Excerpt: A Party for Lola

Lola’s fortieth birthday party was tonight at five. At ten that morning I was standing in front of the bakery wondering why the hell the open sign wasn’t on. Sophia was supposed to have opened Welcome Home Bakery at six am for the cinnamon roll crowd.

Sophia was the only one in the city who made vegan cupcakes that didn’t taste like a chemical mess and last year Lola had gone from being a strict vegetarian to an absolute vegan. I was amazed by her conviction. I liked cheese too much to be able to take the plunge like she had, and I hated the texture of vegan cheese. But her choice made Sophia being in the bakery to get me Lola’s cupcakes absolutely necessary. I couldn’t just go to the grocery store and pick up a vegan cake.

“Come on, Sophia,” I grumbled.

I’d been trying the number for the last fifteen minutes that I’d been standing there in front of her shop off Commercial Street in Springfield. C-Street, as it was often called, wasn’t busy at least. Not yet anyway. The Peruvian place down the street was going to be filling up fast for the lunch crowd. And I needed to get some presents at the tea shop, but they didn’t open for another thirty minutes.

I tried calling her again and was shocked when I didn’t just get put to voicemail like the previous times.

“Hello? Sophia here,” she answered me.

“It’s Charlie. I need Lola’s cupcakes. Where are you?” I was trying so hard not to be upset but really, this was important. We’d set all this up weeks ago. Forty-eight cupcakes were supposed to be in the back of my car right now.

“OMG Charlie!”

I really didn’t need her shrieking in my ear. “Yeah. Me. Charlie. Can I get the cupcakes? It’s kind of important. Party. Tonight. Important stuff.” I hated repeating myself. And, also, I really hated being out in public without my people. I’d only recently, like in the last four months, started really going out in public as more and more enby. Tiffany had helped dress me that morning, which was a relief because my girlfriend had great taste, but I was trying so hard to exist in that space between what I normally presented as and what I was born as. It was such a fluid area most days, and I was great with that, but right now, with my anxiety shooting through the roof and me just wanting Lola’s party to be great I was feeling so self-conscious.

“I’ll be there in ten minutes. I promise. And I’ll take off fifteen percent. I’m so sorry. My cat had an emergency and we just got back from the vet and I will be right there. I promise. I’m so sorry.”

I cringed. I got it. Emergencies were emergencies. Sophia couldn’t fix that and it wasn’t like she could have prepared for it somehow. “It’s okay. I understand. I’ll be here. Thanks for the discount. How’s your cat?”

“He’s in so much trouble. Little Loki. I swear to god if I didn’t love him so much… No. I’d never get rid of him. But sometimes it’s so damn tempting.”

I heard her keys jingle and figured she was locking up her apartment.

“How is everyone?” she continued. “Does Lola have any idea?”

I snorted. “I hope not. She might think we’re up to something, but so far we’ve managed to keep this a secret. No idea how long that’ll actually last, but as long as no one spills the beans by tonight we’ll be okay. She could really use the pick me up party though. Work has been rough on her. She’s had to go to HR a few times in the past month for stupid shit. But we’re getting her sister and her kids from the airport this afternoon so maybe that’ll help.”

I hated that Lola worked at such a transphobic piece of shit place as that magazine. But it was what she’d always wanted to do. What she told us about was bad enough that I wished that she would just quit already. There were four of us working, four of us making good money and willing to help support her. She could quit and take her time to get into a place that was nicer and more affirming.

“People suck. Seriously. If I didn’t love making cupcakes so much I wouldn’t deal with the people part at all. Or if I could afford to hire someone to run the front part and do weddings for me that would be amazing. I’m pulling up now.”

I saw Sophia’s bright yellow Beetle and I hung up with her. She hugged me and then kissed my cheek. I wiped off her bright red lipstick but I didn’t really mind her affection. We’d gone to high school together. I’d dated her for all of like two weeks or something.

“I love your hair. Did you cut it again?” Sophia asked me as she unlocked the front door. She didn’t turn on the open sign. Maybe she didn’t plan to actually be open all day today. I didn’t blame her. Her cat probably needed her.

“I’ve been messing with it,” I admitted. It was long in front again but the back was shaved almost to my scalp. And it was green. I hadn’t been green in a while.

“Well, it looks awesome. Wait here. I’ll be right out. Your cupcakes are in the back. They’re all ready to go. For once I was ahead. Go me.”

I stood there awkwardly waiting for her while she went in the back and then came back, carrying two big flat yellow boxes with bright blue flowers on them. “Lemonade and key lime. A delicious spring combination.”

She put the boxes on the counter and I opened each of them. Not because I didn’t trust her to know what she was doing, but because I wanted to see them for myself before my people devoured them tonight. Some people may have thought forty-eight cupcakes was going to be plenty for a gathering of maybe twelve people. But those people were not my people and we could easily demolish anything sweet we were handed.

“Do they look okay?” Sophia asked. I must have been staring a bit too long. Or maybe I’d started drooling. They were perfect. And I couldn’t wait to devour the sugared lemon curls on the lemonade ones.

“Of course they do. They look amazing.” I forced myself to step back before I decided to lick the icing off of at least one of them. I took out my wallet, then handed her the cash. “Don’t you dare take off anything. I got the cupcakes. That’s what important. And your cat emergency isn’t like you slept in or completely forgot about me or anything.”

“Thanks. Say hi to everyone for me tonight, okay? I’d love to be thereā€¦ but the cat.”

I hadn’t even thought to ask if she wouldn’t be able to attend. “Sure. Of course. See you later. We’ll get dinner soon.”

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