A blizzard, a gourmet chef, no custody, no visitation

It was a job, she told herself sternly as she used the finest tweezers to pick up the curls of white chocolate so thin that they glowed under the LED spotlight above the counter. She had already spent over three hours on the cake, an elegant confection of mocha layers, crunchy almond and nutmeg light as air whipped cream, airy froth of French roasted Java beans with white and dark chocolate shavings. The cappuccino craving crowd would adore the chic presentation, she knew the tiny touches of spilled sparkling cinnamon and chocolate powders, carefully moulded iPhones with air sprayed Instagram pictures, and scattered emoji buttons would be appreciated. She was good, actually she was a genius, known for her creations, and the resort was lucky to have her. Her time was booked up to two years in advance, only the most planned and persistent customers were able to enjoy having her make the cake.
She sighed as she stretched her back and rotated her head, the hours of painstaking work had left her muscles tight and strained. The large bay window was already edged with fluffy white snow, the ground disappearing rapidly under a pristine layer billowing in the wind. In another hour, the roads would be impassable, she knew, and the resort would be cut off, isolated in its breathtaking gorgeous scenery. The guests for the sweet sixteen party were already checked in, so there were no worries about stranded customers. Soon, close to thirty girls, with their parents, would traipse into the decorated ball room to celebrate. She loved the sweet sixteens and the graduations, those were the parties she enjoyed booking. To be a part of the celebration, to see the love and care lavished by the parents, the anticipation and excitement of the young ladies and gentlemen, the perfect worlds of opportunities and dreams come true.
Her watch beeped discreetly, and she headed automatically towards the locked cupboard in the corner of the kitchen. The pill organizer was very high tech, it recorded every time she opened and removed tablets, and transmitted it over wifi to her doctor. Expensive, but well worth it, for her life without the medication was a nightmare of hallucinations and mania, she knew she could not miss even one dose. It had taken years before she was correctly diagnosed and then settled into treatment, her ailment so rare that it had been documented as the ninth such case in the world. She had been stable for years, once the disease was controlled, her creative artistic mind was able to range free and her quiet organized focus allowed her to learn the best techniques. She had made her peace with her past, tumultuous school years followed by a disastrous marriage in college doomed from the beginning, the very bright energy he had fallen in love with ended up as the cause for divorce. He had true compassion and regret in his grey eyes even as his lawyer had adamantly insisted she was not fit to be a mother. She cleaned up her workable, and checked on other details and then left to shower and get dressed. When people paid that much for a birthday cake, they expected to meet the beautiful chef who had created it.
He stood next to his daughters, receiving the guests, smiling warmly, pride and love evident in his eyes. The girls looked beautiful in their cream dresses, like their mother, and he felt that clawing pang of sorrow once again. They were so excited that their smiles lit up the room, reaching out to greet each guest with unselfconscious grace. It had been hard but he had set aside his own disappointments and raised the girls just as she had said she would, with confidence in their characters, kindness for others and excitement for their life and adventures ahead. It had left little room for romance or even friendship in his own life, but then he knew his heart was already given away.
As the clock struck ten, the lights were dimmed, and four young men, part of the wait staff, carried the cake with lighted candles down the stairs. The guests sighed in gushing amazement as the tray was gently set on a decorated table at the head of the room. Cameras clicked and voices giggled, the girls clustered around and oohed and aahed, pointing out details. He heard none of that. He could only look helplessly up at the woman slowly descending the staircase in a deep maroon gown, her hair caught up in a jeweled clip in the shape of a chef’s hat. He remembered the slope of her shoulders, the curve of her hip, the lines that crinkled her eyes when she smiled, and he moved towards her, the center of his love, his heart.
©alka