Alexis’s Half-Baked Idea
CHAPTER 1 Party Planning
No one can drive you as crazy as your sister can—that’s what I always say. Sisters are forever—that’s what my mom always says. Does this mean my sister will be driving me crazy forever?
None of my best friends has a sister. Katie is an only child. Mia was an only child, but when her mom got remarried, she gained a stepbrother. And Emma has three brothers (one of whom is my crush, Matt). So whenever I complain about my older sister, Dylan, my friends all shush me and say how lucky I am to have a sister, and one so talented and cool and stylish and . . . YUCK! Sometimes I think they like her better than they like me.
For example, it’s my birthday tomorrow. My birthday, not Dylan’s. And my friends decided to
plan a party for me, which is supersweet. Only they got Dylan to help them, and then they let her take over, like she always does, and now they’re all “Dylan thinks . . .” and “Dylan loves . . .” and “Dylan said . . .” But what about me, Alexis? What do I think and love and say? Hmmm?
What’s even more annoying is that my friends have been spending more time with Dylan, working on my party, than they have with me. I’ve actually texted them to do stuff, and they’ve said no, they have plans. And the plans are with Dylan, to “work” on the party. But sometimes I think there’s more fun than work going on. I mean, how long can it take to make a playlist and choose a paper tablecloth? I’ve tried chiming in when I can, but they just shush me and say everything’s going to be a “big, juicy, beautiful surprise,” which is a Dylan-sounding phrase if ever I’ve heard one (she talks like a game show host a lot).
They even booted me from our weekly Cupcake Club meeting (we usually baked cupcakes for one of our favorite and longstanding clients, Mona, on Fridays) because they had to plan the cupcakes for my party. They had Dylan go instead of me, saying she would “represent the Beckers.” Do they seriously think Dylan knows more about cupcakes
than I do? I bet she’s just going to blow the party budget on the cupcakes. She’s that carefree type who’d add gold sprinkles and molten marshmallows to a recipe, with total disregard for the cost. I shudder to think of it.
I was frustrated, too, because Dylan has always made it perfectly clear that she has no interest in my “nerdy little Cupcake Club.” But now that she needs my friends’ help with the party and the cupcakes, the Cupcake Club is just fine with her. Wait, I have to stop for a minute here and talk about my party.
Here’s what I know so far: It’s going to be held here, at my house. There will be cupcakes, of course, and music. I know that at least my three besties will be there, and Dylan, of course. I don’t know who else is coming except . . . my crush (and Emma’s big brother) Matt Taylor! I only know he’s coming because he blurted it out to me two weeks ago when I was over at their house for a Friday cupcake meeting. He mentioned that he hoped I’d be serving his favorite cupcake flavor (bacon and salted caramel, of course) at my party, and my face turned five shades of pink while Emma chewed him out for revealing party details.
The truth is, besides my besties, he is the only
guest I really care about. I know he’s not my boyfriend—I’m too young for a boyfriend, according to my mom, which is actually kind of fine—but it’s superfun to like him and chat with him and joke around when we see each other. He’s very cute—tall and sporty with blond hair and twinkly blue eyes—and he’s goal-minded, just like me. He is very involved in sports at school and with his travel teams, and he runs an independent graphic design business on the side, making flyers and posters and stuff for kids and even adult clients. One of the things I really like about him is that we can talk business and really learn from each other and get excited about things other people might not understand, like BOGOs (Buy One, Get One promotions) and CTAs (those are Calls to Action, or what you want your ads to inspire people to do). We geek out on that stuff together, and it’s cool.
Anyway, I am pretty sure he has a crush on me as well. He has given me a hug a couple of times and a kiss on the cheek, and we have danced at parties and exchanged Valentines. I mean, it’s nothing formal and we’re not a couple, but we know each other pretty well now, and we enjoy each other’s company a lot. So as long as he’s at the party, along with my besties, that’s all that matters.
Actually, even though I’m eager to see what Dylan and my friends came up with for my party, my excitement is almost more from a business standpoint. Like, I’m not a real fun party person. I’m all about budget and how to stretch a dollar. I always want to see what people can accomplish within certain restrictions. A big, splashy party filled with random acquaintances isn’t really my idea of a good time. It is Dylan’s idea of a good time, though. I’d rather just chill with my close friends, since, unlike Dylan, I’m not the popular type.
I sighed, hearing peals of laughter coming from the party committee meeting (aka Cupcake Club meeting) downstairs. Well, I’d just have to harness this time to get ahead on my work so I could fully enjoy the day tomorrow, since the party would eat into my usual homework slot.
Plopping down on my desk chair, I opened the heavy black cover of my Franklin Planner to see what was due Monday and also what my long-term projects were for school and for a club I belonged to, the Future Business Leaders of America. Nothing too bad right now, which was good and bad. I do love diving into a meaty project on the weekend, but at the same time I was feeling a little scattered due to my party. So maybe it was better that there
was nothing that required a lot of concentration right now! Next, I scanned our Cupcake Club to-do list to see if I owed proposals to anyone or if I needed to pay any invoices or send bills to clients, but we were in good shape, pretty much thanks to me. Failing to plan is planning to fail—that’s what I always say. I sighed. What else could I organize since I had this window of free time now?
I swiveled my desk chair around and looked at my room. Bed made, desk organized, clothes put away neatly, e-mails all answered . . . Hmm. I thought about my upcoming schedule and decided I’d plan my outfit for the party, right now! That was a good use of my free time.
I went over to my closet and started flipping through the hangers. It wasn’t like I didn’t know what was in there. I don’t like fashion, but I am a stern editor of my clothes. If something doesn’t work, it is out, out, out. First, I offer it to Dylan (she never wants anything of mine); next, I offer it to my friends (Katie sometimes takes stuff; Emma and Mia never do). And if no one close to me wants it, I put it in the donation bag that my mom keeps by our back door. Right now, I didn’t have a ton of dressy clothes, since I am not a superdressy person. I like to look nice, so I won’t wear ripped jeans or
anything, but I am not a girlie-girl dressy person. I have some plain skirts and pants and one or two dressy tops I could add to in order to jazz them up. That is really my style. Also, I hate to shop. Spending money puts me in a bad mood, and unlike Dylan, I hate trying stuff on.
I pulled out a pair of black twill leggings (“jeggings,” Dylan called them when she handed them down to me), a denim miniskirt, and two different tops, and I laid them out on my bed.
One of the tops was pink cotton, sleeveless, and ruffly at the neck. The other top was a sparkly green polka-dotted sweater that my granny gave me for Christmas. I swapped them around so the pink top was over the miniskirt instead of the jeggings.
“There we go!” I smiled. The green sweater and black jeggings were a match: cute and practical. That was easy! I put the pink top and the skirt away, neatly spacing the hangers in the closet for maximum airflow and ease of use, then I hung the party outfit on a hook on the inside of my closet door so it would be ready to go tomorrow.
What now? I went back to my desk. Maybe I’d quiz myself for the Spanish test scheduled for next Friday. Yes, it was a week away, but those flash cards weren’t going to study themselves! Suddenly, there
was a ruckus in the hall, and my friends came bursting into my room all at once, squealing.
“Ooooh, Lexi! Tomorrow’s going to be so fun!” said Emma, flinging herself onto my bed. I winced as the neatly made covers scrunched and bunched under her.
Mia sank gracefully to the floor. “We have our work cut out for us in the morning. Not that it’s going to be work!” she added hurriedly. “We’d do anything for you, Alexis. Plus, Dylan makes it all so fun. . . .”
Katie agreed. “Maybe we should add her to the Cupcake Club as sort of our party planning services person?”
“Aaargh! Enough!” I cried, clapping my hands once, so hard they stung. Everyone looked at me in surprise.
“What’s up, Lex?” asked Emma, bewildered.
My face burned with embarrassment. “I . . . I don’t know how to say this without sounding awful, but . . .”
Katie caught on immediately; she’s the most thoughtful and sensitive of us all. She hopped up and came and put her arm around me. “I get it. You don’t have to say anything. We’re sorry.”
Emma and Mia still looked confused.
I sighed heavily. I was not happy.
“What is it?” asked Mia.
Katie patted my back. “Alexis feels a little left out and”—she glanced at me to see if she was on the right track, and I nodded—“a little bit tired of hearing about Dylan. Amiright?”
I closed my eyes in shame and nodded again. “It’s not that I don’t love her and that I’m not grateful . . . ,” I began in a whisper.
Emma smacked her forehead. “Duh! I’m so sorry. We’ve just been having so much fun with her. I’d forgotten how cool—”
“Shush!” scolded Katie. “This is Alexis’s birthday party, and we are excited to celebrate Alexis tomorrow. Now, Alexis, we came to get you so we could do some of the baking for Mona tomorrow, and then the rest of us are going to move over to my house and make the party cupcakes for tomorrow.”
“Which are top secret!” cried Mia.
“But you’re gonna love them!” added Emma.
“So let’s head on down and do what we do best, okay, girls?” Katie finished.
I am not superhuggy, but I reached over and gave Katie a squeeze with my arm looped around her shoulders. “Thanks, pal,” I whispered, and she squeezed back.
Downstairs, Dylan was nowhere to be seen, thankfully. The four of us Cupcakers fell into our weekly rhythm of preheating, measuring, stirring, and more as we baked for our main client, Mona, who owned The Special Day bridal shop. Other than the fact that the measuring cups at my house stink (they’re all dented and old so they’re not very accurate), we were jamming along. I love it when we’re in our groove—it makes me so happy that we are a well-oiled machine—and we chat easily about work and life while we bake. This week, Emma was telling us her plans for the upcoming school talent show. She’s an amazing flute player and was trying to decide if she’d play a difficult solo piece she’s been practicing for weeks or an easier duet with her teacher on the piano. I, of course, want to know if there will be refreshments at the talent show, and if so, who I can contact to see if they’d like to order some cupcakes!
“I’ll find out,” offered Emma. “Then I’ll put you in touch.”
While we were discussing the talent show, my mom came home from work.
“Hi, girlie-os!” she said cheerfully, albeit a little distracted. She lowered her briefcase to the kitchen floor while reading something on her phone.
“Hi, Mrs. Becker!” my friends called.
“Oh, too bad!” said my mom, reacting to whatever she just read. She looked up and found my eyes. “Granny and Granddad won’t be able to make it to your party tomorrow after all. They send you all their love, but they couldn’t make their timetable work if they set out in this direction first.”
“Oh, that’s okay,” I said. “We did just see them and say good-bye to them.” My dad’s parents had been working toward their life’s dream over the past year. They’d sold their house and gotten rid of most of their possessions. Tomorrow, the movers will put the rest of their stuff in storage, and then my grandparents will be hitting the road in a tricked-out RV to tour the United States, visiting their children, grandchildren, and old friends all across the country. We went to a big going-away party for them last weekend, and they were so excited. It was cute.
“Granny said they send you their happiest birthday wishes, plus a big squeeze,” added my mom, smiling at me.
I smiled back. “Thanks.”
We finished making Mona’s cupcakes (my favorite: vanilla mini cupcakes with vanilla frosting, as usual, because everything in her shop is white!), and my friends got ready to go to Katie’s for baking
session number two. I felt a little left out, but suddenly, Dylan appeared on the scene and swooped me upstairs for some pre-party beauty treatments: a hair mask and face mask. It was perfect timing—it made me a tiny bit less sad to see my friends all leave together, and also a little less annoyed with Dylan for the moment. Even though, as they left, my friends sighed and said, “Oh, Dylan. You’re the best big sister a girl could ever have!” and other junk like that.
I just did what my mom always tells me to do when little things are bothering me: I acted like a duck and let it roll off my back.