Left Overs

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It had been a good Halloween sweet haul this year. Lucy had let the twins have a few handfuls of treats from their plastic pumpkin buckets when they had returned. Once they had gone to bed, she had put the rest into the sweet tin to keep fresh.

A couple of times over the next few days, she let the twins dip into the mini chocolate bars, small bags of gummies and other treats they had been given. Lucy herself hadn’t been able to resisted and would pinch a few things in the evening and hope the twins wouldn’t notice the missing sweets.

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.

Dear Diary #21

Dear Diary, why am I so fascinated by the Suicide Forest in Japan?

I watched another online video today of four young men exploring the place. It was raining and you could hear the rain dripping off the trees. There seemed to be no birds or any other animals in the background, just the men walking and talking to the camera. The forest was mega wild and they said the ground was made of fallen trees, roots and undergrown plants. It looked almost like an evil fantasy forest.

They found three broken umbrellas then a camping spot where two light green single person tents were still intact. Off to the side, were the remains of a small camping fire, badly damped by the heavy rain. An empty rucksack lay beside the first tent, the zips all undone. A white baseball cap was behind the second tent and there was a scattering of Japanese sweet packets.

They looked into the tents and I held my breath believing they were about to discover someone, but there was only litter and water. They even searched the area, though they claimed the video wasn’t about them looking for bodies…but I guess if you came across an abandoned tent in the middle of a forest will known for suicides then you’d want to know what happened to the person.

I sort of want to know too, but I think it’s clear what happened…

I want to go, more desperately then before. I want to know why people are driven there and why they decide they don’t want to live. Plus, there are all these claims about it being haunted and not just by the souls of those poor people, but by evil spirits that lure people in. Okay, maybe I’ve seen too many movies, but there must have been something that started the stories, there always is. Maybe, it would be a good thing for my PhD? And it’d give me a reason to go…Though this would be the third ‘haunted’ place I’ve submitted in my applications. But from a psychologic point of view, it’s just super interesting.

Hopefully, my fascination will die down soon enough, but right now I’m going to start a new application and see what the universities think about it. Maybe, there’s a reason why I’m so attracted to these creepy place? Perhaps, I need to do some mind testing on myself!

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 3)

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I surveyed the party like an uninvited stranger. Clutching a black plastic cup in my hand and sipping the Witch’s Brew Punch, I wondered from decorated room to room. I did know most of the people, despite the array of costumes and their plus ones. Halloween themed music was blasting out of the living room where most people were dancing. I knew all the songs off by heart having spent most of the past week listening to them.

Upstairs, some kids were tucked away in the bedrooms playing with toys or on game consoles. Most were stuffed from eating sweets and the evidence was clear to see on the floor. A girl dressed as a bat offered me a Chupa Chups lollypop, which I gratefully accepted and popped into my mouth. On the way back down, I walked passed a line of adults. My mind couldn’t help but think it strange to see two Frankenstein’s monsters, Dracula’s bride and Morticia Addams chatting away about a sports celebrity whilst queuing for the bathroom.

Ducking into the dining room and avoiding the drooping cob web cloud, I made a beeline for the only empty chair. Dawn had arranged the room so that the large table was against the wall to the left of the door and the eight matching chairs along the back wall, creating all together an upside d ‘L’. I sank onto the chair, taking in the creepy black netted drapes looping the ceiling above me and the drifting orange and black balloons.

‘This cake is so nice!’

A loud male voice drew my attention. I looked shyly to my left and saw that I had sat down next to a water nymph/ Siren / mermaid looking woman. She was wearing a long pale blue wig and a floaty dusty blue dress that rippled around her. Next to her was a male zombie and he gone to town with the makeup and effects. He almost looked like he had walked off a movie set. He was also stuffing lemon cheesecake into his mouth.

‘You’ve made a mess,’ the water nymph tutted and slide out her napkin from under her plate.

‘No, no, I got it,’ zombie replied and shoving the last bite in, began dapping at his lower face.

I smiled and took a drink of my punch.

‘You should so try it though. It tasted so nice,’ zombie continued in the background.

‘I’m good.’ nymph replied, ‘I might have one of those gingerbread things, later.’

‘Better get one now, looks like they are going fast.’

I stole a glance to see him nodding over to the table before looking over. It was true. Four women – a sexy devil, a pink princess, a gothic vampire and Alice, were piling their plates high with food, including my gingerbreads and cupcakes. Behind them two men, one dressed very minimally as a skeleton and the other wearing a black t-shirt with Error 404 Costume Not Found, were reading the labels attached to the dishes. There were maybe five other people that had walked in a few seconds ago, that were grabbing plates and starting at the buffet.

Nymph and zombie got up and went to the end of the table. I watched them helping themselves to more food, making soft excuses to the other people. I took another drink and turned to look down the line at the other guests in the room. The remaining five chairs were taken up by a family with the three kids dressed as a ghost, Harry Potter and a pumpkin baby. The mum appeared to be a witch in a black and blue cheap satin dress and the dad was a cowboy. The kids were all eating my cupcakes and mum kept wiping their faces whilst the dad, looking a bit tried and withdrawn, was eating my pumpkin pie with a fork.

‘Becks? Becks! Did you have something to eat yet?’

Dawn’s voice cut into my thoughts and I turned to look up at her. She was dressed as a dark angel with a short black tutu dress and black feather wings on her back. She also, for some unknown reason had a golden glittery fairy wand in her left hand.

‘No, I’m not hungry,’ I replied with a weak smile.

‘Don’t lie. You’ve been so busy, I bet you forgot all about it.’

Dawn pulled me to my feet and I just had time to make sure my long black dress didn’t catch on anything. She dragged me over to the table, pressed a black paper plate with a childlike drawing of three ghosts floating out of graves into my hand. She grabbed one for herself, then began selecting food and putting it on both of our plates.

‘Everyone is enjoying your cupcakes and the cheesecake. They keep asking me where I got them from and of course I say your bakery,’ Dawn began reeling off, ‘I’ve given the address to a few people now. One woman was really interested in you making a birthday cake for her daughter. Turns out she’s a huge Goth and loves that Tim Burton movie… you know the one?’

The Nightmare Before Christmas? You know it’s not actually his movie right?’

Dawn shot me a frowning look and put some potato salad on my plate.

‘He just wrote it that’s all. Okay, I get that makes it still his movie, but he didn’t directed it like everyone believes.’

‘Hey, Dawn! How are you! Loving these cookies. Where did you get them from?’

We looked up to see undead Snow White standing next to us with a corpse bride on the other side of her.

‘From this awesome new bakery,’ Dawn responded then began chatting away.

I only half listened, turning my attention to the other food on offer and my almost full plate. Someone knocked into my elbow.

‘Sorry. Sorry. It’s this…thing,’ a rushed male voice sounded in my ear.

I glanced then had to stare at the knight in shining silver. He was tall with blonde hair, a neatly trimmed blond beard, board shoulders and most bluest eyes I had ever seen. The full body armour was cardboard just spray painted and he on a blue pants and a long sleeved t-shirt underneath. From the leather belt around his hips danged a cardboard sheath with a sword handle poking out.

‘That’s been his opening line all night! Leave the ladies alone, Fred!’ said a man dressed in a huge black robe, who stood beside him.

‘It’s okay,’ I mumbled back.

‘I’m really sorry,’ Fred said again.

I shook my head and turned away, trying to fake interest in the dark angel’s, undead Snow White’s and the corpse bride’s conversation about my desserts.

To Be Continued…                    

Cooking Up A Storm (Part 2)

Midnight was meowing behind the front door when I got back. I unlocked and opened it to scoop him up. Burying my face in his warm black fur, I tried to hold my tears in. I closed the door with my foot and sat on the sofa. I rubbed the cat against my cheeks and made soft meowing noises back. Midnight, strangely a big fan of cuddles for a young male cat, demand more.

‘Did you miss me? Yeah, you did. You eat all your food? Good kitty,’ I baby talked.

He gave me a string of meows then fell into purring and curling into ball in my lap. I stroked him and watched him dozing off. The warm and content feelings jostled with my sad ones and I did wipe the corners of my eyes.

‘He just had to bring her up,’ I told Midnight, ‘I know I shouldn’t complain. It’s still important to talk about her, but today? No. I don’t want to think about it.’

My phone ring and I scrambled to find it in my bag whilst trying not to disturb Midnight.

‘Hello?’

‘Becks, hey! Is your car okay? When you coming over?’ Dawn’s excited and rushed voice shouted in my ear.

‘Car’s fine. What time did I say? Five or six?’ I answered.

‘It’s quarter to now,’ Dawn responded then began speaking to someone else in the background.

‘It is? Oh. I still need to ice the gingerbreads. Everything else is ready though. So, six then.’

‘Can’t you come now, please?’

I petted Midnight as a long hum escaped my pursed lips.

‘We need to set up the table then get ready and that’s going to take a while. I need to wash my hair still and Amber just found out she can’t get into her costume.’

‘It’s baby weight!’ Amber’s voice yelled back followed by bursting girly laughter.

‘I can’t,’ Becks pressed, ‘if you want them to look right, I just can’t. And there’s no way I’d want to rush them after all my hard work.’

Dawn signed heavily down the phone then whispered to someone else, ‘she can’t get here for another hour.’

‘Look. I’m about to do them now, so I’ll just set the table when I get there. Okay?’

‘All right, please try to hurry though,’ Dawn said back unable to hide the disappointed tone.

‘I’ll try. Bye.

‘Bye, Becks. She says an hour. I’m going to wash my hair…’

I hung up, then moving Midnight off my lap, went into the kitchen. The heavy smell of ginger, cinnamon and toffee blasted all other smells away. I checked the toffee apples and finding them set, moved them on to the table with the collection of other things. Then I put all the gingerbread shapes on one plate and prepared the icing.

‘It’s too silent, I mumbled.

Finishing off the icing, I went and turned the TV on. Midnight jumped up on the coffee table, tail swinging and watched me channel flicking. There wasn’t much on, so I put the news on and went back to the kitchen. Feeling better, I sorted out the icing for colouring, then got piping the designs on the biscuits.

I didn’t need any inspiration or drawings, I had been making these gingerbreads for the last five weeks. With the news reporters droning on in the background, my hands worked by themselves and I began thinking again. My dad had been right about my mum. Tonight had been her favourite out of the whole year, just like it was mine. She would spend the whole of October planning and preparing. Sometimes, especially as I got older, she’d call me in to help make cakes or muffins or something that involved pumpkins.

I felt my chest get a little tight, but instead of stopping I thought it best just to go on thinking about her. She was never a ‘normal’ mother or wife, being a white witch saw to that and yet, she manged to embrace everything and make it happen. That’s what my dad was talking about before.

Almost an hour later, I was done with the forty gingerbreads. Leaving them to officially set, I wrapped up each toffee apple in black Halloween foil finished with a bit of ribbon and put them in a carry bag. Digging out my notebook, I ticked them and the biscuits off.

‘So, now I get it all into the car, grab my suitcase, put food down for Midnight then it’s party time!’

Midnight meowed at his name, but didn’t appear, which meant something on the TV had his attention. I put some more food in his bowl, topped up his water, then picking up my notebook again, ran through the list once more; ‘pumpkin pie, pumpkin cream cheese muffins, Halloween cookies, lemon cheese cake spider web, Halloween cupcakes, Graveyard mud moose pie, toffee apples and gingerbreads. Yep, all done. Okay, to the car.’

I grabbed a large bag from the table, which had the cookies, cheese cake and muffins carefully boxed up inside and headed to the front door. I got my keys from my handbag on the way and went out to the car. I spent a good few minutes, carrying stuff out and storing it as carefully as possible in the boot and backseat.

Midnight tore himself away from the TV to watch me. Finally sorted, I locked the car and hurried upstairs. Taking my small suitcase -thankful I packed my clothes and personal stuff last night- from the corner and going back down again. I nudged Midnight out the door and hurried to the car. Ignoring his howl of unhappiness, I put my suitcase on the passenger seat.

‘Done. Everything. Good. Front door. Midnight, what are doing? Are you in or out, kitty? Aww, I’m sorry.’

I picked him up and Midnight tried to climb on to my shoulders.

‘I’m sorry you can’t come. Oh! The TV.’

I darted back inside, putting Midnight on the sofa and turned it off. Then remembering, I hadn’t closed any curtains or checked the windows or the back door, ran around the house doing that.

‘I’m good now. Bye, Midnight.’

He gave me a long mournful meow, like a toddler who didn’t want to be left. I waved good bye to him all the same and locked the front door. Getting into Herbs was like stepping back into the kitchen. The car smelt of warm spices, pumpkin and other sweet delights. I checked the time and then my phone. Dawn’s house was half an hour away and it was five past six.

I texted her then drove off, the excitement of the party finally hitting me.

To Be Continued…

Cooking Up A Storm (Part 1)

The small square kitchen breathed of sugar and spice sweetness, which was my favourite scent. Though only just, as I loved the aroma of damp, earthy leaves and trees on a crisp mid-autumn morning, the most. Twirling the golden toffee around the last of the red apples, I hummed along to the Monster Mash. My body and feet moved in time with the beat, my slippers slapping. I stopped my hands to ease the toffee and apple apart. The strands snapped and I beheld my creation.

Glistening like gold under the kitchen lights, I set the toffee apple down on pale blue side plate that was cover in hard yellow sugar glops. Checking the pan, I saw there was just enough left to get a second coating. Glancing to the right at the almost ready toffee apples, I went to the oven behind me and peered in at my last lot Halloween gingerbreads.

The timer went off. Grabbing gloves, I opened the door and pulled the tray out. The smell of hot ginger and cinnamon biscuit dough hit in the face. Smiling, I put the tray in the only gap left on the work top and inspected the different shape gingerbreads. There were three bats, two spiders, two witches on broomsticks and three ghosts.

‘They turned out pretty good, better than the last three lots,’ I said.

Letting them cool, I second dipped the last apple and sang along to the Time Warp. Setting the apple with the others, a soft meowing tickled my ears. I looked over at the back door and cat flap as my small black cat, Midnight, popped through.

‘Hi, kitty!’ I called.

Midnight looked up at me with large green eyes and meowled loudly.

‘You hungry? Where you been, huh? I missed you this morning.’

Midnight responded with a few mews.

I moved and got him some food. He curled around my legs, rubbing his head against my jeans. As soon as his bowl was filled he lowered himself over it and began eating nosily. Leaving him to it, I tided up and filled the dishwasher for the third time. My IPod cycled through some more Halloween themed music and I joined in with the lyrics I knew.

Washing my hands and slipping off my apron, I searched around the kitchen for my phone. Finding it on the little wooden table, I pulled out a chair and pressed it on. It was almost four PM and I had two text messages. The first was from my dad, telling me he had fixed my poor Mini car, Herbs, and the second was my best friend, Dawn, checking how I was getting on. I replied back to her first, letting her know in shorthand that everything was fine and there’d be enough sweet dishes for the party tonight.

I called my dad, ‘hi. I just got your text. Sorry I was in the middle of making toffee apples.’

‘Hello. Oh, okay, that’s fine,’ his soft fatherly voice spoke.

‘So, can I come and get Herbs?’

‘Yeah. He seems to be running fine again now. Are you going to come in the next hour? Just I was going to go out and pick up that cooker for Mrs Dwight.’

‘I can do that. Then I’ll have time to load him up too. I’ve baked too much….’

My dad laughed, ‘send some of it my way.’

‘I shall do. I’m on my way then.’

‘See you soon.’

‘bye.’

I hung up and stepping into the tiny corridor that joined the kitchen, living room and stairs together. Going up and into the first room on the right, I dusted my jeans off and dug another purple t-shirt out from the draw. Switching tops, I put on my dolly shoes and grabbed a purple knitted jacket. I crossed back over the stairs and around into the bathroom. Double checking my chestnut hair and face for flour etc, in the mirror, I let down my hair and put it back up in a neater ponytail. I also add a touch of pink lip balm.

Looking back at myself, I muttered, ‘you’re working too hard, Becks. Those bags are getting bigger and your cheeks are too red.’

I poked my face and debated putting up some makeup.

‘No. No time. Got to get Herbs and then ice those cookies.’

Going downstairs again, I saw Midnight looking up at me as if he was waiting to hear where I was going. I petted him, told him I’d be back soon and to eat the rest of his food. He meowed loudly and stayed put, as I grabbed my bag and left.

Outside a chilly breeze was brushing against the windows and playing lazily with fallen leaves. I walked with my back to it, taking in deep breaths of the wonderfully smelling air. I heard children laughing and talking loudly from a back garden across the road. Crows and other birds called from the rooftops and I couldn’t help but think that it really did feel like Halloween today.

I walked the twenty minutes to my dad’s house and got that nice familiar ‘home’ feeling. My dad was standing between his car and mine, leaning against the sky blue gate. He was checking his phone and sensing he was about to call or text me, I called out a loud hello and hurried over.

‘I’m here. Sorry had to change tops,’ I explained.

‘It’s fine. The brakes are fixed now. Here’s your keys,’ he said and passed them to me.

‘Thanks, so much. I’ll bring the leftovers tomorrow and we can have a post- Halloween party,’ I suggested.

Dad shook his head, ‘you be safe tonight okay? You mother had a bad habit of spell casting and mixing potions on this night….’

A bit my lip and looked down as my thoughts rose up about mum.

‘Seems you’re too busy with your baking right now to bother with all of that again. The shop still going good? Money alright?’

I nodded, ‘yes. It’s all good and under control. We’re planning Christmas stuff now. You should call by sometime.’

‘Maybe, maybe. I should go.’

‘Oh, okay, thanks again. I’ll see you tomorrow.’

We hugged, kissed cheeks then got into our cars. I waved to him and let him drive off first. I drove home, my thoughts still on mum.

To Be Continued…