You are baking in your kitchen this fine day, January Sixteenth, Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Eighteen. Suddenly there is a knock on the door. A letter flits through your mail slot and skids across your floor. You pick it up, fingering the soft grey envelope. Your name is typed on the front by an antique typewriter.
Without stopping to bother with a letter opener, you tear into the envelope. A card falls out. It reads:
You are invited to
Tess’ Fifteenth Birthday Blog Bash!
(Fifteen referring to her age, not how many years the Bash has been running)
Tuesday, January 16th, 2018
Bring your favorite sugary treat.
Location: on Steeplechase
You set the letter down on your kitchen table and comb your countertops for something edible. You find a half-eaten package of cookies and a roll of refrigerated bread dough. That’s right – you were making apple turnovers. It appears you have two options here.
If you grab the cookies and hurry right over to the party, skip to part 2.
If you decide something homemade would be better than something store-bought (and half-eaten), put your turnovers in the oven and go to part 5.
Cookies under your arm and hoodie over your head, you arrive at the big oak door. Your fingers tremble from the cold as you knock twice on the door – why’d it have to be so chilly today? It must be thirteen degrees below freezing, you decide. After a very prolonged pause, the door opens. Tess is standing in the entryway, clad in plaid pajama pants, earbuds in her ear. She looks you up and down and says – “You’re not here for a party, are you?”
“Yes,” you reply. “I got your invitation.”
“Already?” She takes her earbuds out and facepalms. “Oh, no.”
“What?” you ask, confused. Wasn’t there supposed to be a party?
“Come in,” Tess beckons, closing the door behind her. You notice your surroundings – there are bags of groceries on the counter, cleaning supplies next to the fireplace, and a stack of books next to an oversized armchair.
“I’m so sorry,” she apologizes, clearing the pencil shavings out of the chair so you can sit down. “I’m so not ready yet! I shouldn’t have asked those ninjas to deliver the invitations. They did it way too quickly!”
You see that there’s no other choice. If you don’t help Tess get this party together, then it’s going to be a flop. She’ll be so embarrassed. Reluctantly, you say, “Well, I can help you.”
“Really?” she says, pushing a piece of her hair out of her face. “You’d do that?”
“I wouldn’t want your birthday to be awful!” you say.
“Oh wow, you’re Superman himself, oh thanks!” she exclaims, giving you an overenthusiastic hug. “I made a list yesterday of things I need to do. Have a look, do whatever you like!” She thrusts a list into your hands. The only things you can read on it are:
- Set up music
- Get dressed
The rest of the points are so hurried, you can’t tell what they say. But considering you can’t get dressed for Tess, it looks like you have to make a choice:
If you decide to set up the music, head over to part 3.
If decorating is more of your area of expertise, go to part 4.
Tess hands you a Rubbermaid tub full of CDs. “Just set it up on the folding table over there.” She opens her dryer and drags out a tobyMac T-shirt and a pair of jeans. She then disappears into the bathroom.
You set the CDs on the table and examine them. Some Owl City, some Royal Tailor, lots of tobyMac and tons of epic soundtracks. You finger one of these – it’s called LEGO Universe. A play through the tracks brings up a pretty good song for a party. You write it down to burn it on the playlist.
Eventually, you’ve sorted through the CDs and come up with a playlist. It’s got a lot of driving beats and fun songs. But then you wonder – would karaoke be a good idea?
If you think that hearing all your blogfriends’ Taylor Swift impressions would be a fun idea, set it up in part 8.
If you think you’ve done enough damage, go to part 9.
“I’m so glad you’ll decorate. I’m not so good at that kind of thing!” Tess laughs. She tells you that the decorations are in the plastic bags on the counter and heads off to get dressed.
You inspect the decorations she bought – balloons, streamers and…a pinata? It looks very classic, the basic donkey with the multicolored paper strips glued to it. But you wonder – where are you supposed to hang it? There isn’t a chandelier or anything in the room.
You set the pinata down and hang up the streamers, curling them once or twice to give them that great-looking cartoon party flair. Then you run out of breath blowing up balloons (you’re inclined to believe they’re made of dishwashing gloves instead of thin latex) and hang them around, because you don’t see any helium anywhere.
Tess comes out, wearing a tobyMac T-shirt and a pair of jeans. “It looks great in here!” she exclaims.
“Where did you want me to put the pinata?” you ask.
“Gerald?” Tess laughs. “I only bought him ‘cuz I thought he was cute.”
You chuckle, knowing that it would have been traumatic to see him get whacked to bits anyways.
Advance to part 15.
The turnovers are radiating away in the oven, making your mouth water. Every whiff of their beautiful scent reverberates cinnamon and apples, two of the most wonderful things about winter. And on a day as cold as this, hot pastries will be the absolute hit of the party, you think.
It’s finally time to take them out. They’re little triangles of golden-brown perfection and the filling is peeking out the sides. They’re so decadent looking. Maybe you should sample one of them? After all, there are an entire dozen.
If you decide to test one, go to part 6.
If you strengthen your resolve and resist, go to part 7.
You take one of them off the baking tray. It’s soft and gooey, still plenty warm from the oven. You take a bite. It’s flaky on the outside, but the inside tastes like heaven itself. They’re everything you love about McDonalds’ apple pies but without the trans fat. You reach for another. It’s so warm and soft and juicy.
You take a deep breath and close your eyes. Oh, these turnovers are just scrumptious.
When you open your eyes, there are three left on the tray.
With the realization that you just ate nine apple turnovers in one sitting, you begin to panic. Tons of questions fill your head. How did you eat all those turnovers? How are you going to burn it off? And, more urgently, what are you going to bring to the party? Three apple turnovers aren’t going to cut it.
You work out that you have two options: to go to the store and get more turnover-baking ingredients; or to show up to the party without anything and hope everyone else brought enough sugar. But one thing’s for certain – you’ve eaten your share of sweets for today.
If you decide to go to the store, head to part 12.
If you shrug off the responsibilites and just go with the flow, breeze over to part 11.
After the turnovers cool, you wrap them up in printed cellophane. It has red and green snowflakes on it. You hope she won’t notice that they’re leftover from your Christmas baking. You tie a pretty bow to seal them up and smile at your handiwork. Baking is so much fun.
Without further adieu, you put on your hat, scarf and coat and slide your fingers into your gloves. Then, you tuck the precious turnovers into your arms and walk over to Steeplechase.
It’s colder outside than you realized. The wind is pushing against your face, giving you a blush that Covergirl would try to sell. The tips of your fingers are cold, even through your gloves. And, worst of all, you’d decided to wear jeans today, so the frigid, stiff denim is making it hard to walk.
Finally, the door looms ahead of you. You sigh a sigh of relief, your breath hanging in the air. The turnovers made it – and so did you.
Go to part 16.
“Karaoke?” Tess shrugs when you tell her about your idea. “Why not? It sounds great to me. If you’ll set that up, I’ll see what I can do about decorating.”
You don’t push it, even though you know that combining Tess with a tape dispenser, easily unravelled streamers and balloons is a recipe for having everything look like a pinata. Rather like the pinata she bought, actually, which is sitting on the counter. You inspect it with a smirk. It’s a goofy-looking donkey festooned in ribbons.
“Where are you going to hang this up?” you call as you watch Tess rummage around in the kitchen drawers for tape.
“Whaddaya mean?” she asks. “Gerald is staying right where he is.”
“You think I’d be cold enough to whack an innocent donkey to bits? No thanks.” She pats him on the head. “Gerald can be the mascot.”
You shrug and burn one more CD of good karaoke songs, wondering what things will end up looking like once Tess is through with it. Finally, with the stereo plugged in and everything set up, you turn around.
All Tess has accomplised in this time is making a curtain door out of most of the streamers. She tosses a cardboard core over her shoulder, where it joins two others. “There,” she says, extending her arms. “Isn’t it great?”
You laugh and offer to help blow up balloons. Slowly, but surely, you get these spread out around the room in something close to a decorative manner.
“Well,” Tess says, “it’s not a cartoon party, but it looks pretty good if you ask me. Thanks for all your help, I couldn’t have done this without you.”
“You’re welcome,” you say. “Anything to -“
You’re interrupted by a knock on the door.
“Here we go!” says Tess, opening it up.
Go to part 10.
It’s no secret that Tess is decorationally challenged. You offer to help her as you see her coming closer to the bags of decorations.
“Thanks,” she says, handing you the bag. “I’ll just hand you tape, ‘cuz I’m not so good at this.”
You laugh. Then you set to work hanging up streamers and balloons. Soon, the whole room looks great. But when you reach for the pinata, Tess stops you.
“Nuh-uh,” she says. “That’s Gerald. He’s not to be abused by candy-greedy savages armed with sticks.” Patting him protectively, she places a party hat on his head.
Just then, you hear a knock at the door.
“Let the party begin!” she says, and opens it.
Go on to part 15.
“Welp,” says Tess, bopping a balloon over your head, “this isn’t a picture-perfect party, but it sure is great!”
You have to agree. Even though there aren’t any streamers anywhere else, everyone’s been having a grand time making their entrances through the curtain. The music is perfect – just the right variety of songs. And the half-package of cookies you brought is now an empty package. That’s good, right?
You look over. Tess is standing on the folding table with one of the karaoke mics. “Is anyone ready for some karaoke?”
There’s a general consensus of “Yes!”
“I know we all want to sing our hearts out, but there’s one person who helped make all this possible. If it weren’t for the help I got this morning, you’d have opened this door to find me in my pajamas. Let’s hear it for my helper, aye?”
The guests cheer. Tess looks you in the eye and tosses you the microphone.
“Come on up!” she says.
Thanks for helping out with the party! Comment the lyrics of your favorite song – don’t be shy!
You knock on the door, hoping whoever answers it will think the goodies you were supposed to bring are underneath your coat. Then you can sneak over to the table where everyone else has piled their stuff and get away with being a leech.
The door opens. Tess is standing there. There’s a streamer over her shoulder, obviously thrown by an enthusiastic friend.
“Hey!” she says, hugging you. “Thanks for coming!”
Oh no, you think. She’s going to feel that there’s nothing under my coat! Do something!
“I came without turnovers, unfortunately,” you manage to say. Then you add, in a confidential whisper, “I ate them all.”
Tess cracks up. “Well, those have gotta be some killer turnovers. Oh well. It’s you who I wanted to see, not your baked goods. Though, turnovers are hard to beat.”
The two of you laugh and she welcomes you inside.
Come on into part 16.
When you finally get to the store, the bakery’s closed, reminding you that if you don’t hurry, the party will be over. Since there’s no time to go back to the house and make something, you are stuck with the offerings of the bakery case. And there’s not a lot to choose from.
You narrow it down to two things. The first is any of the many varieties of cookies on the low shelves. They’re ubiquitous, but safe.
The second is a cake with Thomas The Tank Engine on it. It’s very appealing, being that lovely azure color and all.
If you buy the box of cookies, go to part 13.
If you take a risk with the TTTE cake, go to part 14.
Treats in hand, you arrive at the door, ready to party. You knock three times, knowing that Tess will think of that famous line she loves to use in her stories – “once for purpose, once for luck, and once more for good measure”.
She opens it up. “Hey! Thanks for coming! Those look great!”
You laugh. Good old food-oriented Tess. “You’re so welcome! Happy birthday!”
She welcomes you in, plops a party hat on your head, and shows you where the treat table is. Lucky for you, there’s cupcakes, baclava, and a bowl of Reese’s Cups, but no cookies. It looks like the safe option was a pretty good bet. Setting your tray of cookies next to the other desserts, you step away and join the party.
What kind of cookies did you bring? Say it in the comments!
You hope Tess hasn’t grown out of it. You hope she won’t think you’re insane. You hope your listening to her weirdness will pay off. You knock twice on the door, bracing yourself. Tess opens it. She has her mouth open to greet you when she sees the cake.
“Oh. Wow. Is that a THOMAS CAKE?” she squeals. “HOW DID YOU KNOW ABOUT MY SECRET FANDOM?!”
“It’s just the blogosphere, Tess,” you say, sighing with relief. So she hasn’t grown out of it.
She relieves you of the cake, holding it triumphantly above her head. “A THOMAS CAKE!” she exclaims. A mixture of cheering and nervous laughter erupts from the other guests.
You sit down in a chair off to the side, glad to be off your feet. Well, if it took the misfortune of eating all those turnovers to bring that much geeky excitement to Tess, the calories were worth it, right?
You certainly hope so. Your other hope is that you’ll dance the rest of the calories off.
Did you know that TTTE is Tess’s weird obsession or did you just guess? Say so in the comments!
The party is a huge success. Everyone’s laughing and talking, the music sounds great, and best of all, the decorations are spot-on. “I really have to hand it to you,” Tess says as she pats you on the back. “I’d have been up the creek without a paddle if you hadn’t bailed me out this morning.”
“It’s no big deal,” you say. “I’m always ready to help a friend.”
“I know that now!” she laughs. “Enjoy yourself tonight. You deserve it.”
You glance over at the treat table. “Don’t worry. I will.”
What delicious treat do you choose from the table? Comment below – it can be literally anything you want!
The party’s been fun. Everyone’s been here and talking, the food’s been great, and everyone has been grooving all night. Tess taps you on your shoulder as your hovering over the treat table. “Hey,” she says. “Thanks for coming! I really appreciate it. You really have made the party feel like a party!”
“You’re so welcome!” you reply. “Thanks for hosting it!”
“It wouldn’t be the same without you, though!” she smiles. “Enjoy yourself tonight!”
You glance down at the table of treats below you. “Oh yes, I will!”
What treat do you choose from the table? Comment below – it can be literally anything you like!