I remember someone told me once that the best way to get a girl to love you is to save her from a dangerous situation. Maybe do it twice. At the time, I was drunk and on my third beer. My friend was mixing himself a martini and adding six olives that were actually stuffed with bleu cheese, so when he stirred the mixture with his finger, it turned a milky grey. Thumping music played in the background as he explained that being scared and then safe with you triggered a very primordial emotional response. A midwest university did a study on it, he said. The results were there.
I didn’t think about this friend and his story the night that Velouria and I had a knife pulled on us. The man in the mask asked us for money and I gave it to him, but then he asked for Velouria’s necklace, which was handed down from generation to generation, the gem in the center of the charm hidden in a relative’s cheek as they secreted themselves towards America. I told him, respectfully, no. His right hand shook, he nearly dropped his knife, he looked into my eyes and then into Velouria’s – she buried her face in my shoulder – and then he left.
Velouria kissed me hard when he left. She smelled like honey and clover and maybe nutmeg, and I took her face in my hands and kissed her hard and said, I’m sorry that happened. And she pulled back and said, thank you for handling it.
That night, we were back at my apartment, and I was working on a new recipe for a cupcake with goat cheese frosting and she came up behind me and wrapped her arms around my middle and pressed her face into my back. I kissed her with my hands away from her body (they were covered in goat cheese and pastry flour) but she grabbed my arms and pushed them onto her back. Thanks again, she said. That smells amazing. I told her: You smell amazing – I know that nothing bad can happen when I’m with you. She smiled and licked some of the frosting off my finger. That tastes wonderful, she said.
When I got in bed after showering, she snuggled up close to me and we were warm under the duvet, hot even. I fell asleep with a bead of sweat traveling down my brow, and woke up to the smell of something wonderful baking.
For a moment, I panicked – I left something in the oven, I baked in my sleep, I ate in bed – but I turned and realized the smell came from Velouria. Her hair was perfectly tousled, her arms akimbo, the top sheet was twisted between her legs. A trail of crumbs led to her shoulder, and I rolled over and pushed my body against hers. Her shoulder smelled like an apple cider pound cake, and I couldn’t think of a better way to wake up, especially on a cold morning in Autumn. My girlfriend baked for me. Beautiful.
I got up and went to the kitchen to find nothing – no pans, no dirty measuring bowls, no pound cake. Velouria walked into the kitchen in a robe, yawning a few minutes later and poured herself a cup of coffee. She brought the smell with her.
Where did you hide the apple cider pound cake? I asked. She looked at me with dopey, sleepy eyes. Hmm? Her expression was tired confusion, like a cartoon. She was so beautiful when she furrowed her brow. I didn’t bake anything, she said. Then I guess it’s just you, I said, leaning across our breakfast table and kissing her. You smell like baked goods.
She brought her nose to her shoulder and breathed in deep. I smell good enough to eat, she said. I might just, I said.
It was hard to keep my hands off of her, and when I wasn’t with her, my thoughts off of her.I started to wonder if my want of her had turned into needing her, and I kneaded her into every loaf of bread that day. I opened my briefcase to find the finished goat cheese frosting recipe I worked on the night before to find a note from her tucked into the folded, stained post-it chain from the kitchen.
Everything of mine should be yours, she wrote. I think we should get married. Every morning I make the same equation when I wake up – the time I can be away from you subtracted from the time I can be with you, and the difference of the two, and it’s starting to look like one side of the equation is zero. Twenty four minus zero is still twenty four.
When I got home, I called her name into the darkness of my apartment. She had told me she would be waiting, but I stopped and lingered over and purchased a ring to give to her, to fulfill her ring finger’s destiny. She was in the bedroom, naked on the sheets, and the entire room smelled like raspberry crumb bars, burnt sugar, spilled flour.
It smells delicious in here, I said.
It’s all me, she said. Lick my shoulder.
I did. She tasted like butter and pastry cream, flour and beaten eggs, whole milk and hints of raspberry.
What’s happened? I asked.
I don’t know. But I’m yours, she said. I’m safe as long as I’m with you. Please, bite my lips.
I obeyed. My teeth sank into softness like I had bitten into raspberry truffle. Bright red fruit puree dripped down her chin. She stuck her tongue out to taste it. It’s like raspberry jam, she said. I tasted her and agreed. There are blackcurrants in there, I said.
Savor every bite, she said, bringing her hand to my lips.
As I bit into her, I wondered how to make the cupcake that would taste like her.