June: Part 1
The thick aroma of sweet vanilla and coconut filled the large kitchen. June whisked together the ingredients for her husband’s favorite cake, smiling to herself as the batter churned velvety smooth. Baking was one of her true passions, though she never attempted the professional route. Thanks to the internet, June watched videos, read cooking blogs, and even scooped up free recipes on sharing websites. She took it all in, tweaking things here and there to her liking, making her the “Paula Dean” of the neighborhood.
“Have you tried June’s strawberry pie?”
“No, but her blueberry chocolate chip bread is to die for!”
People would rave at parties and family get-togethers about June’s divine creations, always causing her to smile bashfully while her plump cheeks turned pink. This was her forte, they would say. Probably the only thing keeping her husband interested these days, they would snicker behind her back. It’s true, in the ten years that she and Brad had been married, she had gained a little weight–perhaps more than a little….80 pounds to be exact. But what couple didn’t get comfortable after being together for so many years? Of course, Brad loved to play tennis, which kept him nice and trim, but June was always in the kitchen whipping up some sugary concoction instead of worrying about her figure. And, why should she worry? Brad said he liked a woman with some curves.
“Sweetie, those supermodels are all skin and bone! Nothing to grab onto!” He would exclaim, always giving her plump bottom a firm pinch, making her giggle.
Sex had never been a problem for June and Brad. They maintained their once a week routine, nothing too kinky since June was more of a modest girl, and Brad never seemed to complain. He would make love to her in a perfectly normal way, and when he finished, he would kiss her on the forehead and roll over, snoring in a deep sleep within minutes. And June would sigh with satisfaction at pleasing her husband, never much caring about her own pleasure. She never cared much for sex anyhow, but she understood its primal necessity for men and thus did her duty.
“You aren’t the prettiest girl, June,” her mother advised on June’s wedding day. “So, you’ll have to keep your husband happy in other ways. Men have needs you know. Lord knows your father was almost insatiable, but I did what I had to do, and look at me now! Married for 30 years to a spinal surgeon and living in a million dollar house. It’s not far off, Chipmunk. Brad will make partner one day, and you will have your own castle to rule over.”
June nodded and smiled sweetly, as she always did when she swallowed her mother’s insults. Even before she gained the weight, she had a round face with chubby cheeks that her mother insisted came from her father’s side of the family. June was nothing like her younger sister, Julie. Julie, who had high cheekbones, almond-shaped eyes, and a perfect little upturned nose. June knew looks weren’t her strong point, but she was more plain than ugly. She had her share of dating though since men adored her sweet personality and “agreeable” manner.
When Lucas Adams called her the night before the prom and said he wanted to go with Peyton Williams to the dance, she was “Agreeable” and waited to cry until after he hung up. When her English professor asked her to come to his office to discuss a paper she had written–but instead stuck his hand up her skirt, she was “Agreeable” and swallowed the shame and pain. Even when her boyfriend of 3 years left her for her best friend, then got engaged two months later, she was “Agreeable,” and even went to the goddamn wedding. She bought them a crystal vase from Neiman Marcus. Her best friend Sara raved about it for weeks.
After June was satisfied with the texture of the cake batter, she placed the whisk in her large, farmhouse style sink. She turned back around to the marble island in the middle of the room where her two round cake pans were greased and waiting. Her mint green mixing bowl–an expensive designer bowl that was given as a “because it’s Tuesday” gift, sat on the island as well. She opened the drawer to her right and pulled out a rubber spatula, picked up her mixing bowl, and carefully guided the batter into each round pan until both were even. She picked up each one and lightly tapped it as she turned it around in her hands to even the batter and reduce bubbles, a trick she picked up from one of the cooking shows she adored.
Agreeable, she thought. What a terribly mundane word for a terribly mundane person. What people really meant was weak. A doormat. A pushover. A boring, submissive little housewife. Maybe they were right about her before, but not anymore.
June opened her custom double oven and carefully slipped both pans inside. She set the timer and began to clean up the dirty dishes left from her creation. As the suds of bubbles cascaded down over the dishes, she started to scrub with a sponge, maybe a little too hard.
June had to make sure everything was clean and perfect for Brad. She wouldn’t want Brad to come home to a messy kitchen. What kind of housewife would June be if she couldn’t maintain such a beautiful home? Of course, their maid, Guadalupe, was in three times a week to do more of the heavy lifting. However, June insisted on the simple day-to-day tasks. It showed Brad how grateful she was for all of his long hours at the office; the weekend business trips out of town, the stress he endured at court and endless meetings with clients.
It was just last Thursday, his thirty-fifth birthday, that he called and told her that he would be stuck at the office all night. Their biggest client was facing some white collar crime, and it would mean big money for the firm. He had a deadline and couldn’t break away.
“But Brad, honey, I’m baking you a birthday cake–your favorite! French vanilla Coconut!” June pleaded. “I haven’t seen you all week, and it’s your birthday!”
“I know, Chipmunk,” he cooed. The nickname he delightfully picked up from her mother. “But this is too important. I’m so close to making partner; I can taste it. Once this is done and over with, we can take a nice trip somewhere. How about Paris? You loved Paris last year, all those pastries and smelly cheeses. A whole two weeks there, what do you think?”
She sighed. She was disappointed but immediately felt guilty for that feeling. Brad was working so hard, and he wanted to make her happy. So what if he worked seventy hours a week for the last few months–and was nothing more than a glimpse of an Armani suit in the morning. He deserved a wife who could understand. And, she did love Paris.
“That sounds wonderful,” June conceded. “I’ll have to go shopping for some new clothes for the trip, especially a new hat! I can’t be seen in Paris without a new hat.”
“There you go, Chipmunk. Anything you want,” Brad said. She could hear the smug satisfaction in his voice. “Save me a piece of cake? No one makes a better cake than you.”
“I’ll put it in some Tupperware for you to take to the office,” June said.
“Perfect. I can’t wait. Goodnight Chipmunk,” he said, before quickly hanging up.
She looked at her cell phone as the call disappeared and Brad’s picture disappeared, leaving just her home screen. She stood in her dining room for a moment, the smell of coconut wafting from the kitchen. For the entirety of their relationship, June had always done as she was told. Brad wore the pants; June ironed and folded them. But, what if just once she disobeyed a little? Had she ever done so?
June bit her thin bottom lip as she pondered. Had she ever been spontaneous? No, of course not, that’s not who she was. In fact, she was “June the reliable doormat.”
Maybe it’s time for a change.
June had no idea why this night, after so many years of repetition, she decided to surprise her husband with some birthday cake at the office. She wouldn’t stay long, just enough time to sing him a happy birthday, share a quick slice of cake, then be on her way. What could it hurt? Even if he is mildly annoyed at being distracted from work, he would forgive her once he took that first bite.
That settled it. June was going to be “June the spontaneous,” just for one night. She quickly changed into her favorite blue dress and fixed her hair and makeup. Within minutes, the cake was ready. She cut two pieces and promptly slid them into Tupperware and closed the lid. Her heart was beating fast.
How exciting; Brad will be so pleased!
June slipped into the driver’s side of her cherry red Mustang, careful to set the cake in the passenger seat. She grasped the wheel of her car and smiled.
I’m coming, Brad!
The engine revved, and she peeled out of their long driveway, perhaps a little too fast. Her adrenaline was pumping now. June couldn’t wait to see the look on her husband’s face.
Typically, the commute to Brad’s office was at least thirty minutes, but she made it there in twenty. June didn’t know what came over her, but the impromptu behavior was intoxicating. At that moment, she would normally be sipping her chamomile tea and watching some silly game show on tv. She’d be tucked into bed with her silk pajamas, and finishing the evening with a few pages of a Nora Robert’s book. The perfect ending of the night before drifting off with thoughts of a handsome dreamboat. The dreamy hunk would whisk her away to a romantic beach by moonlight.
June glanced up at the night sky, stars faintly glowing. Was it wrong to fantasize about another man? Surely not if he was fictional! What would Brad think?
As she neared the parking lot of Brad’s building, June felt the heat in her chubby cheeks. This was it; she couldn’t wait! June parked the car and grabbed her cake, swiftly trotting to the door, her heels clicking loudly on the pavement. The main door was closed by seven p.m., but Brad had given June a spare key for emergencies. She balanced the cake in one hand as she reached into her Chanel purse and snatched her keys. Once she found the office key, the adventure was on! She almost giggled with excitement as she unlocked the door and headed for the elevator.
It was a short ride to the fifth floor, and as soon as the doors opened, June strolled down the hall towards Brad’s office. Everything was dark, except the ambient glow of yellow coming from under the door to his office. She slowed her pace, and, grinning broadly, tiptoed towards the glass window. The blinds were down, but slightly open.
A soft, feminine laugh floated from inside….