Winter 2013 — THE POTOMAC

Layer Cake

  Molly Fuller

She makes the cake from his mother’s recipe. He puts his finger in the batter, tastes it, says add more spice. She uses a sieve to sprinkle in nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon. She pulls pans from the oven, lets the two halves cool separately on the sugar–dusted counter. She presses them together, pats them gently with the palm of her hand, uses a flat edge of a knife to coat imperfections with icing. She places candles carefully in the top layer, one by one.

Outside he pops off beer caps; inside she lights the wicks. Through the window glass, she watches bottles moving up and down from laps to mouths, hands gesturing in laughter, smiles flickering like party lights. He waits too long to come inside. Colored wax speckles the frosting like sprinkles. You make the wish he calls out to her. As he watches her blow out the flames through the screen door, she hears the sound of a bottle breaking on the hard flagstones of the patio. Everyone at the party claps.

After they collect the empty bottles, they go to bed. She turns her face to the wall. He touches her shoulder, says when we get married it will always be like this. She hears only when we get married. She hears only it will always be like this.

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