By Nelson House


I’m not very good at expressing myself … around women. I get flustered and tongue-tied and end up babbling something that has no relation to what I really wanted to say. I’m fine if we’re talking business, but once things get personal, I’d be better served being mute.

            Such was the case when Amanda came into my shop one day.

            I was in the back, cleaning some pans, when the bell rang over the door out front. I quickly walked out into the store and in behind the counter. “Are you looking for anything in particular?” I asked the woman.

            She looked up from one of the display cases that housed a selection of my hand-dipped chocolates, her pretty face flushing. “Well, I’d like to get a box of chocolates, for a friend.”

            “Certainly. If you’d care to look over here,” I said, gesturing at the display case next to the counter, “you’ll find all of the different types of chocolates that I make. I can fill a box with any combination you’d like.” I smiled pleasantly, on firm business ground, so far.

            She walked over, her soft, shoulder-length dark black hair, bouncing . “Oh, my,” she said, “they all look so delicious.”

            I felt my own face begin to redden, and the ground to slip out from under my feet, as I caught the sweet scent of her perfume. “Uh, w-what size of box would you like?” I pointed at the empty white boxes on top of the display case. “Small, medium, large … extra-large?”
            She looked up, and her large, brown eyes met mine, sparkling. “Oh, medium, I suppose. I’m on a-”

            She stopped, realizing her mistake. “I mean, my friend who I’m getting them for is … they’re a gift for a friend who’s …” She gave up, smiling at me. “I’m not very good at lying,” she admitted. “I get all tongue-tied. The chocolates are actually for me. I love chocolates. Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d treat myself.”

            I shakily smiled back, looking into her beautiful, honest eyes, wondering if she could love chocolatiers, as well. “How-how ‘bout a random selection, then, in medium?”
            She agreed, and I filled a box with an assortment of my chocolates. Then, as she was leaving, I made the mistake of trying to verbally connect with her on a more personal basis.

            “Uh, I was w-wondering … not meaning to be … but if maybe we could …never mind…have a nice day.” I quickly gave up before I made a complete fool of myself.

            I thought for sure I’d seen the last of Amanda after my humiliating display of tongue-twistedness. But she returned the following week, and the week after that, becoming a regular customer, who I desperately wanted to become so much more.

            So, on her fourth visit to my store, I was ready and waiting for her, nervously. “I-I made some dark chocolates this morning – new recipe!” I yelped, as soon as Amanda set foot in the store. I knew dark chocolate was her favorite. “I was going to eat them myself, for testing purposes, but, uh, you can try one, if you like?” I often give out free samples to customers.

            Amanda walked up to the counter, and I indicated the extra-large red box on top of the display case with a trembling finger. “H-help yourself.”

            She lifted the cover, and gasped, staring down at the fifty hand-dipped, heart-shaped chocolates I’d arranged into one large heart inside the gold-paper-lined box. She took a chocolate out of the box and put it in her mouth. “Delicious,” she said, smiling warmly at me.

            I grinned, speechless.

            Then Amanda held a chocolate out to me, her brown eyes shining. “Won’t you take a bite?”
            “No! No thanks!” I blurted, blowing my cover under the strain. “I’m actually diabetic, believe it or not. I-I can’t eat chocolates.”

            “But I thought you made these for yourself – to test out?”
            “They’re yours!” I gasped, my face burning as red as the box. “I made them for you!”

            Amanda smiled demurely. “That was very thoughtful of you, Malcolm. Thank you. Perhaps I could do something … sweet for you – to express my feelings?”    

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