.
"What do you mean, 'What did you do?' You think I did something with five hundred cookies?"
White crossed her paws over her chest, and both owner and Usul found themselves in a staring contest.
"Look, I hate to say it this way, but things have a tendency to go wrong around you. And I've made over one thousand cookies in the last twenty-four hours." White leaned in, eyeballing Ress's face as her owner leaned back. The Usul was creeping her out, what could she say?
"What did you do last night?"
Ress swatted at her and the Usul bravely swatted back until both of their hands stung from the sharp smacks.
"Nothing! I swear! I finished wrapping, I left the cookies on the table, I checked on the twins-" Ress froze mid speech and stared off into the distance for a moment.
"The twins wouldn't have-" White started, but Ress pressed her hand over the Usul's mouth.
"Shush," she whispered, and she quickly stood up and in several long strides was down the hall and pressed up against the twins bedroom door.
"Mom, what are you-"
Ress pressed her face against the cool wood and waved her hand at her Usul once more.
Slowly pushing against it, she revealed the twins' room. The nursery was a creation made of pastels and soft colors that seemed to glow in the early morning light. The beams of sunshine seemed to center in the middle of the room, specifically on the soft lavender pillow that supported a small blue ball.
Ress stepped into the room, glaring down at the blue ball that bleated arrogantly at her. The Caprior was lying on his back, his stomach extended way farther out than it ought to be. Monty the Caprior was covered in frosting and crumbs, and as Ress bent down he had the audacity to burp at her.
"It didn't..." White said in disbelief, and Ress poked Monty's belly as he bleated, loud and angry at her, for daring to touch him. He rolled over without much protest, and Ress had to stand up and walk away before she did anything worse. She paced the length of her kitchen, holding an empty borovan mug in her hand as she did so.
"This is not happening. This is not happening." She looked down at the shreds of wrapping paper, then began pacing again.
White had already started heating up some of the left over breakfast croissants in the oven. She'd brewed fresh borovan, and was enjoying a cup herself as she sat on the counters, her free paw idly stroking the length of her tail as she sipped pensively.
"Well..." White said finally, causing Ress to jump a little. She'd forgotten her Usul had been sitting there.
"Well what?" Ress snapped, and White sent her a reprimanding glare.
"Sorry, sorry. What are you thinking?"
White set her cup on her tail and pressed her paws together.
"It could have been worse."
Ress twitched. "Oh? How so? All the cookies are gone, White. We have nothing to bring to the bake sale in..." She glanced at the Techo clock on the wall. "One hour."
White shrugged as if it didn't matter.
"So we tried to make cookies and it failed. So what? Nobody got hurt. Well, except Monty, but we'll let his owners take care of that. Let's not blow this out of proportion."
Ress was quiet for a moment, but soon she finished pacing and slumped against the counter next to where her pet sat.
"You're right," she said, looking down into the empty cup in her hands. "Nobody got hurt. They were just cookies after all." She traced her index finger over the lip of her mug. "But I wanted to win..."
White patted her owner's shoulder.
"You'll get over it. Come on. Neither of us present is painted baby," the Usul said, and Ress looked up mid-pout to nod slowly.
"Now that's the spirit. Now, what are we going to do about that bake sale?"
They looked around the kitchen then down at their cups for a moment, and as one, they turned back and grinned.
"What are you thinking?" White asked, and her human beamed enthusiastically.
"Something that I know will work! Grab Monty, the twins, the boys, and I'll get everything ready."
The Usul and her owner worked fast, and within the hour they were all packed up and on their way to the daycare center.
The twins took turns pulling Monty in their red wagon, and the stuffed Caprior made pitiful sounds every time they went over a bump. Achendro and Bredoc had complained at being woken up so early, but White had stuffed croissants into their hands, and the issues were soon forgotten. It was a nice morning, but cool enough that the Neo-Family had wrapped themselves in light jackets and scarves.
Their first stop was the Soup Faerie's Kitchen, and Ress told her pets to wait outside for her while she went in.
She walked past the long line of pets waiting to be served, and gently tugged on the faerie's sleeve. You'd never know it from pictures and the like, but the faeries of Neopia were incredibly tall, and Ress had to crane her neck some as the Soup Faerie turned to her.
"Yes? What can I do for you?" she asked, her hands still pouring bowl after bowl of hot soup without mishap as she glanced down at the human.
Goodness. She had skill.
Ress tried not to go off on an imaginary tangent on what it would be like to move with the grace of a faerie so she could ask for her favor.
"Yes. Sorry, I was wondering if you could bless this for me? I need it to stay nice and hot and full for the bake sale today." She held up her item and the faerie smiled.
"That's not exactly a baked good," she observed, and Ress nodded her agreement.
"I know, I know. But we had some mishaps with the cookies, and I figured this would still be something nice to have at the bake sale." She shuffled her feet but kept her arms raised patiently. "I know you do a lot of good for Neopets already, but my kids stayed up really late last night working on those cookies. I'd hate for them not to take part in the bake sale because of the set back a five-pound petpet can cause."
The Soup Faerie arched her eyebrow but didn't ask any questions. Removing one hand from a bowl, (which remained in the air without help), she gently touched Ress' hands before returning to her task.
"I hope you and your Neopets have a lovely time at the bake sale today," she said in her wispy voice, and then she turned back to the Neopets she spent every day serving.
Ress watched her for a moment longer, in awe at how quickly the tall woman worked. She was the one faerie that Ress was proud to help out every year. While the other faeries demanded items for quests with poor rewards, and held their magical abilities over the rest of Neopia, the Soup Faerie spent day after day helping those who needed it. She had the beauty and grace that every other faerie had. But there was so much more to her.
Ress nodded her head in silent thanks again before hurrying outside to return to her Neopets. They grabbed a few more things from the marketplace while they were there, then it was off to the center.
Already the area around the daycare center was packed with people. Babies ran around, half eaten sweets in their hands, while their owners walked from table to table. It was a big thing to volunteer for events like this, so there was no shortage of baked goods to choose from. It was a cool Saturday in Neopia Central, and that meant the crowds were thick, and the noise high. One of the tables by the doors to the center was empty save for a small white sign that read, 'Reserved'. The twins parked their wagon beside it, and Ress took the sign down after brushing some leaves off the surface.
"Ress! You made it."
Turning around, she glanced over at the table set up a couple of feet from hers. A small woman with spiky brown hair and dark clothes waved excitedly at her before leaving her table in her Neopets' care to walk over.
"Hey, Steph," Ress said, genuinely happy to see her friend. "Biscottis look great this year."
"Thanks," she said, hugging Ress before glancing at her table.
"What did you bring this year?" she asked curiously.
"I'd thought you'd never ask. We had a bit of a fiasco this morning; don't make me go into details. So instead of cookies, we're doing warm hot chocolate. Compliments of the Soup Faerie herself." She watched White and Bredoc as they covered the table in white cups and Achendro began filling them with hot chocolate before popping a fat marshmallow into each. The enchanted thermos kept flowing, and steam curled from each cup.
"Sounds good to me," Steph said, and Ress picked up two of the cups and offered one to her.
"I figured they'd go great with your biscotti. We're offering a free cup with every sale you make."
Ress nodded, watching as her Neopets started running cups of hot chocolate over to the customers at Steph's table. Her Neopets were busy taking money, and humans and pets alike smiled at the hot drinks being handed to them.
"Yeah. Really. It's not a competition. It's about family and giving to those who need it," she said, and her friend grabbed her into a side hug. "That's what this whole bake sale is about."
"Aww. You're starting to sound like one of those greeting cards. What happened to the Ress who tackled me last year and slammed a pie in my face?" Steph laughed, and Ress playfully poked her in the side.
"I'll still tackle you. But without the war cry... Anyway, this is better. We're making Neopoints for a good cause, and we're finally acting like upstanding role models for our pets."
They both tapped their cups together and smiled.
"You know, technically this means I win this year."
"Not if I start charging and sending customers to your table for a, 'Free Biscotti with Every Purchase'."
"Sheesh. I was just kidding, Ress."
"... Yeah. Yeah. Me too..."
From somewhere behind them, Monty bleated loudly, and Ress refused to turn around. Good will towards everyone and all, but she hated that Monty.