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The Cake Cure

by Sephy Atlas 11 months ago in Short Story · updated 11 months ago
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When Cake Becomes More Than Just Dessert

Photo by Y Cai on Unsplash

Rhiannon walked into the café, Tabby’s Coffee. It was her favorite—really, the only place she visited regularly, aside from the library. But today was not an ordinary day. She wasn’t visiting for the fun of it like usual.

She was visiting because her boyfriend of four years, Levi, had broken up with her recently, and she decided she’d rather be out and about instead of sulking in her apartment the way she had been the past couple of weeks.

Levi had been her first boyfriend. The worst part was, he was the only person she could confide in. She had always been too shy to make friends, but Levi kept her company, so that she never felt lonely. But, as it turned out, that was the reason Levi wanted to break up. She was too dependent on him.

And now that he was gone, the loneliness had returned, full force.

The café was always rather empty, just a few people seated here and there, working on their laptops or reading books. That’s what Rhiannon usually did, too, and the calm atmosphere made her always want to come back.

Today, though, she noticed a new face—a handsome, dark-haired man in a leather jacket, seated in the corner, reading.

“Hi!” the cashier and owner, Tabby, said.

Rhiannon blushed, realizing that the customer in front of her had already left. She stepped up to the counter.

“Hi, Tabby,” she said, trying to force a smile, “I’d just like a large coffee, please.”

“Sure,” Tabby said.

With Rhiannon visiting the café so often, she and Tabby had gotten acquainted with each other. Rhiannon didn’t usually make small talk, but Tabby always had a way of keeping the conversation going.

As Tabby went to the coffee machine and began to fill up her cup, she darted her eyes back at Rhiannon, which Rhiannon just barely noticed. Then, when it happened the second time, she was certain Tabby looked at her. Tabby returned to the counter, setting the coffee down.

“Would you like anything from the bakery?”

“No, thanks,” Rhiannon responded.

She usually did order a croissant with her coffee, but today she had no appetite.

“Oh, but Rhiannon, I must tell you. We have a new menu item,” Tabby continued. “A chocolate cake—and no ordinary chocolate cake. It’s specially baked to provide a boost to your mood, and even your personality.”

“Wouldn’t that just be from the sugar?” Rhiannon said, slightly annoyed that Tabby wasn’t taking no for an answer.

“Listen,” Tabby continued, leaning forward. “I made it for my sister, who’s extremely shy. I mean, she’s been like that since she was a child. But when I made her this cake, it changed her completely. She actually leaves the house now, her head held high. All because of this special ingredient I used...”

“A special ingredient?”

Tabby nodded her head.

“It’s made with a rare kind of cocoa bean that is speculated to lower stress levels, inhibition, and thus, shyness.”

“Really?”

“I know it must sound outlandish.”

“No, no,” Rhiannon said. “But why are you offering it to me?”

“Well, I know we don’t know each other that well, but you’ve always reminded me a little of my sister. Shy, like her. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but...would you like to give it a try?”

“I’ll take a slice,” she said.

Though she wasn’t convinced, she didn’t want to be rude and refuse the cake. She loved this café, after all, and Tabby didn’t usually try to sell her stuff like this. She must be really proud of her cake and just wanted someone to try it.

But instead of reaching into the display case to get the cake as usual, she went into the back room, bringing out a single slice on a small white plate.

“The cake’s on the house,” Tabby said.

“Wow, thank you,” Rhiannon said.

While pulling out her credit card to pay for the coffee, she realized how strange it still felt. Whenever she and Levi would come here, if she ever tried to pay, he’d put his hand on her arm, insisting that he pay instead.

“Enjoy,” Tabby said, smiling.

Rhiannon walked to a table near the door. She always liked to be near the exit, just in case. While standing next to the table, she got a pang in her stomach, remembering how Levi would always pull out the chair for her. She sat down and began drinking her coffee, which was delicious. Between sips, she’d glance at the cake.

Finally, she decided to take a bite.

It tasted good, she admitted to herself, even if she wasn’t that hungry. She took another bite, and then another, and then another. Before she knew it, the entire cake slice was gone.

After finishing it, she glanced at the handsome man in the corner. Without a moment’s hesitation, she stood up and walked over to him, taking a seat at his table.

Upon hearing her sit down, the man looked up. He had beautiful green eyes.

“Hi, I’m Rhiannon.”

“Dante,” he said, leaning forward to shake her hand.

They began talking, and she was shocked by how easily the words flowed. She’d never had the guts to approach a stranger like this before, especially not someone she found attractive.

“So, you come here often?” Dante asked.

“Yeah, it’s kind of my go-to. How about you?”

“First time. I thought I’d try something new.”

Before she could respond, she heard someone enter the café, followed by a familiar voice—Levi’s. She darted around to see him, but he wasn’t alone. Next to him was a petite blonde, who suddenly giggled at something he said. They were holding hands. Levi spotted Rhiannon, locking eyes with her, but he quickly looked away again. Rhiannon turned back around.

“Do you, uh, know that guy?” Dante asked.

“He’s my ex,” Rhiannon said, looking down.

“Your ex… hmm. Bad luck I guess, huh, running into him here?”

“Yeah,” she said, meeting his eyes again.

“Hey, well, I enjoyed talking to you, Rhiannon. Want to meet up here again sometime?”

“Sure,” Rhiannon said.

“How about on Saturday at 3 o’clock?”

“Sounds good. See you then.”

She repeated the date and time in her head, then wrote it down in her phone. She couldn’t believe it. Breaking out of her shell had actually gotten her a date, something that always seemed impossible in the past. It almost made her forget the pain of seeing Levi with that girl.

Almost.

In the days leading up to Saturday, everything seemed to go easier for her. She didn’t even have a need to sulk because her energy levels had skyrocketed.

She realized she had a complete lack of self-consciousness. She could dance in the streets, sing in the car with the windows rolled down, chat up cashiers at the grocery store, without a care in the world. Not once did she ever consider what others might think of her, and that freed up so much space in her head.

Maybe Tabby was right. Maybe that special cocoa bean really did cure shyness.

When Saturday finally arrived, Rhiannon returned to the café, wearing her favorite red and white sundress. She’d put on bright red lipstick and straightened her hair. She ordered a coffee and then took a seat at the corner table, where Dante had been sitting last time.

He wasn’t there yet, so she took out her compact mirror, touching up her lipstick. She sipped her coffee, looking around. She waited there, glancing at the time. Five minutes turned into 15, and 15 into 30. Eventually, she couldn’t stand it. Her heart ached. She ran to the bathroom and began to cry.

After locking herself in a bathroom stall, she took out her phone and began to dial a number⁠—Levi’s number.

And to her surprise, he answered.

“Hello?”

“How could you move on so quickly?”

“Rhiannon, I⁠—”

“I was always loyal, I stuck by you through everything!”

“We don’t have to go through this again.”

“How could you replace me like that? Just two weeks later?”

“Rhiannon, listen. I needed space.”

“I would’ve given you space if you’d have just asked for it.”

“It’s too late for that now. And besides, haven’t you moved on too? I saw you with that guy.”

That just made her cry more.

“Hey, I don’t want hard feelings between us. I just—you were like a puppy, following me around everywhere. I wanted someone more, I don’t know—”

“Prettier? Someone better to show off?”

“No, no, it’s not about that. We’re just not compatible.”

“According to you,” she said. “But I thought everything was fine…”

“Well, it wasn’t.”

Just then, Rhiannon heard the bathroom door open and someone walk inside.

“I have to go,” she whispered, hanging up the phone.

Her stomach was in a knot. She tried to stifle her crying, not wanting anyone to hear her.

“Rhiannon?”

It was Tabby’s voice. Suddenly, Rhiannon’s sadness turned into fury. She swung open the bathroom stall, her eyes blurred by tears.

“Why did you have to give me that cake?”

“Huh? What do you mean? What’s wrong?”

“It’s because of you that this happened. You kept insisting that I try it…”

“I thought it would help you!”

She couldn’t bring herself to admit that she got stood up. She just started to cry some more, crouching down onto the bathroom floor.

“Was it that guy? The one you were talking to last time?” Tabby asked.

Rhiannon didn’t respond, continuing to cry.

Finally, she lifted her face from her hands, sniffling.

“I never should’ve talked to him. The first time I get out of my shell… and this is what happens…”

“Rhiannon,” Tabby says. “I’ll tell you the truth. I noticed, before, you’d often come in with your boyfriend. But lately, you’d been only coming alone, and looking so much sadder than usual. And it’s true what I said about my sister. You do remind me of her.”

“I don’t… understand.”

“I… I thought maybe you’d broken up. But I didn’t want to ask. I just thought, maybe I could help. And the truth is, there is no special cocoa bean.”

“There isn’t?”

“There isn’t. I just saw you looking at that guy, and thought maybe if I boosted your confidence, I could get you two talking.”

“And look how that turned out.”

“No, no. This all just goes to show, you’re braver than you think.”

“I guess so...”

Tabby held out a hand, and Rhiannon grabbed it.

“So that was all… me?”

“Whatever happened after you ate that cake, it was all you.”

Rhiannon thought back to that week, how she’d felt so free and alive for the first time in her life. She wiped her tears away with the back of her hand, and the two of them walked back out into the café.

Out of the corner of Rhiannon’s eye, she saw a person sitting at the corner table. There, in his black leather jacket, was Dante. As soon as he spotted her, he stood up and rushed over to her.

“Rhiannon, I’m so sorry I was late,” he said, his eyebrows furrowed with worry. “My niece got sick over the weekend and I’d been at the hospital with my brother. I completely lost track of time.”

She managed a soft smile.

“Don’t worry about it,” she said. “I hope your niece is all right.”

“Oh, yes, she’ll be fine. Hey, let me make it up to you. Can I buy you a slice of chocolate cake?”

Short Story

About the author

Sephy Atlas

Writer, passionate about poetry and storytelling.

Instagram: @sephy.atlas

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