This is the tale of Cason Banks, a young pastry chef from Surrey England who moves to London to start his career and follow in the successful footprints the Banks family are determined to keep on printing. Though Cason is relatively wealthy, moderately handsome and determined to create a life for himself, he is also shy, and adamant love is for a certain breed of urbanites. Part 4 – With his elite social circle ever growing, Cason is put to work by his new friend to make a cake that gets the attention of a successful artist.
Hi! My name is Christopher Sergi. I’m a novelist and a blogger currently living in the leafy suburbs of Surrey England. The Chocolate Prince will be an ongoing serial depicting the exciting life of Cason Banks as he navigates the new world of London on his search for success and love. Feel free to comment below on where you’d like to see the story go next!
Part 4 – My Bloody Bloomin’ Cake
‘Let me see,’ said Dominique, a White Russian in one hand, his other mere inches from yanking the bandage from my cheek. ‘You may be scarred for life, my darling!’
I discarded him with my own drink, another espresso martini, not great for the nerves I imagine, but another night with Dominique required my energy reserves to be stocked and ready for inevitable depletion. Ever since we met in the White Honey, a Chelsea bar that looked more like the inside of an ivy infested palace with silk cushions and chaise longs, he had been insistent on knowing what had happened after my accident with the Lamborghini, having left him only with the last details of how Anthony Christiansen had lifted me from the ground and ascended my to his, what I had imagined at the time to be his boudoir, but was in fact just a spare bedroom.
Anthony had demanded from his assistant Fiona that she were to call an ambulance immediately. Yes my mind was dazed, but I had enough sense and consciousness to counter-insist with the stipulation I just needed a glass of water and a sit down. Truth is I was terrified of falling asleep. I had heard horror stories of people dozing off after smacking their head only to never wake up again. The fear of such a possibility kept me wide awake, awake enough to know I was still in the man’s arms.
‘Big, muscular arms, darling,’ insinuated Dominique with a air clink of his first drink that evening. ‘And so he took you to his bedside, laid you down and brushed his fingers over your tender cheeks?…Facial cheeks, daring. We’re not trying to be explicit just yet, are we?’
Oh Dominique. If only the allowance to fantasise about Mr Chocolate were that easy. Yes, I suppose Dominique was right, Anthony had the arms of a man who either frequented one of those gym places, or was just so accustomed to the art of chocolate making, his arms had toned themselves after years and years of hauling burlap sacks of cocoa beans.
‘And eyes of chocolate, darling,’ continued Dominique. ‘I remember him well, actually. He attended my Damian Knight exhibition one evening, bought a piece even.’
‘Oh yes,’ I said, then went on to discuss how Anthony had an eclectic display of artwork within his dark home: ever an artist inspired by others. ‘Was he alone?’
Like Grace Jones during an interview, Dominique flourished a hand and placed down his glass. ‘You know it was such a busy evening I couldn’t tell, but if I had to guess…yes, I believe he was alone.’ He went to take anther sip of his drink. ‘He’s single now, isn’t he?’
The idea of discussing Christiansen’s personal life once again come to me as something I shouldn’t even care about. Perhaps it was the alcohol in me, chilling me out into this careless person I barely recognised, but Dominique; the poor thing had been on the edge of his seat all evening, the chandelier from the glass ceiling reflected in his hungry eyeballs. But as exciting as it were to discuss what had happened, the events after the Lamborghini had led to what I could only describe as a dispirited denouement: a forgetful finale, an anticlimactic end to what I secretly thought of as an exciting ordeal.
Sat there, on the bed of Anthony’s guest bedroom, I found myself the centre of attention to not just Anthony, not just his assistant, Fiona, but another lady, an elegant puzzle piece, a perfect shape to slide next to the man I had admired from the first day his chocolate touched my tongue. This women was Anthony’s fiancee, Caprice – Caprice O’Hara to be precise.
I allowed Dominique a moment to realise I hadn’t made that last part up. It just so happened, my boss, Mr Christiansen was soon to be wed to the socialite and actress, Caprice O’Hara: sharp eyebrows, black hair, pillow lips and a casual yet controlled movement in her walk.
She entered the already crowded bedroom with what I glimpsed was a script in her hands. Oh actors; if we didn’t already know, we do now with that obviousness. ‘What’s happened?’ she asked, clearly having seen me sat there with blood on my face, of which Anthony handed me a cold compress to place on it.
There was something about that hand over. I’m sure Fiona could easily have given me the cold compress of ice cubes herself, but no, instead Anthony, without a single word and but only a hand gesture, took the compress from her, and instead of simply placing the thing in my hand for me to make use of, he took it upon himself to apply the compress to my face, his other hand on my shoulder, the masculine delicacy of pressure honed from years of dexterity. And yes, chocolate eyes fixed on mine. I caught that moment, and I’m telling you now, in terms of its meaning, it was a hard stare to crack.
‘Why is he covered in blood, Anthony?’ Asked Caprice ‘Have you called a doctor?’ Anthony ignored her and continued to press the ice to my cheek. Ne needn’t bother. The effects of the shock were wearing off now and to tell the truth I felt much better, part from a little soreness. On his behalf I mentioned to Caprice how a doctor needn’t be necessary, and if anything the only treatment I knew I needed was cure for star-strike. Have you ever been star-struck? It’s both simultaneously lovely and horrible, lovely because you have to grapple with the notion that you, an every day nobody is sharing the same air with acting royalty. But horrible in that a royal is having to share the same air as you: a nobody.
I wondered maybe if Anthony and Caprice had previously had a falling out. Sure I was the centre of attention, sat there, feeble and wounded, but I had expected there to have been a little more interaction from these two fine specimens. Even if they were friends then surely a quick acknowledgement of each other would have sufficed. They weren’t related as far as I knew either. So my only presumption was that they had had a fight. If anything I could hear it on her voice, unless she was so caught up in the moment with her new character role. I Imagined her up on the roof terrace rehearsing, like Julia Robert’s did in Notting Hill, only without her Hugh Grant to support her.
Well, since nobody else was going to make the effort with such unnecessary tension in the room that could be sliced with cheese wire, I took it upon myself to say something groundbreaking and distracting. ‘Ms O’Hara,’ I said, my face open to her, now Anthony was busying himself with the first aid kit Fiona had brought him. ‘I very much enjoyed your performance of Mary Antoinette. It was fabulous if you don’t mind me saying so.’ If I could have awarded myself with the fictitious prize that was of expert actorial flattery, I would accept.
After seeing the movie “The Treason Queen” with the flame I had kicked into the river, you know, the spank fantasy who thought I was frigid, I had been enamoured by O’Hara’s performance, regardless of the critics’ over-reliance of historical inaccuracies to strengthen their argument that the movie was one of the worst summer blockbuster’s of 2018. Those fiends. O’Hara had played that role as though she were the goddamn LAST queen of France. Her emotion, I told her, was so utterly raw and passionate I may as well have renounced my sexuality and committed myself heterosexualy insane.
‘Give me that,’ she said to Anthony, taking an alcohol-free cleansing wipe from his hand. ‘Its alright, I’ll finish up here, go and tend to your meeting.’ She was sat by my side now, tearing open the packet, her script cast aside, though I’m sure she knew it by heart by now. When she asked, I told her about the Lamborghini and how it had tried to knock some sense in to me, though I said nothing about the Louis Treize, fearful it may have been a gift from her to him.
‘Will you be alright?’ asked Anthony. I wish you could have seen him, pushed aside in his own house, but I thanked him anyway, grateful he had so chivalrously aided me. Some part of me insisted that anyone would have done the same thing, but not anyone had just had their expensive cognac dropped and destroyed.
The same evening I met up with Dominique at the White Honey in Chelsea. I had nipped home to shower and change into something more comfortable, perhaps in an attempt to gain sympathy, not that I needed it, but by the look on Dominique’s face I could tell a certain guilt was brewing behind his facade after I’d told him it was his phone call that had caused my accident.
We laughed about it obviously, and after a half an hour or so of more cocktails and chit chat I was struck by a realisation of some kind. For some reason, why I hadn’t thought of it before, a somewhat anticlimactic idea popped into my head. Caprice O’Hara was, and I’m only guessing, very similar in name to my own. Perhaps Anthony really had sent me the text message the other night by accident?
Perhaps he really had intended to send his “I really want to **** you” to Caprice, and clearly in his drunken state, of which I am now sure, he had mistakenly sent it to me instead.
‘Don’t destroy my fantasies,’ joked Dominique, hailing over the waiter and asking for what I assumed were two mojitos in French. ‘The man sent it you on purpose I’m sure of it, darling.’
I protested. There was just no reason the man would have had any motive to persue someone who, I’m sure to my fathers disgust, is old enough to be his son. Dominique choked, criss-crossing his legs and leaning over the table of our lounge area. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said insincerely, ‘how old are you?’
I would love to have told him to sod off but I just couldn’t bare robbing him of his answer. Unfortunately, I, like so many homosexual men on this rock have fallen victim to the stereotype. Why we are fearful of age and loss of youth above all other humans is a mystery to me. But like an mystery I am prudent to mow down the hedges of any maze. Perhaps the desire to retain virility is rooted in the DNA of all gay men, a biological inheritance from decades, nay, centuries of one’s own sexual secrecy, a repression that leads gay men to eschew their desires to make love in their youthful toned forms, only to one day regret the boat they missed when maturity unkindly leaves you haggard and wishing you had done more with the youth you had. Boy, do I like to overthink things!
‘I’m twenty five,’ I told him, sipping my mojito. ‘And Anthony is…forty seven.’ I suppose the fantasy of it wasn’t going to send Dominique off into a surprised tirade. I fail to know any gay man who didn’t at one time in their young life regale their friends with the fantasies of meeting an older, wiser, richer gentleman to whisk them away to a Long Island mansion for a Jay Gatsby inspired party before walking them along the beach at 6am for a perfect sunrise.
‘Speaking of older men,’ said Dominique, his knees together, drink in hand and leaning over the table, ‘I need to talk to you about that favour.’
Oh yes, the favour. Dominique and I had been meaning to speak about this favour ever since yesterday when he phoned me before my accident, but like two cackling witches we’d spent the whole evening so far in The White Honey discussing Christiansen and my fancy new bad boy battle scar. Since my run in with the Lamborghini, Anthony had insisted I take a few days off to recover. This of course only aided in Dominique’s suspicions after I told him Anthony was happy to give me evening classes the following week to make up for my time off.
‘Well, darling,’ said Dominique, ‘as much as I’d love to talk about the filth you two would get up to during your evening classes, I was wondering if you’d like to do a job for me. I’ll pay you obviously.’
As short notice as it was, I really didn’t mind. It just so happened that Dominique’s patisserie of choice had shut down after the corpse of a mouse was found in a wedding cake, and, understandably, he was desperate need of a cake for his next gallery launch.
‘I need it to follow a flower theme, Cason darling,’ said Dominique, arms in the air. ‘I need gorgeous little details and frosting for days, darling, and it has to follow the same sort of pattern as this….’ He took out his phone and showed me a painting with floral details so small I hoped my hands hadn’t lost their knack after a few weeks. But nonetheless, I’d give it a go. Since Dominique was happy to pay me upfront I thought it a perfect opportunity to get my kitchen up and running.
26 Harding Mews was a subtle feature within the heart of Belgravia London. Before I moved in I had stipulated at least one key feature, not a view of the Thames or a parking space for a car I’d likely never use, but a marble island for my kitchen. As an aspiring artisan chocolatier, I’d need time to practice at home, and what better way would I have been able to do this than with a giant marble slab. It was stunning, the entire kitchen in fact was stunning, and like some Mary Sue, I found myself aproned and poised.
In some ways I had hoped to make a chocolate cake. Perhaps it was my need to stay on track, to keep my eyes set on the prize, but no matter, instead I had created what was possibly my largest project, a four tiered twelve inch monster sponge cake: each tier thick and bouncy with a soft vanilla buttercream slathered within each layer, a kind of therapeutic ritual I took such pleasure in doing, until I set to frosting the thing with the myriad of piping ends to create the floral look Dominique had asked for. He gave me strict instructions not to research the artist the cake had to be inspired by, giving me only a few photos of the artists work. A surprise he said, stating the fact by looking at the artist would be too much of a distraction, coupled with the fact the artist in question was a critic when it came to cake reviews.
The gallery, of which conveniently was only a few streets away from me lit up like an ice cube amongst the solidity of the Kensington architecture. The Dubois Gallery passed down to Dominique from his mother had clearly been updated to, in a sense, take the piss out of the surrounding area with its uncooperative sore thumb presence. No matter, I walked in, both hands totally occupied by the cake. In fact I had to take a taxi, since the thing itself weighed at least 10 pounds. Immediately Dominique’s assistant greeted me, an anorexic teen who, like Dominique, had an androgyny which I could not for the life of me label. Perhaps that was the point: Label-less and unashamed, boundry-pushing and progress-challenging.
It hadn’t taken long for the exhibition to get underway. A flock of art dealers and critics entered the concrete halls of the gallery, more art than the art itself. I was, for want of a better expression, a pig in shit. Other than my love for chocolate, I revealed in the art of art. Such expressions and ideas, culminated into a package both pleasing and digestible: a story of experiences and emotions, compressed into each individual brush stroke. Bloody hell…am I a cliché or what?
‘Cason, darling,’ came Dominique’s voice, and I turned to see his slender high-heeled frame, striking and daring with his black buckled jumpsuit. He threw an arm over my shoulder, not too difficult since he was at least a foot and a half taller than myself. ‘Your cake is fabulous, darling it looks fantastic.’ He thanked me with an air kiss and walked me through his halls of familiarity, greeting those he passed with a socialite’s air of cosmopolitanism. I had been in art galleries before, and yet Dominique exuded his personality, with curved walls, high ceilings and art so isolated from external detail It could have been floating, and what was it, I wondered, with dark lighting? Was it just a London thing?
Tonight’s artist was a man named Gareth Fleischer, and yes, his art consisted predominantly of intricate florals and patterns, a sort of dark hybrid between Monet and Van Gogh: whimsical and free but dedicated and structured, his artwork, each piece that was, seven foot high and twelve foot wide, every piece a wall mural: a man in need of attention and noticeability perhaps?
‘Aren’t they wonderful?’ Asked Dominique. ‘He’s a seller, alright. A commission artist by trade but he’s really entering notoriety at this stage in his career. I expect to sell each and every piece by the end of the evening.’
From day one I had aways enjoyed Dominique’s eloquence, and now even more so when added to the mix of his professionalism. I allowed him to mingle, and as such he left me with a glass of prosecco and a chance to peruse the gallery. If I say so myself, my cake looked fabulous on the buffet table. It seemed Dominique had the plinth on which it sat adorned in real flowers, the entire table and it’s hors d’oeuvres it seemed designed around the theme of the evening.
The event busied. Dominique was right, this Fleischer was a pretty popular guy. To keep out of the way of what I assumed were the players of the art world, I shimmied to the side and settled on a piece titled “The Sentence”, a portrait orientated mural of man’s body, made from flowers obviously, bound it appeared by some sort of restraints that looked oddly like either ivy or intestines. I settled on the ivy, the painting was not nearly macabre enough, unless there were some hidden meaning my amateur interests hadn’t picked up on.
‘Have you tried this cake?’ Came a voice from behind me. I didn’t want to seem big headed and assumed the question wasn’t directed at me and so I listened on, keeping my eyes on the painting for good measure. ‘You like this one huh?’ This time I turned. There was something about this voice that, this time, sounded too direct. Standing closer than I thought, stood a man so incomprehensible I now know what it must be like to lose oneself.
His stature actually jolted me. I swear, that sort of thing rarely happens, and like some malnourished schoolboy this man tucked into a slice of my cake with such animalic force I was surprised he bothered with a fork. But his face, his body, his hair his…everything, the obviousness of his neck-to-toe tattooed existence awoke the very moths within my stomach dust…Now that was a feeling I hadn’t had for some time.
He didn’t even look at me, instead he carried on with his cake inhalation, looking up only once to view the art piece I had busied myself with, his neck exposing a kaleidoscope of tattooed patterns, flowers and images that ended directly on the base of his jawline, a ridge so sharp I could make out the muscles in his face as he chewed: like a rippling pulse.
But I didn’t stop there. To explain how enamoured I was by this man I can now safely understand what women must go through when it’s their breasts men tend to prefer conversations with. Some of us it seems, providing the subject exudes the correct pheromones, are incapable of controlling our wandering eyes. Oh my eyes wandered, and the wonders they unearthed were an art form only the human body could showcase. No paining, photograph, statue or piece of writing could conjure the precise chemical reaction I had fusing through me. No description nor human creation could compare with the biological stunner who stood there in a white shirt, so filled it was no surprise the top three buttons had no choice but to forever remain unaccustomed with their holes.
‘I do,’ I said, almost forgetting what it was I was answering to. “The paining!” said the sensible portion of my brain. “You’re not taking him as your husband, your just answering his question.”
The man was in front of me now, hiding the view of the paining with a back I’m sure a many had envisaged leaping onto. Before I could go on to explain my theory of the artist’s tortured background the man turned to me and smiled, and then he’d done it, he’d taken his metaphorical bow and arrow and shot me though the heart with that smile, a goddamn smile only a few people would ever gift you in life. A smile so rare and so perfect, the modern western dream of material wealth and status were nonexistent. Only that smile mattered, and like some cliché the world around me blurred to centre this mans face in what I swear was a slow of time.
‘You’re a fan of cake, I see?’ I asked, pointing at his half demolished plate.
‘Love it,’ he replied. ‘You a fan of art?’
‘Only good art,’ I said cockily, a little surprised at myself.
‘You can’t like this then?’ another jaw-dropping smirk on his part: a flick of buttercream at the side of his lip.
I laughed, knocking my fingernail against the stem of my prosecco glass. ‘No, no, not at all, I mean, yes, yes I do, I like it. A lot actually.’
‘Ah stop,’ he said, and he threw a hand over his face, bending his knees and pretending to, what it looked like, hide himself from a downpour of bullets. ‘You flatter me.’
I opened my mouth to say something, but stopped myself, giving the man a courteous nod instead. In fact I had an inkling this Adonis was in fact Mr Fleischer. For a second I wondered if he knew who I was.
‘So,’ he continued, knocking his plate against my glass in some physical attempt to break the ice. ‘What is it you do, eh?’ God, even his voice: a mischievous mix of cockney and boyish manliness.
‘I’m a chef,’ I replied. I took a sip of prosecco to steady myself.
‘A chef, eh? What kind of chef?’
‘Make cakes too, I suppose, eh?’
I scoffed, but did so in a way I hoped didn’t seem rude, I could tell he was making polite conversation, why with me I didn’t know but I was happy to indulge him regardless. ‘Not sure how good I’d be if I didn’t make cakes.’
He finished his last bite and cast the plate at a passing waiter, exchanging it for a drink similar to mine. ‘That,’ he said patting his solid abdomen and taking a step closer to me, where the radiation from his musculature set my skin ablaze, ‘was bloody bloomin’ bangin’!’ His tongue finally caught the stray dash of cream at the side of his lip, and without wanting to, I accidentally let a sigh escape me. Oh you think that sounds like something out of a romance comedy? Believe me, that whole swooning crap definitely exists and it definitely happens. Obviously I did it was a degree of decorum.
He took a sip of his drink. ‘Don’t worry, this ain’t gonna be like that scene from love actually, you know, that awkward wedding party scene.’
‘I haven’t seen it,’ I said dishonesty, hoping by lying it would give me an opportunity to keep him near me. I knew exactly what he meant by that. In the movie Love Actually there’s a scene where Kris Marshall’s character is attempting to flirt with a caterer for a wedding, only to insult her food by accident, leading him to question his sexual success with frigid English girls. Mr Fleischer went on to explain this, and to tell the truth, I barely listened, using this opportunity to loose myself in every inch of him.
Only later that evening did I question why he’d decided to settle his schmooze on me. I wasn’t there to buy his art, I wasn’t really there to make contacts, I was only there to bake a cake and up the numbers. The evening had taken a strange turn however, when, of all people, of all people in what I later began to understand was just another feature of the London social circles of elitism, walked in Anthony Christiansen and his plus one, Caprice O’Hara, like a couple walking down the red carpet.
I would have allowed this sight of Anthony to not distract me, but that all changed when he locked eyes with mine, and gifted me a look that would have turned my bloody bloomin’ cake to sand and ash. What had I done wrong now?
I really hope you’ve enjoyed part 4 of Cason Banks’ story. This will be a weekly serial introducing new characters and exciting new adventures for Cason and his new friends as he navigates the difficult yet rewarding city of London. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, make sure to sign up to my monthly newsletter to be the first to know when the next part of The Chocolate Prince is up!