A week later, The memories choked Jade as she fell asleep. The darkness managed to hold onto her, sinking its claws into her skin. She tried to shake it off, to stop the roll of the memory film that was her past from pulling her into the abyss. She pulled air into her lungs hopelessly urging them to fill to expand and replace the smoke-filled images that haunted her for the past nine years. It was hard work and Jade was at sea with her thoughts, reliving everything she ran away from, moment by moment until her body shut down, her breathing labored and her pillow soaked from the tears she shed.
Desperation. It’s a catalyst, a changer. It gives those living in fear the courage to get up and change their fate. It gave Jade the strength to become the master of her life. No longer a victim of circumstances. Years of hiding under her bed, covering her ears to silence the violence erupting all around her. You’re Next was the message being repeated to her. You’re turn is coming and there is no way out. So at 14 she knew what she had to do: Become invisible and save every penny. Her 15th birthday was the day she dreaded, it was the day she’d be taken on a “test-drive” by her step-father. She marked down the days; in order for her for her plan to work she gad to cut it close, leaving a few days prior. Her family was waiting for her turn with bated breath. Her step-father would thank her mother for providing such beautiful daughters for them to live off; her mother would nod regally like it was her due. She knew the morning her mother came into her room face overdone with maquillage and freshly painted nails, the scent of hairspray and vintage cigarettes like a second skin encasing her when her mother hugged her it was awkward and burned Jade’s nostrils and raised bile in her throat in disgust, that she would be leaving that day, before nightfall and not look back. She had saved enough money to get far enough away that they wouldn’t want to go through the trouble of looking for her. She wished she could take her sisters with her, but they were dead inside; broken. That was what she would look like if she stayed. So being the youngest she worried about herself from now on. So she concentrated on her plan, stopped washing her face and purposely forgot to shower until her hair tangled and crusted. Her mother would “tut-tut” and tell her she wouldn’t get good tips looking like a sewage rat but she had good bones and her mother promised she would scrub her until she shone.
It didn’t count as sleep, it was a place between a coma and lights-out. Waking startled and shivering hours later with the sun rise, she took a moment to remember where she was. The warm rays drifting through her curtains assured her that it was just a dream. She padded inter bathroom and took a hot shower, the water warming her all the way down to her weary bones. She eyed her aromatherapy oils lining the bathtub and chose lavender to soothe her and wrapped herself in her towel, she then sat on her bed and dried herself off. The light reflected off the bottle as she set it on her night stand, her hands shook as she held her warmed massage bowl and poured ten drops of the gold-tinged liquid with an ounce of clear sweet almond oil then swirled her fingertips through, warming the contents of the porcelain bowl and mixing them into a healing liquid. She scooped some onto her palms and rubbed them onto her skin, starting with her arms, massaging its magic and spreading it over her body, she rubbed the soreness from her neck. Taking her time while concentrating on pressure points and hidden aches, she stopped at her chest circulating her palm on the point above her heart trying to reach where it ached the most, she moved onto her belly and legs, her soles tingled and she moved her hands over them circulating her blood stream and feeling the effects of the oil rushing through her. She finished with a few drops on her temples and behind her ears. The aroma calmed her nerves and chased away the anxiety and stress. She hummed to herself as she massaged, a relaxing hymn she heard sung by the gypsy living next door. She pulled on her softest shirtdress and brushed her long tresses then French braided them. As she sat at her dresser she catalogued her face while rubbing lotion onto it. Her reflection blinked back at her, a vision of beauty masking the pain that shone in her eyes. I will not cry today she resolved and smiled at herself, feeling empowered and stronger with every passing day gave her will the boost to keep moving and shake off the remnants of darkness away. A few swipes of mascara and eyeliner on her eyes and sheer lipgloss accentuating her full cherry lips and she was ready to leave for work. Her starry blue leggings were hanging off the foot of the bed, she pulled them over her long legs and put on her favorite flats. Slinging her leather bag over her shoulder she walked out of the apartment feeling alive and new.
Warmth engulfed her as she entered the bakery; vanilla and chocolate filled her senses and awakened her appetite. She found Jeremiah -the baker- covered in flour at the counter making drool-worthy pastries. She sat on the counter opposite and concentrated on the movement of his hands as he rolled out the dough onto the warm marble top. Mesmerized by the soothing hum of early morning singing the place to peaceful wakefulness. The sound of flour tossed onto the dough, the butter brushed onto its surface, the roll of the rolling pin gently coaxing the dough into its lightness. The bubbling gooey goodness simmering on the stove sending wafts of blueberry vanilla aroma into her lungs. The gently rays drifting in from the picture windows glistening onto the dough. It was the part of the day she loved the most, the time she felt at peace with the world. They fell into this rhythm Jeremiah and her, she would arrive super early to watch him prepare the delicacies of the day and she would watch and clean after him. They were the siblings that shared no blood. He picked up the cutter and sliced into the soft buttered sheet. He had porcelain bowls brimming with filling, organized from tooth-achingly sweet to heart-warningly savory; orange cinnamon, peach and mascarpone, chocolate ganache, fresh-mint mixed in chocolate chips, strawberry jam, blueberry lavender jelly, feta cheese mint mix, cheddar cheese with diced tart pear, creamy spinach and cooked spicy chicken and cashews. Jade tasted them each resisting the urge to moan in delight as each flavor burst into her mouth, sending waves of ecstasy throughout her body. Jeremiah winked at her as She went back to her perch and continued to watch him scooping morsels of heaven onto each strip, then rolling them into perfect crescents. Jeremiah glanced over at Jade as he worked and saw that she was somewhere far away, smiling at her expression; he knew how good he was and was proud of it, having graduated at the top of his class in France at Ferrandi, The French School of Culinary Arts, in both the French Pastry and the French Cuisine courses, he then interned at a pastry boutique run by a Family that had bloodlines running back to King Henry I of France which concentrated on classical French pastries, creations he had only read about in literature and couldn’t imagine would appear under the ministrations of his mentors from swirling creams as light as clouds and puff pastry that melted on the tongue. Jeremiah then moved onto chocolates and interned at Monsieur Jean-Paul Hevin’s shop where he dived into the world of chocolates, it was Willy Wonka’s factory for adults; ganaches made to entice, rich truffles that soothed the deepest hurts filled silver bowls, bars, chocolate based macaroons and pastries meant for indulgence lined trays on the displays. By the end of a long day there wasn’t a scrap left. Customers had waited patiently to buy the treats they’d share with loved ones or enjoy by oneself on cool parisian nights next to the fire wrapped around an enchanting book.
From his experience in the world of exquisite food, he discovered that it was a form of therapy for the makers and the indulgers, a way to revive the senses and escape reality into a world of flavor and joy. He understood that for Jade; watching him every morning prepare delectable treats was helping her heal. She never told him her story but he gave her the care and space she needed for her to open up. He finished with the last croissant and lined them up on the greased trays into the oven, he checked the timer then turned to Jade.
“Hi, Honey” he smiled; she was lost in her thoughts again and he wished he could help take away the sadness in her eyes but somehow knew it wasn’t going to be him, so he accepted that fact and managed to become her brother. Breathing deeply he started clearing the counter tops and wiping them down.
“Hey, I’ll do that” She said silently from behind him.