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Karma tasted mildly bitter on Monica’s tongue. It was round and brown, quite warm and a bit doughy. I refused to eat any so my daughter, Monica, offered to sample personalised cookies I baked for my ex-husband’s divorce party. Spencer had a fondness for sugary treats. Knowing this, I sprinkled some bittering agent to turn the cookies sour and barely added any sugar because he wasn’t sweet. His party was evidence of this, an example of the bitterness flowing through him. Ironically, he called me bitter, so I wanted him to eat something that would remind him of me.
“When a union lacks unity, its separation is cause for a celebration,” he told me the last time we spoke. I frowned and twisted my lips in disapproval, but this didn’t put him off. If anything, he smirked at my reaction, pleased he could still get to me.
Monica dropped her cookie onto a plate, rinsed her mouth out with water, and drank some orange juice to remove the acrid aftertaste.
“How is it?” I asked.
“A little bitter.”
“Just a little? That’s not enough,” I said. “It has to taste like our marriage.”
“Will he eat it? I doubt it.”
I shrugged and placed the cookies into a clear container. “It’ll have to do for now. Don’t have time to do another batch. At least it’s sour.”
Monica glanced at the purple icing used for the personalised text on the cookies. “You should have written karma in capital letters. That would really make a statement, I think.”
“You think so? I doubt it would make much of a difference.” I tossed the container into a carrier bag.
As I slipped out of my apron, I thought of his response to seeing me. He didn’t invite me, so my presence would likely cause him to clench his jaw and hiss. Monica stood beside me while I washed dishes in the sink. We both stared out of the window, gazing at the darkness descending over the garden. It was only five o’clock, but this bleakness didn’t surprise us since daylight made its exit early during winter. Monica agreed to accompany me to the party. She wanted to watch everything unfold, to see if he would even touch the cookies or take a small bite. I also thought it would be funny to wear my wedding dress there.
“I want to hear him say, I don’t.”
Monica chuckled. “What if he says, I do?”
“Then I’ll say the opposite.”
I spent weeks dieting in order to fit into the wedding dress. For once, I was glad I stored something for so long. Twenty years to be exact. The same length I kept my vows, yet he stuck to his for a quarter of this. Fidelity for five years was too much for him, an accomplishment by his standards. Like most women, I couldn’t tell he got the seven year itch a year early. Instead of divorcing me, he thought the solution to his itch rested with another woman. He hid this for a decade, worked to revive our relationship once the affair ended, but the damage he caused left cracks in our marriage. His mistress took with her the trust we built, and doubt replaced it.
Monica zipped me up, styled my hair into a bun, and lifted the train of my dress as I walked. It was a sleeveless V-neck with beading sequins and lace sewn onto the lower part. Before we left, she straightened her bob, tamed her thick brows with an eyebrow brush, applied some chapstick to her lips, and wore a light brown jacket that was the same colour as her skin. Monica drove us to his place, parking a minute away from his house when we arrived. I carried the cookies like a bouquet, walked with the veil over my face, held my breath when she rang the bell, and only exhaled when his brother answered the door. He recognised Monica, but he couldn’t see my face because of the long veil. He paused to look at the wedding dress, head tilted to the left, mouth curled upwards. I could sense he wanted to make a comment, but he faced Monica instead.
“Oh, I didn’t know you were invited,” he muttered, letting us in.
We didn’t correct him. No one had to know Spencer didn’t offer us an invitation. We walked inside to see his friends and relatives dancing to a song his mistress adored. How did I know this? The other woman mentioned it in a text she sent to him, a message I discovered when secretly scrolling through his phone. Her simple text left a burn mark on my shattered and bruised heart.
To my right stood Monica who arched her brows at the colourful decorations and balloons. Some people turned to stare at me, but Spencer hadn’t noticed us yet. He was busy eating cake across the room.
“You know what,” I whispered. “I think he’ll eat it if you give it to him.”
I grabbed a plastic plate, took two of the cookies, turned them upside down so that the karma icing was hidden, and handed it to Monica. The ones in the container were left on a table behind me. She took it from my hands and approached him, smiling. He looked down at her, his brown eyes wide and bright. I stood close to them with my back turned against him.
“Monica!” he exclaimed. “Didn’t think you would be here.”
“Hi Dad,” she said.
“How have you been?”
“Not too bad,” she replied. “Interesting choice of music.”
“So is your outfit. A pink shirt and yellow jeans. Really?”
“Yours isn’t any better,” she replied and pointed to his plaid shirt and black trousers. “Anyway, I brought these for you.”
I turned my head to see Monica stretch her arm, holding out the plastic plate, and him reaching for a cookie. He bit into it, jaw moved slowly as he chewed, and his face twisted into a tight expression before he swallowed.
“Did you buy this or do them yourself?” he asked.
A sly grin crept up on me, but I bit my bottom lip to hide it.
“Actually, mum did,” Monica replied and pointed to me.
He glared at us, eyes widened, nostrils flared. “What is wrong with you? And what in God’s name are you wearing?”
I snickered. “I should be asking where your tux is.”
Some people stared at us, confused by the bickering that disrupted the music.
“You think this is funny? You’re…” he trailed off.
He couldn’t complete his sentence with the cookie still in his mouth, its bitterness making him nauseous. He ran to the bathroom to spit it out, pushing past his brother and his best friend to get there. I lifted the veil, and everyone saw the smirk I was hiding.
“Caroline!” his brother exclaimed. “I didn’t realise that was you. What are you doing here?”
I stepped back, a little conscious of the attention I was receiving.
He glared at me. “And what’s with the dress?”
All eyes were on me, from his relatives to the DJ. The music stopped playing, making their stares even more piercing.
“We got married on this day,” I replied. “So, I thought it would be fitting to wear this.”
Everyone remained silent. Spencer returned and poured himself a glass of blackcurrant juice. “You’re still here? Are you heading to the altar afterwards? Who’s the unlucky groom?”
Loud gasps replaced the silence in the room, and his brother’s mouth dropped.
“Whoa!” his brother yelled. “You guys, she’s just joking.”
I scoffed, amused by the shock on his face. Monica listened to our exchange, but she soon turned her focus to her aunt who grabbed one of the karma cookies. Spencer noticed this too and rushed to stop her, accidentally spilling his drink on me in the process. The top part of my wedding dress turned a dark red colour, causing me to scream and jump back.
“Look what you’ve done!” I shrieked.
“Don’t!” he yelled, snatching the cookie away from his sister. He threw it and what was left into a bin. “Caroline made them as bitter as she is. Don’t eat it! They’re horrible.”
Monica inched closer to the front door. Her hands twitched and lingered over the doorknob. “It’s getting late, mum. Don’t you have that thing tomorrow?”
I nodded. “You’re right. It’s way past my bedtime anyway.”
“What? No, really, I usually go to bed by nine. I’m getting old, you know.”
Monica shook her head. I covered my face with the veil before grabbing the clear container and leaving with Monica. We heard music playing again once we stepped outside. The cold air was filled with loud laughter that gradually faded as we got close to the car. When we returned home, Monica helped me out of my dress.
“What now?” she asked.
I pursued my lips and reflected on what transpired. Spencer eating something bitter made me happy, but I knew his real karma would take time. No point in waiting for it to happen. Working on myself was next on my to-do list.
“Nothing,” I replied. “Let’s put tonight behind us and focus on the future.”