It rained and screamed.
The clock chimed and the apartment door opened. I rose from the table as she entered.
She always smelled like chocolate.
A deep richness that coated her from head to toe and standing too close to her in the white, chef’s outfit, left me painstakingly aware of the fact that I could not eat her, only the delicious creations she crafted.
I watched her position the basket on the center of the table and turned—slowly—giving her enough time to prepare, before I wrapped my arms around her and squeezed tight. “Missed you!”
Her arms hung limp at her sides, but the faintest scent of fruit lingered around her neck. “Really?” Her voice was toneless.
“Er, yes. It was dark today.”
Silence refilled the minuscule apartment and after a moment, she cleared her throat.
“Are you finished yet?”
My arms reluctantly slid from her waist and my head hovered a split-second longer on her shoulder, breathing in the heady chocolate scent. “Sorry.”
I started for the kitchen, intent on retrieving the usual dishes and utensils. I’d studied too long on one math problem.
“Sit. Stay.” The words were commanding, the opposite of the warm, inviting scent that coaxed my old memories to the surface. “You forgot?” Her face was hidden from view, as her hair swirled over her shoulders, freed from their elastic restraints, the perfect color of dark chocolate.
“Homework’s finished.” I snuck a glance at the mound of textbooks now piled on the floor beside the table.
She was quick.
I hadn’t seen her move them.
I sat. I stayed.
She returned with the good china and miniature spoons with matching forks. I watched her unfold a pair of matching linen napkins.
Mama’s embroidered napkins.
A hiccup caught in my throat. I couldn’t get it out.
Her head lifted, looking at me with hazel-tinted eyes. “Breathe.” The word was somehow softened by the quietness in the room. She set the dishes together and moved to stand behind me. Her hands reached around my neck, tucking the precious napkin into the collar of my polo shirt. The scent of dishsoap was on her hands and her sleeves smelled of something sweet.
Her hair smelled of chocolate as it tickled my cheek.
“Thank you.” I choked out.
She patted my shoulder.
The hiccup left.
A pastry parade came from the basket as she drew out each specimen, dividing them between our two plates. Some were warm, some were cold, everything had chocolate.
My stomach rumbled happily.
Her head bowed with mine, as we sat, forks touching, while she whispered the blessing.
“How was school? Still hate the professor?”
“Sorta. He gave us an extra week to finish the assigned reading.” I stuffed my mouth with chocolate-drizzled croissant. “Ummm! Tastes gouf!”
Her mouth twitched. “Sounds like you are getting along, college student.”
“How was school?” I returned, scraping off the chocolate icing to eat it with the spoon.
“Bad. Good. Okay.” She smiled. “Chef says I’m improving.”
“Not bad, pastry-chef-in-training.”
Her smile lingered.
When her plate was empty, I stacked it with mine and cleared the remainders of our evening ritual. She didn’t move as I bustled around her with my trips to the kitchen and back.
Rain pounded from the darkened sky, the new sound filling the air. She stared out the window and I stood behind her, tangling my hands in her hair.
The scent of chocolate was unbearable.
“Do you miss them?” Her voice wobbled.
I braided the beautiful curls. “I hate remembering…”
“But can’t bear to forget!”
In a sudden fit of temper, she lurched to her feet, throwing the window open. The sound of traffic and thunder filled the room and the blissful fragrance of chocolate was snatched away by the empty scent of fresh rain.
“I miss them.” Her arms were tight around me as her tears dripped down her chin and onto my face. “I miss them, Stace.”
I hugged my sister back, burying my face in her chest to smell Mom’s scent of Chocolat de Franc. “Me too.”
I tried not to hear the traffic. I tried not to hear the storm. I tried not to remember today. A death anniversary where a drunk driver ruined our paradise by stealing our parents.
But I remembered as my sister held me. Dad was milk chocolate. Mom was dark chocolate. We were truffles.
The scent of chocolate would never fade.
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