Mummy is sitting on the living room carpet leaning against the grey bumps on the radiator. The TV is on with her favourite show; Heartbeat. My stomach sinks when it comes on. It means school tomorrow.
Da da da da ding… Da da da da ding… Heart beat…Why do you miss…
She always mumbles the words when she sings, like the way I do at Sunday school. I never want anyone to hear me sing. I’m sitting on the squishy floral sofa opposite her and I keep telling her that I’m still hungry. She doesn’t seem to hear me. She’s looking down at her beige trouser smoothing them and picking off little things that I can’t see.
‘Why can’t I have a snowball?’ I ask again.
‘They were bashed I had to throw them out,’ she says sounding as grumpy as usual, ‘get a custard cream instead there’s some in the biscuit cupboard.’
Why does a love kiss stay in my memory…da da da da ding…
I go through to the kitchen and peel the lid off the yellow ribbed Tubberware box. There is an old smell inside and only one biscuit left. Where are all the biscuits? It’s so unfair. It has a corner missing and crumples limply in my mouth. There’s never anything nice left for me, I think, swallowing the mushy paste that the biscuit has turned into. I really wish those snowballs hadn’t got bashed again.
In her thin mint green sweater, Grannie had taken the pack of them out of her kitchen larder. She had giggled saying shuush then folded them into a plastic bag for my sister and I to take home. She likes to do naughty little treats for us, like when we sleep over at her house she gives us things mummy would never let us have like; Rice Krispies that crunch with sugar, buttery toast which dribbles down my chin, and sweet tea in bed. I know when she’s coming as I can hear her passing by the wide step at the bottom corner of the narrow winding staircase.
Huff puff, Faither, huff puff, bring the bairns other yellow tray up, huff puff. Then she’ll pass by the big green glass vase thing with a stopper in it that we are not allowed to touch. Faither! huff puff puff.
I must have eaten a snowball before as I remember how they taste; a thin crispy chocolate shell with sprinklings of coconut on top filled with a lush white sticky fondant centre that bubbles on my tongue. I like to lick and lick and lick it. My big sister says it’s Mummy that eats them, but I don’t believe her. She says to me -what do you know you are only seven and I know more than you, I am nine. But she can’t be right, Mummy couldn’t eat all six!
The Lard Cake
‘What is love? Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more,’ sings Haddoway on the TV.
‘Domp domp, don’t hurt me,’ I sing marching backwards and forwards across the living room, my arms dangling loose like an ape’s, I never know what to do with my arms when I dance.
My sister Beth is half giggling with me (and half at me I suspect) as she lounges on the sofa in her red Sweater Shop jumper, swinging her big silly horned slippers over the armrest, in time to the music. It’s Saturday morning and mum is out. We are watching The Chart Show, a music programme on ITV. I’ve got my new long beige linen dress on, it has slits up the sides and tortoiseshell buttons all down the front. I’m trying to copy the backing dancers as they twirl round and round. The swing label tickles the back of my neck as I dance. I’ve not worn it outside yet. I felt brave when I bought it for taking to Ibiza next month; I’ll close the top two buttons and wear black hot pants under it, I thought. Now I’m not sure. I’m rubbish at dancing and I look an idiot. I’m starting to get that feeling again.
‘Shall we make a cake? I ask panting and flopping onto a sofa after the song finishes.
‘No butter or marg,’ she says, keeping her eyes on the TV.
‘Aww,’ I groan.
After The Chart Show finishes, I go up to my bedroom and change, carefully inserting a wire coat hanger into the dress and hanging it up, I don’t want to get it crumpled or dirty. I pull on some old clothes and go back downstairs to the kitchen. Opening up the fridge, the sour smell of cheese catches the back of my throat. I rummage past the bowls with saucers on top, containing goodness knows what, from goodness knows when. Then I see an off white package lurking at the back of the fridge; its butter shaped. Beth pads through to see what all the clattering is about.
‘Look,’ I say. ‘Can’t we use this to make a cake?
We read the small print on this thing called Lard. It says you can use it for frying or baking.
‘Sounds just like butter?’ I shrug.
So we set to it, measuring out ingredients, beating in the sugar with chopped up pieces of the insipid greasy lard and spooning the mixture into two cake tins. Whilst they cook we relax on the sofas, there is nothing to watch now only horse racing or whining cars. We decide on a video, Dangerous Liaisons- our favourite. Valmont is such a good baddy in it especially when he says to Michelle Pfeiffer; it’s beyond my control.
Soon a warming biscuit smell wafts through from the kitchen and my stomach constricts. Switching off the oven, I open the door and a blast of hot air blows my hair and almost melts my face. Phew they look ok; a little crisp looking around the edges yet a nice golden brown colour. I leave the tins to cool and take a sticky pot of strawberry jam down from the cherry wood cupboard.
Beth grimaces on closer inspection and wrinkle’s her freckly nose. I press my finger into one of the sponges; it feels a little sticky. Maybe we shouldn’t have used almost the full block of lard like we normally do with butter.
‘It’ll be fine,’ I say smearing jam in the middle and sticking the sponges together. It needs to be fine.
We take our plates through to the living room and flop onto the sofas. I gobble it down, hardly tasting it. Beth looks at me as she pokes around at her smaller piece, and starts nibbling it like a little field mouse. Then we start to giggle; a Lard cake! What will Mum say? I get up and take my empty plate through, secretly having another piece in the kitchen. Then another. My stomach starts to bloat. I slip my plate into the soapy suds and catch a glimpse of what’s left of the cake. I frown; it looks disgusting now.
I quickly scurry past Beth, running up the stairs and locking the wooden veneer bathroom door behind me. I wash my hands with soap, and then run cold water over the first two fingers on my right hand. Hurry, hurry, hurry. This is my chance. I leave the tap running, till my fingers almost feel numb, like they’re not mine. I lift up the toilet pan and kneel down on the aubergine mat. Leaning over the bowl whilst holding back my hair with my left hand, I stick my fingers down my throat as far as I can, gagging and gasping as saliva runs down my hand. This is my chance. Hurry hurry. My eyes start to bulge and water. I try again, retching loudly, tasting my warm skin mixed with Pears soap.
‘You ok?’ Beth shouts up.
‘Yip I’m fine,’ I shout back.
‘You being sick?’
‘No, no I’m ok…I just felt a bit sick after that cake.’
‘Me too,’ she giggles.
I flush the plug to distract her and I try sticking my fingers in again. Hurry, quick. Think, think. I’m fat. I’m ugly. White greasy Lard. I feel a sudden tightness in my chest, like a tennis ball is stuck behind my ribcage. Sometimes I think I will throw up my heart, as the beat comes up higher and higher. That scares me, and the fact my teeth might be rotting from the yellowy bile. I get dizzy sometimes too so I’ll hang onto the toilet bowl until I can see straight again. I wrote about it once in my diary.
It’s like being on the edge of, an unreal place;
frightening…yet welcoming. I’m in charge here.
I needn’t worry today though, as warm gungy balls of chewed up cake come out fast, plopping and splashing into the toilet pan.
Plip, Plip, Plip, PLOP, SPLOSH!
‘Oh my god what are you doing up there?’ Beth shouts.
I pant swallowing some foul tasting saliva, and then hoarsely shout back to her
‘It was a number two, upset stomach.’
I slowly get up and whilst rinsing my hands I notice my red knuckles. I feel a bit light headed. High. I got away with it. Brushing my teeth gently with some blue minty gel toothpaste, my throat burns and feels red raw. Mum will be back soon I think, so I quickly clean the toilet and fix the Mateus wine bottle, re-arranging its dried flowers back into the corner of the saggy carpeted floor. This is my secret. This is just for me. Then I stop. Sit still. On my knees. On the saggy carpet. Why does mum send Beth up every night? Why doesn’t she come? I then quickly pull out the white waffle scales from under the sink. I’m fat, I’m fat, I’m fat. I step one foot on and then the other looking down as the black pointer finally settles; six and a half stone. I sigh.