osemary Bliss's dreams had come true.
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She was the most famous baker in all the world. She was the youngest chef ever to have won France's famed Gala des GÃ¢teaux Grands. She was the twelve-year-old girl who'd out-baked celebrity TV chef Lily Le Fay and stopped her aunt's nefarious schemes. She was the local kid who'd saved her hometown and rescued the Bliss family's magical Cookery Booke.
So why wasn't she happy?
On the thirteenth morning after returning from Paris, she got up and pulled open the curtains of her bedroom.
Snap. Flash. Click. Click.
That was why.
“Look, up there, it's Rose!”
Click. Flash. Snap.
“Rose, how do you feel about your victory?”
Click. Flash. Flash. Snap.
“Rose! How does it feel to be the best baker in the world?”
Snap. Flash. Click.
“And at only twelve years old?”
Click. Flash. Snap
They're still here
. Gone were the soothing sounds of morning, the wind chimes, the rope of the tire swing creaking against the branch of the old oak outside her window. Instead, the new sounds came courtesy of the group of paparazzi that had taken up permanent residence outside the Follow Your Bliss Bakery. Each morning they waited for Rose to open her curtains and then snapped hundreds of pictures, while calling out for a quote about her prodigious victory.
Rose had always harbored a secret curiosity about what fame would feel like, and now she knew. It felt like being a goldfish: hundreds of big googly eyes staring in at you, leaving you nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, except maybe a little plastic castle.
Rose snapped the curtains shut, and wondered if she'd had enough of baking. It wasn't worth it, not if it meant
“I wish I never had to bake again,” Rose said to no one in particular.
A furry gray head, its ears flattened, appeared from a mound of dirty clothes at the foot of her bed. “Be careful what you wish for,” Gus said. “Wishes before birthdays have a strange way of coming true.” The Scottish Fold cat raised a paw and began licking carefully between each sheathed claw.
“That's just silly,” Rose said. “My birthday isn't until the end of summer. Anyway, I didn't really mean it.” She scratched his head and he purred. “I'd just like to
have to bake for a little bit, you know?” She'd become a baker because she loved her family and her town, and baking was in her bloodâbut thanks to her victory at the Gala des GÃ¢teaux Grands, everything had been turned upside down.
She knew it had only been a measly two weeks, but the past fourteen days had been the longest of her life. No peace and quiet. No time to enjoy the summer. Baking wasn't fun anymore; it was something she was
to doâlike home
And that was no fun at all. As far as Rose was concerned, unless something changed this summer, she was done with baking for good.
Downstairs, inside the kitchen of the Bliss Family Bakery, the situation was no better. Camera flashes burst through the drawn curtains like stuttering flickers of lightning, and the barking of reporters outside the door made it sound like there were a thousand people outside instead of just a few hundred. Why wouldn't they leave her alone?
The mail was almost worse.
Rose's brothers, Sage and Ty, were already sitting in the bakery kitchen, tearing through yesterday's mail, throwing the unimportant letters into a giant black trash bag and placing the ones that needed answers in a pile. Rose knew the letters were for her (“Your fans
usâI mean, you,” Ty liked to say) but she was tired of having to read them. She didn't want to look at another letter nowâor ever. She just wanted to get back to a normal life.
“Junk,” announced Sage, throwing a stack of balled-up paper into the trash. Rose's pudgy-cheeked younger brother had just turned ten, but he didn't look a day older than eight. He had curly, strawberry-blond hair, and the only thing that had grown on him over the past year was the number of freckles on his nose.
“What was in it?” asked Ty. Rose's handsome older brother
grown, but not enoughâlately he had confided in Rose that he was worried that his dreams of NBA superstardom were out of reach.
“The president of Spain wants a cake,” Sage said, flipping through the letters, “Warren Buffett wants an enormous pie-chart pie, with a different flavor for every section.”
“What's a pie chart?” Ty asked.
“Who's Warren Buffett?” Rose asked.
“Some nobody who likes pie, I guess,” Sage said, and read another letter. “The United Nations General Assembly wants us to make a cupcake for every ambassador to their next meetingâfrosted with the country's flag, andâlisten to thisââthe flavor of each ambassador's homeland in every single nibble.'”
“Ugh,” Ty replied. “When is someone
gonna write to us?”
Sage opened the next letter, a heavy pink envelope that wafted out a gentle breath of sweet perfume. He fell to the floor and clutched his chest like a man dying of heartache.
“Now!” he cried, handing the letter to Ty and Rose.
Rose scanned the delicate sheet of stationery:
Dear Wonderful Rose and the Rest of the Follow Your Bliss Bakery!
Please send me a cake. Please. I don't care what kind. I have to have one of your cakes. I will die without it. I will pay you anything. You can even play in the band on my next tour. Send the cake soon.
Ty gasped. “She must have been watching the competition, seen me, and fallen in love. The
is just a way to get to
Rose sighed. She knew she should be excited, but all these letters from famous people just made her tired. Baking wasn't about getting notes from celebrities. It was about mixing and stirring and folding, about flour and butter and sugar and heart, and love, andâ
“We're rich!” cried Ty, holding up a letter embossed with the cartoon image of Kathy Keegan, the name of a big baked-goods conglomerate.
“Rose,” Ty said, “they're offering seven hundred and seventy-seven thousand dollars just for doing a single thirty-second commercial endorsing their products.”
“Why all the sevens?” Sage asked.
“All you have to do is eat a Keegan Kake and say, âI'm Rosemary Bliss, youngest winner in history of the Gala des GÃ¢teaux Grands,' and, um, âKathy Keegan is my inspiration!'” Ty handed her the letter and stared moonily at the ceiling. “If I were married to Katy Perry, and you signed this endorsement deal .Â .Â . none of us would ever have to work again!”
“Kathy Keegan isn't even real,” Rose answered. “The Keegan Corporation was founded by a group of businessmen. How can I say someone is my inspiration when she isn't even an actual person? Besides, I would never eat a Keegan Kake. You know what Mom says about cakes that come wrapped in plastic.” She stuffed the letter into her pocket and turned away. She'd had enough of letters.
That's when she noticed that every available surface in the kitchen was covered in cookie sheets lined with parchment.
Her mother, Purdy Bliss, burst through the saloon doors from the front room of the bakery, her arms laden with grocery bags. She was a sturdy woman with a sweet face and curly black hair and bangs that flopped wildly over her forehead.
“Boys, the buttons!” she cried. “I told you to pipe the buttons and not stop until all these cookie sheets are filled!”
The boys grumbled as they each picked up a pastry bag. Purdy tousled their red hair as they set about piping little blobs of chocolate dough onto the sheets in tidy rows.
“What's going on?” Rose asked.
“Those reporters,” Purdy said, kissing Rose on the forehead. “We'll never get on with our lives until they vamoose.”
“I'll help,” Rose said, feeling enthusiastic for the first time in days. Maybe she could actually be useful.
“Rose, honey,” said Purdy, unpacking the groceries, “you should probably go back upstairs. You're the one who really sets them off.”
“Am I just supposed to stay in my tower, like Rapunzel?” Rose asked, throwing up her arms. “I don't think so.” She seized a pastry bag filled with chocolate dough and squeezed out a few orderly blobs as her brothers finished the rest.
“Three hundred buttons,” Purdy said, counting. “Just enough. Children, come here.” She drew Rose and her brothers close to her, gently settling her arms on their shoulders.
The door to the walk-in fridge swung open, and Rose's great-great-great-grandfather Balthazar emerged carrying a massive blue mason jar lined with chicken wire. From inside it came a sound like ten thousand electric toothbrushes all buzzing at the same time. “You ready?” he asked.
Purdy nodded and cried, “Release the bees!”
Balthazar set the jar down in the center of the kitchen floor, then cracked open the lid. A swarm of bees tumbled forth, filling the kitchen like a horrible fuzzy cloud of buzzing black-and-yellow smoke.
“Behold, the Dread Swarm of the Tubertine!” Balthazar cried, tugging at his beard.
“The cookies are Mind Your Own Beeswax Buttons,” explained Purdy over the sound of the buzzing. “If you eat a cookie imbued with one sting from the Dread Swarm of the Tubertine, you'll mind your own business. They were first used on the Trappist monks; as a matter of fact, before the fateful day when the monks in the order feasted on these, you couldn't shut them up. Gab gab gab! After devouring these buttons, the monks took the first vows of silence in the history of monkdom.” Purdy pulled a kazoo from the pocket of her apron. “Behold!”
She pursed her lips and puffed out a rhythmic tango. The swarm of bees immediately stood perfectly still in the air, then scrambled around until each bee hovered over a tiny mound of chocolate dough. The bees looked to Purdy, wide-eyed and ready. Rose could feel a steady flutter of wind from their buzzing wings.
At Purdy's next blast on the kazoo, each of the three hundred bees plunged their stingers into their mound of dough. They seemed to sigh, and their buzzing grew quieter, and then they looked away from Purdy and one another and flew single file back into the jar.
Balthazar snapped the lid closed.
Ty and Sage crawled out from beneath the table in the breakfast nook, sighing with relief.
“Ew,” said Sage. Rose noticed that the walls and floor were smeared with yellow goop. Sage swiped his finger through a patch. “They slimed the place.”
Balthazar scratched his bald head, and his finger came away dripping with the sticky yellow stuff. He held it to the tip of his tongue. “It's honey,” he grumbled.
Purdy and Rose shoved tray after tray of the newly stung chocolate buttons into the oven. A few minutes later, they transferred the hot cookies onto a serving tray, and soon after that, Ty and Sage were outside distributing the buttons to the teeming mass of reporters and photographers.
As each reporter bit into a cookie, his eyes flashed as gold as the scruffy neck of a bee, and he quickly hurried off the lawn. Within ten minutes, the flock had vanished from the backyardâcameras, boom microphones, flashbulbs, and all.
Ty and Sage reentered the kitchen with their empty serving trays. Ty's hair, which he'd started to gel into three-inch spikes since the Gala, was wilting like a patch of broken weeds, and Sage had a bright pink welt across his forehead.
“Someone hit me with a microphone,” Sage said, fuming. “Those people are animals.
, I say!”
Ty held up a sheet of orange paper and said, “Once they'd cleared out, I found this on the front doorâthey're taped all over the building.” The edges of the orange sheet trailed bits of tape.
(Free in thesense of freedom)
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