Burnt Offering 

Frank had left for work about an hour before she got up but it was still early and surprisingly gloomy in the living room.The sky was overcast and threatening, even while the air was thick and warm and it smelled as if there would be rain later iin the day.

She walked across the rug and noticed something on the coffee table, sitting among the general debris of newspapers and remote controls. It was in the space in front of where she sat, something small, brown and alien perched as it was between a TV guide and the edge of the table.

She picked it up. It was a hot cross bun – or rather, half a hot cross bun. It was cold but had been toasted and buttered and then left, like a small gift in front of where he knew she would sit.

‘Oh, Frank,’ she sighed and picked it small bun up in her hand. She could smell the sweetness and the cinnamon and fruit that had been trapped in the butter.

They had been married a good while now, but every now and then he surprised her like this. A small gesture – a useless, cold breakfast that she could not eat anyway because she was on a diet, but it was nice to think that he had made himself some breakfast and then finding he had a little left over had thought of her.

She smiled as he pictured him, getting  up to put his mug in the sink, leftovers in hand and then stopping and thinking that he could perhaps offer this little token of affection to her. When they had been younger, he had often made her breakfast, but familiarity over the years and a change in his shifts had got him away from the habit.

Still, something this morning had made him think of her. Perhaps it was because she had lost a bit of weight, perhaps because they had been talking about going on holiday together later this year and something had stirred the old romantic in him. Frank had always been the more romantic one of the two of them.

She lifted the bun to her mouth. As romantic gestures go, it was more succcessful in thought than in execution. It was hard and the butter had congealed – and anyway it was forbidden on her diet. Gingerly, she pulled a single sultana away from the base with her teeth and allowed it to lie on her tongue for a second before chewing and swallowing it. No more. Once she started with the sugar, she found it difficult to stop. Still, she did not want to hurt Frank’s feelings so she took the bun to the kitchen and placed it in the fridge, so he would see she had noticed the gesture and appreciated it.

A couple of days later she was cooking dinner when she saw the bun still in the fridge. It had fallen down behind some other food so she had forgotten about it. Feeling a little guilty because she knew his feelings got hurt when she did not notice stuff he had done for her, she resolved to make it up to him.

‘Oh! I forget to say,’ she started, ‘thank you for your present the other morning.’

‘Huh?’ Said Frank.

‘The present, the little hot cross bun you left out for me,’ she said.

‘What are you talking about?’ said Frank.

‘The other day – you left a little bun on my side of the coffee table for me. I am sorry, I forgot to mention it, but I wanted to say thank you.’

‘Oh that,’ he said.

‘Yes. You are naughty, you know I am on a diet. Still I appreciate the thought.’

‘I didn’t leave it there for you,’ said Frank.

‘What do your mean?’

‘I didn’t leave it there for you. I was eating at the table and then didn’t want anymore but I wanted to look at the sports page so put it on the other side of the table so I could open up the paper without getting butter all over it.’

‘Oh,’ she said. ‘Oh.’

‘What is the matter with you now?’ said Frank.

‘Nothing,’ she said, ‘ I just feel …  I just thought is was a little present, that is all,’ she said.

‘I didn’t miss your birthday, did I?’ he asked.

‘No, Frank, you did not miss my birthday.’

‘And you are on a diet, right? So it would have been a lousy present.’

‘I guess so.’

‘Happy Easter, anyway!’ he said.

‘Happy Easter, Frank.’

She went to the fridge, took out the little half bun and threw it in the bin.

‘Dinner’s ready,’ she said.

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