cinnamon, my love
They always had an eye for design that I never understood, but appreciated. Wooden drawers and cabinets slumbered with a dark metal handle, amiable succulents stood proudly on pale countertops, and the intricate red rug lounged in front of the sink. The rug had an old-fashioned composition, like one you’d find at Grandma’s home, after Grandma had brought it out to tell you the story of how her son had spilled hot chocolate for the fiftieth time just yesterday.
I say her son, and not Dad, because she’s not my Grandma. She’s theirs, but she might as well be mine.
Heaving, I hoisted the three overflowing grocery bags onto the kitchen island, their weight chaffing at my fingers. My chest buzzed with a loosening tightness and the ringing in my ears numbed. I needed to work out more if I struggled taking a few steps uphill. The rough cross-stitched fabric of the bags began to slump to the side like an iron-deficient in the morning. I rushed to provide support, arriving in just the nick of time before a plump apple high-fived Grandma’s rug and gave her another story to tell. Granted, it didn’t quite matter if Grandma had a story to tell them about my incompetency to place things securely on the table, if I ended up burning the house down.
But for all the years they and I had spent together, we’d had so much time to build dozens of snowmen, toilet-paper the neighbours’ cars, play in piles of fiery leaves, bake my favourite dish together, we’d never once baked their favourite. I cursed my inconsideration, almost thanking karma for gracing me the opportunity to attempt to bake a “cinnamon apple pie”. I have no idea what it would turn out as.
I could do, get, something else for them. But it’s already come this close to their birthday. Ever since the incident, I’d sworn to never plague the kitchen. They never said anything, they didn’t need to, I could feel their want and longing for me to cook, bake again. Every time my eyes snagged on the disfigured tissues on their arm though, guilt suckered my heart.
‘It’s fine,’ they said.
‘I know it was an accident and I’ve healed since then.’
Their gaze held nothing but reassurance, love and understanding. The kind of reassurance that sought only to ease your pain, the kind of love that only came by once in life, the kind of understanding that sometimes never appeared in life. How could I have been so careless? If only I’d paid more attention... if it hadn’t been for Grandma, they could’ve—
I couldn’t finish the sentence.
‘The kitchen would throw a hissy fit worse than a Karen if I so much as walked in,’ I joked, my tugged up lips at odds with my lowered eyes.
A calloused hand warmed my cheek as a soft kiss echoed like a ghost, their beautiful eyes pulling back to meet my own. That love, that damned understanding, crushed me, shoving my heart down and down into a never-ending chasm. I couldn’t breathe.
‘You have me to cook for you. You’ve barely seen a lick of what Grandma’s taught me,’ they replied, smile poorly concealing their sadness.
They always did have a sharp eye, and they knew me too well.
They were too good to me.
But I know they thought the same of me. So for them, for myself, I had to do my best.
Age and care wore down and yellowed the pages of Grandma’s recipe book, bursts of attention to detail taking the form of hastily scribbled sticky notes and bright highlighted sections. Flicking to cinnamon apple pie, I glanced through the steps. Looked easy enough. Ignoring the sudden cold wave that washed my upper body at the jinx, I sorted the ingredients out, tossed the bags to the side and grabbed bowls, utensils and machinery. Just push through, and don’t think too much into it.
A floor dusted in flour, rubbish taken out thrice, and an intense questioning of how on earth people baked later, the oven timer finally went off. I prayed my fourth apple pie wouldn’t announce itself with SFX of smoke and a burning smell potent enough to send the alarm into a panic attack, then slipped on some oven mitts.
Tentatively, I tugged at the door, closing my eyes as its jaw dropped. Stupid, to close my eyes. Either way, I hovered away from the door, my head swinging left and right like a bobble head. I breathed in, my nose going warm with the overwhelming fragrance of cinnamon and apple. It was playful and comforting, different yet familiar. It smelt just like home. Just like them.
An overjoyed huff sounded from my left, and I spun around in surprise, tripping to a stand on a stray flour packaging. I’d wanted to finish with enough to clean up before they came back home, but I’d lost track of time. The grandfather clock that hung beside them scolded me, its arrows pointing glaringly at the six. Note to self, set an alarm for future.
‘For future?’ they asked, a hesitant joy lighting their face. I hadn’t even realised I’d spoken aloud, and I hated how the incident had affected me, and in turn, affected them.
‘I decided... it was about time. Th-that I bake again. Or cook.’
Damn. It felt like I’d been caught with my hand in the cookie jar.
‘You didn’t have to do that if you didn’t want to. What I said before still stands.’
You have me to cook for you.
Their head tilted slightly to the side, surveying the cheap, newly decorated kitchen. Slowly, either to not startle me or deep in some thought, they stepped forward. Noted Grandma’s recipe book. Noted the spice and apple rich scent, their nostrils flaring. Noting everything.
You’ve barely seen a lick of what Grandma’s taught me.
You’ve barely seen.
My mouth was unbelievably dry, and it was as though I was tearing glued together pieces of paper apart.
’You’re always sharing. Things, memories, emotions. Food has always been so important for your family. That’s how you share life. How could I bear to stand aside and just watch?′
I’ve said so much, yet not enough. But they know where I came from and how much I meant what I said. A breathless and wondering love gazed at me as they pulled me into an overpowering, strong, sharp bitter intoxicating aroma. With their embrace, I was blanketed by turmeric, chilli powder. Cayenne teased my tongue. Cumin tickled my nose. Cinnamon kissed my heart. A tenseness I hadn’t realised I had, eased itself into their body warmth, their muscle supporting a lightening weight. Hard, but soft. Fierce, but gentle. A taker, and a giver. Just—
‘I’ll help you after I take a shower. The apple pie should be cooled off by then,’ they said, a kiss sending tingles through my cheek before they pulled back.
‘No. Take it easy. I’ll pamper you tonight, and we can do something together later.’
‘Hmm, later then.’
The promise of countless hours spent baking, cooking in the kitchen together, played vividly like a movie, and I couldn’t stop the wide smile that overtook my lips. Their fingers caressed my arm, goose bumps prickled, like needles dancing on my skin, I drew them closer, nestling into the crook of their neck. Their cinnamon-y warmth.
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