Rhiannon carefully spoons portions of the plain greek yogurt into the bowl, the thick white cream then being mottled with chocolate cake mix. When it’s mixed to her liking, she reaches over and adds just a dollop of whipped cream- why, when she’s already got yogurt to substitute the eggs, she isn’t sure . . . but it was just a familiar motion and she decided it wouldn’t hurt a lick. She stirs carefully, humming under her breath to the record playing low on the other side of the wall that separates her kitchen and living room. Her hip leans against the wooden counter in front of the wide open window, ferns and a bursting flower box of daffodils nearly overtaking the small port window. The gentle breeze blows in the smells of her herb garden, her gardenias just below that skirt the porch, and the warning of a spring shower. At this time of day sunshine can pour in through the window, and when it hits the couple of suncatchers she has interspersed between her windchimes along the edge of the roof, rainbow refractions flash along the tawny skin of her arm like dancing fairies. Rhiannon gulps in the sweet air and inhales slowly, absorbing the bliss of the moment and mentally giving thanks for a good day.
The humming becomes half-garbled mumbles of the lyrics of the record’s song as she dashes vanilla essence into the cake mix. Sighing, Rhiannon turns her head to stare at the cat clock she’d discovered at a thrift store a city over, it’s tails swinging and mischievous eyes darting to the same frenetic, monotone beat. It was still early in the afternoon, and she thought perhaps she could feed her couple of chickens before any rain.
Frequent, low clucking has her looking outside again at her front yard. Beatrice and Bernadette, her two hens, circled around their peep of chicks; their outhrust breasts and twitching head was almost comical against the far smaller tufts of downy feathers and sweeter, higher chirps. A loud, brash ringing startles her enough that the rhythm of her stirring hiccups, and her arms tighten around the mixing bowl until the edge digs into her upper arms. Wide, startled eyes turn to the left wall where a corded, peony pink phone hangs in the middle (a silly, nostalgic and perhaps partly drunk purchase from an online store) of the wall. Humming in vague displeasure, Rhiannon puts the bowl down and walks over to the phone, extending a hand towards it. There is a moment of hesitation, waiting to see if the ringing would end before she could pick it up- though there are many friends who have her number, there is a feeling of unease that nestles in her breastbone, like a worm inside of a juicy, polished apple . . . the phone stops ringing.
An exhale became a low chuckle, and then a choked murmur of surprise when the ringing started again. Swallowing, Rhiannon steps forward and plucks the phone out of its cradle, giving it another home in between her cheek and shoulder.
“Hello?” The quiet, searching greeting is swiftly followed by a voice Rhiannon isn’t expecting to hear. “Oh, hi Lisette.” she murmurs, leaning her shoulder against the wall, crossing her ankles.
The obvious lack of pep in her tone rubs her eldest sister the wrong way, and Rhiannon withholds an even sulkier sigh that would no doubt have stoked her sister’s ire. “No, no, I’m happy to hear from you. How’s Daniel and the twins?”
Appeased by the change in topic, Lisette’s loving ramble allows Rhiannon to sort of drift off, only catching the bare bones snippets that she needed. She offered small keywords to allow Rebecca space to talk all about her life, and gave small answers to questions regarding her own. Eventually the ramble moves from the older woman’s home to their parents home, and eventually meanders over to a path that makes Rhiannon’s fingernails push gently into the folds of the sweater on her waist.
“Oh, a dinner party?” The light tone masks the anxiety and automatic denial Rhiannon wishes to bluntly convey. As always, the process of removing herself from unwanted contact with too many of her judgemental family members is a careful operation. One requiring tact, grace, and patience . . .
“Oh I’d love to catch up with Auntie Celia and Uncle Robin, or even Sola-” Her mother’s nutritionist who enjoyed the confidence of the Ladies Auxiliary, and their confidence as an ‘objective’ party to their life’s woes. “However I have a very pressing deadline for a large coding project for my latest contractor and it wouldn’t be able to be finished in time for the dinner . . .”
The half-lie is acerbically questioned, peppered with lots of complaints and criticisms for Rhiannon’s reluctance to come home often like the others do. But she was never like the others, was she? A large part of the reason she doesn’t like going home.
“No, no, Lisette I have a work obligation- no I can’t ask for an extension on this it’s too important,” Rhiannon’s mouth twists and her fingernails pierce deeper into her soft side as Lisette drones on. Rhiannon considers just giving up, and resigning herself to a very uncomfortable Saturday evening, anything to avoid the bitching out Lisette is giving her, at least for another three days . . .
Her sinking thoughts are cut off by the chirpy ringtone of her cellphone, blaring out Donna Summers. Seizing the chance for a moment of respite, Rhiannon hurriedly interrupts Lisette.
“Lisette, sorry, that’s my cell, just give me a minute- I’m really sorry but I have to go!”
Lisette was still whining about Rhiannon’s rudeness when the call cut off with a chime. With a relieved grunt, Rhiannon lifts her phone up and taps on the speaker icon. “Hello?”
The weary greeting is ignored by the chipper, yet soothing man on the other end of the line. “Hello this is Aaron from the Dearly BeSpotted Veterinary Hospital, am I speaking to Rhiannon?”
“Oh! Y-yes, hello Aaron.” Rhiannon stuttered excitedly, fingernails that were once piercing her body releasing to tangle into the coils of the phone’s cord. Now this was a call she had been anticipating and dreaming about.
“Hello!” The warm laugh makes her cheeks warm. “I’m calling to update you on the calico kitten you brought in two weeks ago? The little fighter pulled through on that surgery and has been remarkably agreeable during this whole process. You indicated that you would like to be informed when the kitten is strong enough to no longer need our care, for possible fostering or adoption. Is this still the case?”
“Oh I’m so glad to hear Pumpkaboo is doing alright- I mean!” Rhiannon coughs and thunks her head gently against the wall when Aaron’s stifled giggle comes through her embarrassment.
“That is perfect.” Aaron mutters, and she’s not sure if she was meant to hear that. Clearing her throat, Rhiannon walks over to the cake mix that had been left alone and eyes it. Deeming it smooth enough, she pulls the cake pan that had been sitting next to her toaster in front of her, and begins to pour out the mixture.
“I did want to adopt her, yeah. How do I go about the process?” Rhiannon tries to get back on track, ignoring the embarrassment-induced waver in her tone. Turning on the oven to preheat, she knows it will take just a few minutes for the preferred 350 degree temperature to be hit. She spends that time questioning where she went wrong in life to be given such awkward social skills.
“That’s wonderful to hear!” Aaron’s enthusiastic response eases some of the nerves, and nullifies her irrational fear that they would have flat out told her no. “So just come by the vet’s in two days, so that’s . . . Saturday- we can start the process with you here and take care of any other necessary details before she’s ready to head home with you. Sounds good?”
“Sounds wonderful.” Rhiannon couldn’t be happier right now, heart fluttering and melting at the thought of picking up that sweet kitten she’d found huddled underneath a broken, thrown away umbrella beside the library. “Thank you so much Aaron, I suppose I’ll see you on Saturday.”
“Have an excellent day.” The call ends and Rhiannon squeals, sliding the cake pan into the oven. She sets her timer and, with a spritely turn, skips over to the record player and flips to side B for the next line of songs. The clouds have thickened and the wind picks up, but there’s still plenty of time to feed the chickens like she wanted to. So, with a quick look at the cake and seeing it’s chocolate swell still in its infancy, Rhiannon heads out to the garden shed.
The process of grabbing the chicken feed and sprinkling it around the area is simple, and with a flick of the wrist and a whistle she can enjoy the chicks suddenly moving faster than they’ve ever done, little yellow puffs zeroing in on her with such focus, nearly leaving their mothers behind in the dust, and it makes Rhiannon laugh jubilantly. The hens come to the seed spread only seconds after the chicks, the whole family contentedly pecking, clucking, and chirping with abandon as they enjoy the feed. Distracted by the cute scene, she almost missed the pert ‘ding!’ of her oven, which meant the cake was done and ready to be taken out.
Waggling her fingers at the chicks, Rhiannon strides back to the garden shed to put the feed back, lock the shed, and jogs over to her backdoor. With a couple of light taps of her slippers onto the outside mat, she opens the door and puts the shoes aside, moving back into the kitchen. She can’t touch that cake until her hands are clean, of course, so over to the sink she goes over her hands, knuckles, and fingernails with the gentle cleanser. The smell of fresh baked cake permeates the air from the oven, and she inhales deeply, enjoying the way the peach and honey soap scent starts to gently mingle with the rich warm chocolate cake aroma. Hands washed and dried with hasty swipes against the skirt of her dress, Rhiannon moves to the oven and opens the door. The wave of heat that washes over her face and collarbones makes her shiver pleasantly, getting a huge inhale of the cake’s scent as she blindly reaches for oven mitts. With careful, slow movements, Rhiannon moves the cake out of the still searing oven, and places it on top of the stove. It looks perfect, an excellent rise and, when pricked with a fork, incredibly soft and cooked well through- which is honestly the best thing for a cake to be.
She should let the cake cool for a while, but she’s entirely too excited to try the cake. Giggling, Rhiannon scrabbles for a knife from her drawers, and a sweet strawberry printed plate from her cupboards. Cutting out a slice of cake, there’s a murmur of delight at how fluffy the cake appears as her slice is carefully pulled out and added to the plate. With a thoughtful hum, Rhiannon deliberates on something before turning on her heel to move towards the freezer. Plucking out the strawberry ice cream, a quick search for a spoon and a swift scooping motion adds a dollop of the pink frozen treat to the top of the cake.
There’s a moment of stillness. Just to appreciate the picture before her. The sweet aesthetic.
And then a scoop and bite.
“Ah!” Rhiannon’s near moan would have been unbecoming had anyone else been nearby. “That’s so delicious!”
Today really was a good day.