This short story was also written as part of my creative writing module, and because of this comes with a short disclaimer. It was written to fulfill the brief of dialogue with subtext, and because of this, I decided to go all out cheesy, guns blazing etc. Therefore, I am aware that the ending is horrendously overdone. It was meant to be – I would never pursue this piece further because of that, but I enjoyed writing it nonetheless and here it is. Enjoy
Joanne walked around the kitchen carefully as ever. She and Andrew had refused to pay the ridiculous extra for those soft-close mechanisms on their cupboards and drawers when they had the new kitchen put in, but Joanne was so gentle, so meticulous, that you never heard so much as a sigh anyway.
Andy, on the other hand, could be volatile and difficult. He’d come home from his work as an administrator at the local recycling firm, bearing whatever he’d decided could be bunged in the microwave, and demand to scroll through Joanne’s phone before he’d even taken off his shoes. That way, she couldn’t hide from him, he said. She wondered what she’d be hiding – she stayed at home and baked delicious tartlets and oozing chocolate puddings and creamy Eton messes knowing that her husband would be returning soon, only rarely venturing to The Cosy Teapot down the road to see childhood friends.
This day though, she’d decided to try something savoury. Andy always ate her baked goods without stopping to distinguish the crepe from the caramel, and she thought that she might shock him into tasting by adding in cheddar instead of chocolate. Strong cheddar though, the recipe demanded. Seriously strong, the label declared.
The click in the door signalled he was home.
“I tried to call to tell you to leave dinner tonight, darling, I’ve baked something a little different.”
“You know I can’t speak at work, how would I see it?”
“Well, I thought you might pick it up before you got to Sainsbury’s, but not to worry, we can just have what you’ve picked up for dinner tomorrow instead. I made soufflés. A bit of an experiment,” she said, handing him her phone. She had learnt that even though it was empty of any new activity other than several failed calls to him, it wasn’t worth protesting. He whipped through old messages then chucked it onto the table.
“You mean those pretentious things from France that no one can ever bloody get right? So no one even bothers anymore. Those things?”
“Well yes, but soufflés get such a bad name.”
“They’re not people, you know,” he scoffed.
“Yeah, but I mean, people think that just because they’ve been around for years they’re outdated. You just need to put in the time to get them right.” She prepared her gloves to brave the oven.
“Well I only ever had one and it was flat as a pancake and dense as god knows what. Tasteless, that’s what it was.”
“It can be so tempting to keep peeking in and interrupting the magic, but if you do that you’ll lose the flavour and it will sink into a sad mess,” Joanne said, peering into the oven window for one last time. “Trust that it will be fine, and you’ll have a perfect soufflé to enjoy. Paranoia never did anything for a cook.”
He stood in the kitchen doorway, cracking his knuckles from a day of typing and being chirpy. His friends at the office admired the optimism and chattiness Joanne had never seen in him.
“Well, the proof is in the pudding as they say. What a waste of money me buying something to eat, I won’t bother next…” he grunted, dodging her as she swung round sharply with the baking tray, her mitts just enough to save his hands from a burn.
“Are you fucking crazy?”
“No Andy, making soufflés for dinner is not ‘fucking crazy’, it’s just what happens when you get bored of eating the same god damn ready meals from Sainsbury’s Basics range day in, day out. There’s only so many tasteless fish pies a woman can hack.”
“I didn’t mean that woman, I meant the fact that you nearly took my fucking head off!”
Joanne banged the soufflés on the table, and they shook in their ramekins, but to Andy’s dismay looked quite perfectly formed.
“Just eat. Maybe you’ll like them for once.” She shuffled from side to side, rearranging her apron, but didn’t take a seat. She wasn’t hungry.
Andy snatched a spoon out of her apron pocket, turning off his taste buds as he let malice serge through his salivary glands instead. He’d left desire at work. Taking the first bite, careful to make himself look anything but like those poncy women in that yoghurt advert, he was dismayed to find that the soufflé was actually quite nice. Fluffy, he thought, warm and soft like a towel straight out the tumble dryer.
“This, this is good Joanne. Really good,” he said, surprising even himself at how emphatic the words sounded coming out of his mouth.
“Really?” Joanne drew her fringe back out of her face, holding the top of her head so her eyes were hair-free.
“Really. It’s so soft. So gentle. I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life to discover it.”
“Perhaps it feels like it’s been waiting for you its whole life too, Andy.”