The book hung in the bookstand, the crisp pages trailing in the remains of a cracked egg. Jars of baking powder, vanilla essence, butter all in different degrees of use stood stolidly on the countertop. Dunes of flour lay scattered all over and then there was me, fiercely grappling with a large white mixing bowl and my mom’s ancient electric mixer.
“Whisk until light and fluffy,” I read, nose deep in the recipe’s pages, a thin strand of brown hair trailing over one serious eye.
“Light and fluffy, light and fluffy,” I breathed over and over again like a pirate’s magic sea chant.
Again I gripped the bowl as I tried to turn on the mixer. Again it seemed like an invisible force was trying to wrench it from my hands. Again the white mixing bowl nearly flew into the French blue wall.
I hugged the bowl, winding my arm around it, bringing it right up to my face. Then slowly, slowly - like a huntress preparing to spring upon her prey- I edged the mixer’s metal blades into the bowl. The blade’s crunched against the coarse granules of sugar. My finger slowly, slowly slid the power slide forward, zero, one, two, three. Time stood still as the metal blades hit the mountain of sugar whizzed and then slowly vanished into the sticky white of the eggs. I watched as the blades disappeared into a whirl of grainy sugar; watched as the sugar and eggs underwent a metamorphosis into a thick, fluffy yellow cloud.
“TRRRRING TRRRRING!” The mixer and I jerked upright. I flailed desperately as the mixer flew out of the bowl, its metal feet spinning egg mixture all over me, the floor and the wall. “TRRRRING!!!!!” I crashed the mixer down onto the table, its metal blades still spinning and ran to the front door. I pulled it open and there was Jerry.
Now might be a good time to point out that I was a mess. My uncombed hair hung down in the tatters of a Dutch braid; globby bits of egg mixture sat chirpily in my hair like fresh dewdrops. My ‘baking outfit’, a ruffly pink summer dress was covered in flour from when I had tried to open a new bag only to have it explode on me. Oh, and I was still gripping the white mixing bowl, which was now starting to leak the “yellow cloud” onto my barefoot.
“Hello,” I said. The sun glared in through the door making it difficult for me to see Jerry’s face.
“Nice day,” I said helpfully, wondering why on earth Jerry Lawson was at my door at 10 AM and on a Saturday.
“Nice weather we’ve been having,” I said trying to edge the conversation on but willing it to end in the same breath. He ignored my weather remarks.
“You baking?” he asked quickly.
As if I had been doing anything else? Where else does one get attacked by old mixers and harmless looking flour bags?
“Yes,” I said. “It’s for this afternoon.”
“Uhhh huh,” he said musingly, “So I’ve heard...”
I wondered what had he heard as yet another glob of egg mixture fell onto my foot.
Jerry turned away from the door. Yippee, he was going! I grabbed the front door ready to slam it shut and return to my baking.
“Uhm,” he said turning back towards me, “ I thought you might need some help.”
Help. Did I ever!
I was in deeper than even I liked to admit. I wasn’t a baker. I couldn’t even make one of those ready to eat but put in the oven meals without smoking up the kitchen. The truth was that I had only agreed to bake a cake for my sister Miche’s baby shower because of Carrol. I disliked Carrol Rosamond Stevenson. She had told a friend of a friend of Miche’s that I couldn’t bake to save 500 war orphans. Dislike is a strong word but it was the joy of my life to prove Carrol Rosamond Stevenson wrong.
My sticky egg hand left the door and in turn gripped Jerry’s arm tightly, “You know how to make a cake?” I asked in a whisper.
“Yeah,” I caught a smile through the sun’s glare. “My Mom taught all of us boys how to knock up a decent sponge and I thought you could use an extra hand.” There was a sugary eggy handprint on his shirt sleeve.
My gripping his arm had caused me to forget to keep the white mixing bowl upright. A fat glob of sticky egg mixture fell on his foot. I looked at his foot and then looked up at his face.
“Sorry,” I said scrunching up my face until my eyes were only slits.
“No worries,” he said laughing his wide-mouthed smile, “You had it on your foot too.”
I looked at him, pushing away the strand of hair that would fall in front of my face, “I’m not great at this cake making stuff you know.”
He laughed. It was a big sunny laugh. It was the laugh that I had when I woke up that morning; a laugh full of promise, of good and happy things. I eyed him suspiciously; I wasn’t sure he knew what he was in for. I ushered him into the house. A low whistle escaped from his mouth as the kitchen in all its glory came into view. But I had no time to be or even feel the slightest bit of offence. I was too much in the deep end.
Jerry turned off the mixer, which had been spattering the whole time. He stood there for a while, probably wondering how on earth one girl and a cake recipe could have caused such a disaster. He turned to me with the same wide-mouthed smile on his face and a funny look in his eyes, “Let’s get this cleaned up and then I’ll show you how to make a sponge fit for a queen!”
“It only needs to be good enough to show that Carrol Rosamond Stevenson,” I said stoutly, “ That I can make a decent cake.”
A laugh rippled through his brown eyebrows and the same funny look flickered over his face. “Right,” he said. It sounded like he was choking.
I stood at the lacy table covered with everything edible and girly; teeny little pork pies, speared ham and cheese triangles, pearly pastel macarons and the piece de resistance my cake. The sponge was high and delicately golden; the fluffy light pink buttercream peaked out from between the two layers and swirled in rosy swirls on top. It couldn’t have been more perfect. I looked at it happily and murmured a little prayer of thanks that people like Jerry existed. And that’s when I saw it, hidden behind an enormous vase of yellow sunflowers: my cake again? My ‘cakes’ stood side by side. They were identical in every way, down to the last pink swirl on top.
“Jerry!” Carrol Stevenson’s voice thrilled through the hallway like shattering glass.
I saw Jerry turn towards her, one hand in his jean pocket, the other grasping a glass of lemonade. My brain didn’t even try to decipher why Jerry was at a baby shower.
“I couldn’t have made the cake without you Jer,” Carrol gushed, “ I just had to put that Willa Anderson in her place you know?” There was another nasally laugh and Carrol clattered off back towards the party.
Jerry with the same funny look in his eyes met mine and then we both looked at the twin cakes.
“Nice cake,” he said solemnly.
“Thanks!” I said, “ I’m rather good at this baking thing. Would you maybe like to order one for your party?”