Short Story: Cake

CakeBy: Ida R. Jardines

           Mandy would make the cake herself, she thought as she resigned herself to facing the day. Today was her birthday. She slowly opened her eyes, knowing that this small action was the ultimate indication of defeat; sleeping in was officially out of the question. Turning to her left, Mandy found her husband, Jack, still fast asleep. He was lost in dreams she’d never be able to experience with him.

            With a sigh, she got out of bed. If the cake had to be made, a trip to the market was in order. She made sure not to wake her husband as she peeled various articles of clothing off the floor: yoga pants, a jersey tee, and sandals. Carrying the pieces in her arms, she tiptoed to the bathroom to put herself together. The silence of the house was deafening.

            After getting dressed, Mandy took a long, hard look at herself in their speckled mirror. She would need to clean it before tonight. Tonight. Jack had looked so excited when he presented the idea of a dinner party to celebrate her birthday. She couldn’t bear to tell him that all she wanted to do to celebrate was get lost in his arms, escaping the world, escaping the day.

            The speckled mirror revealed a blemish here, a line there. No need to put on make-up, she thought. If she was expected to be the center of attention tonight, the costume could wait a couple more hours. Mandy threw her hair up in a ponytail, brushed her teeth, and slunk out the door.

            Jack was a great cook but she was the baker. Even though she was the guest of honor, she couldn’t leave her birthday cake in the hands of a man who managed to botch ready-made cookie dough. It had been quite some time since she had baked, though, and she didn’t have the essential ingredients on hand. She figured she could run to the store and be home before Jack realized she left. Maybe they could get lost together before the party.

Vanilla

Sugar

Flour

Eggs

Whipping Cream.

Vanilla

Sugar

Flour

Eggs

Whipping Cream.

            Someone must have known it was her birthday. Mandy was able to snag a parking spot directly in front of the market. She grabbed a nearby shopping cart and made her way inside the market. With determination, Mandy made her way towards the dry goods section when she felt something, or rather someone, bump into her.

            “Sorry!” the stranger said, picking up the lone bag of frozen peas, “I was on my phone and I didn’t see-“

            Mandy couldn’t take her eyes off the frozen peas. She hated those little, green tormentors. Her foster mother had been a raging alcoholic with an appetite for cruelty. When she discovered that Mandy didn’t have a taste for peas, they just happened to become a regular fixture on the dinner table. Every night. On her birthday, her foster mother made Mandy a whole bag of frozen peas and wouldn’t let her leave the table until she finished every last one. Needless to say, it had been a long night.

Whipping Cream

Sugar

Vanilla

Flour.

            She wondered what her foster mother would think of her if she could see Mandy now. She was married, had a great job…well, a decent job, if she was being honest. Ok, it was a job that paid the bills. Nowadays, who really uses their degree in the field they intended? She made a mental note to job hunt as soon as she got home.

Eggs

Vanilla

Sugar

Job.

Flour

            Mandy couldn’t really switch jobs right now, could she? She already put in so much time. She and Jack had just started having serious discussions about kids. They had been married for five years now. They shouldn’t keep putting off having kids should they? Could they? What was she supposed to do with a kid? Maybe she could push back motherhood for another five years.

Job

Vanilla.

Eggs

Baby

Flour

Vanilla.

Jack would be a great father, even if she was sure to be a dud. Jack. He was everything: kind, honest, protective, encouraging, loving. He was amazing in every way and yet he loved her: messy, forgetful, sensitive Mandy. How could he love her? He deserved better.

Sugar

Eggs

Baby

Whipping.

Cream

Job

Vanilla

.Jack

“Miss? Miss?”

            Mandy was shaken from her thoughts and found herself at the cash register, grocery bags with cake ingredients in her cart. How did she get here?

            “I’m sorry?”

            “Your total is $32.89,” the patient cashier repeated. Mandy couldn’t get out of there fast enough. She put her bags in the back seat and quickly got behind the wheel of her car, leaving the keys out of the ignition. The doubts of her life were overwhelming, drowning her in the parking lot of the grocery store.

            Maybe she could go somewhere, anywhere but home. That wouldn’t fix anything, though. She would still be a mess. Mandy closed her eyes as tight as she could and pleaded:

            “Take it away. Please, take it away.”

            Something hit her windshield, giving off a booming noise that caused her to open her eyes. It was a single raindrop that loudly echoed within the car. First one fell and then a couple of more until her car was covered in sprinkles. Mandy took a deep breath as she started the car and wiped her tears away.

            The rain made her an extra cautious driver out of habit. A few more minutes were added to her drive home and she was thankful for the delay. With every swish of the windshield wiper, her doubts began to float away. Her past did not define her. People’s opinions about her life didn’t matter. The career and baby would come when the time was right; there was no need to dwell on it or rush the process.

Her thoughts wandered back to Jack as she pulled into their driveway. She hadn’t felt worthy of his unconditional love but that feeling washed away a bit at a time everyday. She could be better. She would be better. She already was better.

            As she grabbed the grocery bags and made her way to the front door, a small smile crept across her face. Today was her birthday. It was a great day. She opened the front door to find Jack, wide-awake, cooking breakfast.

            He offered the wide smile he reserved only for her.

            And she thought:

            I think I’ll let Jack make the cake.