Her life-flame had fizzled to barely an ember; who would have thought that it would be so difficult to extinguish? The stubborn old bat. Her eyes had all but failed her, her hips were shot and much of the time she was bed ridden.
Even with enough poisonous chemicals in her system to clean an Olympic pool Muriel Baker held on to life with tenacity. It was not her will to live or her faith that dragged her through each day; it was pure pigheadedness.
For six months Muriel had been in and out of Balmain hospital. Twice the hospital staff had detected high levels of chemicals, but both times these were attributed to one of the long list of medication that rattled inside her as though she were a gumball machine. Both times the hospital staff simply changed the tablets. It never occurred to them that she was deliberately being poisoned.
It all began the first day of the local County fair. The cakes looked glorious. Some were elaborately designed with thick blue-grey icing and row upon row of small, perfect roses on their sides. But these were not the cakes that interested Ethel Odlum. Her eyes were fixed upon seven small, uninteresting slabs of fruitcake, some only two inches high. These were some of the finest cakes ever baked and Ethel’s cake was the most remarkable cake she had ever prepared. All year she had worked tirelessly to improve her recipe and she truly believed this would be her year; this would be the year that she beat her Great Aunty Muriel’s cake for the first time. Surely she, a chemist for all of her life, could rise above a recipe that had been created in the 1800’s. Yes, it was rumored that Muriel’s famous fruitcake recipe had been handed down through over five generations.
But there before Ethel’s eyes, perched at an odd angle, sat a red rosette for second place. As if to mock her, just beside her cake was Muriel’s cake, as it had been at so many shows in the past, adorned by a royal blue ribbon indicating first place. It was at that precise moment, that Ethel, with a taste of bile in the back of her throat, cooked up the plan to acquire Muriel’s precious recipe. She would poison the old cow. Protocol dictated that Muriel must pass the recipe on to someone within the family. Ethel guessed that Eve, Muriel’s long suffering Great Granddaughter would get it. As Muriel’s health had deteriorated Eve had loyally tended to her. If she didn’t leave the recipe to Eve then Ethel was the next in line. Yes, the recipe would be hers. Eve had no taste for baking, if she didn’t give the recipe to Ethel she would part with it for a small price at most.
The day came when Muriel’s suffering finally ended. Her weak heart simply stopped in the middle of the night. The pomp and ceremony of her service would have been elaborate for a Catholic Cardinal, but the enormous church was virtually empty. The service delivered to empty pews, for a cranky old woman who had no friends, it was farcical. Four or five people milled around for the service and then only Eve stayed to mourn the old lady’s death. On the day of the reading of the Will only Eve and Ethel turned up. As suspected, what few possessions Muriel had acquired during her Spartan life were left to Eve. And that was it. The book was closed and the solicitor went to leave. “What about the cake? The recipe, where’s the recipe?” As a gesture of good will the solicitor sat down and took Ethel through each of the itemized possessions, there was no recipe. “The stubborn old bat.” Ethel screeched. Muriel had taken the recipe to her grave, it lay buried under a marble epitaph, so elaborate it could have been the decoration on top of a wedding cake.