No Chocolate For You by Lynn Powers
The café hostess hesitates about giving away a prized outdoor seat, but Christine’s raised “don’t-fuck-with-me-right-now” eyebrow gets her a patio table. A harried waiter slaps down a menu. Christine scans it for anything fitting her doctor’s recommendation.
“No coffee. No chocolate,” her doctor had said, moments before. “And cut out alcohol—that will help with insomnia.”
“What’s wrong with chocolate?” Christine had asked.
“You’re complaining of hot flashes. Chocolate is a stimulant that can cause them. Are you OK? You look pale.”
At the café, the waiter hovers over Christine while eyeing the neighboring tables. “What would you like?” he says, cocking his hip.
“Chocolate cake and coffee, please. Cream and sugar.” She flashes him a naughty smirk, hoping he’ll appreciate the audacity of her order. Instead, his shoulder drops, he grabs the menu and, whoosh, he’s away.
As a kid, Christine’s super-power had been her ability to be unnoticed. A middle child of seven, her favorite game was to steal food in mid-preparation off the kitchen counter. In her magic cloak, she’d count the seconds before Mother realized her cookie dough spoon had gone missing.
It was in this cloak she’d witnessed her brother having sex on the grungy basement couch. She saw her father pay off a gambling debt out by the tire swing. She sat on creaky stairs while her parents discussed which kid they could afford to send to college.
“Not our numb-nut eldest,” Dad had said. “Couple donuts shy of a dozen, that one is.” They chuckled.
“What about Christine?” Mother said. “She’s smart.”
“Too wild,” Dad said. “She’ll be pregnant by sophomore year, rate she’s goin’.”
“You might be right. Best we send one of the boys.”
The cake is a dense torte. A top layer of burnt sugar resists against Christine’s pressing fork, her mouth wet with anticipation. She consumes without guilt.
But the romance fades when a garbage truck pauses just yards from her seat and a light rain awakens a smell of urban decay. The lunch crowd clears, but there’s no sign of her waiter. A passing busboy averts his eyes.
Christine’s heart beats against her chest, pounding out a daring suggestion. “Just leave,” it drums. “Forget the waiter. He ignored you—show them what happens when you’re dismissed.”
“I’m a lawyer,” her thoughts shoot back. “I prosecute crimes, not commit them.”
“Leave. Leave. Leave,” pumps her heart. “Beauty doesn’t work for you anymore. Remember your super-power.”
Her palms moisten. She looks around. Nobody.
She steps over the low chain that defines the seating area. She walks to the street corner and waits for the light to change. Danger is like a lover’s hand on the small of her back, pushing her, exhilarating her.
Risking a glance, she spies her waiter scooping up her unpaid bill. He hops to the sidewalk, scans the street with squinted eyes that close in on Christine. She turns to face him. He catches her triumphant smirk—just before she vanishes.
Lynn Powers works in New York City as an Assistant Production Manager / Location Manager for Film & Television, most recently on The Good Wife, Evil, and The Good Fight (CBS). Her flash fiction story, “Bed Bug Therapy,” was published in Flash Fiction Magazine, and her “Shared Calendars” placed as runner-up on a WOW! Women on Writing Flash Fiction contest. She holds a Creative Writing degree from Ohio Wesleyan University.