By Dawn DeBraal
If only Hannah understood how abrasive she could be when she talked to people. Her mother never told her that she was offensive. Hannah never developed the filter that most of us have. The one we use to refrain from responding negatively toward a person.
It seems every time Hannah opened her mouth there was no stop button to turn off what came out. She didn’t notice peoples glazed over eyes or the tightening of their jaws and the abrupt ends to their conversations with her. She appeared oblivious and unable to control her waggly tongue.
Hannah felt she was a Godly woman, but Sabrina a fellow parishioner from her church told her she was nothing but a mean-spirited person who hurt everyone’s feelings.
Hannah didn’t understand how a person from the church could tell her this. Weren’t church people supposed to be Godly like her? She didn’t feel comfortable around Sabrina after that, pulling her attendance to that church from that day forward. No one seemed to notice when Hannah stopped going on Sundays. No one seemed to care.
One day Hannah reached into her mailbox and pulled out a letter. It was from her church.
“Dear Miss Hannah, we have missed your presence at church and would like to welcome you back into our fold. Please come to our service next Sunday, we have a new preacher and we would like to welcome Pastor Cheney with as many parishioners as we can! We look forward to seeing you. Please bring a dish or a dessert to pass for our potluck to follow immediately after the service.”
Hannah’s first thought was that she would not be going, but she was excited about meeting the new preacher, and she read a new recipe from the Ladies At Home magazine she wanted to try. She found the recipe deciding she would like to meet the new pastor and she would take the Lemon Drizzle Bundt cake. Everyone at church would be awed by her cooking ability and perhaps Sabrina herself would be forced to apologize for being so mean.
Off to the store, she went pulling her grocery cart behind her. At the front of the Market Place she saw Hartley Davis. My he looked old today she thought to herself. It was like his hair turned gray overnight!
“Good morning Hartley,” Hannah said staring intensely. “What happened to your hair, it seems to have turned gray overnight!” Mr. Davis returned her intent stare.
“You are so rude to point out my hair, I thought this was happening, but part of me hoped it wasn’t happening, and now I know for sure it’s happening. I wished you hadn’t said anything Hannah.” Mr. Davis walked out to this car while Hannah entered the store. She took in the sights and sounds.
“I hear they told her to leave the restaurant and never come back!” Mrs. Busybody was telling Mrs. You Don’t Say. Hannah sniffed as she walked by. Apparently, Mrs. You Don’t Say was drinking the cooking sherry again.
“Pardon me,” Hannah said putting her face between the women. “Can you tell me where the cooking sherry is? It seems you two have already hit that aisle!” She said this loud enough for all to hear.
“Well, I never… said Mrs. Busybody. “What an insolent woman you are!” Hannah continued walking with the pull cart behind her selecting the items from the magazine recipe.
“One pound of butter, a small lemon, a pint of Dairy Maid sour cream.” She said to herself. While she was reaching for the sour cream when she spied Lauretta Dunworthy. Lauretta was sporting a new haircut she was trying to pull off.
“Don’t worry Lauretta, it will grow back again.” Hannah clucked her tongue and shook her head as she walked away.
“What?” Lauretta’s jaw dropped and she touched her hair, leaving her cart she ran crying out of the store.
Hannah completed her shopping list. And piled her goods up on the checkout belt.
“So the black eye. Was Hilmer drunk again last night?” she asked Nancy Fay. Unnerved Nancy punched the red blinking light
“Price check. Please, price check!” she shouted into the loudspeaker feedback echoed through the store. Mr. Sota came to her rescue. She whispered in his ear and headed for the bathroom. Mr. Sota continued to check out Hannah’s groceries.
“Mr. Sota you wear that shirt every day, don’t you have anything else to wear? Mr. Sota quickly gathered her groceries taking her money and then turned to the person behind Hannah.
“Next!” he commanded. Hannah left the grocery store pulling the cart behind her she spied the Lacy boy having a meltdown in the parking lot.
“I want candy!” he shouted. Mrs. Lacy wearily tried to tell her little boy to get into the car there would be no candy for misbehaved boys. Hannah walked by.
“Spare the rod, spoil the child.”
“Mind your own business Hannah Baker!” Shouted Mrs. Lacy. Hannah managed to make it all the way home without offending someone that afternoon.
The day before the potluck Hannah went over the recipe twice and started to make the Lemon Drizzle Bundt cake. She knew everyone would be astounded by her culinary skills. She daydreamed herself back at the church while all the ladies gathered around.
“My this is the best Bundt cake I have ever tasted!” They would say this right to her face, and clamor for the recipe. In fact, Hannah took time out to copy several of the recipes onto index cards. Hannah decided she would display them near the cake so anyone wishing to duplicate this recipe could do so.
All afternoon she zested her lemon, beat the eggs to stiff whites, folding in the ingredients and baked the most beautiful Lemon Drizzle Bundt cake. It came out perfectly! Hannah flipped it on the receiving dish from the “Take the Cake” pan with a paper lace doily between the pan and the cake. A work of art, she thought. Tomorrow she would make the drizzle and bring that work of art to the church and show those ladies she was a woman of substance!
The next morning, Hannah woke early. She cooked up the drizzle which turned out beautifully and drizzled the frosting over the cake. She proudly put the cake in the, “Take a Cake” pan that her mother left her in the will.
Hannah carried the cake to the church.
“Good morning Hannah! So nice to see you here,” chimed Sabrina falsely. “Meet Pastor Cheney, Pastor, this is Hannah, and oh lovely cake you’ve brought a cake.” Hannah met Pastor Cheney’s blue-eyed smile.
“Hello Pastor, you have a button missing on your collar, not a good first impression!” The startled Pastor fingered the missing button on his shirt.
“Thank you for letting me know.” He said weakly. She turned to Sabrina.
“I made this cake special. It’s a Lemon Drizzle Bundt cake from the Ladies At Home magazine.” She watched Sabrina’s face shrivel and knew she had the best dessert.
The church was standing room only that day, everyone turned out to meet the new preacher. As the last song was sung the pastor called out a prayer so everyone could go to the basement to start in on the potluck meal. Hannah glanced over at the dessert table and could see her Lemon Drizzle Bundt cake standing proudly among the best cakes. She couldn’t wait until they asked.
“Who made this cake!” In fact, she had already placed the hand-written recipe cards on the table to accommodate her fellow parishioners with the recipe as they praised her accomplishment. Hannah sat down next to several ladies as they waited for their turns to fill their plates with a variety of foods.
“Lemon Drizzle Bundt cake!” She heard and followed her ears to the women behind her. Sabrina was center stage.
“What about the Lemon Drizzle Bundt cake?” Hannah asked ready to let them know with pride she had made the latest cake from the Ladies At Home magazine. She followed the recipe to a “t”. Sabrina looked miffed at her interruption.
“Well on the news this morning Channel Two said the recipe missed a major ingredient on the Lemon Drizzle Bundt cake in the Ladies At Home, a miss print in the magazine. I believe it should have been two cups of sugar. Can you imagine that they missed putting two cups of sugar in the recipe! Channel Two said that anyone who eats this cake puckers up and can’t talk for a week!” The ladies laughed at Sabrina’s joke.
“Oh My!” said Mrs. Lacy clutching her heart. “I pity the poor soul who makes that cake and brings it anywhere to share!” Hannah jumped from her seat running across the basement of the church taking the cake and the neatly handwritten recipe cards, dumping them into the big trash can in the corner. She hoped that no one noticed her panicked run.
The women at the table behind her snickered. Hannah watched them as they covered their mouths and clutched their sides. Sabrina came up behind Hannah with her “Take a Cake” container.
“Oh Hannah, you need to try this. It’s a Lemon Drizzle Bundt cake, the latest from the Ladies At Home, magazine. It took me all day to make it.” Sabrina put the cake on the table with a dazzling smile. She pulled the cover off the “Take a Cake” carrying pan, and there on a lace paper doily sat the very cake Hannah had just thrown away. All the ladies crooned.
“It looks delicious!”
“Oh Sabrina, what a beautiful masterpiece!” Hannah felt the heat rush up her body. Her first thought was to say what was on her mind, but suddenly she realized she would only embarrass herself. She had just thrown a perfectly good cake away. She looked at all the people she had said those mean cruel things to, Mrs. Lacy, Nancy Fay, Hartley Davis, Lauretta Dunworthy, Pastor Cheney and even Sabrina herself, all of them. Hannah suddenly felt the shame they had given back to her and knew now exactly what she had been doing over the many years. She had been, mean to all of them, only now she understood what it felt like. Hannah learned what a filter was right then and there. Instead of saying what she was about to say, she started to laugh hysterically thinking about all the work she’d put into that cake, sitting in the garbage can. Tears rolled down her face as she slapped her thigh. Soon the people around her, started laughing too with tears rolling down their faces slapping their thighs. The more Hannah laughed, the more the rest of them laughed. When the laughter stopped, they brought Hannah back into the fold.