Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of lightly boiling water. Remove from the heat. Add the butter, vanilla extract, and egg yolks once the chocolate has melted, stirring constantly.
I do as I’m told. Late afternoon sunshine soaks into the kitchen so only the smell tells me the gas is lit. Four ounces of butter sit oozing over my scales, promising to leave a rank, oily slick that will make me gag as I clean it. The cake demands an astonishing number of eggs: ten yolks and ten whites, so now a bowl to my left sits heavy with yolks, the colour of old bruises, shot through with blood; beside it a cup brims with thin, bubbly mucus, like a scene from a porno I saw once—Gobbling Gertrude, I think it was called, where twenty chaps all shot their respective loads into a glass before a weary-looking slut knocked it back. My husband likes to watch porn, and believes that as long as I’m in the room it doesn’t count as adultery. I remember thinking, Dear God, I hope they paid her well for that, enough for her month’s rent at least, and hopefully a decent wine after to cut through the taste.
Slowly, I pour one hundred and fifty grams of caster sugar into the egg whites, turning my head from the sight. Eggs upset me. All that promise and possibility, turned into a snatched moment of pleasure on some greasy oik’s lips. Not my lips, not anymore. I stopped eating corpses when I was twelve, unable, despite my mother’s impassioned pleas, to stomach the idea or the actuality of a rotting corpse inside me. Fish went at the same time. I despise those who claim to be vegetarian and still eat fish. What have fish ever done that they don’t deserve the same chances as chickens and cows? Or humans, come to that? The only time I ever really stood up to my husband was when he wanted to take our boy fishing. Why not a day out to a slaughterhouse, I suggested? Or perhaps a lynching? Or a drive-by shooting, with popcorn and ginger beer? He sniggered a bit and said a trout lake was just more convenient, given we’re in Chichester, not Chicago, but he never suggested it again. I think I surprised him that day. When you don’t object to much, people know when you mean it.
Fold in the flour very carefully. Oh, I will, God knows. Otherwise I’ll be left with a soggy mess instead of a teatime treat, and I simply can’t abide waste, certainly not on this scale. I grease two cake tins with ‘finest’ organic butter, fresh from a free-range Jersey cow who was probably given Reiki massage and forced to listen to Mozart while a machine sucked the goodness from her. Designed to nourish her children, destined instead to end up in my husband. But don’t think about that now. Fold in the flour. Very carefully. That’s it.
Approximately five per cent of every dairy product consists of blood and pus. Remember that next time you’re gulping a latte. Udders aren’t designed to spurt milk constantly, any more than the female breast is. They get sore and cracked and infected, and that winds up in your milky drinks and on your Welsh rarebit. I gave up dairy a couple of years after meat and fish. There’s enough pus in me, thank you, without ingesting more. This blood and pus cake is for my husband. Into the oven it goes. Gas mark four.
While it bakes I’ve time to prep the lasagne, crème fraîche, and cheddar from the fridge, whip up my trusty béchamel sauce, take the putrefying cow from the freezer and add a good slosh of red wine. A handful of mushrooms, for form’s sake, but sautéed in so much butter and covered in so much salt any vitamins will be entirely overwritten. There. That’s dinner sorted, with ice cream for afters. Not for me, obviously. I’m having mung bean salad. I don’t eat anything now that wouldn’t grow if you put it in a pot. Live food.
He makes fun of me, of course. Don’t you feel sorry for those poor vegetables, he says, cut off in their prime? Moron. Bastard. Stinking, loathsome—but there words fail me, because so much abuse is animal related. Swine. Ape. Toad. Pig. All of whom I’d much prefer to be married to. I cut up some pig to add to the lasagne. Pigs are so charming, so intelligent. If there were any justice, they’d be eating the humans, rather than the other way round. Fat pig, they say of chubby humans, although pigs are in fact rather fastidious eaters and usually perfectly proportioned, unless they’re kept in tiny little pens and force-fed millions of calories.
My husband is a fat man, unsurprisingly. Even before I decided to kill him, he was huge, but over the last two years, since his doctor warned him, since I saw my chance, he’s become grotesque. His breasts are larger than mine now. The circumference of his upper arm is greater than that of my waist: I measured it recently while he slept. He sleeps very heavily, the sleep of the contented, the gourmand, the drunkard. He usually puts away a bottle of red alongside my dinner. That’s an extra nine hundred calories. The lasagne, with chips, one thousand eight hundred and fifty; the pig and pus sandwiches I popped in his briefcase, one thousand one hundred; this morning’s fry-up, certainly more than a thousand—it pains me to be imprecise, but I’m not sure how much toast he snaffled while I was in the shower—and finally, my exquisite sachertorte, which I must admit is starting to smell delicious, seven thousand eight hundred magnificent cholesterol-heavy calories. They say it serves eighteen, but it’ll only be him eating it, and I doubt it’ll take him more than two days to get through the thing. I write his daily calorific intake in a little notebook I keep in the dresser drawer. I like to be scientific about it. I can work out how much extra weight he’s gaining, how many grams of fat are slowly suffocating his heart, wrenching the life from it, minute by precious minute. And conversely, of course, how many years of freedom might yet be left to me.
© 2015 Melissa Todd
Melissa Todd completed an MA in creative writing at Canterbury Christchurch in 2009, and writes novels, short stories and opinion pieces.