Personal Gifts

by Emily LAWTON
 

Heather approaches the house, carefully bearing her intricately decorated cake. She’s got on these red and purple corduroy pants and they’re sort of floral and they match the cake, which has flowers. My name is on the cake. She rings the doorbell, and there she is with that god-awful thing and her name is on it too. In fact the cake says “Rob and Heather’s First Date!!!” Idly I consider her use of exclamation points.

She’s got this expression like she expects me to eat the whole cake right now while she looks on adoringly. Instead I take it and put it on the kitchen counter. There’s a pause. She’s put the cake on a real plate, a tactic designed to guarantee a second encounter.

“Is this all for me?” I ask. I try to offer her some and she demurs, refusing to ruin the dinner I’ll soon purchase for her. Meanwhile her previous queries about food allergies and favored colors click into place like lock pins.

“Well!” I say, too brightly. Then I clap my hands with a mannerism that I believe is completely new to me. “Let’s get this date started!” Again the false cheeriness. What’s this person doing to me? She grins and nods crazily, a marionette’s bobbing head.

I usher her back out the door, leaving the hideous cake behind, frosting hardening on the counter. Her cake-ass precedes me into the twilight, swathed in my favorite colors.

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