Cerise lifted the long red stem and dangled the juicy globe before her daughter.
"Open your mouth."
Raye obeyed, extending her pink tongue to capture the cherry and began devouring immediately.
"What do you taste?"
Jaw grinding, brow furrowed, eyes searching the room as if to find hidden clues in her mother's kitchen, Raye was determined to please her mother with the right answer. She had been an apprentice all her life, really - watching, studying, imitating. Though it was the kitchen of the manse, a more appropriate term would be laboratory. Her mother was more than a chef; she was a culinary wizard.
"Vodka, obviously. Chocolate. Amaretto." She watched her mother's eyebrow bounce with each ingredient noted successfully. Pride was written across her face, but Raye noticed one final note to detect. It was citrus, but which? Not as common as orange. Tangerine? "...and mandarin," Raye said with confidence.
Cerise smiled. It was time. "Excellent. Now, close your eyes."
Once again, her daughter did not hesitate to obey. She wanted to learn more, understand everything, and experience all.
"What do you feel?"
Raye opened her mouth to speak, but Cerise silenced her. 'No. Don't speak yet. I want you to immerse yourself and when you're ready - then, tell me what you feel."
Behind her eyelashes, images flashed like fireworks. Explosions of light and color illuminated the black canvas of her mind. As they overlapped, they revealed an entire scene from her past: the day at the beach when he broke her heart. As fast as the memory had flooded, it faded. The colors and images bled into one another and dripped into her spirit.
"What do you feel?"
"Sorrow. Loneliness. Betrayal. Hurt."
"Very accurate. Excellent."
Raye looked to her mother, waiting. When no answer came, she asked. "The cherry?"
"Certainly not," Cerise wiped her hands onto the corner of her gingham apron. "A cherry is simply a cherry. Chocolate, liquors - simply food. But these - " she walked to a cedar cabinet and unlocked it with the tiny key she always wore around her wrist. Opening the gleaming wooden doors, she presented hundreds of beautiful little identical glass jars - each holding liquids of various hues. "These are much more special. These are your birthright."
Walking to the display, Raye delicately passed her fingertips over the jars. "Infusions."
"Yes, just like the vodka-soaked cherry. I created a specific recipe to tantalize your tastebuds," Cerise tapped her daughter's nose playfully. "And those were all detectable to your very discerning palate. I expected nothing less from my daughter." She nodded in admiration. "But your cherry also contained something undetectable to the tongue. Something that your brain fully recognized and translated into a memory, and then emotions. That would be this."
A dark glass glistened in the soft light of the setting sun permeating the kitchen. "I have carefully extracted, collected and concocted each of these formulas to replicate specific feelings. Each has a purpose. Mix several to target certain memories. For example, what feelings do you suppose go into a first kiss? Into the birth of a child? Into a hard-won race?"
Raye thought. "Love? Contentment? Pride?"
"Yes, but more. Love can conjure any kind of memory. But if you specifically want that first kiss? You might want to add a dash of panic, a touch of fear, a shake of anticipation, a healthy dose of anxiety, and a bit of sensuality. Not too much on the sensuality for a first kiss - or then it becomes a second kiss."
Raye smiled in appreciation, noting the difference.
"A birth? Sure, love. Of course. But a touch of pain. A flood of relief, soaked in fierce protection. Sprinkles of amusement and wonder. Never forget the fear. There is always fear."
Slipping into apprentice mode, Raye started to contemplate how very few feelings were actually experienced in their pure form, but rather tinged with subtleties from other emotions. Her mind then shifted to her mother, and now understood how powerful she was in the land. Raye had always appreciated that her mother's food was the most sought after, but now she understood why. A wife wanting to leave an abusive husband like Mr. Cove, might want to make a roast with vegetables simmered in fear and timidity. A politician holding a banquet like Governor Duske might want to make sure the cocktail sauce for the shrimp held an awful lot of pride and admiration.
"Do they know?"
"Never. They merely think they're ordering my famous pie, or my prize-worthy spices, or the liqueur that won first place at the fair. They remember the feeling, and then remember the food. My role, however, is very calculated. I might suggest that someone like Mrs. Cove come over for lunch and feed her my "renowned clam chowder" simmered with courage, determination, and balance - while handing her a muffin to take home, with specific instructions that it was for her dear, sweet husband." Cerise winked, and continued. "She would have no knowledge of how she was able to finally leave him that night. Her mind would only recognize a certain burst of bravado, while her husband would be unable to lift a finger against her."
"Does it weigh on you?"
"Of course; refusing to step in would weigh more. I'm not always perfect. I make mistakes like every other human. But I never regret this gift. I use it for the good of others - always the good. And now?" Cerise lifted up on her tiptoes to reach something on the top shelf. A book. "The women in our family have passed it on, generation to generation, each adding their own recipes to this book. This will be your inheritance."