Violet stared through the gap in the fence at her next-door neighbor. She couldn’t help it.
Margot, who never let Violet forget that she was the oldest by eleven days, sat at her plastic table and chair beneath the shade of her treehouse. Despite the shade, Margot also wore a large sunhat, her cheeks smeared with sunscreen. But what held Violet’s intrigue was the enormous slice of chocolate cake on the table in front of Margot. Its frosting glistened in the sunlight that trickled through the leaves above.
Never taking her eyes from the cake, Violet slowly straightened until she was standing on tiptoe and peering over the fence, her nose pressed almost painfully against the grainy fencepost.
Margot glanced up from her table setting and shifted uncomfortably at the sight of her neighbor.
“Hi, Margot,” Violet called.
“Hi,” Margot answered after a reluctant pause.
Violet got a better grip on the fencepost and swung her legs up. Her neighbor very pointedly adjusted her placemat and the play silverware arranged around her occupied plate as she arranged herself relatively comfortably on top of the fencepost.
“What kind of cake is that?”
“Well, I can see it’s chocolate,” Violet complained. “But what kind of chocolate cake is it?”
“Who cares?” Margot huffed.
“Are you kidding me?” Violet jumped down from the fencepost, bending her knees as she landed. She raised her arms incredulously at Margot before letting them drop to her sides. “Everyone should care! It’s a big deal!”
“It’s none of your business,” Margot said.
Violet felt the sudden relief from the shade of the treehouse as she marched up to Margot’s seat. Her nose came dangerously close to the frosting, her breath scattering the crumbs on the plate as she sniffed deeply.
“Ah,” Violet sighed. “Chocolate fudge.”
“Get away from my cake!” Margot’s shoulders tensed up as if ready to push Violet. “You’re breathing all over it!”
“That’s my favorite kind of cake,” Violet said, inhaling deeply once more. She turned to sneeze after some of the crumbs were welcomed into her nostrils. “Can I have it?”
“No.” Margot slid the plate away from Violet.
“Because it’s mine!” Margot glared. “I’m the oldest, so that makes me the queen. And the queen doesn’t have to share.”
“Queens wear crowns,” Violet pointed out. “You’re not wearing a crown, so you’re not a queen.”
“A queen can wear whatever she wants!” Margot shouted.
Violet’s elbows thudded on the table, the play dishes clattering as if startled, and she cupped her chin in her hands. Margot watched suspiciously while Violet stared at the cake, thinking.
“Don’t queens have servants?” Violet asked.
“They do,” Margot said, narrowing her eyes.
“And don’t those servants sometimes taste the queen’s food for her to make sure it isn’t poisoned?”
“Not all the time.” Margot frowned.
“But,” Violet continued, “I could taste a little of your cake to help protect my queen.”
Margot beamed at her last words.
“Okay,” she said, cutting off a tiny piece from her slice. “You can taste a little to make sure it isn’t poisoned, but then you have to do everything I say.”
Margot daintily held out a plastic fork with some cake clinging to the tines by its sticky frosting.
Before Margot could react, Violet had snatched the larger piece from her plate, frosting oozing from between her fingers. Margot’s mouth popped open with a little gasp as Violet shoved the cake into her mouth. Her cheeks bulged and crumbs spewed from her lips as she chewed.
She swallowed hard and licked her fingers clean before turning to Margot and pointing at the little bite of cake still on her fork.
“I think that piece is safe to eat.”
Much later, Violet found Margot in her treehouse and approached with both hands behind her back.
She tilted her head back and called, “Are you up there, Margot?”
Violet hesitated and then corrected herself. “Queen Margot?”
Margot poked her head out from one of the windows and glared down at Violet.
“What do you want?”
“Well, I wanted to tell you that that cake was delicious. And I wanted to thank you by bringing you some new cake.”
Violet brought her hands from behind her back and revealed a brown lump that dripped now and then to the earth.
Margot wrinkled her nose. “Is it chocolate?”
“Of course!” Violet nodded her head vigorously.
After thinking for a moment, Margot scrambled down the ladder of her treehouse and eyed the dense dessert offered to her. Violet smiled and thrust it closer to her, plopping it into Margot’s hand when she finally held it out.
Margot stumbled under its weight. It certainly didn’t feel like a chocolate cake.
She wondered for a moment if it had too much frosting, when she realized how grainy its texture was. She sniffed and realized instantly that it was, in fact, a mud pie.
Although her expression appeared blank, Margot’s cheeks turned a splotchy scarlet underneath all the sunscreen.
She shifted the weight of the mudpie to one hand, drew it back, and flung it in Violet’s face.
Margot stomped away, stopping only to wipe her hands in the grass, leaving Violet spluttering and coughing behind her.
“Fine!” the taste-tester shouted to her queen, scrubbing mud from her eyes. “More for me!”