About Death by Chocolate
At seventeen years old, Julie deals with more problems than most teenagers her age. A runaway, she quickly ends up homeless and broke. When an old Gypsy woman offers to read her future in exchange for a meal, the challenge sounds like a dare. The tarot cards reveal a great destiny, and a perilous journey – and a red heart shaped box of chocolates melts reality and fantasy into one never ending nightmare where failure equals death.
Julie wakes up in an unwelcoming world filled with danger. A boy named Evan introduces himself as her guide, but will he really help her when she needs him the most? Demons of a long forgotten past haunt her dreams and seek revenge for something she doesn’t remember. Too many questions receive too little answers.
Will Julie accept the truth to survive?
Sitting at my vanity, I slowly traced a broken heart on the mirror with a tube of pink lipstick. Today was Valentine’s day.
And I was officially emo. I even came complete with my very own soundtrack: my dumb exchange with Mark over the phone less than an hour ago looping in my head like a broken record.
“Hey baby,” he said.
Every time he called, I grinned like a kid before an ice cream truck. Mark, Mark, Mark… Stu-pid!
“We need to talk…” But these words brought me back to a reality I thought belonged to another couple, another girlfriend. Not me. Every girl was eating her heart out because I got to date the Mark Wilson from the Wilson Family worth billions of dollars according to last year’s Forbes magazine. I must have misheard him. He didn’t mean the talk.
“Yes?” My voice was trembling.
“Baby, you know how much I love you?” His words didn’t sound right. He seemed drunk. Gosh. I should have said immediately I was busy, but couldn’t bring myself to hang up on him now.
“Yes, I know you love me very much.”
“That’s my girl…” I listened to his breathing on the other end of the line and wondered when the bad news would finally hit me. “Listen, I thought about something.”
“We should take a break. I feel the connection isn’t as good as it used to be.”
My whole world shattered. A sharp pain bloomed inside my chest and tears welled in my eyes. I couldn’t think clearly. He wasn’t serious. That was a joke, right? “Are you breaking up with me?”
“Baby… You know I love you, right? How much do I love you? Tell me…” he slurred.
“Just say it,” I whispered and prayed for the call to only be a dream. Or for never going back to school and seeing his face again. Or for being dead – being dead would work, too! – so the hurt in my chest would finally subside.
“Baby… I think we need to see where we stand, a’ight?”
But the worst part of the whole conversation happened when someone else’s voice echoed in the background. A girl’s voice.
“Who’s with you?” My tone had morphed into an animal grunt. I clenched my fist into a ball and my nails dug deep into my palm.
“Who’s with you?” The fury inside me unleashed, and as tears blurred my vision, I punched the wall above my headboard, right next to the poster of Leonardo DiCaprio. Mark, why?!
“You answer me right now or I hang up!”
“Baby… It’s only you and me, you know that…”
“You’re a lying piece of crap.” I stared at the bloodstain my knuckles left on the wall and sniffled. “You’re such a lying piece of crap.”
I cried and listened to his breathing again. None of us talked for a long time.
“I’m sorry,” he finally said.
I closed my eyes and held onto the phone like a lifeline. Memories of him smiling at me, hugging me tight against him and wrapping his arm around my shoulders invaded my mind.
When I spoke again, my broken heart was barely beating.
“I’m done with you.”
And I hung up. Just like that, I closed a chapter that lasted exactly three months, five days, two hours, twenty-six minutes and forty-five seconds. But who was counting?
Or waiting for her flowers, and chocolates, and a dementedly happy teddy bear holding a heart that said “Forever yours”? Why didn’t he decide to dump me after Valentine’s Day was over, huh?
The next day, I went to school and did everything in my power to avoid him but wherever I was, something screamed his name: his car on the parking lot, his locker next to mine, and the last straw, him in the hallway with his new piece, Melissa.
I should have been the adult in the relationship and let it slide but did the exact opposite.
“Hey,” I said. Mark had his back facing me while Melissa watched me coming. She was very pretty. She wore a pair of tight black jeans and an off-white silk blouse, but with her curly blond mane, high stiletto patent leather heels, fake eyelashes, and red painted lips, she still looked like she wasn’t good enough for him. I should’ve been the one holding his hand. Not her.
She smiled. “Hi there!” she said. “How are you?”
He turned around.
“In fact, I’m happy you’re asking that question.” Rage was building up inside me like lava inside a volcano about to erupt. “Not so well,” I said.
All it took was Melissa’s smirk. My fuse ignited, my vision narrowed, and my fist landed right on her nose.
“Are you crazy?!” She shrieked and brought her hands to her bleeding face like it would magically heal her or something. Slabs of mascara proceeded to drip down her cheeks and turn her into… well, hardly the best-looking raccoon in the not-so-great indoors. Her lipstick smudged and her expensive blouse got stained with tiny blood drops. She scuttled away and disappeared in the nearest ladies room. And as I witnessed her distress, all I could think was how good it felt to see her so miserable.
“Proud of what you did to me?” I spat on the ground and waited for a response from Mark. Mind you, I wasn’t sure what sort of response; maybe, getting mad or, at least, calling me a nut job. But he just stood there.
“You’re a loser,” I hissed. I was boiling inside. Fists clenching as hard as they could, I fought against punching him in the nose, too. Taking what was left of the high road, I marched back to my car, doing my best not to hear the other students cheer. I only listened to my inner voice telling me to drive out of town until my gas tank ran dry.
I opened my eyes and felt groggy like after sleeping for eighteen hours straight. Had I been? Certainly, relieving arguably some of the worst twenty-four hours of my life landed this squarely in the realm of nightmares. Hours that served to propel me here, by the way. Wherever here was. That smelled horrendously like mildew.
To add… well, injury to insult, “here” was, also, cold and humid. A drop fell on my head, and I shivered when a light breeze blew up my neck. Darkness was everywhere. I could barely see in front of me, even less know where the boy had taken himself off to. Or if he’d even been real in the first place.
Another drop splashed on my nose. I squinted to see where I was, but a few minutes proved my effort altogether futile. I started rubbing my arms when the sudden flapping of wings came from my right…
“What the heck?” I squeaked, ducking and covering my head.
“Hey! You’re awake! How are you feeling?” It sounded like the boy was right on top of me. Not that way.
I wiped the few more droplets that had fallen on my hair.
“Would you mind telling me at last where we are?” I had been asking that question way too often and hadn’t gotten a response yet.
“I found shelter in a cave.”
A lump formed in my throat. “And is that cave infested with bats?” The little bloodsucking creatures terrified me beyond belief.
”That’s alright. They stay away from the light.”
“Ha, very funny.” I wished I could see him so I could break his neck with my bare hands. Next time, I would stay home. Running away is never a good idea.
He chuckled softly and appeared before me. My jaw dropped so hard, I thought it broke. My savior was surrounded by a halo of orange light that glowed exactly like psychedelic lasers at a rave party. Now, don’t ask why I know about that stuff. Just chalk it up to me wanting to be such a good little girlfriend…
His eyes especially glowed greener than usual, as if there was a “usual” in this crazy world. I sighed.
“So, how are you?” The boy sat next to me, and I basked in his warm light like a cat in the sun.
“Where should I start?” I replied. “We’re not alone here.”
“I know,” he smiled. “There was nowhere else to go.”
I shrugged. “Right.”
My eyes ventured along the water-covered walls and ceiling, and I longed to be outside again. What were we running from anyway?
“Alright, I guess now we’re safe, you owe me a little explanation.” I pushed a wet strand of hair away from my face and looked at him. He was a really handsome male specimen! Perfect hairless skin, pearly-whites, high cheekbones, strong jaw, and when he laughed, I noticed a dimple on his left cheek. What on earth made me think Mark was so attractive?
“Ha. There’s so much that can’t be explained,” he said.
Have I already mentioned how much I dislike enigmatic answers?
“Well, let’s start simple. Where are we?”
“I’m not sure.”
“But about you running super fast, or becoming a living light bulb?”
He chuckled softly. “I know you can do anything you wish in this world. I learned that after I battled the…” Something must have caught his attention, but I didn’t hear or see anything.
“After you battled…?” And did he cough it up? Yeah, exactly!
Instead, he exhaled deeply. “You must promise me something…” he finally said.
He grabbed both my hands – yes, I was still holding onto my box of chocolates – and squeezed them gently. His soft fingers on my skin gave me shudders. I suppressed a nervous giggle and stared at the ground.
“Julie. My name’s Julie,” I interjected.
“Julie. I’m Evan.”
My body jerked backwards.
“You don’t look like an Evan. More like a Miguel, or a Pablo.”
He knitted his brows. “Okay. Well, I’m Evan.”
He seemed upset I didn’t like his name. “How is that possible?”
“How is it possible you are Julie and not Kim?”
“Good point… I hate Kims anyway.” My three hundred dollar pair of snickers was muddy. Awesome.
“Alright. So…” He searched for my eyes. “Promise me something.”
I looked back at him.
“Promise you’ll always stay with me,” he said.
“Wow, alright there, I don’t know you, and…”
He let go of my hands and walked away from me. “Forget it.”
“Hey, wait!” I followed him. “I was joking.”
When I came close to him, he threw me a glance to make me feel a bit guilty for mocking his words.
“Fine. I’ll always stay with you.” Gosh, my words sounded way too cheesy.
“Thank you.” He smiled.
But I suspected he had something in mind if he asked me to make such a promise. “Why?”
He turned around and pointed at the darkest part of the cave where all the bats flew from earlier.
“Because we’re going down there. And… it’s going to be dangerous.”
I wished I were Carrie and possessed telekinetic powers. He studied the expression on my face and laughed.
“You can’t break your promise now!”
“You know…” I said, “just because you have crazy powers doesn’t mean I’m going to be your little dog you can walk on a leash anywhere it pleases you. And you still haven’t told me what this place was.”
He leaned toward me very slowly and I feared he was attempting something I wasn’t prepared for. Not that I’d have pushed him away… but gosh, it so would’ve felt awkward!
“Admit it. You like being told what to do. And” he added mockingly. “This is a cave.”
I took a step back and stared at his – beautiful – glowing green eyes.
“Don’t try me.”
He giggled and pulled my hand forward. “You’re funny. Come on. Long way to go,” he said, and his voice echoed against the walls of the cave.
“Could you, at least, tell me where we’re going?” Underscoring the whininess, my stomach growled. Now wasn’t the time to be hungry. What was there to eat in this god-forsaken place? Raw bats?
“We need to find an exit,” Evan mumbled, effectively ignoring the grumbling.
“Well, can’t we go back the way we used to enter?”
“Because we’d be killed.” I could tell he was growing annoyed by my questions.
“But who’s after us?!” Ha! He wasn’t the only one getting fed up.
“I told you.”
“No you didn’t!” I stalled and stomped my feet to the ground like a five year-old.
“Quiet!” He glared at me and I instantly shushed. “You can’t make noises like that. I managed to buy us some time, but we have to keep moving.”
“Why are you being so mysterious?” I whispered.
“You’ll understand everything when the right time comes. Trust me.”
I huffed. “I hate this place already. Everything’s so dark and humid here. And I’m crawling down bat poo.”
“Would you rather be eaten alive by five-headed snakes?” His wink made me scowl.
“Why am I here?”
But he didn’t reply. Instead, he jerked my hand forward, less gently this time, and forced me down a narrower part of the tunnel. My stomach growled again.
“Can’t you use your powers to get me dinner? I’m starving.”
“And you’ve been carrying what exactly?” he glanced at my hand still clenched around the blasted chocolate box.
“Wait a sec! Have you been prying while I was unconscious?”
He chuckled but didn’t say anything.
“Well, that’s nice. Now I know I can’t trust you!”
His green eyes glowed harder as he swung around to face me. “I’m your only friend here. Remember your promise.”
I sighed and glanced at the box. What would happen if I took a bite and landed in a scarier world, alone? Then again, I didn’t know what to think of Evan, either. He seemed distant. Was he ignoring my questions on purpose or did he really not know the answers? He talked about five-headed snakes… and also said I could do anything in this world.
I womanfully ignored my complaining stomach, and focused on his supernatural glow. When a bat flew near my face, I didn’t even flinch. The Gypsy said I was destined for greatness, right? What did she even mean? And she mentioned a boy. Was Evan the one supposed to follow me? ‘Cause so far, he so was the one doing the leading!
Down, for instance, this here tunnel as it became narrower and the bat poo remained as copious as ever. I suddenly wondered whether Melissa had filed an assault claim against me and a police warrant had been issued. That stuff seemed so long ago…
Evan moved down the tunnel as if he’d done this his entire life. His hands expertly touched the walls in ways that had him almost gliding instead of crawling. I envied him. I, also, wanted to know what he knew. If I actually wasn’t dreaming or dead, I needed an explanation as to why I was here.
And what here exactly was.