WRITTEN BY BARBARA DYNES
Had I been over-ambitious in promising to bake our engagement cake?
“Face it, Sam; you were an idiot to agree to do it,” I mutter to myself, as I drive to Katie’s house.
“Our Sam baking a cake; unbelievable!” hooted my cynical workmates, when they heard.
Truth is, I can’t refuse my lovely Katie anything. In a mad moment I’d told her that, as a kid, I loved cooking with Gran almost as much as I loved playing footie.
“Right, you can make our engagement cake!” Katie declared. “It’s too late to order a special one and yours will be more personal, like!”
Really? I stop at a crossing and watch a little girl with a bike go across; I bet even she could turn out more edible concoctions. I sigh. This meal tonight is to be really special. Katie’s parents have also invited my father, so Katie and I intend to announce our engagement. Hence my apology of a cake.
Had I forced myself to watch Bake Off on the telly, then there might not be such a “fake” cake sitting inside that box on the back seat. I’ve not bothered to anchor it down, hoping it slides to the floor, giving me an excuse for the goo inside.
I think back to disaster day. Afterwards, still surrounded by spilled flour, mucky pans and eggshells, I rang Gran, who lives in Ireland.
“You’d never believe the mess I’ve made of this cake, Gran!” I moaned, glaring at the monstrosity sitting on the kitchen table. “If you can imagine a huge Yorkshire pudding with a massive crater in the middle!”
“No time,” I said. Only a fool like me would have left it so late.
“Go and buy one.”
I know my Katie too well. “Personal” to her means personal. She’d be really hurt if I involved Mr Sainsbury.
Why did I assume baking would be like riding a bike? I think now; a skill waiting to be picked up at the drop of a cake tin? Even the strawberry icing I added looks like thick concrete, clinging in lumps to the cake’s hills and dales. The words Katie and Sam are unreadable and the chocolate I used for the two intertwined rings has oozed like thick tar. The rings now look more like handcuffs. An omen, or what?
I sigh. What will Grace, Katie’s mum think? I’m told she’d always secretly hoped her daughter would marry Neil, a great guy with even greater IT prospects. And Katie ends up with me: a happy-go-lucky, run-of the-mill bus driver.
But I have managed to win Grace over. The footie helped – Grace is as passionate as I am about it and we’re already going to matches together. Katie is no fan of the beautiful game.
I rang Katie last night, intending to come clean about the “Yorkshire pudding” fiasco. But I chickened out of even mentioning it; just warned her to expect a bit of a hitch tonight. After which she sounded strained. Maybe she guessed?
I turn into Katie’s drive, deciding to leave the cake in the car till later. I don’t want the air turning blue too early in the evening. Katie can get somewhat fiery…
At dinner I sit next to my fiancée-to-be, who looks gorgeous in a new green dress. Dad, too, has made a real effort. He’s dug out a tie, would you believe – a kipper-like one in bright red. A keepsake, I guess, from when he married my late mum.
Things seem to be going fine; Dad tells his favourite jokes and I compliment Grace on the delicious chicken casserole. But my Katie seems a tad quiet…
After the meal, I brace myself and go out to get the cake. Katie follows me.
Sam, is everything OK?
“Sure – I’m just fetching the cake.“
Her anxious expression changes to surprise.
“Oh! Is there one? Last night you said something about a hitch. When you came in empty-handed earlier…” Her voice cracks. “I thought you’d had second thoughts about the engagement.”
I stare at her in disbelief.
“Second thoughts? Of course not!”
Katie’s face lights up and I squeeze her hand tight, apologising for misleading her.
Later, we announce our news amid cheers and Katie proudly shows off her ring. Then I take a deep breath and lift the cake from the box. Everyone gawps.
“There’s my hitch, Katie,” I explain gruffly. “I’m really sorry!”
Katie stares, frowning. Suddenly she begins to laugh; that bubbly high-pitched laugh I’ve got to know and love. Dad and her parents join in.
“Tell me,” Katie giggles, wiping her eyes, “is that supposed to spell out our names? Good job you didn’t try writing Samantha in full!”
Katie and I cut the cake as best we can and everyone bravely samples it. I think of my lovely Gran – the only person who calls me Samantha. I shall send her a huge slice. Though if I say it myself, as Yorkshire puddings go, it doesn’t taste bad at all…
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