Pistachio Cupcakes *My entry for Challenge 1 in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Contest 2020. My assignment prompts were Romantic Comedy, Farmer’s Market, An Eraser. I hope that you enjoy! Claudia double-checked her sister’s list. Two people had called in sick, leaving both the bakery and the Farmers’ Market booth short. So here she was, late and rushing to open “Kerry’s Kreations Bakery” with an insanely detailed prep list. Everything was done except the sign. Claudia grabbed the large board and chalk markers. She checked the cheat sheet that Kerry had given her and found the specials for the day. People were already perusing the stalls, so she periodically glanced toward the passing crowd as she wrote. She didn’t have the best handwriting, but she tried. Kerry would expect pictures of everything. Claudia didn’t blame her. Everything here was representative of her brand. Davy was the one with the excellent handwriting, but he was sick. A lady in her forties paused by the tarts before moving down the line. Another stopped by with questions about the bakery and said she’d return. Refocusing on the sign, Claudia went back to work on the daily specials. Claudia glanced up, dutifully again and saw her. Her skin drank the light that reflected off her dark curls. She looked momentarily sad, but then laughed at something the guy beside her said. “Of course, she’s straight.” Claudia shook her head but didn’t take her eyes away from the woman’s broad lips, or the way that her eyes crinkled as she laughed. Taking a deep breath, Claudia tried to release the tension in her chest. Looking back at her work, she saw that she’d drawn one long line where a small dash should have been. She cursed quietly and grabbed the eraser that her sister had packed for the board. Rubbing out the mark, she stared resolutely at the sign until she’d finished it. Claudia finally placed it on the ground, and looking up came face to face with her. * When Gary had insisted she go with him to the Farmer’s Market, Lilly had been secretly grateful. She’d complained, but they both knew that a change of scenery would do her good. Since Sharon had left, he’d given her space. Gary had been her best friend for a long time, and he knew that she needed time to let go of people. “There might be some cute girls there,” Gary had mentioned, brows wagging, as a means of incentive. Lilly wanted to move on, and he knew that. Getting out of the house was the first step. She’d grieved long enough. He wasn’t wrong, even if she still struggled with comparing other women to Sharon. “Pistachio alert,” he said at one point. She looked at him, confused. He subtly nodded to his right. A particularly cute girl stood behind the booth. “That looks like a snack.” “She’s really adorable, but that’s a bit objectifying.” “What?” He paused in confusion before his eyes grew wide with realization. “Oh! No, they’re selling pistachios. I just meant that we should get some for a snack.” Lilly started laughing to the point that she was bent over. “I should have known better.” “Where is your head at?” It quickly became an ongoing joke throughout the morning. Lilly found herself stuck in her thoughts again when Gary said, “I bet they have pistachio cupcakes over there.” She started laughing abruptly, and for a moment, she’d forgotten about Sharon again. To patronize him, Lilly looked over at the bakery stall. That was when she saw her. Long swaths of dark hair fell over her face, but it couldn’t hide her high cheekbones or the intense concentration that she held over the chalkboard in her lap. Lilly watched her long legs as she walked confidently to place the sign down on the ground. For almost no reason at all, Lilly felt a strange flickering in her chest. Then she saw the sign. “Pistachio Cupcakes – $2 each.” Something came over her, and Lilly didn’t hesitate to walk over to that sign and that girl. For the first time since Sharon had left, Lilly was oddly grateful and hopeful. She didn’t know why. The girl looked up, and Lilly came face to face with the most astonishing brown eyes she’d ever seen. They pulled her in, and her breath caught in her throat. “Hi,” the woman said, slightly startled. “Hey.” “I’m Claudia.” “Lilly.” “Lilly,” She breathed the name like it was a prayer, then glanced around like she was looking for someone. “Could I have two of your pistachio cupcakes?” “Of course.” Claudia’s eyes shifted. Lilly recognized customer service mode when she saw it. “I hope you and your boyfriend like them!” “Boyfriend?” “Yeah, the guy you were with, earlier.” Lilly laughed loudly. “Gary? No. Though I’m sure, he would find that funny. He’s my best friend, but he’s not my type.” Lilly paid her and watched her making change. “Keep it.” “Thanks.” Claudia smiled again, this time a real one. “Do you like pistachios? Well, I guess you must, it’s your shop.” “It’s my sister’s actually, but I do like pistachios.” Lilly held out one of the plastic containers. “Would you like the other?” “Oh no, that’s okay. I would hate to get between a beautiful woman and her desserts,” Claudia laughed, and her whole face lit up with it. “But I bought it for you.” Claudia gaped at her, and Lilly just smiled. “Pistachios are my type, and so are you,” Lilly said it a bit too fast and almost cringed at her joke but held steady, smiling as confidently as she could. Returning her smile, Claudia accepted the cupcake and offered Lilly a seat in the shade. Two years later, they served Kerry’s pistachio cupcakes at their wedding. You can also read my entry for Challenge #2, “Souvenirs.” Follow me on my Facebook Page for updates!