I wrote June’s New Year back in 2019, in response this prompt on Reedsy:Write a story where a chocolate cake plays a significant role. Click here to read the rest of the stories about that prompt.
June’s New Year
By Sarah Meade
June awoke on January first with a goal.
Today I will do three new things to change my life.
The last year had been the worst of June’s life. She’d lost her husband, sister, and best friend within six months. It was unthinkable losing Charlie. Losing Charlotte? Tragedy doubled. When Suzy’s cancer came back with a vengeance and took her life within a few weeks, June was dumbfounded.
June had fallen into a deep depression and hadn’t wanted to see anyone, even her children, Nick and Stephanie, or her grandchildren. She’d holed up in her room for weeks. It was the first time in her life she’d been alone on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve.
So, June decided, the new year had to be an improvement.
When June was a little girl, she spent a lot of time with her grandmother Mimi. June loved Mimi’s big, bold laugh, her sweet singing voice, and her delicious baked treats. But most of all, June loved Mimi’s advice.
“Everything comes in threes, the bad and the good. If you’re going to do something, do it times three.”
June decided she’d start by making Mimi’s famous chocolate cake, which June had never made by herself. It was in the family recipe book, so June pulled out a stepstool and pulled the book down from the top of the pantry shelves.
June perused the recipe. She checked for ingredients, and realized she had nothing in the fridge or pantry to help bake the cake. June had been surviving on toaster waffles and canned soup for a while.
It soon became abundantly clear to June that a trip to the market was necessary if she was to bake Mimi’s famous chocolate cake that day. She bundled up in her lavender parka, pulled a hat over her curls, and stepped into her snow boots.
June opened her front door and squinted into the morning sun. What an unusually bright day for January! She rummaged in her purse for sunglasses, and decided to walk the two blocks to the corner store instead of driving to her regular supermarket.
With each step, June thought about baking Mimi’s cake. She pictured herself cracking the eggs, sifting the flour, and stirring everything together. She visualized taking the perfectly baked cake out of the oven and setting it out to cool. Then she imagined frosting it with dollops of dark chocolate icing. June’s mouth was watering just thinking about it.
She found herself smiling as she approached the store and saw the familiar MARCUS CORNER MARKET sign. June hadn’t been inside in years. She pushed open the front door and heard a merry jangling of bells.
“Happy New Year!” came a deep voice from the back of the store.
“Oh,” June laughed. “Yes, happy New Year to you!”
She picked up a basket and began gathering the necessary ingredients. Quiet pop music filled the store and June found herself humming. She seemed to be the only shopper and considered singing along.
Don’t be silly, she told herself.
When she reached the cash register, June placed her basket on the counter with a small smile. An older man with kind eyes behind bifocals began ringing up the items. His name tag read Maxwell.
“Some holiday baking?” he asked.
June nodded. “Yes.” Then she couldn’t keep her excitement to herself. “I’m making my grandma Mimi’s famous chocolate cake– for the first time!”
Maxwell raised his eyebrows and smiled. “Mmm, a famous chocolate cake, huh? Sounds decadent.”
June grinned. “Yes! It really is. I hope I can do it justice.”
Maxwell nodded and told June the total.
June realized she could do another new thing today, right here in the Marcus Corner Market.
“And may I buy one of the scratch-off lottery tickets, too?” she asked shyly.
“Certainly,” said Maxwell. “We’ve got a few to choose from.”
June scanned the list, sighed, then laughed. “I’ve never bought one before. Not much of a gambler, I guess. Which do you think?”
Maxwell laughed and June realized she’s been hoping he would. There was something friendly and familiar about his chuckle. “The Holiday Hooplas are a big seller.”
June nodded. “One Holiday Hoopla please.”
Maxwell pulled off the ticket and handed it to June. “Did you walk here?” he asked.
“I did,” said June. “It’s such a lovely day.”
“I’ll double bag these,” Maxwell said.
“I appreciate that,” said June. She felt her cheeks burning. She hadn’t thought about the two block walk home, her arms growing weary with heavy shopping bags.
“Good luck on your ticket,” called Maxwell as June started toward the door.
“Thank you, Maxwell,” she said with a grin. “And I’m June. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Likewise.” June’s cheeks burned anew and she hurried out the door amidst the merry jingling.
That afternoon June made Mimi’s famous chocolate cake.
It was, in a word, perfection.
As she cut her second slice and sipped ice-cold milk from a Christmas tree glass, June remembered the Holiday Hoopla ticket.
She found it in her wallet and pulled out a quarter to scratch it off.
“Here goes nothing,” she whispered.
The card was a simple tic-tac-toe style game with holiday icons instead of x’s and o’s. June scratched the top row and peered down at the ticket.
Holly leaf, wreath, Santa Claus.
June scratched the next row and pushed away the glossy gray shavings.
Present, Christmas tree, Santa Claus.
Hmmm. June began to scratch the final row.
Candy Cane, Present…
June held her breath.
Three Santas! That was like tic-tac-toe, right?
June picked up the ticket and reread the rules. Then she read the key.
Triple Candy Canes: $2
Triple Christmas Trees: $5
Triple Holly: $10
June noticed she was holding her breath again.
Triple Santa Claus: $50,000
June stood up so fast she knocked over the kitchen chair behind her.
“Oh my, oh my, oh my,” she said aloud. Her heart raced and her hands trembled.
She righted the kitchen chair, sat and had another bite of cake. She drained the glass of milk and read the card again.
June let out a whoop. She had won $50,000.
June wanted to tell Charlie. She wanted to call Charlotte right now and then Suzy. She bit her lip.
June could call the kids. Of course she would. They would be excited for her to have had any kind of luck, considering the unluckiest year June had just endured.
But June remembered her goal. She’d do three new things to change her life.
She made the cake. She bought the ticket. Now for her third act.
June looked up the phone number on the Internet. She punched the numbers into her cell phone and waited.
“Happy New Year! Marcus Corner Market.”
“I won,” said June.
“I mean, hello Maxwell? This is June Jenkins. I came in the store earlier. I bought a Holiday Hoopla ticket. I also bought everything to make a chocolate cake, and–”
That friendly laugh again. “Yes, June, of course. I remember.”
“Anyway,” June found her hands fluttering around as she spoke. “I won. Fifty thousand dollars, if you can believe it.”
June heard a long, low whistle. “Well, congratulations!” said Maxwell. “That’s fantastic news!”
June smiled and realized this was exactly why she’d called. To hear the excitement in someone else’s reaction to her good luck. Then she remembered the other reason she’d called.
“Um, Maxwell, I wonder, do you know what I do now?”
“Yes,” said Maxwell. “There’s a number to call on the back of the ticket. We can’t cash out the ticket here at the store, because it’s more than five hundred dollars. Hot dog, June! What a way to start the new year.”
“Thanks so much, Maxwell,” said June. “I suppose I should have read the back of the ticket before calling.”
“Absolutely not, I’m happy to help,” he said. “I hope… I hope it all turns out for you.”
“Thanks, Maxwell. Bye.” June set down her phone and hugged herself. She packed up the rest of the cake. She placed the winning ticket in her jewelry box. Then she took a long hot shower and prepared for bed.
She crawled under the cool sheets and fell asleep faster than she had in months.
On the second day in January, June decided to do everything she’d done the day before again.
She baked Mimi’s chocolate cake again. She frosted it with a flourish and placed it inside a big box. She carefully placed the lid on the box and stuck a red bow on top.
June looked out the window and watched a light snow sprinkle down like feathers. She bundled up and headed out, with the box in her arms. June situated the box in the front passenger seat of her car and then slid into the driver’s seat.
June realized she hadn’t used her car in a few weeks. When it started, she breathed a huge sigh of relief. Then laughed at herself. She turned on the radio and sang along.
June smiled when she heard the merry jingling as she pushed open the door of the Corner Market.
“Well, hello!” called a familiar voice.
June grinned. “Hello, Maxwell.” She placed the box on the counter. “Mimi’s famous chocolate cake.”
Maxwell grinned. “Well, thank you very much, June.”
“And I’d like to buy another Holiday Hoopla ticket.”
Maxwell raised his eyebrows. “Sure thing.”
June paid for the ticket and waved goodbye to Maxwell.
“Hope to see you soon!” he called.
“You will,” said June, smiling to herself as the familiar merry jangling followed her out the door.
Thanks for reading!
Happy New Year!