Grandma's Chocolate Cake
A bit like life really.
Dropping her bag in the doorway, April raced to her roommate and nearly knocked her over with the momentum of her impact. “Oh Alice, thank God you’re here already. My parents were driving me mad. I’m so glad break is over. The two girls dragged April’s luggage inside the door and closed it behind them. “So, tell me everything that happened, even if I already know, I need to get the last two hours of mum and dad bitching at each other out of my head.
The two girls traded stories of their mid-semester break while snacking on chips and lollies they both had stashed in their bags. The afternoon flew by as they jabbered nonsensically about their last two weeks. Then after the evening rituals of dinner and catchups it was back to their room, to continue their ramblings.
For the last three years Alice Webster, science nerd, music nerd, just a general nerd, had shared her room at the prestigious boarding school she attended, with April Harrigan. Her former roommate left unexpectedly, the reasons were unclear, but it was believed the family went broke and couldn’t afford the fees. They didn’t get to say goodbye, she just didn’t come back after break. Alice was heartbroken at the time because the two girls helped each other through those first awkward, lonely years, living away from home.
As replacement friends go, April was wonderful and just what the normally quiet Alice needed. She came there on a sports scholarship and was full of energy. The pair never stopped talking, much to the annoyance of whoever was nearest them. They rarely talked about anything important or even relevant to those around them, they even created their own language. The girls were nearly inseparable, except for the odd class they didn’t share. April wasn’t much into study.
As this was their final year and that was halfway through, Alice brought a surprise for her best friend, to commemorate these last few months. After lights out, and when they were both in bed, Alice got back up, and rummaging through her suitcase in the darkened room she retrieved her prize and a handy torch. Walking creepily over to April’s bed, with the torch shining up from her chin like she was going to share a scary story, she whispered, “April, I pinched a bottle of wine from mum, do you want to try some?”
“You what? No way! What’s gotten into you Ali?” Replied April.
Alice could tell the shocked face she wore by the tone of her voice. Alice didn’t do naughty things. “Come on April, we’re 17 and there’s not much school left only exams, I was thinking when I was back home that I never do anything dumb, I wanted to try it.”
Alice climbed onto April’s bed and displayed the bottle in the restricted torch light. “I don’t know anything about wine, but I know this must be good, ‘cause Mum drinks a lot of it. It says it’s a fruity white dessert wine, sounds yummy.” April hadn’t spoken since Alice produced the bottle; her mind still rattled by the surprise. Cracking the aluminium seal, Alice took a swig and almost immediately regretted it. She didn’t spit it out but came very close. “That’s awful,” she cried, handing it to a sceptical April.
“My parents drink scotch, I tasted that once, when Dad wasn’t looking. It was like drinking petrol. It burned all the way down to my stomach. Undeterred though, April took a sip. “That’s not so bad,” she said, taking a bigger swallow. “Oh yeah, it’s not sweet, but not too bad.”
The girls continued imbibing their beverage and chatting some more about topics they had probably already covered. Eventually April stated, a little too loud, “I let a boy touch my boob.” This time Alice couldn’t hold it all in and quickly had wine squirting out her nose.
“Ow, that stings. What did you say?”
“Yeah, we had some neighbours over for a barbecue and us kids were swimming in the pool. Harry, who I’ve known forever, accidently brushed past my boob and our eyes sort of locked on. I felt weird, but good. The rest of the afternoon, we sort of kept avoiding each other, or at least avoiding eye contact. Then we happened to be alone out behind the house, and I couldn’t stand the tension, so I grabbed his hand and put it on my boob. He kept it there probably too long. He went red in the face and left me standing there. I didn’t see him again before I left.”
“Do you like him?” Alice asked.
“I have never thought about him that way. We’ve been mates so long. Eh, it doesn’t matter now. Gimme another swig.” Then April asked, “What about you, is there a boy you like? We never really talk about boys. You’d think at an all-girl school, boys would be a hot topic. Though Annabelle never shuts up about them. Come on Ali, fess up.”
Alice was quiet for a moment and then she piped up. “Remember that dumb movie we watched in history, where the lead guy says, ‘Momma always said, life is like a box of chocolates, because you never know what you’re gonna get’?” Well, it’s so wrong, you just have to read the box to know which one is which. I think life is like my grandma’s chocolate cake. It’s created with love. You know like people are,” April giggled. “It is made of so many ingredients, and my granny puts some weird stuff in hers. Cinnamon, orange zest sometimes, peanut butter, strawberry jam, prunes, dates, whatever takes her fancy. It is always a surprise, like life can be. It has layers, the different stages of life, joined by the soft filling of change. Finally, it’s covered in that sweet sticky frosting that is Danny.”
At this last comment April spat a mouthful of the disgusting warm wine over her friend. “What! Who is Danny?” She exclaimed looking at the liquid dripping off her wine-soaked friend.
“Danny is a boy I went to primary school with. He lives down the street from us. We never really had much to do with one another, but on Friday, he was having a party at his house for some friends. His parents were having dinner with mine and they all suggested I go down there and be with kids my age. I wasn’t planning to stay long, it seemed a bit loud for me and a few of the boys were drunk already, but I stayed and spoke to some of the other girls and avoided the loud boys. There was dancing which was fun.”
“And?” April anxiously enquired.
“Around eleven, Danny and I found ourselves dancing together, well moving together at least, in their cramped loungeroom. He is quite cute, I should mention. As happens in those silly teen movies, the music changed tempo and we were moving slower together, then closer together and then we were kissing.”
“No way, that sounds lovely. Better than a grope in the backyard anyway.” April butted in. “Then what? She asked.
“We found ourselves in the hallway. The kissing had ramped up a bit by now and there were hands involved. I didn’t know what was going on, I felt beautifully out of control. Then the hall light flicked on, and his parents were staring at us with quizzical grins. His mum said she didn’t know we liked each other. I ran out and back home. That’s it.”
“That’s amazing!” April exclaimed, once again, too loud. “You’ve obviously had some time to think about this, with the whole chocolate cake analogy thing.”
“I’ve been dying to tell you, but I wanted to make it special, grownup. That’s why, the wine. It still feels dreamlike.” Alice said, dragging her sleeve across her face to wipe away the dripping wine.
The girls hadn’t noticed the light shining under their door from the hall, or the steps getting nearer their room. The door magically opened, and they screamed. At the door was ‘Warden Stokes’, that’s what everyone called the dorm mistress Miss Stokes.
“What’s this noise about, you should be asleep? Is that wine I can smell? Alright ladies this will be an issue for the morning. Alice I’m surprised by you. You are better than this. April, it was merely a matter of time for you, I suppose. Give me the bottle and clean yourselves up. I expect you both at the principal’s office at eight, sharp. I’m sure parents will be notified.” Taking the half full bottle with her, Miss Stokes left them to ruminate on that last comment.
Any effect the wine had had on their senses had worn off with the sudden entrance of ‘Warden Stokes”. They really hadn’t had much of it. Alice assured her good friend she would accept full responsibility, especially since April’s scholarship could be in the balance. They vowed to weather whatever was thrown at them together. As they both lay there, the reek of wine hanging in the air, Alice could not stop herself smiling as she fell asleep with the lovely eyes of Danny staring back at her.
8am the next Morning, both girls were sitting in the waiting area of the Principal, Mrs Prudens. Miss Stokes was in with her, possibly filling her in on the details of the previous night; they hoped she hadn’t embellished too much. The door opened and ‘Warden Stokes’, held the door for them and left them to their fate.
“Alice, April, take a seat.” Mrs Prudens greeted them with a wide, welcoming smile. “Well, I must say this is a surprise. Alice Webster, who’d have thunk.”…Alice interrupted with mumbled apologies through teary eyes, that it was her responsibility, but Mrs Prudens stopped her. “Now Alice, calm yourself.” She picked up the bottle, which was now empty and put it in the bin. “First, who brought it in?” Alice sheepishly raised her hand. “How did you come by it?”
“I got it from home. It is my mother’s.” Alice droned, eyes cast down.
All this time, April was on the verge of running out the door, as fear and panic started to take hold. “And you April, do you have anything to say?” The young girl began to cry, blubbering incoherent words through snot and tears. “There is no need for any of that. Sure, I am surprised, but worse things have occurred in these buildings. You are both on the verge of entering a larger world. It is important that you test yourself a little, now and again. It is too close to the end for you both to be threatening you with expulsion or detention and such. Just don’t do it again. You are both good girls, you’re nearly there. I must say though Alice, your mother has good taste in wine, it was lovely, although I would have preferred it chilled and Miss Stokes prefers red wine.