I hope this letter finds you, unlike the others which have gone astray. I cannot start my day without writing to you.
With everyone off fighting The Kaiser, Charlotte now helps me roll out the pastries. Despite having to run it by myself, business is good. I have attempted a new recipe with a secret ingredient. People seem eager to buy it, because, I think, it helps ease the heartache of absent loves.
Irrevocably yours, Jane
* * *
Please thank your superior for the note. How kind of him to take the time.
I am quite busy today. Charlotte keeps pestering me to know the secret ingredient for Heartache Cakes. I tell her only that understanding is better than knowledge. That puzzles her.
Yours, and yours alone, Jane
* * *
Dad wrote. He is baking away at headquarters, keeping our boys fed. He says he worries about me, but I can’t think why.
The Heartache Cakes are flying out of here on wings. No one can keep their money in their pockets long enough to let me restock.
Ever yours, Jane
* * *
I received the package today, but have not yet opened it. Yes, Father Schneider received his.
I apologize for the brevity of this note, but I must return to my kitchen.
Hurriedly, but perpetually yours, Jane
* * *
Charlotte’s begun to spend every moment with me, saying, of all things, she worries because I am too cheery. She is a dear, but I fiercely defend my time alone. I feel if I do not write to you, I will wither away.
She is asking more questions about the secret ingredient for the Heartache Cakes. No doubt, she received an offer from a rival bakery.
I pray with every breath that you are restored to me soon.
Yours everlastingly, Jane
* * *
Andrew, Andrew, Andrew,
Pardon my poor script. I rather burnt my hand stoking the ovens. This last month has proved terribly difficult. Dad says I should rest, but I cannot with business so strong. Charlotte scolded me about smiling so often. How absurd.
It is ridiculous. You are not gone. The belongings the Army sent are meaningless. The returned letters are a mix up.
Charlotte tells me I do not understand. I told her once she finds true love it will forever fill her heart as yours has filled mine.
Unerringly yours, Jane
* * *
My Sweetest Heart,
Charlotte, Dad and Father Schneider do nothing but reproach me. They hound me so.
As soon as I write the letters to you, I cast them into oven. The ash, the steam from my tears and the imperishable emotion rise in the heat. My cakes, which are our cakes, are touched by this and therefore changed.
Everyone who eats them knows as I know: despite the madness of war, love is forever. If something is forever, it is never lost.
With that understanding, I smile again.
Rest assured, I will never stop loving you.
The ninth daughter of a surgeon who accidentally cut off the tip of his own index finger, Virginia Elizabeth Hayes developed a keen eye for the absurd at an early age. She has been published internationally in literary magazines and journals. She is the author of the novels A Saint Nobody’s Heard Of and Welcome to Lamentation.