Love in the time of Corona
The engine idles and she watches as the front door opens. Before she can register more than the lurch in her belly, before she can really see his brown eyes, his tousled hair, his paint-splattered apron, she takes off the handbrake and takes off down the road.
Now it’s all up to her imagination.
He’ll look down and notice the box tied with red ribbon. He’ll run his fingers through that mass of curls, those curls getting more unruly by the week. Then he’ll reach down, pick it up and go back inside.
She can still picture Inside. She had been there a few times before. Before this courtship was conducted over text messages, long phone calls and the blurry screens of laptops.
And now this.
He carries the box inside, places it on the kitchen table, undoes the ribbon and the box falls open to reveal the single cupcake. The top spread thick with pale icing, shards of lemon peel sprinkled over its surface. He laughs and picks it up, blinks and realises, She held this cake. Wraps his other hand around it too. Closes his eyes, smells the scent of lemon.
The kettle’s on and he washes his hands, rubbing the edge of his fingernails and squeezing out the thin crescents of paint. Soap bubbles stream through the gaps in his fingers and he watches the blue pigment drain into the sink.
He’ll make it an occasion. A whole pot of tea, a slice of ginger thrown amongst the leaves of Earl Grey, a jug of milk, his favourite blue mug. He places the cake on a plate and carries it all outside on a wooden tray.
He brings his phone. She won’t be home yet, but he could send her a photo. He arranges the tray on the table beneath the trees, peers through the camera, turns the mug’s handle this way and that, notices the lemon peel gleaming on the icing like the gold leaf on an icon.
He leans over his phone, peering through the camera. The whole world reduced to this tray, this rectangle holding those circles of mug, plate, cake, teapot, jug. He takes the photo. Sends it off. Realises that her number now comes up at the top of his list. Smiles.
The tea is poured. And a splash of milk that rears up and explodes into the tannin, before rolling and settling into tranquil beige.
He sits at the table and looks out at the trees. There are lorrikeets shrieking in the bottlebrush. There is wind playing a tune amongst the leaves. There is a baby crying somewhere. The sky is blue and clear and endless. He sips his tea and picks up the cake, raises it to the sky as if he is placing the sun in the heavens.
She made this.
His fingers encircle the cake, he pulls it down towards him again. Tips his head back, closes his eyes and gently opens his mouth.
Elizabeth Holland is an Australian writer who lives in Sydney. In 2016 she won the Sawmillers Poetry Prize for her poem Crisscrossing. She has been a finalist in a number of poetry and writing competitions, and had her poetry and creative non-fiction published in anthologies. She is currently working on her second novel while seeking a publisher for her first. When she isn’t writing, Elizabeth might be found urban sketching, swimming in the ocean or picnicking in beautiful places. She tries to do something creative every day. You can find her on Instagram on emhollandwrites.