DISCLAIMER: The Facts of Life and its characters are the property of Columbia Pictures Television and Sony Pictures Television, no infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written in honor of mondoshawan555ís birthday. Hope itís a good one, Mondo.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Have Your Cake and Eat It Too
"What do you mean there aren't any more cakes?" asked Jo as she stared through the display glass at the three cakes that stood behind it. She pointed at the chocolate one. "That certainly looks like a cake to me."
"These have all been specially ordered." The owner noted Jo's eyes trained on the rich chocolate cake. She gestured to the icing. "See Happy Birthday, Betty."
Jo scrunched her face up as the words slowly came into focus. She'd been so interested in the thick fudge icing she hadn't noticed the decorations, but her mind was already working on a way to make it fit her needs. All that was left was to actually have possession of the cake.
"What happens if Betty doesn't show up to pick up her cake?"
The owner shrugged. "If whoever ordered it isn't here by five, I'd have to sell it at a discounted price tomorrow."
Eyeing the clock on the wall, Jo moved over to a small bench by the door and took a seat, deciding to take a chance that one of the three cake owners wouldn't show up in the next thirty minutes. There was no way she'd be able to find another cake this late in the day, so she placed her hopes on a no-show, preferably on Betty.
At five o'clock on the dot, Jo grinned and pushed to her feet, her gaze still on the chocolate cake that she hadn't taken her eyes off since she'd first sat down. The owners of the pineapple and strawberry cakes had already come and gone, but to Jo's delight, Betty hadn't graced the doors of the bakery.
"Can I have it now?" asked Jo, already pulling cash from her pocket. The bell sounding above the door, however, had her freezing in place. Very slowly, she turned to spy an elderly lady shuffling over to the cash register. She cringed when she spotted the gold pendant hanging around the woman's neck the letter B shining proudly in its center
"Hey, Beatrice, you want your usual?" The owner grabbed a small white paper bag and walked toward the cookie display, while Jo blew out a relieved breath and counted out her money, figuring the owner's discount would be at least half of the cake's original cost. She showed extreme patience as she waited for the owner to see to Beatrice's needs, but the moment the little old lady headed for the door, Jo pounced.
"I'll take that cake off your hands now."
The owner chuckled and reached for one of the larger boxes. "Okay, young lady, I guess it's safe to say that *Betty* won't be picking up her cake today." She punched a few buttons on the cash register. "That'll be twenty dollars."
"Twenty?" Jo looked up from her cash. "You said you'd sell it at a discounted price."
"Tomorrow, yeah, but it's not tomorrow yet." The owner smiled; she knew there was no way the young woman would walk away from the bakery without the chocolate cake. She'd had her heart set on it the minute she'd walked up to the display case.
Jo immediately knew she'd been had, but she also knew she couldn't go home without a cake in hand Tootie would kill her. "Fine." She slapped the money on the counter and motioned toward the cake. "It's mine now."
Tootie looked out the window of the kitchen and then back at her watch. "I knew I should've assigned the cake to you, Nat. Jo probably waited until the last minute and now she can't find one. How can we have a surprise birthday party without a cake?"
Natalie ripped the wrapping from the decorative birthday plates and reached for the matching napkins. "I told you Jo couldn't be trusted with the cake. With the way she and Blair have been fighting lately, we'll be lucky if she comes back with a cupcake."
"Girls, Blair will be here soon. Is everything ready?" Mrs. Garrett asked as she pushed through the swinging kitchen door and looked around the room. Party hats sat in front of each chair and balloons were tied around the wooden backs. She smiled proudly. The girls had pulled it off without any help from her, and she felt a bit guilty for doubting their abilities.
"Jo's not back with the cake," said Natalie as she moved around the table, placing the plates and napkins down as she walked.
"What?" screeched Mrs. Garrett. "We can't have a surprise party without a cake!" Her earlier guilt was short-lived. "I should have insisted on baking and decorating the cake!"
"No problem, Mrs. G, the cake is here." Jo swept into the room and used the heel of her boot to push the door closed. No one had heard her enter over the older woman's mild tirade.
"Let's see," said Tootie, taking the box from Jo and placing it on the counter. Opening the lid, she frowned. "Happy Birthday Betty?" She turned toward Jo. "Betty? You didn't even check the spelling? And it's chocolate Blair doesn't like chocolate."
Jo made a tsking sound, opened the cutlery drawer, and removed a butter knife. "She likes chocolate just fine." With a few flicks of her wrist, the 'etty' was gone, leaving behind just the 'B.' It looked exactly like the 'B' on Beatrice's pendant.
"Happy Birthday B?" A curious Natalie peered into the box. "Kind of generic, don't ya think?"
"Yeah, this could be anyone's cake," agreed Tootie, her mind whirling with possibilities. "Barbara, Bob, Bill, Buford, . . ."
"Don't forget Betty," Natalie interrupted, swooping up all evidence of 'etty' with her finger and happily disposing of it in her mouth.
Curious, Mrs. Garrett finally walked over and stared down at the cake. "Well, it looks edible at least, and Blair's name does start with a 'B.'" She glanced at the clock on the far wall. "And it's too late to bake another cake or try to write our own birthday sentiment on the icing. It'll have to do."
"It'll do just fine, Mrs. G. Blair probably won't eat a piece anyway. She's on that 'pretend diet.'" Jo chuckled. "You know the one starves herself all day and then sneaks down in the middle of the night and eats half the contents of the refrigerator."
"Is that where the rest of the chicken salad went?" asked Natalie, her eyes narrowing to slits. "I had dibs on that for my sandwich the other day. I even put a label on the container."
A rustling sound in the other room drew their attention to the den, stopping the conversation before Tootie could accuse Blair of eating the piece of pie she'd saved last week. Jo hurriedly lifted the cake from the box and moved toward the table, placing it directly in the center of Natalie's decorations. The others quickly took their places behind their designated chair just as Blair pushed through the doors.
"Surprise!!!" rang out loudly, startling the birthday girl. However, she broke out into a grin when she spied the balloons and other decorations.
"Oh, how nice," complimented Blair as she made her way over, her eyes straying to the rich-looking chocolate cake. "What a beautiful cake, but I'm so full from my birthday dinner with my parents I don't think I can eat another bite." She frowned when she got close enough to read the sentiment, but to everyone's surprise, she didn't say a word about her abbreviated name.
The cake was temporarily forgotten, replaced with the traditional opening of gifts.
At exactly midnight, Blair glanced over at her roommate's bed, pleased to see Jo lying on her side and facing away from her. With a minimum of movements, she eased back the covers and swiveled into a sitting position, her eyes trained on the unmoving lump in the next bed. She slowly pushed to her feet and tiptoed toward the door, opening it only as wide as need be for her to slip through, before gently closing it behind her. Silently, she crept toward the stairs.
Jo counted to thirty and rolled onto her back. She grinned when she spied Blair's empty bed, but she purposely waited another few minutes, giving her friend plenty of time to reach the kitchen. Not able to wait another second longer, she climbed from her bed and started for the door.
In the kitchen, Blair held a large knife in her hand and glanced over her shoulder again to be certain she was alone. With a swipe of a tongue across her lips, she cut a generous slab of the rich chocolate cake and slid it onto one of the party plates Natalie had purchased. The cake hung over the edges of the plate, but Blair managed to balance it perfectly as she made her way over to the table. She moaned aloud and closed her eyes at her first bite, taking just a moment to savor the fudge flavored icing, before she opened her eyes and dug in with gusto. She loved chocolate cake.
Jo peered through the door and squinted against the glare of the kitchen's bright lights. A quick survey of the area showed the cake box opened wide, an icing-covered knife balanced against its edge, and a trail of chocolate crumbs leading from the counter to the table, where Blair was sitting with her back to the door. Jo didn't need to see her friend to know what Blair was doing; the shoveling motion of her arm toward her face told her all she needed. With a grin, she quietly eased into the room and made her way toward the table.
"Not so full anymore, Blair?" Jo spoke softly, but her words startled the other woman nonetheless. She jumped in her seat and turned toward the intruder, her chocolate covered lips shaped perfectly in the form of an 'O.'
"It's not nice to sneak up on people, Jo," said Blair, blindly pushing the plate away from her, not realizing the amount of evidence that painted her lips. She struggled to come up with a good excuse as to why she'd come downstairs, but she couldn't coax her mind from its appreciation of the wonderful taste that still clung to her tongue.
Pulling up a chair, Jo pointed to the crumb-covered plate, briefly wondering if Blair would've resorted to licking the plate clean had she waited a few moments longer.
"That's not mine," Blair lied smoothly, "Natalie must've snuck down and had another piece."
"Think her lips are covered with as much chocolate as yours?" asked Jo with a huge grin, which soon morphed into a chuckle when Blair quickly swiped at her lips with the back of her hand. Now, she had chocolate smeared on her cheek as well.
"I tasted a few of the crumbs." Blair motioned to the mostly empty surface. "I guess a couple must have clung to my lips."
"A couple?" laughed Jo. "More like an army."
Blair's face fell, and Jo knew she'd gone too far. This time, she was the one who glanced over her shoulder to be certain they were alone. With no sign of movement from the doorway, she reached across and took Blair's hand in hers.
"I'm sorry, Blair. I just wish you didn't feel the need to sneak around to enjoy the pleasures in life."
"I can't help it, Jo. My mother is constantly at me about my weight, and I guess I just got used to sneaking around behind her back." She glanced over at the empty plate, a slight smile playing at the corners of her lips. "It really was a good cake."
Jo glanced over at the box on the counter. "I'm kind of craving a piece myself. Care to join me?"
"I really shouldn't," said Blair, her protest spoken half-heartedly, as her eyes tracked to the open box. "Although, it is my birthday " she paused, adding, " maybe a small piece wouldn't hurt."
Reaching for the empty plate, Jo pushed to her feet and started for the counter, not bothering to point out that it was past midnight and Blair's birthday had already come and gone. Instead, she concentrated on her new purpose: from now on, she vowed to make sure that Blair not only had her cake, but that she ate it, too.
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