Last night Sally dreamed she was kissed by Lauren Bacall. The actress’s silky hair veiled the moment from Sally’s husband who slept beside them.
Awake and in the shower, she clutched the kiss in her hand so it wouldn’t slip down the drain. She set the kiss on the counter while she pulled her limp hair into a ponytail, then tucked it in the pocket of the flannel shirt she would wear to the grocery store. Her heart beat against it, mimicking the pulse of that red, red kiss.
At the market, Sally collected the items she needed to make a dessert for tonight’s party. In the dairy aisle she passed a cart filled with clearance items left over from Valentine’s Day. Dented cupcakes, silent candy hearts, and bowless boxes of chocolate were piled high, ignored or rejected like so many girls who sat home the night before. Sally thought back to the quickie her husband offered her last night and tossed the memory onto the heap, where it landed on a pack of superhero valentines. Then she raised her fingertips to that warm kiss nestled in her pocket.
Back in the kitchen, Sally hummed as she beat egg whites for her signature dessert: angel food cake with lemon cream filling. Her friends expected it and she never disappointed them. Sally’s husband passed behind her on his way out of the house. He had to finish some paperwork at the office, he said, then he planned to stop at the gym.
“I’ll just meet you at the party, okay?”
“Sure,” she sighed. “Seven o’clock.”
He came around for a quick hug, squeezing the kiss between their Saturday shirts. At the doorway, he looked back. “Honey?”
“I don’t know. Nothing. See you tonight.”
Sally just smiled as she returned to her dreamy dessert which had filled the mixing bowl. Reaching into the pantry for the brown bottle of vanilla, she set off a cascade of cans and boxes until the final item fell at her feet: bittersweet chocolate. Oh no, she thought. This is angel food, not devil’s food. But as she put the chocolate back on the shelf, she felt the tingle of the kiss.
Sally counted seven drops of vanilla into the batter, then counted four steps back to the pantry for the chocolate. She trembled as she peeled gold foil from three squares and placed them in the double boiler. The chocolate melted into dark ribbons as it heated and before she could talk herself out of it, Sally dumped out the fluffy batter and started blending thicker, richer ingredients. “What have I done?” she said aloud and laughed with pleasure as she dipped a finger into the raw devil’s food, licking it clean.
Two hours later, Sally set the cake on its fancy platter. Here was a mound so dark and consequential where the lightweight angel food should be. With a flick of her wrist she sent the lemons rolling into the sink and plotted an alternate filling. Red, she knew. She found a can of cherry pie filling with a label so vivid the cherries seemed to be bursting through the tin. Sally spread the ruby fruit between the layers and pressed down gently. As her fingertips sunk into the surface, red rivers oozed over the sides of the cake and onto the plate. She smiled, and plucked the remaining cherries out of the can, easing them into the hollows made by her chocolate-covered fingers.
Sally heard the full party pitch as she stepped onto the porch. Cradling the cake, she rang the bell. After a moment the door swung open and Sally was face-to-face with her best friend’s husband.
“You don’t need to…” he started, then finished with, “Wow. What happened to you?”
Sally turned to suggest he help her out of her coat. All conversation stopped as heads angled to take in the scene. Their eyes started at the top, where Sally’s naturally brown hair shone with unnaturally red highlights. Her bare shoulders sloped into a red leather dress that ended well above where her friends would expect. Glittered hose followed her legs into Dorothy’s ruby slippers — on stiletto heels. What they couldn’t see was the kiss, tucked snugly between her breasts, thrilling her with every breath.
“This is a Valentine’s party, right?” She winked and handed the cake to her host. “So where’s my Valentine?”
Sally’s husband circled her like a rare museum piece, his orbits slowing as he took in the sight. “How… what…?” Syllables were all he could manage. “Sally?”
She caught hold of his tie, which was crowded with a dozen chubby Cupids, and led him by the length of his neckwear to the dining room. The cake sat in the center of the puffy pink dessert table, like a Hell’s Angel at a church picnic. With five long, fiery nails, Sally dug deep into the mound of chocolate. She lifted a fistful of devil’s food to her husband’s mouth and whispered, “Happy Valentine’s Day.” As he breathed it in, a cherry slid to the white carpet below.
“Oh, Sally,” he moaned, licking his lips to prolong the pleasure. He pulled her close and nuzzled the curve of her bare shoulder. Sally took his hand and placed it tight against the kiss. He shivered, then recreated its pulsing with his own kiss on her red, red lips. “Delicious,” he murmured, moving his kisses to her hair. Then he pulled the tie from his neck with one smooth motion and drew it around her waist. “Let’s go home.”
Their friends gawked as the two of them snaked across the room, pressed back to front by the ring of Cupids around Sally’s red leather waist. At the door, she reached between her breasts to retrieve the kiss. She tossed it high into the air and all the women in the room, those who were single and especially those who weren’t, leaped to snatch it before it reached the ground.
Andrea Poniers began writing fiction more than 20 years ago, in a class at a community college. Her short stories have been published in print and online, including Mountain Gazette, Trivia: Feminist Voices, and Laura Journal: The Women’s West in Short Fiction. In 2018, her first novel won first place in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Colorado Gold Contest for unpublished manuscripts (mainstream category). Andrea moved to Boulder, Colorado, from Michigan in 1997.