Gustav, The Tiny Chef

The pair of six year-old girls giggled wildly sitting on the back porch. Two tall glasses of chilled lemonade sat forgotten between them.

The day was overcast and humid, and the low rumbling sound of a summer storm brewed in the distance. But the threatening sound didn’t phase the girls.

“Yooouuu are GETTING sleeeeeepy,” the one called Sarai chanted, dangling a long silver necklace before her friend’s round, onyx eyes.

The giggling began anew and Rosalie’s tight, dark mass of curls bobbed as she shook. The ground shook too; somewhere, lightning struck.

Sarai cried out, “Be serious, Rosalie! Watch the necklace or it won’t work!” She sucked her lips through her teeth to keep from laughing again. “You said you dreamt of being a princess! Let’s find out if you once were.”

The pretend doctor swung the long chain side-to-side, and her patient, Rosalie, obeyed, tracking the sapphire pendant dutifully. This chore went on some minutes until their tiny squirming bodies grew still as two lovely little dolls—Sarai focusing, and Rosalie unfocusing.

Rosalie’s mouth dropped open in a wide yawn. Her eyes glassed over.

Thunder cracked, lightning scored the sky, but only Sarai startled at it. A fresh, violent wind pushed through a stand of old maples at the edge of the yard, whipping branches this way and that.

“Uh-oh. We’d better go in!” Sarai pulled on Rosalie’s arm. No response. “Oh—,”she cried above the storm,”—that’s right! When I snap my fingers you’ll—,”

But her last words were drowned in thunder. It pealed angrily above, and the little girl screamed and fell. “Rosalie!”

Rosalie blinked. Then blinked again. She blinked like an owl, slow and unaffected. She turned to Sarai sprawled like a rag doll next to her, and her brow furrowed deeply.

The sky lit up blindingly. Sarai pulled her glowering friend by the arm, across the deck and through the set of french doors, slamming them shut to close out the storm. She doubled over and heaved great sighs.

“Phew! Rosalie! That was close.”

To which Rosalie replied something indecipherable. In the rich, deep voice of a man.

Sarai petrified on the spot. “R-Rosalie?”

Her friend shook her head violently. “Gustav!” She pointed to her chest to indicate her name. “Gustav!”

Sarai couldn’t move; the blood drained from her limbs, leaving her stuck there like a tree stump. She watched as Rosalie sauntered about her living room, muttering more strange words beneath her breath. She watched as Rosalie disappeared into the kitchen.

It was the sound of clanging pots and pans and rattling utensils which finally made Sarai move.

“Rosalie? W-what are you doing?”

“Gustav!” Came the short, impatient answer.

Rosalie had the fridge and pantries hanging wide open—milk, flour, sugar, eggs, butter, trays of fresh-picked berries, and slabs of meat and cheese dotted the counter.

Sarai tried to put the things back, swiping one or two at a time but was greeted with the newfound temper and strength of her friend. She was pushed out, again and again, until the two sparred with wordless shouts.

Finally, Sarai gave up, slumping mystified onto a counter stool, staring like a stunned deer at the busy chef in her kitchen.

Rosalie continued to mix and stir, beat and toss, whisk and pour, while belting out a foreign song in baritone. The tiny chef worked furiously in clouds of flour, balancing dishes and spatulas expertly in her little hands.

Sarai’s awareness returned enough to remember her mom weeding the garden outside. She’d go get her! And stop Rosalie’s madness!

But tantalizing smells wafted from saucepans bubbling on the stove and cake pans cooking in the oven. The chef handed her a large spoon coated in melted chocolate, and with a gesture encouraged her to eat it.

She was too curious to leave now, licking the spoon and delighting in taste.

Rosalie-Gustav arranged her dishes on the table: a bowl heaping with savory meatballs and a side of berry sauce, cheese sauce dribbling over pasta shells, a deep pot of steaming stew, sticky chocolate cake, and a stack of buns bursting with cream.

The girls feasted wordlessly, exchanging laughs and contented sounds instead—until they were so full, the tiny chef tipped sideways off her chair and hit her head in the ground.

“Ugh. Why do I feel so sick?” Rosalie moaned, sitting up dizzily.

“Are you really Rosalie?” Sarai asked, in disbelief.

“Yes, silly! Who else would I be?”

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