More November fiction for you
A Slice of Christmas Cake
She baked it back in October, when things were merely bad, rather than downright awful. It was something she looked forward to each year: a precursor of the festivities to come.
Each step in the process had its own ritual. First came the gathering of supplies: dried currants, mixed peel, glazed cherries. Next, the purchase of cranberry juice, and lemons. Fiona liked to put in the spices – cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, whatever they had to hand – along with the fruit and the juices to soak. She always used the same bowl: a blue ceramic pudding basin which had held a particularly pricey Christmas pud one year.
Next came baking day, when Fiona nearly broke a wooden spoon trying to stir the stiff batter. Still, it was worth it: not only for the finished product of two loaf-shaped cakes, but the gorgeous smell which filled the house – not to mention the slightly naughty pleasure of licking the spoon, and the bowl.
That year, the year things really fell apart, she had baked them, put each loaf in grease-proof paper and then wrapped them in foil. Once wrapped, she put both cakes safely away in a cupboard.
By mid-December, the cakes were forgotten, along with everything else that had previously had any importance in Fiona’s life. Her life – and thus Adrian’s – was in chaos, following a prolonged mental tailspin which resulted in her being signed off from work. Once home, she did as little as possible, only eating when Adrian insisted she eat; lying in bed, but not sleeping. When she wasn’t obsessing aloud about work, she would sit, silent as a pillow, on the settee.
Fiona’s confidence plummeted along with her mood. Rather than a season of good cheer, Christmas was an endurance test, one which she, and Adrian, barely passed. New Year’s Eve was equally miserable.
A few days into the new year, Adrian suddenly said, “Didn’t you say there was some Christmas cake?”
Fiona nodded. She had forgotten about the cakes, let alone telling Adrian about them. After some coaxing, she rooted about, and found one, then watched as he ate a slice of cake.
“Tastes good,” he said.
She tried a bit, though she wasn’t hungry. And it was good, surprisingly so. She had become convinced of her uselessness, that her failures were universal. Here, though, was proof otherwise: proof that she could do something right.
It was a start.
“A Slice of Christmas Cake” was previously published in a Doncaster Mind Newsletter.
If you enjoyed this short story, please check out the “Storytime” section of this blog, and my short story collections, “What! No Pudding?” and “Koi Carpe Diem”. You can also come to Doncaster Brewery & Tap and hear myself and other writers read on Thurs 26th November from 19:30.