The strawberry girl woke up disoriented. She blinked her eyes open slowly, reaching to her side to seek warmth but finding it empty. This made her a little more awake, and she sat up, surveying the empty side with something akin to dismay.
She crawled off the bed sleepily, promptly falling off the bed and landing on the floor below. “Fuck,” she said aloud in a bored tone, rubbing the side of her head.
“Strawberry?” a concerned voice spoke up behind her. The inventor’s shadow loomed over her, followed by his worried-looking face. “Are you all right?”
She smiled up at him, forgetting the pain in her head. “Good morning,” she greeted him cheerfully.
“Good morning,” he replied, planting a kiss on her forehead. “Breakfast?”
“Yes please.” She sat up, taking his outstretched hand. He wrapped her in a hug, lifting her off her feet and squeezing her tight. She giggled, biting his ear playfully. “Hey, let me down!”
“No way,” he murmured, putting her over his shoulder and heading to the kitchen. “An ice pack for your head first, then breakfast.”
The strawberry girl’s ice pack was a pink pig with floppy ears and a curly tail. The inventor pulled it out of the freezer, crushed the ice a few times between his hands, and handed it to the girl. She held it to the side of her head, enjoying the cold that seeped through the ice pack.
“All better now?” he asked.
“That’s good. Stay there while I get breakfast.”
“Crepes!” she called out.
“No,” he called back. “Keep eating crepes and you’ll turn into a crepe.”
She pouted. “That’s scientifically impossible,” she muttered, dipping a finger into the sugar bowl and putting it in her mouth.
“And stop eating sugar,” he called, poking his head out of the refrigerator to look at her.
“I wasn’t doing anything,” she lied.
“Riiiight.” He went back to Serious Kitchen Business, leaving the strawberry girl to listen to the clink and clatter of cutlery and plates. A few minutes later, the scent of waffles and hot chocolate filled the air.
But the strawberry girl didn’t smell any of it. She was slumped over the table, her head buried in her arms.
“Strawberry,” the inventor whispered in her ear. “Time to eat.”
She gave a grumpy-sounding grunt and turned her head to the other side.
“Oh, so you want to be that way hmm?” He shook out an ice cube from one of the glasses he was carrying, lifted the back of the sleeping girl’s t-shirt, and slid the ice cube down her back. Almost instantly she sat up straight, shrieking, reaching for a dish towel and hurling it at him.
“How could you?!” she screamed, enraged.
He doubled over laughing at her anger. She tried to punch him, but he caught her by the wrists and hugged her hard. After a few seconds she stopped struggling and hugged him back sulkily.
“I won’t forget this,” she promised, kissing his nose.
“I know,” he answered, smiling at her.
“I’m home!” The strawberry girl balanced the huge paper bags in her arms and tried to nudge the door open with her foot. “A little help here, please!”
The inventor appeared from his laboratory, opening the door for her and helping her with most of the bags. “So that’s where you went,” he said, a little crossly. “You could have told me that you were going to the grocery store.”
She shrugged, collapsing on the couch and holding an ice-cold can of sugar-free Monster to her cheek. “I thought I could come back before you noticed,” she said. “But then they were having a promotional stall for their new products and the scheme was terrible – I had to help the poor people. They were so flustered so I couldn’t help myself.”
The inventor laughed. “Oh, God. Did you completely rewrite their whole promotional plan?”
“Something like that, yes,” the strawberry girl shrugged, standing up and starting to put away the groceries in their proper shelves. “But it worked right away, so I’m sure they don’t mind.”
He shook his head in bemusement. “I’m not even going to ask.”
“Better not,” she agreed complacently. She frowned suddenly, then held out two cartons of milk to him. “Put these on the shelf please.”
He took them, then squinted at the labels, then proceeded to complain. “Soy milk? This isn’t real milk,” he stocked both cartons on the shelf and looked down at the girl, who was smiling angelically up at him. “You did this on purpose didn’t you? To get back for the ice cube thing this morning?”
“i don’t know what you’re talking about,” she responded, sounding hurt. “I am the most lenient person on earth.”
He laughed. “That, you definitely are not.”
She sighed, opening a huge box of cupcakes and selecting a green-tea flavoured one. “That hurts.”
The inventor walked over to stare at the box, which had thirty-six beautifully decorated cupcakes in rows. “Did you really buy all of these?”
“Of course not,” said the strawberry girl, licking some frosting off her cupcake. “They gave it to me at the store as a thank-you present.”
“For overwriting their marketing plan.”
He selected a chocolate fudge cupcake and bit in to it. “Oh wow. This is good.”
She grinned at him. “I know!” She opened her mouth to take a bite. At that moment, the inventor suddenly tipped her head forward gently, making her nose land in the middle of the cupcake frosting.
“That’s strike two,” she said, glaring at him menacingly.
“That’s for the milk,” he said, returning her glare with a devious smirk. He tilted up her head and kissed the frosting off the tip of her nose. “There. All better now?”
“It’s not yet over until someone wins – or calls a truce,” she reminded him sweetly, taking a vicious bite out of her cupcake and wishing that it was his neck instead.
It was 11:00 at night, and the inventor and the strawberry girl were standing in front of the sink, brushing their teeth. They were leaning on each other, but that was all right since she brushed using her left hand and he brushed using his right.
“You look exhausted, princess,” he said, smiling down at her benevolently.
“It was all the science we did today,” she answered, yawning.
“But you like science,” he teased, standing behind her and wrapping his arms around her waist. He rested his chin on top of her head and they smiled at each other through the mirror.
“I love science,” she answered.
“I love you,” he whispered.
“I love you too,” she whispered back.
He squeezed her briefly. “Let’s go to bed.”
“And count toes,” she yawned again.
They sat on the bed, the strawberry girl between his legs and resting her back on his chest. They counted her toes in Polish first, then in English. During the second round of counting, he gave her a tiny kiss on each toe.
“Sleepy,” she said, burying her face in his chest.
“Let’s sleep, sweetheart.” He pulled the quilt over both of them and put his arms around her. They lay in silence for a few minutes, then he kissed her and apologized for teasing her the entire day.
“I don’t mind,” she answered. “But can I have crepes for breakfast tomorrow? Even if I turn into a crepe?”
He gave a muffled laugh. “You’ll be the most delicious crepe ever.”
“Mmhm,” she answered, closing her eyes. He thought she was already asleep, but he heard her speak again. “I bought you full-fat milk,” she murmured sleepily, patting his cheek. “It’s inside the refrigerator.”
And with that she fell asleep.