If there's one person Lily the yellow Ogrin can't stand, it's Jasmine. Jasmine is a faerie Uni of the worst kind. Sure she's pretty, but is it really worth it when you spend all your time brushing your mane again and again, reapplying makeup, and checking your appearance in a compact mirror? Seriously, she doesn't go anywhere without it. Last time Jasmine came over Lily counted her checking her reflection a total of 112 times. Lily's never met anyone else that vain.
Unfortunately their owners are best friends. That means Lily and Jasmine have to at least pretend to tolerate each other.
She shows up wearing a fancy dress the color of the autumn leaves, as if it's necessary to dress up just to go over to a family friend's house. Lily, meanwhile, is fine in her typical striped hoodie. They have lunch with their owners, after which Lily plans to disappear to her room. She would leave the house altogether if it weren't so cold out, being the Month of Celebrating and all.
However, her owner looks at her pointedly before she can leave. "Ahem. We're going to the Marketplace for some shopping. We'll be gone a couple hours. Why don't you two try to have some fun? I put some games in the living room."
"I would rather just go with you guys," says Jasmine quickly. Lily isn't surprised to hear she loves shopping.
"Sorry, but we're going to be getting presents for both of you, for Day of Giving, so neither of you can come," said Jasmine's owner.
Once they are gone Lily and Jasmine stare at each other for several seconds. How are they supposed to have fun? They have nothing in common. Jasmine likes clothes and makeup, while Lily likes exploring and reading adventure stories.
"So..." says Jasmine.
"So..." says Lily.
After a minute Jasmine pulls out her compact mirror and checks her reflection, smoothing an imaginary flyaway hair before putting it away again. Fourteen, thinks Lily.
"Oh!" says Jasmine as she's looking in her bag. "I forgot, I brought cupcakes." She sets the container on the table between them. "Err, do you want one?"
"Okay," says Lily. She's not particularly hungry, but at least this will fill a few minutes.
Jasmine opens the container to reveal four perfect cupcakes, decorated with little snowflakes and everything. She takes one for herself and passes the other to Lily.
As soon as she takes a bite Lily forgets she was just trying to pass the time. It's the most delicious cake she's ever tasted, with chocolate and peppermint blending perfectly together with a creamy frosting. "That..." she says, taking the last bite of cupcake. "Was..." She swallows. "Delicious!"
Jasmine chuckles nervously. "Oh, haha, I'm glad you like them."
"Did you make them yourself?"
"Yeah... I like baking sometimes... especially in the winter."
"Cool," says Lily.
They return to their awkward silence. Lily watches Jasmine finish her cupcake in a far more dignified manner.
"I suppose the other two are being saved for our owners..." says Lily, looking at the box longingly.
"That was the plan," Jasmine confirms.
"You should really try selling these. You could make a fortune."
"Oh, I dunno..."
"I mean, really, have you thought about putting some in your shop?"
"I guess," says Jasmine, looking away. "Well, actually. I've always kind of thought it would be cool to... I mean, it's stupid, but..."
"I always wanted to start my own shop," she admits. "Well, more of a bakery."
"Well, then you should," says Lily simply.
"It's not that easy! It costs money to start up, you know. And it's a lot of work. And what if I don't earn any money? What if no one likes my cupcakes?"
"Well, that last part is ridiculous, at least," says Lily. She was at first inclined to think these were just Jasmine's attempts to be modest, but the worrisome expression on the Uni's face makes her wonder if she's actually lacking confidence. "Really, you should go for it. It's worth a shot at least."
"Easy for you to say, when it's not your dream on the line," says Jasmine.
"It's just a shop," says Lily.
"Come on, don't you have some sort of dream like that?" says Jasmine.
"Of course you do," says Jasmine. "Everyone does. Don't you have a dream job? Or even some sort of dream future."
Lily shifts in her chair and shrugs. "You know, I think we have all the ingredients for cupcakes in the kitchen. I know I wouldn't mind some more... or learning the recipe..."
"You want to bake?" says Jasmine dubiously.
"Sure," says Lily. Better than sitting in an awkward silence, she thinks. Besides, she really does want more cupcakes.
"Well, okay. I'll do my best to teach you. Do you have any candy canes, or peppermint rock sticks?"
"Sure. We like to use them for stirring hot chocolate."
"Alright. I'll start the butter and cocoa melting. Could you measure out two cups of flour, two cups of sugar, and half a teaspoon salt?"
"Sure thing," says Lily. She's not much of a baker, but that's simple enough.
A minute later Jasmine looks up from the woodstove and gasps. "Lily, that isn't how you measure things!"
"What?" says Lily, about to dump a second cup of flour into a mixing bowl.
"You can't just heap it on. You have to level it."
"Are you sure you're not just being a perfectionist?"
"It won't bake right if you measure wrong," she insists. "Here, let me show you."
Lily decides to go along with it; perhaps Jasmine really knew what she was talking about. That afternoon she also learns the difference between mixing and beating (the batter has to be mixed, while the frosting has to be beaten), and baking soda versus baking powder (Lily almost uses the wrong one). It's actually kind of fun. The best part, though, is when the warm cupcakes are ready to come out of the oven.
"Wow!" Lily exclaims as she finishes her second cupcake. "I can't believe I actually made these! Well... we made these."
"It's my own recipe," says Jasmine.
"No kidding. You want another?"
"No thanks, I'm full. We should probably clean up."
"Good point," said Lily. "I'll start on the dishes, if you wipe off the counter." Lily is not the most neat baker, it seems. There's batter and flour all over the place.
The got to work. "Do you really think I could run my own bakery?" says Jasmine.
"Sure," says Lily. They're quiet for a minute. "I actually do have a dream job, too. Well, sort of. It's not really a job, but I always wanted to be an explorer or an adventurer. I love traveling and things. Sometimes I even imagine myself discovering a new land, like Brucey B! Now that's a silly dream. Not like opening a bakery, plenty of people do that."
"I don't think it's silly," says Jasmine. "I love reading adventure stories too. I don't think I could ever brave cold ice caves like Hannah, but I really appreciate the people who do do those things."
"Really?" says Lily.
"Yeah," says Jasmine, chuckling. "I carried a Hannah lunch box with me every day to neoschool for years."
"Me too!" says Lily. "What other adventure books have you read?"
The two neopets continue talking, and before they know it the kitchen is sparkling clean. They are still chattering when their owners get back from shopping.
"All right, Jasmine, time to go, before it starts to snow," says her owner.
"Aww, five more minutes?" both girls say at once.
Their owners chuckle. "Oh, all right. We'll have some cupcakes then I'll go."
Five minutes later they are saying their goodbyes. Lily and Jasmine are already making plans for their next get together. Lily never thought she would make a new friend today, of all days.
"That was odd," comments her owner once they're gone. "Since when do you two get along so well?"
"I guess we have more in common than I thought," says Lily, eyeing the box of cupcakes on the counter. "And anyone who makes cupcakes that good can't be half bad, can they?"