“It’s a decent pie…it’s fine” she said unenthusiastically after swallowing a forkfull of the triple berry pie that she baked for dessert. “It’s great! It’s delicious!” the women countered as they happily devoured their wedges. She rolled her eyes as she stared at her plate, poking at the crust with resentment. “Well, what’s wrong with it?!” asked an exasperated Dina.
“I would be so proud if I made this pie. And my husband? He would be thrilled!” was Amanda’s contribution to the pie’s defense.
“I’m berry happy right now” came from Anna, ever the goofball .
“Roxanne, you’re never, ever satisfied with anything you make, no matter how tasty and perfect it is” Caren correctly observed.
“It’s just missing something” Roxanne said with the slightest tinge of bitterness in her tone.
Now it was their turn for eye rolling. “You always say that!” said Caren as she placed the last of her piece in her mouth.
Roxanne took a swig from her mug of black coffee, and then chased it with a gulp of white wine. She felt drowsy and keyed up all at once. Her friends had never tasted Emilies’s baking, she reminded herself. If they had her chocolate cake or peanut butter tart, or carrot cake or peach pie or anything Emilie made they would realize the difference between Roxanne’s “good” baking, and Emilie’s magical desserts.
She briefly considered explaining Emilie to her friends, but as usual she dismissed the impulse. How could she describe Emilie without making it sound like a juicy nugget of coffee klatch gossip? She knew her friends would seize upon the details of Emilie’s late term miscarriage, they’d make shows and sounds of pity, but like Roxanne, they would never really understand how this could result in this woman’s complete silence.
“I’ve had cake that tasted so good that it made me cry.” Roxanne said without sentiment.
“I don’t think cake could make me cry- no matter how delicious” said Dina
“Maybe if it was chocolate” mused Amanda
“I don’t know about crying, but if it was good chocolate I could come” this, of course, belonged to Anna.
“By cry do you mean a single tear or were you full on sobbing?” asked Dina the skeptic.
Roxanne remembered when she dropped off a lasagne for Emilie and her family, days after her miscarriage. She wanted so badly to say something comforting, to offer her some kindness, she stumbled around for words, Emilie’s emphatic silence making her act more and more awkward. She retreated from her house feeling spurned and embarrassed. And pissed with Emilie, which then made her feel bad. But still, hadn’t she gone to the trouble of caring, and making a freaking lasagne! Her better side reminded her of the trauma Emilie had just suffered.
For three weeks Roxanne’s phone calls, emails, and texts to Emilie went unanswered. The day that Roxanne decided that there was just no excuse for such rudeness, Emilie turned up at her door holding a big and beautiful carrot cake. With a wary smile she extended the cake to Roxanne. Roxanne felt shamed as she received the double decker cake covered in a light and swirling layer of fluffy white frosting. She looked from the cake to Emilie’s face. A flatness had settled over her fine features. Her blue eyes had a dull gray aspect to them. “For me? Wow…” Roxanne clearly remembered being a little confused by the cake. Emilie just stood at the door, looking at Roxanne, as if trying to organize her thoughts. “How are you doing, Em?” Roxanne asked feeling trepidation as she waited for her friend’s answer and reaction. Emilie smiled thinly, nodded, and turned to leave.
“ Well, if you don’t like it. I’d be happy to relieve you of it and take it home with me and give to my kids, they’d love it with some whipped cream” Caren offered helpfully.
“It’d be great with vanilla ice cream” suggested Dina
“ Ben and Jerry’s make THE BEST vanilla ice cream. It has actual vanilla beans in it, so it looks and tastes very gour-met” Anna took pains to pronounce the T.
Roxanne recalled the cream cheese frosting that topped Emilie’s carrot cake in a flash. It was flecked with those delicate little vanilla beans. She was confused, and more than a little unsettled after her strange interaction with Emilie. Roxanne placed the cake on her kitchen counter, and with her pointer finger took a swipe of the frosting. First it was a gorgeous and simple sweetness, followed by a fresh tartness, which flowed into a luscious creaminess. With a plastic knife she indelicately carved out a piece. The carrot was bright orange and flecked the spice colored cake, much like the vanilla beans decorated the frosting. It was soft and fluffy to her fork. And it tasted like home, it tasted like warmth, it tasted like a mother’s loving touch. The cinnamon and nutmeg was like a hug. The beautiful flavor filled her heart and almost made it burst. Tears sprang to her eyes.
Emilie’s sweet ‘n silent visits. That’s how Roxanne came to refer to the semi-frequent visits from her long-time friend. She’d show up at her door and wordlessly hand her a different dessert every time. On a crisp mid-autumn afternoon she received a maple pecan bundt cake that was sturdy and dense and mellow in it’s golden sweetness. It made Roxanne think of the turning leaves outside. And begged for a mug of coffee and some friendly chatter to go along with it.
The day before Passover it was a flourless chocolate cake, that took her seder from dark, rich bitterness to an exaltant sweetness and ended in the brightness of the infused orange rind.
Change just takes some getting used to, fighting against it only increases the discomfort. Roxanne knew this instinctively. But she struggled with Emilie’s new non-verbal way of being. Her husband, Greg, was no help. He hid his unease behind caveman humor. “ A woman who bakes cakes and pies instead of talking? Sounds almost too good to be true!”
She ran into Edward, Emilie’s husband, at the wine store, and noticed the extra pounds added to his frame.
“What do you think goes with a dark chocolate truffle tart?” asked Edward conversationally.
“When in doubt, I always say Cab”
Edward selected a mid-priced bottle. “I don’t know if she ever made this tart for you before, but it’s…. magic. The chocolate is endless … and even a little bit sexy, if it‘s possible for a baked good to be sexy .”
Roxanne wondered what to say. On the rare occasion she saw Edward since Emilie’s miscarriage and subsequent silence, Roxanne followed Edward’s cues and pretended that everything was fine and that Emilie had just discovered a new-found talent when it came to the obsessive baking.
“Mmmm sounds incredible! That Cabernet will do nicely, I’m sure” Roxanne said jauntily.
“My friend Jordan is going through a divorce. Her kids are having a really hard time with it. The daughter was kicked out of school, and her son got some girl pregnant. And I‘m sure Jordan, has that thing…what‘s it called? Workout Anorexia, y‘know what that is? It’s when you workout obsessively.” said Caren sadly.
“Who left who?” asked Amanda
“ Jordan found out he was cheating with a co-worker” Caren revealed in a stage whisper.
“Ugggh how predictable!” Amanda shuddered
“Yeah, she was suspicious for all the usual reasons, and then she did some snooping and found a few texts that she says are beyond obscene- perverted shit apparently”
Anna reached for the triple berry pie and cut herself another slice. She gestured to the coffee pot. “Any more of that left? Let's make another pot”