Love of Cooking
I walked down the steps with my brother, hand in hand. Please don't let it be gruesome, I prayed silently. Mother didn't deserve a gruesome death.
When spectators saw that I had arrived, they parted, letting me through. I walked through them like Moses parting the ocean, and came upon my island; my mother.
She was lying down, her delicate features pale, her eyes closed – originally closed or closed by someone, I didn't know, but thankfully they were –, still with her cooking apron on, like nothing had happened. I sighed a faint sigh of relief: no marks, nothing horrible, just plain nothing. The only way one could tell that she was dead was the fact that she had gone almost translucent in colour.
“Mother,” I whispered reverently, “who knew your time could be now? While you were preparing tea for your children, making sure they were full, caring for them as you always do.
“Did they always care for you back? No. I remember when Alexander got angry and destroyed your favourite cutlery set by melting it by the fire. Then there was that time when Tom got angry at Alexander and you had to resolve their squabbles. And then there was me. The one who pained and troubled you the most, wanting this and wanting that, whatever the cost may be. I cared not one bit about our finances, but now, being the woman of the house, look where that got me – ” I allowed myself a wry smile, “ – nowhere. The house is in debt, our taxes are due, and the best I can do is hide all our valuables before the tax collectors come knocking on our door.
“Everything is shabby and I'm in no shape to fix it, not being employed myself. Our best chance is Tom or Alexander, though they are both ill. What should I do, Mother?” I clasped her cold hands tightly, as if willing life back into them. “What would you do, in a time like this? Would you wail and cry or bang about hopelessly in the kitchen? Or would you solve this whole mess, and let everything resume as it normally would? What would you do, Mother?” I cried hopelessly, tears of desperation forming in my eyes.
A gentle hand restrained me from nearly squeezing Mother's hand to death...or even more death, at least, up there in heaven.
“Emma, control your emotions,” said a gentle voice. It was Peter, Mrs. Baker’s second eldest son (and the only child who was still living at home), who was always kind to me and lending me odd bits and bobs. Sometimes, he even gave me some money – but only if I was lucky.
I nodded a tear-stained face in his direction. “Sorry, Pip. Let me just say one more sentence.”
“Ok, but just one, before you need to cry your tears away and have some reflective time.”
I almost laughed at the absurdity of that sentence, but I realized that it was true. I did need to reflect on things, and spend some very silent time by myself. Otherwise I wasn't going to get over my grief. “I will.”
Then, leaning over and whispering in Mother's ear, I said a very important phrase.
Back up in my room, Alexander told me what he had thought about my performance.
“Well, you said some odd things, sister, but I'm sure everyone will put it down to grief.”
“You didn't understand?” I asked, surprised.
“No,” said Alexander, “was I meant to?”
I shook my head; “Never mind.”
“So what did you say at the end? I couldn't quite catch it,” Alexander probed.
“You weren't meant to,” I said, but, finally giving in, “but I told Mother at least she died happily.”
“How were you to know how she died?” Alexander asked suspiciously.
I couldn't help but laugh at the look on his face. “Wipe that suspicious look off your face right now, Alexander Trafford. I knew because of her apron. Her favourite thing to do was cook.”
“And care for us,” Alexander put in. He always gets the last word.