Published 2-14-2011 in Northeast Flavor
When I got to the chocolate shop, I felt a wave of doubt vibrate through my stomach. This is a mistake, I certainly don’t need these calories. Knowing that it would probably end in regret, I resisted with all my might. But the lure of the tiny glistening cubes, pyramids and spheres of chocolate housed inside the sparkling glass case compelled me, commanded me to enter. It can’t hurt if I get just a little closer.
Inside the store, the scent of cocoa enveloped me. Both familiar and exotic, its toasty sweet aroma brought to mind hot cocoa on snowy days, past clandestine encounters with Hershey bars and home-baked chocolate-chip cookies.
The voice in my head urged me to turn back, but a stronger force pushed me forward. Hints of tea, cinnamon, and almond joined the lingering cocoa essence. Suddenly, a waft of caramel burst forward, followed by a crescendo of citrus. Caught in the music of this sensual symphony, I found myself swaying, longing, wanting.
“May I help you?” It was an aproned clerk with waist-length hair pulled back in a polka dot headband. She looked far too young to be out this late on a school night, let alone old enough for a work permit.
I looked her up and down, from her ballerina pink lip gloss to her non-existent behind. Her size 0 jeans gave her away. She couldn’t help me. She was a virgin. There was no way anyone that skinny could possibly have tried anything from this store and still squeezed into those jeans.
“No thank you. I don’t think you’d understand,” I said, returning to my quest.
To my left, a lone fresh strawberry dipped in dark chocolate and posed on a lace doily whispered my name. I approached slowly, surprised by the intensity of my desire. My knees quivered, my hands shook, my toes tingled.
Suddenly I was an animal; wild in the jungle, driven by instinct. Like a cheetah on the prowl I stalked my prey. Watching, waiting, pacing. When I couldn’t wait a moment longer, I pounced. Lunging forward, I swept the confection into my palm. With a crisp flip of my left hand, I waved off the napkin offered by the skinny clerk.
At last we were together. I cupped my hand into a safe cradle for my conquest. Raising my palm to eye level, I admired the strawberry’s rare beauty. Round and plump and firm, the rosy blush of the fruit contrasted its shiny chocolate shell. I ran my finger gently from stem to tip and back, losing myself in the thrill of its gentle curve.
I heard my heart thump as the strawberry neared my mouth. I parted my lips and lifted the confection slowly but deliberately toward my expectant mouth.
The thin chocolate shell surrendered to the tap of my teeth. A pleasing crunch. A soft crumble. Strawberry aura engulfed my taste buds. It was the perfect combination— sweet and tart. The chocolate, still on my tongue, taunted me. Then it melted slowly and immersed me in waves of ecstasy.
The hairs on the back of my neck tingled as I bit deeper into the firm flesh. I plunged until finally, I reached the center. There, the juice of the strawberry had mixed with the chocolate to make a rich and fruity cream. As it filled my mouth, I felt hot and spongy and satisfied. I threw my head back and sighed.
As I left the store, I vowed not to return. This is the last time, I told myself. But I knew my resolve would fade and at some point, I wouldn’t be able to resist. I would be back.