In this memory, I am nine years old. One day in early March, as soon as the school lunch is brought in to our classroom, a cheer is heard.
“Today’s dessert is a cake!”
Somebody exclaims, and I cannot hide my excitement. Each day, our school lunch comes with some kind of dessert, but a cake is served only on a special occasion. Today’s cake is for the upcoming hinamatsuri celebration, our national holiday. I cannot wait to eat it!
When I sit at my desk with food on the plate, I carefully place the triangular paper package of the cake next to it. Of course, I am going to save it for the end because it is a dessert.
Today’s lunch menu is really to my liking. Always being a keen eater, once I finish my first serving, I stand up to grab some more food while the cake package remains unopened on the side. Of course, I am not going to eat it until I finish my second serving.
As I finally finish my second serving of the food and reach for my cake box, I hear my teacher’s voice.
“There is one extra cake,” he says. “Who wants it?”
Nobody raises their hand. Usually, cakes are very popular, and whenever there are a few extras, people have to fight for them. But today, the class remains silent. Maybe it is because our lunch time is almost over.
“Nobody?” My teacher makes a sad face. “Well, then, this will be wasted I’m afraid.”
I look at my unopened cake box. Then at my teacher’s face.
“Really? Nobody wants this cake?” He picks up the cake box in his hand. “This is the final call. Who wants it?”
Before I know it, my hand is shot up in the air. I haven’t eaten my first cake yet, but I like the idea of having another one, especially because cakes are rare and precious.
My teacher smiles at me.
“Oh, I’m glad that you want it. Congratulations, it’s yours!”
As I come back to my desk with my second cake box, it is clear that everybody else has finished their lunch. In a few minutes, the lunch time will officially end and we will be putting away our dishes.
In a hurry, I open my first cake box and takes a bite. To my shock, I don’t like the taste. I stare at the very colourful sponge cake in front of me. It can’t be that I don’t like the taste, that can’t be! It is a cake, a rare treat! I take another bite. But this time, I feel like vomiting. My stomach is refusing this cake!
As I struggle with the last bit of my first cake, the class is dismissed for the breaktime. Now, our lunch is officially over. It is time for us to clear away our dishes and the left-over food.
I shove the last bit of my first cake into my mouth with iron determination. But there is no way I can finish another one now or later. I feel stuck. I’m not sure what to do with it. I have never seen a cake being left at the end. I know I shouldn’t throw it away in our dustbin. I want to ask my teacher, but I’m so embarrassed to be giving up something I volunteered to eat that I don’t have the courage to ask him.
So, now, what should I do?
I start walking down the corridor with my unfinished cake box in my hand. There is just one place I can think of: the school’s kitchen. For a moment, I feel like Frodo from The Lord of the Rings, travelling to the only place in the world where he can safely dispose of the ring. With the same seriousness, I head to the kitchen with the cake box in my hand.
The school’s kitchen is crowded with people coming in to return all the dishes, utensils and the left-over food. Nobody takes notice of a girl with an unfinished cake box in her hand. I quickly look around, searching for the most appropriate place to leave this cake. But there is no place dedicated to the cakes.
There is a huge metal table where people leave the pile of dirty plates. The staff are washing the dishes behind it, regularly grabbing a new pile from the table. I leave my tiny cake box there, next to piles of dirty dishes. It clearly looks out of place, but at least somebody will notice it and take care of it.
I murmur my last apology to the unfinished cake box. Then I quickly leave the crowded kitchen before anybody discovers the tiny cake box on the metal table and enquires who left such a thing there.