1 THE FATEFUL WEDDING DAY
The fall of 1897, in the beautiful city of Paris.
A young fifteen-year old by the name of Suzanne is inside a small, enclosed church where her wedding celebrations are to take place. A veil covers her silky, nicely trimmed hair. She wears a gown that her mother wore at her wedding. An eerie silence engulfs the church, and the choir is on a break.
A widower in his forties, an affluent industrialist by the name of Armand, is seen in the customary morning suit. He looks wizened and aged, as his mustache has turned grayish and his head has baldened. He is the groom, thirty years elder to the bride. He stands at a distance, smelling quite drunk.
An elderly priest stands behind the two.
Three days ago, the girl was informed of her wedding.
“Me and Pere want you to be happy. I and Pere wanted to send you to the university. Pere took a loan from Mr. Armand. We’re in terrible debt, and he demands you to be married off. So, little girl, wed Armand.”
This man was different from the groom that the young bride had imagined for herself. She’d imagined a fit and nimble man in his early twenties with the hair of a prince and eyes as blue as sapphire. She ended up getting a subpar rich man thrice her age. She was disappointed and sulky throughout the wedding.
“Est-ce que vous, Suzanne, prenez Armand pour votre époux légitime. Promettez-vous d'être fidèle à vous-même dans les bons et les mauvais moments, dans la maladie et dans la santé ? L'aimerez-vous et l'honorerez-vous tous les jours de sa vie ?” the priest said.
(Do you, Suzanne, take Armand for your legitimate husband? Do you promise to be true to yourself in good times and bad, in sickness and in health? Will you love and honor him every day of his life?)
“Est-ce que vous, Armand, prenez Suzanne pour épouse légitime ? Promettez-vous d'être fidèle à vous-même dans les bons comme dans les mauvais moments, en cas de maladie et de santé ? L'aimerez-vous et l'honorerez-vous chaque jour de sa vie ?”
(Do you, Armand, take Suzanne for your legitimate wife? Do you promise to be true to yourself in good and bad times, in sickness and in health? Will you love and honor her every day of her life?)
The couple engaged in a brief kiss before waving to the gathered audience.
2 THE SPARK AND THE AFTERMATH
After her husband had told her to “stay put” and not mingle with the “unmarriageable” ladies in the “wretched” womens universities, she was very disappointed. He was drinking more and had grown into a rich recluse. This irked her. She wanted to still be something, do something. And that came when there was a meeting. A very important one.
Mr. Rockfill, an American industrialist banking on improved railway technology had come to meet Andre. Andre was feeling terribly uneasy, as this deal’s failure could put him in severe debt.
Mr. Rockfill smoked a cigar and waited patiently, tapping the table. Meanwhile, a clever plan had hatched inside the brain of Suzanne. She’d do something and prove herself. But, for a while, she’d have to stay out of sight. Undercover.
The head of cooks, Lorraine, was preparing a cake as the dessert, as the first few une assiette à soupe, soup bowls, were dispatched by a party of maids. Soup sizzled backwards, there were appetizer plates coming from the backdoor for washing and bread was being passed.
“Lorraine!” Suzanne called out.
“Mada-” The maid was about to say.
Suzanne promptly interrupted her with a shush, and then pointed towards a corridor space. The twosome walked there and continued their conversation.
“Can I make the cake?”Suzanne whispered.
“Why, I am here to make it for you, madame!”
“I just want to. Now, tell me where’s the kitchen.”
A few minutes later, Suzanne finished making a delectable shortcake, un sable. A small piece was cut out and placed on a tray, and the maids were told nothing about the cook. The gullible young women believed Lorraine’s hands were behind this awe-catching sweet. It was their employer’s wife’s hands, but they wouldn’t know.
After the dessert was done, one of the subordinate maids walked up to Lorraine and told her that Andre had called her. She was pretty nervous. Did she make a mistake? Was it that she would finally be fired? Her concerns grew as she inched closer to the table of the feast.
“You’re the chef de cuisine, right?”
“You made today’s sable?”
“Yes, monsieur,” she lied.
“Me and Monsieur Rockfill just wanted to say today’s dessert was exquis!”
Just as she was to go, Rockfill interrupted.
“I have a meeting with a man in this very city tomorrow afternoon. If you could arrange this shortcake for me and him, then I shall pay you 50 francs.”
Delighted, Lorraine steps back into the kitchen, and tells Suzanne about this marvelous scheme. And from that day one, Suzanne was in the kitchen making wonderful desserts with her hand.
3 THE BIG REVEAL
The Summer of 1901, The mansion.
A lovely summer indeed. A crisp July morning dawns outside the mansion. Suzanne has a wealth of her own separate from her husband, and her underground baking empire is now at its peak. She even has a telephone separate from her husband’s. She is seen drinking wine as her soon-to-be-a-year-old son, Armand, is being strolled around by Lorainne.
“Madame, what are you thinking?”
“Well, tomorrow is his birthday. I think we should tell the truth.”
“What if Monsieur says something?”
“I have enough money to divorce him,” she says as she giggles.
“Well, I can’t argue with that.”
And so, the stage was set. The next day was her beloved son’s birthday, and the masterful curtain-raiser was to happen any second.
Holding a glass of the finest pinot noir, Andre toasted to the crowd.
“I am happy to say my heir and child,” he coughed and lightly stuttered, before continuing,” Armani.”
“He is, of course, one years old now. In seventeen years from now, my immense industrial wealth shall be transferred to this young man. How fine is he to be born to me.”
While the reveal was planned due, Suzanne is impatient. She wanted the big reveal to happen at the end of the party in private. But, now, she wishes it to be public.
A massive multi-layer cake sits on the table. Young Armand is surrounded by an uneasy crowd of grown-up strangers.
For a change, Andre didn’t drink to his heart’s content. He didn’t drink a single drop of liquor on the day Armand was born, and even today, Andre drank just a few sips before handing it to his maids.
Suzanne has climbed up to the stage, and Andre is furious.
“Bonjour, ladies and gents. My name is Suzanne and I’m the spouse of Andre, mother to Armand. Today, there is a very important announcement to make. The secret of the cake was just cut and these cakes who’ve taken Paris by storm in the last few years are with me.”
Andre is befuddled and left shocked. How could my sheltered wife know about this, if she doesn’t even know how businesses work?
“You see, Mr. Andre, I know the chef.”
“Who the hell is the chef?” Andre yells.
“There was a box. Yes, a box. In that box, my son’s birthday cake lies.”
Lorraine, who saved the box for the reveal, brings it to Andre.
“Now, Andre, look at the bottom of the box.”
His eyes widened. His mouth flaps open. He is left speechless. The bottom of the box is signed Suzanne A.S., in a fine handwriting known to be of authors.
“What’re you thinking, Andre?” Suzanne said as she smiled smugly.
Suzanne then addresses everyone about the journey. The first cake. The first order from Mr. Rockfill. Small orders. Big orders. Today’s birthday.
“Get off that stage,” Andre says.
Suzanne, disappointedly leaves the stage and Andre climbs up.
“I want to say that I apologize to my wife. How many times have I bashed this woman. How many times has she received a beating from me. Yet, she kept resilient. She read. She baked. And she wrote. I’m sorry.”
Suzanne smiles and sips another sip of fine pinot noir as the celebrations ensue.
It is a win for liberty.