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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Cooking or Baking (01/04/07)

TITLE: Cecilia's Baked Surprise
By Jan Ross


“Oh no! Don’t tell me!” Cecilia was frantic. “You didn’t turn the oven on, did you?”

The smoke detector was activated by smoke filling the kitchen. What would her mother-in-law think?


Cecilia and Josh were newlyweds. Having been raised in foster homes most of her life, this was the first time Cecilia ever felt part of a family—a >real family.

Cecilia tried hard to be a perfect housekeeper, always keeping their home neat and tidy. It had been a busy day with Church in the morning, dinner with the family and Church again that evening. Although the service ran a little later than usual that night, they went to the restaurant with their friends as usual.

It was late when they returned home. Cecilia quickly checked through the house to make sure all was tidy and headed to bed. The few dishes left in the sink could wait until morning.


“Josh! Wake up! Someone’s at the door!”

Josh opened his sleepy eyes looking at his bride and attempting to figure out what she was saying. Then he heard it, too. Someone was at the door. He quickly grabbed his robe and peeked out the upstairs window and saw his mother’s car.

“Josh! I’ve got dirty dishes in the sink. You go to the door—I’ll hide the dishes! Hurry up. I don’t want your mom to see them!” Cecilia bound out of bed in sheer panic.

“Honey, settle down, it’s ok. It’s no big deal—Mom will understand.”

“No, Josh, you take care of your mom—it will only take me a minute.” She ran downstairs toward the kitchen as Josh made his way to the front door.

“Hi honey! I know it’s early, but I made fresh cinnamon rolls and thought I’d bring some over for you guys. Your dad is out of town, so it’s a perfect chance to spend a little time with you both.”

Josh put his arm around his mom and welcomed her in.

“Oh, honey! Your house is always so neat. Cecilia is such a dear—I couldn’t have picked a better wife for you!”

“I know it would make Cecilia happy to hear you say that. She tries so hard to please you—she loves you.”

“Speaking of Cecilia, where is she? Is she still asleep?”

Cecilia quickly made her way back up the stairs without being noticed to brush her hair before making her appearance.

“No, Mom, she’ll be here in just a minute. You know her—everything has to be perfect.”

“Well, honey, you sit here and I’ll get the coffee started.”

Josh sat down and turned on the news while his mom headed toward the kitchen. She started the coffee and turned on the oven to preheat it.

Josh and his mom were sitting on the couch when Cecilia walked into the room to greet her early morning visitor. Pleased to see this woman who loved her and accepted her, she threw her arms around her and held her for a few moments. Her love was deeply genuine.

Lost in chatty conversation for a few moments, the time passed by quickly. Suddenly, Cecilia noticed her eyes were burning. The house was filling with smoke.

Looking at Josh for a split moment, fear suddenly gripped her heart. “Oh no! Don’t tell me!” Cecilia was frantic as she ran toward the kitchen. “You didn’t turn the oven on, did you?”

She opened the oven door. There were her unwashed dishes—charred and smoking; the plastic bowls melted on the oven floor.


Josh quickly grabbed the fire extinguisher and thoroughly sprayed inside the oven then ran to get a fan while his mom opened some windows.

With tears in her eyes, Josh’s mom turned and put her arms around Cecilia. “Oh honey, I’m so sorry! I just turned on the oven to preheat it. I never thought to look inside. You don’t have to hide dishes from me, you know. You’re perfect the way you are; I love you, my daughter.”

“I’m sorry. I just never wanted you to think I wasn’t good enough for Josh. I’ve never felt this kind of love before. I don’t want to lose you.”


Years have come and gone but the story of Cecilia’s baked surprise lingers on. It has become a tradition every time the grandchildren come. Cecilia bakes cinnamon rolls while Josh tells about his bride’s secret hiding place that’s no longer a secret.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 01/14/07
I truly enjoyed the main part of this story. I have to say that starting out with "the climax" then repeating it later confused me. I had to read it again to be sure it wasn't two separate instances. Your details and characterization were wonderful, though. A great read!
Sandra Petersen 01/16/07
I so very much relate to Cecilia's newlywed thoughts about what her husband's and mother-in-law's expectations were for her. Now, 26 years later I know better, but back then with a seemingly perfect mother-in-law (she could filet a herring and do so many other things very well) I thought I was a poor substitute. Then I realized I didn't have to be.

I wouldn't have capitalized the word 'church' unless it was part of a specific place name.

This line made me bristle: "I couldn’t have picked a better wife for you!” Did she pick Cecilia for her son?

The rest of the story, however, disarmed me when I realized these two women were already accepting of each other. When Cecilia realized her mother-in-law loved her for who she was, I was content.

You caught the tension of the new bride trying to fit in and be a good wife very well. And the part about Josh's mother bringing homemade cinnamon rolls, starting the coffee, and preheating the oven would have been daunting to any new wife. I remember the feelings. Great job!

Jennifer Wetter01/18/07
Being a newlywed myself what a wonderful story to read. My own family has never accepted my husband in to it, but he family has been so loving and warm to me. I see a reflection of my own dilemmas and struggles. Thank you.