“You know, Maxzyne,” Elise recalls. “I was in a display here once, a long time ago. With Peppin. It was when the Crowne chocolate ladies first opened this cafe. But I never understood why the children were so happy and excited and, well, crazy over these treats! I thought it was just because they were with friends, celebrating their birthdays.”
“Mother always gets three cupcakes to celebrate my birthday,” Maxzyne tells her. “A red velvet for Dad, pineapple hummingbird for her, and double Dutch coco puff for me. Instead of one big cake, she says, everyone gets something they like and just the right amount.” Making a face, she breathes in, sucking in her stomach and cheeks. “Can you tell she’s always on a diet?”
Elise laughs. “Mannequins are always on a diet.” She surveys the decorated cupcakes, standing tall in their tuxedo paper liners despite towering clouds of swirled icing. “I’ve never had a birthday,” she admits. “What’s it like, Maxzyne?”
“Birthdays?” Maxzyne looks stunned. Licking melted chocolate from her fingers, she frowns, wondering how to answer such a strange question. “Well, pretty much the best day in the whole world, I guess!” She laughs. “I’d say birthdays are even better than Christmas!”
“But why?” Elise brings her nose close enough to sniff a fluffy, pink strawberry cream cupcake. It is hanging exactly at eye level, perfectly balanced on a golden plate.
“That’s easy! Because it’s all about you, silly!” She twirls in her seat at the counter. “It’s like, well, instead of Wednesday, the day is, you know, Maxzyne-day. From the time Mother wakes me up singing, ’til I go to bed that night, it’s everything me.”
“Oh, that sounds wonderful,” Elise sighs. “So on that day, everyone thinks you’re special. I’d like that.” She moves on to a Coconut Cream Puff cupcake hanging nearby. The toasted coconut sprinkles fascinate her.
“Oh, you’re special, all right. And the best part? You get presents!” Maxzyne jumps up and down, tugging at the necklace around her neck and making the tiny gold bell tinkle merrily. “Like this! And I got lots of other stuff, too.”
“Do you feel any different when you’re another year older on your birthday?”
Maxzyne looks puzzled. “Well, I . . . uh . . .” She pauses, thinking for a minute.
Not waiting for an answer, Elise finally reaches for a banana split cupcake. Its golden cake body is covered in strawberry and chocolate swirls. A fat cherry tipped in chocolate crowns the glossy icing.
“Okay, not exactly.” Maxzyne climbs back on the high stool. “I mean, it’s not like you wake up and you’re taller, you know. Smarter? . . . No. I guess . . . it’s kind of something that just happens. You might not even notice, but it’s your birthday and you’re a little more grown-up. But you’re still a kid!”
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