A Recipe for Disaster
By Eileen Ellis
It’s a complicated recipe. A single mistake could ruin the whole thing. Luckily, I’ve been baking for a while now. It has become a secret hobby of mine. If anyone found out, I would be in huge trouble. This isn’t just my hobby though; it’s his too. We like to do it together.
Today I am eleven. We are together in the kitchen, making brownies. I read on the side of the box that it’s very filling, or maybe the right word is fulfilling.
“You’re not doing that right,” he says. “How many times do I have to show you how to do this?” I love the way he talks to me, with so much concern and love.
“You’re right. Is this better?” I ask, trying to mix the flour with the butter a little better this time. Lately, I’ve been sloppy. If I make too big of a mess, I could get caught.
“No, just get out of the way. Watch me.” He walks over from his usual perch on the chipped counter in the corner of our kitchen. The missing blue tiles have been hidden in a drawer. Above us, the ceiling is gone, exposing the house’s skeleton. Ever since that winter, when the roof began to fall apart, we look up to remind ourselves that even the smallest imperfections can ruin the strongest structures. He nudges me out of the way with his forefinger and begins to carefully stir the ingredients in the bowl, making sure to smooth out every clump of butter. He’s perfect.
“There, that’s better. I guess I have a lot more left to teach you.” He then returns to his throne, watching my every move.
Today I am twelve. I add an egg and stir it in. Then I add another, accidentally getting some eggshell in the mixture. I hear him sigh in exasperation, an ugly, guttural sound.
“You’re unbelievable,” he says as he walks up behind me and looks over my shoulder at the pieces of eggshell now stuck in the batter. His breath is cold on my neck, infused with mint and decay. He plucks out each piece, chucking them one by one on the scuffed hardwood floor. He proceeds to step on them, making eye contact with me. I wince as I hear each weak, pathetic piece snap under his weight. I refuse to be an eggshell.
Today I am thirteen. I spin around to face him, and just as he’s about to drop the last piece of eggshell, I grip his wrist, twisting his skin until it turns a sickly shade of purple. Once my actions have dawned on me, I shrink back down, looking at my feet, which have begun shaking. He says nothing, keeping his eyes locked on me as he reaches behind his back for the Cutco set on our counter. He grabs the small, black, paring knife and begins tossing it from one hand to the other, considering his next move. He then places it in my palms, firmly folding my fingers down over the blade until blood trickles down my wrists and paints patterns on my flesh. It swirls through my fingers and pools at my elbows, turning me into canvas.
“Clean up when you’re done,” he whispers in my ear, taking a step back to watch.
Today I am fourteen. I am still scarred from being thirteen, my body serving as a constant reminder of his love. It’s in the caverns of my collarbones and the crevices of my ribs. The mountain range on my back and the cliffs mounting my hips. He is a melon baller of a man. Scooping and scooping until he reaches my skin, hollowing me out to my bones. I turn the oven on, preheating it to 360 degrees. He struts around the kitchen, watching me from every angle. With his hands folded behind his back, he circles the kitchen table where I am working. I am spreading the batter into the pan, using the spatula to cover all the edges. When I am done, I glance towards him. He’s looking out the window, soaking in the refreshing spring sunrise, basking in his own beauty. Thinking he can’t see, I sneak a taste of the batter. But his periphery catches my misstep. He lunges toward me, flinging the pan across the room. Batter splatters across the windows like a Jackson Pollock, and the splatters drip down the panes. The pan clatters across the floor, teetering on its edges until it settles, watching me. Begging me to fight back. But I can’t, not after what happened the day I was thirteen. Suddenly, I feel two bony hands wrapping around my throat. But I am not an eggshell. As he glares at me, with a look of satisfaction in his eyes, I wiggle my neck, tucking my chin downwards to where his hands steadily tighten. I hang my head down weakly, resting my chin in the soft skin between his forefinger and thumb, as if admitting defeat. Just as he is getting comfortable with another victory, I sink my teeth into the flesh of his palm, grinning as the overwhelming metallic taste of blood slips between my lips and collects at the back of my throat. He stifles a cry and pulls away.
“Hey!” I feel someone gently rustling my shoulder.
“Honey, wake up.” I open my eyes slowly to see my mother bending over me, with concern written across her face. A blinding ray of sunlight peers through the kitchen windows, still streaked with dried batter.
“What happened here? Are you okay?” I continue to absorb the scene. I’m slumped against the cabinets with a throbbing pain stamped across my throat. I glance down and see my right hand, bitten down to the bone. She takes my hand gently in hers.
“Sweetie answer me. What happened?” I look up at her and smile, dried blood cracking across my lips and chin.
“I won,” I reply, more to myself than to her. Today I am okay.