The pudding isn’t easy to make. If the milk is too hot, you curdle the eggs. Too cold and the custard weeps. There are instant powders you can buy complete with a tiny bottle of caramel sauce, but I am determined to make something she will eat. Daughter is home for the first time in three years and we have yet to swallow together, elbow-to-elbow.
The walls glitch, pulse with an episode of Gossip Girl. Upstairs, the closet opens, shuts. By dinner, there will be another garbage bag for me to donate. I can tell Daughter is proud of asking for new jeans and XXS sun dresses, blueberries and water spinach when I go to the grocery store. Mama let’s go for a walk, she says after every meal. We chew sticks of mint she now calls dessert, and I swallow my guilt, my compliments.
“Hot and fresh pudding, hot and fresh,” I call from the kitchen. She used to sing the words when I cried, dollop milk and sugar into a bowl until I took the whisk from her hands and the house felt larger than two people.
She is downstairs before I turn on the lights in the dining room, wearing one of my dresses. Green silk, cinched waist with an ivory clasp. She wears it better than I did though it’s hard to remember the last time I could fit in that one.
Daughter reaches in the bowl with a pinky. “I’m full—like really, really full.”
“The last time we ate was eight. In the morning,” I say.
My spoon-hand shakes. Pudding drips onto the floor, sweetness slaking down my wrist.
“Aren’t you gonna eat Mama?” She leans down to wipe the ground. Her collarbones are twin bowls. I could fit my fists inside, I think. Or two servings of pudding.
“No it’s all for you,” I say and dig a spoon into the milk-sweet flesh, deciding how much I can have.
Star Su enjoys eating cold caramel pudding in the hot summer months. Her fiction appears or is forthcoming in Jellyfish Review, Wildness, and The Offing. She reads flash for Split Lip Magazine. Find them on Twitter: @stars_su.