“A Love for Chocolate”
By Kevin Hopson
can’t believe it,” Rylie
said, rummaging through her purse.
sat next to me on the curb,
the two of us hanging out along the corner of the convenience store, far enough
away from the entrance that we wouldn’t be accused of loitering. Not that it
really mattered. The employees knew us and didn’t mind as long as we bought
something. It was our Saturday morning ritual.
it was my money,” Rylie
replied. “Now it’s my food. That bastard is always stealing my shit.”
had a good idea who Rylie was
referring to, but I asked anyway. “Who?”
pathetic father of mine,”
she said. “He stole the candy bar in my purse. I was going to eat it this
had a love for chocolate,
and apparently her father did as well. She would eat it any time of the day,
even for breakfast. But I knew it was the least of Rylie’s concerns, especially
when it came to her father.
everything else okay?” I
Rylie let out a breath and pursed her lips.
hasn’t hit you, has he?” I
eventually shook her head.
“No, thank God. He’s laid hands on me before, but he’s never hit me.” Rylie paused.
“I wish I could say the same for my mom.”
last words caused my
stomach to churn. The abuse started last year when Rylie’s father turned to
alcohol, the stress of his job pushing him over the edge. They pleaded for him
to get help, but he didn’t want it, and the drinking gradually got worse.
Rylie said, “he
hasn’t lost control in a while. But, I swear, if he touches me or my mother
again, I’m calling the cops. I don’t care what my mom says.”
mother feared the
consequences of going to the police, which is the only reason Rylie hadn’t
contacted the authorities. I wanted to say something to my parents. To anyone
for that matter. But Rylie insisted on keeping it quiet. I’d never been one to
break a promise, so I was committed to keeping her secret.
Rylie said, her blue
eyes meeting my gaze. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
love you, too,” I replied,
offering her a smile.
thought back to our elementary
school days, when we first became friends. We were teenagers now, entering our
senior year of high school, and I actually dreaded graduating. Don’t get me
wrong. I was excited about going off to college, but it wouldn’t be the same
had already decided to
forego college. She planned to get a job, maybe even at the convenience store,
so she could remain with her mom. Leaving her mother alone with an abusive
spouse wasn’t an option for Rylie.
how was that fair? Rylie was
smart. She deserved to go to college. And as much as I respected Rylie’s
decision, she shouldn’t have to make that sacrifice just because her father was
a worthless drunk.
glanced over my shoulder,
eyeing the convenience store, then turned back to Rylie. “I haven’t eaten this morning.
I’m gonna go inside and get something. Do you want anything?”
forced a grin. “No,
thanks. I’m good.”
nodded and stood, making my
way inside and immediately perusing the candy aisle. I grasped a chocolate bar,
examining it for a moment. Content with it, I grabbed another and walked over
to the hot food counter.
I approached the glass
display case, a familiar face stared back at me from behind the counter.
Grace,” Izzy said. “What
can I get you, honey?”
was no one in line behind
me, so I decided to go for it. “Sure.”
want cream cheese with it?”
knew me well. I usually got
my bagels with cream cheese, but I hesitated this time. I glimpsed the
chocolate bars in my hand and pondered.
change it up,” I said,
eyeing her again. “I’ve been on a peanut butter kick lately, so let’s go with
winked an eye at me. “You
got it, hon.”
returned with my bagel a
couple of minutes later, conveniently placing it in a small paper bag for me. I
brought my items to the front counter and swiped a debit card to pay.
I exited the store, Rylie
was staring off into space, clearly in thought. I sat beside her and unfolded
one of the napkins I grabbed on the way out, resting the bagel on top of it and
placing it in my lap.
are for you,” I said,
extending a hand.
eyes widened. “You’re
shook my head and handed her
the two candy bars.
didn’t have to do that,”
Rylie said. “You’re the best.”
smiled and took a bite of my
bagel as I considered something. “I’m curious.”
swallowed, trying to force the
words out of my mouth. “Would you be happier if your dad was dead?”
lips parted and her
mouth hung agape. She inhaled, tucking a strand of blonde hair behind her ear.
don’t want him dead,” Rylie
finally answered. “I just want him out of our lives. He used to be a decent
guy. But if he refuses to get help, what good is he? If things stay the way
they are, he could go off the deep end at some point.” She paused. “If push comes
to shove, though, I will protect my mom at all costs.”
nodded, understanding what she
was implying. Some people weren’t killers, but they would go to extremes to
protect the ones they loved.
chiming noise woke me. It was
Sunday morning, and my alarm clock showed a little past seven o’clock. My cell
phone was on the night stand, the screen lit up as the ringtone continued to
pound my ears. I grabbed the phone and sat up in bed. It was Rylie calling.
concerned me for a couple
of reasons. First of all, she never called me this early on a weekend.
Secondly, after our talk the prior day, I feared for her and her mother’s
safety even more. I considered letting the call go to voicemail, but I wouldn’t
be able to live with myself if it ended up being an emergency.
tapped the phone and put it to
my ear. “Rylie?”
heard sniffling on the other
I said again. “Is
she managed to spit out.
father’s dead,” Rylie stuttered.
felt a pulsing in my throat,
as if my heart was trying to escape. “What?”
dead,” she reiterated.
was at a loss for words.
had an allergic reaction.”
knew her father had a peanut
allergy, but he was always very cautious, making sure to read the ingredients.
And he wouldn’t eat something if the manufacturer warned of possible
cross-contamination, because the product could contain traces of nuts and other
went through my purse
again,” Rylie said, her voice unsteady. “The chocolate bar was next to him on
the floor. He has an EpiPen, but it must have happened while we were asleep, so
he probably couldn’t get to it in time.”
put a hand to my mouth. “Oh,
my god, Rylie. This is my fault.”
it’s not. I looked at the
wrapper. The chocolate is guaranteed to be peanut-free.”
had made sure of it when I
bought the candy bar, just in case her father got his hands on it.
don’t understand,” I said.
hesitated. “I’m so sorry,
Rylie.” It was all I could muster.
was more sobbing on the
other end, and I debated whether to speak or not.
there anything I can do?” I
woman’s voice in the
background interrupted our conversation. It sounded like Rylie’s mother.
have to go,” Rylie said. “My
mom needs me. I’ll call you later.”
was about to say something,
but Rylie terminated the call. I dropped the phone on my bed and exhaled. It
all seemed surreal.
then I smiled. It wasn’t an
evil smile. It wasn’t even a smile of satisfaction. It was me feeling a glimmer
of hope for Rylie and her mother.
maybe it was an evil
I smeared a trace of
peanut butter on both of the candy wrappers before handing them to Rylie
yesterday morning, I was guilty of killing her father. But no one knew that,
and no one would ever think of accusing me. And if they did, they couldn’t
prove it was intentional.
be honest, I wasn’t certain
if Rylie’s father would find the candy, or if he even had an allergy to peanut
see, some people are
allergic to peanuts but not peanut butter, and vice-versa. Others are allergic
to both. And, in some cases, the individual doesn’t even have to come into
contact with the peanut product. The smell of it alone can trigger a reaction.
know Rylie said she didn’t
wish death upon her father, but something needed to be done. She’ll mourn the
loss. As much as a daughter of an abusive father possibly can, at least. But I
have no doubt she’ll be better for it in the long run. Her mother, too.
dabbled in many genres over
the years. His stories have been included in anthologies by Black Hare Press,
Black Ink Fiction, Sweetycat Press, Iron Faerie Publishing, Hiraeth Publishing,
Raven & Drake Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Blood Song Books, and