Saturday 18 June 2022

'Sugar' by Jeanette Sheppard

Mum is electric-whipping the sugar and the egg whites in a glass bowl, while I sit on the kitchen stool destalking strawberries, ready to palace-top the Pavlova — a Pavlova that everyone will say is so light, so perfect, a Pavlova that Mum and I are not allowed to eat because we swell up at the sight of anything sweet  — and when Mum’s finished whipping cream, I’m softly cheek-squeezed, told I’m not allowed to finger-swirl around the bowl, and Mum doesn’t lick the spoon, and neither of us will be allowed to eat the Pavlova when everyone trumpets it to the table at the house-warming, and Mum says: it’s best for both of us, we’re not naturally blessed with beach bodies, and I wonder why we came to a land of sand and sea where everyone loves Pavlova if our bodies don’t belong on beaches, and I think about Mum in the blue fridge light that I sneak-see every night, while I suck sherbet from two-cent-strawberry-chews taken from my secret stash under my rose-bud skirted dressing table, and now Mum ushers me to my room to slip into my spotted sundress before the doorbell rings, and after I’m dressed I watch from my room as Mum sashays in the black layered chiffon dress that she says lifts eyes away from the bumps she isn’t supposed to have, and my non-fat father, magicked from a place we never see, stands freshly minted and slick-haired with his short-sleeved brown arm outstretched on the mantle as if he’s lived in the sun forever, while Mum styles a bright pink smile as Australian accents glide through the front door, tanned arms cradle bottles of wine, false eyelashes flutter on ocean-coloured lids, and I stand behind, my stomach sucked in, my mouth still zinging with sherbet from two-cent-strawberry-chews.

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