Notes for American readers: I realise there are lots of references here to British chocolate (candy) bars which may not be familiar to American readers, so you might want to google Nestle Matchmakers to get an idea of what a Matchmaker looks like. (Maltesers have been on sale in the US since 2017.) A Feast is an iconic British ice cream on a stick and Tesco is a well-known and popular supermarket chain in the UK – similar to Costco. ‘Bake Off’ is known in the USA as ‘The Great British Baking Show’. The recipe for the cake Julie makes as a gift for her husband uses British measurements, so 8 ounces of flour would be about 2 and 1/4 cups – there are plenty of converter sites on the internet if anyone wants to try making this cake (but without the special ingredient Julie adds). Finally, I’ve used British clothing sizes: our 8 is a US 4 and a 12 is a US 8; and Julie weighs 98 pounds (7 stone) at the start of her marriage.
Julie’s husband’s having an affair. She wouldn’t mind, but it’s ruining her waistline. When they married, she looked like a Matchmaker, a slim silhouette in pointy high heels. Now, however, she’s a fat Malteser, her belly rounded by the chocolate she’s eaten.
Julie’s husband’s having an affair. He sees his secretary twice a week for a quick roll on the office floor. Julie goes to Tesco every day and has a swiss roll on the bus. When they married, she was only seven stone. Now she stands on the scale and realises she’s considerably more; she’s been weighed and found wanting.
Julie’s husband’s having an affair. He comes home from work with lipstick on his collar and another woman’s smell on his skin. Julie has chocolate smeared lipstick and cellulite on her thighs. When they married, she thought he was the most romantic man she had ever known; these days, her idea of a hot date involves just her with a giant Mars bar and a family sized bag of popcorn.
Julie’s husband’s having an affair...
Julie’s husband doesn’t know she knows. He thinks she hasn’t spotted the tell-tale signs, the grey hair dyed brown again, the sudden interest in jogging. He thinks she hasn’t noticed that he’s not where he says he is, when he says he is. Julie’s husband thinks she doesn’t know.
Julie does know, of course, just like she knew about the one before, and the one before that. The one before was her best friend; the one before that, his ex-wife. Julie’s known them all and they’re all the same: skinny blonde bimbos who don’t eat for weeks at a time.
The first time it happened, she was thin too – until despair drove her to the drive-in, stuffed her full of sympathetic burgers and friendly fries. Chocolate comforted her; biscuits dried her tears. By the time he got onto number two, she’d gone from a size eight to a twelve and forgotten what her waist looked like.
Julie’s husband doesn’t know she knows. He thinks she believes him when he says he’s ‘working late’, just like he believes her when she says she’s joined Weight Watchers. Julie’s husband doesn’t know she knows...
Julie’s got some secrets of her own. Julie’s husband flirts with the tart in the office whilst Julie dallies with three jam tarts and a cream horn. Julie’s husband looks for crumpet in the typing pool whilst Julie loads her shopping trolley with crumpets and thick, white bread. Julie’s husband whispers sweet nothings in other women’s ears; Julie pushes Wispas and other sweet somethings into her mouth. Julie’s husband can’t keep his hands off his secretary; Julie can’t keep the inches off her hips. Julie’s got some secrets of her own.
She has tried to get thinner but somehow nothing seems to work. She’s tried every diet in the book: the F-Plan, the Cambridge, the Hip and Thigh; in fact, she’s tried them all at the same time and still found herself hungry. She’s cut down on eating between meals- and started eating six meals a day. She’s bought exercise DVDs and watched them religiously, stuffing squares of chocolate into her mouth as she does so. In the end, she just gave up trying and went back to sticking pins into Barbie dolls.
Julie’s husband sits in front of his computer. He drools over scantily clad females, indulges in erotic daydreams. Julie watches ‘Bake Off’, ‘MasterChef’ and Nigella Lawson. She salivates at the sight of ingredients in their saucepans, wallows in gourmet fantasies. Julie’s husband hides a stack of magazines under the bed: naked girls pout at the camera. Julie has a secret hoard too: seductively packaged chocolate calls to her from the kitchen cupboards. Julie’s husband goes out twice a week, taking his secretary for sordid sex in a quiet hotel. While he’s gone, Julie has her own secret rendezvous with the cake tin, crams slice after slice into her mouth and lovingly licks up the crumbs.
She used to cry herself to sleep when it first happened, would sob into her pillow every night that he didn’t come home. Now she takes herself to bed with a mug of hot chocolate, three Lion bars and a Bounty, bites into her marshmallows and gorges herself into oblivion.
Julie’s got some secrets of her own...
Julie’s decided she doesn’t like her husband any more. She’s thought about leaving him, but she’s worried he’ll get custody of the freezer. She’s dreamed about killing him, but she doesn’t know how. Julie needs to find a way out...
Today is their anniversary. Julie thinks she’ll make him a cake. She collects her utensils, her ingredients, and sets to work.
Eight ounces of flour (Eight instances of adultery)
Eight ounces of butter (Eight years of infidelity)
Eight ounces of sugar (Too many unexplained phone calls)
Four eggs (Too many nights when he didn’t come home)
Two ounces of cocoa (Too late to make it work now)
She tips the whole lot into her mixing bowl, adds one other ’special ingredient’ and starts to stir the mixture. If only life were as uncomplicated as baking, she thinks. But even in the stories she read as a child it went wrong: she should have realised then that her gingerbread husband would run away from her too.
She pours the chocolate goo into two tins, makes sure the oven is hot enough. If she had her husband here at this moment, she’d make him test it by climbing inside, like the witch in ‘Hansel and Gretel’. She can’t, of course: she grew up long ago and adults aren’t allowed to do such things.
She put the tins in the oven, sets the timer for twenty minutes. She’s got just long enough for a little treat. She might have a Feast to celebrate.
The cake is done and lies cooling on wire trays. It looks good enough to eat – almost. First she has work to do. In the office, her husband signs a new contract; in the kitchen, Julie ices his name on the cake. In the car park, her husband kisses his secretary; in the living room, Julie licks her ice lolly.
Julie knows she hates her husband. She knows before he comes in, bringing the flowers that form his apology; knows before he sits down, makes his usual excuse for being late. Julie knows she hates her husband.
She shows her husband the cake. His eyes light up as she knew they would. She cuts him a large slice and watches while he eats it.
Julie’s husband lies on the floor. His face is a funny colour and he is twitching convulsively. Soon he will be dead. Julie unwraps another Galaxy, peels back the paper, strokes the smooth brown squares. Her husband does not move. She looks at the chocolate; bids a fond farewell to her lover.
Julie steps over her husband; opens the waste bin. There’s no need now for chocolate: she’s finally satisfied.