Autumn’s Cake

“…in the end you are the only one who can make yourself happy. More important, …it is never too late to find out how to do it.”
― Ruth Reichl


“So what’s the big surprise for dessert?” Amelia looked back to the garden’s gate expectantly.

Charles smiled down at his plate. Never had he seen his mother unable to suppress her excitement over food.

“Yes please tell us Chuck! You and Vivian have been silent this entire time!” Charles’ sister Tillie leaned forward in her chair, glass in hand. All around them her children ran the table, having grown bored of adult conversation.

Around the group a light breeze drifted between flowering  stands of obedience plants and St. John’s wart. Above them the garden’s only linden tree whispered in the evening air.

“This reminds me of a time when Grandma and I were in Ireland. . .” Grandpa’s voice faded into the background as Charles’s Uncle, Greg leaned over to whisper in his ear.

“Have you looked at that last video I emailed you about my trip to Tanzania?” Charles shook his head as a fit of giggles burst from the tree above.

“Henry! Henry, get out of that tree! You’ll break your neck kid!” Tillie’s husband Sam jumped up from the table, racing into the garden trailing a line of bobbing figures.

“Oh yes! I remember that old pub! They had the best outdoor seating.” Grandma held her hands up to the sky, finger’s spread wide. “They had their place perched on the top of a crest, just before the sea. The sun was right there, just burning away as it went over the Atlantic.”

“Charlie, how is your work? When am I going to see it?” Charles smiled at his father’s impatience. “Soon dad, soon.”

Voices grew within the garden. Twisting into one another as time slowly stopped. Charles looked down the long table drinking in the moment.

“Oh Look! here she comes!”

“Yes! Yay! Oh my word! Would you look at that?”

“What is it? What is it?”

Charles turned around to see his wife kick the gate closed behind her, cheeks flushing with pride. She had that satisfied smile on, the one he knew well. It meant that minds were about to be blown.

Vivian spoke softly, “It’s-”

“Shhh quiet you all! The woman’s speaking!” Grandpa hollered.

Vivian blushed and tried again, “It’s called Caramel Apple Spice Cake. Enjoy!”

She set down the cake with a flourish. The evening sky caught drizzled caramel sinking into a rich crust. Dishes clinked and napkins rustled as forks were passed around.

“Oh I can’t wait!” Squealed Tillie.

“Mommy! Mommy what is it? Can I have some too?” Several children flocked around the edge of the table, right next to the cake.

“No come sit down first! Where are you manners? Owen get over here! Sit down!”

“Oh let me look at it! Just look at that!” Grandma twittered.

Uncle Greg looked down at his plate, “Did you use gala apples or fuji?”

“Oh hush up and try it Greg!” Amelia smiled, a sizable fork-full hovering before her mouth. She slipped the piece into her mouth and then froze. Her eyes went wide as a sigh of ecstacy rose in her throat.

Grandma raised her hands to the sky, mouth working quickly around a piece of cake. “Oh my . . .”

“Mom! Mom! Mom!” Tillie sat back in her seat as around her her children impatiently pawed at her chair. She closed her eyes as caramel filled her senses.

Around the table silence grew. Crickets sang in the garden as above them the yellowing Lindon leaves spoke in the air.

Vivian leaned into Charles shoulder, “I think they like it.”

Charles chuckled as Grandpa reached across with his fork and dug into the cake. He winked at Vivian as the plate slowly shifted onto his side of the table.




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