The Candy Store

Submitted into Contest #133 in response to: Set your story in a confectionery shop.... view prompt


Fiction Friendship

I’d been hiking the Southwest Coast Path in England alone for a month and was so lonely I felt raw. I wasn’t hiking that day; I had hitched a ride to St. Ives with Dave, a surfer I’d met in a hostel in Port Isaac. The night before he’d introduced me to the Teletubbies while sharing a giant joint made with a cigar roller and offered me transport to St. Ives in his weed delivery van. So I took Dave up on his offer and was almost tearfully glad of his company. We didn’t talk much as we drove, but the companionable silence was almost as good. It was my 29th birthday. 

I had spent the last ten birthdays with John, eight as a married couple. But I was done with John and I was done with putting up with someone else’s annoying habits and peculiarities. And then after putting up with him for all those years, he’d left me for some younger woman in his office. I wanted to burn down my life. I wanted to do something completely different. I wanted to quit my job and go on a long hike. I thought it would do me good to have some time to clear my head and do something purely physical for a while. 

I’d thought of the Appalachian Trail, but I was too chicken to camp in the wilderness every night. Then I had found out in some hiking forum about the Southwest Coast Path, which had the advantage of well-spaced hostels and B and Bs. Plus it was in England, which seemed exotic. I’d been hiking for a month and had made it about half way.

I walked along the craggly beach and checked into a huge, pink hostel on the high street with kitschy themed rooms like “the Hobbit hole,” whose door was a large portal. In the cramped kitchen, I made a dinner of veggie sausages and pasta, while a large German family took up most of the space and didn’t speak to me. I needed to fill my evening somehow, and I didn’t feel like reading, so I sauntered down the street to a confectionary shop I’d seen earlier for a little birthday treat. It was closed. In disappointment, I cupped my hands to look in the window like a wobegon child. I could dimly see tantalizing glass cases of chocolates and candies.

The lights went on suddenly and a wrinkled face looked out, inches from me. I yelped, then laughed. The woman laughed too, and gestured to the door. “Come in, come in, dearie. We’ll get you fixed up.” She introduced herself as Mrs. Spreckle and greeted me like an old friend, all smiles and exclamations. She wore a quilted pink dressing gown that came nearly to her ankles and scuffed up beige slippers. 

I wore my hiking uniform of olive green pants and a brighter green wicking t-shirt with dusty brown boots. Even without my pack, she could tell I was hiking the path, which went right through the town. She was fascinated that I was a woman hiking the Path alone. “I’d be terrified,” she said. “I am,” I replied, before I could stop myself. That was supposed to be a secret. I turned on the spot to take in all the goodies. There was fudge, candied fruit, and a dizzying array of truffles with richly embellished tops. 

Mrs. Spreckle surveyed the candies with me, offering recommendations. “Oh these are lovely dear, they’re filled with marzipan,” and “Yes, yes, the pralines are divine,” and “the Turkish Delight is fresh.” She kept fiddling with her dusty glasses, pushing them up and down on her nose like they were chronically uncomfortable.

Then she said, “My David hiked the path,” she said. “He was, oh, about your age, I suppose. He’d been downsized and decided to take a month to do it. And lucky he did, too. He met his wife on the trail. She’d fallen and twisted her ankle and he helped her get to Mevagissy.” She picked at a stain on her dressing gown. “Maybe you’ll find love on the trail too.”

“Maybe,” I said, humoring her. There was no point in saying that I didn’t want to find love. That I was here specifically because I was done with love. Everyone back home felt sorry for me. My best friend had even tried to fix me up with her cousin right after I found out that John had cheated.

“It’s my birthday,” I said, wanting to get off this topic. I wondered if Mrs. Spreckle was ever as lonely here in her candy store as I was every day. At least she had customers to talk to. 

“Your birthday, eh? Well that’s something to celebrate!” Mrs. Spreckle  said. She leaned on her elbows a case of chocolates, her head resting in her hands. She looked too frail to stand up for long. 

Finally, I selected a pink sugar mouse with a long string tail. I didn’t have the money for many extravagances, even on my birthday, so I held back my desire to order up one of everything.  “Just the one?” Mrs. Spreckle asked with disappointment in her voice. “But it’s your birthday!” Then she bustled about with her miniature tongs, selecting a small sack of chocolates. She sang the happy birthday song as she handed me the small bag of treasures. 

I thanked Mrs. Spreckle and wished her a good evening, wanting but not acting on a wild impulse to ask her for a hug. Somehow she sensed this. She came around the counter and hugged me hard and sincerely, even rubbing my back. Tears came to my eyes and I almost sighed with relief at the touch. It was a simple gesture, but one I would treasure long after my chocolates were gone.

On my way back to the hostel I ate the sugar mouse slowly, letting the sugar dissolve on my tongue until, like a triumphant cat, only the tail hung out of my mouth.

February 18, 2022 17:27

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02:04 Feb 26, 2022

Hi Amy! This was a sweet story, in more ways than one :) I enjoyed your descriptions of the sweets and their purveyor. Thanks for sharing your writing!


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Craig Westmore
00:43 Feb 25, 2022

Hi Amy! I like the image at the end of a sugar tail coming out of her mouth. I felt her loneliness and desire for a hug. Courageous adventure to be on all alone. I was a little confused about the order of events at the beginning but once she checked into the pink hostel I got my bearings.


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