A Stir in Perfection

July 18, 2011
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I hadn’t let myself wait.

I’d done it so many times before, lurking behind the front window, forehead pasted against the frozen glass, my hot breath ricocheting off the window and billowing back into my face. I would wait there, desperately willing my sister to make an appearance.

But not tonight.

The cold night air wormed its way through our cracked kitchen window and winded into my hair as I steadily sifted flour into a mixing bowl. I stirred it spastically, eying the chocolate slowly oozing in the pan, willing it not to burn. It was incredibly important that it didn’t burn. My sister and I had used to bake this cake with my mother. She had sat us down on our ugly blue countertop and wound oversized aprons around our little bodies, patiently instructing us, not complaining when eggs shells landed in the batter, or when twice the needed salt was dumped triumphantly into the mix with a gap-toothed smile. We were always covered in flour by the end of it; our hair, which was usually the brightest shade of red, was covered in white fluff and the occasional dripping of egg. The cake, although never made quite right, was beautiful in its imperfection.

But this cake, my cake, was different. Every ingredient was measured exactly. Every egg cleanly spared of its shell. And it was made, not in the cheerful humidity of an afternoon kitchen, but in the cold darkness of a very late winter’s night.

My hand jerked as I heard the first clumsy footstep and the loud jangling of keys. I stayed perfectly still, watching my sister stumble into the house. She laughed hysterically for a moment before she landed in a heap on the floor. I lunged towards her, desperately grasping at her as I tried to turn her over to face me. It wasn’t hard to lift her; she was so excruciatingly skinny. Her cheekbones jutted half out of her face and I could feel every rib poking me as I attempted to sit her up. She giggled, and I tried not to wince as that familiar sickly sweet stench hit me straight in the face.

“Hey, sis,” she gargled out. There were sores around her mouth, and her lips trembled as she pushed them into a smile. I didn’t answer her, just pulled her to her feet, trying not to look at the mangled injection scars on her arms as I gingerly guided her to our shared bedroom. She fell on the bed in a heap, limbs spread-eagled across the mattress. I spread a blanket over her, lifting her hair off her face and giving her a light kiss on the cheek. Asleep, her face gentle and unaware, she almost looked like my sister again.

I went back to the kitchen, poured the batter into a baking pan, and tried not to let the tears smudging up my face drip into the perfect cake for my sister.





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