“There’s no way we can do this in time.”
“Just relax and grab some eggs, milk, and butter from the fridge.”
Alice gathered her hair into a ponytail at the top of her head. A few stray red curls bounced in front of her eyes. She blew them out of her face.
“Besides, we could have done this yesterday afternoon if someone didn’t insist on refereeing a peewee soccer game for his little sister, who’s the reason why we’re making a cake in the first place.” She wasn’t playing fair but she didn’t particularly care. It was three in the morning after all.
“Shut up! Do you want her to wake up?” Kyle’s face peered from behind the refrigerator door, genuine fear in his eyes.
Alice mused at how close her best friend and his younger sister were. Nearly fifteen years apart in age, Kyle and Lucy didn’t exactly grow up wrestling and chasing each other around the yard.
Kyle closed the doors, arms full of dairy products, and set the lot gently on the countertop. “And to counter your argument, Miss Debate Club, we could have done this after the soccer game if someone didn’t have a dinner date. I thought the plan was to make the cake at your place. You know, so she wouldn’t know.”
Alice shrugged and replied, “My mom doesn’t trust you in our kitchen after your experimental soufflé.”
“I didn’t mean to make an explosion in your kitchen!” he huffed, separating eggs in a large metal bowl. “And besides, after we cleaned up your oven, all the carbon buildup was gone. Now start sifting some flour.”
She snorted as she pulled out a jar of flour from the cupboard. “It was a mix of the acetic acid and sodium bicarbonate. Oldest trick in the book.” Alice paused thoughtfully. “Probably why it exploded.”
“Oh sure, so easy to analyze the chemistry after the fact. Sift, woman. Don’t just stand there.”
Alice stuck her tongue out at him. Despite being twenty-two years old, Kyle sure did make her act like a child. Still, she scooped flour into a sieve. This cake would mean a lot to Lucy, meaning that it meant a lot to Kyle.
Lucy may as well have called Kyle her father for the way he doted on her. When their parents died in a car crash four years ago, Kyle had been just old enough to take custody of his sister, who was only three at the time. They had no other family in the country, and Kyle refused to be parted from her. He’d taken on an impossible job: raising a little girl by himself, and because he didn’t half-ass anything, he’d become something of a gourmet cook in the process. Well, gourmet compared to Alice’s cooking.
He had help, of course. When he refused to move in with Alice’s family, her mother took him on as her personal project. Alice’s mom had taught Kyle to cook and did the accounting for him, calling it “pro bono”. Kyle deferred his enrollment to post-secondary and took up two jobs just to keep their parents’ rancher. And Alice stuck around to mind the quote unquote “feminine sensitivities” of the young girl, babysitting during Kyle’s nightshifts—which turned out to be great study time since Lucy slept like a rock.
“I don’t see why you need my help, you’re a better cook than I am now.”
“Work is easier with two people. Besides, you’re a girl. You know how I should decorate the cake.”
“Just because I like you, I’m going to pretend that wasn’t a sexist comment.”
“And just because I like you, I’m going to pretend you didn’t blow me off this evening.”
Alice’s ears grew warm. “I forgot. I’m sorry.”
There was an uncomfortable silence as Kyle began to beat the egg whites. It was a steady, light sound, like a skipping rope, or a metal finger flicking against the bowl’s edge.
As the whisk rhythmically beat against the sides of the bowl, she wondered at how he could worry about Lucy waking at them talking, but calmly beat metal against metal not ten feet away from the soon-to-be seven-year-old’s bedroom.
“We haven’t had the chance to hang out in a while either.”
The beating of the whisk continued.
“So…” Kyle trailed off. “How did it go?”
“Oh, that,” she sighed, looking forlornly at the sugar before attacking it with the measuring spoon.
“I’d say somewhere in the mid-hundred thousands, at the very least.”
She smiled at the inside joke. Kyle never understood the system, despite Alice explaining it several times since the brainchild’s birth six years ago.
Her “Seven Thousand” Theory, patent pending. The idea that the clichéd perfect companion was a “one in a million” shot was correct, but when applied to the current population of the world resulted in over seven thousand possible candidates.
Kyle had scoffed at her, telling her that she had included people on their dying beds and babies just born into the world. How did the theory account for sexual preference, age, gender, religion?
So she’d changed the odds: the seven thousand didn’t have to be romantic love. People in the seven thousand were people you loved too much that you couldn’t stand life without them. Parents, siblings, friends, children, romantic partners—any one of them could be in the seven thousand. The system was mostly based on probability. The odds of making a good friend you greet if you passed them by on the street was about one in a hundred, or in the seven million range. Finding someone you could intimately spend the rest of your life with was one in fifty thousand, or about one hundred forty thousand.
People in the seven million could be courteous to each other for their entire lives and not really know anything about each other. And people in the hundred thousands usually got married, might divorce, might have families, might live together in an eternal stalemate. But the seven thousands were special. Finding one in the seven thousand was what romantics would call soul mates, the red string of fate, the other half. Finding one of the seven thousand was highly unlikely—it was a one in a million shot after all. The probability of finding two was practically zero.
Alice didn’t really take the system seriously anymore. But it was an inside joke the two of them shared, or rather just herself, with Kyle being the only outsider who had a hint of what she was talking about.
“Not bad,” she clarified. The mid-hundred thousands were better than “not bad.” It was dating worthy.
“So you’d see him again?”
She shrugged, measuring some baking powder. “Maybe. You really should review your probability. Then you’d know what I’m talking about.”
“Well I kind of lost my tutor to her engineering degree and people in the hundred thousands.”
“It’s not hard,” she argued. “You were good in math back in high school.”
“Only because I had you to help me.”
“Give yourself more credit. Think of any situation that requires probability. The lottery, the chance that I’ll burn this cake when you step out to check on Lucy. We’ll break it down and you’ll see how easy it is.”
Kyle laughed. “At three in the morning?”
She snorted and moved to melt some butter on the stove. “You expected me to come to your house at this time and not lecture you? Think, Kyle.”
“Okay, okay,” he smirked. “So how about…the probability of you and me going out to dinner next week?”
“You mean for Lucy’s birthday? Shouldn’t we do that tomorrow? Or rather, later today?”
The sound of the whisk against the bowl abruptly stopped. “Yes. I mean, no. I…I mean yeah, we’re taking Lucy and some of her friends out for bowling and pizza. You’re not getting out of that one.” He shakily laughed once, bouncing on the spot. “But I…I was thinking of something more along the lines of a seven thousand dinner. Just…just you and me.”
“You…you did hear me, right?”
She nodded, blushing to the roots of her flaming hair, and put her elbow in the butter dish. Look at anything else in the room. Anything else.
Kyle flicked his eyes to the dish and smirked at her. “Earth to Alice.”
The beating started up again, it’s light, flicking sound filling the silence.
Alice risked looking at him and saw his form bent towards the bowl, concentrated on the eggs.
She snapped, grabbing his hand to stop that irritating sound. “You have the audacity to bring me here at three in the morning, say something as unprecedented as that, and then act like nothing happened? You…you—”
“You’re a genius, I thought you would have figured this out already.”
She hadn’t. Or rather, she had. Kyle had Lucy.
And the Seven Thousand theory applied to everything, not just romantic partners.
“I don’t know. Maybe because you’re here at three in the morning instead of with Mr. Hundred Thousand. Because you’re smart, and annoying, and funny, and beautiful, and my best friend, and I fell in love with you when we were twelve.”
He stared hard at her, and she looked away. Stupid Kyle with his cavalier attitude, superior cooking skills, brown eyes, dark hair, and terrible sense of timing. With the dumb smirk he always wore when he has said something clever and the pink tinge to his ears when he was nervous. With the kid sister who mattered everything to him and the best friend who…
Kyle had removed his hand from under hers. The whisk started beating again.
The beating stopped.
“You were asking me for the probability. One hundred.”
This short story was written by my friend Leanna over at Short Story Long Blog (yes, I know, the title has “Short story” in it. She explains the title somewhere on her blog.)
If you like the story, do leave comments here or on her blog, complimenting her about it. I’m sure she’ll like that!
This story is part of a series I’m going to post written by some of my friends based on Harry Potter prompts. You can check out the post in which I explain it all here.
The prompt “She nodded, blushing to the roots of her flaming hair, and put her elbow in the butter dish.” is from ‘Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets’ and yes, it is about Ginny 😉
I’ll put up the next story on the 10th of December and the prompt is ““He had brains,” she concedes,”although many now question whether he could really take full credit for all of his supposed achievements.” ”