Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: OVERLOAD (10/06/16)
TITLE: The Baker’s Guide to Love
By Lucy Steel
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She was nervous. Alice often baked when nervous - the rhythmic sifting and stirring helped calm her. Also, to transform a miscellany of raw ingredients into a neat, aromatic mass felt comforting - as if she were solving complex puzzle.
Today, Aliceâ€™s baking served a duel purpose. As well as steadying her nerves it was also the way she would win Jeffâ€™s heart.
Alice recently met Jeff at an Australia Day picnic hosted by her flatmateâ€™s work friends. Alice relished social gatherings, although she usually did the hosting. Her love of cooking and her easy conversation skills (â€śyou could talk underwater,â€ť her father once told her) gave her a natural talent for entertaining.
The picnic had turned into a heated cricket match between the Governance and Reporting teams (whatever they were). Alice, who normally hated cricket, had found herself unusually entranced by the game â€“ and, in particular, a tall, tanned wicket keeper. Afterwards, Jeff had chatted to Alice about his Australian animal rescue hobby. Sheâ€™d found herself uncharacteristically tongue-tied during the conversation, but hoped her emphatic smiles and nods made up for her lack of verbosity.
She would have another chance to demonstrate her charm and wit today, as Jeff was due in twenty minutes. The visit was ostensibly to discuss the animal rescue organisation Alice had expressed avid interest in. In reality, she hated Australian animals - a consequence of being chased by an emu at Featherdale Wildlife Park as a child. However, she was willing to feign interest to elicit that gorgeous smile of his.
Alice had just enough time to pour the mixture into a tin and place in the oven before the intercom rang. He was early! Flustered, she pressed the intercom button. â€śCome on up,â€ť she said, hoping she sounded cheery and nonchalant. Her heart raced as she ran to the hallway mirror, thankful sheâ€™d already done her makeup. She looked good â€“ her Maybelline thick-lash mascara had done its work.
She opened the door and momentarily went weak at the knees, before regaining composure. â€śNice to see you!â€ť she gushed, ushering him into her small lounge room.
They sat down and Alice motioned to the coffee table overloaded with sweet treats. â€śPlease take a scone? Or a mini cheesecake, Oreo cup-cake, caramel slice or rocky road? And there are three flavours of macaroonsâ€ť.
Jeff stared at the table. â€śWow. This looksâ€¦ incredible. Are we expecting others?â€ť
â€śNo, just us,â€ť Alice said happily.
She noticed Jeff looked rather confused and realised that the mountain of food may be slightly over the top. However, she dismissed the thought - if the way to a manâ€™s heart was through his stomach, surely the more food meant the quicker you reached it?
â€śSo, tell me about your animal, uh, stuff,â€ť she said, leaning in and putting her hand on her chin. â€śItâ€™s such a noble cause.â€ť
â€śWell, yes, itâ€™s very rewarding. Last week I rescued a baby possum. He was so scared he ran up my sleeve, the little critter.â€ť Jeff smiled at the memory.
â€śFascinating,â€ť said Alice, thinking she couldnâ€™t imagine anything worse.
Just then the oven buzzed â€“ the brownies!
She excused herself and tripped lightly into the kitchen as Jeff helped himself to a third macaroon.
She smiled as she took the brownie slab out of the oven and gently shook it onto the cooling tray â€“ things were going well! She decided to serve the brownies warm and went to cut Jeff a generous piece. She heard him call from the other room, â€śThis slice is amazing! Can I get your recipe? My girlfriend would love it.â€ť
Alice moved the knife a few centimetres left before cutting â€“ Jeff didnâ€™t need such a big piece after all, she decided.
Two hours, four caramel slices, three cup-cakes and numerous macaroons later, Alice sighed and surveyed the coffee table. Baked goods lay strewn unevenly across serving plates, like a decimated battle ground. Jeff had left soon after Alice had abruptly stopped cooing at his animal stories.
What on earth would she do with all this food? She bit into a scone and suddenly remembered the cute guy that had moved into number nine. Maybe the brownies would come in useful after all.
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