Carrie Lynn Hawthorne

Everyone Likes Chocolate

She frosts the last layer of the three-layered cake, and she hears his key in the door. The first layer is for her, a guiltless cloud of angel food. The second is for the baby- allergen free, organic, and all natural. The third and smallest layer teeters on the top for the man. She doesn’t know what to call him anymore. He is not her friend, nor is he her lover; he is not even her fiancé. He is the father to the baby strapped to her chest in a sling, flailing his tiny hands, trying to get a taste of the frosting. She doesn’t even know what kind of cake he likes, so she just made him chocolate.

The man walks in and waits a moment for a kiss that doesn’t come. He sets the mail down on the coffee table, littered with unopened bills and a book on spontaneous combustion.

He doesn’t ask her about dinner. They haven’t eaten together in months. She’s got her hands full, and since he can fend for himself, he is off her to-do list. 

He takes the plant off the top of the fridge and sets it in the sink, turns on the water. “Fuck,” he says, as he hits his funny bone on the corner of an open cabinet.

“This apartment is too goddamn small for us now. There’s no room for the baby to crawl around. I can’t do another year without heat and air conditioning.” She licks the melting frosting off the knife and leaves it in the sink.

“I know,” he says. “It’s a booby-trap.”

“It’s a bath night, you know.”

He lets out a gust of air, cracks a double IPA. “Alright, let’s get the baby in the bath now. The football game starts in half an hour.”

“That counts as two beers, you know. That’s your limit. Now I’ll have to take the baby for a ride if he can’t get to sleep. It really sucks that I always have to do it.”     

“I got the car washed today.”

She walks toward the bathroom, slips the baby out of the sling, removes his diaper with one hand. “Did you take it to that place where the water stinks like sewage?”

“No. The one at the gas station.” He stops at the edge of the tub, pulls a clump of her hair out of the drain, plugs it up, turns the water on.

She hands him the naked baby, closes the bathroom door behind them. “Did you at least put a few bucks in the tank?”

She undresses. He looks away. She narrows her eyes at him, every cell of her body crying out to be seen.

She steps into the bath and nestles the baby in her lap.

“Do you need anything from the store?” He kneels next to the tub.

“Come on, do you really need to go to the store again?” She knows he goes to the store for two reasons. To get away from her and to get more beer. “I don’t need anything. And if I do, I’ll get it myself.”

“I’ll take the baby, so you can have some alone time.”

She turns off the water with her foot, exposing one of her legs, the only part of her that hasn’t been ravaged by motherhood.

He stares at her feet, and she recalls the nightly foot rubs he provided during her pregnancy. He would kiss her toes, paint her toenails, and even put on her shoes when she could no longer reach. He always said she had beautiful feet.

“Honey, you need to wash between your toes. You’ve got some dirt in there.”

Her feet slide under the surface; she grabs her toes and squeezes hard.

He washes the baby in a few swipes of his skilled fingers. She recalls when he first touched her, how she was surprised at the cleanliness of his fingernails. It was her first time in the hands of a man who makes his living with his mind. He rinses the baby and swaddles it in a towel, leaving her alone in the bathroom.

She sinks underwater, listening to the quiet sounds of her own body.

The front door opens and then slams shut.

She wraps a towel around her head, saunters into the kitchen naked, and she opens the kitchen window with the broken screen.

She tosses the chocolate cake out the window. All over the car.

She never cared much for clean.

Carrie Lynn Hawthorne is a writer and mother from Pasadena, CA. You can find more of her work in Sunlight Press, Cultural Daily, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, and many more.