My first real attempt at short-story writing (that I've completed anyway...).
My muse? None other than the writer of the Original Story: N.Steven.
I love chocolate.
Like, obsessively. And I’m not one of those females who save chocolate for seasons of PMS-ing and post-break up therapy. If I happen to wake up, it should be a good day for chocolate.
I don’t know what it is about chocolate, really. Could it be the extraordinary sweetness? Or the surge of energy and euphoria you feel after each delectable bite? Or maybe it’s the attractive, deep brown color?
Whatever the reason, I am a fan.
My weapon of choice? Almond Joy.
It’s the safe type of candy bar; it provides me with a security that’s soothing and self-assuring. As a little girl, my mom would let me eat the other half of her Almond Joy bar on the way home from church; as a treat for not cutting up with my older cousins. So naturally, after a very long day of classes and work, it’s pretty kosher to reward myself with a nice, soothing and true Almond Joy candy bar.
Eating an Almond Joy became like a routine of mine that I reverenced faithfully. Especially after I started dating Reginald. We are very different, though. Coming from a pampered, well-to-do upbringing, he’s a stark contrast to my gritty, thorough reality. At times, I think that this difference has to do with why he doesn’t understand me. Yet, he is like my favorite candy bar in many ways. The security that I feel with him sets my mind at ease, but I find myself becoming queasy at the thought of being his wife.
This is one of two huge reasons why I still haven’t given him an answer yet…
The other reason being that yesterday was Thursday.
Now, Thursdays are usually pretty typical:
5:45 am – 1st alarm goes off
7 am – 3 pm – classes
3:15 pm – Reggie waits for me outside the Biology lab room
3:30 pm – He drives me to the corner deli for a quick bite and then he drops me off at work.
8 pm - Reggie picks me up, McDonald’s in hand & takes me home.
[Usually, he stays over until the wee hours of the morning.]
Thursdays are supposed to always go like this. But, yesterday didn’t go as I’d planned…
“I’m sorry Reggie, but Professor Stern would not let me and Beth leave until we got the pH levels right!”
“Well, you should have explained to him your work schedule! You know you cannot afford to be late to work again, Alexandria!”
Reggie knows that I hate it when he, or anyone else, calls me Alexandria. I’ve gone by Alex since the third grade, but he thinks it’s too masculine. “Alex is a boy’s name” he says.
I rolled my eyes at him.
“I do NOT need another lecture, Reginald. I am perfectly capable of handling my own business.”
“Oh right. Just like you handled yourself last semester by getting on academic warning and almost getting kicked out of school! Right?”
Oh, NO HE DIDN’T…
“What?!” I hissed. “You know that my family was falling apart then, and I couldn’t concentrate on –“
“Oh please. Alex. Please,” Reggie said, cutting me off, “when are you going to take responsibility for your own life?”
Heck no. That’s the last straw.
“Right now. ...PULL OVER.” I said through clenched teeth.
“But baby, it’s---”
“PULL OVER! NOW.”
I forced Reggie to pull into the nearest parking lot, jumped out of the car, and stomped off. Reggie yelled out of the car after me,
“Alexandria! You are acting childish! Come on. Quit this ghetto girl act of yours and get back in the car please!”
This man is definitely working my last nerve.
Feeling heat surge through my chest, I glared back at him. I may be street wise, but I am not ghetto.
“You’ve got some nerve, Reggie…” I paused.
“We’re through. I’m tired of this. It’s over.”
As I turned to walk away, I could feel tears forming beneath my eyelids. Not wanting Reggie to see, I turned my back to him. I heard a door open and quickly close.
Mmph. I hope this man don’t think the usual apology is going to cut it this time.
Then, I heard his car drive off.
Slightly disappointed, I looked back to see my purse and schoolbag lying on the asphalt.
Great. Now what am I going to do?
Looking around, I noticed the parking lot lay in front of a small convenience store. I also noticed that my stomach was growling. Dusting my bags off, I searched my purse, only to find a total of $1.48.
Shoot. I left my debit card on the dresser.
Irate and hungry, I started towards the tiny convenience store…praying that they carried Almond Joy candy bars.
It was hot in that store. But, I momentarily ignored my body’s rising temperature and desperately scanned each section for my dependable Almond Joy bar.
Hershey bar, no.
Dear Lord, it’s so hot today.
Feeling beads of sweat form at the small of my back, I tugged at the bottom of my white, button-down blouse; untucked it out of my high-waist, khaki skirt. Knotting the side of my blouse gave me little relief, so I loosened the first two buttons to let the warm air circulate around my neck and upper chest.
My stomach reminded me of my current pursuit, so I kept looking.
Three Musketeers, no.
Reese’s Cups, n—Mmm. I’ve never even had these before.
Picking up the bright orange package, I inspected the outside. I’d heard people rave about this “candy bar”, but being loyal to Almond Joy (not to mention being wary of all that peanut butter), I never tried it for myself…
“Something I can help you with, miss?”
That voice came out of nowhere. I didn't even notice him standing there at the end of the aisle...
“Um” I muttered, looking up, “No, I think I can---”
His smile was the first thing I noticed. It wasn’t too wide.
I remember men that had hurt me in the past always had those wide smiles. Like car salesman or those Jehovah's Witness people that come by my house from time to time. All of them wanted something.
So at some point, any wide smile on a new face became a symbol of caution. But his smile was subtle. Friendly…genuinely friendly. Hidden mostly behind the corners of his mouth. He didn't appear to want anything. Quite the opposite, I noticed.
Hmm. I bet his real smile is staggering.
Wait….aren’t I talking? What am I even saying?
I gathered myself.
“…wait. Let me start that over again”, I said, trying to salvage my dignity. “Um, where are the Almond Joy candy bars?”
“Oh those…” the gorgeous stranger said. “You don’t want those…”
Oh really? This should be good...
“I don’t...why not?”
“Oh, well an Almond Joy is nice, don’t get me wrong….But it doesn’t seem suitable for someone like you.”
I straightened and raised a suspicious eyebrow at him.
“Someone like me?”
Immediately sensing my defenses, he softened the more.
“No, miss. What I mean to say is...”
He paused and reached to pick up one of the neatly arranged Reese’s; slowly walking towards me. For once, I didn’t feel threatened or inclined to reach into my purse.
“…Almond Joy’s are safe. Casual. Convenient. And you miss, don’t look like the type to need anything casual or convenient…”
As he spoke, he stood directly in front of me; purposefully breaking the seal on the Reese’s Cup wrapper. Oddly, he looked as though he’s done this before. And he wanted to show me...
“Is-is that right?” I softly stammered.
“Oh yes, ma’am. You see, a Reese’s Cup is more your manner. It’s deep and exquisite. Full-bodied. It captures your senses and takes you in. Encases you in its softness and envelopes you in its delicate passion. And it takes you slowly…”
The stranger then slid two steady fingers into the candy wrapper; pulling out one of the two tiny delights. Leaning protectively and boldly towards me, he slipped the candy’s individual wrapper off, parted his lips, and took a bite.
I could feel my knees start to give way as I watched him slowly chew. In wonder, I gazed at his mouth; darting back and forth from there to his eyes. I watched the muscles in his face, chin, and neck tense and release. I scanned the fine trail of dark hair along the bottom of his chin and along his top lip. The warm air around me thickened as he let out a low and short, satisfied sound; his long eyelashes fluttered slightly. This man was hungry. For something...and it wasn't that Reese's cup. The ecstasy on his face calmed and peace was what lay behind.
...and I wanted him -- it.
I dared to venture back toward his eyes. It was then that I realized that he was focused on me. Intently. As if he’d been watching me watching him…the whole time.
I flushed red. But I couldn’t look away. So, I simply melted underneath his soft, curious gaze.
He spoke first.
“If you're interested, miss, they’re two for $1.”
Feeling like I would come undone, I grabbed two off of the shelf next to where we stood; gripping them next to my pounding chest.
“Thank you” was all I could manage.
With the same, knowing smile, he replied, “You’re most welcome, miss. Have a good day. Oh, and please come again.”
I walked off, carefully clutching the two Reese’s Cups packages; wiping the sweat off of my forehead with the back of my free hand.
You better believe I’ll be back.