MUSED
BellaOnline Literary Review
Tentacles by Christine Catalano

Table of Contents

Fiction


Kill Me With Chocolate

Frank Scozzari

“How do I know you really love me?” she asked, standing tall on the hotel bed with both hands on her hips.

Nick stopped unbuttoning his shirt and looked up at her. The way she stood there beneath the ceiling light, scantily clad in French lingerie, she resembled a burlesque stripper on the Rue de Lac.

“You know I love you,” he said.

“Do I?”

“Yes.”

“I am not positive of it.”

“Come on…”

“Like I said… how do I know?”

Nick paused. “Well…”

“You must prove your love for me,” she said, interrupting. And raising her arm she pointed at the door in a commanding fashion: “Bring me chocolate!”

Nick turned and looked back at the door. It remained dead-bolted; the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign still hanging on the outside knob.

“Chocolate?” It is some kind of Lover’s game, he thought.

“Yes, CHOCOLATE!” she said sternly. “And I don’t mean any kind of chocolate. Something like Barettini or Lindt.”

Nick looked at his watch. It was nearly midnight. “I think everything’s closed.”

The woman’s posture began to contort.

“Can we sleep on it? I’ll get you all the chocolate you want in the morning.”

Her body twisted into sharper angles. Nick remained wisely silent.

“I need chocolate, and I need it now! If you really love me, you will go now and will not return until you have chocolate!”

Nick took a deep breath. It was one of those moments, he knew, that happens in every relationship. What he would say or do now would determine his fate for the evening. You can be right and be alone, he thought, or you can be warm in bed with the one you love.

“Okay,” he said. He buttoned up his shirt, tucked his wallet in his pants, and took his coat from the armoire.
The woman smiled and dropped her hands to her side. “Bring me chocolate and you’ll be my hero…. you’ll be my prince.”

“Chocolate it will be,” Nick said, and he opened the door.

“Don’t come back until you have some.”

“I won’t.”

“Ganache would be okay too,” she said.

“Okay, I’ll see if I can find some.”

Nick exited, leaving the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign hanging on the outside. It reminded him of a romantic night that was not to be.

The night clerk was startled at the sound of the elevator bell. The hour was late, the hotel was nearly empty, and he had already settled in for the night. Nick strode out of the elevator cage confidently, greeting him with a “Bonsoir.”

“Bonsoir, how can I help you?” the clerk said.

“I need chocolate,” Nick said bluntly.

“Chocolate?”

“Yes, some high quality stuff, Swiss or Belgium.” He caught himself. “Of course, French will do also.”

The clerk frowned. “It is late, Monsieur.”

“I know. The chocolate is not for me. It is for my fiancée.”

“Is it possible to wait until the morning?”

“She wants it now.”

“Well, Monsieur, it may be hopeless this time of night and all....”

“I must find chocolate,” Nick replied, “…or another hotel room. She will not let me back in unless I bring her chocolate.”

The clerk glared at the elevator door, as if trying to visualize the woman who made this irrational request. “The Mademoiselle desires chocolate and will not let you back in the room without it?”

“Yes.”

“She cannot wait until morning?”

“No.”

“It is a desperate situation! C’est vraiment des conneries!” The clerk glanced at the elevator door again. “It is Cannes. It is October. It is midnight! It is impossible…”

“I tried to explain to her…”

“We do not have Seven-Elevens here... Everything is closed now.”

“Nevertheless I must try.” Nick paused thoughtfully. “…unless you have another room available?”

“It is a big problem for you.”

“Yes - Oui.”

The clerk tapped his fingers on the counter and glanced skyward. “There are some fine shops along the Boulevard Croisette.”

“Okay.”

“You can also try the large hotels along the Croisette… but Monsieur, I’m sorry to say, I know this town very well and I don’t think you will find gourmet chocolate at this hour.”

“It’s not negotiable. She wants chocolate and wants it now,” Nick said.

The clerk’s eyebrows furled. Then he shrugged his shoulders.

“Thanks for the help,” Nick said.

“Bonne nuit,” the clerk replied.

Nick left, heading down the alleyways to the waterfront where the major hotels lined the Boulevard de la Croisette. Along the way he saw the lights were out in the many boutiques and restaurants that had been open and filled with people earlier in the evening. He was glad to see the palm-lined Boulevard Croisette was still lit by street lamps. Down the coastline were several large luxury hotels, among them the Cannes Intercontinental Carlton, considered one of the finest hotels on the Côte d’Azur. Nick headed directly for it.

He climbed the steps to the entrance corridor where he was immediately greeted by a young door-guard dressed in a colorful renaissance suit.

“Can I help you, Monsieur?” the young man asked.

“I am looking for chocolate,” Nicked replied.

“Perhaps we can help.”

Nick hesitated. “I am just looking for a chocolate shop. Do you have one?”

“Yes, perhaps we can help you with that.” The door-guard motioned into the entrance lobby with his hand. Simultaneously, from within, came a handsome young bellhop in a black tuxedo and top hat.

“He needs chocolate,” the door-guard declared, confidently.

“Excellent,” the bellhop replied in perfect English. “This way, Monsieur.”

Nick paused but followed.

He was led across marble floors through the spacious entrance lobby to the concierge desk, there to be greeted by another young man dressed in a vintage, white tuxedo.

“Yes Monsieur, how can I help you?”

“He needs chocolate,” the bellhop informed.

“Chocolate?”

“Yes, do you have a chocolate shop here in the hotel?”

“No Monsieur, we haven’t a shop in our hotel but I think we can help you with this.”

“I don’t want to inconvenience you.”

The Concierge’s eyes lit up. “Monsieur, it is not an inconvenience. It is my pleasure!”

Nick looked over at the Bellhop who seemed equally gleeful. Then he realized they believed he was a guest there at the Carlton Hotel.

“It must be gourmet chocolates,” Nick said quickly.

“Of course.”

The Concierge pulled out a thick phone book and paged through to the French word ‘chocolat.’ Listed there were several shops on the Rue d’Antibes. He pulled the countertop telephone close to his chest, placed a ruler beneath the first number, and began dialing. But each time he dialed, waiting patiently, he eventually depressed the receiver and dialed again. Slowly, the ruler made its way down the list of chocolate shops.

“C´est pas grave. No worries Monsieur,” the Concierge assured. “It is not a problem.”

“It is my fiancée,” Nick explained. “She will not let me back into the room unless I bring her chocolate.”

The Concierge looked up quickly.

“Yeah, I know it sounds ridiculous.” Nick said. “But it’s true. She won’t let me back in the hotel room without chocolates.”

“Mon Dieu! It can’t be true!” the Concierge said.

“Really. She will not let me back in.”

“Not to worry, Monsieur. We will find you something.”

With fingers dialing more frantically now, but still without success, the Concierge’s gleeful expression began to fade. After five minutes, two additional men were summoned, each likewise dressed in vintage, white tuxedos.

“My name is Pierre,” one said. “I am Chief Concierge.”

“He needs chocolate,” the bellhop promptly informed.

“Chocolate?”

“Yes, chocolate.”

“His fiancée will not let him back in their room without chocolate,” the first Concierge explained.

“It must be gourmet chocolate,” the bellhop clarified.

“Gourmet?”

“Oui.”

“For his fiancée?”

“Oui.”

“Quel désastre!” the third Concierge cried.

The information desk quickly became a buzz of activity. Three men, all dressed in vintage, white tuxedos, plus the boyish bellhop with his black top hat, working the telephones, checking a handheld GPS device, and Pierre flashing through screens on a laptop computer.

“Try Villeneuve-Loubet,” Pierre said.

“And Nice?” one asked.

“Yes, and Nice,” Pierre said brightly.

“What is it with these women, anyway?” the first Concierge said. “We must climb mountains and cross oceans for them…”

“Buy flowers and order the proper bottle of wine…,” the third Concierge said.

“Remember the day we met them,” Pierre chimed in.

“And try to find chocolate in the middle of the night,” Nick added.

“Oui!” the first Concierge exclaimed. “And we are kept waiting, constantly!”

The young bellhop shrugged his shoulders and said, “It is what we must do.” His words brought a collective sigh to the group.

Finally it was done. They had scoured the entire Côte d’Azur and found no chocolate in the south of France. It was Two O’clock in the morning. Pierre looked beat.

“Surely she will let you back in,” he said.

“She must! She can’t expect you to sleep on the streets!” the first Concierge said.

“Il est injuste. It is not fair!” the bellhop cried, shaking his head.

Pierre took a pen and notepad. “If you provide your room number we can have chocolate delivered to your room first thing in the morning.”

“Thank you,” Nick said nervously. “A list of the shops will do.”

Pierre scribbled down the names and addresses of the best three shops and handed it to Nick. The bellhop removed some flowers from a vase in the lobby.

“Maybe these will help?”

Nick kindly waved him away. “It’s chocolate tonight or nothing, friends.” He tucked the list of chocolate shops into his shirt pocket, gave his thanks again, and bid them all a farewell.

Feeling exhausted and beaten, he returned to the streets, walking for several blocks with his head down. Ironically, he passed a chocolate shop, shut for the night. It was all dark inside. He pressed his face to the window and peered in. There was a small interior nightlight revealing several glass display cases. Within were rows of chocolates and truffles. The sign above the door read: ‘Chocolatier Cupid.’ It is torture, Nick thought, for past sins.

Hanging inside the door was a small sign listing the shop’s hours: 10:00 to 18:00. It was only half past two.

Nick marched on, not lifting his eyes for several minutes. When he did, he saw the red neon light of a Tobac shop half a mile down. It was still illuminated inside. He headed straight for it. He stepped inside to find two men conversing in French. The shopkeeper, who stood behind the counter, was a tall thirty-something man with dark hair. The other man, middle-aged and gruff-looking, sat on a stool smoking a cigar. He flicked ashes on the floor as Nick stepped in.

“Excuse me. Do you have chocolate?” Nick asked.

The shopkeeper looked a little annoyed that Nick had interrupted their conversation. He motioned downward with his head to the counter beneath the cash register. There Nick saw the usual assortment of commercial candy bars: Three Musketeers, Mars, Snickers, and Almond Joy.

“I’m looking for gourmet chocolate,” Nick said.

“Pardon, our chocolate is not good enough?”

“I need fine chocolates.”

“It’s American…” the man on the stool said harshly.

“It’s not for me,” Nick explained. “It is for my fiancée. She desires something European.”

The two Frenchmen exchanged glances. “Your fiancée sent you to find chocolate?” the shopkeeper asked, disbelieving.

“At 2:00 a.m.?” the other one added.

“Yes.”

“Why doesn’t she get her own chocolate?” the shopkeeper said quickly.

“Is it for sex?” the man on the stool asked.

“No! No! It´s one of those woman things… you know what I mean. She just wants to know I appreciate her.”

The shopkeeper’s face contorted. “Merde! It is the problem with you Americans… you don’t understand woman.”

“Elle tourne du chapeau!” the man on the stool grunted out.

“Only an American would be fool enough to wander through the night in search of chocolate for a woman,” the shopkeeper said. “You are slaves to women. You do not understand them. You have everything in reverse.”

“Ce me fait chier!” the man on the stool said. “You must deny them to receive their devotion.”

“Oui, it is true!” the shopkeeper said. “The less you give, the more you’ll take!”

“Otherwise, she will leave you for another man,” the man on the stool said.

“Really, she should be out looking for chocolat for you,” the shopkeeper said fiercely.

“It doesn’t work that way,” Nick said.

“Sure it does.”

“No, it doesn’t.”

The man on the stool mumbled out the word, “Salope!”

“Call it what you want,” Nick replied.

“There is no need to cower to your woman,” the shopkeeper counseled. “If she doesn’t like it, there are plenty of other women out there.”

Nick paused. “Where are your women?” he asked.

“Oh! Monsieur! I have plenty of women! I am on holiday from women!”

“You are worn out, Jacque? Not enough to go around?”

“Oui! Oui! Even I have my limits. Twenty, thirty women a month… it’s too much for any man!”

The men laughed.

“You guys are very funny,” Nick said.

“Better to be comedians than a fool!”

The laughter roared again. “Okay guys,” Nick said. “Thanks for the wisdom.”

The two men continued to laugh.

“I am glad I was able to provide you with some comic relief,” Nick said. “You guys have a nice night.”

Nick stepped out of the shop disgusted. As he walked away he could hear the laugher continue for quite a distance down the Croisette. It was a mocking testament, he thought, to this strange request that he had been strapped with by the woman he loved.

Maybe they’re right? he thought. Am I the prince or the fool? He looked up into the glistening stars but found no answer.

He continued west, strolling along with his head down. The streets were desolate. It was 3:00 a.m. The only sounds were the waves lapping against the seawall and the distant bark of a dog.

Then came a female voice, “Bonjour!”

On the side street was an old Peugeot with the window down. Inside was a forty-something-looking blonde.

Nick walked over. “Hello.”

The woman had on heavy blue mascara and thick sangria lipstick and her blouse was unbuttoned to mid-chest, revealing perfectly-shaped, half-moon breasts.

“You are English?” she asked.

“No, American.”

“I like Americans,” the woman said quickly. “Are you looking for company?”

“I’m looking for chocolate.”

“Chocolat?” The woman’s large, doe-like eyes flashed thoughtfully.

“Yes, chocolate.”

“You want a black woman?”

Nick stepped back. “No, I need chocolate… candy. Barettini, Lindt. It’s not for me. It’s for my fiancée…”

“Your fiancée?”

“Yes.”

“Que voe?”

“It’s a long story and I’m really tired…”

“Please tell me.”

“It’s complicated…”

“Come on. I must know. It must be romantic, no?”

“Something like that…”

The woman turned and glanced thoughtfully out her front windshield. “Really? It is early morning and you are searching for chocolate for your fiancée?”

“It’s the truth.”

The woman’s large eyes flashed again. “Really, it is romantic.”

“Becoming less so by the minute.”

“What?”

“Never mind.”

She paused. “Well, I require no chocolate.”

I imagine not, Nick thought. “Thanks, but I really must go.”

“There is a room nearby,” the woman said.

“It’s a nice offer,” Nick said nervously.

“We can go there now.”

“No. Thanks.”

“Come on.”

“I must go.”

“It is right there,” she said, pointing to a light on the second floor of a building down the alleyway. “No need to walk the streets alone.”

“Goodnight and good luck,” Nick said with finality and he quickly walked away.

“She is a lucky girl,” the woman yelled from her window as Nick ducked around the corner.

Nick marched rapidly east, back to the ‘Chocolatier Cupid.’ There was nothing more to do, he thought, but to go back there and wait. When he reached the chocolate shop, he stepped into the little alcove and pressed his face against the window once more. Seemingly now, with more detail than before, he could see deep into the display cases, to the hundreds, maybe thousands, of mouth-watering chocolates; varieties of all kinds, white and dark, some with colorful toppings, others plain, some beautifully wrapped. They were all calling him, haunting him. He could feel himself salivating. He grabbed the doorknob and twisted it but it was locked. He checked the windows too, locked also. He considered breaking in, but quickly dismissed the idea. The “closed” sign hanging inside the door reminded him of his situation. The shop would not re-open until 10:00 am, and now it was only 4:00 am. The insignia on the sign was that of a little cupid with an arrow.

“Thanks, Dude,” Nick said.

Nick shrank to the floor with his back against the door. He rested his head back against the glass and closed his eyes. He could smell the sweet aroma of chocolate coming through the door jamb. He is evil, he thought, referring to the cupid… he is torturing me!

***

Time stood still. His eyelids grew heavy. There was that semi-state of peaceful unconsciousness, then slumber. Then there was a noise.

And a foot kicking him.

Nick looked up and saw an old man with a sparse, grey goatee and long grey locks standing over him, yelling at him in French.

“Congé ! Leave!”

The man kicked Nick again and Nick tried to scoot away.

“Laissez-vous l´homme fithy. Sortez! Trouvez un autre endroit pour dormer!” the old man cried as he pursued Nick with his foot. “Get out you filthy one! Find another place to sleep!”

But the foot was fast and it came against Nick’s thigh again. Nick raised his arm in self-defense, simultaneously trying to explain himself. “I’m sorry! I just wanted to buy some chocolate. I fell asleep.”

The old man was agile for his age and pursued relentlessly with his foot as Nick scrambled away.

“I’m sorry,” Nick repeated. “I just needed to buy chocolate.”

The old man stopped abruptly.

“You are English?” he said with a heavy accent.

“American.”

Nick remained curled up in a ball with his knees at his chest and his arms up protecting his face.

The old man looked down thoughtfully. “You want to buy chocolate?”

“I cannot leave without chocolate,” Nick said.

“Then you must return at Ten O’clock.”

“It’s my fiancée,” Nick explained.

The old man remained silent.

“She will not let me back in our hotel room until I bring her chocolate.”

“Ce qui? Your fiancée requires chocolate?”

“Oui - Yes. She requires only the best chocolate.”

The old man’s posture eased and his blue eyes lit up like the Côte d’Azur. He reached into his pocket and brought out the shop keys.

“Come, follow me,” he said. “I have the best chocolate in the South of France.”

He unlocked the door and Nick followed him inside.

“You are a lucky man,” the old man said. “I came in early today. Only today. To do inventory and bookkeeping. Normally it is another three more hours before I arrive.”

The old man handed Nick a bag, and in a short time, with Nick holding the bag and the shopkeeper filling it with his best recommendations, Nick soon possessed a hefty assortment of to-die-for chocolates. Nick paid the man, thanked him, apologized again for sleeping on his steps, and was on his way.

***

Nick staggered back to his hotel in the morning sunlight and was greeted there by the day reception clerk.

“Bonjour!”

“Bonjour,” Nick replied.

He stumbled into the elevator cage, pressed the button, rode the elevator back up the two floors, and wobbled down the hallway. The Do Not Disturb sign was still hanging on the door. He quietly stepped inside.

There she lay, as she had been now for several hours, quietly asleep on the bed. Her arm was outstretched to the empty space beside her and there was a note in her hand. Nick hung his jacket in the armoire, set the bag of chocolates on the nightstand, and quietly reached across the bed for the note. It was simple, composed of only four words: “Never leave me again.”

Nick stared at the note, not knowing what to make of it. It was she who had asked him to leave? Maybe it was the wine, he thought.

It is strange how one remembers things long after an event, even after everything else has faded from memory and turned to dust. It is the subtle and inconsequential that often remains etched in one’s mind. It was these words that stuck with Nick and followed him on through his life.

Nick peeled off his shirt and pants and climbed in the bed next to her. He set the bag of chocolates at the end of her extended hand where the note had been. Then he propped a pillow under his head, turned, and gazed at her. Her face was calm and forgiving.

“I will never leave again,” he said in a whisper.

Then he closed his eyes and slept.




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