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A Love for Chocolate: Fiction by Kevin Hopson
Ban the Box: Fiction by David Hagerty
Different Paths: Fiction by K. A. Williams
Night Sight: Fiction by C. A. Rowland
Encounter on the Lane: Fiction by Anthony Lukas
Moving South: Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Just a Small-Town Boy: Fiction by Roy Dorman
The Loneliness of a Reseller: Fiction by Brandon Doughty
Food Chain: Fiction by Phil Temples
Final Notice: Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Stunning Redheads are Trouble: Flash Fiction by Paul Beckman
Point Made: Flash Fiction by Martin Zeigler
The Secret Ingredient: Flash Fiction by Cecilia Kennedy
Stand in Line: Flash Fiction by Lucinda Kempe
My Special Garden: Flash Fiction by Gay Degani
Revenge of the Inanimate: Flash Fiction by M. L. Fortier
The Abductee: Poem by Sophia Wiseman-Rose
De-Icing Fate: Poem by Tom Fillion
Description of Death: Poem by Meg Baird
Basking in Sunlight: Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
Found Floating Above: Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
Beer-Craving Zombie: Poem by Bradford Middleton
They All Hate My Hero: Poem by Bradford Middleton
In Search of Ghosts: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Seven Hanging Trees: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Persistent Daylight: Poem by Michael Keshigian
Rebirth: Poem by Michael Keshigian
Bundy: Poem by Peter Mladinic
Calais: Poem by Peter Mladinic
The Room: Poem by Peter Mladinic
People with Dysentery: Poem by Partha Sarkar
There Has Been No Cooperative System: Poem by Partha Sarkar
Goes Back Toward the Talisman-the Future: Poem by Partha Sarkar
The Broken Seashore and the Fishermen: Poem by Partha Sarkar
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Hail, Tiger!
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ALAT
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Kevin Hopson: A Love for Chocolate

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Art by Sophia Wiseman-Rose 2023

“A Love for Chocolate”

By Kevin Hopson

 

“I can’t believe it,” Rylie said, rummaging through her purse.

She 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.

“What?” I said.

“First it was my money,” Rylie replied. “Now it’s my food. That bastard is always stealing my shit.”

I had a good idea who Rylie was referring to, but I asked anyway. “Who?”

“That pathetic father of mine,” she said. “He stole the candy bar in my purse. I was going to eat it this morning.”

Rylie 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.

“Is everything else okay?” I asked.

 Rylie let out a breath and pursed her lips.

“He hasn’t hit you, has he?” I said.

She 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.”

Those 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.

“Thankfully,” 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.”

Rylie’s 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.

“Grace,” Rylie said, her blue eyes meeting my gaze. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“I love you, too,” I replied, offering her a smile.

I 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 without Rylie.

Rylie 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.

But 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.

I 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?”

Rylie forced a grin. “No, thanks. I’m good.”

I 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.  

As I approached the glass display case, a familiar face stared back at me from behind the counter.

“Hi, Grace,” Izzy said. “What can I get you, honey?”

“A bagel please.”

“Toasted?”

There was no one in line behind me, so I decided to go for it. “Sure.”

“You want cream cheese with it?”

Izzy 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.

“Let’s change it up,” I said, eyeing her again. “I’ve been on a peanut butter kick lately, so let’s go with that.”

Izzy winked an eye at me. “You got it, hon.”

She 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.   

When 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.

“These are for you,” I said, extending a hand.

Rylie’s eyes widened. “You’re kidding?”

I shook my head and handed her the two candy bars.

“You didn’t have to do that,” Rylie said. “You’re the best.”

I smiled and took a bite of my bagel as I considered something. “I’m curious.”

“About what?”

I swallowed, trying to force the words out of my mouth. “Would you be happier if your dad was dead?”

Rylie’s lips parted and her mouth hung agape. She inhaled, tucking a strand of blonde hair behind her ear.

“I 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.”

I nodded, understanding what she was implying. Some people weren’t killers, but they would go to extremes to protect the ones they loved.

#

A 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.

This 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.   

I tapped the phone and put it to my ear. “Rylie?”

I heard sniffling on the other end.

“Rylie,” I said again. “Is everything okay?”

“No,” she managed to spit out.

“What’s wrong?”

No reply.

“Rylie?”

“My father’s dead,” Rylie stuttered.

I felt a pulsing in my throat, as if my heart was trying to escape. “What?”

“He’s dead,” she reiterated.

I was at a loss for words. “How?”

“He had an allergic reaction.”

I 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 allergenic foods.

“He 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.”

I put a hand to my mouth. “Oh, my god, Rylie. This is my fault.”

“No, it’s not. I looked at the wrapper. The chocolate is guaranteed to be peanut-free.”

I had made sure of it when I bought the candy bar, just in case her father got his hands on it.

“I don’t understand,” I said.

“Neither do I.”

I hesitated. “I’m so sorry, Rylie.” It was all I could muster.

There was more sobbing on the other end, and I debated whether to speak or not.

“Is there anything I can do?” I finally asked.   

A woman’s voice in the background interrupted our conversation. It sounded like Rylie’s mother.

“I have to go,” Rylie said. “My mom needs me. I’ll call you later.”

I was about to say something, but Rylie terminated the call. I dropped the phone on my bed and exhaled. It all seemed surreal.

And 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.

Okay, maybe it was an evil smile.

Since 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.

To be honest, I wasn’t certain if Rylie’s father would find the candy, or if he even had an allergy to peanut butter.

You 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.  

I 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.

-END-



Kevin Hopson has 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 Wolfsinger Publications. 



Sophia Wiseman-Rose is a Paramedic and an Episcopalian nun. Both careers have provided a great deal of exposure to the extremes in life and have provided great inspiration for her.  

 She is currently spending time with her four lovely grown children and making plans to move back to her home in the UK in the Autumn.  

 In addition, Sophia had a few poems in the last edition of Black Petals Horror/Science Fiction Magazine


https://www.artstation.com/sophiaw-r6

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2023