I appraise the two chocolate cakes in their round baking pans. Taking a kitchen knife I pry the side from one of the tins, it is rock hard. I prod the center and the knife sinks into a swampy middle. Irritation rises in my chest- and angry thoughts whisk through my head: Chuck it in the garbage. But then there’ll be no birthday cake. But if I bring it everyone will know I messed up the minute they taste it. This is going to be bad, this whole party idea is a ginormous mistake. They don’t like me -they think I’m a weirdo – a total spazz.
This savage inner-dialogue forces my hand and very ungently the cake breaks apart. Now what do I do? It’s a total mess! I can’t bring this. Panic subsides a bit when I focus at the second tin. Like it’s devastated twin it is too hard and too soft all at once, but at least it is whole, I think bitterly. Not taking another chance I decide to leave it in the round baking tin. I shellack it with some of the runny cocoa frosting I just mixed up, trying to smooth out the unpleasant cocoa rocks in the process.
I’m at the beach lugging around 3 clunky shopping bags. My board shorts with big orange mangoes on it are loose around the middle and keep sliding down my hips. The girls are standing around in their bathing suits, and the boys are in a group looking at the girls out of the corner of their eyes. Marisa, the birthday girl and guest of honor, is yet to arrive with Gati, her best friend. The weather is warm but the sky is gray, the surf looks like dirty dishwater, and there is sand everywhere.
With nothing really going on Austin starts up: “Hey Giganta! You look like you have huge orange birth marks all over your arse!” The boys snicker, snortle, snigger in concert.
What am I doing? This was such a bad idea, none of the girls are even talking to me. I’m a dag. I look like a huge moron in these shorts. I briefly consider which would be worse- staying in the ugly dumb shorts and lame orange t. shirt or revealing my big boobs and fat thighs. I decide to keep my shorts and t shirt on.
And then Marisa arrives, because it’s a surprise party Gati’s hand is clamped over her eyes. They are both perfect little girls. Their cutoffs look cute and their chests are flat in their bathing suits and their legs are thin. Surprise! Everyone yells out.
“I thought we were going to The Drugstore”. Marisa rolls her eyes and pouts a bit when she sees we’re at the beach. There is no mistaking her disappointment. I messed up and I‘m a huge loser. What a fucking nerd, I will never be like them. I will never be in the popular group. What’s left to do but serve the cake? I take it out of the bag. Austin grabs it out of my hand, and tosses it over to Roddy who scoops up a handful of sand and sprinkles it almost daintily over the cake. As they play Cake Frisbee, Marisa and the girls make a plan to go to the Drugstore. The boys decide to go to Austin’s pool.
I gather my stuff and shove the shame-filled tears way down. “I love the beach!” a friendly voice announces from the surf. I focus in on Dotty. Why is she still here? How come she didn’t go to the Drugstore with the rest of them? But Dotty isn’t really part of the “in” crowd, more of a casual acquaintance to the powers-that-be. I am both glad and embarrassed to see her.
– Everyone left to go to the Drugstore. I call out.
“I know. They’re idiots. The beach is so much more fun than going to the Drugstore. The owner is such a mean dickhead!”
-Well, Marisa wanted her birthday party there, I guess? I say to Dotty as she plonks herself down on her beach towel.
“I hardly ever get the chance to go to the beach on my birthday, because it’s in September” Dotty looks totally cool in her sunglasses.
– My birthday is in September too, I’m going to be thirteen!”
“I’m on the 15th”.
-I’ll make us a cake to have together for our joint birthday? I offer her.
“Yum! I love anything chocolate” she accepts.
The cake before me on the counter is a dark thing of beauty. The warm fresh-baked chocolate aroma welcomes me back to the moment. I lightly press the firm center of the cake and note triumphantly the way it softly springs back to its smooth sloping shape.
It’s not a party unless there’s chocolate cake
I take out my phone and snap a picture- with it’s thick ganache glaze pooling splendidly on the white porcelain cake platter, I know they will love it, not be able to stop themselves from loving it, and will come back again and again.