Penny must have made the cake a thousand times before. Baking had always been her go to activity when she felt stressed. When she and Mark were going through a rough patch, Penny once baked enough cakes to feed an army. They were offered to all the neighbours so they wouldn’t go to waste.
Unfortunately, trying to bake only made her more upset because she couldn't remember the recipe steps. She knew Chloe had been carrying her at work, and this made her feel like a significant burden.
She had been getting customers regular coffee orders wrong, forgetting to order much needed stock, completely stuffing up the staff roster, and forgetting important things like appointments and Sally’s rehearsal schedule.
It was her grandma’s famous fluffy sponge cake with lemon and lime frosting. Penny remembered coming home from school to find a freshly baked cake waiting for her and Hamish. I can vividly recall coming home from school as a young child, but I can't remember if I added sugar. Penny wondered if she could ever realise her dream of writing and publishing a cookbook, if she could no longer seem to complete the simple task of baking a cake.
She hoped that she had included all the required ingredients as she turned on the electric mixer. Once she had placed the cake in the oven, she pulled out her old notebook containing years of treasured family recipes. As she flicked through the pages, the words seemed to become jumbled, and she had to re-read each step repeatedly for it to make any sense.
She counted the recipes. There were over one hundred scribbled in the notebook. Despite all her current sadness, a faint smile edged its way across her face as she reminisced about learning to bake with her grandma as a youngster. Precious memories of begging to lick the wooden spoon and climbing up onto a chair to reach the kitchen bench came flooding back.
Buddy came running in with his ball clenched between his teeth, ready to play. Penny wasn’t in the mood, and poor Buddy sensed she wasn’t herself, reluctantly retreating to his bed to sulk.
Penny felt for poor Buddy, but she was too busy wallowing in self-pity to care. Just as the smoke alarm beeped loudly, she collected the loose papers that had fallen out of the notebook.
Thick smoke was billowing from the oven. Oh no, I forgot about the bloody cake. Penny turned off the oven, threw the notebook in frustration, and sat on the floor in defeat, sending Buddy running for his life. She raised her knees up to her chest, hugging herself tight and sobbed.
Buddy reappeared from around the doorway and gingerly made his way towards her. He laid his head on Penny’s feet and looked up at her with sympathetic big brown eyes.
A text message popped up on her phone from Hamish. She ignored it. All she wanted to do was shut out the world. An overwhelming world that had become frighteningly unfamiliar to her since her diagnosis.
Hayley Walsh (c) 2023