By Heather Stiles
I was making chocolate truffles, and the dark sweet cream was still on my hands as I opened the door for Andre. Last night when we first met, I knew we would be seeing each other again. Wiping my fingers on a dishcloth, I noticed he was at ease standing at my door, waiting to be invited in. He was wearing faded jeans and a bright purple sweater that lightly hugged his trim French frame.
“Surprise. When you told me last night what you were making, I wanted to come and watch.”
Handing me a bottle of Sandeman 20-Year Tawny Port, he stepped through the door and turning to me, said, “Celia, you look different.”
“When I know, I will tell you.”
I decided to keep working and sat at the kitchen table, rolling the last one. I felt vaguely uneasy, as though the chocolate and caffeine seeped through my fingertips into my thoughts. I was sure he could sense it. At least we could drink the wine.
“Why not bring two glasses from the cabinet over the sink?”
My eyes followed the sinuous line of his back as he reached up and brought down two small goblets. His forearms were tanned and his hands were compact and strong.
He took a seat across from me. The sunlight from the window was in his eyes. They were the color of honey and molasses. I remembered them in the street light last night when we talked about meeting again.
He poured us each a full glass and held mine out to me. I took it, pushing the tray of chocolate towards him.
“Here, try one.”
He smiled, chose the big one in the middle, and held it to his mouth for a moment before biting it gently in half. I watched his lips darken as he grinned through the chocolate melting on his tongue.
I put the smallest one whole into my mouth and took a sip of port. The mysterious taste of Africa lifted and melted in my mouth, leaving only a sweet, buttery aftertaste. Running my tongue over my teeth, I washed the rest back with another mouthful of wine. I looked across at him, considering how it might feel to try and love again.
“These are wonderful, Celia.”
He watched me, slowly eating the rest and sipping from his glass.
“Now I know what it is. You are at home. You are yourself. I see the real Celia, the one with chocolate on her hands.”
I searched his face, wondering how it might taste to kiss his mouth. Looking down at my hands still covered in chocolate, I felt my face flush and I reached for something else to say. Last night when we met for the first time, it was so much easier. Here came the old familiar panic.
“It makes me sad,” I said, taking another powdered nugget. “to think it’s the end of summer. The light’s already starting to fade. It’s getting cool and the street life is going away, too.”
“Mmm. I know what you mean,” he said, choosing another truffle. Then he put it down in front of him and said, “My neighborhood gets too quiet when the tourists are gone. It makes me want to go somewhere that’s still warm and sunny. I suppose l miss Marseilles, even though I love it here in San Francisco.”
He looked over my shoulder and I saw a memory cross his face. I decided not to ask and took a chance with one of my own.
“When I want to get away, I drive north along the Mendocino coast. The summer lasts another month up there. The air stays warm and the empty streets feel like they belong to you.”
I thought to myself about that time with Robert and the hotel in Bodega Bay in a room made out of a water tower. At night we listened to the waves. In the morning we climbed the stairs.
“Excuse me, Celia. I have to go.”
He got up, taking his keys out of his pocket. We walked to the doorm and he turned to me.
“Can I call you tomorrow?”
I closed the door and heard his footsteps on the stone pathway outside. The kitchen was silent again as I thought about Bodega Bay. I took the plate of truffles, the port, and sat down to think about Andre.
Something made me walk to the door. I opened it and saw him walking back, with a question in his eyes.
Stockbroker by day and writer by night. This is Heather Stile’s first ever submission to a publication, and her fingers are tightly crossed.. Contact Heather.
THANKS HEALTHER! WE LOVED THE STORY, NOW TELL OUR READERS A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF.
I am a flash fiction writer, my debut piece has just been published on Long Story Short. I earned my Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of New Mexico and a Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture from the University of California at Berkeley.
I have been a stockbroker and financial planner since 1981, but continued working in large-scale, eight-foot high, ceramic sculpture.
I began writing stories of my overseas experiences, taking classes and attending workshops. I came to realize fiction offered unlimited creative expression, without being tied to studio space or a massive gas-fired kiln.
Q. What would you want our readers to know about you?
I am formerly a large-scale clay sculptor, and find writing liberating. The single best decision I have made as a writer was to begin sharing my work with writing groups.
Q. Do you write in a particular genre? If so, what genre is it?
Each story is different, I don't have a formula or genre, but am attracted to magic realism and humor.
Q. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
I believe that strong voice can carry a story a long way. Brevity and sympathy for your reader are vital.
Q. How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
For me, plot comes first - characters arrive, ready to play their part. I use the "camera on the shoulder" P.O.V because it feels natural after decades of fascination with film. I love writing dialog. I see a scene in my head and words come tumbling out.
Q. What do you do to unwind and relax?
I run, alone, for uninterrupted time to develop ideas, work through story-lines and forget about motherhood and money.
Q. What inspires you? Who inspires you?
Graham Greene, Thomas Hardy, O. Henry and Kurt Vonnegut. I'm inspired by irony. Look around, it's everywhere.
Q. Are you working on any projects right now?
I am working on a World War II love/adventure story based on my parent's romance, beginning in China and ending in San Francisco.
Q. What is most frustrating about writing? Most rewarding?
Finding time to write is challenging, but the rewards are the luxury of a private life that I can take anywhere.
Q. If I were sitting down to write my very first story, what would your advice be?
Find the one incident that changed your life and write down everything you can recall about that memory: time, place, site, sound, smell, the people and the emotional significance of the moment. Keep writing until you rung all the juice out of it. Now do it again for your next character (who is not you).
Q. What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
Don't be shy. Join a group. Now.