Heartbreak Tastes Like Buttercream

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

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Fiction Funny Romance

Kate had spent the last half hour on WebMD trying to find a medical link between her loneliness and her sugar cravings. When she finally gave up, she was still sad and also fairly certain she had a rare form of tongue cancer.

She decided to leave work early. It might convince her co-workers she was trying to rush home to someone special on Valentine’s Day, instead of a day-old Domino’s pizza. Outside, the weather was dark and miserable, and she felt like she was walking through an Avril Lavigne music video.

Even though she awkwardly jog-walked the last three blocks, she still missed her bus. There was another one in twenty minutes, so she decided to take a stroll through the neighborhood to clear her head. Although, if she was being honest, it was mostly to get the extra steps in on her Fitbit so she could beat her sister’s total that day.

Cupid’s Corner Store was hidden at the edge of a residential street. It looked like something out of Harry Potter, or at least a Universal Studios gift shop. She told herself she would just go in to have a quick look.

It was empty except for the woman standing behind the counter, a delicate figure with a pixie cut that made her look like Audrey Hepburn and would probably make Kate look like her brother. The oak-paneled shelves were peppered with bursts of color, the intricately wrapped gift boxes reminded Kate of Christmas mornings as a child. The crowning feature of the room was the display case, which was stuffed an assortment of chocolates that would make Willy Wonka jealous.

“Can I help you with anything?” the woman asked.

“Um…” Kate briefly entertained the idea of saying no, but fighting her cravings would be futile at this point. “Yes, please. I would like to buy some chocolates. For my boyfriend,” Kate lied. She didn’t want this stylish stranger to know that these chocolates would be consumed alone, paired with a bottle of Trader Joe’s merlot.

“Lovely. What kind does he like?”

Kate hesitated. “You know, that’s a complicated question.”

“Would you like to try a few, so you can get a better idea?”

“That would be great!” Dial back the enthusiasm, Kate told herself. “I mean, yeah, sure. I guess so.”

The woman smiled and lifted a glass plate from the case. It was covered in smooth white mounds, a delicate gold leaf resting precariously on top of each one.

“Thank you,” Kate said, looking for a name tag.

“Freyja,” the woman offered.

“Kate.” She tried to seem indifferent towards the chocolate in her hand, but her mouth was already salivating. Greedily, she popped the entire thing in her mouth.

She is suddenly in the passenger seat of a car. It’s four years ago, and her boyfriend, Jared, is driving them along the Northern California coast. They are both screaming along to Meatloaf’s one hit wonder, competing to see who can pull off a more terrible falsetto. All the windows are down, and they are bathed in coastal air. She looks at him, one hand on the steering wheel, the other pushing hair out of his eyes, and she knows she’s in love.

Then, the aftertaste. She is in her apartment when she wakes up to a crash. Heart beating wildly, clutching a hair straightener as a weapon, she edges into the living room. Jared has let himself in, reeking of gin. In the course of his not-so-subtle entrance he knocked over a porcelain lighthouse her grandfather had given her. He now lies passed out on the couch. As she lays a blanket over him, she sees the lipstick on his arm. She can make out letters that spell “Savannah” and some smudged digits beneath.

Kate was back in the store. Freyja’s gaze was steady and impossible to read.

Kate cleared her throat. “Sorry, I must have zoned out for a minute. I don’t think that one’s for me,” she said. “For him, I mean,” she corrected, remembering her lie.

“No problem,” Freyja replied. In a series of small, swift movements, she replaced the plate on the counter with another. “Try this one.”

They were square and dark, almost black. Kate lifted one to her mouth and began to hesitantly nibble it.

She is even further back, middle school. She opens her locker, the door is decorated diligently with her favorite Jonas Brother, Kevin. She loves an underdog. Wedged between her Math and Biology textbooks is a note from Shane Wheeler. He is on the school soccer team, and is probably the least talented player, but also the one with the best hair. He is asking Kate to meet him after school at the movie theatre.

It’s the first time she has ever skipped a class, but she needs to go home to change. She picks out purple leggings and an orange, sequined poncho. She tries to curl her hair and regrets it almost immediately as strands begin to shoot off in different directions. Kate applies a generous amount of her sister’s lip gloss and sets off on her bike.

The aftertaste, still bitter despite the years in between. Waiting, fiddling with her hair and making it worse. The light fades, day bleeding into night. Families and couples go in and out of the theatre, the whole time she is praying that she won’t see anyone she knows. Then, humiliated, she mumbles into a stranger’s phone she borrowed, and asks her mom to pick her up. She says nothing on the drive back because it takes all her effort not to cry.

Kate was disoriented as she found herself back beneath the store’s flattering lighting.  

“Are you all right?” Freyja asked.

Her eyes settled on Freyja, accusatory. “What’s in these chocolates, huh? LSD? Magic Mushrooms? Absinthe?”

“I assure you, there’s nothing untoward in any of our products. They evoke a flavor that is unique to each customer.”

“Look, I’m sorry, it’s just been kind of a rough day. I was just hoping for salted caramel or something,” Kate sighed.

Freyja smiled and another platter seemed to materialize out of thin air. “Try these. They might help.”

If she was wiser, or less hungry, Kate would refuse. Oh well. In for a penny.

“Fine,” she relented. “But this is the last one.”

Freyja nodded and handed her a triangle of milk chocolate, rounded at the edges. Kate placed it on her tongue.

Last year. She is trying to explain the plot of the previous eight Fast & Furious films to Ryan. He is patiently listening and nodding and waits until she finishes to tell her that he loves her, and the movie is about to start. Kate panics, scared she won’t have enough time to buy snacks first, and he tells her not to worry before handing her a bag of her favorite candy, Sour Skittles. It is not until halfway through the film that she realizes he has taken out all of the orange and yellow ones, because he knows she can’t stand them.

The aftertaste, too soon. He is in the shower and she knows she shouldn’t look through his phone, but she does. She finds nothing, no cryptic texts from exes or raunchy DMs on Instagram. Relieved, she is placing it back on the bedside table when he catches her. He is hurt and, worse than that, surprised. He asks if she trusts him. Rather than answer the question or accept the blame, she leaves. For months after that, she tells herself she was just beating him to the punch.

Back in the store, Kate looked at Freyja and briefly considered hugging her.

“I…have to go,” Kate said, rushing toward the door. “But I’ll leave you a great Yelp review, I swear!”

She tried to plan out exactly what she wanted to say during the cab ride, but by the time she was outside Ryan’s door, she still had no idea.

He answered the door, but only opened it a fraction. For a moment she was so happy to see him that she forgot to speak.

“Hi Kate,” he said. “What can I do for you?”

“I, um.” She heard a thud in the background. “You’re not alone, are you? Sorry.”

“I’m not.” He opened the door to reveal five men struggling to walk against an invisible wind.

“Oh, sorry. Mime Mondays. I forgot.”

He smiled at her and pretended to fall over, shutting the door behind him.

“So. What’s up?”

“I came to give you…” She began to helplessly rummage through her purse. She briefly debated giving him an old Starbucks napkin before her hand settled on a small box. She recognized the vibrant pattern from Cupid’s Corner Store, although she couldn't remember buying it. “This. And an apology for, well, everything.”

Hours seemed to slide by as she waited for him to accept the box. Finally, he smiled and reached for it.

“Thank you,” he said.

She peered over his shoulder as he unwrapped it, clueless as to what was inside. Ryan gently lifted the lid.

There, resting in a bed of indigo tissue paper, was a single triangle of milk chocolate.

February 15, 2022 07:13

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1 comment

Kate Winchester
01:41 Feb 23, 2022

This was a fun read. I really liked the way you wove her memories into the chocolate she ate. The end was awesome too. I like the added mystery. Nice job!

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