Strawberry-flavored punch and a thickly frosted sheet cake take up the entire length of Betsy Barbington’s kitchen table. “I’m the matron of honor!” she says. Betsy and the Bride-to-Be don’t believe in drinking. They think it’s evil. I’ve tucked a flask of Jack Daniels into my jacket, just in case. To make sure it’s still there, I tap it with my hand.
Betsy Barbington hands me a large glass of punch and an enormous hunk of cake. She tells me her secret to macaroni salad, which is a special grainy mustard. She’s not serving any today, though. Today, it’s just cake and punch. Then, she watches me intently until I sip from my cup and sample some icing. She nods approvingly and invites me to sit in the living room with the others. We talk about macaroni salad while eating cake, our voices rising.
The voices in the room grow louder. Betsy has fully reclined onto the couch, and guests take their shoes off. Taylor and Nicole argue about how long to boil elbow macaroni, while Betsy and the Bride-to-Be laugh uncontrollably about nothing. Someone suggests putting some music on. There are several songs and stations I like, but it’s decided that they are too evil to play for this crowd. Only classical music is allowed. Betsy selects Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” because she’s feeling raucous. I continue to eat my cake as the others get up and fling themselves at the furniture. Dancing is not allowed, because it’s also evil, but jumping on furniture is perfectly fine. I watch them jump up into the air and toss couch pillows at one another. Punch spills everywhere, and I’m feeling lightheaded. A spot on the wall before me begins to grow.
Spot on the Wall:
My vision blurs, but the spot on the wall clearly spreads. It’s dark and ominous. With each canon blast from the music, the hole gets deeper and wider, and I think I’m looking at a terrible, awful dimension of nothingness. I’m getting the sense that Betsy Barbington’s place is a portal, and if don’t watch it, I’ll be pulled in. I see nothing but darkness, and the darkness brings no comfort. While Betsy, the Bride-to-Be, Taylor, and Nicole, jump, laugh, and race about the room, a bleak chasm opens up and threatens to swallow them whole. I feel as if I’m spinning, and now that I think about it, I’ve downed two glasses of punch and devoured two hunks of cake.
“Betsy?” I ask. “What’s really in this cake?”
Betsy is laughing in fits now—as if she were drunk.
“Double the sugar! I put double the sugar in everything!”
My pulse is racing, and I feel the incredible urge to run wild about the living room. Drinking is not allowed, but Betsy has found another way. Pure, white, sparkly sugar grains couldn’t ever make it onto the evil list. Sugar couldn’t possibly lead to illicit behavior. However, it sure is making me rock and sway, and the hole in the wall keeps growing. It frightens me immensely, and if I look closely enough, I think I see a hooded figure run just to the edge. I think I see it slip past the wall.
Betsy, the Bride-to-Be, and all of the others at the bridal shower run past the gaping hole in the wall, as if they couldn’t see it. The hooded figure is now in the center of the room, looking at me with soulless, empty eyes. My heart thuds in my chest as Betsy flings her shirt into the middle of the room when the music builds. The others do the same, but I—I’ve only had two pieces of cake. The others have had at least four.
At Least Four:
At least four pieces of cake remain when I leave the others and the gaping hole—passing the kitchen table along the way. I pour four shots of Jack into the punch bowl before escaping. I consider my act a blessing, and slam the door shut, as I stagger into the sunlight.
Cecilia Kennedy taught Spanish and English courses in Ohio for many years. She now lives in the Greater Seattle area with her family. Since 2017, she has published over 20 short stories in several literary magazines and anthologies. Her blog (Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks: https://fixinleaksnleeksdiy.blog/) chronicles her attempts at cooking and home repair.