The sun is not up, but she is.

Butter, sugar, vanilla.  Cups of corn starch and almond flour.  The hum of the mixer is hypnotic- it would lull her back to sleep, if she let it.

No it wouldn't.

Sleep does not come easy these days- it is, in truth, a relief to have an excuse not to be in bed, not to lay there obsessing over laying there.  Instead she can obsess about pulling the cookies out at just the right moment- a hint of gold on the raised edges of the creamy white crenelations.  Spritzgeback are delicate confections, easily ruined by even sixty seconds too long in the oven.

Everything has to be just so.

She will devote many hours to this task today, this careful mixing and pressing and baking and shifting and packing, creating layer upon layers of the traditional cookies her oma used to make.  Oma hasn't made them in over a decade, and for almost as long it has fallen upon her to provide far-flung family with that small part of the holidays so unique to their heritage.  She wonders, briefly, how that came to be?  If everyone cares so much for the old traditions, why is she the only one to keep them?  She who, when she is honest with herself, doesn't care at all any more.

What is the point of traditions, after all, if there is no one to pass them on to?

She lets the cookies cool, then carefully shifts them, one at a time, to the wax paper she's covered her kitchen table with.  They line up in perfect rows, not so much because that's important to the process, but just because the effect pleases her.  Order.  Control.  Sweet little soldiers, marching off to battle against... what?  The passage of time?  The loss of what once was?  Bitterness, she decides as she dusts them with confectioner's sugar.  It is only fitting they be marching off to battle bitterness.

She picks one of the cookies up, examines it.  It looks perfect.  She pops it in her mouth, letting the taste of butter, sugar, and almonds melt on her tongue.  Delicate.  Perfect.  She cuts the wax paper to line the tins, and begins to place the cookies in concentric rings.  One of them breaks, and she stares at it.

Delicate.  Fragile.  So easily broken.

She wants to scream.  She wants to throw the pieces across the room, throw everything across the room, to destroy and destroy and destroy... but she doesn't.  She just stares at the broken pieces, and then puts them in her mouth, where they too crumble into nothingness.

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