Tradition by Proxy

by Amy L. Hull amilynh at comcast dot net

drabble series written for: blue in the Yuletide 2008 Challenge

Thanks to Tammy and Merlin Missy for the betas.

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"You will leave my daughter alone!"

Vianne made a face at the boy her mother had just pushed to the ground. She walked away, her head proudly held high.

The next time the boy called her mother names, she pushed him down herself.

The teacher punished her then. And when she took a small boy's stolen lunch back by force, and when she knocked over two boys for pouring ink on another girl's dress and making her cry.

Before Vianne and her mother left that town, children were a force to be reckoned with, and only bullies went home crying.

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The morning Chitza was late waking to open the shop was Vianne's first--but unheeded--warning.

By the time her mother collapsed in a puddle of hot chocolate and broken china, it was almost over.

Somehow Vianne had always imagined her mother old and wrinkled like dry paper until the north wind blew her away like so much confetti. Instead, an hour before dawn, 37-year-old Chitza died, leaving the room suffused with a rich chocolate fragrance.

A month later, urn sitting nearby, Vianne's chest ached as she rolled chocolates for the opening of her own shop in a new town.

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Vianne leaned against the wall of the stairwell, watching.

Josephine's hands gently guided Anouk's and together they squeezed from the bag uniform chocolate spheres with tiny twirls for caps.

The warm tones of the walls reflected from Anouk's hair. Her head, even bent in concentration, came up well past Josephine's shoulder. Her smile was radiant.

A whisper of regret nagged: her mother's hands had guided hers; she was meant to guide Anouk's to the secrets of their ancestors.

But the clever wind blew Josephine into their lives and now hands Vianne had taught guided Anouk, keeping the family circle unbroken.

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A bell jingled.

"We're not open!"

"Josephine? I've brought the chocolates you ordered."

She stood, wiping the sharp smell of lye from her hands. "Vianne." They kissed in greeting and Josephine set the basket on the bar. "Thank you."

"Ready for your big night?"

"Yes, I just need your help with the name."

"Nonsense. You'll find it."

"I have. I'd like you to paint the sign: Café Armande."

Vianne squeezed her hand. "It's perfect. She would be honored."

"She'd have haunted me if I'd chosen anything else."

Vianne's golden laugh echoed. "Now that you've invited her? I'm sure she will."

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"Could I buy a cup of hot chocolate, please?" Sunlight spilled around Josephine through the door.

Vianne finished pouring the second cupful, each by a plate of biscuits. "Just this once, it's on the house." Her smile was impish as she added the pinch of chili.

Josephine sat opposite the counter on her usual stool. "To fifteen years of good chocolate and good friendship."

They clinked their cups.

"I can hardly believe it's been so long. I have never been five years in one place until this town."

"It suits us all." They held one another's gaze and drank deeply.

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When Vianne died, Roux's grand-niece crafted a clay pot with a lid resembling the spinning plate. Anouk painted the pot to match Chocolaterie walls and sign, and they put Vianne's ashes in it.

Even years later, Josephine lit a candle on the pot's shelf every morning when she visited the shop.

Anouk's daughter finally declared that her grandmere had never been one to be contained, and that it wasn't fair to keep her on a shelf in death.

Josephine stormed out, slamming the door. But the morning after the next north wind there was no candle and an empty pot.

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