The click of her heels echoed loudly through the long hallway. Dull eyes followed her progress, lingering on the cardboard box she carried under one arm. The echo ceased outside the heavy bars of one door, and wordlessly the box was offered through the bars. Wordlessly it was accepted, and wordlessly the woman blew a kiss, turned, and walked away. The man caressed the box, then set it on the table by the bed, unopened.
Jacob stood on the chair, the apron meant to protect his clothes covered in flour, his new shirt stained with chocolate and butter, and his smile showing evidence of numerous taste tests. Marisa surveyed the kitchen and saw further evidence of Jacob's culinary attempt. The peanut butter cookie dough looked a bit odd, but after she joined him and they had finished it, it tasted better than any dough she had ever made. They cleaned the kitchen together while the cookies baked, ignoring as best they could the smell wafting through the small house, until finally Marisa suggested they go to the park. When they returned home the fire alarms were blaring and the smell the black lumps on the pan were emitting was no longer pleasant. They baked the last of the batch and watched the oven until they were ready. Milk and cookies had never tasted so good as they did that day.
The listless prisoners brightened some when the box was opened, and the faint smell of baked goods was released. Cookies were passed from cell to cell until all had been eaten—all except the last one, sitting alone and tempting in it's box still.
Jacob had left for his first day of school almost too excited to contain himself over his new backpack, notebooks, and crayons. His innocent eyes shone with anticipation as his mother walked him to the classroom, her eyes shining with tears as she let go his hand and watched him arrange his things at his desk with great ceremonial importance. The hardest steps of her life were the first away from that classroom, away from her little boy, who was so quickly growing up and away from her.
The silence in the corridor was even more oppressive than usual that day, for everyone knew that this was to be the last delivery. No more would they see the proud lift of the head as the heels clicked with her brisk pace, and never again would they taste the warm, fresh sweetness of her home baked cookies. Tonight would be the end.
The box was larger today, and was not handed silently through the bars as was custom. Instead, it was held just out of reach, until Marisa had leaned over and whispered in Jacob's ear. She made no effort to hide the tears that ran down her cheeks when she pulled away and pressed the box into his hand, kissed him on the cheek, and left, her steps no longer brisk. Jacob stood and watched her go, and felt the prick of tears in his own eyes. He sat on the bed and caressed the simple cardboard box, full of love. Full of peanut butter cookies.