I wanted to run a fork through the thick layer of frosting that encased the cake our mother had baked that morning.

She’d gotten out of bed two hours earlier than usual, hours before dawn, and gotten the cake into the oven while my brothers and I breakfast at the kitchen table. My brother Paul had tapped me under the table, gently kicking his foot against my shin a few times, almost absent-mindedly, and I’d looked over my bowl of cereal at him, wondering if he were going to stop before a bruise appeared. Our brother Simon had eaten his toast while standing up next to the table, too antsy to sit down even early in the morning. He’d shuffled from side to side as he munched along, and we’d avoided each other’s eyes in order to dodge the responsibility of asking Mom about the cake.

The rich chocolate aroma of our kitchen stayed with me all day, even as I ran and frolicked through the woods at recess as we played Kings and Creatures, and when Simon and Paul and I got home that afternoon we stood in a line along the kitchen counter, staring at the cake, not even jostling one another.

Our mother came into the kitchen to see what the quiet was all about. She clucked her tongue. “Wait till Grammom arrives,” she sighed, and shooed us out of the kitchen.

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