The Loneliest Day

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The phone rang, Jen tutted and abandoned the cake batter she had been mixing to answer it. It was probably a cold caller and she should just let the answer machine get it but she had finally got month old baby Louis down for his afternoon nap and didn’t want anything disturbing him.

‘Hello?’ Jen said into the phone.

‘Hi, it’s only me,’ her husband, Mike spoke, ‘I tried your mobile. I thought you might be a sleep.’

‘No,’ Jen replied with a sign, ‘I was in the kitchen.’

‘Okay. I just wanted to let you know I’m not sure what time I’ll be home,’ Mike explained, ‘there’s been a full office computer crash. Some idiot downloaded a virus yesterday and it’s super bad. I’m not letting anyone from the IT department leave till we’ve fixed it.’

‘I see,’ Jen uttered.

‘I’ll get something to eat on the way home. Don’t wait up for me, you still need to rest as much as possible.’

Jen nodded.

‘How is Louis?’ Mike asked.

‘Good. He’s sleeping now and he drink a full bottle before.’

‘Super! I got to go. Got the big boss at my throat. See you later, Honey.’

‘Bye,’ Jen said as the ring tone beeped in her ear.

She hung the phone up then stared at it. Why did things like that had to happened? Jen hugged herself and tried not to let the silence of the house get to her. Feeling a slight chill, she moved back into the warmth of the kitchen.

There in the bright lights, surround by cooking equipment and ingredients she could pretend that everything was normal again. Busying herself with finishing off mixing the cake batter, she was just about to divided it into the paper cupcake cases with a baby’s cry came from the living room.

Jen paused and tried not to rush off. Hoping, he would stop and settle again, She began scooping batter into the cases. She made it to four then give in and went into the living room.

‘I’m coming, Louis,’ she called.

Jen stood over pram then picked Louis up. She mumbled things to him and snuggled him. Then realised he needed changing and went and did that. Wrapping him up again, she tried to get him back to sleep but he seemed too awake. Placing him into the pram again, she wheeled him into the kitchen and parked him up.

Finishing dividing the cake mix, she placed the tray into the oven and set the timer. Washing her hands, she tidied everything up then wondered what to do next. On the counter was a pack of spaghetti and a jar of bolognese sauce, this evening dinner.

‘We won’t be needing this now,’ Jen said aloud and put them away, ‘I’ll have some soup instead and you can have some more milk.’

Louis made a moaning sound and Jen checked on him. He had taken both scratch mitts off again.

‘How do you do that?’ Jen wondered.

She put the mitts back on and wheeled him back into the living room. There, she put the TV back and set the channel to one with afternoon game shows as had became her habit. Picking up Louis, she sat cuddling him on the sofa. He dozed on and off then wanted feeding again.

The timer went off whilst she was feeding him and Jen, who hadn’t mastered juggling a baby and other things yet, had to place him down and go to get the cakes out. Louis started crying and her repeatedly tell him she was coming right back had no effect. Cakes out and left to cool, she washed her hands and hurried back to breast feeding him.

Settled again, Jen felt waves of tiredness drifting over her. Louis was a heavy, hot, soft bundle in her arms. The house was warmer now as the heating had come on. Rain was tapping against the windows and even though it was almost four o’clock, night had rolled in.

Realising, she should close the curtains, Jen got up careful and placed Louis in his pram again. She went over to the window and looked out. The street lamps were on and there were cars and people outside. A front door across the road was open, light pooling out and two people were stood in the glow.

A stab of loneliness hit Jen. Her hands slipped from the curtains. She had been ill throughout the whole of her pregnancy and had to have time off work sick then take early maternity leave. Luckily, she and Louis had got through the birth fine, but Jen was recovering and hadn’t left the house much in the last ten months now.

Family and friends had been regularly visitors throughout those months and Jen was grateful for those mornings and afternoons spent with in their company but the mid-week period was the worse time. It was just her and Louis for eight or nine hours whilst Mike was a work and everyone else was too busy.

Jen closed the curtains and tried to get rid of the dreadful feeling filling her up. She checked on Louis who was fast asleep then went into the kitchen. She ate one of the just cooled cakes and made herself a cup of tea.

To help focus herself, Jen thought about plans for the next few weeks. After her last hospital check up, she would started to go out more. She had seen a mums and babies play group advertised at a local church on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. There was also baby swimming on Monday and Friday mornings at the sport centre. On Wednesdays there was the lunch club at her work that she could take Louis too as well.

‘See? You are going to be fine,’ Jen said aloud, ‘just get better.’

Grabbing another cake and her cup of tea, Jen went back to the sofa. Adverts were flashing on the TV and Jen got ready to watch the next quiz show, feeling that little bit better.

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Toffee Apple Tasting

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There were a few things that sum up autumn perfectly and one of them is toffee apples. As you do the weekly shop and pick up the normal fruit and veg, you spot the boxes in the last section of the large open fridge. Strolling over, you see sticks coming out of red glossy apples and next to them are chocolate covered sprinkle apples.

Your mouth starts to water as you remember how sweet they taste. You select a few, knowing that next week they might not have any in. Then you carry on with your shopping list but you can’t wait to get home now. At the till, you hurry through packing and paying, keeping up a light chat with the small woman scanning your shopping.

You leave, go to the car and place everything inside then you drive slowly home because the rain is heavy and the wind gale force. When you get back, you see your family is still out. Your husband has taken the kids to a birthday party at a soft play centre. You unpack and twice have to draw yourself away from grabbing a toffee apple.

Once everything is sorted, you chose one of the bright red apples and curl up on the sofa with it. Enjoying the sound of the weather outside, you don’t turn the TV or radio on. You unwrap the treat, the plastic coat so loud as you twist it off. You breath deeply, smelling the crisp apple and sweet, sweet treacle toffee.

You turn the stick slowly, marvelling at the perfect, thick toffee and wondering how did they get it so good. Your own attempts at making toffee apples drifts into you mind, but you shake them away now isn’t the time to reflect on your failures. You bring the apple to your lips and began nibbling at the lip of toffee on top.

A blast of sticky sugar hits your tongue, you shut your eyes and moan softly in pleasure. You nibble more, feeling like you can’t get enough now you’ve started. Then you hit the rock hard toffee and cold apple layers. You go more slowly, careful of your teeth. When you finally bit into the apple, the sweet and softness of it goes perfectly with the toffee as if they were made for each other.

You carry on eating, rolling in the happy feelings, until all the toffee is gone and you are almost at the core of the apple. Saddness creep in under the sugar rush. You wish there was more… You lick your lips, feeling sticky as you look at the apple core.

The sound of car pulling up on the driveway shakes you out of the pleasure. You hear car door and voices; your family is home. Spring up from the sofa, you put the apple core, stick and plastic wrap in the bin and wash your face.

The front door opens and you fight to keep down the sugar rush as you greet your family. They must never know.

Village Bakery

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Every morning, Jenny got up and went to her family’s bakery. Always the first to arrive, she tied on a clean pale blue apron over her black pants and white blouse then set about the morning tasks. Firstly,  she took the now clean aprons out of the washing machine and hung them up on the line in the little yard. The sun was just coming up and there was only the sounds of birds to be heard.

Secondly, she checked the stock rooms and made a list of everything that needed re-ordering then Jenny placed that notepad on her grandpa’s desk for him to see. There was no need for her to clean anything as her grandma and mother tided when they closed then again before they opened.

Tying back her short chestnut brown hair and washing her hands, Jenny went to the back kitchen and the bookcase of recipe books. Even thought she knew how to make everything the bakery sold with her eyes shut, she still liked the comfort of the big, overused books. Selecting one which was all in her great-grandmother’s handwriting, Jenny placed it on the book stand and flipped through the pages.

Grabbing the ingredients, she began to make a few different loafs of bread. It didn’t really matter what kinds they were because the second they were on the shop’s shelves they would start to be bought. Having mixed, divided and put the additional ingredients in to the batches, she let all the dough proof.

At that time, other family members began arriving; Jenny’s parents and grandparents. Greeting each other, they all began their morning tasks. Her mother and grandma cleaning everything, her grandpa going in his office to do paperwork, her dad coming to help with the baking.

As the sun fully rose on another picture perfect summer day, the villagers and tourist started awaking. The lovely aroma of freshly baked bread filled the warm air. The bell above the bakery door tinkled and the first customer arrived. Jenny smiled as she heard an old man’s voice asking what bread there was this morning.

Her grandmother began answering as her father pulled a tray stacked with white and brown loafs out and carried it into the shop. Jenny breathed in deeply, shutting her eyes. There was no better job in the world she decided.

Toffee Apples

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As the crunch echoed in her ears, she felt like autumn had really arrived. The sweet, crisp taste of apple and hard toffee mixed on her tongue and filled her with a bliss that seemed unbeatable. She swallowed and had to hold back her moan of pleasure. This was almost as good as pumpkin pie or pumpkin spice latte. It was the essence of autumn wrapped up.

Bad Day Cure

food, nuts, raspberries

After a bad day her only cure was to make cake. There was something she drew from the measuring and mixing of ingredients; a calming, homely sense that she could never put her fingers on. Afterwards when the cake was in oven, she curled on the sofa, licking the bowl and spoon. Memories of being little sat in her grandmother’s kitchen and eating the cake batter filled her. She had never known her grandmother not to be baking something. The timer went off and she hurried to take the cake out of the oven. The warm smell of vanilla of hugged her and she felt better already.

Kitchen

Kitchen, Decoration, Kitchen Equipment

Nickie lived in kitchens because food was her passion and her dream was to be a top chief. Though some days when she was chatting away to whoever, she came across more like Cinderella or some old fashioned housewife.

Cake Makes It All Feel Better

Black Forest Cake, Cake, Gate, Cutting Of, Piece Of Pie

Stuffing her face full of cake wasn’t going to help. But right at this moment she didn’t give a damn.

Baker’s Remorse

Sweets, Cupcakes, Bun, The Cake, Cake, Chocolate

The smell of burning filled the kitchen. Sandy put her hands on her hips and looked down at the tray of blackened cupcakes. A small line of smoke was drifting upwards. Throwing down the oven gloves, she let out a loud growl and pulled her hair out of the bun. Shiny, slightly damp ginger locks tumbled down her shoulders and back.

The phone rang, breaking the muted stillness around Sandy.

She ignored it and turned off the oven. Popping open the kitchen window, a freezing gale force wind swept inside, stealing away all the heat and smoke. Grabbing the oven gloves, she picked up the tray and dumped the destroyed cupcakes in the bin. Then abandoning the tray and gloves, she walked into the hallway and snatched the phone up.

Listening, she heard a call centre’s beeping break off and a crackling voice asked to speak to her.

‘Depends what you want,’ Sandy mumbled into the phone.

‘We are doing a life style questionnaire and a price draw for a holiday,’ the clipped female Asian voice explained.

Sandy shook her head, ‘no thanks.’

Hanging up, she went upstairs and got changed for her very important meeting. There’s going to an uproar, she thought, and I don’t really have time to go to the shops now. Why did I agree to bring cakes anyway?

Sighing, she did the buttons on her blouse up and checked the time. If she left now, she could just make it to the supermarket. Mulling things over, she put on her high heels, gathered her things and got into the car. The dashboard clock, told her there was still time and Sandy decided it was better than no cake.

Starting the car, she drove to the supermarket and gathered a range of cupcakes, muffins, doughnuts and small cakes. Returning, she placed everything in the car, got in and drove off. Telling herself, she’d just say there’d been no time, she drove to her meeting and hoped the company heads and directors didn’t have sweet teeth.

Cooking Up A Storm (Part 5)

Monday morning dawned. My alarm rang in six am and feeling fully rested I got up and prepared for my day in the bakery. Leaving for work, Midnight followed me as he normally did. The cold crisp autumn air felt good on my face and I took in deep breaths. At the end of the street, we turned right and walked down into the high street. We passed the line of tall trees that marked the entrance to the woods. The wind shook loose the leaves and I felt myself being blown about too.

The town centre was empty and silent. A Halloween banner flutter above a pub doorway and the fountain splashed away to itself. I walked two minutes further down towards a one way road used only by buses and taxis, just before where my shop sat. The old three story white building did seem slightly out of place, but when you looked at the buildings – a bank, a pub, a chippy and a clothes shop- that where across the road, it did fit in as all the buildings in this section dated from the mid-twenties.

I dug out my keys and unlocked the door shutter. Pulling it all the way up, I unlocked the double locks on the front door and went in, a small bell tinkling above me. Flicking on the lights, I closed the door and turned to see Midnight rubbing himself against the corner of the drinks fridge. Shaking my head, I looked around the bakery. To my left ran the glass counter with its many currently empty shelves for displaying all the cakes and other sweet things. A smooth curve started off another glass counter which was split between hot food and sandwiches. To my right were three large fridges; one for cold drinks, the other for prepared sandwiches and the last for reduce priced things. A half a meter further along that wall was a narrow staircase with a white notice above reading Café seating upstairs. Next to the stairs a door marked staff only, kitchen.

I walked over to the door, unlocked it and let myself in. The kitchen smelt faintly of sugar, spices and bread. Dumping my bag and coat on a side table, which wasn’t really used for anything, other than to hold the kitchen phone and notepad, I got to work. At my cooking station, I pulled out the plastic cover lists and began reading what I should be making today. Mostly it was cream filled cakes, fruit muffins, gingerbread men –now Halloween was over- and cookies.

I turned on the radio and gathered everything I needed. The bell jingled and I heard voices entering the shop. I looked through the glass counter and saw my business partner and bread maker arriving with her younger sister. I said hello and they hurried over and launched into asking about the party. I smiled and laughed most of it off, though they were pleased to hear about the coming boost in customers. They set to work soon after as the rest of our eight staff drifted in.

The morning passed quickly and we survived the lunchtime rush, though ran out of eclairs, strawberry tarts and pumpkin seed topped brown bread. I had my lunch at two o’clock on the third floor, which was divided into a staff break room, toilets and the office. Relaxing in the fake leather desk chair, I eat a ham sandwich and drink my coffee. For the rest of the afternoon I did some admin work.

A loud knocking called me out of my thoughts and the music I had been listening to via headphones. I slipped the buds out of my ears and with a glance over my shoulder at the door shouted out to the knocker.

‘Sorry to disturb you, Becks,’ Daisy said.

I smiled and waved her in. She made a quick attempted to get white icing powder off her blue apron and purple cord pants. She was my cake designer and decorator, though she only worked part-time and had often left at this time.

‘What is it?’ I asked.

‘There’s a man asking for you downstairs. He said his name’s Fred and you invited him to afternoon tea.’

I frowned and pursed my lips. The office phone rang, making us both jump.

‘Okay. I’ll be down in a few,’ I said.

Daisy nodded, took the blue net off her blonde going grey hair and left.

I picked up the phone and dealt with a customer checking on their order. When I hung up I went downstairs and saw Fred staring into the reduce price fridge.

‘Hello,’ I said.

‘Hi. Nice place you got here,’ he spoke back, ‘bigger than I thought.’

‘What do you want?’ I asked suddenly defensive.

He shrugged his broad shoulders and I noticed that he didn’t look that different out of his knight’s costume. He was wearing a black polo shirt with a company logo on it and dark blue trousers. He was ruggedly handsome with his blond hair and beard, but it was his blue eyes that held me.

‘Just to see you again,’ he said sheepishly, ‘I finished work early and thought I’d come and find this place. You did give me the address.’

‘I know…I’m really busy right now,’ I said softer.

‘It’s fine. I’ll come back later or maybe another day…’

‘Great. You do that,’ I said, ‘maybe try an apple turnover or a vanilla slice,’ I suggested.

He nodded and I went back upstairs. Sitting back down, I couldn’t get him out of my head. His let down face kept popping up and I wondered why I had been so mean. I pushed on and got the rest of the things I wanted to get done finished.

Going downstairs as the baby grandfather clock in the café chimed five o’clock, I found the last customers leaving and the staff starting to clean up. I give them a hand then after they had left, closed the shop. Locking the door shutter and taking in some deep breaths of the cold air, I heard my name.

Turning, I saw Fred jogging over to me.

‘You were right about the apple turnover. Really good,’ he said catching his breath.

I laughed, ‘you’re welcome. Sorry for being short with you before. I was in the middle of sorting out some last minute changes to an order for next week.’

‘It’s okay. I thought maybe it was me…’

‘You?’ I questioned.

He nodded, ‘yeah, you didn’t want to see me again or something…not that you said that…It’s just, at the party yesterday, I really wished I’d talked to you more.’

‘Oh, I see.’

‘I wanted to give you my number, but I had to leave in a hurry, remember?’ he rushed.

I nodded and smiled, ‘do you want to give it to me now?’

‘What? Oh, yeah sure. Give me a second.’

He pulled his phone out of trousers and I grabbed mine from my bag.

‘I’m afraid I’m not free till Sunday. That’s my only day off,’ I stated.

‘That’s fine, maybe we could go out for lunch?’ he suggested.

‘I’d really like that.’

‘Here’s my number.’

I smiled and we swapped numbers.

************

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Cooking Up A Storm (Part 4)

Halloween cake

Midnight came around slowly. I stood in the kitchen, watching the clock’s hands click together under the large number twelve. The Witching Hour, or that one single minute when this world and whatever was beyond it touched. I sighed into my ice cold mug of water and thought about making something warm to eat.

Around me the party was in full swung, though a handful of people had been celebrating the hour as if it was New Year’s. The kitchen was an overcrowded mess of abandoned plastic cups and plates, food and drink lingering on them. Someone had left their black wig behind and it sat like a dead creature on top of the toaster. Music flowed from the living room -the latest dancing/club songs with heavy, fast beats and shouting lyrics.

I finished my water, washed my mug in the already full sink and put it back in the cupboard. Squeezing my way out and into the hallway, I went upstairs and joined the queue for the bathroom. Ahead of me the pink princess and a Storm Trooper were chatting away. I leant against the wall and looked sleepy downstairs. Laughter and voices mingled with the music and I couldn’t hear anything but a jumble of sounds.

I rubbed my ears, eyes and head.

‘Oh, hello again. Is this the bathroom queue?’

I twisted and nodded before I realised who had spoken.

‘Good job I don’t really need to go…that badly!’ the shining knight chuckled.

I smiled weakly and rested my hands against my stomach.

‘So…er…I didn’t get your name before…’

‘Becky.’

‘I’m Fred.’

I nodded, strangely remembering that though it had been about three or four hours ago.

Fred joined me against the wall as the queue moved down. A grey, raggy ghost floated passed us and downstairs, trailing dirty torn fabric behind it like a bride’s veil.

‘I handmade my costume,’ Fred picked up, ‘original my friends and I were being the Scooby Doo gang. I was going to be Fred. But the guy who was going to be Shaggy decided he wanted to be Fred and we had an argument over it. Then the guy who was being Scooby got the flu and he couldn’t make it.’

‘Oh. I’m sorry to hear that,’ I automatically said.

‘Yeah. We were still going to come like that up until two days ago, but then ‘Velma’ decided she’d rather be a vampire like her boyfriend and so we called it off.’

I nodded and slide along the wall as the other four people before me moved up. A teenage girl rushed passed us. She was dressed as a black cat, but her makeup was looking smudged in the seconds I saw her for. I heard the pink princess mutter that the cat girl had had argument with her parents about leaving.

‘What did you come as?’ Fred asked.

I looked down at my long black velvet dress as if I had forgotten. I so wasn’t in the mood for this, I just wanted to pee and go home.

‘A witch,’ I spoke softly.

‘Oh?’

I watched Fred do a double take of me then arrange his cardboard sword’s sheath at his left hip. He was quiet for a few moments, but I shrugged off his reaction, having gotten used to it.

‘I thought they had hats and green faces and…’ he trailed off.

‘I’m a white witch. We like to look normal,’ I added and made the effort to give him a small smile.

He pressed his lips together and glanced away from me. Luckily, the man I had first seen him with – dressed in a black robe and now caring a scythe- came up the stairs and interrupted us.

‘We’re leaving.’

‘I need to go first,’ Fred pointed out.

‘You can go at Jess’s,’ the grim reaper responded.

‘I can’t wait that long! I’ll be quick.’

Grim rolled his heavily black makeup eyes and looked at the queue. There were three people ahead of me now, four ahead of Fred.

‘Okay. Fine, we’ll be in the car,’ Grim breathed and swept back down.

‘Can I go in front of you?’ Fred desperately asked me.

‘No,’ I hissed, ‘sorry,’ I had to add as he recoiled from me, ‘it’s been a long day. I’ve been cooking since this morning and I spent most of yesterday baking too. I’m really tried and I just want to go home.’

‘Okay,’ Fred muttered. He paused then questioned, ‘baking? What do you do?’

‘I own a bakery. Dawn – the hostess – asked me to make all the desserts for tonight,’ I explained.

‘Oh, wow. So you made all the cakes and stuff? They were really great,’ Fred gushed.

‘Thanks.’

‘Wait. You made the cakes?’

We both turned to look at the pink princess as she broke into our conversation. She was balancing on tall thin baby pink heels which just peeked out from underneath her multi-layered flowing pink skirts. A matching shoulder bag was over her left shoulder and the bodice of her dress was decorated with lacy flowers, stems and leaves. Her long blonde hair was loose about her shoulders and her face was delicately made up.

I nodded, ‘yes,’ and really wished Pink hadn’t heard that.

‘Do you do birthday cakes? I’ve twin daughters and it’s their birthday next month. I’ve been looking for a Disney pink castle,’ she rambled.

‘Okay. I’ll give you the website. Do you have a pen?’ I said calmly.

‘I’ll put it in my phone,’ Pink said and dug in her bag for it.

I give her the website and she typed it out as there was another switch of the bathroom. Pink was next, followed by the Trooper then me.

‘That’s it,’ I finished.

‘Great, thanks. I’ll check it out,’ Pink stated.

I rested against the wall again, putting my hands behind my back. A small voice in my head whispered, just think about all the business you’ve drummed up tonight!

‘So…where is your bakery?’ Fred whispered into my ear.

I turned, not realising how close he was and whacked him with my hair across his chin. I pushed my hair back as we both ignored that. Whispering back I give him the address before pointing out the shops that were close by so he could visualise it. He nodded and the conversation ended.     

Finally, it was my turn in the bathroom. I used the loo, washed my hands and face, dried off then left. I stole a glance at Fred as we switched places. He shot me a cheeky grin before closing the bathroom door. I went downstairs avoiding the new line of people and opening the front door, stepped out into the night.

A crying Midnight met me on the front door step. I looked down at him as he raced towards me and began rubbing against my legs. I picked him up and single handed unlocked and opened the door. I felt for the light switch, shut my eyes against the sudden glow and blinked a few times to clear the dancing spots. Still holding Midnight, I shut and locked the front door, walked to the bottom of the stairs, turned lights on and off then went up to bed. Pulling off my dress and hanging it back up, I took off my underwear and slipped on a soft cotton nightie. Midnight, who I’d put on the bed, pawed at the throw blanket and watched me.

‘It was an okay party,’ I said softly, ‘everyone liked my food and I seemed to have drummed up some new business. I met this guy too…’

Midnight meowed.

I got into bed and flopped against the pillows. Midnight came up to my face and curled up beside me. I watched him shut his green eyes and listened to him purring. I petted him then turned off the lamp and rolled over to sleep. I didn’t have to worry about suddenly feeling wide awake, my exhaustion was too heavy and soon I was so out of it that the apocalypse could’ve happened and I would’ve been none the wiser.

The drill of my phone alarm smacked me out of sleep. I mumbled back from the black depths, feebly waving my hand around to locate the noise source. My fingers tapped against the side table and came back empty. Sitting up, I clicked on the lamp and looked around. The sound was coming from my bag which I had discarded beside my wardrobe and under my dress.

I got up and zombie shuffled over. Behind me Midnight let out a loud cat yawn and padded across the bed towards me. I grabbed my bag and pulled out my phone. Turning off the alarm, I read the time twice. It was seven AM.

‘I’m going back to bed,’ I mumbled.

I reset the alarm for nine and had another two hours sleep. Midnight joined me again then pawed at my face a few minutes before the alarm went off again. Waving him away I rolled over, but he came back and pressed his padded feet into my cheek. I got up with a growl and checked the time. Midnight meowed and rubbed against my back.

‘You want breakfast, kitty?’ I mumbled.

He replied with a long mew and tried to get into my lap. I stood up and left the room. He zoomed around me and made it into the kitchen way ahead of me. After feeding him and making myself some toast. I decided that today was going to be a lazy Sunday. I had some Halloween themed movies to watch and lots of snack food to eat. And God knew I needed the break. I didn’t bother getting dressed after I had eaten, instead going straight on the sofa and pretty much staying there all day.

To Be Continued…