My Childhood Neohome: Part Four
My Childhood Neohome, Part Four: The Cake is a Lie!
…"And this is the Kitchen." Rupies stood aside and let the two potential buyers take in the entire room. It wasn’t a big set up – some would call it ‘cozy’ – but it had the latest and greatest gadgets and upgrades. The walls were a very light blue, with white cabinets and matching appliances. A large window over the table looked out to the backyard and provided warmth and sunshine.
Rupies had spent many days sitting at this table, gazing out that window, and watching her siblings play outside. Of all the areas in the house, it was possibly her very favourite. It was getting a bit hard to breath – she still couldn’t believe that today could be her last day here.
The soft ding from the opening fridge startled the Lupe for a moment – one of the Kacheeks was peering in as if he was looking for Jelly World in its depths. What he found was a whole lot of empty shelves – Rupies had cleaned it out just that morning in anticipation of the showing. But that sound… she was just full of memories today.
Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding.
"Piihp, can you please stop playing with the fridge door?! You’re driving me insane!" Rupies huffed, her paws over her ears. Piihp grinned cheekily, opening and closing the door a few more times in retaliation.
"Oh chill out, sis," Gosun laughed, picking up his little brother and seating him at the table. "It’s my birthday, and I say the little guy can do whatever he wants. It doesn’t bug me." He winked at the Pea Chia, who giggled. He immediately stood up, jumping up and down on his chair in excitement.
"I can’t wait for you to taste the cake I made, Gosun!" Piihp chirped, beaming. "I worked all day on it. It’s going to be delicious!"
"I’m sure it will be to die for!" Gosun licked his lips and rubbed his stomach in an exaggerated fashion, chuckling at Piihp’s suddenly worried expression. "No one will actually die. It’s just an expression." Rupies sighed and put her head on her paws. When it came to Piihp’s cooking, you never really knew how it was going to turn out. Death wasn’t that remote of a possibility. The poor little Neopet was so short, he often couldn’t see what exactly he was doing with his ingredients – even with a stool.
It was breakfast for dinner, as per the birthday boy’s request. Lutari Pancakes were piled high on each plate, with Lutari Fizz to sip on along the way. Gosun had never been to Lutari Island before, but was adamant on embracing his heritage and loved the local recipes. As his gift, Rupies had scoured the Neopian Times until she found an article she had circled weeks before, back in the 777th edition. She had cooked everything in advance and froze it to keep it a surprise – and it had all turned out wonderful.
It wasn’t long before the cake was brought out – Piihp struggled to hold it up, refusing Rupies’ help as he proudly carried it to Gosun. Five candles flickered merrily over thick chocolate frosting. Gosun’s eyes danced with the reflection of the flames as he took a deep breath, made a wish, and blew them out with little trouble.
The cake was quickly cut and divided amongst the siblings, with Gosun helping himself to the biggest of the three pieces. There was silence as the Neopets dug in – and slowly stopped eating. Gosun frowned, looked to Piihp and forced a smile back on his face. The little Chia’s eyes went wide, and he made a choking noise. Finally, he spat a mouthful of half-chewed cake back on his plate.
"Piihp! Come on, we’ve taught you better than that." Rupies curled her lip at the mess, while casually pushing her plate to the side. She had taken only the smallest nibble of her piece, swallowing it with only a slight struggle as she tried desperately not to let it touch her tongue.
"It’s terrible," Piihp wailed, tears welling up in his eyes. "I don’t know what I did wrong! I followed the directions perfectly!" Rupies stared at her paws awkwardly, but Gosun just swung Piihp into his arms immediately and poked him in the belly, making him giggle.
"Alright, well how about we go through the steps again and see if we can figure out what went wrong?" Always one to brighten up a bad situation, Gosun soon had Piihp happily bustling around the kitchen once again as they got all the ingredients together for a second attempt.
Meanwhile, Rupies snuck away to rinse out her mouth. Whatever was in that cake had turned her mouth into the Lost Desert. Secretly, she was curious as to what exactly Piihp had put into it.
When she returned, Gosun and Piihp had begun mixing ingredients. First, they poured the flour – creating a giant white cloud when Piihp accidently dropped the bag on the floor. The boys laughed, and Rupies rolled her eyes.
As the pair went through the ingredients one by one, Rupies became more and more puzzled. It seemed to be an average cake recipe. Flour, butter, eggs, sugar, and just a pinch of salt. She watched closely, but Piihp was very careful as he grabbed just a pinch of the white powder to put into the bowl. When all was said and done, the three Neopets sat around the table as the smell of baking cake floated pleasantly around the Kitchen.
In what seemed like no time at all, the cake was ready. Gosun and Piihp iced it with premade icing from the Food Shop, having a grand time ‘accidentally’ putting the chocolate on each other’s noses. The little Pea giggled, all former woes forgotten.
As the boys sat themselves across the table from Rupies, she glanced down at the cake suspiciously. It looked the same – however, she had watched her brothers make it and hadn’t seen anything that could possibly account for the horrid taste of the first attempt.
Her stomach rumbled. She made her decision, taking a generous bite – and instantly gagged.
Glancing around the table through watering eyes, it appeared that her brothers were having the same issues that she was. If anything, it was somehow worse. Piihp began to look teary again, but from the cake or disappointment was impossible to tell. Gosun’s mouth became a hard line as he ran through all the ingredients they had used in his head, trying to think of where they had gone wrong. It was a mystery of the worst kind.
Frustrated, Rupies rose from the table and walked over to the counter, where all of the ingredients had been left in a heap. She peered at the bags, smelled the butter and paced back and forth, growling. Everything seemed in order – but it couldn’t be so!
She had to know! Daintily, she stuck one claw into the discarded bag of flour, hesitating only to sniff the white powder carefully before licking it with as little of her tongue as possible. She flinched, waiting for the terrible drying taste – but all she found was the bland taste of flour. She had one ingredient confirmed, with four more to go. She would get to the bottom of this!
Rupies repeated this process carefully with each ingredient, becoming more and more frustrated as they all proved to be entirely normal. When she reached the jar labelled "salt" in small, childish writing, she almost passed it – it was such a small piece of the recipe, and so couldn’t possibly be the cause. Besides, salt didn’t go bad or anything. But… what if it was? Carefully, she stuck a claw in and licked.
It was… sweet. She licked the rest of the fine grains off, confused. Slowly, the realization came to her and she rushed to take the lid off the jar labelled "sugar", tasting it and spitting it out immediately.
It was salt.
Rupies was smiling at the memory when the Kacheeks announced that they were ready to see move on. She nodded and turned to lead them back to the front of the house, where the bedrooms were located, but hesitated. By far the most impressive part of the house was the backyard, and it looked most inviting when there was still sunshine to warm the grass and highlight the various plants and flowers.
"Actually, why don’t we visit the backyard before it gets cold outside?" The buyers nodded in agreement. It was already beginning to get dark, with just a tough of orange on the horizon. They had been at it for a while.
Things seemed to be going well – the two were all smiles and spoke excitedly about possible furniture choices as they walked. It almost seemed like they had already made their decision.
The Lupe’s smile faded. She was going to miss this place.
TO BE CONTINUED…