I stand at the checkout counter, eyeing the customer waiting patiently. When Her coffee is ready, She picks it up, smiles ever so slightly, and leaves. She is beautiful. Her hair is dark brown. So dark that it's almost black. It falls in long ringlets nearing her waist. Her eyes stand out amongst Her other features, a profound shade of emerald green beneath luscious, black eyelashes. Her smile is a bit crooked, one of a kind. I had simply followed Her to San Diego, making a life in the same metro as She. I hadn't seen Her in a while. It had to be Her. Our being in the same room warmed my heart. It gave me hope in the midst of the shady predicaments of life. It took all of my strength to resist chasing after her. All too soon, she exits the shop, inadvertently leaving her story behind.

There it sits, on a table. I walk over and gather the fresh pages, stopping to read the first paragraph:

'"Chocolate is God's gift," Ma used to declare with composure, handing me a piece as she ran a brush through my dark brown hair. "It can nurse your heart in quite a few ways. It's proven that the cocoa plant helps repair your heart, preventing disease. More than that, it mends the heart when it aches the most." I would take the piece of delight and bring it to my lips, savoring the last taste as it departed into my soul. Ma was never wrong. While other kids did drugs to alleviate their pains, I would sit down and devour chocolate. When Ma grew weary, she would lie in bed all day and tell me stories about her childhood. "Fix me some tea, Deary," she would say. I would fix it instantly, always adding my secret ingredient: chocolate dust. After drinking the tea, Ma would chime, "Deary, that was purely delightful! It just may have saved my life!" I left for college, knowing for the first time what "hard work" meant. My studies would keep me awake until three in morning. Every time I felt my eyes flutter and my head whirl, I would simply consume a piece of chocolate. No caffeine pills for me. When Ma passed away, she looked beautiful. Like an angel with her eyes shut in an eternal, everlasting sleep…'

I would just have to find Her. This gave me a reason to do it.

"Come on, Jimmy, go talk to her. It won't do any harm," Mark says, nudging me. I guess he noticed that I was staring idiotically. We are in Honors Chemistry I, sophomore year. The class is currently engaged in a lab, and everyone is just about done, so chatter rises in the classroom.

"Not now," I say. I guess I'm just too shy. I can't talk to her. Elle Howard seems happy as she is, laughing with the small group of friends that surround her desk. I return to doodling on my planner when I look up to see Mark gone. Next thing I know, he's with Elle, talking and glancing back at me to see if I'm watching the scene. I can see her flashing a smile. What's he doing? I can feel my temperature rise. Mark walks past me after class, slightly shoving me. I feel a presence behind me and I turn around to peer into the radiant face of Elle. She smiles.

"Hi, Jimmy. How's it going?" I don't know what to say but I know I am about to say something stupid.

I mumble under my breath. "Okay." She laughs.

"That's good to hear." Then she sighs loudly. "I would love to walk further with you, but my locker's in the E hallway. That's on the other end of the school, you know. Bye…" I don't want her to go. I figured Mark told her something to make her talk to me.

"What did Mark say?" I ask.

"Oh, nothing—Nothing at all. I'll see you." My heart must have skipped a beat.

"Bye," I call after her.

So that's the highlight of my day, talking to Elle. I always think about her, about both her external and internal beauty. She is incredibly unique, different than all of the other girls at our school. Her clothes are either old-fashioned or completely original. Some of the clothes she wears look as if it were hand-sewn. Elle honestly does not care what people think about her. Not a bit. She always speaks her mind and she had very strong opinions for that matter.

Going home is complete agony. Mother sits on the couch, as usual, a cigarette in her mouth, food and beer on the table in front of her. She suddenly begins laughing loudly—snorting—at the television. She didn't realize me entering the house that evening. I drag my book bag into my room and go back downstairs. "Oh, James, where were you?" Mother asks, a hint of concern lining her face.

"Studying at Mark's," I reply. She loosens up and returns to the TV. I go into the kitchen to look for something to eat. The fridge is almost empty. So are the cupboards. I'm starving. I finally find a few slices of bread in the back of the refrigerator. There isn't anything to put on the bread besides some mayonnaise, so I grab that and spread it on the bread. I go back upstairs to finish my homework, when I hear a shriek from downstairs. "JAMES!" It's Mother. I put down my algebra book and descend down the stairs until I stand before her annoyed, creased face. Her dull brown eyes glare at me with repulsion, her large arm pointing at the counter. "Look at the counter! Do you see that?" I looked at the counter. All I can distinguish are a few specks of breadcrumbs that are barely visible. I make my way across the kitchen and scoop up the crumbs, discarding then into the garbage can immediately. As I turn to walk back upstairs, Mother grabs my arm firmly. "It took me all day to clean this place. Apologize," she demands. There's no point in arguing.

"I'm sorry," I say.

"Good boy," she says, releasing me and returns to the love of her life. The Television. I go upstairs, hungry and pissed at Mother for being pissed at nothing. I hated how she blames me for what Dad did. I wasn't the one that left her. Sometimes I wish I had, though.


Co-written with one of my bestest friends, Belinda! Comments and suggestions are, as always, greatly appreciated!

Note (8/24/05): Edited some parts based on suggestions by micahmouse. Thanks!

Jessica