She would visit the tree regularly. Clutching her basket, she would collect jars of icing sugar, jam, and chocolate sauce, all dripping from the branches in spring. During the summer months the tree was in full bloom, exploding in a splendour of cakes, every branch so heavy with rich sweetness they would bend and graze the path. In winter, swollen chocolate truffles gathered along the cake-less branches. The icing, jam, and chocolate flow would cease; the once spiralling rivulets frozen into static swirls and stripes, sparkling in the grey winter’s light.
The cake tree was a source of attraction for the children of the East City, and they grew frustrated when it was fenced off. They clamoured around Edissa, awed by her rebellion and sophistication. They would run in zigzags along the path, yelling and fighting, demanding her attention as they did cartwheels and sang rhymes.
“What are little boys made of?” they would sing, “what are little boys made of? Snips and snails and puppy-dog tails, that’s what little boys are made of.”
She would swipe at them as they skipped around her.
“Nonsense,” she would say, “little boys are made of what we all are made of - meat and blood and bone, insides that squidge and moan.”
“What are little girls made of?” they continued, “What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of.”
“Nonsense,” she would say, “little girls are made of what we all are made of - meat and blood and bone, insides that squidge and moan.”
One boy was especially attentive. He stayed by her side, silent, ignoring the others. He willed her to notice him, to see how mature he was. But if she saw him at all, it was only as part of the gaggle of children. Some days she would indulge them, teaching them the names of different cakes on the tree, showing them the best way to reach the most delicious cakes on the highest branches. But as she grew older she became less patient with them. “I’m nearly thirteen,” she would say, “I’m not a little girl anymore, leave me be.” As she carefully climbed, collecting cakes, the children would surround the tree, heads tilted, mouths gaping open to catch the icing. Their tongues would spring back, their mouths clamping shut as icing sugar spurted from the sides of their lips, their cheeks bulging. They would giggle and lick their lips, trying to reach the icing that had disappeared up their nose, snorting and falling in the icing-pats that formed on the path. Edissa would roar at them, angered by their foolishness. Leaping up in mock fright they’d splash the icing onto the surrounding plants as they skittered off down the path.
In the twilight hours Edissa would sneak to the tree and she would sit, snug in its branches, singing and collecting. It was at this time her meetings with Memucan began. Every evening they would explore the tree and each other. In an embrace of arms and branches, enveloped by a pungent sweetness, syrup would coat their skin, and stillicidious sugared stars sparkled in their hair. They would kiss and eat, the world falling away.
Blinded by her passion for Memucan and her love of the tree, she did not see her silent follower. The little boy who had stood by her side every day now stood behind the juniper tree, watching in silent rage as she gave Memucan the sweet kiss he felt should be his.
Thus came the day when Edissa arrived at the tree and saw it was dying.