“Love love, made with love~” Laska hummed to herself in a lilting, sing-song tone that’d make anyone who happened to overhear cringe from the overwhelming sweetness.
With a far too girlish giggle she paused to admire her handiwork, then picking up the cutting board she slid the heap of freshly-diced potatoes into the bubbling broth. Really, a half dozen was too much for the two of them, but she was determined to stick to Lydia’s recipe to the letter. It’d been so amazing when she tried it, Laska dared not venture from it at all. Well, except one ingredient she’d add later. A special touch that she was certain he’d like, and something to make her stew unique.
Next up, the beef. A little part of her wanted to gnaw on the raw slab, and another wanted nothing to do with the meat. Resisting both urges, she flopped the meat from the butcher paper onto her cutting board. And then she stared at it with knife in paw.
Wait, how was she supposed to cut it? With the grain? Against? Across? She frowned at scratched at her cheek. Then frowned deeper as she felt the meat juice from her gloved paw smear against her cheek.
Cooking is a little gross.
After cleaning her face off with the end of her apron, she resumed her very hard stare at the meat, as if divining its secrets. She could, of course, simply look it up on the internet, but this was a matter of principal. These were things she had to know!
Did it matter?
Lydia said it did. Something about how the edges of the cubes would cook better if they were properly cut. It sounded like one of those bullshit things people just did because that’s how they were taught, but cooking did have a rather surprising amount of science involved. To think, most of it was learned through trial and error. How did someone discover that mixing eggs and flour and milk and sugar and butter made those delectable morsels called cookies? Moreover, who thought to churn a bunch of milk until it became butter? Seemed far too strange to happen by accident, and yet people did it without know how or why…
Laska shook her head. Getting a little off track. Focus on the task at hand. Meat. She quirked and eyebrow and a smile blossomed on her face as she thought about another kind of meat.
Ah! No, no, that’s even worse.
Wait, that was it, wasn’t it? Across the grain. That was supposed to make it the most tender. Combined with a nice long slow cook, the beef would just melt in your mouth. At least, it’d done that when Lydia made it.
Carefully directing her blade, Laska made quick work of the slab and transformed it into dozens of bite-size cubes. Rather pleased with how quickly she’d sped through the hunk, Laska flourished the knife in her paw. Attempted to flourish, anyways. Instead she succeeded in spinning it halfway around one of her furry fingers, fumbling it, and then dropping it. With a thunk it landed point-first into the soft linoleum, inches from her foot.
She stared down and grimaced, clenching her teeth. A trip to the ER was the sort of damper she wished to avoid. Maybe he wouldn’t notice the small hole in the floor. Quickly washing up the evidence and the knife, she slid the meat into the burgeoning pot.
The brown broth bubbled slowly, bringing carrots and green beans and potatoes to the surface – and now the hunks of meat. She was still unsure of leaving the meat unseasoned, but Lydia’d assured her that the beef would pick up the flavor from the broth. She’d even witnessed it first-hand. Just one of those things that she was used to seeing.
With most of the hard work done, Laska took a step back and admired her handiwork, paws on hips. It was then she realized that there was still much to be done. While the pot may have been bubbling happily along, she’d still need to scoop out her dumpling mixture to make those – but that’d wait until a few minutes before he got home – and mix together everything for the cake.
For the time being, she could focus on the other tasks at hand. Flitting up to her room, she grabbed the few items she’d borrowed from Lydia, and a few she had to buy on her own. It may not have been his birthday, but it was a special day nonetheless. Laska giggled girlishly as she made her way back down, full of thoughts of his reaction.
In the dining room, she enacted the second part of her plan. First she laid a satin black tablecloth across the table, tilting it this way and that until it was perfect. She’d seen in restaurants that they had the corners of the cloth hang down across the straight parts of the tables, so that must mean it’s the fancy way to do things.
Next, the candle sticks. They’d be best on one side of the table, she nodded to herself, tapping them an inch at a time until they looked just right. The bright silver matched the black rather well. Though the dining room itself wasn’t exactly the best setting. With some dimmer lighting the blinding white of the walls and floor might not be too bad. She hoped, anyways.
Cloth napkins, folded in a particularly frustrating way. Fifteen minutes was, by most accounts, far too long to spend on such a trivial detail, Laska found it absolutely imperative it be done properly.
Next, the placements. The good silverware and china was kept up in a lonely cabinet, necessitating Laska climb up onto the kitchen counter to get at. Inside, layered in as much dust as everything else – save for one set of previous pawprints left during an exploratory run – were her prizes. Fine white porcelain bowls and a box of silverware.
Two bowls came out easily enough, clacking as she set them down on the counter next to her.
The box, however, fought back. A little gust of wind from her paws clamping around it kicked up a bit of dust, making her delicate nose twitch and squirm. She bit her lip and rushed to pull it out before disaster struck, but she only succeeded in making the minor billow of dust into a raging storm and angered dozens of dust bunnies, all of which unleashed an assault on the defenseless Cheshire.
Laska sneezed and lurched, her feet shifting and sliding on the slick counter surface. Until they slipped too far and found nothing but air to push off against. A yelp escaped her throat as she twisted backwards, box still in hand.
But practice and instinct took hold, and for a brief moment she vanished from the world only to reappear a short distance away with enough upward momentum to let her correct her perilous position and drop down safely and softly onto her feet with her apron fluttering down.
Like a ninja!
Laska smirked and struck a pose, holding the box in her outstretched palm.
How come no one is around when cool shit happens?
With a sad sigh, she finished the placements. Everything was just right. Well, almost everything. The tacky chairs didn’t suit anything, but she didn’t really have any choice. They’d have to do.
With nothing left to do for a short while, she went back up to her room and plopped down on her bed. Which promptly triggered her imagination to run wild. She rolled across her bed from end to the other, giggling madly and chewing her lip.
We can’t~ That’s forbidden love!
Oh, but if you insist on giving me a reward…!
She blushed besides herself and buried her face in the pillows. Maybe one day. Maybe tonight?
Laska peeked up from her pillows at her clock. If she didn’t distract herself in a hurry, she was going to lose a rather significant amount of time. Being by herself in her room with no one else in the house wasn’t the best idea.
Hurrying back downstairs she busied herself with preparing the cake. Really, she didn’t need to for at least another half hour, but then again putting things off never worked well.
Mixing all the ingredients, careful to avoid getting any of her fluff in the batter, she paused to consider what she was making. Staring into the white mixture, she started giggling.
Would this be cat batter?
Oh, speaking of batter, there was another name that brought a red hue to her cheeks.
Deep breaths. Slow down, calm down.
Whisking the batter with explosive force she beat the lumps out in no time at all while pacing around the kitchen holding the bowl and giggling non-stop like a madman. Mad woman. Mad catwoman. By the time she was done, she was too far gone, licking her lips as she poured the cake-to-be into the heart-shaped pan while imaging herself getting covered.
Time to mix up the frosting. Frosting for her buns.
Earlier in the day she’d thought about asking Zoe to help her out, and now she was so very glad she hadn’t. While her friend knew, she’d still die of embarrassment – especially because the wolf had a side to her that she kept well-hidden from everyone but Laska. If only her parents knew… Hell, if anyone knew!
Smacking her cheeks and massaging her temples, she knew she wasn’t going to last at this rate. Everything’d gotten so difficult to deal with lately. It was never this bad before, and it’d come down on her so fast. Just within the last few months she got this bad. A test of will, or something like it. That’s what she kept telling herself.
A test of will for what? Avoiding killing that Anubislut?
Laska shook her head. No, she mustn’t think like that. But she did. She was a thief! But she hadn’t stolen anything. But she did! But he didn’t know, because she didn’t say anything. So was it really theft?
Now her forehead rolled across the counter. Love was so confusing, so hard.
She giggled again and eyed the rolling pin laying in the drawer. No! Not now!
It was a strain of never-evening innuendo through her young teenage mind as she completed the frosting mixture, and doubly so as she spread the white frosting across the cake. At least accenting it with little hearts and red icing provided little opportunity for her imagination to craft some lewd scenarios.
Also served to eat up a lot of time.
Not much longer now.
She double checked that the table was ready. It was. Everything was clean and neat. All that was left were the dumplings. And that one other thing.
Staring down into the bubbling pot, she looked around, even though she knew she was obviously alone. Knife in paw, she made a little cut at the tip of her finger. One little drop formed, then disappeared. Laska smiled. No one would ever know, save for her.
The dumpling mixture went on after, and in just scant minutes…
The front door creaked. Oh, he was early. Too early. Damn it, Lydia knew how long she was supposed to keep him. Laska scowled, only to catch herself. Lydia was the one who taught her how to cook this and gave her the opportunity. Why did she suddenly think so… poorly of her?
Still with her paw-print patterned apron on, Laska practically skipped to the front door. At least he was back. His face brightened her day more than anyone could ever know.