SPF, Chapter 1
A/N: This was my contribution to the amazingly executed FoxyFics fundraiser. It's also what I worked on during NaNoWriMo this past November; meaning I have a lot more to this story if I can push through it all. Yellowglue, Aleighy, Betti, and Mz. M all helped me with this one in their own ways. Lastly, you should know that my husband is a type 1 diabetic. Please be gentle...
It was tingling. I could see again and my tongue was tingling. It was coming up. I fumbled for my list, looking over each customer's name as the glucose tablets did their job.
This was when I was at my best, when my senses were just coming back from the brink of unconsciousness. I could smell every food that flitted across my mind as if it were sitting directly in front of me, and each name on my paper spoke its request.
Rose was having a dinner party. I wasn't a big drinker, but just the mental image of popping a chocolate truffle in my mouth after a sip of red wine made me drool. Wine and chocolate would be her theme.
Leah liked to fight with her food. Oysters were still in season and reasonably priced. She'd love ripping the tiny muscles out of their cozy shells, even if the poor things had already perished in my oven.
I laughed at my mind's eye as it showed me Leah spanking a pomegranate with a wooden spoon, jostling the succulent seeds from the ruby orb that housed them. I'd make a white chocolate mousse and leave instructions for how to properly punish a pomegranate with her.
Aro, an old friend of my father's, was last and least only in his stature. He loved when things seemed complicated, but hated fancy foods. For him I would make a dessert with puffed pastry and a cheesy souffle. Really, as long as whatever I fixed fluffed like his ego, he'd be pleased.
I had a lot of cooking to do, as soon as I could stop sweating.
I went into the shop early the next morning to finish my orders. The souffle' and the mousse had to be done as close to pick up time as possible. Both Leah and Aro were coming in around lunch time to carry out their evening meals.
I shook my head as I drove into the shopping center that housed my small business. Every store in the whole place had some sort of gimmick: a blow-up cowboy boot, flashing lights, or celebrity-fronted labels. There was even a salon that had taken over the space of a retired psychic. The poor lions that protected the entrance had been painted every shade in the rainbow over the last few years. As they sat in their current incarnation, they were red.
SPF Foods was nestled into the perpendicular angle between a pawn shop and the neighborhood cleaners. Really, if you didn't know it was there, no one would ever find it.
I was so grateful to my customers for seeking me out. Having a corner space meant there was a little room for dine-in regulars and walkers that stumbled upon my custom-made sign.
I'd drawn it up and then let my younger sister loose on it. It looked scarily like the label on a bottle of cheap sunscreen, but instead of a sun, there was a loaf of bread, swirled around the top with inked steam rising from its crust.
After Aro and Leah had payed for their supper, I bundled up Rose's dinner to cart over to my parents' house. Rose still made a daily visit there after work to have coffee with our mother until my Dad got home.
I checked my sugar level in the car before I left the parking lot; It was an even 200.
"Shit." I thought. "That's what I get for eating a sensible breakfast before I came to work."
I took a couple of units of insulin and started driving, relieved that I only had easy-to-please regulars on my schedule for the next couple of days.
Seeing my Mother was always a double edged sword. I adored her, and she still greeted me every time I saw her as if she was picking me up from my first day of Kindergarten. Her hope and joy upon seeing my face never diminished.
But neither did her worry. Ever since I'd been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a child, she'd been worried. I never saw her sleep when I was growing up, and the permanent bags under her vibrant eyes were a testament to the vigil she held for me and my siblings every night.
She was the first person I'd ever told about my fairies; the imaginary friends that turned out to be early symptoms of my disease. When I was small, I thought they were real, the way kids believe in the Tooth-fairy or Santa Claus.
The fairies were the ones that made my eyes sparkle when I waited to long for a snack. When I'd wake, covered in sweat in the middle of the night, they'd whisper goodies into my ears. I had Sugar Plum Fairies dancing in my head. My Mom would bring me a glass of juice and I'd tell her what they'd said.
"We should bring Grandma peanut butter cookies tomorrow, Mama!" I'd say, and she'd rush down stairs and be back before I could remember blinking with a peanut butter sandwich.
"The fairies left it on the counter, Edward! Why don't you eat it and then you can go back to sleep." She'd smooth my hair back and crinkle her eyes happily when it rebelled against her soft touch and bounced back to attention.
"What about my teeth?" I'd squeak. It was always my number one concern with eating my nightly snacks. A midnight snack for me was like morning sickness for a pregnant lady. Whoever designated the times had no clue what they were talking about.
"We'll brush them extra good in the morning, my love. Just take a big drink of water for me." I'd gulped the cold water down, unsticking the peanut butter from the roof of my mouth, knowing that she was always gonna be there.
My parents lived in a nice subdivision on the other side of town from SPF. If location was everything then it was the perfect distance. They were close enough to visit and far enough away to not come in to the shop too often.
I actually missed my little sister Alice's presence more often. When she was born I was sure she was a gift, just for me. She was there to help me remember when to eat and hold my hand when things got scary. The year that she was Tinkerbell for Halloween, I dressed up like my beloved Sugar Plum Fairies.
From that time forward that's what we called them as a family: my Sugar Plum Fairies. And even though my older sister teased me about my purple tights, I was so happy when I looked at myself in the mirror that year. I was exactly what I'd heard and felt buzzing around my ears for as long as I could remember. My disease became real and less scary all in one moment.
My mother and Rose rushed out to help me with my haul when I drove up.
"Hi Honey, how's your sugar?" My mother, Esme, always asks me that as soon as the babymoon look leaves her face.
"It's fine, Mom. A little high but nothing outrageous." I said casually, regretting instantly that I'd answered honestly.
"Did you eat breakfast this morning?" She barked back; a protective chihuahua.
Rose rolled her eyes, balancing boxes up to her chin.
"Yes, Mom. I ate, that seems to be the problem." I mumbled, my best bershon in place on my face. These conversations made me feel like a teenager again.
"Well, you know if you eat something with too many carbohydrates that it will make your sugar spike." My Mom meant every word with the deepest love. That didn't make me bristle like a pestered porcupine any less.
"Mom!" Rose shouted. "Enough already! Let the poor boy carry in my crap." My sister saved me. She looked every bit the part of a comic book super heroin with blond hair to her butt and boobs that were like weapons.
I laughed and bumped Rose with my hip, making sure to kiss Mom on the cheek as I passed her.
"I love you, Mama." I said into her ear.
"I love you back, Angelface." That had been her endearment for me for forever and a half. She was happy with that, and let it go.
Rose rubbed her hands together like an evil genius when I showed her my plan for her party.
"You. Are. The. Best. Brother. Ever!" She hollered. She was a perky drill sergeant this morning, but I was so happy she was on my side if zombies, or my Mother, ever decided to attack.
"I don't know about that. I'm pretty fond of Emmett myself." I waggled my eyebrows.
"Ew. Emmett is not my brother. I have to sleep in the same bed as that goon every night!" She screwed up her face and I cackled. Pretty people make the ugliest ugly faces. Emmett was Rose's husband, and an instant member of our family.
Without fail, when I'd finished setting Rose up for her evening of housebound debauchery, my mother managed to work in a conversation about insulin pumps. Before I could close my car door, she regurgitated her monthly mission statement as inconspicuously as she could. The answer was always the same.
"Mama, I'm not letting a machine inject my insulin. It could go haywire at any moment and kill me. At least if I mess up it's my own hands that do it." I explained for the hundredth time.
What my Mother didn't understand was that when I was alone, I waited for the crash of low blood sugar to hit me before I did anything. I knew that if I stopped it just before it became life threatening that I'd glean more inspiration than I could cull in a month of stability. The fairies were a finicky talent I hadn't harnessed completely yet.
I hugged them both goodbye, gave Rose instructions on what order the foods should be eaten in with each wine selection, and made the long drive back to my shop.
I hadn't had a low episode in a week, not since those few minutes I'd captured from the fairy dust and used to plan Rose's party. I was pissed and working my aggression out on a few loaves of French bread. Once they'd risen and baked I'd dry the shit out of them to make bread pudding. I needed to destroy something, even if it was just the moisture content of some cubes of bread.
Honestly, I'd decided the universe was turning on me after I'd blown off my Mom's insulin pump crusade for the millionth time. She'd always joked that the fairies came to me because her nose had been so sensitive when she was pregnant with me. Maybe I'd finally ticked them off for good, or bad, in the case of my current livelihood.
"They were giving me just a taste of the gift they've fully given to you, Edward." She'd say when I'd panic after a black out.
"God damn, mother-fucking, Fairies!" I shouted at no one. As soon as I did I felt a sharp stab in my stomach.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. I hear you, Universe. It can all be taken away if I don't take care of it. I know."
When I was a junior in high school my parents had been on the brink of divorce. Though they thought I couldn't hear them arguing in the middle of the night with my and their doors shut, I could. I developed phantom pains in my stomach, something similar to stomach ulcers, but not traceable by x-ray. The divorce never happened, but the pains still plagued me, especially when I got angry. I imagined my fairies, all gathered together to imitate the Hulk with their faint, flowery voices: "You won't like us when we're angry!".
I took some calming breaths and oiled the top of my dough. With the tip of my finger still damp, I wrote in the snow-drift of flour smeared on my counter. It was a soothing motion, writing then letters from my shop next to my initials: S, P, F, E, A, C.
There were enough letters for "sea", everything but the "e" in "peace", and a "pf" just for the hell of it. It was like making snow angels and writing secret messages in a foggy window all rolled into one from the force of my rolling pin.
The opera of cats behind the shop announced their presence then, and I dusted off my hands and reached for the feline food in the cabinet above my head. I think I was the only person in the shopping center that bothered to feed them real food so they wouldn't scrounge through my dumpsters. I loved taking out my trash every day, the symbolism never got old. But seeing a giant alley cat jump out at me kind of ruined the mood.
I set down a few cans of gourmet grub and listened to the coloraturas and bossy altos thank me with crooning meows.
"Thanks guys." I smiled. The black female gave me the stink-eye. "And girls!"
That seemed to please her enough and she lowered her head back to her bowl.
I was making a triple batch of bread pudding as a two-day therapy session. I wouldn't be able to do much with it until my bread was baked and dried, but just the thought of ripping and chopping the innocent, yeasty mass made me feel a little better.
It was the perfect food, outside of the outright bashing of something with a frying pan, to use up misplaced aggression. The stale bread soaks up the eggy custard of emo-guilt and, and then all the anger bubble-burns away inside the oven. Then, just to be sure it's over with, you get it good and drunk with brandy sauce.
Emmett came in as I was picking egg shells out of my mixing bowl. I'd been a tad over zealous in my cracking.
"You're looking mighty pale brother. You hiding in here like a vampire again?" He asked boisterously. His joke about my shop's association with sunscreen and my naturally light skin never got old; for him.
I rolled my eyes and started whisking. "Hi, Emmett. Did y'all have fun last week?"
"Yeah! It rocked, Dude. The food was stellar, especially when I ate everything out of order to see if it was gross together. Chardonnay and mac 'n' cheese? A serious no-go man."
"I didn't send macaroni anything, Emmett." My eyebrows tried in vain to wrap around his thought process.
"I know! I made some just to see how gnarly it would taste." He was so appalling I had to laugh.
"Really though, Edward, you're looking kind of green around the gills." He commented, grimacing at his own words.
I was going to just brush him off, but something sparkled inside my eyelids and I realized, suddenly, that in all my pissed-offedness, I'd skipped both breakfast and lunch.
Grabbing my blood sugar monitor and a notepad, I went to sit out back at the small table I'd set up there. It beeped a black 100. Emmett walked out behind me and I held up the small machine. He nodded, and went back inside, returning five minutes later with a turkey sandwich on some left over bread I didn't know existed.
For all his goofiness, he was dependable, and I truly loved him like a brother. I shook my head, and tried to explain with sugar-fuddled words that I'd been making bread for bread pudding when I already had some.
"It was invisible!" I shouted to Emmett. He just worried his face at me.
"Eat it, Dude. I don't do that shaky black out business, remember?" He reminded me, tapping his knee nervously.
I thanked Emmett for his help and bit into the sandwich. It was the best damn turkey sandwich I'd ever tasted, even though I knew logically that it was just my blood screaming for the sugars the starchy carbs gave easily.
Pulling my notepad closer, I looked over the customer names that I'd smudged with flour. A new customer's moniker jumped out at me: Renee Swan. She was doing a picnic for a reunion, and as awful as it sounded in my head, turkey sandwiches flowed out of my pen and onto the paper as I took another bite.
I sniffed the air around me, pulling at the edge of my senses, trying to grasp at what was meant to be. Lemon curd; cookies sandwiched with lemon curd, and raspberries rushed onto my page.
"Yes!" I raised a shaky fist into the air and gobbled down the rest of the meal Emmett prepared for me.
"Thanks again, man. I just got busy and forgot to eat." I said as I walked Emmett back through the front entrance.
"Don't do that, kid. It scares the crap out of me, and I crap bigger that your head!" He demonstrated the size of said potty-dropping with his hands, winking at me and punching me softly in the gut.
I swiped a sarsaparilla soda from my fridge since my sugars were still bordering on low when I got back inside. With quick work and my fairy-elves words to muse me, I pulled together Mrs. Swan's entire picnic dinner before evening even started.
About 4:30, the bells on my door jingled again, and I looked up to see a flushed young woman walk beneath them. Her hair was pulled into a disheveled ponytail, and she brushed her hands off on her jeans when she saw me, guffawing at the dirt on her nails. She'd been working outside, that was clear, and I could smell her tangy girlness mixed with the scent of potting soil. It was like a memory, but I was sure I'd never met her before.
She waved, and I did the same, assuming she was Mrs. Renee Swan coming to pick up her order for the next day. I knew she'd be an in-store transaction, but not so soon and not in the package she appeared in.
"Are you…Renee?" I asked, baffled at how young she was.
"Oh, no! I'm her daughter, Bella Swan. She sent me to check on her order. She's busy in the garden today and I was tired of digging in the dirt." She smiled easily, which made me smile in return.
"What is she having you make for us?" she asked, bouncing on the balls of her sparkly, Chuck Taylored feet.
"It's for you?" I asked, embarrassed that I'd prepared such simple food for someone that could light up my entire shop like a disco-footed flower.
"Yeah, she throws a little Friendship Reunion party for me and my best friends from high school every year. There's only going to be five of us this year, but she goes all out anyway. The yard is always more important than the food though, so we persuaded her to order out." She explained, unconsciously rubbing her stomach, dragging my eyes from her face before I could catch myself.
"Sorry." She shrugged, plucking her shirt.
"Are you hungry?"
Her eyebrows shot up, and then fell. She sucked the corner of her bottom lip into her mouth and studied her shiny shoes. "Nah… I've got time to pick up lunch for me and my Mom before she finishes outside."
I knew she was lying, so I motioned for her to follow me to the counter where I'd packaged her picnic during my manic-post-low cooking spell.
"This is everything you're having tomorrow. I got done just before you walked in. There are turkey sandwiches on homemade onion bread with avocado mayo, fennel, beet, and goat-cheese salad, pickled green beans, some tatsziki with homemade pita, and snickerdoodles filled with lemon curd and raspberries." I finished my list, feeling more confidant in my fairies guidance as I saw the look on her face.
Her stomach rumbled and she glared down at it, like a teacher admonishing a too-talkative student.
"There's tea!" I blurted out. "I almost forgot. I brewed some iced tea with mint syrup. Do you want to just take everything now since it's ready?" I asked hopefully. "If you can carry the pitchers, I can manage the boxes."
"Sure! I don't know how I'll be able to wait until tomorrow afternoon to eat all of this. Friendship be damned!" She shook her fist at the sky and we both laughed.
When I opened the refridgerator to take out the tea I saw my jar of lemon curd and the last two bagels I'd made last week.
"Here, wait. My mother would kill me if you left hungry." I pulled a butter knife from the drawer, spinning around as I did and bumping into my guest.
"I'm so sorry! I'm not used to having company back here."
She smiled and moved back a few feet, watching with hungry eyes as I slathered her bagel in a layer of thick curd.
"I'm coming through!" I said over-dramatically, and she shifted to the right so I could pull my parchment paper out of the cabinet she'd covered with her calves.
I stood and wrapped her treat loosely in crinkly, white paper before handing it, and one of the tea pitchers to her.
"Thank you!" She nearly squealed.
"You're welcome. Let me get the boxes for you."
We loaded her backseat with food, and I ran back in for the other container of tea before she pulled away.
She was licking lemon from her lips, the half devoured bagel perched in her lap, when she rolled down the window to take it.
"You're welcome to come to the party, by the way. Unless, of course, you don't want to eat your own food, which I would be very worried about." She giggled.
"I'd love to, let me just check my schedule for the weekend and block off that time to be out of the kitchen." An event where I was neither family, nor the caterer in the background would be fun.
"You own this place?" She asked in amazement.
"Yes, it's mine." I answered. It was so much of me.
"Wow… I wish I could set my own hours sometimes." She sighed, picking another small chunk of bagel off and sliding it into her mouth.
"What do you do, Bella Swan?" Her name felt good on my tongue as it vibrated through my vocal cords.
"I sell science-related supplies and equipment to schools through out the area." She admitted dejectedly.
"It's fun sometimes, to go back to High School everyday. But it gets kind of tedious too." She smiled up at me, like she'd just remembered a forgotten secret.
"Anyway, I have to go back and make mud pies with Mom before she realizes I've been gone so long. I'll see you this weekend, okay?" She dug for a smidgen of lemon curd as she waited for my confirmation, sucking her finger into her mouth.
"Okay." I breathed out, watching her wipe her damp fingertip on her jeans. I patted the hood of her truck and watched her drive away.
When I pulled up to the Swan residence, I looked around for Bella, wanting to alert her to my timely attendance instead of being an unexpected party crasher. She was near the rose bushes, a pair of clippers snapping in her hands as she cut away the dead and dying blooms.
A breeze blew by and a curse floated into my ears. Bella had her finger, the same one that had relished the gold of my oozy dessert, in her mouth. She was wagging her clippers accusingly at a large, intricate spider's web that was situated in between two bushes. She was at the crossroads of Morticia Addams and Charlotte's Web.
I walked over to see if I could help her, making my footsteps heavy, so she didn't startle and prick her finger on anymore thorns. She smiled grudgingly my way and I grinned.
"They called me Edward Scissorhands when I was little." I said, making pretend cutters with my fingers.
"Why?" She asked, clearly amused, and I thought, happy to see me again.
"Because when my finger tips started to callus, I walk around with my hands up in the air like this."
I spread my hands out and pasted a dazed look on my face. Bella laughed and grabbed my left hand, inspecting my fingers.
"Do you play the guitar?" She asked quizzically, running her soft fingertip over the rough patch on my thumb.
"Yeah, sometimes." I admitted.
"My little sister loved that movie, and with my hair like this," I gently pulled my hand from her grasp and pointed to the insane mop on my head, "all the time and my hands like deranged daggers, the name just stuck."
Bella stuck her tongue between her teeth and beamed my way, shaking her head, her clippers resting easily at her side.
"That, and I failed cutting." I was trying too hard, but I couldn't stop. Her smiles were outrageously addictive already.
"Hahaha!", she coughed out an unexpected laugh.
"How does one fail cutting?" She asked, her voice bubbling with amusement.
I just couldn't hold my scissors right, okay?" I act offended, but really I just so happy to see her happy again.
Thank you for inviting me." I said with a smirk.
"You're welcome, Edward, but I'm still not taking a single bite until you do."
With that she started walking back toward her mother's house, winking over her shoulder and waving me forward to walk with her instead of behind her.
When she smiled in the sunshine, her mouth glistened like pulled taffy. Suddenly, I was sorry I hadn't packed any of the sweet treat for today's al fresco dinner. I'd have to make some to keep at the store, just in case she ever stopped by again.
I waited far less that I'd imagined to see Bella once more. She appeared in my doorway on Wednesday of the next week.
"Hey stranger!" She called out, as I finished chewing the piece of taffy I'd snuck. I allowed myself one a day, just to remember Bella and the rose bushes.
"Hi!" I returned her greeting, so shocked to see her face outside of my own head.
"Did anyone end up with the plague after the party?" I teased.
"No, the food was great! Thank you again for everything." She smiled shyly and cleared her throat. "I'm here with a more personal request."
This time, when I followed her eyes to the shoes she was mentally evaluating while she avoided my eyes, I found pointy purple ballet flats.
"This isn't a radio station on lunch hour, Bella." I scolded lightly. "What can I do for you?"
"Well, I was reading a book today during my lunch hour at the high school in my hometown, and I have a craving for something I have no idea how to cook with." She was fascinated with her feet, apparently, as she hadn't met my eyes since posting her plea.
"Oh really? And what would that be?" I paused, bending myself like a little teapot to try and catch her eye. It worked.
"Lavender." She gave a curt nod.
"Do you regularly eat flowers?" I taunted, straightening myself and trying not to bust out laughing.
"No! Toot had a whim, Edward, and ended up in Provence, and now I really want to eat something flavored with lavender."
"Who's Toot?" I cackled. You couldn't say toot to a boy and expect a straight face, or a straight answer for that matter.
"The pig in the story, Edward, keep up." She huffed all silly.
"Oh… I see." I made the international sign for cuckoo at my ear and she came close enough to swat my arm.
"Come with me, I actually have some dried lavender in my lazy susan." I said, trying to reign in the thirteen year old prancing under my skin. It was manly prancing of course.
"Who's Susan?" She shot back, tickled by her own joke.
"I don't know, but she's very lazy. I think it's from spinning all the time." I wrinkled up my eyebrows in concern, fighting to stop the corner of my mouth from lifting.
"Are we even now?" I asked.
"Yes." She agreed, so proud of her part in our laughing dance.
I walked her through to the rear of the shop and plucked the small purple flowers from my rotating spice rack. She carefully took them into her palms and inhaled them deeply, rubbing a few shriveled petals against her wrist like a magazine perfume sample.
"Do you want something sweet?" I asked, swooning in a very unmanly way as her wrist touched her nose gracefully.
"Yes, I think so. What can you make?" She asked, her scent swirling from that point on her arm and making me light-headed.
Not a whole lot on the fly like this." I confessed sadly. "But I can make a kind of pillowy cupcake-cookie, or I can make you a simple syrup for pancakes or something." I hated that I didn't have more time to make her something exactly and completely perfect.
"The first. Lavender pillows in my mouth!" She made a hilarious munching noise and my heart skipped with joy.
"Alright, I can have them by closing if you can come by and get them. My little sister…"
"The one who calls you Scissorhands?" She interrupted. I was not so sorry for my humorous story anymore. She remembered.
"Yes her, she's expecting me for dinner at her place and I can't be late or she'll pout for a month." I explained with a frown.
"Okay, I'll be here around…?" She ticked her nail on the face of her watch. It was big and orange, like a blinking pumpkin sitting atop her wrist.
"Six." I confirmed.
"Six is closing time, so I'll be here at 5:58 and a half." She walked out the door, the ding of the bell there signaling a small funeral for my smile.
Bella came to get her purple-hued pillows precisely when she said she would. When I gave her the loot, all wrapped up in brown paper and string, she pressed the package lovingly against her cheek and pretended to snore. She was becoming my favorite thing.
"I want to sleep with them." She sighed, and the adolescent boy inside me groaned.
It was then, that I had a whim of my own. No toots were involved, this time.