“The Old Woman” by Adreyo Sen

It had been a busy day in the cake shop. I’d had to throw out a gaggle of over-excited Catholic school girls who had only enough money amongst them to buy one three-penny bun. And then came in that old school mate of mine, rather plump with happiness, sod her. She spent two hours deciding what she’d like, her husband scowling magisterially at me as she fluted her detailed instructions to me, between distressed comments about how worn I was looking.


And then this blissful quiet. I nibbled on a stale truffle cake and did my accounts.


In the evening, a large raven toddled in, its claws shod in worn dress shoes. But it wasn’t a raven. It was a little, long-nosed woman, whose long chin reminded me of horrid Aunt Sally, who took me in when mother died and treated me as her slave.


She alternated between wriggling tension and delight as she inspected the cakes, her sallow little face with its mask of little wrinkles lighting up as she hugged herself. I eyed her narrowly, jealous of the way she seemed wrapped up in her own secret delights.


“What does madam want?” I asked finally, with as much sarcasm as I could muster, “A wedding cake?”


She blushed, and the general goodwill she felt for the world inadvertently cleansed me.


“Oh, no,” she laughed and I stared with shock as the wrinkles creased out of her face to reveal a beautiful child.


And then the wrinkles flooded back in, with the deep paw marks of Sorrow and Despair.


When no one tells you you are beautiful, you stop being.








Adreyo Sen is pursuing his MFA at Stony Brook, Southampton. He has been published at Garbanzo, Danse Macabre, Cannon’s Mouth, and Reading Hour.