Contest #133 shortlist ⭐️

Love and Chocolate in Five Easy Steps

Submitted into Contest #133 in response to: Write a story about someone making a gift (chocolate or otherwise) for a loved one.... view prompt

36 comments

Contemporary Sad Drama

This story contains sensitive content

Content warning: Language and mentions of abortion.


Hey there! It's your girl Tahlia here, and I'm back to bring you another slam dunk recipe. Valentine's Day is right around the corner, so today I'm gonna show you how to make your very own chocolate bars for that special someone in your life. Because, ladies, if your man is anything like my boyfriend Marcus, he's gonna want some chocolate. And if he's like Marcus, once he gets a taste, he'll probably want a little something extra on the side, if you catch my drift. Sadly, I can't help you whip that one up. I'm not a miracle worker.


But don't worry! This recipe is just five easy steps. So like Michael Jackson says, "All you gotta do is repeat after me."


Ready?


Step 1: Chop up your cacao butter.


First, I recommend laying your cacao butter down on a hard surface, just to be safe.


Next, grab the largest blade in your knife block and start chopping. I mean, really let loose. Use your imagination. Pretend it's a jungle and you're using a machete to hack away at the overgrown vines.


Make believe it's the person who outbid you on that darling house in Orange County that you'd spent months saving for, slaving away night after night in front of a glowing computer screen, typing legal documents until your eyes burned and your fingers turned to mush and your caffeine buzz faded as soon as the warmth of the dark roast left your tongue.


Or maybe it's just an old boyfriend from high school.


Or, if you need more inspiration, do what I do and think back to a particular moment in your life. Like that one night you were coming home from your book club (that was the week you all agreed to review Eat, Pray, Love) and you decided to drive over to that bitch Selena's your best friend's apartment for a second opinion (because she'd also read the book, she just wasn't in the club), and you slowly, very slowly, pulled up to her curb in your cute little Kia Soul and you spotted Marcus's your boyfriend's gunmetal gray Harley-Davidson across the street in the glow of the lamppost, and you thought Hmmm, and then cut your lights and glanced at the apartment and saw Marcus your boyfriend at the top of the cement stoop with Selena your ex-best friend and they were standing close, only a few inches apart, in the dark of the night, and they almost certainly weren't discussing Eat, Pray, Love, and you held your breath and watched them until your stomach gave Simone Biles some competition, and then you put your cute little Kia Soul in reverse and accidentally bumped into the car behind you, which, thank God, didn't have one of those obnoxious alarms that whoop every two seconds, and you apologized to no one and pulled out into the street and drove to your own apartment, and it felt like you didn't stop holding your breath until you turned the key in the lock and stepped inside and wept.


But any memory works, really. Just get that cacao chopped!


(Tahlia's tip of the week: If you don't have a clean knife available, a rolling pin works just fine for smashing things.)


Step 2: Fill a large saucepan with water.


Let the water come to a full boil before lowering it to a more gentle temperature.


Remember, sister: baking requires focus.


Try not to get distracted by the heat that floods the kitchen as the water comes to a boil, even if it reminds you of that hot, gooey feeling that bloomed in your chest when you had your first kiss in middle school, or the fire in your cheeks when you accidentally called your third grade teacher "Mom."


And don't even think about that time when the warmth ran through your entire body after you told Marcus your boyfriend the good news, and you showed him the plastic white stick with the two pink lines that you were hiding behind your back, and he just sat on the edge of the bed with his head in his hands and told you he was too young for this, that he wasn't ready for that kind of responsibility, and he was whispering the whole time, which is weird because it was just you two in the room, and he asked you to please, please reconsider, and he offered to join you at the clinic if you wanted, and he said he'd even pay for the whole thing, but could you please just think about his needs too.


When you're ready, dump your cacao butter into the boiling water and stir until fully melted. And if you haven't already, dump the baby's names you were considering too.


Step 3: Remove the cacao butter from the heat and add in cacao powder and sweetener.


Stir the powder and sweetener until the mixture is well-combined and creamy.


Don't worry if the ingredients clump together. Don't worry if they're as sticky as your hand was in Marcus's your boyfriend's when the two of you entered the Planned Parenthood clinic and you thought you'd never let go of him, never go another second without his touch, even when they called your name and he wished you the best of luck and released his grip and stayed in the waiting room the entire time you were in the back.


Because worry is a baker's worst enemy. Think instead of the good things, like how happy he looked when you stumbled back into the lobby and he glanced at the clock on the wall and the only thing he said was, "Wow, that was quick!" Or how he thanked you on the drive home for doing what was best for the both of you.


If remembering all this causes you tears, it's okay to let them fall. The recipe calls for a pinch of salt.


Step 4: Pour the chocolate mixture into your mold tray.


It usually takes about twenty minutes for the chocolate to cool at room temperature, so take it easy, ladies. Remember: baking requires patience.


Find something to occupy your time while you wait. Use your imagination. Go outside and point to the clouds and identify their shapes. Sometimes you can see a bunny, and sometimes it's just plain ol' cotton candy, and sometimes it's a fluffy white heart that's slowly separating in two.


Or, if you need more inspiration, do what I do and skip the clouds altogether and spend that twenty minutes of downtime going through Marcus's your boyfriend's phone (because, thank God, he's still using his old passcode) while he's in the shower, scrubbing away the scent of Chanel No. 5, which is weird because you only own Giorgio Armani and you've never used Chanel perfume in your frickin' life, so where did that come from? And while you're going through the texts that he's been exchanging with your bitch of an ex-best friend, even though you know it'll just make you feel worse than you already do, while you're scrolling past the unmentionable photos they've been sending one another, realize that she gets to keep her baby.


(Tahlia's bonus tip of the week: If you see a text like that, step out of the house and wait twenty minutes for your blood to cool to room temperature.)


Step 5: Bon Appétit!


That's it, you're all done! Looks good, doesn't it? And you made it all on your own; no one can take that away from you. Only thing left to do is to get your boyfriend and dig in. Yes, your boyfriend.


Because, despite everything, sometimes eating with someone else is still better than eating alone.


Because he did stay with you the entire time in the clinic like he promised.


Because it is Valentine's Day, after all.


Because you're a natural-born optimist and believe things can always improve, and maybe you don't know any better but you're slowly, very slowly, starting to learn.


Because you're you.


What other reason do you need?

February 19, 2022 02:15

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36 comments

Patrick Samuel
21:12 Jun 21, 2022

Every good cake needs a pinch of salt, as stated above, for contrast is what brings out the flavor. That goes for this story, where the funny and sad play against and with each other perfectly. I roll my eyes at overwrought melodrama but restraint will always get me, as will a story that goes against the grain.

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Zack Powell
23:49 Jun 21, 2022

Thank you, Patrick, for getting exactly what I was going for with the funny/sad contrasting the bitter/sweet narrative. (In fact, I originally tagged this as a "Funny" story when submitting it before switching that to "Drama.") Your reading and analysis skills are amazing.

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Patrick Samuel
12:18 Jun 22, 2022

Well, reading and analyzing were pretty much how I earned my living back when I worked as a script reader. Now I just do it for pleasure. Then again who am I kidding? I always did it for pleasure :)

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02:32 Mar 26, 2022

Well written story, I loved it.

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Zack Powell
06:15 Mar 26, 2022

Thank you very much, Lee Anne!

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Joyce Schook
20:09 Mar 04, 2022

I really enjoyed your story. It was written so well and in such an interesting narrative, it was easy to follow. I was hoping she would dump the creep or at least beat his ass. You did an amazing job!

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Zack Powell
21:14 Mar 04, 2022

Thank you, Joyce! Love to hear it was easy to follow - I was very worried it wouldn't be with this narrative formatting. I'll probably write a second draft of this in the future with one of those two endings, because it'd be sooo satisfying to see her get some justice. Thanks for reading this one!

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Jexica Marcell
19:15 Mar 04, 2022

Tahlia sounds like me. Sassy, but I LOVE IT. The darker the story got, the more I wanted to cry. The ending, as much as I wish she would drop him, was really good. I like ending stories with something you don't expect, you know? Great story, keep up the good work xx Jexica

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Zack Powell
21:13 Mar 04, 2022

Thanks, Jexica! Sassy is the best, isn't it? Totally agree with you about the ending - dropping him would've been super satisfying, but unexpected can be fun too. Thanks for reading this, and keep on being sassy!

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Jexica Marcell
20:48 Mar 06, 2022

OML U ONE OF MY NEW FAV PPL THANKS YOUSSSS

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Wilma Segeren
23:37 Feb 28, 2022

Wow, I didn’t rad this till now. Fan-fucking-tasting ! I thought it was brilliant. Insert smiley face !!!! Truly, I totally enjoyed the read ! Kudos Zack !

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Zack Powell
01:43 Mar 01, 2022

Thank you, Wilma! This was such a lovely comment. I'm glad that you read and enjoyed this!

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19:13 Feb 27, 2022

Another good story.

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Zack Powell
20:08 Feb 27, 2022

Thank you for reading!

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18:50 Feb 27, 2022

This is marvelous! I do wish she'd dropped him at the end, but your ending was probably more true to life, sadly. I love the voice, so creative to do it like a YouTube video. I'm excited to read more from you, congrats on the shortlist!

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Zack Powell
20:14 Feb 27, 2022

Thank you, Rachel! I totally agree with you about the ending. Personally, I don't care for this conclusion myself and I find it too passive, but like you said, sometimes that's life. And doing a story in the form of a YouTube video has been on my writer's bucket list for a while now, so it's nice to have a prompt that finally pushed it out. Thanks again for reading, and I'll be on the lookout for your stories too!

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Philip Ebuluofor
09:35 Feb 26, 2022

You don't need any other reasons. Just be you. Fine work.

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Zack Powell
17:41 Feb 26, 2022

Thank you, Philip! Best advice ever: "Just be you."

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Philip Ebuluofor
12:42 Mar 01, 2022

Welcome

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Stephanie Kaye
16:57 Feb 25, 2022

This line punched me right in the gut: "If remembering all this causes you tears, it's okay to let them fall. The recipe calls for a pinch of salt." Beautiful.

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Zack Powell
17:42 Feb 26, 2022

Thank you, Stephanie! That was easily my favorite line of the story, maybe even of all my stories. I'm glad you came and read this. Congrats again on your win!

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15:40 Feb 25, 2022

A world class example of how to do 2nd person POV right...the whole kaleidoscope of emotions. The tone was pitch perfect, underscored by artful sentence construction: long, short, descriptive, commands, pathos, irony . . . crackling wit tinged with bitterness throughout. Sooo well done!

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Zack Powell
17:56 Feb 26, 2022

Wow, thank you very much, Deidra! Coming from someone as polished and accomplished as you, that is a huge compliment! You're making me sound a lot better (and smarter, LOL) than I am. Still, I'm glad you saw so many positive qualities in the piece, and I'm glad you popped in and read. I always look forward to reading your pieces every week for new inspiration. Thanks again.

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Sway Dodson
15:33 Feb 24, 2022

The juxtaposition of Tahlia's tone with her true intent made this a great read. I love how she is bitter about everything going on while managing to keep a cool, happy exterior. I imagined Tahlia talking as if she were filming a YouTube video, and her chopping being very violent as she speaks, with her happy tone masking the words she's saying. This story was really awesome!

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Zack Powell
19:30 Feb 24, 2022

Thank you, Sway! The Youtube video comment hit the nail on the head - that's exactly what I was going for when I wrote this. So glad that it came through for you. Thanks for reading this!

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Kelsey H
08:52 Feb 24, 2022

I like how this started out with a light hearted feel and got darker as it went on. Yet the character voice is so consistent, with the mix of positivity and humour as she recounts sad events in her life. I did think it was going to end with her dumping him (or possibly even poisoning him!) but I liked the ending, it felt again true to the character.

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Zack Powell
19:35 Feb 24, 2022

Thanks as always, Kelsey! The original draft of this was actually full-on lighthearted comedy, but then I wrote Tip 4 right after Tip 1 instead of just going in chronological order, and the tone completely shifted, so the rest of it got progressively darker to justify that. Shiz happens, right? Thanks again for reading this, and for your supportive comments!

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Alize Henry
21:45 Feb 23, 2022

That is such a sad story, but it was a good one!

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Zack Powell
22:38 Feb 23, 2022

Thanks for reading this!

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J.C. Lovero
04:56 Feb 20, 2022

Hi Zack, I really enjoyed Tahlia's voice in this. She's so sassy... someone I'd love to just hang out with lol. This line got a gasp out of me: If remembering all this causes you tears, it's okay to let them fall. The recipe calls for a pinch of salt. As always, well done my friend. xoxo

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Zack Powell
05:29 Feb 20, 2022

Thank you for your kindness, friend. This whole piece was way out of my comfort zone, but I was pleased with how the voice turned out, for the most part. And that salt line was actually my favorite in the whole story, so that is a lovely compliment. Thanks for reading, as always, and good luck in the contest this week - you've got a great contender too!

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J.C. Lovero
17:16 Feb 20, 2022

"This whole piece was way out of my comfort zone." I'm really glad you're trying new things. I've also been doing my best to push myself outside of what I would call my own comfort zone. I think it just helps us as writers to expand our range, you know? And as you yourself have shown us on here, every once in a while, our stories are so touching and impactful and get the recognition they deserve. But we never know unless we sit down in the chair and try. Agree with Riel below - "Where I Am Going, You Cannot Follow" is one of my faves from...

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J.C. Lovero
04:25 Feb 26, 2022

Popped in to congratulate you on the shortlist, friend! I'm always cheering for you from the bleachers. See you in the next one!

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Zack Powell
17:40 Feb 26, 2022

Thank you very much! I actually went to bed on Thursday and thought you were gonna this week, I was that confident in your story. I totally think you could take it somewhere and get it published in a magazine if you wanted.

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Riel Rosehill
13:53 Feb 19, 2022

Oh wow, this is different! And so entertaining to read... First I was just like oh yes, absolutely! (reading this: "Make believe it's the person who outbid you on that darling house", oh yes, I can see how you would want to violently ut something up, my boyfriend and I are also struggling with how insanely likely this is and saving just doesn't cut it (in the UK market)!) Loved the POV characters voice and how she revieled her story through baking tips - it was such a perfect balance between that and her sassy baking tips! I kind of wanted h...

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Zack Powell
23:10 Feb 19, 2022

Thanks as always for reading, Riel. And if the UK housing market is anything like the one in the US, I wish you two luck! It really is enough to make you want to cut something (or someone). I was totally stumped this week about what to write and this came to me at the very last minute, but I think if I'd come up with the idea sooner, it might have ended with some chopping, LOL. Could always happen on a future rewrite. That's definitely food for thought (no pun intended). Thank you for your kindness and your perspective. P.S. Thank you so m...

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