A Night to Remember
a "Death by Chocolate" contest submission
The warm, sweet smell perfumed the air as Whitney pulled the hot pan from the oven, her hands armored with mitts (and face gleaming with pride) as she smiled down at her mud-brown masterpiece. Already on her second glass of pinot noir, she floated over to the shiny marble kitchen island to set the tray down for cooling. She shut the oven and opened the fridge to extract opaque, gritty goodness. German chocolate cake would be nothing without its creamy coconut companion. This was the perfect ending to a relaxing evening after a murderous work week.
“Psp psp psp,” Whitney called to Pluto, her feline friend. To be fair—she couldn’t be the only one having fun with her guilty pleasures tonight—she poured a few treats from a bag into a tiny silver bowl on the floor. Tink, tink, tink. Pluto wasted no time digging in, so Whitney left her to feast as she made her way to the living room, pinot in hand. Time to catch up on snippets of and glimpses into the lives of others who, for the most part, she could care less about. Scroll, scroll, scroll. A double-tap here. An overly excited comment there. Sprinkles of emojis, judgement, encouragement, and unwarranted opinions throughout.
Yawn, yawn, yawn.
In came Pluto, licking her chops as she hopped onto the cushion next to Whitney—who had moved on to television. She wondered if anything broadcasting might catch her attention (she was all caught up and binged-out on both Netflix and Hulu). Browsing through, she paused her channel flipping to catch the tail end of the six o’clock news. “Investigators say,” the news anchor blared at her, “Willis has been on the run for six weeks now. As a warning to the public, a pattern gathered from the family members of victims is that he appears to be climbing—”
Click. “The ladder from hell?” Whitney finished snarkily, changing the station. Wheel of Fortune. Category: Unfortunate Events. “I’d like to buy a vowel, please,” a contestant name-tagged Carl requested.
“Please!” Pat Sajak encouraged.
“I’d like to buy an ‘i,’ please.” The discouraging buzz sounded as Pat let Carl in on the bad news.
“Eva, your spin,” Pat continued.
Contestant name-tagged Eva spins. “T!” she exclaimed.
“There are two t’s,” Pat confirms. Vanna White struts across the board.
Eva: “I’d like to buy a vowel—an ‘a,’ please.” Two a’s, and a strutting Vanna.
Death by… something-late, Whitney thought in an attempt to solve. She sipped some more wine—how helpful.
“Another vowel, please?” Eva requested. “An ‘o?’”
Click-clack went Vanna’s heels, bing-bing went the added o’s, and applause came from the audience. Eva’s face lit up. “I’d like to solve the puzzle: ‘Death. By. Chocolate!’”
Voilà. The rest of the letters revealed themselves. Nice work, Whitney thought. Had she been more alert, she might’ve guessed it herself. Eva now had enough in the bank to snag the lead and up her chances of making it to the final round—which Whitney would not be tuned in for, as she turned the tv back off. Being reminded of her own treat, she couldn’t wait any longer.
She made her way back to the kitchen, Pluto following suit (hoping to get lucky again). Back to the fun, she reached into the counter drawer for a knife as her mouth began to water. "Easy," she reminded herself as she outlined the cake’s edge to separate it from the pan. Plop it went, dumped face down onto the round cake display. She pat herself on the back, marveling at the first clean transfer of her life.
Ice, ice, baby: the knife swooped into the icing and she went around the top and sides, a proud Christina Tosi cheering her on in her head. Chef’s kiss.
Slicing time: left side… right side… knife flat underneath, fingers gently on top, slowly sliding it out to place atop a nearby fast-food napkin.
“Ooh, yeah, that’s it,” a tipsy Whitney slurred, the coconut icing oozing off the side of a perfectly sliced piece of German chocolate cake. “Come to momma.”
She licked the remnants of icing directly off the knife before sitting it to the side. Finally, the first bite. Every one of her tastebuds tingled as she indulged the savory flavor. “Mmm.” Moist. Luscious. Lovely. She almost got through the whole piece without Pluto pouncing nosily up on a barstool to greet her with a begging meow.
“No ma’am,” she declared, chucking in the last bite as it found room in a full mouth. “You had yours. This is all mine.”
Whitney cradled Pluto under her arm and clicked the light off, making her way out of the kitchen and over to the stairs, heading up to her bedroom. Suddenly pausing once at the top, she peered her eyes off to the side at her closed door. “I’m so gonna regret this.” She turned back down and put Pluto on the bottom step (as if she would stay there) and headed back into the kitchen (Pluto trailed behind).
Flicking the light back on, she retrieved another napkin and went in for round two. “No regrets,” she decided. She ditched her glass for the entire bottle of wine, hurrying away before she impulsively doubled-back to ditch her slice for the entire cake. Pluto stayed behind, the furs on her tiny body beginning to move with the slight breeze flowing in from the sliding patio door creeping open…
Getting upstairs, Whitney struggled with hands full to twist the knob but finally succeeded. She placed the bottle on her nightstand and clicked on the small lamp, the memory foam of her mattress hugging the familiar form of her body. She began taking her time with this next slice of cake as if it were her last. Goosebumps started gathering on her arms as she adjusted to the chill creeping through her room. “Hm,” she noticed strangely. She got up and moved the curtains to see a barely opened window.
I did this? she questioned.
Drunk enough, she decided she had and struggled trying to close it back. It was jammed. No use. She shrugged. Turned away.
“Alexa,” she called, “play ‘A Night to Remember’ by Shalamar.”
Off her rocker but well in her element, she let the notes she couldn’t hit and the sweat on her body drag away the office stress and every other care in the world she had. The upbeat guitar strums and beating drums filled the room, bass boomed. The more-than-halfway-empty bottle of wine substituted for a microphone after every swig she took. Her solo concert was shortly interrupted by a crash downstairs. Gasping (and trying to catch her breath), Whitney paused the music and sat the bottle down, stumbling over her own feet toward the door. “Pluto,” she grumbled.
She got downstairs in one piece, searching the living room first for casualties. Nothing. She woozily got to the kitchen, the darkness mixed with her drunkenness working against her. She could’ve sworn she left that light on. Now, too far gone to snap into feeling for it, she let the light from the living room lamps be her guide. “Girl, where are you?” she called out. Nothing. Her hands glided across the marble kitchen island until they were met with a powdery substance. She held up her hands, white as snow. “Flour,” she whispered. Another step forward and her foot was toes-deep in a pile of mush.
Closer now to the stove, she reached over and above it to flick on the incandescent cooktop light in the kitchen hood. Bye-bye, German chocolate. The cake and its ingredients covered the floor. Whitney fumed, toes wiggling to get the cake bits out from in between.
“You’ve got to be kidding… Pluto!” She turned, hobbling and limping on her one cake-free foot. She noticed little traces of flour nearby the patio door. It was open.
Bewildered, she peaked out. “Pluto?” Nothing. She closed it back, limped backwards until a loud, yowling meow matched the furry ball she felt underfoot. Whitney shrieked. “Pluto!”
She picked up her pet covered in flour and—now—bits of chocolate. “What are you doing?” Half-pissed, half-concerned, she dampened a cloth and started at Pluto’s tiny face. For some reason, she wouldn’t sit still. Pluto squirmed free from Whitney’s grasp and trotted off now to hide somewhere else.
“I am way too drunk for this,” she said, starting now to clean the mess Pluto left instead. She followed on hands and knees the tiny flour paw prints that trailed around the kitchen island. Slowing down, her heart sank… not because she got back around to her ruined cake, but because amidst the paw prints was now a boot print. Her face scrunched up, and she even checked her own bare feet in a drunken stupor to make sure she wasn’t going crazy. She turned around to stand but was met with the only missing item from the messy scene.
Until all there was to see was wood, the blade plunged into her chest, ripping and tearing through. She was able to make eyes with the figure, its face casting a shadow but partially illuminated by the brightness from the living room. The beard and mangled hair matched the image she now regretfully ignored on the newscast from earlier. His boot lifted to press into her stomach, her body sliding off the knife and collapsing onto the floor. Whitney struggled for her breath, grasped at her chest, felt the warm, scarlet liquid gushing out into her hands.
The man kneeled down into the floury, chocolaty, bloody mess. He dipped his index finger into the icing on the smashed cake, licked it. “Good choice,” he said sinisterly.
The knife went to slicing.