Breadcrumb #448

JOANNA BETTELHEIM

At eight years old at ten a.m. on a Saturday morning, Stephanie slathers strawberry jam on her toast. Strawberry is her favorite, thickly frosting every whole-wheat bite. She kicks her feet under her, sitting high at the kitchen counter.

    Before she can retrieve another loaded knife full, her grandmother reaches out and pulls the jar away. “You don’t want to be turned into marmalade, do you?” Stephanie’s knife remains poised in the air, glistening with smudges of pink.

    “If you eat too much sugar, you’ll get pudgy.” Baba twists the lid back on the jar. “Boys don’t like pudgy girls. And if boys don’t like you,” she disappears behind the refrigerator door, “you’ll end up a spinster. Do you know what happens to spinsters, Stephanie?” Baba pinches the blunt blade and lifts the silver knife from Stephanie’s grasp.

    “They are turned into marmalade.” The knife clanks in the sink. Stephanie’s eyes grow wide. “That’s right. Zested and mashed and put into little jars with the orange and the lime.” Stephanie’s face scrunches reflexively, remembering the bitterness of the citrus spread. She hates the little bites of skin between her teeth.

    “Exactly. And you don’t want to be turned into marmalade, do you?”

    “No,” Stephanie admits, hanging her head and hooking her feet behind the legs of the chair.

    “Good.” Stephanie’s under-jammed piece of toast sits accused between them. Leaning in close, Baba whisks the plate away, dropping the toast into the trash can. “Shall we go for a walk today?”

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