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Authors: Kathryn Littlewood

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BOOK: Bite-Sized Magic
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CHAPTER 18
Boys Do Cry

A
hush fell over the room as Kathy Keegan and Mr. Butter chewed their snack cakes.

Rose remembered the crazed reactions of the bakers when they first ate their Glo-Balls, imbued with the howling emptiness of the Hag o' the Mist. She waited for Kathy Keegan to growl and viciously demand more
more MORE
Glo-Balls.

But the sound she heard was of another variety entirely. It was a deep, guttural crying—the sound of a hard soul cracking open its shutters and letting in some light.

Rose opened her eyes. Mr. Butter was draped over the banquet table, sobbing like a lost little boy.

Kathy Keegan looked over at Mr. Butter, confused. “What's the matter with him?” she asked. “I mean, they're delicious, don't get me wrong, but I don't know if I'd
cry
over them.”

Rose felt like her head was about to explode. Why was Kathy Keegan unaffected by the perfected recipes? And why was Mr. Butter crying over the antidotes?

Rose tugged at Marge's sleeve. “What the heck is going on? Why isn't Kathy Keegan going crazy?”

Marge wore a small but devilish grin. “I whipped up a different batch of treats back in the Development Kitchen,” she said. “While you were taking your nap, and while the rest of the team was preparing the Koko Kakes.”

“So Kathy Keegan is eating the antidote cakes?” Rose asked.

Marge shook her head, her eyes gleeful. “No, she's eating the same thing Mr. Butter is eating.”

“But why is Mr. Butter reacting that way? Why is he crying instead of running around begging for more Glo-Balls?” Rose asked.

Marge stared ahead, grinning as Mr. Butter reached out, sobbing, for a hug from Mr. Kerr.

“Hug me!” Mr. Butter sniffled. “Would someone please hug me?”

“Marge,” Rose said. “Explain yourself.”

Marge cleared her throat. “I couldn't let anyone eat those evil Mostess cakes. And the only way to make sure of that was to destroy them and their recipes for good.

“So, while you were taking your little nap, I got busy baking some extras of the five antidote snack cakes, and I put a heaping pat of that Mother's Love cream into each one. Those were the cakes in the display case, and those were the cakes in my bag. I threw out all the cakes and things made from those evil recipes. But as you can see, the antidotes don't affect everyone the same way.” She gave Rose a tiny, tight-lipped smile. “I learned that in that Apocrypha booklet you left lying around.”

Rose threw her arms around the Head Baker and wept. “You're the greatest, Marge! The greatest!”

“It said that the Mother's Love buttercream fills in the holes where a person is missing his or her mother's love,” Marge said, giving Rose a gentle squeeze back. “Katherine Keegan was clearly loved all her life. But Mr. Butter, now, he's something else entirely.”

“You're a genius,” Rose said. “You've saved us all.”

“It was
you
, Rosemary Bliss,” said Marge. “Well, you, and the Mother's Love you fed us back there.”

Mr. Butter was rolling back and forth on the floor with his arms outstretched. “I'm so sorry!” he sobbed. “I must apologize! I must send a personal letter of apology to everyone in America for even
thinking
of hurting them!”

Mr. Kerr knelt next to his boss and shook Mr. Butter hard by the shoulders. “Jameson Butter! Snap out of it! What the heck is wrong with you? Are you dying?”

“I am dying of joy! Of . . . love!” Mr. Butter shouted. “Have a King Thing!”

Mr. Butter handed Mr. Kerr one of the chocolate logs.

“I'm not hungry,” said Mr. Kerr.

“You must have it!” Mr. Butter cried, and he stuffed the whole thing into Mr. Kerr's mouth.

“Watch,” Marge whispered to Rose. “This should be a sight like none we've ever seen.”

As Mr. Kerr chewed the King Thing, his furrowed brows melted into a look of tender love, and he groped around for the nearest thing that looked remotely like a mother, which happened to be Kathy Keegan. He slid under the banquet table and curled up at her feet. “Mama!”

While the photographers frantically snapped pictures and the reporters held out their microphones, Kathy Keegan said, “Would someone mind telling me what's going on?” She stepped out of Mr. Kerr's clutching embrace. “Why are these men crying? Why is there a talking cat and a flute-playing mouse? Why was this young man pretending to be me?” When Ty flinched, she smiled. “It's okay, honest—you look good in a skirt!”

“Thank you!” Ty exclaimed.

“It's a long story,” Rose said.

Kathy Keegan sat down on the edge of the stage and pulled the platter of treats toward her. “There's nothing I like better than a story while I'm snacking.”

 

Much later, after the reporters had taken all the pictures they wanted and gone home, after the workers had been dismissed and the baking team had gone back to the kitchens for a well-needed rest, Ms. Keegan sat with Marge, Rose, and her brothers at the banquet table on the factory floor.

“So it didn't matter which cakes we ate,” Ms. Keegan summed up.

On the floor in front of them, Mr. Butter and Mr. Kerr had fallen into a troubled sleep in each other's arms.

“It was the only way to be safe,” Marge told Rose. “I couldn't bear the thought of something going wrong with the plan.”

“It maybe wasn't the best of plans,” Rose said.

“That was very crafty of you, Marge, to switch
all
the cakes,” said Kathy Keegan.

Marge blushed. “Oh my! I can't believe Kathy Keegan just called me
crafty
. I need a minute.” She took a deep breath and fanned herself with the empty platter.

“She's a big fan of yours,” Rose told the woman.

“It appears she saved my life,” said Ms. Keegan, “so I think I'm a fan of hers, as well!”

“It wasn't just me!” Marge said, hyperventilating into her purse. “It was Rose! She gave me the courage to fight for what I know is right!”

Beside her, Sage sat with the master gloves on, his arms extended and crossed at the wrists, his hands rocking back and forth like he was riding an invisible horse. From somewhere behind him came the sound of many segmented mechanical limbs repeating the moves in time with him.

“And the cat . . . Can it really talk?” asked Kathy Keegan. “Or had I already been poisoned by these Rolling Pin people?”

Gus leaped up to the banquet table and brushed up against Kathy Keegan's side. “I ate a magical biscuit when I was young. As one does. Sorry for giving you a fright.”

“That's . . . all right,” said Kathy Keegan, staring warily at the gray cat. “It's just not something you encounter every day.”

“I should hope not,” Gus said. “I pride myself on being unique.”

Jacques scrambled up and sat atop Gus's head.

“And you,” said Kathy Keegan, eyeing Jacques suspiciously. “You actually play the flute?”

“Did you enjoy?” the mouse asked anxiously. “I have been practicing
Claire de lune
for years!”

“It was beautiful,” Kathy Keegan said, laying her hand over her heart. “Now this Rolling Pin group, they're the ones behind the Big Bakery Discrimination Act?”

“Yes,” answered Rose. “They all worked together to get the law passed in Congress. We thought you were part of it, too, since it benefited your bakery.”

“I did no such thing!” said Kathy Keegan, aghast. “There isn't any discrimination against big bakeries! It's the silliest thing I ever heard. I came here today to try to talk Mr. Butter into coming with me to ask Congress to overturn the law. It's ridiculous.”

“Even if you had convinced Mr. Butter,” said Sage, “you'd have the other members of the International Society of the Rolling Pin to contend with.”

Kathy Keegan rose and took a stroll around the banquet table, then down the red carpet, winding her way between pairs of robots doing Gangnam Style dance moves.

“Sage,” Rose hissed, “stop it!”

“If these people—the International Society of the Rolling Pin—use magic,” Kathy Keegan said at last, “then we need to fight them
with magic
. I have the resources to launch a national campaign. I've done it before, and I can do it again. What I don't have is magical know-how. I don't use magic in my baking—just recipes that are very, very, very good.”

It sounded much like the appeal Mr. Butter had made to Rose when he first brought her to the Mostess compound and asked her to work on the recipes—only this time, Rose had a feeling of lightness and calm in her stomach. She could tell that Kathy Keegan meant well.

“If we team up, we can overturn the Big Bakery Discrimination Act and get your family's bakery up and running again,” said Kathy Keegan. “And then we can create a line of products that targets these Rolling Pin people, whoever they are, and cures them of their misery and greed.”

Rose smiled. She thought this sounded like a great idea.

“Did you ever get my letter?” said Kathy.

“Yes,” said Rose. “Actually, I have it right here!” She pulled the crumpled and torn-up letter from the back pocket of her shorts. The top was missing, and it was wrinkled and stained, but it was still legible. “I have to warn you, I'm not really great on camera.”

“Oh, never mind that!” said Kathy Keegan. “I'm terrible on camera as well. Did you read the other side?”

“Other side?” Rose shook her head and turned the letter over, which, just like the Apocrypha, had its own sweet little antidote to what had been typed on the front. There was a handwritten paragraph from Kathy Keegan herself:

 

Dear Rose,

You are a remarkable young woman and your passion for baking is obvious. I know you're an integral part of your family's bakery in Calamity Falls, but I would love for you to come create some new recipes for us. Just for a week, if you can. I'd love to work with you.

 

Cheers,

Kathy Keegan

 

“Wow.” Rose laughed. “That would have been a lot more fun than the week I spent here.”

“The offer still stands,” said Kathy Keegan.

“I think I should ask my parents and Balthazar first,” said Rose. “Would you like to meet them?”

“They're here?” said Kathy Keegan.

“Yes,” said Rose. “We just have to go rescue them.”

“If we do it really fast,” said Sage, “I can still be home in time for that water balloon fight!”

E
PILOGUE
Lady Rosemary Bliss

T
he gorgeous morning light of Calamity Falls poured in through the bedroom window as Rose yawned herself awake. She didn't feel any different, but she knew that she was.

Rose looked over and saw Leigh snoring in her bed, sucking her thumb and holding a plaid blanket in her other hand, something Mrs. Carlson had given her during the regrettable time when Leigh had lived apart from her family at the Carlson house.

“Wake up, little one,” Rose said to her younger sister.

“Hehnmh,” Leigh said from her bed, her eyes still shut. “I'm sleepy.”

Rose pulled on a red tank top and a fresh pair of shorts, then swept Leigh into her arms—still in her pajamas—and carried her downstairs. Today was a special day, and she was excited to celebrate it with her family.

The Bliss kitchen was empty. A pile of mail was sitting on the breakfast table next to a copy of the
Calamity Falls Gazette
.

Rose slid Leigh onto a kitchen chair. “Morning, Rosie,” Leigh said, her voice still heavy with sleep.

“Morning, Leigh,” Rose said, glad to be back with her sister—and back at home.

Rose glanced down at the paper. A headline was emblazoned across the front page in fat letters:
BAKERY ACT REPEALED!
Rose smiled, knowing it was only a matter of days before the Bliss Family Bakery had its grand reopening. Rose had just gotten back from a week with Kathy Keegan, where they had discussed important plans for the future, and she knew she had only a few days of summer freedom left before school started up again. She intended to enjoy them.

Rose left the newspaper on the table but grabbed a couple of postcards and her little sister as she stepped out into the backyard, where Gus and Jacques were sunning themselves in miniature lawn chairs.

“Have you ever even
tried
fish?” said Gus. “How can you so despise something you've never even tried?”

“Non mais je rêve!”
Jacques retorted. “I don't believe it! I could say the same for you and cheese!”

“How can you love something that smells like feet?” Gus asked.

Jacques twitched. “How can you love something that smells like fish?”

Rose laughed as she stepped over the furry duo.

“Rose!” said Gus. “Look, I've got a tan!” He parted some of the fur on his gray belly, revealing more gray fur underneath. “You can't really see it, but I've got a tan.”

“That's great, you guys.” She smiled. “You're real beach bums.”

Rose stepped out toward the shed and the tree with the tire swing, to where Ty and Sage were fighting—virtually, of course.

Ty wore one pair of robot-controlling white gloves and Sage wore another. They both stood on opposite sides of the giant trampoline and punched the air, while two robots from the Mostess compound bounced up and down on the black vinyl, swinging at each other with padded arms.

As far as Rose knew, the entire Mostess compound had been dismantled, the red mason jars taken away and destroyed under her great-great-great-grandfather's supervision. Mr. Butter and Mr. Kerr, transformed by the Mother's Love Marge fed them, were now working for Kathy Keegan, detailing everything they knew about the International Society of the Rolling Pin. The Mostess Corporation was no more, its factories closed and its workers at last gone home.

The robots, however, had come to Calamity Falls with Rose's brothers.

Ty's robot took a jab at Sage's robot. Sage dodged out of the way, and his robot fell clear off the side of the trampoline, landing in a heap on the grass. It buzzed and thrashed and was still.

“Oh well,” said Sage, bounding off toward the shed. “Time for a new robot.” He slid open the shed door, revealing a collection of fifty or so identical metal robots. He dragged out another and heaved it onto the trampoline.

“You know, you need to be more careful,” said Ty. “One day, we're gonna run out of these things.”

Rose turned her gaze away and shuffled through the postcards. One in particular grabbed her attention: It was a photograph of a woman waving from a hot-air balloon. The balloon was so far away that Rose could barely see her face, but Rose knew exactly who it was.

“Guys! We got a postcard from Marge!”

Ty and Sage kept swinging punches at each other as Rose read the postcard aloud.

 

Dear Rose, Ty, and Sage,

Guess what my new job is? Hot-air-balloon operator! No one's ever gonna hold me down, ever again. I will just fly away if they try. Love, Marge

 

Rose pressed the postcard to her heart. “I'm framing this,” she said to her brothers.

“No one could hold Marge down in the first place,” said Ty, swinging a series of quick jabs that landed Sage's robot in another smoking hunk of metal on the grass. “She just didn't know it.”

“Oh, man!” said Sage. “I gotta take boxing lessons.”

Rose continued to flip through the postcards. Her eye settled on one that was just a blank, cream-colored card embossed in the center with a radiating silver rolling pin.

Her blood ran cold as she flipped over the postcard and read Aunt Lily's unmistakable calligraphy.

 

Just because you turned Mr. Butter into the King of Sunshine and Daisies and destroyed the Mostess Corporation doesn't mean you've defeated the Rolling Pin. See you soon. Love, L.

 

“Ty! Sage!” Rose cried. “Look at this!”

Ty and Sage dropped their gloves and sauntered over. They passed the postcard back and forth.

“It smells like flowers,” Sage said, holding the card to his nose. “It's really from her.”

“But better show Mom and Dad and Balthazar, just to be safe,” Ty said.

At that moment, Albert and Balthazar drove up in the Bliss family van. The back door of the van slid open, and Purdy and Kathy Keegan stepped out onto the driveway.

“And why can't we manufacture Mind Your Own Beeswax Buttons?” Kathy Keegan asked. “They'd be a wonderful addition to the Kathy Keegan dessert line. They'd stop tabloids and gossip columnists in their tracks.”

“Because the Dread Swarm of the Tubertine needs time to regenerate,” Purdy explained patiently. “These magical ingredients can't be had en masse. You need to use them responsibly.”

“I see,” Kathy answered, scratching her chin thoughtfully. “You'll have to forgive me. This whole magic thing is new to me.”

Rose handed her mother the postcard. “It's from Lily,” she said.

Purdy glanced at it and tucked it into her pocket. “Never mind about that. We have a surprise for you, Rose.”

Purdy and Kathy pulled Rose into the kitchen, where Albert had pulled the shutters closed, just like the first time he had showed her the secret hiding place of the Bliss Cookery Booke. Ty, Sage, and Leigh followed behind.

“What's going on?” said Ty.

“Shhh!” whispered Purdy.

The kitchen was dark, except for a few ribbons of light flowing in through the shutters. Balthazar entered from the front room carrying a pink cake, with thirteen tiny candles sticking out from the top. When Balthazar got close enough to set the cake in front of Rose, she could see that they were actually thirteen Blinding Beetles hovering above the frosting, sparkling in different colors.

“Happy thirteenth birthday, Rosie!” he cried.

She'd forgotten what day it was.
How could that have happened?
she wondered, but she knew the answer already. Sometimes life was just so full that you lost track of things. “I—I forgot!” she said.

“Time to blow out the Blinding Beetles! And don't forget to make a wish!”

Rose smiled and blew as the Blinding Beetles scattered into a cloud of colored sparks that lit up the room, while everyone clapped and cheered. “Yay!” Leigh cried.

“Did you make a wish?” Gus asked from down at her feet.

“I made two,” said Rose looking down at the cat. “But I can't tell you what they are. But you can bet I was careful.”

Gus said nothing in reply, just purred and butted his head against her shin.

In one of her hands, Albert placed the whisk-shaped key that opened the secret storeroom behind the walk-in refrigerator; in the other, he set the gray pamphlet of questionable recipes and their antidotes: Albatross's Apocrypha. “Go put this back where it belongs, please, Rosie.”

Rose took a deep breath and opened the walk-in refrigerator. The Blinding Beetles followed her to light her way, like little fairies, past the wall of eggs and milk and sugar and chocolate. She pulled back the green tapestry on the far wall and inserted the whisk-shaped key into the hole in the wooden door. She pulled open the door, and the Blinding Beetles followed her inside to illuminate the centuries of Bliss family portraits that lined the walls of the secret room.

Rose found the hollowed-out place in the thick back cover of the Bliss Cookery Booke where the Apocrypha was stored. She noticed that a new recipe had been added on the final page, in careful printing:

 

CHOCOLATE-GINGERBREAD OF BROTHERHOOD: For the Cessation of the Thrumpin's Curse

 

It was in 2014 in the American state of Pennsylvania that Lady Rosemary Bliss did, under greatest duress, create an antidote to the gingerbread created from the ground ginger root first offered to Albatross Bliss by the evil Thrumpin. She did create a chocolate-gingerbread batter and add THE BROTHER STONE, whereupon the bakers so afflicted did feel a sense of brotherhood once more.

 

Rose nearly wept as she stared at her name, printed in the Bliss Cookery Booke:
Lady Rosemary Bliss
.

She had been welcomed into a tradition as old as time. She had invented her own antidote, and she was a real Bliss family baker. The look of her name, printed in that ancient calligraphy, was the most beautiful sight she'd ever seen.

Rose closed the book and reentered the darkened kitchen, where her family and Kathy waited. “You're a real Bliss Baker now!” Purdy exclaimed. “You're part of the history books, honey!”

Rose fell into her mother's arms. “That was one of my wishes,” she whispered, overwhelmed.

“You were born to it, darling,” said Purdy. “And the other wish?”

Just then, the kitchen door creaked open. Rose peeked out from her mother's arms and saw Devin Stetson peer into the kitchen.

“Oh, sorry. I didn't know you guys were having a ceremony,” he said. “I just wanted to know if Rose wanted to come for a birthday bike ride.”

Rose turned back to her mother.
That was the other wish,
she wanted to say. But she thought that she would keep it private, just for herself.

“Well, Rose has a lot of baking to do,” Balthazar began. “Seeing as how she's an official Bliss family baker.”

“Actually,” said Rose, “I think the world can wait for a little while.”

Her mother kissed her head and released her. “Have fun, honey. You deserve it.”

 

And so Lady Rosemary Bliss did ride off into the blistering light of afternoon, on the morning of her thirteenth birthday, with the Blinding Beetles showering streaks of orange and green and purple light behind her, and she did no longer feel exactly like a girl.

 

Instead, she did feel almost like a Lady.

BOOK: Bite-Sized Magic
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