NOTE: sensitive content regarding death and accidents
By Sharon D. Hancock
Tragedy and a bus struck outside Sweeternity Sweet Shop; fatally mangling …
Cara’s stress level soared as she tried to tune out the horrific news report that blared from every speaker in the city. She covered her ears with her hands, but it did little to block out the cacophony of car horns, squealing tires and roaring motors. She thought she’d never get used to city life’s constant violent assault on her senses. The brutally cold wind took her breath away and chapped her lips. A particularly vociferous taxi driver yelled colorful obscenities and honked. She stumbled onward, clutching her scarf and wishing for thicker gloves. Cara’s face felt frozen; skin taut, dried and burned. She squinted her parched eyes and inadvertently ran into someone. She couldn’t take two steps without bombarding another person’s personal space. The odoriferous horde of humans reeked with the clashing scents of old-lady perfumes, musty cigars and essence of body odor. The people on the streets were so crammed together, she could smell what each of them ate for dinner. (Garlic, onions, eggs, curry.) Hundreds of people packed together like sardines on the walkways. She’d been plowed down, knocked over, stepped on, kicked and head butted since moving to the overcrowded city. Noxious fumes from vehicles, smokers, and nearby factory emissions, inundated her senses and muddled her thoughts. Ugh! She greatly disliked the city. In fact, Cara hated the city so much that she would have moved away if it weren’t for one thing; one shiny, happy reprieve that made up for all the repulsiveness. If it hadn’t been for Sweeternity Sweet Shop, Cara would have left the city long ago.
Staring longingly into space, she fondly recalled the first time she pushed open the door and heard the delightful little bell announce her arrival to the shop. That morning had been harried and hurried as usual, but the hectic world became silent and time stood still when she locked eyes with Celia, the shop owner. Those crystal blue eyes, full of care and a twinkle of mischief, caught hold of Cara’s heart upon first glance. She knew in an instant that Celia was the one for her and they would be together forever. But, when she really contemplated it, she knew that she hadn’t fallen in love with only Celia. She was in love with the shop, too. When Cara entered the sweet shop, she felt as if she entered a whole new world. A world that transported her miles away from the chaos of the city. The sheer blissful redolence of freshly made goodies was enough to send anyone into a happy coma. Vanilla, fudge, marshmallow crème, coconut, and freshly brewed coffee aromas tantalized Cara’s senses; soothing and enticing her to relax and stay. Stay with the one she loved. Stay in the place where she was loved. The amorous joy that Celia and Cara felt for each other was icing on the cake. Cara happily embraced the reality that Celia and the shop were a package deal; she wouldn’t have had one without the other.
The Doppler effect of an obnoxious car horn broke Cara out of her reminiscent fantasy. She cringed as the next car passed with the window down and the news report bellowed unavoidably.
Tragedy and a bus struck outside Sweeternity Sweet Shop; fatally mangling the beloved owner of the shop and…
Luckily, that’s all she had to hear right then because she had finally reached her destination. She opened the door to the sweet shop and entered her happy haven. The bell tinkled merrily as the door closed out the riotous raucous of the city beyond. Cara absorbed serenity with each inhale of the delicious scents of caramel and toffee. A lovely pink, heart-shaped dish with gold filigree awaited her, topped with one of her favorite orders. Next to it sat a steaming cup of fresh brewed coffee prepared perfectly to her taste. Cara picked up her goodies and ambled over to the best spot in the place. She relaxed next to the shop’s fireplace and swayed to smooth jazz that topped the atmosphere with perfect elegance. She thought about staying there for eternity.
“Shame about Celia,” said a voice that jarred Cara out of her reveries. Cara frowned and turned toward the voice. A woman dressed in white smiled from behind the counter. Cara didn’t respond. She didn’t want to think about it or talk about it. She turned away and sipped her coffee. She closed her eyes and bit into the creamy deliciousness of a caramel-coated biscuit. Maybe the woman would take a hint and go away. She didn’t.
“Closed casket, from what I heard. Those triple decker buses don’t leave much for the family to view, I’m afraid,” continued the woman in white.
It was funny. Cara didn’t really remember leaving the shop after that, but they say trauma can do that to a person. She must’ve been lost in thought or something. She mentally retraced the events as a frigid wind took her breath and froze her chapped cheeks. She stumbled; barely avoiding a twisted ankle from a run in with a pothole. A bus barreled past, splashing slimy street crud over Cara. A newspaper stand heralded horrific news through an ear splitting speaker aimed directly at Cara’s head.
Tragedy and a bus struck outside Sweeternity Sweet Shop; fatally mangling the beloved owner of the shop and one other…
She reached the safety of the sweet shop, frantically bolting through the door and forcing it closed behind her. She smiled. Much better. She wished she never had to face the city again. Snuffing out the bits of stress that lingered, her eyes landed on the beautifully prepared plate of treats that awaited her: chocolate-covered marshmallow crisps and a billowy, foaming cup of hot cocoa with cinnamon sprinkles. Cara warmed her feet by the crackling fire and allowed the wispy, hollow melodies of the binaural frequencies to envelope her. Her mind drifted. Floated. Memories came back to her but just out of her reach before they dissolved. Peaceful tranquility tasted like chocolate and cinnamon deliciousness. Soft vanilla fragrance lofted toward her. Vanilla and
…choking black fumes with burnt tar lodged in her throat. She gagged; startled. Bombarded by sirens as four speeding cop cruisers flew by; forcing Cara aside. She tripped and fell, face first on the brutal concrete. She stuck there, helpless and unnoticed by the storm of thundering feet; stomping and pounding over her. People scurried; rushing toward or away. Didn’t they see her? She called for help. Unheard. Voiceless. Invisible. A loudspeaker responded by blurting the news. Oh that awful news story she was so desperate to avoid!
Tragedy and a bus struck outside Sweeternity Sweet Shop; fatally mangling the beloved owner of the shop and one other woman, believed to be her partner. The two women were killed on impact…
(Wait a second…how did she get in here?) Time and space glitched uncontrollably.
Cara walked to the counter where one of her favorite treats awaited her; fully prepared exactly how she liked it. She crammed her mouth full of chocolate covered almonds and washed them down with an entire mug of coffee. She smacked her lips and slammed the empty mug on the counter.
“That’s not how you usually have your treats,” giggled a familiar voice.
Cara slowly looked up and allowed herself to lock eyes with the most beautiful being she had ever encountered. It was Celia! But …how? She jumped the counter and embraced her soulmate.
“I thought I’d never see you again. You died!” blubbered Cara.
“Oh silly. So did you!”
Cara pushed away and stumbled to the sofa in front of the crackling fire. She fell into it sideways, still gawking confusedly at Celia’s smiling face. Slowly at first, then quickly and then all at once…it came back to her. The news story. The memory of that day…of what happened.
They closed the sweet shop for the evening because it was their anniversary. Cara and Celia embraced and kissed outside the shop. They held tightly to each other’s hands and gazed into each other eyes. Neither one could break their eyes away from the other…not even to check for traffic. They didn’t see it coming. So caught up in the sweetness of their love. At the same time, their feet pushed off the curb and their bodies entered the direct path of a triple-decker bus. The bus never slowed. It plowed over both women and kept going without looking back. Their physical bodies were completely demolished, but their spirits remained together forever.
Upon remembering, Cara felt fully restored. The trauma left her, then, and she embraced her destiny. She turned to her one true love.
“I’m happy as long as I get to spend eternity with you, my love.”
“Not eternity; Sweeternity.”
Cara and Celia kissed and laughed and ate all the sweets they wanted forever and ever, blissfully happy together in their eternal sweet shop.