She should have done something with the cream. Beaten in a touch of sherry, swirled through mashed up blueberries. There were passionfruit and eggs. She could have whipped the whites, folded in the thick cream, made custard with the yolks and a generous knob of butter to make passionfruit flummery, the recipe from the Commonsense Cookery book they’d used at school. She had nothing from that place. The small battered suitcase she’d been dispatched with had contained no evidence she’d been to the school she’d left only the week before.
Her tattered copy cost fifty cents in Vinnie’s and was covered it in regal wallpaper, gold and silver, fine lines of grey and black. She whitened out the name, ‘Evelyn Lucas’ and carefully printed her own name, remembering the time she’d gotten an ‘F’ in writing. She and simple Kelly Doherty, whose lunch she pinched when she could, both got a ‘Fail’. Jane’s gang had found it hilarious until Libby pushed Jane’s head into the washbasin and gave her a Chinese burn.
The custard could have been spooned into her fine-stemmed crystal bowls or the tall parfait glasses; either would have suggested she’d gone to a lot of trouble. She could have dipped the edges into squeezed limes and then sugar. The marshmallows she kept hidden from her son could have been chopped and folded through crushed cashews and mandarin segments, a dash of Cointreau liqueur into the cream, sprinkled with grated dark chocolate from the block that teased her from the door of the fridge.
Melted chocolate with hazelnuts and a dash of the good brandy she’d bought him last Christmas, could be folded it into half of the cream. Crumbled fruitcake in the other half, to make layers, with golden syrup and brown sugar toffee swirled on top.
But that would have indicated a celebration, some joyous thing.
She tipped a tin of SPC fruit salad into four chipped cereal bowls and sloshed out-of-date cream, on the fruit. Cream dripped over the sides of the bowls, her fingers, down the front of her black cocktail dress and onto one of her fluffy goofy slippers. She plopped the desserts in front of them, on the plastic tablecloth she taken from the back table, the dust obvious amongst the Christmas holly and reindeer pattern.
He’d requested one of her special dinners for his boss and the wife, wanting to make an impression, a promotion looming apparently.
She’d made an impression. She, always quiet, always deferring to him, had interrupted constantly and then insisted on reading her mango poem while they struggled through their tinned prawn cocktails.
She’d served half cooked chicken swimming in lumpy gravy and congealed blood, the miss-matched cutlery unable to penetrate the hard vegetables.
This morning he’d been coldly polite when he’d informed her he was moving in with his new girlfriend, that it was too late to cancel the dinner but he expected she’d do the right thing.
That’s the funny thing about expectations.