The final prompt, requested by unboundscribe! Sorry it took so long. I made a false start that would’ve turned this from a flashfic to a short story. I liked the idea, but it defeated the purpose of these prompts, which was to to practice writing short.
The prompt is Cinderella/birthday cake. And since the Happy Birthday song is no longer under copyright, I took great glee in including a lyric or two. 😉
Home Before Midnight
After her stepmother and stepsisters left for the ball, Ella disappeared into the kitchen in a flurry of ingredients and a clatter of pans.
Her first cake fell flat.
Her second fell to pieces when she tried to take it out of the pan.
Ella glared at the recipe as if it had personally betrayed her.
Then she rolled up her sleeves with floury hands. Her face set in an expression of determination her family would’ve instantly recognized—and realized they could do nothing but stay out of her way.
Right, then. Third time’s the charm.
Ella was elbow-deep in batter when her fairy godmother appeared in a shower of confetti. “Mind you don’t get any in my cake!” she warned.
“Ella, dear!” Her fairy godmother looked on disapprovingly. “You should be at the ball! Get out of the apron and I’ll change you into something suitable.”
“Not now.” Ella gave a final stir, then licked batter off her mixing spoon. “Delicious!”
“You’ll get sick doing that.” On that dire note, her fairy godmother disappeared in a puff of blue smoke and silver tinsel.
Ella shoved the cake into the oven. “Wake up!” she called to the dozing hearth salamanders. She shoveled food into their open mouths. Soon they were glowing red and contentedly humming.
Ella mixed frosting and sliced strawberries, one eye on the clock. Just after eleven.
There’s still time.
The cake came out of the pan perfectly. Ella flapped her apron above it. She didn’t know if it would help it cool faster or not, but she couldn’t sit still.
At quarter to midnight, Ella slathered the cake with frosting. Her ears strained for the rumble of carriage wheels.
Where are you? Time’s almost up.
At ten till, Ella arranged berries on the cake. Hooves clopped outside, John Coachman called to the horses.
Nearly there. The front door opened and footsteps pattered in the front hall. Ella stuck candles on the cake in a lamentably haphazard fashion. She held a taper for the salamanders, then lit the candles. Her stepsisters’ voices drifted into the kitchen, urging their mother to rest in her sitting room a minute.
Ella lifted the cake and carefully made her way through the corridors. The sitting room door opened before her; Anne winked and stood aside.
Ella entered the sitting room, singing behind a blaze of candles. Anne and Margaret joined in. “Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday, dear Mama…”
Her stepmother opened her eyes and sat straight and astonished in her chair. She looked at the grinning Ella. “I thought you had the headache and that’s why you couldn’t go to the ball! And Anne, weren’t you feeling faint? You insisted we come home right away.”
There was a babble of girlish voices.
“For shame, Mama! You think we’d forget your birthday?”
“The cat got into the cake we ordered from town earlier.”
“You were so worried about getting us dressed for the ball, we couldn’t sneak into the kitchen at all this afternoon…”
“…so Ella volunteered to stay home and make a cake…”
“But what about the Prince?” Mama asked Ella, genuinely distressed.
“It’s not like I won’t see him every day when we’re married, Mama.” Ella placed the cake in front of her stepmother. “But this is your last birthday we celebrate while I still live in this house.” As Mama’s eyes misted, she added, “For all two minutes that are left of it! Make a wish and blow out the candles!”
With a little laugh, surrounded by the vivacious faces of her three daughters, Ella’s stepmother did so.
Hope you enjoyed this and the other prompt-based stories. I had a lot of fun writing them and many thanks to all who participated.
And now for something a little different. I love writing stories just to share with you all. A rough count shows that I blogged 13 of them in 2015, comfortably meeting my one a month goal. For those of you who’d like to support my short fiction efforts, I’m including a Buy Me Chocolate button below. Because, yanno, chocolate leads to good things (and I don’t drink coffee).
Here’s to more short shorts in 2016!
Tip the Writer
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