Sweet Confections – Chapter Two


“Deal,” Rachel said, as she and her best friend drew their arms back, darts ready to fly. Her focus was intent on the 4×6 color picture pinned to the dart board. The lying jerk’s cheerful face mocked her own red blotchy one as Kristen counted down.

“Three . . . two . . . one!”

Rachel threw her dart straight and true, but was dismayed by the ping sound as both darts bounced off the picture and fell to the basement floor.

“No way,” she said, then bent down and picked up another dart, throwing it even harder. It, too, bounced off and landed on the floor. She picked up another, then another, throwing each of them with more determination, but all she got was a pile of darts beneath the target. Finally, she flopped onto the couch behind her, leaned her head back and fought to control the anger, bitterness and sadness all warring against each other. She didn’t want to cry anymore, especially after going through enough tissues to make the floor look like a snow storm had blown through.

“These darts must be defective.” Kristen turned it around, trying to figure out what could be wrong. “Honey!” she yelled upstairs.

A tiny smile came to Rachel’s lips as faint thumps sounded on the floor above. Kristen’s husband, Todd, appeared at the top of the basement stairs.

“I’m almost done making your sundaes. What’s up?”

“Your darts are defective. Why did you buy ones that don’t work?”

Sure enough that got Todd’s attention. If there was one thing she had learned from growing up with a bunch of sports fanatics, it was that equipment of any kind had to be in perfect working condition.

He clomped down the stairs and took the dart from his wife. He carefully looked it over, then asked, “What’s wrong with it?”

“It won’t stick. What kind of dart doesn’t stick to its board?” She gestured to the opposite wall.

Todd looked from the board back to his wife, then leaned closer and asked, “Were you trying to shoot the dart at the picture?”

“Of course,” she replied.

“Then it works.” Before Kristen could interrupt with more questions, he held up the dart and pointed to the tip. “Sweetie, these darts have plastic tips. Remember, you didn’t want me to buy a regular set so Daphne wouldn’t get hurt if she found one of them. Plastic tips won’t break through a picture.”

“Oh.” She took the dart back. “You don’t happen to have any regular ones do you?”

He shook his head. “Of course not, ‘cause if you discovered them under any other circumstance, I’d be in the dog house.” Then he gave her a loud smooch on the cheek and headed back upstairs.

“Well, that just stinks,” Rachel said, as Kristen sat next to her. “I was really looking forward to putting pock marks all over his disgusting face.” They both stared at the picture, trying to decide what to do next. She heard her cell phone beep, signaling another call. She wondered how many phone messages Nico had left and if her voicemail reached its max yet. She didn’t even want to think about how many messages were piling up for her to sort through later. Man, she hoped the chocolate arrived soon.

“I know!” Kristen said. She jumped up from the couch and pulled out the side table drawer. Rachel didn’t see what Kristen grabbed before she ran over to the dart board, took down the picture and stabbed it. That’s when she saw the pen in Kristen’s hand.

“Where did you get this picture printed? This has got to be the thickest photo paper I’ve ever seen,” Kristen said, pulling the pen back out.

“Dork head brought it back from Italy.” Rachel grabbed another pen from the drawer and joined her friend, stabbing the picture over and over.

“Dork head? Come on, you can do better than that.”

“I could but it wouldn’t fit your PG kiddy guidelines,” she replied, then stabbed the picture.

“Yeah. I never know when Daphne will pop up. We’ll have to figure out a code name.”

When it was sufficiently full of pock marks, they pinned it back up to the dart board. Rachel bent over, picked up one of the fallen darts, and made one last stab—right between Nico’s eyes.

“Yes!” They did a little dance and gave each other high-fives.

They turned to find Todd, his mouth slightly ajar, standing next to the couch. He held huge bowls filled with Chocolate Lava sundaes. He slowly set them on the coffee table and backed away from the girls. “Well, um . . . here are your sundaes. I think I’ll go back to upstairs where men are safe.”

“Thank you,” Rachel called, as he thumped up the stairs. She turned to Kristen, who was already sampling her sundae. “I think we’ve officially freaked out your hubby.”

“Hmm, maybe. But I doubt it.”

They returned to the couch with their bowls. A mutual silence filled the room as they dug into the rich chocolate treat. Rachel thought about the very first time they shared these sundaes together. Ironically, it was after a terrible blind double date set up by a friend from culinary school. Together, they baked a batch of homemade fudge brownies. Then they created brownie sundaes layered with several scoops of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream, rich hot fudge, and topped with a mountain of real whipped cream, lightly sprinkled with shavings from a half-eaten Hershey’s chocolate bar. Hence, the Chocolate Lava sundaes were born, to be eaten only after horrifying date experiences or in celebration of something absolutely wonderful. The last time they shared them was when Kristen’s daughter, Daphne, turned two-years-old.

Rachel sent up a prayer of thanks that many more sundaes had been made for celebrations rather than their original purpose—chocolate therapy for the broken hearted. The sundaes also marked the beginning of their dream to open a dessert shop together. She looked at the large framed picture from the opening of their shop, Sweet Confections. They still looked about the same, Kristen with her shoulder-length brown hair and deep blue eyes. The only noticeable change in Rachel was her thick auburn hair now reached past her shoulders, which made it easier to twist up and clip when she was baking. Sweet Confections just celebrated its fifth anniversary and was one of Kansas City’s best bakeries.

So much had changed in their personal lives since then. Rachel studied the gooey chocolate on her spoon a moment, before asking Kristen the question weighing heavily on her mind.

“How am I going to tell Mom I’ve been dating a married man?” She looked away from her friend’s compassionate expression. “Last week, I told her things were getting more serious and he might possibly be The One. You should have seen the smile on her face, Kristen. The mere thought of her almost ancient daughter finally saying I do made her glow like white twinkly Christmas lights. And now . . . I don’t know how to tell her.” Her throat closed up around her words. She turned her attention back to her now-melted ice cream which looked blurry as tears filled her eyes, then fell into the chocolate concoction.

Kristen took the bowl and set it on the coffee table, then she wrapped her arms around Rachel. “First of all, twenty-eight years old isn’t even close to being ancient. And second of all, your mom is going to have a cow, but she’ll get over it. The thing you really need to remember is that a man does not define your worth as a woman.”

Rachel pulled back and wiped tears from her eyes. “You’re right. I know you are, but sometimes it’s so hard to feel that way. I’m going to turn thirty in a little under two years and I feel like my life is never going to amount to anything more than cake and sugar frosting.”

“You have an incredible gift that makes others happy. Do you want to take back all our clients’ smiles when you create something they could only put into words? You may not see it right at this moment, but you have a wonderful, full life. Just ask your nephews. They’d never trade you for anyone else.”

She couldn’t stop her lips from forming a small smile at the mention of her boisterous nephews. “Yeah, well, they love the desserts I bring to our family dinners.”

“See? All that cake and sugar frosting isn’t such a bad thing, is it?” Kristen teased and bumped her friend’s shoulder with her own.

“No, I guess not.” Rachel looked over at her friend and asked one last time, “So, any other thoughts on how to break the news to my mom?”

She shook her head. “Although a few prayers asking for divine intervention wouldn’t hurt. Well, that and your chocolate torte topped with fresh strawberries might help the news go over better.” Kristen reached over and grabbed a mint out of the candy bowl on the side table.

She tilted her head back and stared at the ceiling tiles. “Why didn’t I ever date Todd? I could be you right now.”

Kristen coughed as she choked on her mint. When she could breathe normally again, she looked at Rachel as if trying to figure out if she was serious or just teasing. “If I remember correctly, you thought perfecting your vanilla-bean pound cake was more interesting than any of the guys we knew, including Todd.”

She tipped her head to the side, considering her friend’s comment. “Hmm. Maybe I should have paid closer attention.” Then she glanced at Kristen and allowed a tiny smirk to appear. “Who knows how things might have turned out had I let loose my full arsenal of feminine powers?”

“Whatever!” Kristen grabbed the pillow beside her and gave her a solid thwump upside the head.

Rachel caught the pillow before Kristen could smack her a second time. “Yeah, you’re right. I’ll stick with the vanilla-bean pound cake.”