Birthday Cake and Chocolate
"Is it ethical to invite a Chocolate Pet to a birthday party?"
Rosy blinked at her friend. "...what?" The Pink Aisha put down her cup of coffee.
"Just what I said! She's Chocolate, the cake's chocolate, and we're going to eat the cake." Seo waved her hands around anxiously. "I just don't want Pixie to be offended, that's all!"
Rosy was unimpressed by this. "Seo," she said slowly to the Pastel Aisha, "Pixie runs a cafe. This cafe that you're sitting in right now. And her chocolate donuts are to die for. I don't think she cares."
The two Aishas were in a delightful little shop, just off the main road in Neopia Central’s Bazaar area. A large front window, that they were seated next to, let in just enough warm sunlight from the busy day outside. The scent of coffee and cake wafted through the air. Jack-o-lantern streamers Pixie hadn’t gotten around to taking down yet fluttered next to the holiday decorations she’d been in the middle of putting up when they’d walked in this morning.
I just can’t stand the walls being empty, so I take old decorations down after I put up new ones! she’d said, when she’d seen Rosy eyeing the unique combination.
Seo had evidently not been reassured by the donuts. She leaned in close, and whispered conspiratorially. "But have you actually seen her eat those?"
They both looked towards the counter. Pixie the Chocolate Kacheek was cheerfully chatting with an elderly Lenny. As they watched, she carefully placed a dozen of said donuts into a colourful box; before wrapping it up with a red bow.
"See, she's using gloves!" Seo hissed.
"You mean like every other person who touches your food? I sure hope she does."
They saw Pixie wave goodbye to the customer. She then turned towards the coffee machine behind her, and began fiddling with a stack of paper cups.
"Look, that's probably your to-go order," Rosy observed. "When she comes over here with that, you are going to invite her to your party, like we came here to do in the first place. I did not just drink a gallon of coffee waiting for you to work up the nerve, just for you to end up-"
"I get it, I get it!" Seo groaned. "I'll do it, I swear."
"And get a vanilla cake if it bothers you that much," Rosy finished, leaning back triumphantly.
Seo was a reporter for the Neopian Times. Two months ago, she'd been desperate for an invite to the Chocolate Ball. Percival Augustus Moorely, an elusive inventor, had been rumoured to be attending; and Seo had wanted any excuse to talk with him about his new Moltara-inspired Petpet designs, even if it was two comments passed over a chocolate fountain.
She'd also been on probation after the disastrous results of a rather… aggressive investigative piece; and an exclusive from Moorely, who had never spoken to any papers before, was just about the only thing that could have put her back in her editor's good books.
Asking Pixie, the proprietress of her favourite cafe, had been a last-ditch effort. But she'd come through and after pulling every possible string, she had knocked at Seo's door a little before midnight on the eve of the Ball, and handed her a (slightly damp) ticket.
And so Seo considered herself eternally in Pixie's debt.
A birthday party invite in return just didn't seem to cut it, now that she thought about it…
One month ago
“Seo! How was the Ball last night?” Pixie asked, all smiles as usual. She pointed towards a tray of cupcakes cooling on the counter. “I recommend those, by the way. Just out of the oven.” She held up her still-mittened hands as proof.
The sky thundered outside. It had started pouring two days ago and hadn’t let up since, drizzling at the least. Seo had entertained some dramatic thoughts about it being reflective of her mood, right up until Pixie had given her the ticket and she’d realised what it was. Now she couldn’t care less about squelch in her boots, or the frizz in her fur.
“It was amazing!” Seo gushed. “I think Moorely was actively trying to avoid me, that Uni has a sixth sense for knowing when someone wants to talk to him. But I cornered him right after the milkshake tasting. Bless him, he was too polite to literally run away.” The Aisha laughed. “But he was definitely considering it.”
Pixie grinned. “Oh, I’m so glad the ticket was useful. If you got to keep your job, losing my head-cherry in the rain was worth it!”
Seo froze as a flash of lightning lit up the cafe; the Chocolate Ball gift bag halfway out of her satchel. “Your what now?”
The Kacheek giggled. “My head-cherry, silly.” She pointed at the bright cherry sitting atop the whipped cream on her head. “Don’t worry, I replaced it. My cream melted and the old one fell down the gutter when I was running around like mad in that downpour, asking everyone I knew for a spare ticket.”
Pixie huffed. “It really is awful breaking in a new one, though. But it feels even worse to not have one at all.” She then winked cheekily at Seo. “I’m sure you’re going to make it worth my while one of these days, perhaps some insider information so I can get ahead of the stock market?” The Kacheek laughed at her own joke.
Seo joined in weakly and pushed the gift bag (containing one commemorative mug and a few mini samples of the Chocolate Factory’s bestsellers) back into her satchel. “Sure, I’m certainly not getting you any crummy gift bags or anything! That would be so… unexciting!”
Two Weeks Ago
Seo anxiously checked her bag to make sure her homemade cookies hadn’t somehow spontaneously crumbled in the twenty-minute walk between her home and the cafe. Half a dozen Kacheek-shaped cookies with pink-icing smiles looked back at her. Okay, everything looked good.
Or did it?
Was it just her, or was the icing on that one a little crooked? And did that one have uneven ears? And oh Fyora, that one definitely looked more like a Korbat than a Kacheek.
Seo gulped. Why did she think her amateur baking would be a good gift for a literal professional?
Because it’s the thought that counts, Seo. Rosy’s voice said inside her head, You could spend all the money in your bank account on something to thank her, and it wouldn’t mean as much as something you put your honest effort into.
“Right, it’s the thought that counts and all that…” the Pastel Aisha murmured as she steeled herself and pushed open the cafe doors. “Pixie, how are you?” Seo called out as the bell over the entry chimed.
She was greeted with the tantalising smell of pumpkin spice. The cafe was empty, save for Pixie aggressively wiping down tables. It didn’t look like she’d heard either the Aisha or the bell.
“Oh!” The Kacheek started. “I didn’t hear you come in! I’m so sorry, I was a little distracted.” She looked fairly annoyed.
With what, the Aisha couldn’t tell. “Is… this a bad time? I can come back later-”
“Oh no, no. There was just a very irritating customer in here before you. Can you believe it, this Lupe- he didn’t buy a thing from me, kept telling me he was still deciding. And he had this big box of chocolates from the Chocolate Factory that he was munching; and when I’d finally had enough and told him to clear out, what do you think he did? Bit off his Mint Chocolate Kacheek’s head right in front of me! Fyora knows I don’t like those on the best of days.”
Seo felt a sweat coming on. “Uhm, mint you mean?”
Pixie frowned. “Oh, I don’t really care for mint; but I mean the Kacheek chocolates. It’s a bit uncomfortable to watch someone eating those. I mean, look at me!” Pixie gestured at herself and chuckled. “Ah, but that’s just me being sensitive. What can I get you, Seo?”
“I suppose some buns might be nice.” Seo sighed.
Five Hours Ago
Rosy blinked sleep out of her eyes. She wasn’t quite sure why Seo was pacing around her apartment at 7 in the morning, or why it was so important that Seo had banged on her front door until she’d woken up.
“I need to invite her to my birthday.” Seo was saying. “It’s the least I can do! She lost her head-cherry for me!”
“What in Fyora’s name is a head-cherry-”
Seo waved the question away. “What it sounds like. It doesn’t matter. I’m going to invite her to my birthday party, and I’m going to get THE most delicious cake, and we’re all gonna have SO much fun-”
“Hang on, is this about Pixie? Are you still not done with this? You made those cookies weeks ago- Seo, I’m sure she’s forgotten about it herself!”
Seo looked injured. “She lost her head-cherry; I’d like to see how quickly you’d forget about that.”
“Once again, what is-”
“This is my last chance, Rosy. You have to come with me and make sure I actually do it. Will you help me?” Seo looked at her with pleading eyes.
Rosy sighed. “You know I will.”
Pixie approached their table, paper to-go cup in hand. “Sorry to keep you waiting! Anything else?”
Seo laughed nervously. “No, I think we’re goo-”
Rosy kicked her under the table.
“Ow! I mean, there is something.”
Pixie whipped out her notepad, and clicked her pen, ready to take another order. “Yes?” Then, she seemed to remember something. “Oh, but before I forget, I’ve been meaning to ask, are you free this Saturday?”
“I wanted to invi- huh? Me? This Saturday? That’s when my- wait, why are you asking?”
Pixie giggled. “I wanted to invite you to my birthday party! You’ve been here so many days these last few weeks, and we’ve talked so much; it’s like we’ve been hanging out. I think it deserves an invite! Rosy, you too, of course!”
Seo tried her best to think of a response, ignoring Rosy dissolving into a fit of giggles beside her.
“This weekend is my birthday too!” she finally managed to get out. “And I wanted to invite you!”
Pixie stared for a second, then started giggling too. Rosy took this as an opportunity to descend into full-blown-guffaws. Seo huffed and poked a straw into her to-go cup.
“Neither of you are getting any of my cake this weekend!”