Monday, November 30, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
She blew dust and flour from that first book of beautiful things and pressed her lips to an old photo of Isabel, her image dark through the Brownie’s lens. She turned the page to trace a drawing of Andromeda and another page to see pasted moth wings. The recipes were scrawled near the back. They were approximations, notes Gloria had made while Isabel mixed and folded—following recipes in her head—while Gloria had thought it important to put them on paper lest Isabel forget. Now, Gloria recopied the recipes onto index cards. In the evenings, she and Izzy practiced making peasant bread and lemon squares, guessing what ingredients Gloria had forgotten to write down. The cakes and breads were all right, but just all right, and Gloria knew they had to be better, richer, and however complex, taste effortless. Baking was something you felt and not a recipe to be followed. And Gloria wasn’t there yet, but she would be, picturing herself a gifted baker, flour powdering her cheeks, wrists pinned to her face, asking Izzy for a towel or spoon. She kept at it. The more blindly she mixed, the recipe cards piled across the room, the tastier her breads and cakes. Late at night, lying with Isabel and Lillian’s recipes at her side, she regularly tasted strawberry jam before falling asleep. This was another good and weighty sign.
* This is a photo of the Avon Pier in Avon, North Carolina. A delightfully wobbly wave-like pier as you can see.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
As the exterior restoration drew to a close, Gloria pictured a full square of glass, her at its center, piled with scrumptious confections. She imagined a little bell chiming as customers came and went. She could see loaves of peasant bread hot from the oven. Lemon squares pulled from the refrigerator. She imagined rich brown cakes and caramel drizzled brownies. She could even see Isabel sometimes, flour in her hair, sprinkled down her shirt. Isabel blowing hair from her face, her powdery wrists pinned to her forehead, the charm dangling white. “Can you get me a towel?”
One night after Izzy had gone to bed, before the ovens had been installed, before the mixer had arrived, before she had anything resembling a bakery, Gloria sat on the shop’s back steps listening to the Brickhouse Run, a small stream, gurgle past. Crickets chirped. The moon was full. She pressed the charm bracelet to her lips and felt this wave of warmth overtake her. It was as if confidence and certainty had materialized and wrapped her in their arms. It’s going to be all right. You made it. There’s nothing to fear. Just let go. She took a deep breath. Of course it’s going to be okay. She held back tears. I’m fine. We’re fine. She blinked keeping them at bay. We’re safe now. We’ll always be safe. Remembering the girl she’d been before the Belmont Institute, she relented to the warmth and wept. Tears spilling down her blouse and wetting her jeans. She said, “It’s all right, Gloria.” You loved him or you tried to love him. Izzy is safe. It’s okay. Let go. She cried, the taste of strawberry jam on her tongue. She’d make Isabel’s strawberry tarts. She’d make everything!
The creek shone beneath the moonlight. Groggy with tears and croaking toads and churning water, she went upstairs to watch Izzy sleep. Free of dread, she climbed into bed beside her daughter, sleeping better than she had since marrying Jacob Butterfield. It was good to be home.