Merci Pour Le Chocolat

Hikari stuffed the chocolate into her bag.

"It's really not that bad, Hikari-chan." Mokoto tried to dissuade the frown from her face, "It's the thought that counts, and that's what is important, right?"

"I guess. Thank you for allowing me into the cooking club today."

Then she left.

Her attempts at confections had been successful neither last night, early this morning nor this afternoon in Cooking Club, when she needlessly sacrificed a photography excursion just to make homemade chocolate. Valentine chocolate, specifically, that more closely resembled a real heart than a simple shape. She could barely look at it, open in the light, without bursting into tears.

But more than anything, Hikari felt upset over her own superfluous confidence and stupidity. She had inexplicably determined to make homemade chocolate for Takeru the night before, had carelessly left his pre-purchased chocolate near the stove and started on perhaps the single most catastrophic cooking expenditure since the invention of Spam. To make matters worse, the sensible chocolate originally designated for Takeru had melted into something odd and indecipherable, only to be devoured, seven minutes later, by an idiotic and food-thieving older brother.

Not deterred, though she certainly should have been, Hikari went to the convenience store early that morning and tried again. The result proved slightly better than the first, if only that it took her more time to fail the second time around. Even Taichi, ravenous as always, took one glance into the pot and steered clear of the kitchen afterwards. Hikari spent so much time cleaning up the mess that she arrived to school late; there was no time for buying chocolate at the store.

"You could have one of my chocolate boxes." said Miyako, who had called during lunch to ask on her progress, "I've got an extra one. I'll drop it off before Computer Club."

"No, that's fine, Miyako-chan."

For in reality, Hikari was too proud to beg chocolate from other girls, especially for Takeru.

In an act of final desperation she cancelled her two-week planned photography excursion to join the Cooking Club in making chocolate. She did well enough making the chocolate, but turned the heat too high near the end, boiling some of the moisture out to make a sluggish, dull mass. By the time she had re-melted, re-sweetened and gotten it into the mold, it was darker than most variations of chocolate she herself had seen; much too dark for milk chocolate, anyway, and too dull for dark chocolate. She threw the mess into her school bag and started home despondently; there would be no Valentine's Day present for Takeru.

Of all the days for me to be foolhardy, Hikari thought, I had to choose today. She headed towards the slipper room with the disastrous lump of chocolate weighing in her bag like a road block. And today was…

She sighed despondently.

Today was the day she had designated, in her mind, as the day she would tell Takeru her true feelings. About how much she looked forward to seeing him after school; how, when she's in photography club, she sneaks pictures of him while he's playing basketball. And of course, It was a little stereotypical, yes. And it would not be the first day that Hikari planned to tell him about the progression of her feelings towards him. Last week, for instance, when they stopped at the beach and the sunlight was just perfect. Or a month ago, just after Daisuke's fifteenth birthday party, when they took pictures together in Palette Town. She had started and failed; there had been awkward silences, awkward giggles and averted eyes. But today was the day she had planned to go through with it, all of it, if not for her own happiness then simply for her peace of mind.

Of course, he might have already known; Takeru being as sweet as he was, might politely decline, preferring to remain just friends, smile thoughtfully and offer to walk her home. To be honest, she had better prepared herself for this, and not allowed herself to imagine anything else. Even though she had already chickened out of telling him once, the idea that she would have to again was even more disheartening, somehow.

Hikari arrived at a desolate slipper room. She headed for her row and column, reached into her locker, groping like second nature for her street shoes and pulled out, instead, a box of chocolate.

This was strange, naturally, since it was usually girls who gave chocolate to boys on Valentine's Day. The box was small and undoubtedly expensive; slightly heavy, with the word BELGIAN written across the top in bold, English letters. It gave off the distinct scent of fine chocolate. Sweet, probably dark chocolate, with a little bit of mint in the center. She glanced around the room, almost secretively, but it was empty at this time, since she had been held late to finish cooking and clean up. Most of the cubby holes contained slippers and nothing more.

Hikari blinked brightly.

"If it's in my cubby hole, it must be mine. And if it's my chocolate…" She gently placed the box into her bag, face breaking into a smile before she could help herself, skipping out of door of the slipper room and down the hall towards the school exit.

What incredible luck! She was having trouble believing it herself. Maybe finding a wonderful box of chocolate for Takeru was a sign that she should give it to him and confess her feelings, on Valentine's Day, like the heroine of a shoujo manga. Beneath the clean sky on a grassy hill, underneath a blooming cherry tree, or in a quiet park.

Takeru, here's your Valentine's Day present. I picked it out by fate, just for you. Let's go to the park, okay? Suki-dayo, Takeru. Daisuki-yo, Takeru. Please take care of my heart.

Hikari was so excited she did not realize that, until she had almost reached the door, she had forgotten to put on her street shoes. She spun back around and returned to the slipper room where she spied her dearest Takeru, changing into his own street shoes.

Hikari's breath caught in her throat, all thoughtful fantasy evaporating in the brightness of him. Isn't this easy? Isn't talking to Takeru supposed to be easy?

She took a clumsy step forward; the sound resounded, startling him from his shoelaces.

"Hikari-chan." He smiled, standing as his uniform pants flopped easily over his shoes. "I didn't think you were still here. I've been looking for you all day."

"I…" She fought a blush rising in her cheeks, and struggled to remain casual, "…just got back from the photography excursion."

"Oh, I see. Did you get some good pictures?"

"Yes. Lots." She pulled her bag down onto her arm and reached inside, quivering slightly, fumbling through for the box she had just placed within, "Oh, before I forget…" He hands clutched it, "Happy Valentine's Day."

Then she pulled the chocolates out of her bag and thrust them out in front of her.

But much to her dismay, although much of a surprise, she held in front of her the disastrous heart she had made in Cooking Club.

Hikari's heart stopped.

Either of them stared at the deformed chocolate in awkward silence. Just as she suspected, it looked worse in the light. Since she had not let the chocolate harden properly in the refrigerator, its melted shape had somehow formed a third lump between the first two. The top hump had become longer than the first, and the point of the heart, smashed at the bottom of her school bag, had rounded off. It was horrible. It was possibly worse than horrible. The chocolate that would not be forgotten, that leapt into her hands as if vengeful about its own creation. Its dark shape glistened in satisfaction in the light of the slipper room.

"That's the wrong one!" She protested, trying to whip it back into her bag, out of sight. But Takeru was quicker; he snatched it out of her hands, holding it securely out of reach.

"What's wrong with it?"

Hikari stamped her foot, aghast now because she could feel tears in her eyes.

"Look at it! It's horrible!"

He merely looked at her.

"It looks okay to me. It's a wing, right?"

Hikari quieted abruptly as he turned the hand-made chocolate on its side. It was a horrible heart, yes, but, at a certain angle and with the right imagination, it did make a half-decent wing. She stared at it, amazed, and Takeru stared at her in expectation.

"It is, right?"

"Um…" Hikari blinked, "Yeah."

She giggled. Takeru gave her another curious look.

"What?"

"It's nothing." With her now seemingly absurd nervousness over her, she reached into her cubby hole for her street shoes. "The chocolate might not taste that good."

"I'm sure it's better than all that store-bought chocolate almost everyone else gives out. I got a Belgian Chocolate box from Miyako, but since I'm not much of a fan, I put it in your cubby hole for you. Did you see it?"

Once again, Hikari's breath caught in her throat. But she recovered much quicker this time around.

"Yeah." She smiled, " It looked delicious. Thank you."

When her street shoes were on, she stood up and threw her bag over her shoulder.

"I'm not ready to go home, just yet. Let's go out for cake."

"What's the occasion?"

Hikari turned around to face him.

It doesn't matter what comes out of my mouth right now, she thought. Takeru will find a way to make it work. Monsters into angel wings, right? She found her hand taking his, holding it tight within her own fingers, his fingers squeezing back and the luxury of knowing that this would always be okay.

"I just…" she grinned, "want an early White Day present."

Takeru blushed.

"That sounds okay."

"And afterwards, I have to tell you a secret."

"Alright."

Takeru took his bag with his free hand and they started out of the slipper room.

"What kind of secret is it?"

"The best kind."

He smiled again.

"That sounds good."

Um, yes. Like I said, belated Valentine's Day story.

Alright, first things first:

1. the whole chocolate thing

On Valentine's Day, if you didn't already catch it from lots of manga and anime, is a day when girls give chocolate to boys they care about (like in Card Captor Sakura, XXXHolic and lots of other manga). The day when boys give chocolate to girls is called White Day, which is on March 14th. It's typical to give chocolate to someone who gave you chocolate on Valentine's Day.

2. Merci Pour le Chocolat

Merci Pour le Chocolat is, in French, thanks for the chocolate. Pretty self-explanatory, really.

3. Slipper room

In Japan, you change your shoes when you go to school. Usually, they're just plain white slippers that one wears inside school, and then you change into your regular shoes before you leave. Again, it's pretty obvious in manga and anime and so forth.

4. Suki-dayo, Daisuki-yo

Although in the U.S., people are much more prone to say 'I love you', in Japan (or so I've read) it is much more common to say 'suki-dayo' (I like you) or 'daisuki-yo' (I like you a lot) to someone you care about romantically rather than 'aishiteru' (I love you). I don't speak Japanese, so I'm obviously not an expert; I'm just going on what I've read and heard. In any case, suki-dayo can also be applied to places or things that you really like, like shopping. And that concludes Artemis's know-it-all lecture on Japanese language and culture.

Um, anyway. This isn't prime Takari here (this isn't even prime writing but…), but I'm hoping this can get me in the mood to write a real, decent Takari fiction. Anyway, Boys Before Flowers will be up soon. I'm hoping some new stuff will be up soon. So…yeah.

Artemis