Emma: Lights! Camera! Cupcakes!
CHAPTER 1 The Topic of the Town
I love Fridays! Almost every Friday, my three best friends—Alexis, Mia, and Katie—and I have an official meeting and baking session for our Cupcake Club. Each week we try rotate where it takes place, so that makes it a little more interesting, and a lot of times we stretch it out into a sleepover too. It’s just fun and kind of relaxing to know I don’t have to worry about Friday plans. I’m always guaranteed to be chilling with my BFFs! It’s also pretty cool to have something to look forward to all week.
Some weeks we have very little business to cover, but this week we had a lot! Alexis ran the meeting as usual.
“First on the agenda is a cupcake competition–birthday party for Isabel Gormley in two weeks.
She’d like two dozen unfrosted cupcakes; a mix of vanilla and chocolate—so half are chocolate cake and the other half are yellow cake. Then we’ll send the frosting on the side, vanilla and chocolate. They are going to have a contest so all the kids can ice and decorate the cupcakes themselves.”
“That is so cute!” cried Mia, lounging on my TV room sofa. “Wouldn’t she maybe like some fondant roses on a sheet? Or containers of toppings?”
It’s become almost boring for us to make basic cupcakes; we do it so rarely. We’ve made so many over-the-top cupcake designs in our day. Mia is very creative idea-wise, and Katie is great at execution. Alexis makes sure we charge properly for them. I’m good at promoting and networking to get us jobs.
“Actually, it would be cool to create a cupcake competition kit for parties. Maybe we could advertise that on our website!” I said.
Alexis tapped her pen with her teeth. “I agree. If we could get the pricing right, it might be worth offering it for a limited time to see how it does.” She made some notes in her book. She’s very strategic with how we spend our money, which is a good thing.
“Should we tint the vanilla frosting at least?”
suggested Katie. “We can give them different colors, like pink or purple . . .?”
Alexis made some notes in her book. “I’ll e-mail Mrs. Gormley and ask her, and also I’ll see if she wants us to create the kit for them. The Gormleys are good clients. She’ll probably be up for it.”
I nodded. “What else is in the lineup?”
“We have the PTA meeting coming up, so let’s do a complimentary order with fliers or little cards with our contact info to hand out. Maybe two dozen minis, since the parents don’t eat much. Then”—Alexis consulted her notes—“we have a retirement party for Emma’s mom’s friend at work, another librarian. They’d like us to do something pretty. . . . There are your fondant roses, Mia! And that about wraps it up. Anything else?”
Katie nodded and held up a sheet of paper torn from a magazine. “I want to try this new pink-lemonade frosting. It’s supposed to be delicious, and it might be cute for a light, floral spring cupcake.”
Alexis noted it, and we all agreed. Then there was a pause, and Mia looked up with a devilish grin. “Can we just gossip now for a minute about the number-one topic in town?”
Alexis groaned and put her hands over her eyes. “When will it end?” she cried.
Katie and I grinned at each other. “Do you have a new scoop?” I asked Mia.
“No! I thought you might, of all people, since you’re so buddy-buddy with Romaine!”
The topic of the town was that Romaine Ford, our one and only homegrown superstar—model turned actress, singer, Oscar winner, and more—is premiering her new movie right here in Maple Grove in just a week! Already shopkeepers are offering premiere promotions and decorating their store windows like it’s the Academy Awards. It’s sort of annoying because everyone acts like they’re Romaine Ford’s best friend, or like she shops at their stores all the time, which they aren’t and she doesn’t. Even the local paper has been going around and interviewing people about her, who I’m sure don’t even know her, which drives me nuts.
I, on the other hand, do know Romaine Ford.
I don’t know her well, but we are almost what you might call friends. It’s kind of a long story, but I met her when I was modeling bridesmaid dresses at the store where she bought her wedding gown. Then my friends and I made cupcakes for her wedding shower, and she came to my talent show at camp. That was a pretty big deal. We haven’t stayed in touch or anything, but
I know if we were walking past each other on the street and I said, “Hi, Romaine!” she’d say, “Hi, Emma!” back.
I’m sure I will have more information tomorrow since I’m working at The Special Day bridal salon, which I do every other weekend, modeling dresses and helping out. Tomorrow she’ll be coming in for a dress fitting with her bridesmaids, and I’ll be delivering the salon’s weekly cupcake order and staying on to help Mona, the owner of the store. The only thing is, as an employee, I’m always sworn to secrecy about brides (especially Romaine!) and their details. This can be frustrating and hard, since I’m so used to telling my friends everything. It’s just that I’m so dying to tell them I’m seeing Romaine tomorrow that I might burst! I looked down at my nails. If Alexis were to look at my face, she’d totally know I was hiding something.
Since our Cupcake business meeting was finished for the day, we moved into the kitchen to start baking, and our conversation continued as we ran down all the things we knew about Romaine Ford’s new movie. It’s a love story, set in the past, with a lot of other famous stars, all of whom are coming to the red carpet premiere at the theater where my friends and I usually hang out! It’s so
insane! It’s like a dream to think these actors and actresses will be here, maybe even sitting in my usual favorite seat; seventh row from the front, second seat in on the left. There will be tons of press and other Hollywood bigwigs there, plus of course Romaine Ford’s handsome fiancé, the gorgeous Liam Carey, an actor and director who does all sorts of volunteer work in Africa in his spare time.
“We should try to go and watch them on the red carpet!” suggested Katie, the most starstruck of us all.
“Yes!” agreed Mia. “And we can get dressed up!”
We all laughed since Mia the fashionista will look for any excuse to get decked out.
“I can wear my dress from Dylan’s sweet sixteen,” said Alexis decisively, and we all laughed again since Alexis is usually so reluctant to get dressed up.
“Okay, let’s focus on work for a minute,” I said. I couldn’t keep talking about Romaine Ford and not spill the beans. “We need to make five dozen mini cupcakes for Mona—she wants half of the vanilla-vanilla combo and half cinnamon bun with cream cheese frosting for tomorrow morning. And that’s it, right?”
“Yes, but do you guys mind if I make this pink-lemonade frosting right now on the side? Maybe
make an extra half dozen cupcakes and we can sample it?” asked Katie.
“Yum! Sample what?” said my oldest brother, Sam, walking into the kitchen from the mudroom.
“Sam!” cried my friends, which was both heartwarming and annoying. I have two older brothers, Sam and Matt, and one younger one, Jake, and they are all pretty irritating to me (Sam the least, actually), but my friends adore them. Mia and Katie baby Jake, Alexis is practically dating Matt, who’s a year older than us, and Mia and Katie both have massive crushes on Sam (who I do have to admit is good-looking).
“Sample nothing, mister!” I scolded.
“Emma!” chided Mia.
“My brand-new pink-lemonade frosting. I don’t care what Emma says—you’re our official tester,” declared Katie.
“No way!” I protested. “These guys will eat anything. Just slather some frosting on an old shoe, and Sam and the other guys will wolf it down and say it’s delicious. They’re totally indiscriminating!”
Sam came over and gave me a noogie while I shrieked. Then Matt came in with Jake, and suddenly it seemed there were boys everywhere, peering into bowls and sniffing the air.
“Out!” I commanded. “It’s my kitchen time! We’ll call you back if there’s something to sample, okay? You’re like a pack of wild hounds.”
Jake and Matt howled and woofed like wild hounds, but they all finally left, with my friends in varying degrees of the giggles. It was very quiet once the boys were gone, at least in the kitchen, but I could still hear them horsing around in the den. We worked in silence for a minute, and then the conversation turned, of course, back to Romaine.
“When is she getting married?” asked Katie.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I would figure it’s probably within the next month or two; it was a while ago that she ordered the dress.” And since she’s coming in for her fitting tomorrow, I added silently. The fitting is when they hem and alter the dress so it fits perfectly. Most brides have a few fittings close to the wedding day to make sure the dress is just right. Some are really picky and have, like, five or six, but most have around three. I knew Romaine was only having two fittings due to her schedule, so her wedding must be soon.
I kind of felt bad for Romaine. Most brides came in for their fittings with some friends and family, and it was always like a little party. Mona
was coordinating how to sneak Romaine into the store so no one would try to take pictures or bother her. Trying to keep quiet like this makes me realize how hard it must be to be famous, with so many people caring about your every move. Imagine if someone was taking a picture of you every time you went to the supermarket or out to eat. I know they pay stars a lot, but really, they are never actually off duty. Work is full time and for life, if they do it well.
We finished up our baking duties, and Katie’s pink-lemonade frosting turned out really well. It was a pretty, pale pink color and tasted exactly like lemonade.
“Come and get it, troops!” Katie hollered out the kitchen door, and then there was a stampede. The girls and I stood back while my brothers gorged themselves on the extra cupcakes with either lemonade or vanilla frosting.
I rolled my eyes. “Are they good?” I asked loudly.
“Umm-hmmm.” Matt nodded emphatically.
“Yesss!” said Jake as crumbs tumbled out of his mouth.
“The vanilla are delicious. A little plain. The lemonade . . .,” said Sam.
Uh-oh. He won’t really say something mean about
Katie’s new frosting, will he? I worried, but I didn’t need to. Good old Sammy.
“The lemonade ones are insane!”
Katie beamed like she was being photographed at a movie premiere. “Thanks!” she said happily.
I bit my tongue to keep from saying anything again about Sam not being very picky. I wanted Katie to enjoy the compliment.
“Any more?” asked Matt after eating two. He looked all around the counter to see if we were hiding some.
“That’s it, mister. You can’t eat up all our profits!” teased Alexis.
“I’ll pay!” said Matt, reaching into his pocket.
“Oh please. Like you can afford our cupcakes!” said Alexis, swatting him with a dish towel.
“Well, maybe if you didn’t charge one hundred dollars per cupcake,” teased Matt. They were both laughing and looking at each other all googly-eyed, and I wanted to barf so I had to turn away. Sometimes it’s superfun and convenient to have your best friend like your brother, and other times it’s superannoying.
For example, later that night, all the Cupcakers went to my room to change into our pj’s before we watched a movie downstairs. But this time Alexis
refused to change into her pj’s. I thought it was odd, but then I got it. She didn’t want to wear her pj’s in front of Matt.
It’s just little stuff like that that adds up. I’d never say anything to Alexis though because then she would be sorry but also a little mad, and I wouldn’t want to start all that up. I had enough trouble with trying to keep my bridal salon work a secret from my friends, never mind alienating them officially.
Sometimes it’s so complicated just being me that I can’t imagine how Romaine Ford is her.