The flour had dried out her hands. It had worked its way deep into the shallow lines that ran across her palms, and up through her fingers. She loved the texture of the flour embedded into her skin. It was part of the reason she always made the dough the day before and left it to refrigerate when doing her sugar cookies. Today she was pulling out chunks, flouring the table, flouring the dough ball, rolling out the dough, flouring the cookie cutters, and then cutting out the festive shapes. Fifteen gingerbread men, fifteen snowmen, fifteen stockings, fifteen candy canes, and fifteen stars. All politely waiting on the floured parameter of the table for the batch ahead to be taken out from the oven. Then each group would be placed on the cookie sheet and put in the oven for nine minutes. And so the pattern continued: sticky dough, flour, flour, flour, sticky dough, flour, flour, flour, oven mit, repeat.
Susanna loved baking. She loved the holidays. She didn’t even mind doing the dishes in between mixing the dough and making the frosting. That would be tomorrow’s project – frosting the cookies – the dishes would tackle next. Today’s project had been making the cookies in preparation for tomorrow. Susanna looked down admiring her work. Six hours later and she had made 330 sugar cookies. There were four batches of 15 cookies each and a few randoms from the leftover dough. There were snowmen on her living room coffee table, gingerbread men on her butcher block, stockings littered her counters, while the stars and candy canes fought over the large cutting boards balanced on top of the sink and the a few chairs.
Susanna walked over to her hallway closet and grabbed two spare dishtowels. Stopping by the bathroom, she wet one of the towels with the hottest water her sink could produce and some soap. Susanna didn’t always mind a mess, but she did despise water on the floor. Quickly, she headed back into the kitchen and cleaned off her glass counter top. Carefully, she moved over the trays of racks of cookies, freeing up the sink. Susanna once again ran the water as hot as the sink would make it. Everything she had used to bake her cookies – the tupperwares holding the dough, the rolling pin, the cookie cutters, and the spatula all made their way into the bath of hot, soapy water drawn for them in the sink. The baking sheet remained on the stove top, for now. When Susanna had finished the rest of the dishes she would pour the hot water into the pan, and gently scrub it on top of the stove. Once it was clean she would walk it back over to the sink and rinse all the dishes at once. The large pan would return to the warm oven to dry there, while the rest of her baking tools would dry out on top of two doubled up drying mats on the stove top.
Afterward, Susanna would wash her hands before starting to box up the cookies for the night. She would rub her hands gently back and forth feeling as the hot water worked its way over and into the floured groves. Washing her hands was one of Susanna’s favorite things. Not because of the germs or anything as logical as that. It was the feel of the water. The hot water that wove its way around, holding onto her ready to depart at anytime. It was the heat and the temperature that soothed her hands and washed away all of the work they did. She washed them countless times during the day, and it was good, sometimes a little unnervingly good – especially for her being at work. But it was never quite as good as it was in her upstairs bathroom sink. There was something about the way the water fell from the faucet, softly yet forcefully touching the backs of her hands. The soap she had in that bathroom was overpriced and worth it. Susanna didn’t splurge on much outside of baking supplies and things for others, but she did spend top dollar on soap for her upstairs bathroom. It had to be the perfect blend of bubbly and caressing.The smell had to be delicate yet aromatic. And it had to moisturize her skin without leaving it greasy or sticky. Several times over the past few years since starting her current job, Susanna had been so moved by the feel and smell of the water and soap her hands had barely been dried before she tucked herself into bed to further her feelings of passion. Only to have to rewash them after her release.
Susanna dried her hands on the only clean dish towel left in her kitchen before heading into the living room. Once more she carefully moved trays of racks of cookies from one temporary home to another – again, there were cookies covering her kitchen sink. It made the boxing up process easier if they were all in the same vicinity. Tomorrow she would unbox them again, this time to frost them before packaging them up into smaller boxes for distribution. Susanna made a point every holiday season to send a box of homemade cookies to the family members of all those whose autopsies she performed confirmed suicide or murder. She knew from her own life that the loss of a loved one was never easy – it was particularly hard when it was chosen by the person or a fellow man. Susanna thought of her mother, a beloved baker, kidnapped and eventually found murdered. To this day, her boyfriend remained the top suspect. His body was found months later, after police were able to track him down. At they had speculated it had been suicide, that the guilt from murdering Susanna’s mother had forced his hand. They had been mistaken, as the coroner discovered, he had died of natural causes.
Susanna shook her head as she closed the last box on the sleeping gingerbread men. Right now they looked like cookies. Tomorrow they would look like how the people who found their way on Susanna’s table – often wide-eyed and unsuspecting. Susanna wished them all a good night as she headed upstairs to wash her hands once more before getting ready for bed.