The sign in Maple’s Candy Store window read, “Sweet Wishes Fulfilled.” Every kind of candy ever created filled the sparkling glass barrels that sat on the wooden shelves. On the lowest shelves were the kids’ favorite: bubble gum, lollipops, jellybeans, jawbreakers, and those large multi-faceted candy engagement rings that the girls liked to wear on their fingers. The next level held the fancy chocolates that courting men came in to buy for their sweethearts. There were chocolate creams, chocolate-covered fruit, and chocolate that was loaded with all kinds of nuts. On the counter, by the register, there was a jar of what Willy Wonka called, “Ever-lasting Gobstoppers.” They were a sweet bargain for a nickel.
It was Saturday, and the sky had black, churning clouds that threatened to create the need for an ark, so most people had taken cover in their homes, and the store was quiet with just an occasional shopper running in. Mrs. Maple sat behind the counter with her knitting and enjoyed the peacefulness as she hummed while adding rows to the bright red sweater she was knitting. It was just ten minutes away from closing time when the bell over the door melodically announced the last candy shopper of the day.
Harrison liked to walk in the rain; didn’t care if he got wet. He liked that he didn’t have to wade through crowds, what with the so-called “sensible people” staying inside. It gave him a chance to think. Of late, he was aware that something was missing from his life, but he didn’t know what. Figuring a couple of apricot bonbons would help the thought process, he made a stop at Maple’s Candy Store.
He stepped in, folded his umbrella, and stood it in the stand by the door. When he spotted Mrs. Maple in her rocking chair, he smiled, and said, “I got wet on the way here, but your store is always worth it.”
She laughed, and said, “Harrison, I’ve never known you to go too long without a bonbon fix.”
By the time he’d picked out a selection of sinfully, delicious chocolates and half a dozen bonbons, and put them in the small box that Mrs. Maple had provided, he knew he was going to have to hurry to get home before dark. As he sat his sweet treasures on the counter, Mrs. Maple added one more piece of candy to his purchase. She said, “I save these for my favorite customers. I think once you try it, you will come to love it.”
He laughed and politely thanked her for the freebie, and promised, “I’ll see you soon,” as he hurried out the door.
She called out, “That’s no ordinary candy. Use all of your senses to enjoy it. It will change your life.”
Harrison thought Mrs. Maple’s parting comments were odd, but he would play along. What else did he have to do? When he got home, he put his favorite candies on a crystal dish and sat it on the coffee table in the living room. He made himself a quick dinner of leftovers and then grabbed a couple of bonbons for dessert. He headed out to sit on the porch where he could relax and enjoy the falling rain; at the last second picking up the unusual piece of candy to take with him.
There were groans of appreciation as he ate his beloved bonbons, and then while the rain musically dripped off of the porch roof, he took the odd candy in his hand. He muttered, “How does one use all of their senses to eat a piece of candy? Ok…I'll start with touch.” He propped his foot on the ottoman that was in front of the porch swing, leaned back, and closed his eyes. He began to caress the curves in the candy, and mesmerized by the sound of the rain he let his imagination take over. He couldn’t help but notice that it had curves, much like that of a woman. His thumb followed the shape repeatedly, and he thought back to the last woman he’d touched. It was so long ago, that he could barely remember it.
After a while, he opened his eyes and he studied the white design that was embossed on the candy. It looked a bit like a graceful orchid, its petals outstretched, inviting him close. When was the last time he’d held a woman in his arms? This was a bit painful. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Maple. Candy is for eating, not for evoking bad memories.” He slammed the candy down on the porch railing.
He didn’t want to play the game anymore, but still, his ears were drawn to the sound of the rain dripping onto the piece of candy. It was a steady drip with a primal rhythm. He squeezed his eyes shut; tried to close his mind to the sound, but the longer it dripped, the deeper into his body he felt it. God help him, he liked it. The truth was, he always like the rhythm.
His fists clenched, and he took a deep, steadying breath, and the sweet smell he took in was familiar. Where did that scent come from? The curves, the embossed orchid, the rhythm that he felt to his depths, and the scent. His whole body was on fire with want. He had to stop what was happening to him because he couldn’t handle it. His hand flew out, he snatched the candy from the porch railing, and popped it into his mouth. Even the taste took him back to a sweet treat that he used to share with…
He slammed his boots down on the porch, jumped to his feet, and went inside. He picked up the phone and with shaking hands dialed the old phone number, and after several rings, he promised himself, “One more ring, and I give up.”
It was her. His throat closed. His heartbeat sped up. Damn, it was her. He hadn’t expected that she’d answer, or maybe he feared she would. Now what?
“Hello? Is anyone there?”
This was difficult. It had been too long. She probably didn’t even remember him, or if she did, she undoubtedly remembered the tears he’d caused her. She couldn’t possibly forgive him, could she? The dead space on the phone line was filled in with his shame over the way that he’d trampled her trust so many years ago. Maybe it was time to man up and confess? There really hadn’t been another. He’d had lied to her because he knew that he wasn’t good enough for her. He had run to spare her. No, that wasn’t true; he’d run because he’d been a coward. Love was just too hard. Seconds were passing. Why wasn’t she hanging up? What the fuck was she waiting for?
When he couldn’t stand it for another second, the first truly honest words he’d ever spoken to her, spilled from his lips. “Claire, I need you.”
Relief took him to his knees, when she whispered, “Harrison, it’s better late than never.”