"Chocolate" by Mario Piumetti, Jr.

Here is the next installment from Mario’s serial here on Arts Collide. Read the last few stories here.


By: Mario Piumetti Jr.

            Andrew was scared of meeting Charlotte at the Little Flower Candy Company, a coffee shop in Pasadena by the Ventura Freeway.  He hadn’t seen her in six months, hadn’t even spoken to her, and it had been nearly a year since they dated for about a month.  Andrew hadn’t expected Charlotte to answer his call from that drunken night at The Englishman.  Answer she did, and there was no turning back.  On the phone, they’d caught up on what had been going on in their lives.  Charlotte worked for DreamWorks, and her dog, Lord Barks-a-lot, still acted as though he ran things at her house.  Charlotte lived with her family just as Andrew lived with his.  That was one thing he felt they’d bonded over.  Andrew asked her how her parents were, even though he’d never met them, and then later on they had agreed to meet on a Thursday night for coffee.
            He got to the coffee shop first, parking his blue pickup truck in the thin line of spaces between the shop and a fitness center.  When he saw that Charlotte had yet to arrive, he reparked – the availability of spaces was such that he was in a fifteen-minute spot.  He settled the truck on Colorado Boulevard, and saw Charlotte’s beige Honda as he cut the engine.  She looked just as he remembered her when she got out, jeans as black as tar and a matching shirt, and her auburn hair still had a wonderful wave to it.  A scarf wrapped around Charlotte’s neck.  She loved scarves, though Andrew was never a fan of them himself.  That didn’t matter to him, not when she stood just a few yards away like a specter he dreamt about and wasn’t sure if she was there in the flesh.  But she was real, real enough to smile and wave hello to him.  Andrew waved back.
            “Hey there,” he said.  They hugged on the sidewalk and went into the coffee shop.  Light flowed down from the exposed ceiling and bounced off white pots, vases, and countertops.  The roughly hewn tables had been sanded just enough to remove any splinters.  Both Andrew and Charlotte ordered mugs of hot chocolate.
            “You look great,” he said.
            “Thanks,” said Charlotte.  “And, wow, you look really good.  Have you lost weight?”
            “A little.  I still got about fifteen pounds to drop on my diet.”
            “What?”  Charlotte looked at him with fun and skepticism.  “You’ve got to be kidding.  You look fantastic.  And that shirt you’re wearing.  Purple looks good on you.  Are you still doing art?”
            “Oh, yes,” he lied.  He hadn’t done so much as a doodle in months, but he was too afraid to admit his professional shame seeing her across the table.  No one was calling him to design album covers or paint murals.  No one even knocked on his door to do a greeting card.  Instead, Andrew concocted a bullshit story about a painting of his on display at a college in Ventura County.  He was impressed by how quickly he fabricated the ruse.  Gina, the woman he drank with at The Englishman, might have been on to something suggesting he turn to writing.
            Andrew switched gears and asked Charlotte how things were going at DreamWorks.  She cupped the mug in her hands and took a breath, her shoulders rising slightly and then falling back to their original position.
            “It’s okay,” she said.  “I help manage trailers on the studio’s website.  There’s not a whole lot to do right now.  I’ve probably got four or five hours or actual work throughout the week, and that wouldn’t be bad if I didn’t have two bosses over me constantly bickering with each other.  I don’t know.  I think I’m just hungry for actual work.”
            Andrew nodded, knowing the feeling more than he was willing to let on.  They sipped their chocolate, and Charlotte went back to the counter by the cashier to get herself a cookie.  She broke it in half and offered a portion to Andrew, but he shook his head.  He wasn’t hungry.  After a few moments, the atmosphere began to stale.
            Then Charlotte let it out.  “I have to say that I was a bit surprised when you called.  I didn’t think you would.”
            “Yeah,” said Andrew.  “I surprised even myself.”
            “Why did you?” she asked politely.  Her soft tone didn’t take him off guard.  Charlotte didn’t have a malicious thread in her.  She went on.  “You stopped calling me.  You stopped texting me.  I never saw you on Facebook anymore.”
            Andrew thought about that.  He stopped calling her because he feared the eruption of an awkward silence between them on the phone.  He stopped texting her because he figured she wouldn’t respond, and he didn’t want to be that guy who kept texting and texting, becoming more and more obnoxious, or worse, coming off as needy and desperate.  And Charlotte hadn’t seen him on Facebook because he simply de-friended her.  Childish as it might sound, a sure tactic perfected by high schoolers across the country, it was the only option he had to try and finally get her out of his head.  Remove her from is daily updates of the goings-on of friends and she just might evaporate from his mind altogether.  Only that didn’t happen.
            Charlotte’s question hung in the air like the smell of burnt rubber after a car screeches away into the night.  Though he and Charlotte lived close to each other, he went out of his way to avoid her neighborhood in Highland Park.
            Andrew organized his feelings and said, “I guess you could say I needed to detox, you know?  I thought it might be for the best for us to be apart for a while.”
            “I understand,” she said.
            Andrew looked down at his mug and swirled the chocolate around a bit, sipping it, letting the warmth strengthen him.  “It wasn’t the right thing to do, Charlotte, disappearing like that.  It didn’t make me feel better.”
            “I’m glad you called though,” said Charlotte.
            “So am I,” said Andrew.
 Mario Piumetti Jr. was born and raised in Los Angeles.  He has a B.A. in English from California Lutheran University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Antioch University, Los Angeles.  His primary genre is science fiction with survival and culture clashes forming the central themes of his work.  He maintains a blog on writing called My Corner of theCatacombs.
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