So after I had sent the boys to their room for asshatting it up in the face of mortal peril, I consulted Galadriel to see what we could do about Bella's kitchen. I really didn't have a better place to put it, and I did like the idea of giving Tonner Edward one less perch to stalk her from, and--hey, hadn't Gladdy spent a good bit of time in Doriath back in the day? Surely she'd picked up some tricks from Melian?
"Well, it is such a small space, and Melian was able to gird an entire forest," she said, surveying the printer tableshelf. "A safety barrier is doable here, I think. It would also have the benefit of keeping the sparklepires out, if I cast it over the entire tabletop."
"Yeah--or maybe you could just put an entire anti-klutz barrier around her? I mean, that way we wouldn't have to worry about her falling from anything at all."
"I'm not sure my powers are that strong," she said. I still don't know whether she was kidding or not.
So, that sorted, I put Bella back up there and let her get started on her inaugural culinary creation, which I did not have very high hopes for, but as long as it kept her busy, I didn't much care. So I was fairly surprised when she called me over a few hours later to show off her handiwork (which she was generally disgusted with, but there you are). Using what few toys-of-the-'80s resources I'd given her, she had, of course, ended up making strawberry shortcake:
"Not that it's the least bit authentic. It's the opposite of short. I don't really know what you expected me to do with a pan like this, though. A sponge cake was all I could manage. I mean, seriously, not even a baking sheet? Come on. And you're just lucky that there was vanilla for the crème Chantilly. Honestly, I don't know how you expect me to work under these conditions. And I don't have enough plates for everyone, either."
"Everyone... You're going to let them have some?"
"Oh, they can have all of it," she said, folding her arms tight around herself. "I didn't make it for me."
You think I was surprised, you should have seen the Shelf gang's faces when Galadriel wheeled the cake in (both Bella and I agreed that Bella didn't need to be anywhere near 1) a tower of whipped cream 2) on wheels). Hell, you should have seen Eowyn's face; I think she was dying a little inside, having both to eat Bella Swan's cooking and admit that it was good. At least, I think it was? All the guys had seconds, although I couldn't tell if they were just being polite or not. I mean, they seemed to wolf it down pretty eagerly, but then, these are guys who used to live on, like, berries and deer jerky out in the wild; I wasn't sure they were really the best judges.
The interesting thing, though, was that I noticed we were missing a plate when I was cleaning up afterwards. It turned out that Helm's Deep Aragorn hadn't gotten seconds for himself at all--he had (he confessed), in answer to a plea from The Littlest Edward, sneaked some of the shortcake over to the Sparklerosa, and when I went to retrieve the plate myself, I found Little Edward in my bathroom, hworfing tinily into the wastebasket.
I winced, my fears confirmed: "Aw... that bad, huh?"
"No--it was exquisite," he said, beaming with pride. And then he was caught unawares by one last involuntary retch. "It's just that I can't--"
"Ohhhhh. That's right." Sparklepires cannot, of course, eat food. Well, I guess they can; they just can't digest it. "Well, you got to try it, and it's good to know that she's actually good at it--"
"Oh, she's so talented--I knew she would be, of course she is--and so generous, to give it all away--"
"--just don't make yourself sick again."
He stared at me. "But--I must try everything she makes!"
"Look, the last thing I need is a bulimic vampire on my hands. No more people food for you, Sparkles."
"Purging is bad for you! It leads to all kinds of health problems, not the least of them being the deterioration of your esophagus, and this is not even to speak of the psychological issues involved--"
"What, my indestructible marble esophagus?" Well, he had me there. "And what about people who work in test kitchens? It's not any different! People who taste wine or chocolate for a living? They don't swallow--"
"Yes, well, they don't throw up either." But he seemed so distressed by the idea of being unable to partake of his ladylove's cooking that I finally leaned in and whispered, "Look, just... take it in moderation, I guess. Besides--he didn't get to try any of it. You've had something that he hasn't."
He was still so sore over Tonner Edward eavesdropping on Little Bella's sleep-talking--in part because it was wrong and intrusive and unchivalrous, but also in part because he hadn't gotten to--that he found this very satisfying. (Me, I just felt kind of dirty for playing into their weird, stalky oneupmanship.) And while he refrained from intentionally rubbing his rival's face in it, of course he was thinking about it (daydreaming there in his pile of Easter grass, after a long day of mane-curling), and of course Tonner Edward read his thoughts, and of course Tonner Edward was then livid--particularly when he "heard" about the Kitchen Girdle of Galadriel.
"You accuse me of having no honor, and yet all of you stack the deck against me. All of you," he huffed--as usual, and yet he was getting more and more vehement every time the subject of Bella came up. A little wild-eyed, even. I was getting concerned, to say the least.
"Man, I feel for you, but I'm telling you, this is just not meant to be. I mean, first of all, she is literally one-third your size."
"You have no idea what good she could do me, what purpose she would give me. She would be my little petit four, my mini-marshmallow, my precious macaron--"
"Do you really think it's a good idea to compare her to food?"
"--I would never hurt her, I would devote my life to her, if I could only have one kiss--"
"You'd bite her head off. Like an animal cracker."
He didn't speak to me the rest of the day.
So Bella was definitely not the solution to anyone's problems, is what I'm saying. Cooking did, however, seem to be the solution to one of her problems, so I went on a hunt for any little thing I thought could help--one last scouring of the closet and attic for any food-related toys, and finally, odds and ends in our actual kitchen. I mean, a foil cupcake... thinger... whatever... could be a really large mixing bowl, right? Or maybe I could flatten it out into a baking pan. (I am still kicking myself for standing there, standing there, while my mother boxed up and gave away all the Barbie stuff my sister and I had as kids, and not even rescuing any of the Dream House kitchenware first. All the myriad pots and pans and table settings and food! GAH.) And while I was down there, I came across a few packages of thin wooden skewers--you know, like you might use for--kabobs? kebabs? I'm not sure of the preferred spelling down here. Well, I thought, Serafina might could use one as a spear. Hell, Lyra might be able to. At least they'd have a long-range way to defend themselves out in the woods while Legolas and Faramir are making Serafina's bow.
Except that, as on so many occasions, I managed to make things so, so much worse.
"That is EXACTLY what we need!" cried Legolas. I've noticed he's a lot like a puppy, actually--you get him enthused about something, he runs around in circles all hyper about it, and then suddenly he
"Really?" I said. "Because I don't know that you'll really be able to bend that--"
"Nah, man, we've already got the bow wood taken care of. But these? Would make perfect arrows. I mean, that's a substantial lady there, she can totally handle a shaft that thick--"
Faramir was the one to ask the obvious question, because I had to walk away for a moment in order to compose myself (and even he was trying to suppress a grin). "But aren't those far too long for arrows...?"
"Not a problem! We just trim 'em down--or break 'em in half, even--" And he demonstrated with one of the skewers then, snapping it handily over his knee.
"We go get some leaves to fletch 'em with, we can have this whole show on the road by the end of the week for sure."
And that was when he knew his days as a free, if sexually-conflicted, Ranger of Ithilien were numbered.
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