Today's first chapter comes from Chocolate Roses
by Joan SowardsPROLOGUE
In high school, my English teacher required us to read Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. I related to poor Jane not because her deceased uncle’s family abused her—because my Aunt Lucy, whom my sister Kylee and I went to live with after our parents’ fatal car accident, treated us royally—but because as an orphan, Jane had to be strong and find her own place in the world. I wanted more than anything to find my own niche in life . . . and my own Mr. Rochester.
--Janie Rose Whitaker
I had not intended to love him; the reader knows I had wrought hard to extirpate from my soul the germs of love there detected; and now, at the first renewed view of him, they spontaneously revived, great and strong! He made me love him without looking at me.
At 9:00 AM every Tuesday, Roger Wentworth walks into my chocolate shop. There is nothing unusual about his entrance. He walks in just like anybody else. I can predict his order even before he parts those perfectly shaped lips of his: one chocolate rose to be sent to Eden’s Garden—an upscale psychiatric hospital—and one small chocolate figure to take with him.
He hardly looks my way as I slip the rose and tissue into a box bearing the store’s label. As the artist, I sign the box with my name—Janie.
Tuesday is our slowest day of the week. Even though I arrive at the shop at 7:00 AM, put on my cute apron bearing the Chocolate Art Forever logo, and set to work, at 8:56 something awakens in me. Blood pumps wildly through my veins, causing my heartbeat to knock loudly in my ears. My hands shake. I try not to glance toward the door, but sure enough, at 9:00 sharp, the bell over the door chimes and in walks Mr. Gorgeous. My knees suddenly go weak.
In spite of the faraway look of sadness in his dark blue eyes, he is always dressed like he just stepped out of a Nordstrom catalog, wearing a suit and tie and colored shirt, with his dark brown hair perfectly combed. He walks up to the counter like a man with a purpose and looks over the prices—as if he doesn’t already have them memorized—posted above my specially combed Tuesday hairdo (dark and straight to the shoulders as always). He hardly looks at me, so I’ve grown to admire his profile—a lot. Then he gives me his order. Today, it is the usual Signature chocolate rose and a two-inch-high laughing clown. Last week he chose a swan.
Mr. Wentworth never signs a card, so I have no clue what relationship the recipient is to him. But since she has a dated first name, I imagine Winnie Wentworth as an elderly lady with white hair, hot-rodding around in wheelchair, completely out of her mind.
I wrap the small figure carefully (as carefully as one can with trembling hands) and he gives me his debit card. I rub my thumb over the raised letters printed there—Roger Wentworth III—and stifle a sigh as I swipe the card, knowing our hands almost touched. Sappy, huh?
I hand him his debit card, then say as professionally as possible, “Thank you, Mr. Wentworth. We’ll send the rose immediately.”
He smiles politely without ever really seeing me, takes the tiny gift box, and heads toward the door. The bell chimes again as the door closes behind him.
So, that’s the way it goes every week. Hardly any variation. Yep, it’s that predictable. And if you guessed that I’ve fallen in love with Roger, you’re right, I have. Okay, I’m infatuated, at the very least. Not that I have much hope anything will ever come of it. At first I resisted falling for him, but he won me over with the way he walks, his voice, the color of his blue eyes, even the way he pulls the wallet from his back pocket and flips out his debit card. He totally owns my heart, without even trying.
Once in a while, he will smile, which sets my heart a-thumping. Sometimes he will say, “Have a nice day,” before he turns and walks out. Seeing Roger every Tuesday makes my day, so why should he tell me to have a nice one? Oh, how I wish he would stay and talk, if only for half a minute.
I’ve imagined the way our relationship will blossom. After lingering at the counter that extra half minute for a few weeks, he will ask me for my phone number. I’ve imagined sitting beside him in his Lexus, holding hands as we walk around the temple, and even our first kiss.
But none of this has happened. He still treats me as if I’m merely the counter girl, week after week.
I know. I’m hopeless. Someday I will lift the extended counter separating me from the public, walk out there, and put out my hand. “Hi, I’m Janie,” I’ll say. “Shall we sit and get to know each other?” I’ll point to one of our four parlor tables with matching chairs, and he’ll gladly sit. We’ll talk, and then he will ask me out to dinner.
Such fantasy. At the rate this relationship is going now, it will never happen.
So, you ask, who is this hopeless person? My name is Janie Rose Whitaker. My sister Kylee and I own Chocolate Art Forever, a small shop in downtown Tempe, Arizona. Kylee is the brains of our outfit—accountant, advertiser, store manager—and I am the talent. I wish I could also say I’m the beauty, but I’ll have to settle for talent. Blame it on the chocolate.
I am single, of course, or I wouldn’t be gawking over Roger Wentworth every Tuesday morning. And I am twenty-seven, so I’m still categorized as a “young adult” in our Mormon culture.
Besides Kylee and me, six people work in our shop. There’s Carmen, who comes in every morning at 5:00 and looks after the chocolate-making cycle (what would I do without her?). Then there’s Carmen’s teenage daughter Cricket, who has that name because she has an eternal, random hiccupping problem. There’s Linc, our deliveryman, and Willa (named after Willa Cather), who is our jack-of-all-adventures afternoon help. Our shop is open Friday and Saturday evenings to catch the downtown Tempe nightlife, and Tessa and Frank Ship, a semi-retired couple, take over at 5:00 PM.
As you can see, each person on my staff is unique and important. Oops! I’ve dumped a lot of information on you. Can you remember it all? You’d better because there is a quiz later (really).
If you want to read beyond the first chapter, you can purchase Chocolate Roses from Deseret Book, Amazon, and of course your local LDS bookstore.