In the staffroom Bev waved a packet of ginger kisses under her colleagues’ noses. “Get a whiff of these. They’re to die for.”
Saffron took one. “First ginger kiss I’ve had in years. My father used to make them. Everyone said his were sublime, light and soft with just a hint of ginger. He got requests for his recipe.”
“Oh, how lovely,” said Bev.
“Men who bake,” said Fi. “Well, it says a lot about their character. I bet your father was a real sweetie.”
Saffron bit into her ginger kiss. Her head sprang back at the more-than-a-whiff of ginger. “No.”
“Fi’s eyebrows shot up. “No what?”
“He wasn’t a sweetie. When I was eleven he dug a verruca out of my foot with the kitchen scissors.”
Everyone stopped munching and stared at Saffron.
“But he did give me a ginger kiss to eat while he was digging and at the same time told me a story about a princess who baked magic dust into her ginger kisses so that people who ate them forgot their pain.”
“Are you making this up?” demanded Diane.
“Nope,” said Saffron.
A shrill whistle from the kettle brought Bev scrambling to her feet. She tipped boiling water into the teapot, poured the tea into cups, and handed one to each colleague.
“The princess story is lovely,” said Susie. “So many fathers today have no interest in story-telling. We see the results of that in our classrooms. That’s why we have so many little thugs at this school. No relationship with their….”
“Yes, yes, thank you Susie. We do know, ” Bev interrupted. “And don’t call our students thugs. Their behaviour can be challenging, yeah, but given their homelife… Well, some of those blokes shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a child. They should be in prison.” She passed the packet of ginger kisses around again with hands that shook a little and looked at Saffron. “Your father was misguided, sure, but his intentions were good, eh? I mean that incident didn’t leave you physically or emotionally scarred like some of our kids.”
Saffron held her ginger kiss under her nose and inhaled deeply. She closed her eyes. Answer me back like that and I’ll swing for you, so help me God. I’ll take the side of your face off. I’ll beat you to a pulp. I’ll skin you alive. You’ll wish you’d never been born. She opened her eyes and stared at the ginger kiss.
“What do you remember most clearly? The pain or the princess story?” asked Diane.
“I’ll bet it’s the princess story,” said Bev.
“The smell of ginger,” said Saffron.
Everyone laughed, gathered up their bags and books and hurried back to their classrooms.
Saffron waited until the room was empty before she threw her half-eaten ginger kiss into the rubbish bin. She washed her hands over and over until the last trace of ginger was obliterated.
Sandra Arnold lives in New Zealand. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from Central Queensland University, Australia and is the author of five books including three novels, a non-fiction work and a collection of flash fiction. Her work has been widely published internationally, placed and short-listed in various competitions and nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best Microfictions and The Best Small Fictions.