Like many modern fairy tales, Shaz’s happily-ever-after wasn’t. After a crunchy, bloody uncoupling, she had no interest in potential princes or frogs, focussed only on how to banish the ghost of her marriage which lingered like a confused spell. She cast her long forgotten magics, hesitant and unfamiliar, learning again of luxuriating in the depth of her unshared mattress, the forgotten delight of shopping for one, and being entirely content in shaving what and when she wanted.
Divorce suited her. She painted her toenails blue, the letter box fuchsia, caught up with friends he’d hated, enjoyed work lunches and tried to grow mint. A friend sent her a massage voucher which read ‘Congrats on surviving Small Dick-Major Arsehole syndrome’—she had it framed and hung beside her bathroom mirror. She was happy, divorced, and waking each night, delighted, to bake.
Each night’s whim created a different dish. Custard pie on a Tuesday when she’d seen a fire truck full wail, lemon crepes after a purple-heavy sunset, chilli chocolate shortbread celebrating the wondrous word ‘amok’. Leaves budded and unfurled outside as the pages in her recipe book grew loose and lovely, butter and summer soon sitting on her benchtop, gingerbread sprawling in brown sugar syrup on odd midnights when she woke laughing, pavlova in jewelled glory after rain.
Shaz was swaying to thick jazz one summer night, a vanilla pod snuggling in coconut cream on the counter, when the moon walked down from the sky and knocked quietly on her veranda door.
“I’ve bought you some sugar—Tahitian brown.” She shone, earnest and dark haired.
“How lovely,” Shaz beamed. “Uh, can I get you some water?”
They chatted while she made vanilla bean cheesecake, the moon’s laughter rolling into the kitchen cabinets and bewitching the cat. The moon left with a luminous slice tucked sweetly into napkin origami, while the star she nestled in Shaz’s fruit bowl cast dreams on the blue ceiling as the dawn yawned awake.
The moon, invited, came again the next week, this time calling a low hello through the thrown wide windows, open to the crickets’ raspy gossip and cool breezes. They compared days—Serbia needed rain, white Queensland beach sand was still between Shaz’s toes—and discussed books as the moon stood beside her at the sink, drying mixing bowls while tiny tides shifted the bubbles between them. They sat outside eating dimpled pikelets, cherry jam and cream with their fingers while the sky spilled nebulas above their heads, unnoticed.
“May I see you again, in four days?” the moon asked, turning at the front fence, watching as Shaz pushed, released, pushed, released the gate latch.
“Please, yes,” she nodded, eyes creasing into shadows, “I’d like that.”
Anticipation fizzed and swirled across the coastlines, pooling in the pauses of their days, the moon’s hauling in a monsoon’s deluge, hers coordinating staff and volunteers for the next blood donation drive. The days dragged, sped, yanked by gravity and nerves, until finally the gate latch clicked and sung at her arrival, within earshot of where Shaz was watering the mint with distraction and an enthusiastic hand.
They smiled, hellos tangling, then turned to the drowning mint.
She swore, crimping the hose. “Dammit, I’m killing it with kindness.”
“Not a bad way to go, really.”
It was early evening when she’d arrived, cloudy streamers and glitter still piled close to the horizon, the day’s humidity finally uncurling from Shaz’s neck. The moon shucked her shoes off towards the clothesline, then wrestled the unruly hose in Shaz’s wake. Their conversation waltzed between the garden beds—the existence of aliens considered while they splashed their feet mostly clean, the spicy kick of the cardamom biscuits fuelling the best-action-movie-of-all-time debate, chilled glasses of milk somehow leading to a joke about clowns in high heels. Later, after midnight, stretching like a starfish in bed, Shaz couldn’t remember the punchline but still fell asleep smiling.
The moon is wooing, went the whisper abroad, somewhere in Australia. Fishermen, long used to the moon’s conversation while waiting for the catch, found themselves leaning, instead, towards the velvet waves, finally seeing the violet and blue life flickering far beneath. Astronomers fretted, discordant, scrawled the moon notes, stuck them to telephone poles, demanding an end date to the madness…only to send thank you kites weeks later, in gratitude for the unimagined clarity of distant nebulas. Star gazers—professional, amateur and newly intrigued—grew pale and energised by their night time endeavours, hearing starsongs in their sleep, not missing midday’s bright traffic and hum in the slightest.
Independence suited Shaz. She drove up to a hinterland dairy on a day off, just to remind herself what a cow looked like. She hunted for second-hand bookstores, found delicious spices in tiny supermarkets, said no without explanation. Summer waned while she waxed more luminous, settling deeper into her own skin, fine-tuning her recipe for happiness. The ingredients changed regularly, but often included butter, purples, record numbers of community blood donations, crushed mint, the neighbourhood kids waving hi, a new bookcase…and starshine.
The moon continued her woo. Sailors at sea, blinking after molasses nights, enquired courteously after her lady as she climbed back into the sky, dusted with flour and—soon—kisses smudging the corners of her mouth.
They learnt each other’s rhythms, moods and delights. The moon came bearing Armenian cherries one leaf-tossed evening and fed them to Shaz, purple staining her lips, inking their fingers, a distraction from the ache in Shaz’s back, the weight of her hips, the temporary rhythm of flux and ebb. The next week, here, Shaz scorched marshmallows outside, blowing out the caramelised flame in the distant direction of the moon’s now wiry shoulder, pale and curved towards a distant continent. There, she watched sugar cane burn, and tasted Shaz on her tongue.
When she returned, days later, Shaz fed her soup while straddling her lap. Shaz held the bowl, she cupped Shaz’s backside, both marinating in the relief of them being in her kitchen again, at night, sugar and stars sparkling, together. They shared a slice of rum-spiked sweet potato bundt cake.
Shared the fork.
Shared a kiss.
Shared a pillow.
“No, not dawn,” Shaz groused against her moon’s neck, much later, tasting her skin again. ‘Where is the lovely moon?’
The moon sucked the curve of Shaz’s breast, slid her hand up the unshaved horizon of Shaz’s thigh.
“She is way, way laid”—a grin, a hot lick against Shaz’s belly—”and about to make breakfast.”
She made Shaz shakshouka, made her laugh, made her a packed lunch while she showered, and then, when Shaz searched for underwear, ate at her mouth, her neck, until she dropped the towel. They were both late for work, then, luscious and sated.
The moon knows now where her secret freckles are, how books throw her into ecstatic motion, her stomping offense at ants in the kitchen. Shaz now knows the curls of her body, her devotion to indie rock, how weary she has sometimes been climbing into the heavens.
Happiness suits her. Suits them both, as entwined and synchronous as they are, slow dancing in the kitchen, enthusiastic with their careers, making messes and meaning and magic together, content within the staggered weaving of their weeks. Shaz is in cosy pyjamas painting her toenails jacaranda, the first fig and ginger pudding of the season steaming softly when the moon carefully delivers a scrawled baklava recipe from her adopted nonna. A Greek woman living in Delphi, draped in midnight folds and wrinkles, who has demanded wildly across the page ‘grow fat with love, be happy, use butter, everyday’.
They do. Her neighbours cheerfully buy thicker curtains for the rooms facing her fence or shift their beds so the lovelight doesn’t shine so directly in their faces, all carefully arranging pillows and curtain folds so the tides of sugar, carbs and moondust are free to wash in, to ebb around their midnights, to perfume their dreams.