A piece of flash fiction, for a change……
I recall a time when women wore dresses, plus floral aprons, if they knew what was good for them. Frilly, prettily tied at the waist. Not the practical, full-size kitchen chef ones, with depth for drying hands and wide pockets collecting scum. My workaday wrap probably makes me unfanciable. My hands are older than the ideal, too: liver spotted and scarred with livid lines from the metal grilles and shelves of our oven.
In the blinding summer light of June, I am flamed. While my daughter prepares raspberries and cherries and doles them out carefully into three separate bowls, the sun beats through the wide kitchen window, and I desire coolness. I love heat which warms my bones, but this inferno, during which I must work and move and calculate, is ungovernable.
“Had a good day, darling?” I ask, absently, as my husband’s keys turn in the lock and he approaches cautiously, twisting off his tie. I am not really listening, as I must take the flapjack out of the low oven, turn down the heat under the soup – I thought it would be cooling, I was wrong, okay?- and blitz it, while stirring custard to go with the flapjack and raspberries. I thought custard would be comforting, I was wrong, okay? Over half-way finished, there is no point remembering I have ice-cream in the freezer.
I make wrong decisions when I am alone. My daughter comforts me when I weep with frustration and longing. For a bit of a change, for a new place to rest, where the cushions are comfortable and someone else has just done the cleaning. Just for a change, while I get my breath back.
Hubby hovers, unsure whether to stay in the volcanically hot kitchen, and risk getting in the way to plant a warm, affectionate kiss on the face of his favourite woman – our daughter is a girl – or whether to tactfully retreat so that I can get on with finishing cooking, free of distraction.
Either way, when he leaves, I feel lost. I am alone, I am too hot, my husband is not helping me, and all our longings lie quietly where they have been birthed and left to finger their way upwards, wordless.
At last, my daughter sidles through, arriving in answer to my repeated callings that supper is ready. She is a little hang-back, perhaps frightened how I might be at this tipping point in the day, but she has the courage – such courage! – to wrap her arms around my waist. I cannot pull her off, because my yearnings mirror hers. I desire to be cool and fragrant, wrapped in a dainty apron that reeks femininity and layered, scented secrets. I desire to smile widely and hold. So I set down the pan, step sideways so I can lean on against the kitchen cupboards, and hug tightly. In her warmth, her red cheeks on mine and her thick, fair hair shadowing us both, I recall my coolness.