Paper and Chocolates

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
Lizzia is a supersensory teenager who's moved into a cosy apartment building to escape her past. There, in school, her decorations, and an old Italian immigrant friend named Jimmy, she finally finds peace. But she has a secret--she's a writer. When things go topsy-turvy, she finally discovers something about pen to paper that shocks her and her world.

Submitted: March 04, 2019

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Submitted: March 04, 2019

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It was a long walk home. But I’m used to long walks.

I stared into the sky. Saw the gentle sweep of a brush, spreading grey watercolour over the pearly white landscape, every speck of light as soft and tender as baby’s skin, lustre dust gleaming in the cracks of the sky.

A cold raindrop landed in my mass of frizzy brown hair and slid down my honey-beige, freckled face. More came, splattering across red sweater and jeans. A raindrop landed on my eyelashes, hanging just in view of my large brown-ebony eyes, before falling like a star. I placed one foot in front of another, admiring the way the rain beaded on my slip-on white canvas shoes.

I’m blessed and cursed with hypersensitivity. I can sense the rustle of every blade of grass. I can hear every shift of the wind. Rain smells as powerful as spaghetti sauce on the stove, and the crackles of fire; each is distinct, but unified in harmony. That’s why I write.

I panic because of the time, but then relax because I don’t have to worry about time like I did back when I still lived with...them. I couldn’t even think of it. I hitch my canvas knapsack farther up my back, feeling the collection of notebooks bounce around inside it, and begin the long walk home.

 

My apartment door is painted bright red. Inside is my simple, but cosy, two-room home. The kitchen is warm - birch cabinets with a slate-coloured stove and island to the left, a simple dining table to the right. It too is made of birch, with its top the same colour as the stove. Strings of lights line the ceiling, a milky glow over the grey-blue walls. A pendant light hangs over the table. Shelves overflowing with plants, statuettes and trinkets hang off the walls.

I peer through the doorway into the other room. The walls are the same colour and hung with the same lights. There’s a daybed to the side that’s right next to my desk, which is pushed up in a corner, covered in books (though with an ironically placed half-empty bookshelf over it). A console table has a printer and two charging stations, touching corners with a piano.

Friday is looking up, I think as I walk into my kitchen, smiling. It’s the last day before break. My Mac is soon on the table, whirring in anticipation. There’s a certain amount of grace and power to typing. Your fingers rumble across the keys like bulls charging in unison, while the clockwork of the rhythm brings an iron-wrought story together.

Currently, my tale is of a girl away from her parents, sitting in an apartment building waiting for the clock to chime 8:45 so she can see her friend in the snow. But who shall her friend be? I wonder, then stare at the clock on the wall. It’s feathered with post-it notes.

Jimmy.

I’m going to see Jimmy.

I hurry to the door, take the red sweater off its hook and fling it on, then run out into the catwalk in my apartment hall. I tap my watch. Light illuminates its face, telling me it’s 8:40 PM. There are no messages from...them. Good.

That gives me enough time to be able to take a stroll and enjoy the flakes as they fall. A light layer of virgin snow is already on the ground. Clumps of snow are pushed aside by my feet as I ascend the stairs to the rooftop.

When I get there, an old man is hunched in the snow. He isn’t cold, as he has on his houndstooth overcoat and newsboy cap. His hair is the same colour as the snow. He doesn’t look up until I cross the brick roof to the other side and sit down next to him, brushing a clear spot.

He looks up slowly when I approach and smiles. His face is speckled, and even in old age, he’s handsome. Full cheekbones with skin stretched tight under them when he smiles, ivory-coloured teeth, and dark eyes that disappear into his face when he smiles - dark eyes like the chocolates he consumes constantly from a bag like the one he’s holding now. When he speaks, it’s in a bullfrog rasp, but with a beautiful accent to it, like smoke and perfume.

Ciao, Lizzia.”

“Hello, Jimmy.” At his offering, I take a chocolate from the bag and pop it into my mouth. This bag has chocolate with caramel. I savour its rich taste. “Where have you been all this week, l’uomo vecchio? Old man.

“I like’a dees new cioccolato,” he said. “I vos buying it.”

Jimmy Ciacello is Italian. He came through Ellis Island when he was “il Ragazzo”, about nine. His mother and sister had to leave his sick, delirious father behind. It killed him. Like it killed me when I did the same, years ago. I tried not to remember it. Same with him. But the memories, swirling in his eyes like glass balls, painted the same portraits of scared expressions, gaunt faces, and long chocolate curls. I could see the stories reflected in his eyes. I wonder if my eyes were the same, full of dejected figures.

“You write-a someting again?”

“Not anything great,” I say, taking the waxed paper package out from under my arm and undoing the twine string of my own quirky enclosure. Jimmy’s nine fingers (he’s missing a thumb from butchershop work), sculpted as hard and strong as the sausages he worked with as a little boy, shook a little but gripped the paper, turning it over to see the inked side, the words and symbols.

“It’s not finished,” I say as his eyes sweep the paper, “but it’s about a girl who lives in a two-room apartment and got isolated from her adopted parents. She makes it as a writer because of…”

But one of his still-graceful wrists flicks me away. He’s already lost in the characters and curious plot. It’s not finished yet, but I’ve already braided it. I’ve only yet to tie the hair ribbon, I winked. He smiles, showing his ivory teeth in a wide, wrinkled smile. The type that makes his eyes disappear.

I smile.

He turns over the last page. “Nice! I’ve’a gotta be in by nine, so I’d better leave. Arrivederci, Bella!”

“Arrivederci, Jimmy,” I say, watching the paper disappear under his arm, wrapped in its wax paper and the twine wrapped together. Far below, I hear the cacophony of bike gears, cars, and pedestrians’ ambient voices. I descend the wrought-iron stairs and enter my apartment.

 

The next morning, I get up. It’s the weekend, and there won’t be any school for another week because of the break, so I’m up at 6:30. I pour myself a strong cup of tea, watch the burgundy-amber liquid swirling around inside, the bubbles appear on the surface, like glass pebbles.

Ten minutes later, I’m dressed. My two cats, Rose and Roan, short-hairs, prowl about my bubble chair. Roan, a handsome grey-blue just like my walls, sits in the chair, contrasting with the screaming red fabric. Rose is a ginger-red cat, like her name, and as gentle and soft, too.

Today, I’m going to see Jimmy again. I spend the day in idleness, sipping tea and working on my story. This story to me resembles a long drive with several detours; the passengers are frustrated, but eventually, the drive brings us to quiltlike plains with orchards of citrus, and sapphire oceans with a glowing orange horizon above the sea. I like the sound of whatever my protagonist is buying, but I now decide that I’d rather like to buy something too, so I power off my laptop and stand up.

I decide to head downtown to the market. It has a café inside it, which is where I normally pick up breakfast. I seldom cook my own breakfast. When you walk in, you see on the walls a mural of a Chinese market with colourful tents and beautiful trees. The mural’s ground is elevated with a stream flowing underneath, and paintings of red apples and yellow bananas to purple dragon-fruit and grey-brown kiwi, also with rows of pink, red, and white hams, meats, and blond to dark loaves and rods of sculpted, baked bread, reflecting the market itself.

I stand there for a moment, taking in the scents of the herbs and the smell of cold in the ham freezer. Then, I march off to the café.

My purchase includes a pair of plump oranges, a few mint leaves and a bag of mixed chocolates. I love all three of them together. Maybe when I see Jimmy, we can split the loot.

I smell the juice, the powerful cocoa and milk, the relaxed tang of the mint herb. It’s all beautiful. It’s all one. Just like found harmony after leaving...them.

Hood up, I hurry home.

 

“So,  ragazza, you never told me why that gal lefter family,” Jimmy asks me as I sit forlornly on the roof, watching the cars and lights move below. When I say nothing, he prompts me gently, “Does she gotta no money? Parents drink too much? Feel scared? What she do?”

I start to say I hadn’t figured out what was going to happen yet, which was a dead lie, but what I blurted was nothing about the character. “My parents were lying drunks and horrible drug abusers, Jimmy. They weren’t even my parents. My real father died of fever when I was six, and I volunteered to be up for adoption because my mother couldn’t take care of both my sister and me.”

“The couple that picked me...well, they didn’t think there was any reason to get a child other than the government benefits and tax deductions. I was six, so that was the time where my personality began to actually take shape. For a while, they would just ignore me around the house, and I found ways to make ends meet for myself. I could go out of the house and buy myself basics and such with coins that I could scrounge up. But I grew up too fast. When I got to be ten, my adopted mother started yelling at me for typing too much when she was trying to have a smoke or a drink. I also began going to others’ houses and realised that no kid grew up like this. When I got to be fourteen, my adopted father kicked me out of the house.”

I huff, seeing my breath steam into a cloud before my face. Tears trickle down my cheeks. They say it all.

Jimmy and I sit in silence for a while. And somewhere inside me, the character I’m telling the fate of is here, too. She’s sitting next to me, with her honey-beige, freckled face masked with a mass of frizzy brown hair. Eventually, Jimmy has to go. I sit in the silence for a while, till it becomes too cold to stay.

I stumble into my apartment, bleary-eyed and crying. That's when I see the large grocery bag sitting on my table. I realize that I forgot to take the oranges, chocolates and mint to share with Jimmy.

 

“I have to see him.”

I’m in a sterile waiting room the next day. The walls have happy elders in paintings on the walls. There are vases of fake flowers sitting on tables. To me, the complete lack of sensory intake is absolute torture, but I’m focused on the nurse. She has champagne-blonde hair, pulled back into a low bun on her head, and she wears a white cloth dress, starched and clean. Her face is pinched like a dog’s bottom as she speaks.

“But he’s my friend,” I protest. “Jimmy’s my friend! He has nobody else! No kids! No wife!”

She purses her lips. “I’m sorry. You can’t see him.”

I’m getting desperate. Tears slide down my face.

A muscular EMT with a bowl cut sticks his head into the doorway that leads to the first hallway of patients. “Mrs Greful?” he asks.

“Yes?” the nurse snaps.

“There was nothing we could do for Mr Ciacello. He didn’t make it.”

Something about their resigned looks echoed as I saw it in the nurse’s eyes and then in the EMT’s eyes as he pulled back into the doorway. They were both used to death. New patients passing in and out before their eyes.

All I could do was run. I ran out the door, out the step, into the snowy street, down the street. Past light posts, pedestrians, and customers. Workers on leave, men in suits. I ran for what seemed like hours, finally arriving back at the market café.

I didn’t want to go inside. I didn’t want to. I didn’t like it anymore. I wanted to hurl those oranges back into their places, break all the chocolates with a sledgehammer, to rip the mint leaves like paper. But I didn’t. And I was hungry. I didn’t eat dinner the last night I saw Jimmy. I needed food. So I walked in, out of breath.

Inside, the tables were full of people, each reading a paper packet. All of them. I was confused, so I went to the barista in the front: “Excuse me, ma’am. Is the café reserved for a meeting or gathering…” My voice faltered. She was reading a packet too but put it down to serve me.

“No,” she says. “An old man passed away, but in his last moments, he had an orderly run a package to this café for distribution to any customers present. They’re stories. The most beautiful little stories wrapped up in wax paper. Would you like to read one?”

I nod slowly and deliberately, walking over to the newspaper stand, an odd tingling in my stomach. The titles were familiar…

There’s one about a child prodigy, called Alexandrine’s Notebooks. One abouta revolution lead by a radio, called This Tape Needs Editing. My breath catches, as my heart is in my throat. I scan each line of very familiar writing.

Jimmy has willed my writings to the people of the market.

One story stands out the most: Paper and Chocolates. I don’t read the entire thing but skim it delicately. What seemed close, but odd, about this story was suddenly clear.

I’d written my own story, the entire thing.

As I looked around at the many shades of hair, skin, eyes and clothing, I thought in a mind-bending moment of wonder, Are we all writing our own stories?

 
 
 
 
 
 
 


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