The bell on the door tinkles and is quickly followed by the familiar taptap of expensive high heels.

Not lifting my eyes from the piping bag, I greet her with nonchalance. “Morning, Mrs Roseberg.”

“Hello, Emily.”

The tone, as sharp as the diamonds that pierce her lobes, makes me stiffen despite being used to it.

Craning her long neck over the display case, she asks, “What’s that you’re working on? Is that buttercream?”

Mousseline buttercream,” I correct. “It’s for the Davis’s 50th anniversary.”

“What’s the difference?” she asks with an interest her surgically enhanced features can’t mimic.

“It has a richer, more luxurious texture.”

When the pink of her tongue meets the expertly drawn-on lips, the core of me involuntarily clenches.

The first time we met, she came to the shop to order a cake for her daughter, Mitzi’s, Sweet 16. Two weeks later, she was back for a baby shower. After that, it was under the guise of a bat mitzvah that she pushed me into the back cooler and mashed her tits against mine. The aggressiveness would have been offensive if I hadn’t experienced such a visceral reaction to the lost animal look in her eyes.

Haughtily, she clicks her tongue. “I don’t have all day, Emily. I have important things to do.” Though there’s an underlying hint of desperation.

With a nod, I lay the piping bag on my work table and walk to the back cooler. Behind me, the tap of her heels follows and stops when the cooler door closes behind.

“Oh, Emily.” Her eyes widen and glaze. The mask falls. “You’ve outdone yourself this time.”

I know. The patterns are intricate. The peaks crisp and high. Inside, the cake is delicate and spongy with layers of oozing apricot and fig.

It’s three feet high. Because size does matter to Mrs Roseberg.

Wasting no time, she unzips the back of the black pencil skirt and shimmies it down her narrow hips. Beneath her sex is smooth and slightly red, telling me she waxed for the occasion. Hurriedly, she unbuttons the white silk top and removes the lace camisole beneath. Her breasts are tiny and pert. Her body is toned, courtesy, I’m sure, of a personal trainer.

While my cakes aren’t sexual to me, I’m affected by how aroused they make her feel. Historically, I have no interest in sex—I find it an awkward non-event—but there’s a clenching between my legs as I watch her straddle, lower, and mash into the tower of cake. It grows with the lowering of her eyes; the way she rubs the frosting over her nipples and between her legs. It’s in the little hitches of breath and whimpers she makes as she rides.

I imagine it’s like being told you have the biggest and best dick in town.

When the cake is demolished and she’s done scooting across the floor, I hand her a towel as a courtesy. Out of breath, she wipes the frosting from between her legs, her breasts, and bottom.

I often wonder where she stops to wash it all off before she goes home?

“Did you enjoy your cake, Mrs Roseberg?”

The question is caustic. It’s meant to be. Shame is as important as presentation and texture.

“It was a bit dry,” she retorts. “Next time make it moist and use that mousseline buttercream.”

Though when she hands me the envelope of cash, she avoids my eyes.

Thoughtfully, I listen to the retreating tap of her heels and then the tinkle of the shop bell.

Later, I’ll go home and think about her lying in bed next to Mr Roseberg and wonder if he’s ever met the sad animal living inside her eyes.

I grab the mop and get to cleaning up.

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If It Was History

We would hold their hands as we walked in the park. Catching sight of the swings, they would break free from our grasp and into a run. Reaching them, we would stand behind. And when they pointed to the carved stone on pedestal and asked what it was and what it meant, we would tell them about a war a long time ago.

Over the color of skin and how we won.

And when we asked Can you imagine that? they would shake their heads and say, No. I can’t. 

And we’d laugh at the nonsensical ways of long-ago people, as our thoughts turned to how close we could get them to the sky.

If you were my daughter

I would say . . .

They will tell you what you are supposed to be. How you are supposed to look. How you should feel and act.

Their expectations will overwhelm you.

But at some point—because you are going to be one of the lucky ones–you’re going to question it.

Because if all they say is true:

Why are they pushing so hard?

Why would they need to?

And why is what they expect the source of such struggle and angst?

You’ll try at first. Because, of course, you will.

You will attempt to re-mold the shape and size of your body. You will wear clothes that feel uncomfortable and tight; shoes that cause your feet to blister and swell. You will spend thousands of dollars and hours on beauty products that promise flawless skin; shiny, soft hair; smoky, mysterious eyes; and lips such a shape and color they will cause men to imagine how they would feel wrapped around their dick. You will declare war on hair in places where hair just should not be.

And that’s just the physical aspects of the job.

You will need to be naturally maternal, as a yearning will manifest itself deep inside your womb at the exact, right age telling you you were born to become someone’s mother. Someone’s wife. A sex goddess. An amazing cook. The keeper of the perfect house.

While you may find you have a natural talent for some of these things, you won’t for others. And that will make you feel guilty and like there’s something wrong with you.

But realize, it’s all a part of The Great Big Lie.

Squint your eyes. Take a closer look: the demand of you is on what; not who.

The strange dichotomy is when you stop focusing on the idea of being the right kind of woman and on being the right kind of person is when you become.

That’s the source of the magic, power, and mystique that is uniquely you.

Oh, and by the way, that’s going to piss some off.

And that is how you will know you’ve arrived.