Happy Valentine’s Day!
For the Love of Chocolate
Evalene peers up from the rack of her newest chocolate delicacies as the tinkle of the front door chimes sounds in the empty room. She grits her teeth as she watches him shuffle in. Her temper flares as the inescapable scent of fried chicken grates against the intense richness of her chocolates.
Harold makes his way to “their” table, as he refers to the place he and his wife of fifty years always sat. But Maude has missed the excursion for the past two years. Still Harold made the stop every day, dragging his loneliness in with his grease-stained brown paper sack.
Evalene slides the rack back into the case, careful not to slam the glass door shut as she thinks about confronting Harold. The chicken had to go. Definitely not Harold but his chicken was out. If she didn’t stop it now, customers would be requesting chocolate covered fried chicken.
She strides to the table where Harold has laid out two breasts and a thigh on a paper plate. She watches as he tucks his napkin into the collar of his blue button-down shirt, slightly wrinkled without Maude’s attentions. She plops her fists onto her rounded hips.
“Harold! How many times must I plead with you to take your chicken elsewhere? Anywhere but my chocolate shop.”
The plastic fork stuck in the chicken snaps, slinging the chicken from the plate. His gray eyes meet her blue ones as a thigh slaps her mid-chest.
“Ugh!” She looks down at the yellow grease stain that now soils her starched white apron. “Look what you have done!” She leans down and retrieves the foul offender from the floor, shaking it in his face. “No chicken in J’aime le Chocolat!”
“I apologize for hitting you with my thigh, Evalene. But I come here for the memories you know, not the atmosphere and not the chocolate.”
“What? You never even try the chocolate any more! For two years you come in here, I ask and I ask. But no, you eat your chicken and you leave.”
“Well, maybe the chocolate isn’t the same without love.” He sniffs as he drops his eyes back to his plate.
“Maybe, maybe not. But today, to make up for this affront to my sensitivities,” she gestured to her apron. “You will try my German Chocolate Bombes. I made them especially for you.”
She stalks back to the counter and flings the chicken into the trash. After washing her hands, (no need to ruin her chocolate), she selects her nicest plate. The roses rimmed in gold surround the paper doily where she places two perfectly round glazed bombes. She permits a smile before turning to stomp back to his table.
“Here, try these.” She places the plate next to his paper one.
“I just don’t know if I’m ready. Maybe I should wait.”
“Two years is a long time when you are our age. Just try it.” She scoots the plate closer to him.
A sigh tinged with the smell of Kentucky Fried Chicken rises from him as he reaches for the chocolate ball.
“But Evalene, do they have any…”
“Just try it, Harold.” She interrupts him and places the ball in his hand. “Just try it.”
He slips the cake into his mouth. She moves closer to watch him. A smile begins to creep across his face as the chocolate takes hold. She shifts her feet to get a better view of his reaction, when her foot slips on something and her feet fly out from under her.
“Owww!” She looks around to see what she had slipped on. She lifts her foot and looks at the bottom of her shoe. The shine of grease reflects the lights of the shop.
And just when things were going so well, she thinks.
Harold is standing over her, his hand held out to her. She lets him help her to her feet.
“How did you like the chocolate?” She asks, willing to forgive his chicken for her fall, as long as he made up his mind to enjoy chocolate and life again. She smiles up at him.
“I guess this means that you are okay?” He smiles into her eyes, then places the second bombe into his mouth.
She watches in horror as his smile turns to a grimace when he chews then spews the dessert onto her apron.
“Well, I have never been more insulted in my life!” She grabs the plate from the table and slides toward the counter on her slippery shoe.
“Evalene, did you have coconut in those?”
Something in his voice makes her turn. She shakes her head to clear her vision but his face remains as red and round as a cherry.
“Yes, there are coconut in these.” She surveys the front of her apron where bits of white flakes cling to the chocolatey clumps.
“I am allergic to coconut.” He wheezes, one hand grasping at his neck, the other fumbling with his shirt pocket.
“Oh no, Harold!” Glass shatters as the plate falls from her fingers. “What can I do?”
He motions for her to get something from his pocket. She finds an epipen then stabs him with it.
As his breathing returns to normal, she realizes she is holding him in her arms. Maybe she could love fried chicken and chocolate after all.