Bundt Cake & Barbasol
Olivia sat at the kitchen table alone.
Should I or shouldn't I?
She stared at it through the thick glass cake plate positioned in the middle of the table. A little more than one quarter of it was gone. The lemon glaze had made a made sort of draping design on the top as it fell over the sides during the drizzling process. Olivia remembered its spongy goodness and citrusy lemon aftertaste when she'd enjoyed a piece after dinner. Now, all she wanted was another piece, and she sat there reasoning with herself over why that would be a good idea. It was impossible to get a large piece of bundt case since those types of cakes were short, not quite as short as a sheet cake, but shorter than a layer cake. Her piece from earlier had been small hadn't it? Then she remembered the large scoop of ice cream she'd placed on top.
Olivia texted Abby.
Olivia: Should I get a slice of cake?
Abby: Kind? GG made?
Olivia: Lemon Bundt. Yes.
Abby: You are preggers. It's open season on everything. Feed Little Grant.
Olivia: This is my second slice. First one was with ice cream!
Abby: Cut a second slice for you. Bring a slice to work tomorrow for me.
Olivia: I'll bring a piece for Huck and Harrison too.
Olivia sighed and smiled in contentment. A call came in from her mother.
"Hey, Mom. It's almost ten. What are you doing up? Is everything okay?" Olivia asked as she cut and wrapped up three slices of cake.
"I should be asking you that, Livia. Don't you have school tomorrow?" Selena said.
Olivia settled in her chair with her second slice of cake and scooped a forkful in her mouth. "Mmm…I rarely go to bed before eleven, Mom. I'm having a second slice of GG's Lemon Bundt cake. She bakes dessert every week. I had will power, but it went out the window with the pregnancy." She closed her eyes and savored the moist cake on her tongue.
"She's a great cook so I can understand your struggle. Will she continue living there after you and Fitz get married?"
Olivia frowned. She was an expert at reading her mother's tones and inflections. This time they were laced with disapproval.
"I hope I'm not being too nosey, baby. I was just wondering about that…how long her visit will be…"
"I'm not sure, but I really like having her around, Mom. We get along really well. She cooks most nights, which I am all for and she reminds me of Nana and Grandma. She came to visit before I moved in so having her around is all I've ever known since moving in with Fitz. Why do you ask?"
"We were wondering that's all. Just don't forget that you have a mother…a family, Livia. Everything—"
Olivia placed her fork on the table. "Mom, what is that supposed to mean?"
"Everything with Fitz happened so quickly. It has not been a year since you met him before you were engaged, pregnant, and now getting married months before you originally planned. You're just taking us too fast, Livia. We want the best for you. We want to make sure you aren't being forced into anything."
Olivia couldn't respond yet. She was too shocked. Forced into anything? She placed her partially eaten cake in the refrigerator and padded into the study to continue the conversation.
"Livia, you still there?"
"I'm here…I…I don't understand what you mean by 'forced.' Things between us progressed very fast, I know…had you told me at the beginning of the school year I would have a fiancé and be expecting a baby, I would've laughed at you. We fell in love, and Mom, I've never been happier."
"I just don't know if this…not the baby…but rushing into marriage is the right thing for you," Selena said.
A gnawing uneasy feeling settled in her gut. She rubbed her abdomen in the place where her baby bump would soon form. "You don't think Fitz is the right man for me? Exactly when did you begin thinking that, Mom? Does Dad feel the same way?"
"Fitz…he seems...I don't have anything against him, Livia because I don't really know him. But he…he is…almost 20 years older than you. His family is so…close and...aren't they overwhelming? Savannah said she felt uncomfortable around GG and Fitz when she waited for you to get home that time she visited. Apparently, GG interrogated her and Fitz acted like he didn't want you to talk to her."
"Savannah. I should have known she would be behind this," Olivia said before she could stop herself. She hated talking to her mother about Savannah almost as much as she hated talking to her sister. Her uneasiness turned to anger. She felt pressure behind her eyes and tension fill her body.
"No, that is not true. Savannah's really happy for you. She never actually said a thing negative about GG or Fitz. I asked her how the visit went. I read between the lines. She really wants you two to forgive each other. It is time to move on from the past.
"I don't want to have this same argument with you, Mom. I am marrying Fitz next month. Savannah is not invited to my wedding or my life. I don't want to hurt you, but I cannot let her destroy—"
"You don't mean that, Livia. She's been working with a therapist. Maybe you should go with her. This is very important to her and to this family, your family. It hurts me that you two don't get along. You can't abandon your sister."
"I'm confused. What is the problem? What is this really about? Fitz and me or Savannah? This is so unfair. Why now? I know she is behind all of this. She's stirring up the pot. You have never understood how much she hates me, Mom. She is trying to sabotage everything. Please don't let her use you to do this."
"Livia, Savannah said you would say this. I think this is all just a big misunderstanding. You two need to get in a room together and just talk it out. You can do it at our house. You shouldn't get married until you fix this."
Tears welled up behind her eyes. She jumped at a sound behind her. "Who's that?" Fitz said after closing the door and entering the room.
Olivia shook her head. "Mom, It's late. I have to go. This won't be resolved tonight. Goodnight, okay?." Olivia waited for her response.
"Okay, but I want to invite you…just you…to dinner this weekend. You and Savannah can talk then. How's that?" Selena said.
"Mom, I have to go. I'll call you tomorrow." Olivia disconnected the phone and slipped it in her pocket. She sat on the sofa and stared at the wall.
Fitz sat down beside her with a sigh. "Let me guess. That was about your sister."
"Yes, how'd you know?" She let her head fall back against the sofa.
"I knew it didn't take that long to get water. I figured you were trying to talk yourself out of another slice of cake," he said. He leaned forward and thumbed the crumbs from the corner of her lips, which cheered her up a little and induced a small smile. "So when I came down I heard your voice. You sounded the same way when she was here. I guessed that you were either talking to or about her."
"You're missing the playoffs, babe. You should go back up. I'll be up in a second."
"It's recording. What's going on?"
She let him pull her onto his lap where she sat for a moment, taking in his comforting warmth. "Savannah is causing trouble. After I told her to stay away from me, the wedding...everything, she bought a block of tickets to Antigua for my family even though she isn't invited. She's been planting things in my Mom's head about us too...negative things."
"My mom and dad loved you from the start Fitz, you know that…I know that. They never said anything negative about you. Well, mom told me to be careful when she found out you were my principal, but that was about it. Tonight she made it sound like you were forcing me to marry you. She asked if GG would be staying with us after the wedding, but she made it seem like it would be wrong if she did. Then she started insisting that I work things out with Savannah." Olivia's phone chimed with a text from Sierra.
Sierra: Call me tonight if you can.
"It's Sierra. She wants me to call her," Olivia said. She dialed Sierra and rose from Fitz's lap.
"Sierra, hi, I got your text. What's up?"
"I just talked to Mom. We need to resolve this feud between you and Savannah, Livia! Just go over there this weekend. Talk to her. This is killing me. I am in the middle. I can't work because Mom and Savannah call me to talk about you almost every day. Please, sweetie. You can end this. Just talk to her. What can it hurt? Please…please...Just try."
"No, Sierra! Stop making it sound like this is my fault. Maybe I haven't been clear. I am not going to play these games with Savannah. I don't want to talk to her. At this point, there is nothing to resolve. You and Mom need to stop talking to her about me. You of all people should be on my side, Sierra. You know exactly what she did and what she is trying to do now. Where has she been these last two years? Why now? I can't take…" Fitz took the phone from her grasp. She laid down on the sofa and hugged her knees to her chest.
"Sierra, this is Fitz. This is just too much for her and it will stop. Olivia has been clear about what she wants and doesn't want. I know you love your sisters, but I think we have reached an impasse. This is causing her too much stress—"
"Fitz, I'm sorry and don't take this the wrong way, but this is none of your business—"
"The hell it isn't! Anything that concerns Olivia is my business. She is balled up in the fetal position right now because of this drama. This is done. It's late. Goodnight," Fitz said before he hung up the phone.
He kneeled down beside her on the sofa so they were face to face.
"Are you okay, honey?"
"Yeah, I guess…I don't know. I'm not going to have a nervous breakdown or anything. I am way past that with Savannah. I'm just frustrated that Mom and Sierra are trying to force me to reconcile with her. As long as she stays away, I'll be fine."
"Maybe I'll kidnap you right now, take you to Antigua, and we can get married alone. Just you, me, and Little Grant."
"As appealing as that sounds, tomorrow is the last day of school and Gerry's graduation. We would piss off too many people if we eloped. I am very tense and frustrated right now. How about you take me upstairs and give me a couple of o's until I'm just short of comatose?
"Do you want to talk about it some more? I'm all for putting you in a coma, but that is only a temporary solution."
She rose from the sofa and pushed past him to lock the door. "I've made my decision, Fitz so there's no need for a solution. If I keep agonizing over it and analyzing it, I'll just go crazy. It's simple. She is trying to make me miserable. I'm extremely so frustrated with all this. I don't want to think about it anymore. Take me out of my mind." She started undressing which got his attention.
"Done, but let's take this upstairs," he said, picking up her falling garments.
"Okay then. I'm going upstairs through the back stairs. I didn't finish my cake. Bring it up to me please," she said, pulling her clothes back on.
"I'll be right up," said Fitz, "In more ways than one…" They went in opposite directions, chuckling.
"GG, I didn't know you were down here." Fitz walked to Granny who was sitting at the kitchen table, the phone at her ear.
She smiled at him and covered the mouthpiece with her hand. "Here, I've already cut another slice for Olivia or is this for you?"
"Olivia. Who are you talking to?" Fitz took the plate from the table.
"Oh, no one you know, dear. Goodnight."
"Goodnight, GG." Fitz kissed her on the cheek and went upstairs.
"Well, her name is Savannah Pope James. I am hoping you can convince her to stay away. I mean this is ridiculous. She showed up unannounced demanding to speak to Olivia. It's like playing Whack a Mole! As soon as I pound one distraction, another obstacle appears. Mellie's been pretty quiet lately, but tonight is graduation. She'll be there in all her insane splendor. Thanks, David. Goodnight," Granny said, hanging up the phone.
She forked a piece of cake into her mouth. "This recipe turned out really well."
By the next day, Olivia was groggy from a lack of sleep. Fitz had fulfilled her request, but no amount of lovemaking could clear her mind of the conversation she'd had with her mom and sister. She couldn't shake the feeling that Savannah was up to something. Since she had a long day ahead of her she tried to push those thoughts away. It was the last day of school festivities and Gerry's graduation was later tonight. Thankfully she always had the class party the day before the last day of school. Despite that, the last day was always organized chaos, but Olivia loved it. Karen had been with her most of the day so she had help. There was time for fun, reflection, goodbyes, and tears. The day was almost done, but Olivia had two more activities on her schedule. Olivia showed the class a movie of pictures and videos she had compiled over the year. Karen passed out popcorn and joined Olivia in the back of the classroom to watch.
"Liv, this is great. I wish I'd had you as my 4th grade teacher or as any teacher. But I'm lucky to have you as a mom," Karen whispered.
"Karen, I'm seriously going to cry right now unless…you're trying to butter me up about something…" Olivia gave her a side hug, "I'm just as fortunate to have you as my daughter, Kare Bear."
Karen hugged her back. "I would never try to butter you up." She looked back at the screen. Olivia rubbed her shoulder. They were silent, but the students chatted and giggled at the pictures.
"Do you remember when you said we would talk about Ethan later?"
"Yeah…" Olivia stopped chewing, bracing herself.
"Well, he is sorry about what he did. It was his…first time too. He's been so sweet to me. He wants to get back together and I think I do too, but Gerry is acting like such a caveman. Ethan and I have to sneak around just to say hi at school. Would it be okay if Ethan came here for the rest of the day to hang out with us? I thought he could help with the shaving cream thing." Karen's words rushed out like a waterfall. Olivia could hardly keep up.
"Okay, umm let's wait…" Olivia began.
"Oh, Liv. I'd knew you'd understand. He just got here. I'll go down and get him," Karen said quickly after giving Olivia a quick peck on the cheek. She jumped up and was gone in a flash.
"Wait, Karen. Your dad…," Olivia called after her but she was already gone.
Olivia shook her head and took a few deep breaths. She turned her attention back to the movie. She didn't want to add to the stress of the day so she resisted the urge to text Karen and ask her if she'd lost her mind since Fitz was the principal and would most surely see Ethan entering the building. Olivia rubbed her stomach, an action that was becoming a habit. She turned to the door and saw Fitz and Gerry standing in the doorway. All Olivia could do was smile, but her heart began to pound when she imagined the possible confrontation.
"Hi, Mr. Grant!" the kids said in chorus.
"Hi, everyone. This is my son, Gerry. He'll be graduating from high school tonight. We just wanted to stop by to say hello. You can go back to your movie."
Olivia met them at the door and gave them each a hug.
"Hey, Gerry. I didn't know you were stopping by today?"
"Dad wanted me to help you and Karen with the shaving cream thing. Isn't Karen supposed to be here?" He looked around for her.
Olivia tried to calculate how long it would take her to run downstairs, catch them, and turn Ethan around. Then she just took a breath, deciding that full disclosure was the way to go.
"Listen guys. I am dedicated to having a stress free day, but I need your cooperation. Karen just headed downstairs to get…Ethan. Apparently, they are friends again," Olivia said. Two pairs of eyes widened simultaneously and then settled into a frown. She grabbed Gerry's hands and looked directly into his eyes. "Now Gerry, you will be polite and respectful when they return. No crazy business. Is that clear?"
She turned her attention to Fitz who she was less worried about. "The same goes for you, Mr. Grant. I know you'll be on your best behavior, but I want confirmation."
At that moment Karen and Ethan appeared at the door. Olivia ignored Karen's deer in the headlights expression. Ethan looked to be putting on a brave face, but Olivia knew better. She ushered them both inside and shut the door.
She walked to the front of the room. "Did you all enjoy the movie?"
"Yes!" her students answered. "Can we see it again?"
"Maybe later, but I made a CD for each of you to take home. You can find it on YouTube also through my website."
"Now, we are going to shave our desks clean with Barbasol. Barbasol is shaving cream and our hands will be the razor. Mr. Mike will be so excited to see how clean our desks are. He and his staff will be so happy. We are thankful to have four helpers, Mr. Grant, Karen, Gerry and Ethan. One of them will give you a dollop of Barbasol cream and you can start cleaning. You cannot touch anything other than your desks. If you touch another student or anything other than your desk, you will no longer be able to participate in this activity. Any questions?" Olivia asked.
"Can we put it on our face?" one student asked.
"Can we squirt our own?" another student asked.
"No to both of those questions." Olivia said. "Mr. Grant, please give Karen, Gerry, and Ethan a can."
Karen looked scared. Ethan looked uncomfortable. Gerry ignored them both and began squirting the kids' desks with the white creamy foam. The students began to giggle, but they were shy about touching the shaving cream. Gerry spread his hands through the white creamy substance on one desk, which encouraged the other kids to dive in. Karen and Ethan warmed up too. Karen looked at Olivia for help, but she just smiled at her.
After awhile, Ethan stood beside Gerry who was standing off to the side watching the kids. Karen walked from desk to desk focusing only on the students.
"This will make graduation and the party this weekend a lot easier for both of them. I don't know how I feel about them being friends, but I trust you judgment. We'll talk later. I have to go," Fitz whispered in Olivia's ear and squeezed her shoulders before he left the room.
"Hey, can you believe we will be graduating in a couple of hours?" Ethan asked.
"No. It's surreal," Gerry said.
They stood there uncomfortably. "I was expecting you to change roommates," Ethan said.
"I hadn't gotten around to it yet, but I figure if you keep seeing my sister it makes sense to keep you close," Gerry said. "So you've been sneaking around behind my back?"
"No. We aren't back together. We're just friends, but I want to get back with her…"
"Now it is time to clean up. Our helpers will give you a towel to clean off the excess shaving cream. When you have wiped your desk, make a line at the sink to wash your hands," Olivia said.
"We can talk about this later, Ethan," Gerry said.
They all pitched in to help. Gerry couldn't resist squirting a dollop of Barbasol on Karen's cheek. She wiped her cheek and gave Gerry a hug, "Thanks for not making a scene." Then she smeared the shaving cream in his hair.
"I guess I deserved that," said Gerry.
After all the kids and desks were cleaned. Gerry and Ethan left. Karen asked to leave with Ethan, but Olivia wouldn't let her. The kids pushed their desks against the wall. Olivia let them socialize until dismissal began.
"Karen, don't surprise me like that again."
"I know, Liv. I almost died when I saw Dad and Gerry standing here."
"No more sneaking around also. So do you think you will get back together?" Olivia asked.
"Probably," said Karen.
"Okay, Kare. We can talk about it later."
Soon they heard Fitz's voice over the intercom signaling the beginning of dismissal. After all the kids were boarded, all the teachers gathered outside to wave to the students in one final farewell.
Olivia was happy and her no bad stress pledge was holding up even though stressful situations continued to crop up. Karen and Fitz argued about Ethan later that day, as everyone prepared for graduation. Karen asked to ride to graduation with Mellie and Cyrus when she didn't get her way. Olivia took her aside.
"Karen, stop whining! Your dad is right. You shouldn't go out with Ethan tonight. He will be out late with friends celebrating graduation. You need to be at home. That's the end of it. Stop pouting and get ready!"
Once that blew over, Gerry called home frantic because he left his graduation cap at home. Lauren's husband saved the day by taking it to Gerry.
Graduation was held outside on the high school football field. The entire Grant family was there and seated 45 minutes before the ceremony began. Olivia's bladder wasn't cooperating. She was on her third trip to the restroom. Fitz and Karen had alternated accompanying her. Lauren and Sybil were going to take turns next. They all ignored Olivia's pleas that she didn't need a chaperone to answer nature's call.
"You know I can walk to the restroom alone. I've been doing this solo for years, babe." Olivia squeezed his hand as they turned the corner of the bleachers, on the familiar path to the restrooms. "I'm barely 3 months."
"Maybe I can't stand to be away from you." He pulled her in close for a side hug and then they met Mellie and Cyrus on the path.
"Fitz, Olivia, it is great to see you. We are running late. Are there any empty seats beside you?" Mellie asked.
"All the empty seats are on the other side." Olivia said. "Hi, Mr. Beene. You both are coming to the graduation cookout on Saturday, right? We never received your RSVP."
Mellie smiled broadly. "Yes, we will be there. I didn't think the mom of the graduate needed to RSVP."
"Hi, Olivia, Fitz," said Cyrus who extended his hand to both of them. They shook hands and Olivia pointed them in the other direction. Fitz didn't utter a word.
"You okay?" Olivia asked after they had walked away.
"After what she did, I can't stand to be around her at all. Why would she ask us about seats? Cyrus is the superintendent so he has reserved seats. Mellie will be Mellie. But you were fabulous, Livy. Today at school and tonight you were so calm, cool, and collected. I need to learn from you."
"Yes, this is the new and improved, Liv. I am going to be like the eye of a tornado, calm and serene. Nothing is going to rattle me," Olivia said before she entered the bathroom.