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." -Jane Eyre
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).
'"For one thing, I have no father or mother, no brothers. . . ."
"You have a kind aunt."' -Jane Eyre
One day, after Roger Wentworth left the shop and our morning rush was over, I went to work in the kitchen as usual. Carmen finished dipping truffles and went home for the day. October had arrived, so we were filling molds with fall and Halloween themes.
I heard the back door of the shop swing open. “Hi, Janie!” Kylee called. She bounced in, full of enthusiasm and energy, her shoulder-length brown curls boing-ing as she walked, like a high school cheerleader’s. Well, she’s always been my cheerleader and confidante. “All going well?” she asked as she grabbed a clean Chocolate Art Forever apron and entered the office. (Our store has an office, kitchen, and shop. Simple.)
“Just fine. We’ve had more than the usual number of customers already this morning.”
“And the reticent Mr. Wentworth?” she asked, tying the apron.
I didn’t miss the glint in her eye. You see, she knew about my secret infatuation. So did everyone in the shop, so I guess it really wasn’t a secret.
I stood in the office doorway. “He just left.” “Did you get any information from him?”
On Tuesdays, the first topic every employee in the shop asked about was Roger Wentworth.
“No,” I said. “I didn’t try.” “What did he order? Another swan?” “No. A clown.” “He hasn’t chosen that before.” She pulled that week’s folder
of bills from the file and started thumbing through them. Even Kylee, who is happily married to big-guy Boy Scouter and high school PE coach Jim Arnold, and Carmen, who is a widow and about fifty years old, couldn’t resist peeking when the attractive Mr. Wentworth came in the shop. No other customer created as much discussion in our shop as he did. The back door opened again and in walked Linc, our
delivery person. “Hi, Kylee,” I heard him say. “How are your bambinos today?”
“Fine. They’re all fine.” She didn’t sound interested in chatting, probably because she was already submerged in paperwork.
He walked into the kitchen. “You set?” he asked. I glanced at him. His shoulder-length hair was braided in
cornrows—a new style for him. “Well, look at you. Have you been to the beauty parlor?”
“Nah.” He grinned. “The girl next door wanted to practice on me last night. You like?”
“The girl next door?” I said with a deliberate hint of teasing. “Is she cute?”
As he turned around to give me a view of the back of his hair, the braids flipped with him. “She’s a hottie but a religious freak.”
I chuckled. In Linc’s mind, someone who occasionally took the Lord’s name in vain was religious. I love that kid like a brother but I don’t push the Church on anyone. I only speak in generalities on certain points if the subject lends itself.
“Are the deliveries ready?” He tossed the truck keys in the air and caught them.
“All ready.” I motioned toward the boxes stacked on the counter. “Except for this rose going to Eden’s Garden. Give me a minute. I still have to tie the bow.”
Linc leaned his slight frame on the counter. “That place gives me the creeps.”
“What do you mean?” I glanced up from cutting pink ribbon.
“Nothin’. It has them beautiful gardens and all, but going inside is jus’ eerie. I leave the box with the old chica at the front desk and practically run out. Can’t relax at all ’til I’m outta there.”
“Well,” I said, re-tucking the tissue and closing the pink and brown box. “I’m sure Winnie appreciates your bravery.” I added my signature.
“Who is Winnie, anyway? A patient?”
“Or an employee. I don’t know, and it’s none of our business.”
“Sure it is,” Linc said. “This is our business, so it’s our business.”
“May I remind you that our code of conduct is professionalism? See my nose?” I pointed to the center attraction of my face. “It’s short for a reason.”
“Yes, and it’s lovely, too,” he said with mock flattery. “Next time that Wentworth dude walks in, just say, ‘Oh, is Winnie an employee there? He’ll say yes or no, and then we’ll know.”
“Or he will tell me it is none of my business.”
“And then we’ll know.” He raised an eyebrow. “Why wouldn’t he say—unless she’s one of the nuts in that nuthouse?”
“Linc! Have some respect for the mentally ill. I hope you don’t say those things when you’re at the hospital.”
“You know ol’ Linc has more class than that, but just remember, everybody is a freak to somebody.”
“Yeah, look at you!” I motioned toward his braids. He grinned as I handed him the box. “Now get on your way,” I urged. “If you’re feeling brave, you can flirt the receptionist into telling you about Winnie.” Linc shuddered, shook his head, and left with the
Linc’s full name is Lincoln Rockefeller Gates. Impressed? Don’t be. There’s no relation to the big guys. He’s short for his twenty-one years. We discovered him in our shop practically drooling on the glass over a chocolate bunny, of all things. So, in order to keep our glass clean—and besides, he was so cute and had “Will Work for Chocolate” written across his forehead in invisible ink—and since we were desperate for a driver, I offered him a job. Plus, he is half Hispanic and half black, so he adds a little ethic diversity to our shop.
The morning passed quickly. Though business practically squeals to a halt during the hour before noon, the store’s door chime was ringing almost constantly by 11:30. Kylee and I boxed orders as quickly as we could.
At noon, without warning, in walked Roger Wentworth. I thought I was dreaming, for the man often appears in my dreams. He sauntered over to the glass showcase and waited. The woman I was waiting on recited a long list of items she wanted, including two pounds of pecan fudge. I wished she had a built-in “pause” button so I could wait on Roger first.
Kylee glanced at me knowingly. “I’ll be right with you,” she said to Roger.
“No hurry.” He slid his hands into his pocket and leaned against the glass case.
Kylee finished with her customer and handed the woman a bag bearing the Chocolate Art Forever logo. “Thank you for stopping in,” Kylee said warmly, and then turned to Roger. “How may I help you?’
“I need something for an administrative assistant, a woman. It’s her birthday,” he explained. “How about this happy-birthday balloon bouquet?” He pointed to the sign with the price clearly marked.
“A good choice,” Kylee said a bit too enthusiastically. After getting a box and some pink tissue, she opened the case and carefully removed the chocolate balloon bouquet.
Blood pounded in my ears. Roger Wentworth stood close enough that I could have reached out and touched him. His eyes were a deeper blue than ever, and his dark chocolate hair called out for me to run my fingers through it. And those lips!—well, maybe I shouldn’t go there. The worry lines on his brow and a scar under his left ear were the only flaws on that beautiful man, beside the eternal sadness in his eyes.
I don’t know why I said it. “Your order for Winnie Wentworth has been sent out already.” I probably sounded like a ten-year-old girl trying to act older than her age.
Roger glanced up briefly. “Thanks,” he said, studying my face a moment as if trying to remember if we had met. I don’t think he came up with any memory of me, because he only said goodbye, turned, and walked out of the store.
“Have a nice day!” I called after him, but he must not have heard me.
I hope you enjoyed this short introduction to Chocolate Roses.
Chocolate Roses is available at LDS bookstores and on Amazon.