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May 2021 Contest Winner: No Sweets

I place my hands on my hips, studying the poster with determination. “Alright,” I

say. “Day one.” I must follow through—I promised I would. But thousands of hours of

mental training would never prepare me for the final battle: Grandmother’s house. It’ll

only be for a day, Jane. You’ll be fine, Jane. I scoff at the memory of my parents speeding

away, leaving me to fend for myself on this suicide mission. Only sheer luck will save me

now.


Broccoli, whole wheat bread, grapes...the images on the poster taunt me with

their verdant colors. Right in the middle was a warning highlighted in bright red: NO

SWEETS. “Okay, just have to follow this. And no sweets. No sweets...” I repeat. The

mantra drones in my mind over and over until it lulls even my ruthless sweet tooth into

submission.


Outside, some sparrows nestled within the trees cheer me on. I turn around with

renewed confidence and grasp the doorknob. No matter what happens, just follow the

poster. Opening the door, I march towards the dining room.


The large table lays bare—the perimeter seems secure for now. When I least

expect it, however, an alluring scent infiltrates the room. Intuition warns me that the

long, hard battle is just about to begin.


I sneak towards the kitchen and peer around the corner. The room is dim. I can

only see the silhouette of the perpetrator. Its demure figure stirs ingredients into a pot,

humming an entrancing lullaby. I hold my breath. The figure must hear me coming

because she stops stirring and turns around.


“Lunch is coming along. Would you like to help, dear?” she says with a smile

plastered across her face.


As I come closer, I can see my nemesis clearly. Her thin, graying hair is wrapped

into a sharp bun. Her seemingly gossamer hands grasps a worn wooden spoon, a deadly

weapon lying in wait. The scent of cinnamon sticks to her deceivingly innocent spring

dress. Grandmother.


I fire back an artificial smile. “Sure, I would love to!” I lie, hoping she won’t be

able to detect the strain in my voice. Her eyebrows raise in suspicion as she adjusts her

small, thick-rimmed glasses, but she doesn’t seem to suspect a thing. She gestures

towards the steel cauldron.


“Well, could you stir this for me please?” she asks. “I’ll make some tea.” She lets

go of the wooden spoon and hobbles towards the empty kettle farther down the counter.


I approach the pot and grasp the spoon. The handle is still warm from her

unexpectedly firm grip. I mimic the motion she made before, steadily mixing the brew. It bubbles as the flames scorch the vat of orphic poison. Each pop is a burst of venom, each

whiff only further diminishes what little resistance I still have. “Remember your mission. Don’t get distracted,” I tell myself.


That arcane smile stays glued onto her face as she seems to read my thoughts.

“Are you alright, Jane? You seem to be talking to yourself.”


“Oh, nothing much Nana.” I mimic the lilt my mother’s voice would take on

when she haggles with businessmen at her work. “Just thinking out loud.” The last thing

I want is for her to find out my ulterior motive—I wouldn’t escape the labyrinthine

kitchen unscathed.


Grandmother persists. “Well, you seem a bit tired from the trip here. Why don’t

you try some of these?” Her hands uncover a loaf of banana bread wrapped in aluminum

foil. It pierces my nose with a lush scent, mocking me. My façade falters. She can’t have

heard me, surely? Though the fiery spark in her eyes beg to differ.


“I don’t think I should eat those, Nana, I still need room for lunch, right?” I

manage to reply. It takes an inordinate amount of willpower not to snatch a slice then

and there.


Her face falls. “Perhaps you’re right...” Before she can launch another attack, the

kettle whistles, interrupting the conversation. Her attention turns back towards the

boiling water, and I breathe a sigh of relief.


I return to stirring. Grandmother’s tune collides with my cyclical motions. The

symphony floats into the deep recesses of my brain, and my once solid determination is

now only a nebulous afterthought. Maybe I could relax my guard for a moment...


Then I realize. The aroma that had ambushed me in the dining room doesn’t

come from the banana bread, however alluring it is. I frantically sniff around for the

elusive scent. Tea leaves, Bananas, cinnamon...everything returns to sugar...


“...Sugar?” a voice calls behind me, giving me a mini-heart attack.


“Oh, uh, sugar?” I innocently ask. “What about it?”


Grandmother’s bewildered expression bores into me. “I was asking if you wanted

tea with sugar or not,” she responds with a wary voice. “Are you sure you’re alright,

Jane? You’ve been acting awfully strange lately.”


“Of course I’m alright Nana!” If only she knew. “By the way, is there anything else

you’ve made besides the banana bread?” I keep my voice as nonchalant as possible.


A devious look worms into her face. “Dearie, the hellion you are!” she says. “Why

didn’t you say so earlier? There’s something in the oven waiting just for you.”


My eyes widen with each step she takes towards the oven. “I’m okay Nana, really-” I say, though my words fall on deaf ears. She rips the oven open and a sickly sweet scent comes

blasting out, the same scent from the dining room.


“Tada!” Grandmother sets a tray on the counter. As my legs move toward the tray,

my already wilted resistance crumbles to dust. “They’re sugar cookies! Your favorite!” she

says. I think of my promise, my parents. I’m sorry, I think, praying they could hear me.


That day, I ate the entire tray.


 

Moo, the winner of Writervana's May 2021 writing contest, is a fiction and poetry writer.

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