The Taste of Chocolate
The clock roared and his father’s knife screamed as it was dragged across a dinner plate. Brin chewed, always slow, always silent, staring at the dinner in front of him. To make a wrong move would be disastrous, and so every muscle in his body strained with tension. Their dimly lit house was always like this. The oppressive atmosphere was as familiar to Brin as the battered table off which they ate. Silent breakfasts, silent dinners, silent lunches. It was a sombre existence, but he knew little else; his memories of happier times had faded long ago.
Though related, the two Aishas sitting at the table could not have looked more different. Brin was petite, with chocolate brown fur and eyes filled with curiosity that was only somewhat sated by his extensive book collection. His father, on the other hand, was fat and sluggish, his once shiny black coat now faded to a dull grey.
After dinner, Brin retired to his room and pulled out his favourite book. It wasn’t an adventure book, or a comedy, but a cookbook, a well-loved copy of 101 Recipes for the Amateur Chocolatier that he kept hidden under his bed. His father had made perfectly clear his opinion on chocolate.
“Useless,” he said. “Frivolous. Pointless. No nutrition in it whatsoever. A waste of space, just like you.”
Useless. The word bounced aimlessly around Brin’s mind. What was the point in his existence? All he did was cook and clean for his father, who was rarely satisfied by any of his efforts. All of a sudden, he had a burning desire to get out.
“Father?” he asked, timidly, knocking on his door.
“I... I was wondering.” Brin paused for a moment. “I was wondering if perhaps I could go and stay with Aunt Millicent for a little while. I guess she must get lonely all by herself.”
The door opened and Brin’s father glared down at him.
“What have we said about leaving the house?”
The little Aisha bit his lip. “I am not to leave. I am a freak and people would reject me. It’s safer in here. This is for my own good.”
His father nodded, and the door slammed in his face, leaving him alone in the decrepit corridor. Years of loneliness welled up in Brin’s eyes. It was all the fault of that stupid, stupid lab ray. As a child, he’d volunteered to be zapped, dreaming of faerie wings or an elegant blue tail. Instead, he was cursed with this. Cursed with being chocolate, the most disgusting colour. The colour everyone hated. Even mutants were accepted, but not him, never him. All his life, his father told Brin how lucky he was that he allowed his to stay in his house, despite his “deformity”.
Weeping silently- it would not do to let emotion show too wildly in this house- Brin shut his bedroom door and sat on his bed, looking longingly out of the skylight, thinking of the world outside that he would never know again. It was a difficult burden, to be locked in this house, but Brin bore it well.
Wiping away his tears, Brin gently slid the cookbook out from under his bed. If chocolate was so disgusting, why did people want to cook with it? He didn’t understand. But that night, with the light of the stars making patterns on his wall, Brin made a decision. The next morning, as soon as his father left for work, he would leave the house in disguise and find out the truth about the outside world. Just one day couldn’t hurt, could it? With that thought, a slightly comforted chocolate Aisha slipped off to sleep.
Brin awoke early the next morning, his stomach churning with worry. What if he was caught? What would his father say? How could he be so ungrateful to the only person who would accept him? A mixture of guilt and fear welled up inside him, but he managed to control it until finally, half an hour late and grumbling about the weather, his father left for work.
Donning a thick hat and jumper, Brin thought he could pass for a plain brown Aisha, who would easily be accepted by society. With his heart racing, he opened the front door and stepped into the sunshine for the first time in five years.
Oh, by Fyora, that felt good! A fresh breeze tickled his face and a feeling of utter freedom came over him. Smiling as wide as he’d ever smiled before, Brin rushed forward, singing and dancing and kicking up the leaves that had settled by the side of the pavement. It took a few moments for his elation to settle before he noticed someone watching him. Sitting on a bench across the street was a beautifully groomed disco Aisha, grinning wickedly at Brin.
“You look like you haven’t been outside in years!” she exclaimed, gesturing for Brin to come over to her.
“Yes... yes, I suppose I do,” he mumbled, unaccustomed to speaking to anyone his own age, let alone someone so glamorous. The disco Aisha patted the bench beside her and Brin sat down- if there was one thing he was used to, it was obeying orders.
“What’s your name?” The Aisha smiled. “I’m Esrain.”
“Brinmor. But I just get called Brin for short.”
“Aren’t you boiling in that hat, Brin? It’s really warm for this time of year.” Esrain pulled a prettily decorated box out of her pocket. “Would you mind doing me a favour?”
“No, of course not!” Brin was eager to please.
Esrain handed him the box. “I’m opening my own bakery and I need a second opinion on these cupcakes. All of my own family are too busy to try them out for me. The one on the right is lemon and on the left is chocolate- I’ll probably sell them both eventually, but I need to just pick one while I’m starting out.”
Brin opened the box and stared at the cupcakes inside. “Chocolate... will people want to buy that?”
“Of course! What rock do you live under? Everyone loves chocolate. I could absolutely live on it, but I don’t think that would be very good for my health.”
A suspicion that had lived in the back of Brin’s mind ever since the incident with the lab ray burned to the surface. Everyone loves chocolate. Of course, that’s why they would want 101 recipes involving it. And if everyone loved chocolate, surely they would love chocolate pets too? Could it be... could it be true that his father had lied to him for all these years? Kept him hidden away for fear he would find a better life, one that didn’t involve darning socks and cooking meals day and night?
Esrain was looking intently at Brin, waiting for his judgement on the cupcakes. But before taking that first bite, there was something he had to know. “And chocolate pets... people don’t mind them, do they?”
Esrain was nonplussed. “Mind them? They adore them! One of my friends, a chocolate Xweetok was put up for adoption and she got absolutely tonnes of applications, really lovely ones too. You’re a strange one, Brin, do you know that? You don’t know anything!”
Brin beamed and pulled off his hat, revealing long ears decorated with sprinkles. “I do know some things! This bakery of yours, do you need some help with it? I don’t need to be paid or anything- just maybe somewhere to stay?”
Esrain put her arm around the other Aisha. “Of course, I’d love to have you. Now will try those cupcakes, please?”
Brin took a bite. He tasted the sweetness of chocolate for the very first time, and also the sweetness of something else.