Handle Me with Care - Helen J Rolfe

Chapter One

‘I think that’s the biggest penis I’ve ever seen,’ said a little old lady. ‘And the hugest pair of testicles!’

Maddie Kershaw spun round and stared in horror at the cake a group of elderly folks had unveiled; the cake she had only that morning finished icing for a bachelorette party. Upon arrival at the function room, she had set the cake box on the trestle table along the wall and turned her back to call her best friend, Ally, to double-check the address. She hadn’t imagined a crowd would descend on the cake so quickly.

The enormous chocolate penis with cartoon-sized testicles stared back at Maddie, like a veritable arrow pointing to her mistake in delivering it to the function venue on Violet Street instead of the function venue on Violet Road. Maddie’s cheeks burned as scarlet as the cardigan the little old lady wore over her loose-fitting black dress that floated past her knees. The sniggering over the phallic cake crescendoed. The autumn sun that warmed the room through the windows felt stifling. Only now did she notice the helium balloons with ‘100’ written on them and the banner two adult males were fixing up at the far end of the room which very clearly read ‘Happy Birthday’.

She wished the floorboards would open up and swallow her whole.

A smooth, velvety male voice came from behind and Maddie’s breath caught in her throat.

‘I thought I told you to behave today, Jem,’ the man told the old lady, who had pulled on a lemon-sherbet pair of thick framed glasses so she could take a closer look at the shaved chocolate that represented the pubic hair. He nodded in approval at the cake that lay there in all of its glory, incongruous against the pale pink tablecloth with its delicate, innocent white roses.

‘I’m afraid there’s been a bit of a mistake.’ Maddie locked eyes with the woman whom she now knew as Jem, but she couldn’t bring herself to look up at the man as she explained her confusion with the location. His stare was firmly fixed on her from his height a good ten inches above her own five foot five. She rushed forwards and manoeuvred the lid on to the box to give them all back a little dignity.

‘Pity.’ Jem grinned. ‘It was shaping up to be a fun party when I saw that.’

‘Please accept my sincere apologies. This cake was meant for a bachelorette party.’ Maddie cringed at the thought of what was still inside of the closed cake box, but she was relieved at the old lady’s obvious sense of humour, glad she hadn’t caused a cardiac arrest with her mistake.

‘Oh, that’s easily done, pet.’ Jem dismissed Maddie’s apologies with a wave of her hand. ‘Melbourne is a huge city. I’m always getting muddled up.’

The man stepped forwards. ‘I’m Evan, by the way – Jem’s grandson.’ His dark wavy hair threatened big curls should he let it grow longer, and the stubble that had settled across his jaw only added to his appeal.

As Maddie made eye contact, she noticed the same look of mischief in Evan’s eyes as the little old lady’s. ‘Maddie.’ She cleared her throat as her words failed to come out clearly, and she returned his smile with difficulty when his eyes – a deeper, seventy per cent cocoa version of Jem’s – refused to look away.

Jem peeked into the box again and beckoned over a male friend of a similar age.

When Evan leaned closer, he took Maddie by surprise. ‘I hope they’re not doing any sort of comparison.’

She was only able to breathe again when he moved away; meeting him had left her unusually flustered.

‘Do you make cakes like this for a living, Maddie?’

‘It’s just a hobby, cake-making—’ Not penis-cake-making, she wanted to say. She felt as though her entire mouth had been filled with cotton wool. ‘I’m a physiotherapist,’ she offered instead.

‘Well, I wouldn’t tell half of this lot.’ He indicated the crowd, most of whom were closer to Jem’s generation than Evan and Maddie’s. ‘They’ll be talking about their hips, their arthritis, their knees and backs and all sorts. You’ll never get out of here.’

‘Don’t worry, I won’t let it slip.’ Uneasy beneath his gaze, she said, ‘Jem looks remarkably well for her age.’

‘She is. Apart from some mild arthritis in her wrists – which she says gets in the way of her doing so much around the house – she’s as fit as anything. She’s a bit slower moving than she would’ve