By Frances Silversmith
My friend Annie once called me a witch—which may well have been dead accurate.
That was during a time when we weren't friends, which was Rick's fault. Rick, the Adonis, perfect in every way. My dream-lover. On the day he chose me over Annie, I trembled with elation, stunned and disbelieving at the same time.
Did he bewitch both Annie and me? I don't know. He never showed an affinity to the black arts, but he did seem to take a remarkable amount of enjoyment from watching Annie and me fight.
In the morning of one memorable Valentine’s Day, Annie waved me into her driveway when I drove by her house. She offered me a treat from a pink chocolate box, adorned with red hearts and white roses.
"I got this from my lover," she cooed, a catty light in her beautiful blue eyes.
Why did she hate me so much? We'd been so close once. Before we met Rick.
I smiled sweetly and chewed a piece of dark chocolate. It tasted flat—cocoa-flavored sand. Annie didn't have a lover of her own. She wanted mine.
"Your lover must have gotten the box at a bargain price, don't you think?" I said.
A look of hurt flashed in her eyes and was quickly hidden behind a false smile.
I was not sorry. Or so I told myself.
"My heart, I’ve brought you a present," Rick said a few hours later. The smile on his classical features sparkled full force. Even after a year of bitter disappointments, my heart still melted at the sight of that smile.
I took the pink box with the cheesy hearts and roses.
When I managed to speak, my voice shook. "Thank you, Rick. I love you." Did I tell the truth? Sometimes love and hate are hard to tell apart. "Have you seen Annie today?"
His lips thinned, and the laugh lines around his brown eyes disappeared. I felt bereft.
"Never mind," I said. "Come, let's celebrate Valentine’s Day."
A new smile lit up his face, and my knees grew weak. How could I blame Annie for failing to resist his charms? I couldn't withstand them either.
My Creole grandmother once told me that sex can be used to power black magic.
She also said that physical attraction has a particular affinity to chocolate, magically speaking.
I'd always thought that was superstitious nonsense.
As Rick grunted above me that night, my eyes went back and forth between his perfect features and the sweets in the pink box on the nightstand.
Back—and forth. Back—and forth.
The chocolate grew evermore tempting. Especially compared to the man in my bed.
He stayed overnight, snoring away while I lay beside him, unfulfilled, crying silent tears.
The next morning, we sat at the breakfast table in sullen silence. I distracted myself, biting into a piece of chocolate from the pink box—a little heart-shaped treat with a nut on top. It tasted heavenly, immeasurably better than the sweet Annie had offered me the day before. Strange.
Across from me, Rick flinched and rubbed his temples, groaning in pain. I watched him, chewing the chocolate. When I swallowed, he flinched again. He looked miserable, not at all like his usual robust self.
"Are you all right?" I asked.
"No, I'm not all right!" He scowled. "Can't you see my head is splitting? Annie wouldn't just sit there, she'd do something to make it better."
My heart bucked in my chest. He looked shaken, as if he wished the words unsaid, but it was too late. For a long moment I sat frozen, staring at my lover. What had I seen in this man for all these months? All of a sudden, I felt no attraction for him at all.
By the time his headache receded, I'd made my decision. Our relationship was over, and past time. When I told him to leave, he protested his undying love. He even promised to break up with Annie and be faithful from now on, if only I forgave him just this once. I wavered, my old feelings for him returning, but in the end I did stay firm.
When I passed Annie's house later that day, I saw Rick's car parked in her driveway. I went home and ate a piece of extra-dark chocolate from the box. Its tart and sweet flavor made my taste buds sing, sent a sensual shiver down my body. I felt better.
Two weeks later I met Annie and Rick in town. His arm lay possessively around her shoulders, while his eyes followed a pretty girl going in the other direction. Annie seemed miserable, trapped in his embrace. The look she gave me was so wretched, my heart went out to her.
When the strange girl had passed out of sight, Rick turned to me and donned his brilliant smile.
It was a remarkably unremarkable expression. His features were the same, but somehow, their beauty had faded. His face looked worn and gaunt, and only a tiny spark remained of his former allure.
That night, I drove over to Annie's. Her car was in her driveway and Rick's wasn't, so I steeled myself and rang her bell. She looked wary when she opened the door, but after a slight hesitation she invited me in. We shared a bottle of wine, and solemnly ate the last two treats from my pink box.
This time, the shiver the chocolate's bitter flavor sent down my spine was not pleasant at all.
Rick's car was found the next morning, wrapped around a tree next to the road leading to his home town. There was no sign of blood, or any other evidence that anybody had even been in the car when the accident happened. The police eventually closed the case, unsolved. Rick was never seen again.
Annie and I are friends again. We've opened a candy store together, and celebrate every Valentine’s Day by sharing a box of chocolates between us. The last piece in the box we always leave on the ground below the tree where Rick's car was found.
We sometimes think we see a man-shaped shadow hover under the tree, grabbing for us with insubstantial hands. That's nothing but our overactive imaginations, of course. But nonetheless—when that happens we leave as fast as we can, not looking back.
And I've privately resolved never to toy with my grandmother's magic again.
About the Author
Frances Silversmith grew up in Germany, where she lives with her husband, seven guinea pigs, and an Icelandic horse. She works as a software developer and splits her free time between writing, reading every book she can get her hands on, and riding and teaching circus tricks to her pony. Find out more about her at http://FrancesSilversmith.com Or contact her on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/FrancesSilversmith
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