"Argh! Why does this look funny?" I complain while grabbing a fork from the nearby table. I poke the measly-looking, burnt-on-the-top [...or is it bottom?], half-hanging thing, which is supposed to be an upside-down chocolate cake.
"I've put everything a cake needs to taste like, even adding my favorite flavor. I've even let it stay in the oven for a few minutes just in case something isn't ready yet. What did I do wrong? Have I forgotten something?" I clench the fork and then... ahem ...uh stabbing the cake.
"I think you haven't been following the instructions clearly, Shishido-san" Choutarou comments carefully as he pries the fork from my fingers; he's probably afraid that I would do something nasty with that thing.
I glare at the cake. All its fault. Or rather...
A sense of loss interrupts my disappointment temporarily; not good enough. And then before you know it, I've dumped my fifth cake in the nearby waste-basket. 'kaa-san is going to freak out if she finds out I've been messing around in her kitchen.
"We shouldn't be wasting so much cake like that, Shishido-san"
For some reason [I think it's because this IS cooking we're talking about] I have decided to stop making the cake. I slump in my stool near the kitchen counter as Choutarou takes his place across mine.
"Why are we doing this again, Choutarou? My arms are numbed from all that careful measuring and mixing" I look up at my doubles partner. Choutarou smiles and patiently tells me the reason all over again in that oh-so-patient voice of his.
A week ago Choutarou has come up with the idea of surprising someone, Jirou in particular, because tomorrow's his birthday. Leave it to Choutarou to remember our birthdays and make them special occasions. But that's not the point!
The point is, he's somehow persuaded me to bake the cake for Jirou's birthday; actually it's supposed to be an extra cake for who-knows-what reason. And I end up making the cake look all funny or worse, taste funny.
The first one had been a complete disaster, a humiliation; a supposed-to-be cake's been black and -hard- as soon as I've taken it out of the oven. Choutarou has wanted to help me on my 2nd attempt. But I refuse. I refuse to be defeated just because my first cake was not okay. Choutarou has smiled with that proud [or some sort] look on his face and he's decided to watch from the sidelines just in case.
However, the second cake hasn't been good enough. Instead of adding the mixing with some sweeteners... I ended up having used... salt instead. The third one has looked way too wobbly [almost like a jell-o desert] I've added too much water. I wouldn't be surprised if I've somehow knocked down some jell-o powder into the mixing by accident.
My fourth one has actually looked a bit more decent compared with the previous ones. The cake stood all right, didn't contain any salt or too much water [or even jell-o powder] and it's half-burned on the bottom [which is an improvement]. The only problem was, it couldn't be an upside-down chocolate cake without breaking into layers of cake once it's on a plate.
I sigh, staring at Choutarou's laced fingers on the table; such fine hands...
So why didn't Choutarou bake the extra cake? Because he's already baked six for the birthday boy [and they all look good too!]. So as his sempai I cannot allow him to make some extras. He's just too nice to notice that it's weird to make cake so many cake for someone's birthday. Man, I didn't know Jirou eats that much! Perhaps it's because he sleeps all the time that he even skips dinner time.
"Shishido-san, I want to h-"
I immediately hold up my hand to interrupt him. "No. I've to do this on my own, Choutarou. I have to. I swear on my hair I'll have it done perfectly with cherries on top... or rather on the bottom" I clench my hand into a fist to emphasize that I'm being serious, that I will make the best cake!
Choutarou gives me a pleading look -I will not yield-, and we've started a staring contest. I will not yield to Choutarou's kind eyes. Will not, will not, will not, will not, will never -
Choutarou sighs and drops his eyes. He gives me a rueful smile. "Let me give you the proper instructions, Shishido-san"
"I thought I'm supposed to be baking the extras"
"Shishido-san, giving you instructions doesn't mean the same as baking the actual cake" Choutarou gives me an amused look.
"Choutarou..." I don't know what I'm supposed to say. Any other day I would have insulted anyone who gives me that look. But I'm talking about Choutarou here; he's not just anyone!
"Fine! Just-" I pause; what's the right word here?
Shit! What am I supposed to say again?
"Just don't go too fast" I continue lamely, letting out a sigh myself.
Choutarou gives me another amused look. "Let's begin with the basic ingredients!"
I push myself from the stool and gather the basic ingredients all over again.
* * * * * * * * * *
I fidget with the end of my shirt as I look up at my doubles partner. Choutarou looks back at me. It's rare to see him so serious with knitted eyebrows, worry lines on his forehead and a grim smile. We're actually waiting a bit for the cake to be taken out of the oven. And Choutarou would be the one to judge it...
"Let's see if it's okay" he says at last and breaks eye-contact.
Sliding his nice hands into a pair of my cat mittens [don't ask. 'kaa-san thought it looked cute on me. Bleh!], Choutarou goes on his haunches and opens the oven to see my results. He carefully takes my cake out and put it on the kitchen table. I quickly hold out a plate for him. "Thanks"
Choutarou lays the plate on top of my cake and carefully flips the cake's position from the cake pan onto the plate. Voila! the upside-down cake! It has a pretty, rich brown bottom layer. Thank goodness! I let out a small sigh of relief - at least it didn't break into pieces suddenly.
Wait! I forgot something!
"W-wait! I forgot to-" I grab Choutarou's back of his shirt to stop him.
"Shishido-san?" he gives me a confused look.
"I forgot something!"
I quickly scan the room, searching for something- Where is it?
Where is it?
While rummaging through 'kaa-san frozen ingredients in the refrigerator, I can feel Choutarou giving me one of those looks -confusing looks-
I pull out a small plastic basket, grinning. After having opened the lid, I carefully pick out two pretty, red cherries.
"I forgot to put these"
Choutarou's eyes widen in disbelief and bewilderment. Then they crinkle up as he smiles.
A few minutes later...
"And? Is there something wrong with it?" I pull on Choutarou's short sleeve uncharacteristically, while feeling a bit uneasy, after a piece of cake has disappeared into his mouth.
Is the cake okay? Did I add too much water again? did I use salt again? Did I mix it perfectly? Did I [gasp] even poisoned it? Heck! Now I'm sounding like Choutarou.
Choutarou looks thoughtful as if trying to decided whether the cake really tastes like it should be.
"Tell me, Choutarou! Did I do something wrong with it? Does it taste bad? I know I should have mixed it vigorously - Choutarou?" I burst out. My patience starts thinning as I feel the anticipation crawling up to my spine [What the hell did I mean by that anyways? I don't know]. Geh! Since when have I become this fidgety?
"Shishido-san..." Choutarou looks down at me with those kind eyes again and smiles. "It's perfect"
* * * * * * * * * *
In the end I've found out the cakes aren't for Jirou, just because his birthday's today. His birthday is NOT today. It's no one's birthday! The cakes are for that Rikkai student... Marui something. Jirou's regards.
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