Jim sat on the park bench, watching the world go by. Dog walkers chasing after manic barking animals; joggers sweating their lunch break away, mothers strolling past having conversations with babies not old enough to talk back. The park was always busy and always noisy.
But that was okay with Jim. He loved the park. In fact, he hardly ever paid any attention to the noise any more; he was so used to it.
Balanced on his lap was his lunchbox. A clear Tupperware box with a blue lid. He had had the same lunchbox for the past five years. Veronica had bought it for him. Before that he used to buy lunch from the local burger place or café, but Veronica insisted that he take a packed lunch.
“It’s more nutritious and cost effective,” she had beamed at him on the first day she had prepared his lunch for him. He remembered how she had patted the tub and handed it to him, with that eager-to-please look glistening in her eyes that he had been so thrilled to see.
He had never expected her to become the type of wife that was so eager to please. Before they married she had been a career girl – “the type of girl who’ll never bear you children, James,”’ his mother had said “she will never keep a good home for you’.”
But Mother had been wrong about that. Veronica had surprised everyone. Their home was always immaculate. Not surprising really, seeing as she vacuumed every single day. Not a single speck of stray fluff was ever found on their rugs. The surfaces were sparkling and dust free and there was always the distinct scent of vanilla hanging in the air, as if she had just finished polishing the very second before he walked through the door.
She had abandoned the job not long after they got married. It had only taken Jim to mention a few times that she had no need to work because he was paid a good enough wage to keep them both. Pretty soon after they returned from honeymoon, she had vowed to quit her job and had kept to that vow. Mother had been immensely proud of Jim; she had patted his arm and nodded approvingly at his good work. It had been a rare occasion for his mother to show any kind of pride in him, so he knew he had done well.
The house wasn’t the only thing she kept immaculate. The food in his lunchbox was packed in the same order, every day. One ham roll. One cheese roll. One apple. One bio-yoghurt – “better for your digestion, Jimmy” Veronica had chirped happily. And one home-made iced fairy cake. Baking had become her obsession. Every day when he got home, then was another cake or biscuit to try. Chocolate-chip cookies; carrot cake; chocolate fudge cake; peanut cookies; all-butter shortbread; Victoria sponge cake; macaroons; red velvet cupcakes; think of any type of cake or biscuit and Jim could pretty much say he had sampled it. But fairy cakes were her speciality. She made a batch every day. A different colour icing for each day of the week. Sometimes she even added food colouring to the cake mixture. She had taken to icing little messages on them for him. Sometimes ‘V hearts J’ or ‘V & J Forever’. Today’s masterpiece simply said ‘I love you’. Jim picked it up and held it close to his face, examining it from all angles and detecting a distinct scent of strawberry icing.
She had begun to permanently smell of sugar and cake mixture. At night, when she wanted to show Jim other ways in which she was eager to please him, all he could smell was a sickly perfume of almonds, strawberry and chocolate. When she touched him, he imagined that her fingertips were covered in flour and left white dusty prints on his skin as they trailed down his sweat covered back. When she massaged him, he had started to feel like she was kneading dough, her hands working overtime as she smiled at him, her eyes sugar-glazed with adoration. As she ran her tongue down his chest, all he could picture was her licking the butter-cream off her latest cup-cake creation. Even her hair smelled of baked goods. Sickly sweet sex had seriously killed his libido.
He had watched her through the crack in the kitchen door as she had diligently prepared his lunch the night before. She had been humming the theme tune from Midsomer Murders. “Ironic” he had thought at the time, and smiled as he watched her moving about the kitchen, her ample backside torturing the seams of her polyester trousers. She had never been that big before. Before all the bloody cake-baking. Next to the bread-board, where she was busy buttering his one cheese roll and one ham roll, Jim could spy that day’s batch of fairy cakes; a pyramid of pink icing and sponge, taunting him.
Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow lunchtime, Jim!
God how he hated those fucking little cakes! The thought of eating another one made him feel sick to his stomach and he could feel the bile rising as he had stood there. He had watched in horror as Veronica had reached a flour-finger tipped hand over to the plate and delicately picked up one of the cakes and almost cradled it lovingly as she read the little iced message, before placing it in Jim’s Tupperware lunchbox. She had walked over to the fridge and placed his lunchbox on the same shelf that she always did, hesitated and then looked over her shoulder at the plate of pink cakes. Now that one cake was missing, she rearranged the remaining cakes, running her fingers gently and slowly along the edges of the paper cases, turning the plate and examining it until she was satisfied with the arrangement.
That night, she had sat upright in their bed, waiting for him; flesh straining through satin and a saccharine-sweet smile fixed on her face. Jim knew that if he got close to her, that her breath would smell of butter-icing.
“I thought we could try something different tonight,”’ he had said.
“Sure, cupcake,” she had replied “anything you want.”
He had wished he could have taken a picture when he had walked back into the room, carrying the plate of little pink cakes, all iced with ‘I love you’. Her eager eyes had flickered with doubt.
“What are you doing with my babies, darling?” she had said, her voice suddenly tight and a little squeaky.
“Don’t worry, Vee. You’ll like this. You’ll like this a lot.”
Actually he didn’t think she had liked it at all, not that was ever his intention. Bringing food into the bedroom had taken on a whole new meaning. As he had rammed cake after cake into her mouth, knowing full well that in any normal circumstance she would be scolding him for spilling crumbs on the crisp white sheets; he wondered if she liked the little pink delights so much now. He wondered, as she had spluttered and choked on icing and sponge, whether she suddenly hated cakes as much as he did. Finally, surrounded by discarded, sodden paper cake cases, icing fragments and pink stains marking the pillow which he had held firmly down on her face until her struggling had ceased, Jim sat back and smiled.
Sitting in the park the next day, Jim examined the little cake his wife had placed in his lunchbox the night before. He thought about eating it for old time’s sake. He licked his lips and inhaled deeply, strawberry immediately filling his nostrils and he felt his stomach churn.
“I don’t think so,” he said out loud to no one and threw the cake to the floor.
Closing the blue lid of the Tupperware box with a loud snap, he threw the plastic container in the near-by bin and stood up, squishing sponge under his feet.
“Subway it is then,” he smiled and walked away.
Lindsey Clarke (c) Copyright 2011