Sweeter Than Chocolate: A Novella Part 6


Tuesday did not come fast enough for Liz; she was anxiously awaiting the big adventure. Ian called twice a day until Tuesday. Monday night when he called and she spoke with him at length about how to dress and if she needed to bring anything. He hinted that they might see a waterfall but was not sure he could find his way there.

She did not arrive at Sinfully Sweet until 8 a.m. Martha was pleasantly pleased at her unusually late hour of arrival. She looked refreshed and happy. She was actually going out into the countryside to enjoy the spring weather and the sky was brilliantly blue with wispy clouds. Ian advised her to wear jeans and a t-shirt but to bring a sweatshirt or light jacket. The breezes in the mountain woods could still be chilly. 

At 8:30 he opened the backdoor, she purposely left unlocked for him, ready to whisk her away. They drove in his red SUV for almost two hours; she knew he purposely took the long way. She was happy to find that they conversed very easily about everything. She loved the scenery and the higher they climbed in altitude the more stunning the views became.  They pulled into a very small parking lot to a trail head that read “Snowy Falls”. She was eager to see the falls but he had warned it was quite the hike. He wore hiking boots and jeans; he pulled off his sweatshirt once he exited the vehicle. He stuffed the sweatshirt in the bag; he was comfortable in a t-shirt. He put on a large backpack and handed Liz a smaller one.  He placed the brown cowboy hat on his head with a grin.

Liz slid the backpack on over a pale yellow button up shirt. She had a sweatshirt tied around her waist. Under the buttoned shirt she had on a short sleeve t-shirt; he had warned to dress in layers. She debated wearing Capri pants but opted for jeans and thick treaded gym shoes.

The day was glorious; the trail crunched under their soles and the wind blew through their hair. Close to noon the trail came to Snowy Falls. The water fell about four stories in height and was beautiful. Liz took a photo with her phone. The cliff was a solid rock wall and water ran over the top like it was trying to learn to fly. The small clear water river moved at a rapid state in the center where it was deeper. At the base of the falls and the cliff there were several enormous boulders. One was the size of a two story home. It looked like someone had chiseled it away from the cliff and squared it off. There were many smaller rocks strewn around the river bed. The trees’ new leaves shaded most of everything near the falls.

Ian watched her face as she drank it all in. “I’ve seen people climb onto that big rock. There’s a way to get up there around the back. We’ll come back here after we eat and we can explore. We are going to eat soon, I promise.” He extended his hand and she took it. He helped her cross the river using large rocks as stepping stones. They were placed there so the trail could continue across the river.

The trail climbed higher until it reached a plateau with wide sweeping meadow grass. Ian left the trail and spread out the blanket he had brought. They sat down and rested. Liz watched as he carefully unpacked sandwiches and trail mix. He handed her a bottle of water. She took his hat off his head playfully. “It casts a shadow over your eyes,” she said looking at them, inspecting them.

“Are my dark chocolate eyes interesting to you?” he asked with a smirk.

Ignoring him, she looked away and examined the horizon. She gasped at the beauty and stood to take it all it. She walked out further in the field and Ian followed her watching her expression. The mountain ridge peaks she could see in the distance were still snowy at the tips. The blueness and crispness of the sky against the trees and the mountains made her speechless. He took her hand a squeezed because he knew words could not express what she was experiencing. She absorbed the view a while then she asked, “Why did you wait so long to bring me here?” She heard him chuckle. “Being on this grassy knoll makes me want to sing ‘The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music’”. She spun around with her arms out.

They sat back down and lunched. He watched her soaking in the vista. “You know, some things are sweeter than chocolate.”

She knew that he was not referring to the view. She chose not to look at him and sighed.  She felt warm and happy in the sunlight on the hillside. She lay back against the blue blanket and watched the sky. “You know, people are like chocolate. Think as your relationship with a person as the taste of a bite of chocolate. Every bite tastes good at first but then there’s the aftertaste. A bad relationship leaves a bitter aftertaste and a good one you savor and makes you crave more.”

“What about Mr. Riley? What kind of a taste did he leave?” he asked with a grin.

She pushed herself up on an elbow and looked at him with a smile. “He’s chocolate, alright. He’s like a chocolate bunny.” Ian looked disappointed so she continued. “Chocolate bunnies are hollow and usually have no flavor. They look pretty but leave you very unsatisfied. One bite and you usually toss them.”

He was laying on his back with his eyes closed and a big smile on his handsome face. She knew what he was going to ask next and she waited trying to decide how to answer.  “What about me?”

His answer popped out of her mouth before she thought about it. “I don’t know I haven’t really gotten a good bite out of you yet.” She sat up and took a drink of her water to hide her mortified face. She could see that he was eyeing her with a smirk and raised eyebrows.

He extended his hand. “Care to take a nibble?” Her embarrassment disappeared and she laughed hard.  She wiped her eyes and looked up the hill. Something caught her eye shining on the hillside. She focused in trying to pinpoint its location but it did not reflect again.

Ian’s eyes met hers, he was looking at her with such tenderness that she could feel her reluctant heart starting to soften.  “I have a proposition for you,” he said.

It was her turn to raise an eyebrow. “A proposal?”

“Yes, I say we meet back here in exactly one year,” he paused then added, “and you should kiss me.”

“I see. You want to wait one year to kiss me? Is that the only option?” she teased. “That should be Option A. Perhaps Option B would be: meet in a year but not kiss. Option C: Kiss and not meet. And D would be none of the above.”

He laughed. “Why stop there?”

“Option E: meet and you can kiss me. Now, let’s see . . . We can’t do ‘just meet’ again because that would be Option B so the next one would be Option F: just you kissing me,” she said.

“How about G: We kiss each other,” he suggested softly, leaning closer.

She sorted all the options in her mind and categorized them. She said happily, “H! H: would be meeting and kissing each other.” She looked at him to prompt him for more options but she realized he wanted her to pick one. Maybe she did need a kiss to help her take her mind off of sorting, categorizing and compartmentalizing every aspect of life into a business. “Do you really need me to pick one right now?”

“You gave yourself all those wonderful options,” he teased.

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