A/N: Okay, new story. This doesn't mean I've completely abandoned Breaking Family Ties, but it is on a pause (mainly because I didn't plan it properly). This on the other hand is perfectly planned and I know exactly what is going to happen. So. Anyway, hope you enjoy.


Butter, Sugar, Eggs, and Flour.

Elen's p.o.v – 23/6


Butter, sugar, eggs and flour (and cocoa powder if you're in the mood) are the basic ingredients for a cake, no matter what anyone says. I don't personally hold with packet mixtures. Making a cake from a packet is like – well, it's like trying to have a meaningful, complete adult life without going through all the beating and mixing and character shaping that go on during the childhood. And I am being metaphorical, don't worry. No one's ever actually beaten me with anything.

At that particular moment in time, though, I was beginning to regret my aversion to ready-made cake mixture, because it would have at least meant that the thing would have been in the oven a good ten minutes ago. Ten minutes of torture I would have avoided.

Robbie dipped a finger into the cake bowl for the umpteenth time and I swatted his hand away once again. Something about little boys – those under ten – means that they don't understand when no really means no. My brother pulled a face at me as I tried to push him away from the bowl and make sure the bean stew on the stove didn't boil over. I was successful at the latter but not at the former. Robbie just whined at me instead.

"Elie, why can't I taste it? We're making it to be eaten, aren't we?"

I gritted my teeth. "Yes, Robbie, we are. But you eat it once it's out of the over, not before it goes in. You shouldn't eat raw eggs." Which I'm sure is completely untrue unless you live in Thailand or somewhere, but I wasn't going to tell Robbie that. Actually, I didn't need to. He was still giving me those puppy dog eyes only a seven year old can really achieve to perfection, so I gave in.

"Fine, you can lick the bowl. But not until I've put the cake mixture in the tin." I had to add as I pulled him back once again.

But Elie," he whined, "I thought I was supposed to be helping you."

I rolled my eyes as I dumped a final spoonful of mixture into the baking tin and muttered "so did I" so that he didn't hear me, then passed him the wooden spoon and the cake bowl and told him to sit at the table and eat quietly. Then I turned my attention back to the stew.

Let me explain something about my family. Or rather, let me explain why I'm cooking dinner (and minding my little brother) when I live in one of the richest towns in North America. The answer, unfortunately, is that whilst the town is rich, we certainly aren't. Both my parents work full time – mom's a hairdresser and dad's a nurse at the local hospital. We moved here from Wales when I was two, just after a distant relative died, leaving his lovely old house to my mom.

So yes, I've lived here most of my life. I go to the local private school, Southend High, but only because one of my old teachers insist I sit an entrance exam to get a scholarship, and anyway, I don't really fit in. When I'm in school, I work hard to get the grades to keep my scholarship. When I'm out of school (i.e. holidays, because there's no time the rest of the year), I take whatever job I can get to raise some pocket money.

The day I had, so foolishly, agreed to let my seven year old brother help me make a cake was the last day of school for the year. The cake, it had been agreed – or rather, insisted – was to be a celebration of this. And I had kind of hoped it might keep him off my back whilst I made dinner. Mom usually took care of that, but she had been called in to do an extra shift at the hairdressers (I have no idea how that one worked. Usually dad's the only one who gets called in for emergency shifts), so I was in charge of dinner. Not that I minded. Usually, cooking was relaxing.

Of course, that was when you didn't count on Robbie being sat behind you, watching you curiously the entire time.

"Elie, why isn't Mom cooking dinner."

I frowned. "She's working, Robbie, remember."

"So why are you cooking dinner?"

I turned around and gave him an amused look. "Do you want to cook dinner Robbie?"

He pulled a face at me. "No, I want to make lots and lots of cakes and cookies and have a party."

"Really."

"Yup. Elie, does this mean you're the mummy now?"

I bit my tongue to keep from laughing out loud and told him carefully, "No, I'm not. I'm just cooking dinner."

"So you're the cook!" He crowed triumphantly and thumped the wooden spoon into the bowl so hard I jumped and sent up a silent prayer that he hadn't smashed the bowl in two. Or cracked it anyway.

This time I did laugh. "Yeah, Robs, I'm the cook."

"Are you going to be a cook when you grow up?" He asked before jamming the spoon back into his mouth.

"And what makes you think I'm not grown up yet?" I asked him, aware that my laughter was still lurking rather firmly in the back of my throat.

"You still have to go to school next year. If you were grown up you wouldn't."

I smiled at him. "I suppose you're right. So I'll be grown up in a year then?"

He nodded enthusiastically. "Yup. And then will you be a cook?"

Our mother choice that moment to stick her head around the door, and she answered Robbie's question before I could. "Your sister will be whatever she wants."

I smiled at her and Robbie bounced up from the table to hug her firmly around the middle and smear her pale blue blouse with chocolate cake mixture.

"Hiya, cariad." She greeted him, using the Welsh word for sweetheart. My parents may have lived in the US for nearly fifteen years, but their vocabularies were still liberally sprinkled with Welsh words. I was almost as bad, I must admit – and I had only lived in Wales for two years. "So, how was your last day of school then?" She asked Robbie as she led him out of the room, giving me a wink as she does.

I heard Robbie chatting as they head up the stairs and everything was quiet for few minutes, until footsteps came thundering back down again. Instead of returning to the kitchen, though, my little brother switched on the TV as I put the cake bowl in the sink and my mother joined me.

"So, how was your last day, Elen?"

I shrugged. "Okay. I'm glad it's over though. Only one year to go." I said with a sigh.

Mom looked amused. "Was that relief I heard? How can our little myfyrwraig be happy school's over?"

I pulled a face at her. "Everyone's entitled to be pleased when school lets out. Anyway, this means I have only one year to go before I'm at university, and that will be a blessing."

Mom nodded. "Nesaf blwyddyn. And to think it wasn't more than a few days ago that you were just starting school."

I tossed a kitchen towel towards her. "Ha ha, Mom. That's the speech Dad's supposed to give me, not you."

She shrugged and the house phone rang. We both exchanged amused glances as Robbie informed us, loudly, that "I'll get it." He swung around the kitchen door a minute later holding the phone towards me and whispered loudly, "It's Jessica."

I smiled, thanked him politely, took the phone and said hello to my friend Jessica. The first thing she told me was that my little brother was adorable. I snorted.

"You wouldn't have said that if you'd had to help him bake a cake after school."

Jessica laughed. "No, I suppose I wouldn't. But I do think he's sweet."

"Yeah, yeah. What's up though? I know you aren't just calling to tell me my brother's adorable. Although you're welcome to adopt him whenever."

"Wish I could. Being an only child's lonely. No, seriously though," She said, changing the subject and her tone of voice as only Jessica Guardi can, "there's a party tonight. You're coming."

I held the phone away from my ear and stared at it as if it had grown teeth. I don't go to parties. Ever. When I put it back against my ear, Jessica was laughing on the other end.

"You are so predictable Elen. I bet you're just staring blankly at the phone now."

"Actually, I stopped staring at it a while back. I'm listening again, though I think there might be a bug on the line or something." I informed her, and I could tell she was making an effort to control her laughter.

"I mean it Elen, you're coming." The amusement was still clear in her voice, but she was trying to quash it. I think. "It's at Abi Hanks. I need you there – call it moral support if you will. You know how she feels about me."

"Right, because having me around is going to help matters at all. Come on, Jessica, you know I don't hang with that crowd."

It's perfectly true, too. I really don't 'hang' with them. With Jessica's crowd. That we're friends has been a mystery to pretty much everyone I have ever met, including myself. See, Jessica's one of those perfect, blonde, blue-eyed, beautiful rich girls, with a wonderful personality to match, who can make friends with anyone in under two minutes. She's had boys practically crawling all over her since we were freshmen, and she was immediately snatched up by the 'popular' crowd. How she managed to avoid being made a cheerleader, I'll never know. Except that she maybe has a little too much integrity for that.

I, on the other hand, am not blonde, beautiful or rich. Not only that, but I have trouble making friends, I only managed to break out of being shy when we got to high school, but I'm still ridiculously 'reserved', as dad calls it, and I am definitely not, nor will I ever be, popular kid material.

In fact, the only reason Jessica and I were friends was because she fell whilst playing a skipping game when we were in third grade and scrapped her knee, and I was the only one who wasn't busy playing a game of some sort, so was the one sent with her to the nurse. I remember her chattering all the way, although her eyes were brimming with tears because her knee was bleeding, and then walking back to class with me. And from that day on, she wouldn't leave me alone. And for some reason, that was enough of a basis to build a very strong friendship on.

"I don't care if you don't usually hang out with them. Today you are going to." Jessica's voice cut through my reverie and I frowned into the phone again.

"Jessica." I moaned, realising I sounded rather like Robbie but not caring.

"No, Elen, you're coming. It is the last day of your junior year, there is no way you're not coming to this party."

I pulled a face again, but I knew I wasn't going to get anywhere, so I gave in. Anyway, maybe it will be fun. And maybe I should try to spend a little less time hiding around the house. "Fine." I muttered.

I could almost hear Jessica jumping around the room with glee over the phone. No, scratch that, I could hear her jumping around the room because she'd just knocked something onto the floor and was trying to quash a giggle/coughing fit.

"Jessica?" I asked, trying to draw her attention back to the phone. "Look, dinner's nearly ready, and I'm supposed to be cooking…"

"Oh, that's fine. I'll pick you up at eight. But you have to take a shower, alright. And where that blue top I bought you for your birthday." I knew exactly which top she meant, and wished I didn't. It was slightly more skimpy than anything else in my wardrobe, although nowhere near as skimpy as the things other girls wear. It was just a bit low cut.

"Don't complain." Jessica told me sternly, and I rolled my eyes. "If you're not wearing it when I get there, I'm going to force you to go back and change. And wear the black jeans. See you at eight."

I had opened my mouth to say something, but Jessica had already hung up, so I was left feeling like a bit of an idiot. Robbie dashed out of the living room at that point and informed me that I looked like a fish, so I closed my mouth and replaced the phone on its hook. I stuck my head back in the kitchen to ask Mom if she could look after the dinner for a while, and she nodded and waved me away, so I hurried upstairs to shower, as instructed.


Dad didn't get home until dinner was on the table, which wasn't all that unusual really. He greeted us all tiredly, and Mom gave him one of those 'you really should look after yourself better' looks that she's so good at, then sat him down and began dolling out the bean stew.

Tired as he might have been, Dad didn't waste anytime greeting us, and his face quickly lost its weary appearance. He smiled widely.

"So, how was school?"

"Over!" Robbie announced with a giggle, and Dad laughed with him.

"Only until September." He pointed out.

Robbie gave a childish shrug. "I made cake today. And Elie cooked dinner." He told us all, as if it was something wonderful, to be shared with the whole world. "And Monday I'm going to ca-a-a-a-amp."

Mom and I laughed, and Dad reached over the table and patted Robbie's head. "Yes, of course. How grown up you are." Robbie beamed, and Dad turned to me with a twinkle in his eyes. "Well, at least I know dinner will be edible tonight."

I hid a smile as Mom leaned over to hit his arm playfully. She can cook, really, it was just something Dad had teased her about. Ever since she had told him that there was vinegar in pavlova, if I remember correctly. Or it could have something to do with the time she panicked because she couldn't remember how to turn the stove off and the scrambled eggs were over-scrambling… But that's just my mom for you.

Dad rubbed his arm, flashed Mom a quick grin (those two can be sickeningly teenage when they try) and turned back to me. "So, anything on the job front yet?"

I sighed and shook my head. "Dim. But I'll have a proper look tomorrow. Maybe I can find something in town."

"You could always come and work at the salon." Mom pointed out with a smile, and I pulled a face. She'd been trying to pull me into that one for years. Well, it hadn't worked yet, and it wasn't going to work anytime soon.

Dad gave me a sympathetic smile. "Now, come on Meg. You know beauty really isn't Elie's strong point." Mom and me let out simultaneous shocked exclamations and Dad laughed. "I don't mean to say that she isn't beautiful, of course she is." He reached towards me and tried to pat my head like he had patted Robbie's. I ducked away just in time. "I just mean she'd probably rather be doing something that didn't involve manhandling hair dryers, curling irons and old women all day."

I snorted. My Dad can make the oddest things sound ridiculously crude. Mom caught on straight away and we burst out laughing. Dad just shook his head.

"My goodness, what dirty minds you have, my dears." Robbie moaned that he hadn't understood. "I'll explain later, Robs. Actually Elie, I have a suggestion you might like to hear. A colleague of mine is going away for the whole summer and she needs someone to look after her sons – cook for them and so on – over the holiday."

I looked up, interested. That actually sounded like a fairly decent proposal. If it was for the whole summer…well, that was a good start. Plus, I could find other jobs to fit around it (probably). And I like cooking, so it would give me a chance to practice and maybe experiment. Dad could see that I liked the idea and he smiled.

"I'll put you in touch with her, shall I?" He asked me, and I nodded. "Her name's Ruth Lisle. She has two sons, I think. I'll see her at work tomorrow and arrange a meeting."

"Thanks Dad." I said, smiling, and Mom shook her head and murmured "the offer still stands". I pretended not to hear her, which was what she expected in the first place.

Our conversation for the rest of dinner drifted between plans for the holidays, what exactly would happen at Robbie's camp (this was Robbie's topic of conversation, and the only one he condescended to having), and all the other unimportant things that family dinner conversations do.

My mom and I were having an animated discussion about who was going to pick my grandmother up from the airport when she arrived later during the holiday (the 7th of July, to be exact) when I noticed the time. It was already ten past eight. I wasn't particularly surprised that Jessica hadn't arrived yet, she was almost always late, but I did want to be waiting outside when she did, rather than have her honking to call me out, which would only annoy my parents and all our neighbours.

I ended our conversation hurriedly and announced that I was going out. Dad looked up at me.

"Out? At this time?"

I sighed. I should have seen this coming. "Yes, Dad, out. Jessica's taking me to a party."

"A party? With alcohol? And music? And Boys?"

I pulled a face. "I would expect so, Dad, although I've never personally been to one before."

What I didn't expect was the change that suddenly came over my father's face at those words. "Haven't you now?" He looked at Mom and raised his eyebrows. "Well, that'll have to change. Your mother was quite a little parti ferch in her time."

Mom laughed. "You know, at home, alcohol's legal when you're 18, not when your 21."

"And it's 16 in Ireland, I know, I know. But I don't live in Ireland or in Wales and I'm not 18 yet anyway." I pointed out.

Mom just shrugged. "Ah, what will we do with you, Elen? You couldn't have been a normal teenager?"

I glared at her. "Gee, thanks Mom. Nice to know you'd rather have a drunken, slutty, no-hoper for a daughter than a girl who actually wants a bit more out of life."

Mom held up her hands in surrender. "Oh, get out of here, you unig."

I laughed. This was a typical conversation whenever we (as a family, or me and Jessica) were going anywhere where there was likely to be alcohol. I must have the only parents in America, if not the whole world, who are constantly trying to get me to drink more. It makes me wonder sometime…

I didn't say anything else though, just stood, calling over my shoulder that there was cake in the kitchen, don't forget, and hurried outside. My timing was perfect, if I don't say so myself, and Jessica waved to me from her car as she pulled up in front of the house.

What had I let myself in for?


Translations:

Cariad – sweetheart (or love, but the former in this case).

Myfyrwraig – student

Nesaf blwyddyn – next year

Dim – nothing

Parti ferch – party girl

Unig - child