I heard a loud bang! Followed by a “No, darn it!” I rolled my eyes, knowing Max was in the kitchen again. Clumsy, fumbling, so not-a-chef-and-never-will-be, Max. I peeked around the corner of the door frame, only to see him and his cat, Rufus, covered in flour. Rufus was not happy and bounded away, shaking flour on the floor. Gabby, Mati, and Arian stood nearby. By some miracle they had all missed the flour explosion (unlike poor Rufus), but none of them looked happy.
“Really,” we all said in unison. “Really, Max?” He looked around at all of us, wearing a look that said that he knew he was an idiot, but also that we were being too judgmental. Well, duh.
Gabby grabbed an apron off the oven handle and threw it to me.
“C’mon let’s show them how it’s done!” she said fiercely and grabbed the now half-empty flour sack.
Max explained, “Make it good, guys; this is for Mom and Dad’s anniversary.” I threw an apron in his face.
“Surely you didn’t think we were doing this?” I said, emphasizing the “we.”
“No,” Gabby agreed. “We’re teaching you!” she said, pointing at the three boys. Mati and Arian stepped forward, interestedly.
* * *
An hour later, the pie crust was rolled, four times because all three boys screwed up and their crusts fell apart. The apples had been drenched in cinnamon and sprinkled with sugar, and Arian had successfully bandaged his fingers after an apple-coring incident. Now we were ready to pinch the crusts.
“OK,” I said, “now take a fork and press the tines into the edges to crimp it.” Max looked at me like I had three eyes on each ear. I rolled my eyes again.
“Crimp means to make the pretty ruffle pattern that you see on pies’ edges,” I said. Bored (and slightly amused), I looked at Gabby, who was teaching Mati to poke ventilation holes in the crust. He looked happy, and I thought that was good because Gabby could be very aggressive. We both could. We were tomboys. That’s why we were here, teaching descendants of monkeys to make apple pies, instead of at the nail salon getting Sugar-and-Spice purple polish. And personally, I was glad. I turned back to Max and Arian and they were crimping away.
“Very nice,” I said, clearly impressed. “Great!” They went on crimping until the whole pie was done. Then Mati, who was immensely enjoying poking ventilation holes in things, came over and did just that. The five of us looked at the pie.
“Great job, guys!” Gabby smiled. “You made a pie!” The three boys smiled big cheese-eating grins. Gabby and I stood there, basking in their pride, but after a while we got so bored that I stepped in and took the pie. They didn’t notice. I popped the pie in the oven. They didn’t notice. Gabby shot a foam dart at Max’s nose. That he noticed. He smiled mischievously and shot her back. Then it turned awesome. An all-out foam dart war took over the entire house, and we only stopped when the oven timer pealed.
* * *
We all ran back to the kitchen, red-faced and full of adrenaline. Max dropped his gun in his haste and it landed with a loud clatter on the tile floor. Mati followed suit.
Arian kept his gun in hand until he reached the counter, where he slammed it down as Gabby took the pie from the oven.
Our pie came out golden-brown and flaky. It looked beautiful; better than any pie I ever made by myself. Gabby smiled at the pie, and as she was looking at it an orange dart whistled past her ear and hit the pie in the dead center.
“My ventilation,” Mati screamed, a little too loudly.
Gabby gripped him by the shoulders and said through her teeth, “We slaved over this pie for three hours, and all you care about is your ventilation?”
Mati cringed under her gaze, but I saw a smile play on his face at her touch. I, too, smiled a little bit.
“So let’s slap on the whipped cream!” Arian demanded.
“We can’t yet; it’ll melt because the pie is still too hot,” Gabby said.
“All right then, well, let’s decorate!” I exclaimed. “Your parents will be home soon, Max, let’s make this place nice!”
So we did. We raided the wrapping paper and ribbons, created an arch of silver and red bows over the door, and draped gold streamers around everything. By the time we were done, everything was colored in bright metallic shades. Just in time, too. As I added the last bow to the arch, the door clicked open, and everyone but Max ran to hide.
“Hi, honey!” I heard Max’s mom say from my place behind the bar. “What’s this?” She noticed the decorations.
“It’s… something for you and Dad!” Max replied. From the tone in his voice I could tell it was taking all of his willpower not to tell. As he led his parents upstairs to more decorations, I remembered. The dart! The dart is still lodged in the pie! I thought. We have to get the dart out of the pie! I crept slowly from my hiding spot, every floorboard groaning under me. I was thankful to reach carpet, but the relief didn’t last long. Max was leading his parents back downstairs! I ran to the pie without any notion of the sounds I made. Quickly as I could, I dislodged the dart, but it left a gaping hole in the middle!
The whipped cream! I thought, the whipped cream. But then Max and his mom and dad came into the kitchen. I had just enough time to snatch the pie and cream can off the counter and crouch, pie in hand, on the cold tile. Max saw me and stifled a gasp. Quickly diverting his parents, he gave me enough time to cover the pie in cream and slide it back on the counter. Max’s mom turned.
“Oh, honey! Did you bake this yourself ?” she asked. Max was supposed to say that some special people had helped him, and then everyone was supposed to jump out. But before he could, I popped up and said, “Yes! He’s quite the baker!”