Friday 5 September 2014

Flash fiction - The Anniversary Cake

I have no idea what I've been doing these past couple of weeks which has meant I haven't been able to write, but well, this maternity leave must have left me busy! Anyway, here I am again joining up with the cool peeps over at Studio 30+ and their writing prompt of the week. My offering is called The Anniversary Cake and uses one of their prompts, iron. Thanks for reading and let me know what you think! 

The Anniversary Cake

The cake didn’t look like it had all the other times she had made it. The lemon glaze was less shiny, was her piping unsteady, unsymmetrical? Martha laid her hands either side of it and stared down. It smelt as it always had with the hint of ginger poking through her trio of citrus flavours. Thirty-eight years ago, David’s mother’s face had cracked a smile, gliding her fork through Martha’s cake. Crumbs had fallen into her lap, and she had left them there, devouring her plate, eyes skyward. Martha had beamed at the sight.
               But looking at it now, it didn’t hold the same attraction and Martha felt a tear spring up and roll down her cheek. It wasn’t good enough. She glanced at the clock. She didn’t have time to make another one. It would have to do. David was so busy, maybe he wouldn’t notice the shaky piping or the lack of lustre on her fruit topping. She left the cake to cool and hoped on her way upstairs it would at least taste the same.
               The iron was now hot enough and she laid out her dress, the pale blue linen one she saved for special occasions. Friends remarked how wonderful it was she could still fit into her clothes from times past. It wasn’t something Martha thought about much. She had always been slender and enjoyed her daily walks on the grounds with the dogs, weekly swims and Pilates classes. Her friends said she was dedicated, and they lacked the commitment to exercise. Martha didn’t remind them that they had children and busy lives, while she had little to do. She enjoyed the compliment too much to open the discussion and her life to more scrutiny.
               She took the dress through to the bedroom and hung it on the wardrobe door while she undressed, sprayed a rose scent over her body and ran almond cream over her arms and legs. She paused, looking at the mirror. Why not? She thought. She dipped her hand in the cream and rubbed it into her breasts and belly. Maybe, just maybe, David would want to make love tonight.

               It hadn’t gone well. Five phone calls interrupted dinner. He didn’t even notice the present beside his plate until she pointed it out. He hadn’t got her even a card. Then, once the cake was on the table, he started on the fact she always made that “bloody cake” and didn’t he give her “enough money to buy new clothes? Why was she wearing that old thing?” Martha tried to take him back to a place on the seaside and a cosy little Italian where she had worn that dress; to a mid-afternoon picnic when she had surprised him at the office many years ago with prawn sandwiches and her cake. He wasn’t interested. He took his brandy to the study, leaving the door slightly ajar, like a dare.
               She didn’t take him up on it. She quietly took her coat and slipped out of the front door, crossing the curved driveway armed with huge lavender pots and onto the lawn. Clouds crumbled the moon’s light. She heard an owl in the distance and wondered how long it would take to reach that owl, and fly into the night with it. Somewhere, anywhere.
               Martha headed towards the thicket at the bottom of the lawn and crossed the style. The wooden beams were slick with moss and dew. She made no sounds on the wet leaves as she took the path which eventually opened up at their little lake.
               Martha looked at the water and thought of the vows they had made on the pontoon opposite thirty-six years ago. She thought of David’s disbelieving mother who would give up the rights to the house; of his father, distracted by the illegitimate child the cook was carrying; of her parents’ puzzled faces at the beauty that some people lived in; of David’s seriousness and her own, complete joy.
               Now she understood her parents’ confusion about how the poor girl from the village would make it work with the rich, handsome gent from the house on the hill. She understood why they had cast her adrift, quietly and unceremoniously, setting her off on this path they couldn’t follow. But it had only led her here.
               She stepped towards the water’s edge. 

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  1. I liked the tone of quiet despair, but I wasn't clear on the reason for it. Did she fight back at first?

    1. Thanks! No, I don't think she ever did. Maybe she should have spoken up instead of years being a pleaser.

  2. Sad, so sad. And your ending has me thinking the worst.

  3. The sadness is palpable. My heart hurts for Martha.

    1. Thanks Tara, but I didn't want to make you hurt, too ;-)

  4. This is a sad and lonely tale but I absolutely loved it. I especially loved these lines..."She enjoyed the compliment too much to open the discussion and her life to more scrutiny." - So honest and revealing. "He took his brandy to the study, leaving the door slightly ajar, like a dare." - Perfection. I feel this line on so many levels. I'm having a difficult time describing it at the moment. Great job!!!!

  5. What beautiful description in an otherwise sad story. Poor Martha. She made me think of Virginia Woolf. The line Ashley mentioned also struck me. Enjoyed it very much!


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