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A Cupcake for your Thoughts

Posted on Thu Jun 6th, 2024 @ 4:47 by Claire Cavendish & Gabriella Baxter

Chapter: Winter's Crest Festival
Location: Head Teacher's Office, Avalon Institute
Timeline: Close to midnight, Friday evening, December 18th, 1992
1765 words - 3.5 OF Standard Post Measure

The head teacher's office was shrouded in darkness. Claire had recently noticed that her vision had adapted better to the dark, often causing her to forget to switch on the lights. It wasn't a matter of moodiness; rather, bright lights had begun to hurt her eyes. She was catching up on the latest news, and from the reports in front of her, it looked like the new year would be full of challenges for mutants in general, and Avalon in particular.

A gentle knock on the wooden door interrupted the darkened silence in the room. Claire didn’t expect visitors, so she quickly rose from behind her desk and made her way to the light switch. "Just a moment, I'll be right over," she called out.

"No rush, Cameron told me I'd probably find you here." The voice belonged to Gabriella, the local baker and a close friend of the Institute. She patiently waited for the double doors to part and reveal a cozily lit office space. Despite having only been there once before, the room felt familiar due to the many conversations she had shared with Claire.

"Please, come in, make yourself comfortable. Can I offer you a drink?" Claire motioned toward the Chesterfield set on the left side of the room.

"Do you have anything that goes well with cupcakes? I saved your favourite, since you didn't have time to swing by the stall." Gabriella hadn’t intended it as a dig, but she would have been lying if she said she hadn’t been disappointed.

"I'm sorry, I really wanted to come by, but there were people causing all sorts of trouble." Claire knew it was a weak apology. "I've got a twelve-year-old Glenlivet." She pulled the bottle of single malt from the cart and started to pour herself a double. Hearing no protestations, she did the same for her visitor. When she offered the glass to Gabriella, she saw the baker's eyes widen slightly.

"Oh, that might be a bit much." Gabriella regarded the generous serving of whisky. "I still need to drive back into town."

"Are you opening the store tomorrow?"

Gabriella took a careful sip of the whisky. It was surprisingly smooth with a fruity note. She could understand why Claire had paired it with a cupcake. "Nah, da has been takin' care of the store. I told him tonight might run late, so he insisted on opening up tomorrow."

A glimmer of hope crossed Claire's face. "So you're saying you could just as easily stay over?" She sat in one of the large Chesterfield chairs, angled for a comfortable conversation without forcing eye contact.

Gabriella looked around the room. "I don't see a guest bed here."

"Well, this is my office after all. I don't think it would be appropriate to have a guest stay here." Claire rolled the whisky in her tumbler and gestured to the couch. "Although, if you insist, I've heard the couch is quite comfortable."

"I assume that means you're so much of a workaholic that you sometimes don't bother going to your room?"

Claire shrugged, clearly guilty as charged. "I'm sure your five-to-seven job makes for a super healthy work-life balance."

"Touché." Another sip. "So, how much of a success was the festival? All the conservatives change their minds?"

"There weren't many of those around, as expected." Claire gazed into her glass, letting the silence linger.

"What's on yer mind?"

"Just one particular conservative and his wife."

Gabriella leaned over and placed her hand on Claire's arm. She could offer platitudes but opted for a gentle, comforting touch instead.

Claire rested her free hand on Gabriella's and smiled. It was nice to have someone to confide in about personal matters. To the faculty and staff, she always upheld an image of composure and confidence in Avalon's mission. Even with Cameron, who was practically her brother, she kept her moments of doubt to a minimum. She took another swig of the whisky. "It really is a good drink. Now, how about that cupcake?"

Gabriella leaned toward the container she had brought. "Chocolate orange, triple chocolate chunk, red velvet, and mocha cream." She held the open box. "You get first pick."

Claire licked her lips at the sight of the cupcakes, quickly deciding on the triple chocolate chunk. "You know me so well."

Even as a baker, Gabriella didn't know many people who liked chocolate as much as Claire. With a spark of deviousness, she reached for the chocolate orange cupcake, noticing Claire hold her breath. She picked it up.

Claire held up her cupcake to toast. "Cheers."

"Really, you're not going to ask if I'd prefer the red velvet instead?"

Claire frowned slightly. "What? Of course not." She bit her lower lip, wanting to taste the other cupcake badly but knowing it was decent to let Gabriella have her pick.

"How long have you been coming to t' shop?"

"It must be close to two years now." Claire tried to recall her first visit to the bakery, immediately infatuated with the decor, the baked goods, and the person who made them.

"I know what you like." Gabriella put the chocolate cupcake on the side table.

"Do you now?" Claire narrowed her eyes, shifting her gaze between the cupcake and Gabriella.

Gabriella simply nodded as she took the red velvet from the box. "Remember the first time you came to my bakery?"

"That breakfast was something else," Claire recalled. "The eggs were so fluffy. The croissant, so smooth but crunchy." She reminisced for a moment before snapping back to the present. "I was just happy you were open that early."

Gabriella smiled, cheeks reddening. "The secret is butter. And I wasn't."

"You weren't what?" Claire seemed confused.

"Open. Or serving breakfast. The eggs I usually made for myself. But you looked exhausted and in need of a good warm cuppa."

Claire took another swig of her whisky.

"Besides, I knew who you were, what you were trying to do over at Avalon."

"So, breakfast."

"Just for you."


"I kept track and took whatever you paid me out of your other orders. You never paid a pence for having breakfast with me." Gabriella took another careful sip of whisky.

"That's... That is..." Claire shook her head. She wasn't sure what to call it. It was kind and entirely unnecessary. "You really shouldn't have."

"Are you going to charge me for this whisky?"

"That's different."

"Why is it different?"

"You're my friend."

"So were you." A playful twinkle came across Gabriella's eyes.

"We didn't know each other back then."

"What is a stranger but someone you haven't yet shared a meal with?"

After slowly savoring their cupcakes and whisky, mostly in comfortable silence, Gabriella glanced at the large grandfather clock. “It’s getting late.”

“Yeah... yes. Yes, it is. Let me just... I’ll show you to the guest quarters.” Claire wished she had said something else, something she would probably formulate better in a day or two—like how she’d gladly spend the entire night sharing cupcakes and whisky. “Do you need anything?” She looked at a slightly confused Gabriella. “A toothbrush, pyjamas, that sort of thing?”

“That would be nice. Thank you.”

The two of them headed out of the office and towards the staff rooms. Most of the faculty stayed in a wing associated with their assigned house, while a small section was set aside for the support staff. Claire’s room was at the top floor, a location she never minded because she rarely walked there. Now she regretted not wanting to affect the castle’s integrity by installing a lift. As they reached the door, she fumbled for her keys. “I’m sorry. I usually don’t...”

Gabriella frowned slightly at Claire’s clumsy attempts with the keys. “You look like you’ve never unlocked a door before.”

“It’s a rarity, to be honest. Especially this door.”

It had never occurred to Gabriella that with Claire’s particular skills, navigating doors wasn’t a routine activity. The notion that unlocking a door could cause issues seemed oddly endearing. “I can wait here. Just... do your thing.”

By the time Claire tried the third key on her keychain, she straightened up and looked at Gabriella. “I’m sorry. This is stupid.”

Gabriella stepped closer, placing a hand on Claire’s to stop the fidgeting. “It’s alright. Just get in your room like you normally would. I’ll wait here.”

Claire considered that for a moment. “I can do you one better.” She took Gabriella’s hand and placed it on her shoulder, guiding the other around her waist. “Take a deep breath and hold it. It helps against the nausea.”

“Are you going to...”

“Yes. Now, breathe in.”

Gabriella took a deep breath as if diving into deep water. The sensation that followed wasn’t far off—she felt a tingling wash over her, instinctively squeezing her eyes shut. There was a rush of air around her, like leaping from a high perch, then sudden stillness. She opened her eyes and exhaled, looking around the room they had suddenly appeared in. “That’s... that was amazing.” She didn’t step away from Claire’s close embrace, feeling unsteady yet supported.

“It takes some getting used to.” Claire steadied Gabriella in her arms. It was something she had experimented with Phoebe, figuring out how to make the trip easier for others. The deep breathing helped, as did grounding the person afterward. Experience also helped—Phoebe could accompany her now without much aftereffect.

Gabriella nodded, her body still adjusting to the novel sensation. Still in Claire’s arms, she carefully looked around. “So, this is where you live.” She locked eyes with Claire, her thoughts and gaze wandering to Claire’s dark lips. With the heels Claire was wearing, they were about the same height. Gabriella moved the hand on Claire's shoulder. sliding it to her neck, pulling her closer.

She didn't know if it was the whisky, the rush of the transportation, or just the overal excitement of the day, but after over two years, she finally worked up the courage to taste those luscious purple lips.

It took Claire by surprise. The warmth of their embrace was nice, and Gabriella definitely held on longer than necessary. When Gabriella’s hand started to move and pulled her in, Claire didn’t resist. The warmth of Gabriella’s sweet lips connecting with hers made her heart pound loudly in her chest. Her eyes slowly closed as she surrendered to the kiss.


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