Writing Challenge: One-Shot Story Writing Challenge for Fall In Love Fic Exchange 2019
Title: Hello Autumn
"And all the lives we ever lived and all the lives to be are full of trees and changing leaves..." - Virginia Woolf.
Pumpkin Spice…the scent of it was growing stronger the more it lingered inside the mixing bowl with the other dry ingredients. Eighteen-year-old Tsukino Usagi’s eyes left the bowl going to the worn pages of the cookbook on her kitchen counter covered in post-it notes and paper clipped various notes.
“Pumpkin spice, ground cinnamon, and cloves. The gang’s all here. I’ve got this all organized and ready.” Usagi whispered to herself.
Her Mother's pen pal Susan had happily given to her over their shared Skype call a few days ago, and Usagi was making sure to follow each clear direction that had been written in her mother Ikuko's handwriting on index cards. The recipe for the dried ingredients had called for both ½ teaspoons of the pumpkin spice and ground cinnamon with cloves mixed together in the bowl. Following that, all Usagi would have to do was toss in all of the wet ingredients into the bowl before combining it all together with either a whisker or a flat baking spatula.
“Usagi, are you baking a berry cake or coffee cake? It smells quite savory in here, almost like those autumn fall doughnuts the cinnamon pumpkin ones Dunkin Doughnuts released earlier this month.” A familiar voice called down from the kitchen floor, a sniffing noise following down below the kitchen counter space.
“Not this time Luna. Remember how Mama decided to join an online baking group for pen pal conversations? When she wanted to try baking some American cakes, tarts, and pies after being curious about what kind of baked goods that her pen pal Reeds, Susan-san would make for her family for their November holidays they celebrated? What’s it called, involves something with turkeys and a lot of food…Thanks-something-Day.”
“Thanksgiving Day is what it’s called I believe you were almost close to pronouncing. There’s a Siamese cat two doors down named Sheila and her owner is from the states. She tells me all about the holidays he used to celebrate over there.” Luna shared with her ward-and-long time royal mistress, as she hopped on to the counter, mindful of Usagi’s cheerfully-pink looking Hello Kitty brand electric mixing bowl, various baking products, and supplies.
“Well, it sounds like you’re making new friends with our neighbors’ cats in this apartment building. When and where did you and this Sheila-chan meet exactly?” Usagi asked curiously as she started cracking three large eggs into a small ceramic chicken-themed egg bowl carefully trying not to break small shells into it.
“It was mine and Artemis’s weekly Tuesday date night and while I was wandering outside, Sheila and her owner fed us. He was a nice human, though I didn’t care for his creepy tattoos on his arms.” Luna answered, rolling her eyes at how amused immediately Usagi was looking at her.
“Luna, Luna…don't you always tell Mamo-chan and I not to judge anyone by how they look but by their character or being of a person?” Usagi chided the black cat, patting her head behind the ears.
“Hai…guilty…” Luna sighed with a huff.
“Well, you should practice what you keep preaching on to me and the girls." Usagi grinned with an amused glint in her eyes.
"What is it that you're planning on baking with all of these ingredients that's an American baked dish that they'd usually serve on their tables overseas for their autumn holidays?" Luna asked again, watching her charge starting up the blender on a slow to medium speed as she poured the eggs into it, followed by a small cup of canned condensed milk, canned pumpkin flesh and other liquid condiments of vanilla, and room temperature butter.
"I'm making a pumpkin-spice cake batter for what they call Pumpkin-Spice Bars which according to Mama is just a cake that's flat and cut into bar shapes and iced all pretty with cream cheese sweet frosting. This is going to be dessert for Mamo-kun and I to share later when he comes over with dinner." Usagi simply answered, starting to whisk and fold the mixture in the bowl together with her pink handled whisk.
"Oh that's nice...wait, just the two of you? I thought Minako was going to come over to join you for dinner as a double date indoors with Kunzite due to it raining all dreary and cold outside with the winds and leaves dancing awful," Luna questioned, seeming to be puzzled.
"That is what Minako told Artemis, Ami, Rei, and Makoto...and then me last minute when she was bored of just having as she put it to me last time we were in our beginning arts sculpting class 'I'm tired of just hanging out alone with Kunzite all the time. Let's have a get together-double date with you and Mamoru so we can go see that new rom-com that's out in the cinema!' Minako pretty much insisted and kept 'forgetting' every time I told her that I was just planning on having a dinner for two with Mamo." Usagi sighed, still beating the mixing bowl's batter away gently as she could carefully.
"I see. Typical Minako, being selectively 'forgetful'. Most likely Kunzite will keep her occupied with studying seeing how he is attempting to tutor her in her class studies that aren't related to her goals of stardom with taking that beginning theater class," Luna muttering, knowing all too well how Minako was with being so 'forgetful'.
"Yeah...that's exactly what Kunzite is planning to do with her all alone in his apartment...' studying and helping her with her homework'...right...It'd take a miracle from Kami himself to get Minako to pay attention anytime Kunzite or Ami's trying to get her to focus on her studies and not a Korean Drama on TV. Or on her cellphone," Usagi murmured to herself with a snicker.
"What was that?" Luna asked as she looked up from when she was about to lick one of her paws for a quick paw wash.
"Nothing. Well, this looks done mixing enough. Now to spread it on to the baking pan and wax baking paper and just pop it into my pre baked baking toaster oven and this little tray of pumpkin bars will be baked up perfectly. Then all I have to do is get the frosted icing all temperature up perfectly to room temperature to ice it up after the cake has had time to cool." Usagi answered, putting the bowl down, and moving the whisk over to the kitchen sink with the small mixing cups and tablespoons to soak them in some dish soap and hot water.
"You actually made cake icing from complete scratch as your Mother does? Usagi, that's wonderful, I'm so proud of you." Luna spoke, looking both amazed and surprised for a moment of wonder...until...
"Nani?! No way Luna! I might have finally gotten the hang of baking basic cakes, cupcakes, muffins, and little easy tray doughnut holes but I'm no master of doing it all from magical scratch like my Mama or Makoto-chan can. I kept it all simple semi-homemade and semi-do-it-yourself. I just bought a container of sweet white vanilla creamy creamed cheese ice frosting from the store when I got the dry ingredients yesterday. See?" Usagi smiled, showing the cat the red and white labeled container of the sweet frosted cake icing that was on the corner counter next to the fridge.
"...Of course...whatever was I thinking?" Luna sighed. She felt that little hope that Usagi had actually started to mature more in the kitchen like her mother Ikuko-Mama...but nope the cat guardian was wrong.
"Mmm-hmm, these look perfect if I do say so myself. Look at these Luna, they’re a work of art!" Usagi giggled, as she carefully piped cream cheese icing in a simple ice-piping bag making simple swirl designs on to the already iced flat-baked pumpkin cake bars after they had the rest of that afternoon to cool down completely to room temperature.
"Art...right...whatever you say Usagi. Hopefully, they taste as good and editable as your Mother's did when she made them back at your family's house like last time," Luna mumbled with a roll of her brown-orange eyes, ducking quickly before the blonde could swat her with the extra baking silicon pink bunny-themed spatula.
"Oh hush you! It's not the look of them that counts, it's all in their yummy and delicious taste that is all that matters. Mamo's going to love eating these, even if it is pumpkin and pumpkin-spiced and not the usual chocolate flavored desserts I bake him," Usagi replied, shaking her head as her little feline guardian took off for the living room in her apartment, fleeing the open designed small kitchen.
"When is Mamoru due to come over? It's already past three o'clock," the cat asked, glancing over to the hanging bunny-electric moving clock with legs on one of the walls of the small kitchen.
"He'll be here soon, he said he was coming over after work at the hospital and once he picked up dinner for us. Well, Him, Myself, and You. Want to join us?" Usagi asked her favorite cat advisor and motherly figure.
"Sure, why not. Arigato for inviting me to join you and Mamoru. I'm sure Artemis is too busy with helping Kunzite make sure that Minako will study and not goof off with her magazines or Netflix account to watch soap operas or the such. What is Mamoru picking up for dinner?" Luna inquired, moving to the living room of Usagi's apartment, while Usagi took care of the desert by putting it under her cake glass display for safekeeping.
"KFC...you know I can't trust myself with attempting to use the new deep fryer that he got as a birthday gift last year from Makoto and Nephrite...after I almost deep-fried Rei's hair when I accidentally burned her favorite red sweater," Usagi explained, shuddering with remembering how much of an earful of rage the fiery priestess had hollered at her for that little 'accident'.
"...You've got a point, even Mamoru won't try using that thing. Not that I blame either of you two...that thing looked dangerous and such a fire hazard to use in either of your kitchens," Luna nodded as her eyes found the television screen's remote control on the simple bright velvet pink loveseat sofa, little paws pressing the buttons to turn it on and channel surf.
"Hai, I agree. I still think he should just donate it to Motoki and Reika, or to my Mama. They could use a deep fryer because Mamo-chan and I don't need one to make teppanyaki vegetables and shrimp ourselves with the simple frying pan we both have in our cooking sets." Usagi sighed, nodding to herself as she went back into the kitchen deciding to tackle washing her baking dishes before Mamoru came over. She didn't want him thinking that she was slacking at doing her apartment daily chores keeping a place not clean...not like how Minako could get sloth-lazy like at her and Artemis's place.
"Usako, Hello! I'm here! Could you open the door, I've got my hands full with dinner!" Mamoru's voice called outside of apartment door, his hand attempting to knock on it at the same time.
"Mamo!!!!!! Be right there!!! Luna, watch the dessert!" Usagi ordered, pivoting and running with her bunny clad slippered feet to the door at full speed.
"Arigato, hi Usagi. Here's dinner, well one of the bags of tonight's fried chicken dinner for two. At least a full-sized family meal that could feed a family of four or five, but for the two of us." Mamoru laughed heartily with teasing in his voice as he quickly pecked a kiss to Usagi's face as she leaned in to take one of the KFC paper bags from him as she had unlocked and opened the door.
"Hi Mamo-chan, dinner for three more like it. Luna's joining us tonight. Is that alright?" Usagi grinned, looking happy to see him. As always.
"Hai, that's perfectly fine. Hello Luna, avoiding Artemis and Minako with Kunzite again?" the medical student greeted his love's feline protector-guardian politely with a respected nod, carrying the other fast food takeout bags into the apartment, following behind his fiance.
"Good evening Mamoru, I trust that work at the hospital interning and your medical classes at the university are going well?" Luna greeted, still sitting comfortably on the couch, eyes flickering to a Korean soap opera that was on a channel.
"The usual classes are interesting but generally running normally as usual for me. The hospital with interning at the ER is another story. I got to witness and help one of them on sight ER doctors with bandaging up a couple of drunk businessmen who had way one too many rounds of beer from the night before. One took a slip had hard fall down some stairs to the train station. Another along with some tourists on top of being drunk badly were also food poisoned from bad tofu and thai noodles take away place. So, I got to witness first hand a lot of drunk men in business suits, and tourists from eastern europe and americans vomiting all over in the waiting room when I got called over to assist the main doctor and nurse." Mamoru shared, grimacing at the memory of what he had to deal with 'patients' that earlier afternoon.
"Those poor people and you. That's quite unfortunate." Luna winced as Usagi nodded in agreement, looking herself blanched at the whole story.
"Ack! That's really awful. I'm glad no one threw up on you Mamo. Did the rest of your time at the hospital in the ER go more smoothly? Thirsty? I've got some vanilla-cherry Coca Cola and some sparkling lime juice if you don't want water or green tea," Usagi offered, putting the bag down onto the table before going to the kitchen cabinets to grab two drinking glasses, and a small cat sized saucer bowl for Luna.
"I'll take some Coca Cola, that sounds good. Let me get the plates and utensils. I ordered the usual things you like of coleslaw, corn, mashed potatoes, both extra crispy chicken and regular chicken since I know you'd like both." Mamoru told Usagi, knowing all too well what her favorite things on the Kentucky Fried Chicken menu were by memory and heart, knowing her food taste buds and stomach all too-well.
"Did you get an order of macaroni and cheese and extra popcorn chicken?" Usagi asked, grinning widely almost as a child would.
"Hai, I did. And I made sure to get an extra helping of coleslaw for Luna," Mamoru smiled and laughed.
"Wonderful. I do enjoy their coleslaw, quite impressive and tasty for an American-chain," Luna agreed, hopping to the table to take her usual spot across from Mamoru and Usagi at the small dining room kitchen table that was pink and round with simple sitting wooden white chairs for two people.
"Did the winds and rain look bad outside when you were out there driving?" Usagi asked Mamoru curiously, as she placed the soda bottles and cups on the table while Mamoru brought over the serving dish plates, not minding that there were all either kawaii bunny character themed or Hello Kitty and shades of pink.
"It was cold but it didn't look too bad with how the rain was pouring. The winds stopped, but it was still nice seeing the autumn leaves in their colors all dancing around in the weather outside as I was driving. Sorry, we couldn't have a dinner picnic outside in the Juuban park like you wanted to originally for some nice autumn weather Usako," Mamoru apologized to the golden-haired blonde love of his life.
"It's okay Mamo, we can't control the weather...as much as Makoto-chan wises we could. This is still nice. The two of us and Luna together having dinner on a nice autumn evening. And we've got KFC for dinner. Plus, we could watch some movies I saved for us to watch on my Netflix account like The Princess Bride," Usagi assured him, with a smile and gentle voice, as they both sat down, and bowed their heads with Luna to utter a 'Itadakimasu' before they started opening and serving out all of the KFC containers.
"That's one way to think positive of the little things Usagi. Mamoru, Usagi and I earlier today did go exploring before the weather turned awful-looking. We went into one of the hobby-craft holiday year-round shops on the east side of downtown Juuban together. Usagi did find in the autumn section some autumn fabric themed fake leaves and branches with other materials for us to brighten up this place and your apartment as well for the fall feeling," Luna shared, in-between taking bites out of the various food on her cat food dish.
"Really? You'd like to make some autumn leaf things to decorate up our places Usa?"
"Hai. We could make some flower crowns for myself and for all the girls we could gift to them and even Nauri-chan and Mama. Then maybe give the guys some leaf wreaths to decorate their apartments and yours. We could also have tonight some apple cinnamon cider or some hot cocoa with maple flavored marshmallows while we enjoy some of the pumpkin-spice cake bars I made all by myself. Does that sound good?" Usagi asked looking eagerly excited.
"That sounds wonderful. Even if it isn't chocolate, I'll still eat anything sweet you make my Odango."
"Mamo, not everything can be chocolate covered or baked with just chocolate all the time." Usagi tsked the man with a roll of her eyes and slight bunny frown on her face, as she shook her head while the ebony-haired medical student just laughed, leaning his chair closer to hers, to pull her into a hug and kiss.
Luna looked on quietly with a smile at her charge and her fiance. She was glad that the two, even on the coldest of autumn days and nights and busy young adult lives still could find the time, make time, and have utter-devoted love for one another's eyes only. Even when they'd later in another year eventually make plans to move in with each other into Mamoru's apartment, Usagi graduating from college, Mamoru becoming a full-fledged doctor, and later on after their wedding, and becoming the future Neo-Queen and King of their city and country...she still hoped that they would continue to stay the way that they were now, then later.
'Just two people devoted and completely in love with one another', the black cat mused silently to herself.
"Luna, would you like a biscuit with some honey and butter?" Usagi, breaking Luna's train of thoughts.
"I would love one. Arigato Usagi.”