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A Birthday Nenene Will Never Forget

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It was 9:00 AM in the morning on a windy Saturday. Maggie was much occupied with her one activity besides reading, and was slaving away in the kitchen. On this day, however, she wasn't cooking one of her usual meals - she was baking a chocolate-chocolate chip cake for Nenene's birthday. She knew it was Nenene's favorite. Maggie figured it was the least she could do for the woman who brought so much love and happiness into her life, her lover for the last six months now. It had been a very wonderful six months for the both of them

In Nenene, Maggie found someone who made her feel more like a woman than anyone else, unlike Michelle, who often referred to her as unfeminine. Nenene helped build her confidence and taught her how to be more assertive. It was because of Nenene that she was able to become a bit more social and even slightly more talkative. Her happiness even made its way into her reading too. Since she was no longer brooding and depressed, she felt the need to read more books which related to her current joyful mood. Hemingway's somber writings were gradually abandoned for more upbeat novels. Right now she was reading one such novel, "Tipping the Velvet," which definitely fit her current mood better. When she thought about it, she was amazed at the wonderful transformation that Nenene brought out in her.

Snapping out of her reverie, she grabbed some vanilla frosting and sprinkles for the cake from the pantry. Noticing how much time went by, she also got started on cooking some vegetable dumplings, beef teriyaki, chicken lo-mein, and other things she remembered that Nenene liked.

Nenene had left early that day, much irritated. Her manager had scheduled a busy Saturday for her - an early book signing followed by a radio interview, and a televised book discussion and signing, meaning she would be away for a while on a day when she would have rather spend her time snuggling up to her Maggie and writing a few pages for her new novel. Michelle wasn't in the apartment right now either, which meant she was most likely raiding the nearby bookstore. Her younger sister, Anita, had gone to see Hisami. Maggie was thus alone, which was fine for her right now, since the others would just be an unnecessary distraction. She did most of the cooking in the place, and she kind of preferred to do it by herself.

Maggie was done with most of the food around noon and had already set it out on the table, with the exception of the salad. She went through the fridge and found lettuce, tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts, but no carrots. Disappointed, she put on her light jacket since it was a little bit windy, locked the door behind her, and went to the store to pick some up. Couldn't have a salad for Nenene without carrots.

Unfortunately for Maggie, ten minutes after she'd left, Michelle and Anita came to the apartment and quickly picked up on the scent.

"What's that smell? It smells good!" Anita said, sniffing at the aroma in the apartment.

"Why, it smells like something between teriyaki and dim-sum dumplings!" Michelle answered with a hungry gleam in her eyes.

As soon as they got to the dining area they were surprised to see all the food spread on the table. Anita couldn't stop staring.

"Wow, Ma-nee really cooked a lot of food! What could the occasion be?" Anita wondered.

"I doubt that she would have cooked it for Nenene-sensei, since she's going to be gone all day, so I think she must have cooked it for us," Michelle decided quickly.

Anita didn't argue with her sister, and they sat down and started to eat everything Maggie had so carefully prepared. Anita was tired from capturing frogs all morning with Hisami, and Michelle had rushed out without any breakfast, so they were hungry enough to eat all the food that was on the table.

"We should thank Maggie for the meal!" Michelle said excitedly yet naively.

Around the time that Michelle and Maggie were having their feast, Maggie was trying to buy carrots in the supermarket but something went wrong. The cashier rang up her ATM card but she couldn't process the transaction.

"I'm sorry, ma'am, but the computer shows insufficient funds."

"What? How could that be? It can't be right." Maggie stared blankly at him.

"I don't know, ma'am," the cashier said apologetically. "But that's what the computer is showing." He turned the screen to her.

Maggie took a look at the computer. "I see. I'm sorry then. I'll be going." Maggie was in disbelief. She'd made sure to save some money for Nenene's birthday. There could not have been a worse time to run out of money. She remembered checking her account two days ago and finding 120,000 yen, but now she didn't even have enough for 500 yen worth of carrots? Of course... It was true that hers was a joint account with her sister Michelle, but she couldn't believe that Michelle would take all the money in the account to buy books! She left the grocery store feeling embarrassed. While walking back to the apartment, she thought to herself that things couldn't get any worse. Little did she know that this was just the tip of the iceberg.

Michelle and Anita were stuffed after eating all the food that Maggie prepared for Nenene's birthday. There both had their eyes closed and were smiling from ear to ear. The food made up a disappointing day for Anita, who didn't have much luck catching any frogs.

"The food was even better than usual. I love it!" Anita said.

"Yeah, we need to thank Maggie-chan for it!" Michelle replied happily. They didn't have to wait too long to thank her because just a few seconds later, Maggie entered into the place. As she was heading straight to the kitchen to prepare the salad, she saw the dining table filled with empty bowl and plates while Michelle and Anita were sitting there with their bellies full.

"Hey Maggie-chan!" Michelle said.

"Hi, Ma-nee!" Anita said.

But Maggie didn't care one bit for any of their pleasantries; the only thing that mattered to her was that the food was gone.

"Where's the food?" Maggie asked, blinking. There was no way all the food could be gone in such a short time.

"Thanks for the food. It was delicious!" Michelle said happily, full to bursting.

"What!" Maggie said disbelievingly, quietly at first, but then she glared at her sister and her voice rose dramatically. "You two ate all of the food?" Maggie screamed, showing an emotional side that didn't come out often. Even though her relationship with Nenene had begun to make her more open about her feelings, Maggie was not much of a screamer nor was she a shouter, but this incident unexpectedly brought it out of her.

"I made the food for Nenene! Don't you know it's her birthday today? You two don't realize how much time and dedication I put into that meal!" Maggie continued to shout, tears were flowing from her eyes.

Most of the time the other two sisters would have started an argument with Maggie, especially hot-tempered Anita, but Maggie's voice had shocked them into silence, and they started to realize what they had done and feel guilty about it, so they let Maggie scream at them all she wanted.

"Now Nenene is going to get angry at me, thanks to you two!" Maggie exclaimed with tears burning her eyes.

Michelle knew she had to do something or else face the wrath and fury of Nenene Sumiregawa, so with some trepidation in her voice she said, "Look Maggie-chan, we'll get some food for you. Don't worry about it! Everything will be just fine. Sensei will never notice."

Maggie wasn't so sure of Michelle's assurance but before she could make her comment, Michelle and Anita had already left the apartment. Their adventure for food and anything else for Nenene's birthday had begun.