Mornings at the bakery were perfect. Light filtered in through the leaded glass windows in the back, the bars casting curved shadows on the rolled-out pastry. It was quiet — even the morning commuters were not up, yet, and only occasional birds trilled and squawked in the alley. It was on one of these mornings that Amy decided it was time to eat one of the pastries.
It would seem natural for a baker to test her own wares. But for her, sitting down to her lemon tart was a courageous act.
Baking had been a cover, at first. She had thought if she was always serving up elegant pastries, no one would notice that she didn’t eat them herself. She pushed seconds on others, and sipped tea, slowly, to fill the void. And it had worked.
After a time, she grew to enjoy the process for its own sake. It was therapeutic to work the dough with her hands, to beat eggs and torch meringue. She took strength from this self-denial. She allowed herself to savour the smell of cakes fresh out of the oven. She imagined the taste and texture in great detail — to the point that she actually felt she was enjoying it.
As a child, this had never been a problem. She had sat on the counter in the dawn light, measuring out flour for waffles while her mother sang and stirred. But in middle school, something had shifted. She began to notice the extra weight hanging around her thighs, her stomach. She played with it in her fingers, pretended to snip it off. She pressed fingertips into her dimpled flesh, interested and ashamed. Wasn’t cellulite for middle-aged women? She began to surreptitiously throw away her bagged lunches.
In high school, she took pride in her self-control. She invested in huge mugs and drank tea at mealtimes. She felt a delirious joy when she could finally trace the outlines of her ribs — as though her true self was emerging from a thick, repugnant coat.
She had trouble focusing in class, and her grades started to slip. She began baking treats to distract her friends and family. She brought them to class, where hungry students gobbled them up with the characteristic zeal of teenagehood. But the compliments went beyond the usual thank yous. Teachers requested her recipes. Classmates began commissioning boxes as gifts for their parents. She developed a logo, and packaging.
And so, when her friends were packing for universities across the country, she took the bus to the Downtown Eastside, where she had gotten a job in a bakery kitchen. Her parents were disappointed.
But mornings at the bakery were perfect. And the light, and the silence, gave her time to think. And so, at 5am on a Tuesday morning in August, she sat down with a tiny tart on a china plate, and she took a bite.