Chapter 1

I woke up at seven, my hair a grungy mess, my eyes crusted and droopy and every bone and joint in my body stiff and aching. Arghh how I hated my bed—a hard, single jammed into one corner of my messy room. The springs in the mattress were ancient and I had to keep myself as still as a statue when I slept for the purpose of keeping the squeaking at bay. A single movement could cause a cacophony to emit from the worn, ten year old mattress. Yes, I still slept on the same bed I had had at the age of five. Sad, I know. After ten years, you'd think I'd be used to the discomfort of my bed but the lord was cruel to me and it seemed as though my slumber only worsened over the years.

I stretched my stiff body and gave out a huge yawn, smiling in satisfaction at the sound of two of my joints popping. I grabbed my old towel and sniffed it critically—not too bad… I decided it was safe to use and strung it over my shoulder, scratching my head as I headed towards the bathroom that I shared with my sloth of a brother Charlie.

The sound of terrible and raspy singing pierced my delicate ears as I approached the closed door of the bathroom. What. The. Hell. Charlie was up before me? What had the world come to? My elder brother was the laziest slacker in the world. Ever since well forever he had been the one to wake up latest. My dad had oh so often enlightened us with reminisces of the past: Charlie being a cute little baby, always sleeping and so quiet… When I asked him about what kind of baby (I had been expecting him to say something along the lines of sweet, cute and always smiling) he had told me that I had been an absolute monster, always crying and screaming, never content and causing trouble—waking up dear Charlie with my incessant bawling.

Lies, I say. Although I could recall some of those good times when I had eventually gained the ability to walk and successfully fill the cup in the bathroom with water and carry it to my dearest brother's room with only a teensy bit of spillage. The looks I had witnessed on his face when I, day after day succeeded in waking him from his carefree slumber with cold water or other ingenious methods were priceless. There was no more of that fun anymore though, stupid Charlie had gotten a lock installed on his bedroom door when he had turned thirteen and that was the end of my sadistic pleasure. He was such a party pooper.

Now don't get me wrong—I am definitely not a sadistic person. The pleasure that comes with causing other people pain only comes to me when Charlie is the victim. Don't ask me why because I honestly have no clue. Maybe the satisfaction comes from the fact that it's sweet revenge for all those times that Charlie had bossed me into doing his errands for him: scrubbing the toilet, taking out the trash, doing the dishes, hanging out the washing—even the most boyish of tasks—mowing the lawn! I could recall one time when I had been eight and was mowing our front yard after my ten year old jerk of a brother cajoled me, an innocent and kind hearted little girl into doing his bidding. So I was out there mowing our wide fronted and quite unruly yard when our neighbour, Mrs. Abett popped her cheery head over our fence and inquired: "Oh what a lovely boy you are, do you mind mowing my own lawn after? I'll repay you in scrumptious treats."

Lovely boy? I had been a bit put off by that. Could she not see that I was a girl? Well the fact I had been wearing a baseball cap over my pony tailed head and my outfit had been quite unisex may have had something to do with that… I suppose… but STILL. I had looked the elderly lady up and down, her brown hair streaked with grey and her kind face crinkling as she smiled back at me in anticipation. I tilted my cap back a bit and gave her a friendly smile, replying "Morning ma'am. I'm actually a girl but sure I'll mow your lawn." And how glad I am that I did. Unbeknownst to little ol' me at that time, Mrs. Abett was the owner of the most loved and known bakery in the whole of our grand city of Hermica so when Mrs. Natasha Abett finally got to repaying me for mowing her lawn with scrumptious treats, said treats were definitely no disappointment. Each and every cupcake, pastry, scone and whatever other masterful creation she had for me was absolutely mouth watering but there was one that stood out most out of all them. Only one was the golden pinnacle of all baked goodness that sat atop the pyramid of Abett's Bakery, only one deserved my undying love and affection and that one beautiful and simply sublime treat was the chocolate cake. Oh how my mouth watered with only the mere thought of it.

Over the next few years and even up until now I had continued mowing Mrs. Abett's lawn and in return she'd always give me a perfect slice of heaven in the form of a piece of chocolate cake. Oh how I adored the kind, old woman and not only because of the chocolate cake. Sheesh I'm not that shallow. Mrs. Abett was a brilliant woman, she was a widow and had two children who would occasionally make appearances at her house or at the bakery on Maine Street. She was brilliant because she was a true genius when it came to the art of baking, it was her gift—a supernatural power of hers that allowed her to bake like a god. Every single one of her products was absolutely perfect and the city folk knew it, her often crowded bakery full of bustling business was proof enough of that. She'd always invite me with open arms, smiles, riveting conversation and chocolate cake. I can honestly say I was closer to her than I was to my real grandparents. No lies.

Now away from that topic of thought. I'd be lying if I told anyone I wasn't prone to going off on tangents or reminiscing about the past. The point I had been trying to make at approximately seven ten in the morning of a fine day during the Christmas holidays, was that Charlie, my lazy, lazy jerk of a brother was up before me during the holidays. I am overstressing the adjective 'lazy' for a good reason here. Charlie Louis Evans should really change his name to Lazy Indolent Sloth… seriously.

Him waking up before me, let alone before noon during the holiday was a miracle. It was so bizarre that for a second I pondered if I was on a reality TV show where they wanted to see how someone would react to something so strange and surprising. I took a quick look around the narrow corridor, the staircase at one end and the bathroom's door down the other but found no hidden cameras. Hence I then resumed my investigation and proceeded to bang my fists on the bathroom door, yelling groggily "Charlie! Why the hell are you up before lunch?"

His nasty attempt at singing was quickly cut off and my ears were given a momentary reprieve before he shouted back his reply "I got business to do. Very important business." I leaned my back on the corridor wall before slowly sliding down and landing on my butt clumsily with a soft thud, head in hands, rubbing my weary eyes and muttering under my breath. I was initially not a morning person, my one cure for morning grumpiness was a nice, warm, refreshing shower. Unfortunately for me, on this momentous day, in which Charlie woke up in the actual morning and not afternoon, he decided to have an extremely long shower, ultimately resulting in my short temper breaking.

Another five minutes later I was back at the bathroom door, bashing its wooden surface like an angry boxer beating up on someone who had just insulted their mother. "Charlie! You're a friggin guy! How long does it take you to take a shower?"

"Patience is a virtue, lil sis!" He responded to my dismay and I rubbed my eyes once again before slumping myself on the wooden floor in front of the bathroom, succumbing to my drowsiness. The floor wasn't that bad, it wasn't that much worse than my bed to be honest and I soon found myself drifting off into Lalaland.

"What the f**k!" was the lovely exclamation that came out of my lovely brother's lovely little mouth when he tripped on my sleeping body and landed on the wooden floor with a heavy thud. His towel had come loose from around his waist as he fell and my eyes were scarred as they came to rest on the disturbing image of my brother's ugly butt, flashing its pale evil at my innocent eyes. I hastily shut them and covered my poor eyes with my hands, screaming "My eyes! They burn!" as I rushed into the bathroom. Almost slipping on the puddles of water left, luckily my swift reflexes and awesome coordination saved me from a nasty bruise and a possible concussion and I heaved a sigh of relief before locking the bathroom door, shuddering at the image of my brother's butt flashing in my mind. It wasn't like I hadn't seen it before, sure I'd seen his stupid arse heaps of times before but that had been five years ago when he'd still been an immature little boy, mooning innocent little girls for fun and causing a whole bunch of sadistic mischief. That was a truly frightening phase of his.

Turning the taps of the shower on and feeling the warm water cascade down on me brought a sigh of content out of my lips. This was heaven. Warm showers and chocolate cake were my two true loves in life. I don't know what I'd possibly do without them… probably die or go insane.

I dressed myself in a pair of old jeans and a T-shirt and headed downstairs. Dad was at work fixing people's light bulbs and circuits, and Charlie had already left to do whatever 'very important business' he had to do. It beat me, as long as he wasn't hogging the shower or eating my chocolate cake I was pretty content.

Too lazy to cook my own breakfast, I headed out the front door, locking up on my way out and made my way towards Mrs. Abett's bakery, already knowing that she would have been up by half past five and at the bakery by six. Charlie had taken our station wagon and my dad had taken his electrician's van so I relented to walking the two and a half kilometres to Abett's Bakery despite the heat of summer. I couldn't yet drive but I had been hoping on getting a lift.

The tiny, delicate, golden bell hanging on the entrance door jingled its usual sweet and happy chime as I entered the familiar bakery, the soothing and salivating smell of baked goodness washing over me, causing my lips to turn up into a goofy sort of grin.

"Morning Riley" sang Mrs. Abett as she waved a flour dusted hand from over the counter.

I gave her a beaming smile and approached, entering through the side door to the back kitchen where the lovely smell was at its strongest. "Got any scraps for me?"

She nodded animatedly "You know I always do." She reached behind her and presented me with a warm, freshly baked chocolate croissant. Not as good as a slice of chocolate cake but still disarmingly tasty. My smile widened as I took the treat in my hands, feeling its soft warmth like a magical caress, graciously thanked dear Mrs. Abett, lowered my nose and inhaled the delectable scent and took a large bite. Mmmmmmmmmmm… tasty. Mrs. Abett watched me stuff my face with bemused eyes and I nodded in satisfaction, motioning to the half of the croissant left before giving her a confident thumbs up. Then the bell jingled and she went up front to the counter to serve some customers.

Coming to the bakery was almost daily routine for me. During the long Christmas holidays, of which we only had a few days left, I would also stay to help Mrs. Abett out with her bakery: working at the register, cleaning up the kitchen or occasionally, if I was lucky, helping out with making some of the actual goods.

Once I was done with my mouth-watering chocolate croissant, I went to wash my hands at the kitchen sink, put one of the bakery's aprons on and proceeded to the front counter to help Mrs. Abett out with the register. Now that it was nearing eight o'clock, more and more customers were arriving for their daily dosage of baked goodness. Can't say I blamed them, anything from Abett's Bakery had more of a get me up than any caffeine fix I'd ever had.

Most of the customers were regulars and I found myself enjoying myself as I smiled back at all the familiar faces, making small talk over the counter, the usual inquiry about family, work, their day in general and how they were enjoying their holiday if they were younger was made with a cheery disposition.

"Hello Yasmine" I greeted one of my favourite regulars. She was an interesting girl, a few years older than me with a golden complexion, curly bronze hair and hazel eyes.

"Hey Riley, the usual please." She stated, already fishing through her purse for the money.

I smiled, the main reason I liked Yasmine was that she shared the same fetish for chocolate cakes as I. Whose obsession with the sacred treat was stronger however, I had no idea. "Would you complete a triathlon for a single piece of chocolate cake?" I inquired, raising an eyebrow.

She looked at me oddly, "I don't think so..."

"Wrong answer" I fired back, sighing "You don't understand to what extent the magical qualities of chocolate cake extend. You have only just glimpsed the top of the glacier, there's a whole bigger part of it you haven't seen, submerged under the dark water."

She chuckled, handing me the money. "You're really weird Riley, you know that?"

I rolled my eyes "You are still young and inexperienced in the ways of the chocolate cake. I'd definitely complete a triathlon for a single piece of this beauty." I reasoned, handing her the cardboard box in which her purchased chocolate cake piece sat in all its splendour. "Hell I'd complete ten triathlons for a single piece of chocolate cake."

Yasmine smirked "Well lucky for you and me, all it takes is two dollars fifty." I laughed good- naturedly before waving her goodbye and proceeding with my next customer, a hungry old Mr. Hardy. I had decided that Yasmine was a little Chihuahua and I was a wild wolf when it came to chocolate cakes. Yup… my fixation was way stronger but that was a good thing, right?