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Turtle Cheesecake

This delicious and easy-to-make cheesecake will soon become a family favorite.

A slice of Elizabeth's Turtle Cheesecake

Natasha called. Her voice gave away what I already feared. “Mom, I’m drinking again.” My 23-year-old daughter had finished a four-month rehabilitation program in San Diego three months earlier.

“Where are you?” I asked.

“In a hotel room. In Mission Bay,” she said. “I have to go now.” She was crying. I started crying too, and hung up.

Natasha was an alcoholic. By the time she was a teenager, she was already out of control. My husband, Jon, and I had been so relieved when she completed an inpatient rehab program. Southern California seemed to be good for her too. I thought she was happy there.

Jon’s usual reaction to bad news is to withdraw. He’ll sit in front of the television switching channels, not watching anything in particular. But when I told him about Natasha he got up, took his car keys off the hook and checked for his wallet in his pants pocket. “I’ll be back in a jiffy,” he said. “I’m going to surprise you.”

I puttered around the house for a while, until I heard Jon’s car pull into the driveway. He walked in carrying a grocery bag and set it on the counter.

“Comfort food,” he said. “English muffins for me, and this for you.”

It was a slice of cheesecake, individually wrapped. My favorite. Jon made a pot of coffee, I got our plates, and we sat silently at the kitchen table.

I removed the plastic from my cheesecake and turned down the cardboard flaps that held the shape of the slice. I slid the cheesecake out of its holder and onto my plate. I picked up my fork. Lord, please stop Natasha from drinking once and for all. But maybe that was too much to hope for. I was haunted by something a policeman once told me after bringing her home drunk from a party: “The younger the alcoholic, the more likely the chance of relapse.”

Out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed the triangular piece of cardboard the slice of cheesecake had sat on, “wings” on either side.

“Look, Jon,” I said, holding it up. “It looks like an angel.”

Jon smiled a little. It was all he could manage. We finished our food, and I brought the dishes over to the sink. But I didn’t feel like washing them.

I rinsed off the slice holder and sat with it at the table. Jon had gone into the other room. I could hear the television faintly in the distance. What was in the distance for my daughter? One day at a time, like they said at my parents’ group meetings—maybe that was enough.

I propped the slice holder up in front of me. “God, please send an angel to watch over my daughter today. I know she wants a good life, and that life could start right now. Help her.”

I pictured Natasha with an angel. He sat beside her on the bed and wrapped his wings around her, protecting her from harm. Now. Just for this moment. Just for today. That was all I hoped for.

The weekend passed slowly for Jon and me. We prayed. We did a few chores around the house. We listened for the phone. Then, finally, it rang.

A counselor at the rehab center said that Natasha had checked herself back in for 90 days. Our daughter wanted us to know.

The angel was doing his job. I went to tell Jon. He shut off the television.

The next week, I sent Jon to do a little grocery shopping. “I was going to get you another slice of that cheesecake,” he said, “but the woman at the bakery counter said those individual slices were a one-time thing. They aren’t selling them anymore. Isn’t that strange?”

“Not really,” I said, unloading the bags onto the kitchen counter. I didn’t need a slice of cheesecake that day. And Natasha had her angel. We were all taking it one day at a time.

This story first appeared in the January 2004 issue of Angels on Earth magazine.

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