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The Candy Shop

T. R. Frazier is a writer, educator, and mother of four small humans. She knows a thing or two about love and candy. Her favorite: Allsorts, which her husband buys for her even though he thinks they're foul. Metaphor? Perhaps.

"This can't be right."
But the perky lady-voice of Google Maps insists I've arrived. Sure enough, squeezed between a nail salon and a cat clinic, the sign for "Hart's Candies" hangs askew from the frontage of the seedy strip mall.
I hesitate outside the glass door, which is painted with flaking Christmas trees and snowmen. (It's July.) How this place scored over 200 5-star reviews is beyond me.
An electronic chime sounds as I enter, but there's not a soul inside. The air's laden with calories and mildew and something else I can't place.
"Hello?"
No answer, so I mosey around rows of clear plastic, candy-filled bins until some green gummy candy snags my eye. I shoot a furtive look around, then lift the dusty lid and nick one green, sugar-coated square.
I'm about to pop it in my mouth when someone calls, "Are you sure about that, miss?"
I whirl around, keeping my hands behind my back. It's not like me--stealing candy like a delinquent child--but then, I haven't been myself this week.
A round, greasy little man waves from the cash register--and by greasy, I mean that he's got a greasy comb-over and a greasy smile, and I'm pretty sure he leaves a smear on anything he touches.
"Sure about what?" I say, hoping my blush doesn't show in the dismal lighting.
His smile widens. "Sure you want to try that one?"
I turn around and inspect the container as if I've only just noticed it. "What is it, sour apple?"
He materializes at my elbow. "No, no. Revenge."
"Sorry, what?"
"Revenge. Sweet--very sweet--at first, but the bitter aftertaste lingers for quite a while." When I turn away, I could swear he mutters, "for the rest of your life."
They'd looked so appealing, but I'm already bitter enough.
My hand hovers over a bin of round candies, individually wrapped in red foil. "These look nice." I point to the nutrition information: GF, DF, SF, CF. "Gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free... um, corn-free?"
The rotund storekeeper makes a face. "Commitment-free. Those are One Night Stands--very popular, but frankly, I don't see the attraction. They're tasteless."
"Oh."
He's watching me, shining head cocked to the side, and I'm conscious of my messy bun, my red-rimmed eyes, the white band of skin around my fourth finger. I feign interest in some ring pops.
That's when I see them.
"Is that--" I rush over to the display case by the cash register, pressing my forehead against the already-smudged glass. Behind it, jewel-like, handmade confections rest on pleated white papers. "Is that Love?"
He pops up behind the counter, holding up a finger. "Lust. Easy to mistake one for the other, but once you've tried Love, you'll always taste the difference."
"So I can't find Love here?" My voice hitches on that third little word.
The comb-over flip-flops. "Afraid not. Very difficult to make--quite an involved process."
Jamming the heels of my hands into my eyes, I press back the tears. I've wasted an hour. No, I've wasted three years.
His gaze follows my left hand as I reach for my keys, and his unctuous manner drops. "Wait. I might have one or two things...."
As the door swings shut behind me, I rummage in the paper bag, fishing out a white sugar cube. ("Not a cube, a tesseract," the little man had corrected me. "A tesseract of Time. Quite pricey, but you know what they say about all wounds.") The little sweet melts on my tongue, its sharp edges softening with every passing moment.
Driving home to our--my--empty apartment, I pop a stick of minty-fresh Perspective into my mouth and chew. As soon as the engine cuts, I pull out my phone and give Hart's Candy five stars.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, November 3rd, 2021
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