This is a story i wrote a long time ago, in high-school and actually won a prize for. unfortunately it was lost on the ancient computer we had at the time. so i did my best to reconstruct the basic of it. I submit to you…The Red Velvet Cake
Red Velvet Cake
She cowered in the corner, in the shadows beside the piano that sits in the formal living room. She kept an eye on the door with yellow light filtering through. The holiday activity was happening in the kitchen and the attached den. It was overwhelming to be with people she hardly knew. The family was nice but different from her, from everything she had ever known. She hadn’t known much of anything of any value. In the world she’s familiar with hate and violence ruled. Now, she was in a new place with people who were nice, and celebrating Christmas in fine clothes with laughter. She had never understood why people said Merry Christmas. There had never been anything merry about it before now.
Still, this family was too nice. She preferred to stay out of the way where it was quiet. The sounds were muted there in the corner and the light hid the face that she knew would disrupt this merry event. She definitely knew it was safer there. The back door opened and more voices joined the far-away chorus.
Last Christmas her extended family had joined her and her mother in their tiny, dingy apartment. They were loud and boisterous and brought their spirits with them. Her mother had enough alcohol of her own, but the mixture of several brands at once brought the atmosphere to a rolling boil. Christmas had not been merry that year. It had been scary. Her relations had laughed at her innocence and youth. They had accused her of causing all the trouble her mother was in with the courts. She knew the real cause was the drugs her mother took, and the ones she sold to her friend. She knew that deep down somewhere she couldn’t quite conjure up to her head, but she blamed herself for being the reason her mom had turned to the pills in the first place.
The police had picked her up not long after that Christmas. She had spent time with her mom’s sister-in-law, but never knowing who her dad was had made it hard for her to understand the relationship with this new woman. It ended up not mattering anyway because she didn’t stay more than a few months. A social worker brought her to live with her foster family. They were now hosting what felt like party in the next room over. They were also planning on adopting her.
She pulled a blanket she wore over her shoulders tighter around her. It was thin but she had used it for as long as she remembered. It was the only thing she had left from her mother’s house other than a tiny jewelry box that was only big enough to hold rings. She had never owned a ring.
A buzz echoed louder into the empty room. Suddenly a hand reached into her room and flipped a switch just inside the door. Light broke through her thoughts and she cowered more, squinting out the sudden brightness. She stayed as still as a statue hoping to stay unnoticed by the kids who had bombarded her hiding place. She heard the buzzing sound the older boy made and dared to peak out the corner of her eye. He held a helicopter in one hand and held out the other arm as if it were another propeller. He tilted back and forth using the entire floor space as he flew his helicopter proudly around.
The girl, maybe a year older than herself, ran to the piano. Not noticing the small girl hiding on the side, the girl pounded away at the keys without rhythm or melody. She held her place, still, although the piano now reverberated in her bones. She dared not move.
The little boy toddled and giggled, innocently following the older two. He held his stuffed lion and repeated “ion-roar, ion-roar” before noticing the helicopter boy and giggling again with an opened mouth. He was pretty cute. She couldn’t help but smile.
The boys were her new brothers, the girl a cousin. The boys had received their new toys this morning from Santa. She never had believed in Santa, yet all the same these toys were under the tree this morning each with a nametag. She moved slightly and reached beside her and picked up a small doll with a sweet smile and head full of soft hair. The doll had a bottle in one hand and a nametag still on the other allocating the doll to “Kara”.
“Kara!” a woman’s voice called softly from the kitchen. She sat still again, fearing disrupting the other kids in their play and fearing being caught up into the party happenings.
“Kara!” the woman called again, a little more firm this time but still gentle. The woman appeared at the door to the living room holding a dishrag. “Come on guys, go on back to the den” the lady told the visible three. As they heeded her direction, the motherly woman lightly touched each on the head to escort them out the door and onward, the littlest pulling up the rear still toddling after the others. Then, the lady switched off the light.
Whew. Kara relaxed. She assumed no one knew she was there. But the lady at the door stepped into the darkened room. There was a genteel look on her face. Kara moved a bit. Momma had known where she was all along. Momma was a new name she was trying out. Not out-loud of course. She could never call the woman momma to her face until it fit right so she had to try it out in her head first. Momma was what the boys called her so she figured she would give it a try. After all she was confident she would be here for a while. There was no way she could ever go back to the old apartment.
Momma had gentle slow steps as she crossed the room then she kneeled by Kara, careful not to cast her shadow over the child but positioning herself in such a way that the break-away light at the door also shined on half of her own face.
“Kara, it is time to come out here with us. It is ok to be shy, but I need some help baking the birthday cake for Jesus.”
Ok, momma, Kara said in her head then she reached her hand towards momma’s outstretched hand. They walked together into the light of the kitchen. Momma’s sister and brother in law sat in the den with Momma’s husband while the kids played around in the middle of the floor. Kara could see that from the stool by the counter she had climbed up on.
Momma had all the ingredients set out on the counter and a large metal mixing bowl right in the center. She carefully added most of the ingredients and started stirring with the whisk.
“Can you stir this for me while I get the last ingredient?” momma asked Kara.
Sure Kara thought. She took the whisk Momma offered her. She stirred carefully. She didn’t want to do it wrong or make a mess. The counter was a mess from the spilled flour and sugar. There was even some butter dropped on it, but it was in one piece and not stained from years of misuse. The whole house was like that compared to the terrible apartment she spent last Christmas in. Her new house wasn’t fancy or incredibly large, but it was safe and respectable.
Momma grabbed a couple of dark bottles out of the cabinet. She took great caution when opening it then held the bottle for Kara to see the color. Red food color, Kara read, having to mentally sound out each word. The bottle didn’t look that red, it looked black.
“I will pour this in slowly while you keep stirring,” Momma said.
Kara kept stirring and watched as Momma poured in a few drops of the red food coloring. It was red after all, a very dark red. It actually looked a little like…blood. She kept stirring and Momma kept pouring the blood red colored liquid. The cake batter became smooth with a bright red, but the drops pooling at the center still looked so bloody. Her mom was covered with blood the day the police had taken her away from that first apartment, the only home she’d ever known up until that point. And, her mom had still been bleeding. The paramedics had picked her up off the floor in a pool of blood and loaded her onto the gurney.
She was told that her mom had gone to a hospital and gotten help. The social worker had said that they had stopped the bleeding and helped her mom in other ways too. But that last image of her mom was so powerful it brought tears to her eyes. The bleeding looked just like the drops of red food coloring. Kara felt like this cake was being made with blood food coloring.
It didn’t take Momma long to notice the tears. Of course the tears weren’t subtle either. Momma stopped pouring and put a hand on Kara’s back. Then the sobs began. “It’s like blood,” came Kara’s desperate explanation. “It’s like the blood at… at…” she couldn’t finish.
“I know baby,” momma said as she pushed the bowl back a bit. “I’m sorry. I know.” Momma rubbed Kara’s back, and waited. She waited for the sobs to stop, for Kara’s breathing to regulate. She gave the young girl a tissue. Kara blew violently into it, then tried to calm herself.
After several moments of soft sobs and breathing, Momma said “you know who else we know that bled a lot?”
Yes, Kara knew. Her mom had known about Jesus and respected those who believed in Him but had never adhered to His teachings. Since coming to her new home though, Kara had learned quite a bit about this man named Jesus who had lived two thousand years ago. She was convinced this man had been the Son of God and that God loved her enough to send Him. In her child-like mind she understood Jesus had bled for her so she wouldn’t end up like her mom.
“Jesus?” Kara asked but she knew that was who Momma was talking about.
“That’s right,” Momma said. “You know what other color red represents?”
Kara wasn’t sure. Red was blood. What else was red?
“Where does blood come from?” Momma encouraged.
“The heart,” Kara answered.
“That’s right, sweetheart. Blood comes from the heart and that is where our love comes from. Red also stands for love.”
With the thought of love, Kara helped Momma finish mixing the red velvet cake. While it baked, Kara hugged the woman who was going to be her new mother. This woman knew Jesus as if He were alive right then. Kara knew she wanted to know Jesus like that. And she wanted this woman to be her Momma. “The red velvet cake stands for love, doesn’t it Momma.”
“It sure does sweetheart,” Momma managed with such joy in her words. “It reminds us of Jesus’ blood and His love. I love you so much Kara.”
“I love you too Momma.”