(Day 1 of the Cupcake Chronicles)
Dedicated to Sarah. She knows why.
Day One: Calling a Muffin a Cupcake
It was one of the hardest decisions he had ever made – no , no, scratch that, it was the hardest decision he had ever made. It wasn’t as if saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ was difficult, because that was fairly easy (it was a “Hell, yes!” type of deal, if he were one prone to using obscenities to express profound joy). It was the hiding it from the group of males he considered his brothers that made it difficult.
For weeks he had taken care to hide his secret from his friends. Once, the door to his bedroom began to open as he was filling out forms that he practically threw the papers into the glass tank where Yesung housed his turtles. When Yesung, who was gloriously oblivious to his surroundings at times, picked up one of the turtles without even questioning the added white vegetation to the habitat and left, Ryeowook had practically collapsed on his bed from relief. Of course, said relief lasted about half a second because then he realized the remaining of Yesung’s pets decided paper was a good substitute for food.
He wanted to buy books, materials – anything and everything that could help him learn more before he left. When he arrived, he didn’t want to look stupid in front of all the others. He didn’t want to be the novice he was. However, he knew he couldn’t buy anything because if the members found them, they would suspect and, horror of horrors, find out the truth. He knew the only research he could do was on the computer and that was late at night after Yesung had fallen asleep, but even then he had to be careful. Yesung often sung chords in his sleep and more than once Ryeowook had falsely believed his hyung had awoken. After the second night of Yesung’s sleep-singing, Ryeowook settled for sitting in the closet with his laptop as he researched for information on the internet.
But finally, after almost a month of hiding his plans and almost a year of hiding his desires, he was packing his suitcase in his dorm preparing to leave the members for the one-week vacation they were granted that summer. Many had plans to visit family, others just wanted to kick-back and relax in the dorms. He, however, had other plans.
It was extremely early in the morning when Ryeowook was packing his small suitcase, he had to board the bus at 8A.M. sharp to arrive there at 9. Also, he knew if he left without any of the members seeing him, there would be less questions. Of course, he wasn’t completely heartless; he had left goodbye sticky-notes to all the members on their dorm doors and, for the members who lived outside of the dorms, he was planning on sending them text-messages once he arrived at his destination. Such strategic planning was so they couldn’t question him or mock him.
He was almost out of his bedroom when Yesung made a noise. Ryeowook brushed it off as Yesung having a morning sleep-concert when he realized there was no melody to the words, “Where are you going?”
Ryeowook practically jumped back against the open door, his suitcase clutched to his chest as if he would die first before losing it. Eyes wild, he questioned, “What?”
“I said where are you going,” Yesung murmured as he sat up in his own bed, rubbing his eyes with a fist,
“Visiting my parents for the vacation,” Ryeowook lied, secretly promising to make it up to his hyung later for the fib,
Yesung blinked, “But didn’t your parents go to America to visit family for a few weeks?”
Ryeowook knew he was horrible at lying, he practically got hives from it. He swallowed hard, hoping his throat wouldn’t begin to swell, “Yeah… I’m meeting them there.”
“Oh… You’re going to America…” Yesung flopped back down on the bed, “Say hi to Henry’s parents while you’re there.”
“They’re in Canada, not America,” Ryeowook corrected,
“Same thing,” Yesung murmured as he pulled his blanket over his head and turned his back to his dongsaeng.
Ryeowook stood frozen in the doorway for what seemed like eternity, his suit case slowly dropping to the ground because of its weight. Finally, after he heard the first disjointed chords floating from Yesung blanket cave, he knew he was safe. Before any more incidents could happen, he bolted from the dorms and didn’t look back.
When the bus stopped and Ryeowook and the others piled out into the open-air, he knew he had gone and died to heaven. The area was fenced in by trees. One long and narrow wood-cabin stood before them with the sign ‘Office’ above the main doors.
“You look like a bunch of muffins!” A loud voice boomed at them. An older, muscular man stepped from the Office’s main doors dressed in khaki shirts and a black t-shirt with blue, bold print. He crossed his arms over his chest as he regarded them, “This is where you’ll get your orientation kit, map, schedule, bunk-roster, events, etcetera, etcetera. This cabin is just the beginning,” he stated, “Follow me.”
Ryeowook and the group he had travelled with went through the Office cabin, collecting all that the man had stated before following him through a back door. When they were out in the open again, Ryeowook thought for the second time that he was in heaven.
The large area behind the Office cabin was a clearing, the trees towering around. There were four large wood-cabins surrounding an area with a fire-pit. Each cabin had a sign above their doors, respectively reading ‘Mess Hall’, ‘Novice’, ‘Intermediate’ and ‘Advanced’.
The man turned back to face them, standing between them and the fire-pit, “Beyond these cabins is the lake for aquatic what-not’s and if you go behind the Mess Hall, there’s a path that leads down to another ring of cabins, that’s where you’ll be saying. Check your rosters to see what cabin you’ll be living in for the remainder of this week.”
He paused, slowly looking at all of them and Ryeowook was glad he stood at the back, something about the man’s voice commanded authority and made Ryeowook not want to meet the man in a dark alley, even if he hadn’t seen his face yet.
“I’m one of five counsellors here. If you have any questions or concerns feel free to speak to us. You’ll know who we are because we have blue on our shirts. If you haven’t realized it yet, you lazy muffins have pink on your shirts. We have three main rules here: Be safe; Have fun; and, most importantly, Eat lots!” He spread his arms wide, gesturing to the entire area, “Welcome to Cupcake Camp!”
Campers dispersed immediately, excited to go about exploring the camp before any activities truly began the following day. Ryeowook, however, was frozen in place. As other moved around him like bees in a hive, he couldn’t shake the feeling that the voice did more than scare him when it was raised. No, it also sent a slither of recognition through his brain. When the crowd around him flittered away, his eyes focused on the counsellor who was watching the campers run about, arms crossed over his chest and a small smile on his lips.
NO BUTTERCREAM-ICING WAY! Ryeowook thought and then, added aloud, “Kangin-hyung?”
Then counsellor spun towards Ryeowook and blinked, “Ryeowook!? What… what are you…” He covered the writing on his shirt, “This isn’t what it looks like.”
Ryeowook closed the distance between them and struggled to pry the older man’s fingers from his shirt. He read the blue-on-black words, “Cupcake Counsellor. Oh. My. Muffins!”
Kangin sighed, crossing his arms again, “I guess the secret’s out. Have you already messaged all the other members, then?”
Ryeowook titled his head as he regarded him, “Why the sprinkles would I do that? If I did that, they’d find out I was at Cupcake Camp to have seen you at Cupcake Camp.”
Kangin stared at him before looking away, “Stop saying Cupcake Camp so much.”
“Insolence… you’ve been hanging out with Kyuhyun too much,” Kangin murmured. He sighed and looked back at Ryeowook, “Why are you here, Ryeowook?”
“Because I want to bake cupcakes,” Ryeowook stated matter-of-factly. With his suitcase at his feet and the orientation kit clutched to his chest, he smiled wistfully at the cabins surrounding the fire-pit, “I heard about this camp and ever since all I’ve wanted was to attend at least one of the summer sessions. To think, an entire camp, an entire week dedicated completely to the planning, baking and eating of cupcakes. To find perfection in little puffs of dough. To –”
Kangin raised a hand to silence him, “I get it. No more poetry about cupcakes.”
“But surely you must love them as much as I do, Hyung. After all, why are you here, let alone a counsellor?” Ryeowook inquired seriously.
Kangin sighed, raising his hand from the air to the back of his own head where he rubbed wearily, “Obviously I love cupcakes, Ryeowook, that’s calling the icing sweet, but I guess I’ve learned to stay reserved. How else could I have gone on this long without the members knowing? Without Eeteuk knowing.”
Ryeowook’s eyes widened, “Even Teukie-hyung doesn’t know!?”
“He just wouldn’t understand,” Kangin stated in frustration as he kicked at the ground and began walking towards the empty fire-pit. He stood before it as if there were flames he could gaze into, or, perhaps, cook cupcakes over, “None of the members would and obviously you understand them not understanding since you haven’t told them either.”
Ryeowook came and stood beside him, “So… how long have you come to the camp?”
“Five years,” Kangin murmured. When Ryeowook’s jaw literally dropped, he scowled, “How else do you think I got so chubby when we were trainees? I love cupcakes, Ryeowook! If there were such a thing as cupcake-crack there would be no doubt that I’d be on it… or perhaps dealing it… no, no, I’d definitely just be taking it. I’m too selfish about cupcakes to share.”
Ryeowook slanted him a look, “If you were on a deserted island with Teukie-hyung and he was dying from starvation and all you had was a cupcake –”
“I would stare him straight in the eyes as I devoured the cupcake,” Kangin interrupted ruthlessly, swiftly and not a drop of doubt in his words. “I’m sure if you were on a deserted island with Yesung and a cupcake, you’d do the same thing.”
Ryeowook’s face flushed almost immediately, “What… why… I… I’d be like that with any of the others… don’t know why you have to single out Yesung-hyung like that.”
Kangin blinked before raising a brow, “Come on, Ryeowook. We just discovered each other’s deepest, darkest secret. A little honesty on everything else should be simple by now. You not liking Yesung is like calling a muffin a cupcake.”
“That’s blasphemous!” Ryeowook exclaimed,
Kangin smirked, “Exactly. Now go get settled in… I’ll see you later with the other campers.”
Ryeowook nodded. Before he left, however, he turned back to Kangin, “Hyung.”
Kangin glanced at him, “Yes?”
“If this is Cupcake Camp, why did you call us muffins earlier?” Ryeowook inquired, earnestly curious,
Kangin’s eyes narrowed as his smile grew, “Because you’re not ready to be a cupcake yet, Ryeowook. Oh, no, no… but by the end of the week you will be… you will be.”
That evening, Kangin was out sitting by the lake. He picked up random stones around him and threw them into the dark expanse of the cool waters. His cellular phone began to vibrate away from him and he snatched it up immediately, holding it to his head,
“Hi Jungsu,” Kangin greeted as his gaze drifted up to the moon above, glowing with the white of vanilla icing,
“You sound pensive… not a good thing considering we’re on vacation,” Eeteuk commented lightly,
“Yeah well, there have been some unexpected surprises and it’s only the first day of vacation,” Kangin answered, barely repressing the urge to sigh,
“Is everything okay though?” Eeteuk asked, his voice full of concern.
Kangin couldn’t help but smile, his heart warming as if it were a batch baking at 275-degrees for 18 minutes; “Yeah, I think so.”
“Then I hope you have fun while you’re away,” Eeteuk stated, “Oh, it’s too bad you weren’t here though because Ryeowook left everyone sticky-notes with his goodbyes on them.”
“He sent me a text-message,” Kangin joined, recalling that the first thing he thought of when he saw Ryeowook was that he had just read his dongsaeng’s goodbye on his phone.
“Oh! That’s what Shiwon and Kibum said too,” Eeteuk replied and Kangin knew, just knew, that the leader was nodding his head even though they were conversing over the telephone. “I wonder why he couldn’t wait to say goodbye… Yesung says that Ryeowook is going to America for the week.”
Kangin glanced around his dark surroundings, highlighted by the moon’s light. He rolled his eyes, “I bet that’s exactly where he is.”
“So did you go to the same place you always go during our summer vacations?” Eeteuk inquired casually,
“Yes,” he replied, not giving anything,
“And you still won’t tell me where it is you disappear to for a week each summer?” Eeteuk prompted,
“Not even if I was being baked alive,” Kangin muttered,
“That’s an odd way of saying it,” Eeteuk commented.
Kangin blinked, replayed his words in his mind and silently cursed. He was starting to think cupcake thoughts and that was dangerous enough on its own, not to mention when he was talking to Eeteuk. He had spent no more than ten minutes in Ryeowook’s presence and already the cupcake slang of the camp was infusing itself with his normal vocabulary.
“I have to go,” Kangin stated reluctantly, “Sorry.”
“It’s okay. I’ll call you tomorrow night,” Eeteuk replied easily, “Goodnight.”
“Night, Jungsu,” Kangin was about to pull his phone away from his ear when he heard Eeteuk continue,
“I miss you, Youngwoon.”
Kangin parted his lips to reciprocate the words, but he heard a distinct click and the annoying beeping of being abandoned on the phone line. He sighed as he closed the connection and just stared at his phone for a few minutes. “Man, Jungsu… sometimes you’re sweeter than a caramel cupcake,” he sighed as he stood up.
He paused as he pocketed his phone and shook his head, “Note to self: de-cupcake my vocabulary.” He began walking towards the cabins, specifically his own and his bed. He was nearing the counsellors’ cabins when he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. Pulling it out, he read the text-message he received and shook his head, “More important note to self: de-cupcake Ryeowook’s vocabulary.”
Ryeowook set his phone to vibrate and shoved it beneath his pillow. He glanced around at his three other cabin-mates who had gone to sleep earlier. He knew he should have gone to sleep along with them, but he was too excited for tomorrow and what the camp had in store for its campers.
He plopped down onto the mattress and sighed with satisfaction. After so long, he was finally here. Granted, he never expected to run into another of the members at the camp and he sure as sugar never expected to see Kangin here of all people. However, at the same time, he was glad and relieved to see a familiar face, especially since it was obvious that Kangin was a veteran at the camp.
Slowly, he sat up in bed again, glancing towards one of the cabin’s windows which faced the lake. After dinner, he had spotted Kangin heading out to the lake rather than the cabins like everyone else. He wondered what his hyung was doing out there, probably missing Eeteuk.
He slipped his hand beneath his pillow, searching for his phone and pulled it out. Quickly, he typed in a text-message to Kangin and sent it. With that done, he replaced his phone in its spot beneath his pillow and lay back down on his side. He pulled his blanket over his shoulder and held it beneath his chin as he closed his eyes.
The sounds of crickets filled the void of the night as soon sugar-dusted cupcakes danced through his head. He snuggled deeper into his bed as the message he sent Kangin floated through his mind one last time before being completed overtaken by baked goods.
You’re a cupcake in my books, hyung! Completely chocolate chip!
(Coming soon, Day 2: I Don't Want to be Chocolate Chip)