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The Cake
1,299 words

The Cake

Dear Father,

It is now September. For the past five months I feared you were choosing not to respond to my many letters, that you had opened them, read my words and chose out of some sense of duty to my husband, or the institution of this marriage, to be silent. I thought from your perspective a response was some admission of failure in choosing for me a decent husband. I know now your silence meant nothing.

A week ago Saturday I found the letters I wrote you, hidden inside Adolfo's piano. Torn from their envelopes, creased and crumpled, turned gray by his oily fingers. I wonder why he kept them a secret from me—if ever there is anything for which he feels I should be punished, he follows through.

As you have not received any letters, I don't want to arouse more suspicion through the post than I need to, however following this letter you shall in short order receive the others, each detailing a week or so of my atrocious life.

I will summarize the outcome of events in those letters, omitting much detail.

I became pregnant in May. In June, I wanted to see a doctor but Adolfo wouldn't let me. In July, he allowed a doctor to come by the house privately and touch me with a stethoscope. The doctor heard two heartbeats aside from mine. Adolfo and I were the would-be parents of twins.

My husband was happy at first, or seemed so in the presence of the doctor. When the doctor left, Adolfo paced the room. He questioned himself, and me, fixating on the twins. He latched at first to the fear the twins wouldn't be identical. If they weren’t, did that mean I had found another man? Would my babies reveal my supposed infidelity?

I told him no, no, he was my only love, I had taken no other. He seemed to accept this, but his mood had darkened.

In the days that followed, Adolfo soured towards me, commenting how I would now cost more in mouths to feed than he had expected or wanted.He took to drinking late into the night, pounding the keys of his piano. What he produced was not music, but a deeply discordant and unsettling cacophony that prevented sleep.

I have felt deep and justified fear of my husband at times. The love I felt for him existed only on the surface. Performing this love felt artificial when expected of me and futile when given freely. Was he violent? Did he plot at how to cause me harm? I could have prepared for such a man. This one was apathetic. I feared him because I knew he could not care for me or anyone who invaded or threatened his precious sense of self.

On a Wednesday in August, Adolfo realized he didn't have one of the ingredients for the dinner he was making us. He told me he needed me to go to the store, though it was dark and I was pregnant. I told him I couldn't go and furthermore, it was something he could do.

He boxed me in the ribs and in the stomach for talking back, shouting at me while I screamed, telling me I was the cause of his misery and pain.

Before the next doctor visit I already knew one of the twins was dead. I was terrified to tell Adolfo. What if he thought to kill the other as well?

His further offenses against me are listed in detail in the letters to follow.

Tomorrow, I'll go to market for him, as he is not able. I'll buy leaks and carrots and potatoes for his soup, a chicken. Eggs, even, if I want.

Now, I must tell you of the thing you certainly need to know: the wonderful event which has turned both the fortunes of my husband and myself.

The evening before yesterday Adolfo ordered me to bake him a chocolate cake. I told him we didn't have the eggs for it, but he wouldn't hear me. I was to make the cake, or else. So I attempted it without eggs. I considered feeding him something to stop his breath, and racked my brain for what I could put in a cake to cause such an outcome. I thought of nothing, and baked the cake.

When I pulled it from the oven, the cake was flat and wet, riddled with pools and pockets of oil. I put it under a length of cheesecloth and hid it in the dark, on a shelf in the pantry. This cake, I worried, would be the death of my remaining child.

After Adolfo finished his supper the next day, he demanded the cake. I put it before him and cut him a piece. He ate a bite, then spit it out. I knew at once I was in for trouble. I tried to tell him there weren’t enough eggs and he didn’t let me go to market to get any. It didn't help.

I shielded my belly from his blows. He boxed my cheeks, my ears. I stumbled about the kitchen like a performer on stilts, finally throwing myself on the handle of the cellar door. He came at me with the cake, meaning perhaps to throw it on me, covering me with chocolate before continuing my beating. But father, no more needs to be said. None of it happened that way.

The cake slipped from Adolfo’s hands and splashed to the floor, and he slipped on it. He fell headlong toward me and the open cellar door, clutching for me, grasping nothing but air as I stepped aside. He went down the stairwell headfirst. I stood there, stunned, expecting him to rise from the dark and come at me with renewed vigor, but he didn't. I stood there for minutes before I had the courage to go down the stairs.

He didn't move. I thought he might be dead, but when I checked his throat for breath and heartbeat he had both. His eyes opened and closed and tracked movement, so I determined he was conscious. Conscious but paralyzed.

For the first moment since my wedding night I felt I might be suited for marriage after all.

I pulled him up the stairs by his ankles, one heave after another. When he was flat on the kitchen floor, I paused to drink a glass of water, then dragged him to the bedroom.

He cursed me with his eyes. I saw a desire to put hands on me that his body refused.

I left him on the floor in the bedroom and went to the backyard with a book, where I sat and read, peacefully until the sun went down and I recovered some strength.

I lit a candle and went to the room, where I stood over him, looking him in the eye. After a time his eyes found a target just beyond me. I pulled him up, my arms behind his shoulders, and put him in bed. I put a cup of water to his lips and he drank, but he couldn't speak. I mashed an apple and forced it down his throat. I cleaned him when he pissed himself.

I'll take care of him this way, feed him and change him like a newborn. My husband, still. In his sock drawer I found money and documents. I have, without knowing, been the wife of a wealthy man. Now I remain so, with the means for us to continue living like a wealthy family. My husband and I, and your remaining unborn grandchild. Perhaps its grandfather as well?

Visit soon, and taste the new cake I've learned to bake. It's delicious, even cold.

With love, your daughter,


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