In Bake, Kelly and Prity, two middle-school teachers, prepare for the final day of school by making cupcakes in Prity’s kitchen. As the two young women crack eggs, mix batter, and spread icing, Kelly tries to hide the crush she has on her co-worker.
About the Author
Anastasia Jill is a queer poet, fiction writer, and aspiring filmmaker. Her work has been published or is upcoming with Poets.org, Lunch Ticket, FIVE:2:ONE, Into the Void Magazine, and many other literary journals.
Bake by Anastasia Jill
In the kitchen, the two teachers made cupcakes for the last day of school. They decorated some with numbers and pretty symbols, others with rainbows, multi-colored hearts, or gleaming stars. Kelly’s were flat and lanky, like snaggle teeth rising out of the baking pan, but Prity’s were perfect, brown and fluffy, like her cheeks and lips.
Kelly scolded herself. They were friends. Coworkers. That was all it was and all it could ever be.
Prity stood close to her, and the smell of jasmine and chai tea floated like glitter around the air.
“Those are lovely,” Prity said.
“Oh, please,” Kelly scoffed, “don’t flatter me. They look awful.”
Prity broke a piece off the corner and laid it on her tongue. She chewed and swallowed, a grin growing on her face. “Don’t say such things. They’re really great and . . . beautiful.”
She did that, Kelly noticed, said everything was beautiful: cupcakes, student drawings, flowers, a game of Jenga, a tattered paperback, anything in this awful garbage heap of a state—Florida. If an orphaned noun needed a modifier, Prity would adorn it with beautiful. The English teacher in Kelly loathed the demonstrative word, but the part of her that had a big crush found it positively endearing.
Kelly’s black tie dipped into her batter bowl and came out blotched with bits of egg and sugar. Her hands were caked in batter, and she hoped Prity wouldn’t notice, but her fellow teacher broke into a giggle.
“Why didn’t you change into something more casual?” Prity asked.
“I don’t know.”
“You always dress so formal for someone teaching seventh graders about The Outsiders.”
It was true. Kelly strove for the professional look every day with her pantsuit, belt, and tie, all of which complemented her big, olive eyes. She wore her short hair styled with a headband, the most casual part of her outfit. The headband had been a secret-Santa gift from Prity back in December. It wasn’t Kelly’s style—black with pink rhinestones that clashed with the rest of her outfit—but she wore the headband anyway. It was her favorite accessory.
Back in the moment, Kelly said, “I prefer the term put-together.”
Prity shook her head, and Kelly stood there feeling unwashed and unwanted. No matter what the circumstance, Kelly was never beautiful. Prity never used that word to describe her co-worker and friend. No, Kelly knew she was clumsy and pidgeon-like, with no chance of becoming more than friends with Prity.
Wiping her hands on a dishrag, Kelly considered trying to fix the tie before ultimately deciding to take it off. She undid the first two buttons of her shirt and rolled her sleeves to her elbows. The pair soon found a rhythm for preparing the cupcake mix.
“Are you having fun yet?” Prity asked.
“Oh, yeah,” Kelly gruffly replied. “Baking is my passion.”
“Well, I like it. I do it every year because it’s a nice break from geometry. Bringing something to fruition. We’re creating life from scraps. Isn’t that great?”
“If you think of cupcakes as life, we need to have a discussion about your priorities.”
“Technically,” Prity said, “Eggs are a form of life.”
Kelly cracked one on the side of a bowl. “Not anymore.”
Prity responded by throwing flour in Kelly’s face. The particles stuck to the end of her nose, sprinkled down her chin and onto her cleavage. Not usually one for petty behavior, Kelly made an allowance by daubing frosting on Prity’s nose. Prity grew cross-eyed looking at the pink goo, and then she snorted and laughed until Kelly followed suit.
“Your laugh,” Kelly said. “It’s adorable.”
Prity’s light skin gave way to a bright blush. Kelly looked away, shocked that she had boldly complimented Prity. Kelly tried to hide her feelings like a woman drunk on wine trying to act straight. The two resumed their work, but without the rhythm they had before.
They shifted from stirring batter to pouring it into pans. So far, they’d only made thirty cupcakes, and they needed a hundred between them.
Why had she flirted with Prity? It was pointless. There was a job to be done, and Prity took the baking seriously. When the batter was poured, Kelly placed the pans into the oven to bake. The sweet aroma was stronger than Prity’s perfume but not as distracting.
“Okay,” Kelly said. “What now?”
“We make more,” Prity said. She cracked two eggs in a bowl and whisked them in a frenzy.
Of course, thought Kelly, more cupcakes. No time for sapphic dreams.
Prity ran a hand down her satin skirt and cleared her throat. Her next words were cautious, reserved. “Did you hear that some of the eight graders want to start a Gay-Straight Alliance?”
Kelly choked on her own voice. “N-no, I haven’t.” But that was a lie. Not only had she heard about it, Kelly was also to be the faculty sponsor. They had kept the club concept under wraps for fear of being shut down before they had begun. Florida was progressive, but it was still the south, and many parents had strong opinions on the matter. Kelly wasn’t even sure how Prity felt about gay people. The subject hadn’t come up, or rather, Prity had avoided the topic. Kelly had tried to gently explore Prity’s feelings for two years without success, which was a sure sign that Kelly’s dreams would inevitability end in disappointment.
Kelly approached the topic again casually, though her insides were churning. “What do you think about it? You know, having a club like that?”
Prity’s eyes stayed tense. “I don’t know. What do you think?”
They went back and forth with similar questions, circling, both of them afraid, and excited.
And then Kelly broke down. “I think it’s a great thing,” she said, flustered. “You know, progress, equality, and all that.” She rambled on uncharacteristically about gay rights and ignorant faculty.
And then Prity placed her cakey hand on Kelly’s arm and said, “Relax, please. I think it’s beautiful.”
Kelly let out a long sigh. The tension left her, and for the first time, she studied Prity’s kitchen closely. Prity lived alone, and the only pictures on her wall were of distant relatives, old students, and vacation destinations. Prity had never mentioned a boyfriend despite the conga line of male teachers waiting to ask her out.
Kelly had the sudden urge to tuck Prity in her purse and run, but that was creepy. Instead, she said, “I’m quite fond of you. Did you know that?”
Prity gasped and gaped at her, and Kelly realized she’d made a mistake.
Unable to take the silence and the staring from Prity, Kelly looked out the window. The bright green lawn was peppered with plastic flamingos that glimmered in the early summer heat. Their shiny surfaces reflected the sun’s rays and created a rainbow of colors in the yard. At least, it seemed like that to Kelly.
Prity said, “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”
Kelly turned back to the kitchen, to the woman beside her. The grin on Prity’s face was as delightful as a mimosa on a humid day.
Kelly never answered. Her wrists hung limp, but Prity grabbed them and held on tight. Then Prity kissed her.
It was a small intimate kiss on the cheek, but then Prity leaned in and nibbled Kelly’s lip. Zest filled Kelly’s chest; she felt Prity’s warm breath against her face.
Kelly swallowed hard and said, “That was something.”
Prity said, “It was . . . beautiful.”
About the Story
Bake was written by Anastasia Jill.
SunLit Story Time also published One Day in May by Anastasia Jill. You can read or listen to One Day in May on the SunLit Story Time podcast or on our website.
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