The song ends and Mummy and Daddy clap. The candles on the cake flicker in the draught and Mummy tells you to blow them out. You lean forward and purse your lips, your brother moving alongside you to help, and you both puff with all your might. One, two, three, four, five, six. All out. The room plunges into darkness and you feel a sudden fear.
‘Lights on!’ Mummy says and Daddy switches the light on and marches forward, the big knife in
his hand, the blade shiny, sharp, ready for cutting.
The big knife lives in the kitchen, stuck to the wall above the cooker by magic.
At least that’s what
Daddy calls it. The knife winks at you every time you pass by, a flash of light reflecting off the
stainless steel, the glare mesmerising. You don’t like being in the kitchen alone with the knife,
especially not at night.
s when the big knife talks to you.
‘I am temptation,’ it says. ‘I am the explorer. I am the light.’
You’ve heard someone else speak like that too, in the cold of the church, but although the words are similar you don’t think they can mean the same thing.
‘OK, so who’s going to have the first piece?’ Daddy says and
for a moment you forget about the
knife and instead concentrate on Daddy’s words, knowing he is trying to trick you. You mustn’t
greedy, must always be polite; if you aren’t, you’ll get hit. You point to your brother. He smiles and
claps his hands.
‘Can I, Daddy, can I?’
‘Of course you can, here, let’s see.’
Daddy takes the knife and rests it on the white icing, using his other hand to push the blade down into the cake. He cuts again and then slides the knife under the cake and withdraws the slice. He
stops. Doesn’t give the piece to your brother after all. Daddy frowns. The inside doesn’t look right,
the yellow sponge is soft and
mushy, not cooked properly. Daddy doesn’t like that. He turns to
Mummy and sneers at her.
‘What’s this?’ Daddy’s face reddens. ‘I’m out working all day and you can’t prepare a cake on this, of all days. Our special day. What do you think, boys?’
‘Naughty Mummy, bad Mummy, naughty Mummy, bad Mummy.’ You and your brother start the chant, the chant your Daddy has taught you. You hate singing the words, but if you don’t there’ll be trouble. There’s been a lot of trouble in recent months because Daddy’s changed
in some way. You
don’t understand why, but you wonder if it’s your fault, something you’ve done.
‘Yes, boys. Naughty Mummy.’
Daddy steps forwards and slaps Mummy in the face. She raises her hands, but it’s too late. The
blow catches her and knocks her sideways. Then Daddy has her by the hair. He is dragging her out of the room into the hall, pulling her up the stairs. Mummy is screaming and Daddy is shouting. They
are upstairs now, the door to their bedroom slamming shut. You know what’s going on up there because once you peeked through the keyhole. Daddy is doing something to Mummy and she doesn’t
like it. Afterwards Daddy will be sorry and Mummy will say everything is going to be alright, but this time you
wonder if Mummy’s words will come true because the big knife has gone. Daddy has taken it
with him. You wonder how you will be able to cut the cake without it, but then you remember the cake is bad.