by J. A. Buxton
Here's my annual gift for chocoholics.
| She looked down at the box on the table. She knew it was a gift of chocolate from an admirer, but not in the usual heart-shaped red box. This small square container, just large enough to hold six candies, was made of polished silver. Her warm fingers caressed the cold design of roses raised in relief from the background of leaves. Using the tassel hanging from it, she slowly opened and removed the cover to reveal the contents of the box.
Almost immediately, the powerful smell of chocolate rose up, causing her to breathe deeply in anticipation. No ordinary chocolates were inside, but only the best that money could buy. Nestled in six white paper cups were milk chocolate and dark chocolate candies waiting for her. Which should she choose first?
Her fingers hovered over a square milk chocolate piece, but moved on. That round dark one in the corner of the box seemed to call out to her, “Eat me! Eat me!” She picked it up and delicately placed it in her mouth. The richness of the chocolate would have been enough of a treat, but she greedily bit down to reach its center. Soft raspberry cream trickled out over her tongue, its sharp fruit flavor a pleasant surprise.
The freshly picked raspberries from Dad’s berry patch in the back yard tasted just like this, she thought. As she slowly chewed, memories of those hot summer days came flooding back. Soon, though, the candy and the memories were both gone, leaving her wanting more.
Returning to that first piece she had bypassed, she picked up the milk chocolate candy. It felt silky, very soft to the touch. She pushed in slowly with two fingers, daring the filling to show itself. As the candy burst in half, she was delighted to see thick orange liquor oozing out. Licking her fingers to catch the dripping mess, she couldn’t help laughing. She remembered her mother scolding her for doing just this thing. “Use your napkin, child. Ladies do not lick their fingers.” Pushing the mangled candy into her mouth, she quickly finished it.
Still not completely satisfied, she looked over the remaining four chocolates. The two empty paper cups looked lonely and out of place. She removed them, crushing the stiff paper into tiny balls and putting them on the table. Ready now for the next candy, she decided to try the one near the center of the box. It was a round milk chocolate. Across its top were two lines of white chocolate that felt a bit slick to the touch.
Realizing this was simply the oil from the chocolate, a sign of very rich cocoa beans, she bit off half of the candy. Her disappointment at discovering the filling was ordinary vanilla cream made her remove the offending piece from her mouth. She returned it to its paper cup beside its other untouched half and put it all down on the table next to the box cover. To her, vanilla cream filling was as bland as a dish of unsweetened oatmeal cereal or plain tap water. Even the taste of the chocolate did not make up for this particular unappealing flavor.
Hoping her next choice would be more appetizing, she picked up the fourth chocolate. It was a flat square dark confection. Squeezing it revealed the center was hard, making her wonder what was inside. She placed it on her tongue and decided, just this once, to let it dissolve within the heat of her mouth. The rich chocolate slowly melted and flowed over and around her tongue. Every now and then, she would swallow to allow the liquid to leave her mouth. Finally, the last of the chocolate disappeared down her throat to reveal the hard center of the candy.
A lighter sweetness replaced the heavy richness of the chocolate. She recognized the honeycomb flavor immediately and wished she could keep that too-soon-melted liquid in her mouth forever. As a child, her parents often gave her a special treat, a visit to a neighbor’s farm. There, she received a small chunk of honeycomb plucked from one of his beehives. After eating the honey, she would crunch the waxy remains between her teeth to eke out every drop of the golden nectar.
Much too quickly today, the last of the liquid ambrosia was gone. She sat on the chair beside the table simply staring at the two remaining candies. She doubted that either of them would taste as good as the last one had. Should she save them for later when the taste of the honey was no longer with her? Would one be as delightful as the raspberry filling? Would the other be just another vanilla mouthful?
Unable to resist the temptation any longer, she picked up the square milk chocolate piece, leaving the round darker one for last. She first pressed down on it to determine whether the filling was soft or hard. It was hard this time, although with just a bit of give to it. Curiosity got the better of her, and she popped the morsel into her mouth. Chewing slowly, she recognized the texture of nougat with bits of dried fruit scattered throughout it. It brought back no special memories, either good or bad. Deciding that it was just an ordinary candy but still delicious, she was neither elated nor disappointed by it.
That morsel eaten, she looked over at the last chocolate. Before taking it out of the box, she removed the other paper cups. Where once they contained the richest of chocolate treats, now they were empty. Their emptiness seemed to taunt her about her greediness, but she refused to feel guilt. Balling them up as she had the ones before them, she placed the paper cups on the table beside the discarded vanilla candy.
With this bit of housekeeping out of the way, she reached into the box and took out the sixth candy, paper cup and all. The shiny dark chocolate gleamed in the afternoon sunshine coming in through the window. She felt the weight of the candy in the palm of her hand and knew this might mean there was a special taste treat inside it. The fragrance of the rich chocolate drifted up as she raised her hand closer to her face. She breathed in deeply, closing her eyes at the almost overpowering aroma. The crinkling sound of the surrounding paper cup reached her ears. Without opening her eyes, she removed and discarded the cup onto the table. This left only the last piece of candy in her hand, the round dark chocolate closing in slowly on her partially open mouth.
She placed the confection onto her tongue and waited eagerly to find out what type of filling was inside the chocolate. So far, the exploration of the half dozen candies revealed raspberry cream, thick orange liquor, fruit-filled nougat, honeycomb ambrosia, and the discarded vanilla cream. What would this last one be?
Ever so slowly, her teeth bit down through the dark rich covering. At first, all she tasted was the almost bittersweet chocolate, but soon another flavor overwhelmed it and took over. She opened her mouth to let in the cold air, but this only intensified the strong stinging heat of the peppermint. The melting creamy material circled around her tongue and attacked all the taste buds throughout her mouth. Up into her nasal cavity went the pungent aroma of mint, causing her eyes to start watering. She started swallowing as fast as she could, trying to get the peppermint cream away from her rebelling mouth and nose. Never in her life had she tasted anything so intense and overpowering that caused actual pain.
After the last of the candy disappeared down her throat and away from her assaulted senses, she wiped the tears from her eyes then took a long breath of cool air into her lungs. A delicate mixture of flavors along with the gentle smell of mint was all that remained of the half dozen chocolates. She ran her tongue around the inside of her mouth but found no lingering piece of candy.
The small silver box, now empty, seemed almost ordinary to her. Sadly, she picked up the cover to the box and placed it on top. With a nearly inaudible click, the two pieces merged to shut in the memory of the original contents, now gone but not forgotten.
For the first time since she had placed the box on the table, she picked it up. As she did this, a small slip of paper that she had previously overlooked fell from underneath it. Perhaps this would give her a clue as to the identity of her admirer, until now unknown. Opening up the folded paper, she read one word, the only one written.
Smiling to herself, she refolded the paper and silently walked out of the room, carrying the empty silver box and note with her.
" Enjoy! "