Audra’s twentieth birthday was tomorrow and with Silas out of town for a few days, Victoria decided to task her sons with baking the cake. She met with some reluctance from Jarrod who hemmed and hawed his answer before yielding her his mother’s wishes with a cowed look.
She then asked Heath who grunted his reply, his ostensible reason for warding off the task being work. After much persuasion, he agreed grudgingly. She dared not face Nick herself for fear to trigger an earthquake. Instead she left Heath in charge of cajoling him into it.
Before leaving the house with Audra to go shopping in town, Victoria made sure all the ingredients were within reach in the kitchen, and the cook book opened on the right recipe for vanilla cake mix.
As soon as the ladies were out the door, Heath and Jarrod went to the kitchen to get the feel of their predicament before plunging head on and buckling down to their task. They were tying aprons around their waists when Nick stomped in with his usual tough stance.
“Come on, Heath! We gotta to go.” Nick said gruffly as he put on his black gloves. His eyes narrowed at the garments tied around his brothers’ waists. “What’s that?” he asked, pointing to the aprons.
“It’s called an apron, Nick,” Heath answered mockingly.
“I know what it’s called, “he rebuked, “what I wanna to know is what’s it doing around your waists? What’s going on here?”
“Won’t be riding the fenceline today, Nick. Got another job to do.”
“Oh? What’s that?”
“Baking Audra’s birthday cake.”
“WHAT? What do I know ‘bout baking cake?” Nick bellowed with his fists thrust on hips.
“You’ll learn like the rest of us, big brother.”
“Who’s the idiot who volunteered us for this job?”” Nick glowered at Heath. “ Heath?”
“Hey! I didn’t volunteer. I was browbeaten into it.”
“She cowered you into submission? Heath I thought you were tougher than that.”
“Get off my case, Nick! Mother gave us a choice: it was either bake the cake or go into town and pick up Audra’s present at the ladies dress shop.” Heath turned to Nick with a smirk. “Remember what happened last year, brother dear?”
Nick hawked and shifted nervously on his legs. “Yeah…well…you could’ve said no,” he emphasized the last word with a wave of the hand.
“Try saying no to Mother, Brother Nick. It’s pure suicide,” Jarrod pointed out.
“Baking cake is Silas’s job.”
“Yeah and as you noticed, he ain’t here, so it falls on our shoulders. So stop griping and get your hands dirty.”
Nick sighed with petulance and with resignation, removed his gloves. “What do I do?”
“First, wash your hands.”
“Then take off that gunbelt. You won’t need it.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that. I might need my gun to kill a certain little brother when this is over,” Nick spoke with malicious glee through gritted teeth as he slowly unfastened his belt.
“Get in line, ‘Cause I’m the first one who’s gonna shoot myself,” Heath confessed detachedly. “awright, let’s see.” Heath studied the recipe. “We need milk, eggs, cooking oil, salt, sugar and flour.”
“I’ll get the eggs and milk,” Jarrod offered.
“Nick, you get the sugar.”
Nick grunted his reply. He walked over the upper cupboard and took the bag of sugar that he plumb down on the counter. “Anything else, Chef Heath?
Heath threw Nick a withering look and pointed down to the lower cupboard. “Yeah, the flour.”
Jarrod returned with the eggs that he delicately placed on the counter before returning to the icebox to get the milk. The eggs started rolling off the counter and cracked onto Nick’s head below.
“Oh Nick, you’ve got egg on your face,” Heath joked, trying to stifle a laugh.
“Sorry Brother Nick…I..well…I didn’t think they would…”
“Roll off the counter?” Nick calmly finished for Jarrod whose shoulders were shuddering with suppressed laughter.
“Common mistake. You didn’t know they were round,” Nick mocked with a composed stance.
"Well, technically speaking, they're mostly..."
"Shaddup! Don't agravate your case. Counselor." Nick heaved out his irritation before wiping the slime off his face and with a fling of the hand, spattered it all over Jarrod. He picked up his heavy sack of flour and stood up. As he plumbed the sack down on the counter, his foot slipped on the egg slime. He tried to hold on to the edge of the counter, knocking the sack of flour before he held hard on the floor.
Feeling his temper dangerously teetering on the verge of a volcanic eruption, Nick took a deep breath, crossed his legs and let his arms fall onto his lap. He looked up at Heath with a face sheeted over with flour. “You sure you want me to help you?” he asked humbly.