Sand Cake

Sand Cake

A Chapter by YouoweYoupay

Delicious cake and a wolf figurine.

10. Sand Cake

Emena Ulia walked like no other poet. With a lifted chin, tight fists and squared shoulders, she marched toward me and kneeled to examine my wound. It was hard to picture her holding a pen with dreamy eyes and lovely words in her head. My Aunt Tula would have been the right face for that image because there was nothing poetic about the movements of Jaraan's mother. I stood in her shadow and took a small breath.

“Whatever happened to your knee!” Mother exclaimed, placing the tea cup on the small table beside her, “Your father left us some warm water in the kitchen. Use it to clean yourself up and come back to greet our guests... Emena, don’t bother with him.” she sighed, “Boys will fight every day.”

In the stark light of noon streaming through our windows, Emena towered over me, her gaze stern and unmistakably reproaching.

As soon as I was asked to explain, I would refuse. But she did not demand me to speak. And I was not prepared for this. Her neck on one side was printed with the slice of a scar, whiter than the color of her skin. 

“Sit.” Emena ordered firmly. I obeyed, wincing in pain as I lowered myself against one of the stair steps, “Who hurt you?”

“It wa- No one.” I retorted, “I fell over.”

I had slinked from the backdoor of our kitchen, behind their backs, the staircase was only a few steps away from me, I could have raced toward the safety of my bedroom, but my mother had exposed me.

“Daia,” Emena turned to my mother, “May I trouble you with some clove tea?”

My mother blinked at her, then glanced at my knee with an understanding, “No, no trouble at all. I’ll brew it right away.”

“Now that your mother is out of the picture, we shall talk.” she kneeled down beside me, her eyes locked with mine. I shuffled slightly across the edge of the stair step where I sat, “I have heard what you have done with my son. I have heard about the bridge, and the chase in the forest.” she counted on her fingers.

I strained to hear the sound of my mother preparing the tea in the kitchen. For the first time in many years, I wished to hide behind her dress. I wished she had never left me alone with with his woman in the parlor. The stone stuck in my throat hardened. And my knee stung.

But I was not as alone as I had thought. 

“Jaraan, come closer.” Emena beckoned.

She had brought him to confirm my error, to certify against me before I even won the chance to defend myself.

The boy approached shyly, hands behind his back as if to hide something. But Jaraan’s eyes looked nothing like that of a victorious tell-tale, shielded by the wing of his mother. I compared the two faces. They did not match. He did not resemble her in shape or ambience.  Somehow, the contrast distracted my fears.

His face brightened in an anxious, dimpled smile. Emena’s light brown, unsmiling eyes did not change as she said this to me:

“We hope that you accept this humble gift.”


“As a token of our gratitude.” she nodded at her son encouragingly and the hands that hid behind his back produced a palm-sized object.

It was a wooden figurine of a wolf.  I instantly recognized him by the torn left ear; Beyarnok, the wolf prince. He stood tall and proud, howling to the moon. His stance was strong, but not fierce. I smoothed the end of his tail with my hand.

“You spared my son the shame of having to justify his fears in front of the other boys.” the hardness in her eyes mellowed to match the patient kindness in her voice, “Instead, you had put yourself in that difficult position. This is an act of bravery that cannot go unnoticed, Beya.”

She pronounced my name the same way Jaraan did, stressing the middle sound: Beyya.

Emena did not demand compensation for her son's shattered indigo kite. She did not berate me for leaving him behind on the eastern trail of the forest. My heart was washed with relief. 

“What do you think of this?” her eyebrows slightly lifted, “A sculptor, I am not. But we made an effort, he and I.” She tilted her chin in Jaraan’s direction, “Did we not?”  He nodded.

My skin prickled and my eyes shimmered as I turned the small wooden wolf in my hands.

“I really love it!” my smile widened a little less cautiously, my sight alternated between mother and son, “Thank you, whoever made the gift.”

“I carved and he described you.” Emena ruffled Jaraan’s hair. 

He described me.

In a tradition shared by both Gulocians and Ulians, sculpting figures of wood or stone to represent someone’s name was either an expression of gratitude, affection and praise or an artistic insult. Because the outcome of the sculpture did not only rest in the hands of the sculptor, but also in the words of those who describe your character and physique. What the heart of the describer saw in you, would take shape in the final form of the figurine.

I studied the calmly closed eyes of the wolf prince as he held his head upward in an eternal howl. I admired the elegant lines that shaped his fur. The lack of one ear did not affect the dignity of his posture.

Was this what Jaraan thought of me? 

My cheeks grew warm with embarrassment. 

Lunch was set and our table was spread with sad-looking food. White and pale yellow potato and rice paste. Plainly steamed vegetables. Water served on the side. I could hear our fathers loudly chatting as they settled around the table.

Redemption meal. Served to our guests with the intention of expressing utmost sorrow and regret. And in order to achieve the effect, the food must be consumed slowly, silently and with a solemn face that repelled any hints of an appetite or eagerness.

My parents would sit on chairs chopped from their legs to lower their level than that of our Ulian guests. They would scoop portions into platters spouting remarks of self-degradation in between such as: 

“We did not do you justice by this meal.”

“Our home is your home and more.”

“We hope to redeem ourselves to the last sin.”

I stood in the alley way, frozen and reluctant to take another step.

“What do you mean you will not eat?” Emena stared at her son’s face.

This was my chance. My mouth opened and closed. 

“What is the matter, boy?” my mother chimed in, “This lunch has been prepared in the honor of your great grandparents!”

“I am very much thankful, Mrs. Ayar.” Jaraan replied with the courtesy of an forty-year-old man, “But you see, I have no appetite at the moment.”

My heart raced and my fingers quivered. But it was not difficult to gather my strength and decide.

I would either say this or sit at the table to watch my parents humiliate themselves in the name of atonement.

“Mrs. Ulia,” I cleared my throat, “I’m not hungry either.” Her son eyed me curiously, “May I have your permission to play with Jaraan outside?”

“Of course.” She nodded at me rigidly, “Such politeness. I commend your parental education, Daia.” 

My mother stuttered words of gratitude. I could see her feet floating in the air at the woman’s testimony.

“Aunt Ulia,” I smiled sheepishly, “If you come again, would you please bring more sand cake?” 

If you have never tasted this in your life, I am here to inform that you have not been living well. Sand cake is a moist Ulian dessert that dissolves in your mouth, baked from a mixture of yogurt, sweet milk, vanilla and durum wheat.

The tall woman stooped lower, her serious face contrasting the cooing in her voice, “It would be my pleasure.” 

“Can I have more than two slices?”

She pinched both my cheeks, “You can have as many as your belly allows.”

“More than two!” my mother choked, her face a little tense, “Beya! Where are your manners?”

“My manners! Yes, my manners.” I gasped at her, my face relaxing into a mischievous grin, “I must have left them in the parlor.” Jaraan startled when I clasped his hand and yanked him away. The sting in my scraped knee had vanished; the magic of heartfelt gifts...

When Emena chuckled quietly, the color returned to my mother’s face and I was a bird set free in the wind.

“Do not run, you foolish boy!” my mother bellowed, "And stay away from the mad man's hut!"

© 2020 YouoweYoupay

My Review

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Another winning chapter. These are a great pleasure to read. You have great comedic timing. I smiled throughout. Nicely done. Ah, and Beya and Jaraan together again. I wonder what trouble they'll get into... ;)

Posted 5 Months Ago

Another top-notch chapter. The best part of this chapter is the way your dialogue reveals an authentic interplay between the younger people in this story, realistic for their age & relationships. It really felt like it would be for characters this age, nicely showing their slight shyness, hesitation at times, etc. Also, along with your convincing dialogue, the other parts show us your characters interacting in dynamic interesting ways (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Posted 6 Months Ago

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2 Reviews
Added on December 5, 2020
Last Updated on December 11, 2020
Tags: Short novel



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