Jordan paused, his hand on the door, and looked at the sign.

“La Chocolaterie Store and Café
Closed for Private function
April 15 – 10 am to noon.”

He stepped through the door, a hesitant smile on his face. He walked to the table by the window, set especially for him and Charlene, and sat down. He pulled his balance book from his left breast pocket, and glanced at the spreadsheet of his life. 

Graduate top of class. Check.
Senior partner. Check. 
Learn to fly. Check.
Find key to Charlene’s heart. That line was blank. No checkmark because, no matter how many times he’d tried, he just hadn’t succeeded. Yet. He hoped today would be different. That today he would finally unlock her heart and that she would accept his proposal of marriage. 

He placed the book face-down on the table, removed his slim frame glasses and pinched his nose. His steel blue eyes watched the window as he tapped his silver mechanical pencil against the table. 

“She’ll come,” Shannon the waitress said. “She always comes.” 

“But she always leaves,” he sighed. “If she leaves this time, I’m afraid that I’ll never figure her out.”  He tapped his balance book. “Nothing adds up without her.” 

The waitress nodded, she’d heard his love story before. She knew how they’d met at this same table long before she started here. He’d come in for his usual. Charlene was drinking Mexican Mocha while trying to finish her taxes before midnight. 

“I didn’t have a chance. From the moment I met her, my life has been out of balance. If only I could find the key to her heart.”

“I wish my Hank was half as romantic as you are. I’d be glad to have you romance me.” 

Jordan glanced at the clock. “10:55. She’ll be here any minute. Can you prepare our coffees, please,” he asked. 

Just then Charlene flounced into the café.  She was wearing her flowing fuchsia dress, with her favorite floral scarf and summer hat. She made a beeline to Jordan, smiled and gave him a kiss. “Sorry to keep you waiting, I’m so glad you remember our anniversary.”

“I could never forget,” he said genuinely.

He rose, and held her chair for her to sit. Charlene floated into it, and settled like the foam on her favorite drink. 

“One black double espresso, triple sugar, with a touch of cocoa for you,” the waitress said, placing a tiny cup in front of Jordan. “And one Mexican Mocha for you. I’ll bring your dessert momentarily.” 

They sipped their coffees, and smiled at each other. 

“Have you found the key to my heart?”

“I hope so,” Jordan muttered. “It’s not like the first time, when I tried to give you flowers.”

“Those chocolate flowers were beautiful, Jordan, but you should have known then that I wasn’t a delicate flower,” she smiled. 

“I know better than to give you a ring.” 

“You mean that rock that you brought back from Canada?” she teased.

“I will have you know that I thought long and hard about that. No conflict diamond you said. So I chartered a plane to a diamond mine in northern Canada, mined a diamond, cut it and mounted it into this beautiful setting.” He held it out and placed it on the table.

 “Most girls would be happy to have a ring like that.”

“Well, I’m not most girls,” Charlene reminded him. 

“Thankfully,” Jordan quipped. His eyes crinkled as he smiled. “Do you remember the year that I filled my hot tub with dark chocolate?”

Charlene leaned forward and smiled wickedly.  “Yes, you spent all night trying to tease the key to my heart from me.” 

Jordan smiled, “I smelled chocolate for weeks. I thought for sure I had your heart then, but figured it would take something bigger to win your heart in the end.” 

Charlene giggled, “Whatever happened to that life-size chocolate TARDIS you had made for me? It really WAS bigger on the inside, you know.”

Jordan nodded. “I know. David Tennant helped to auction off pieces it to benefit Mothers of Area 51 Refugees.”

The waitress appeared with two plates. She placed the one with a small chocolate key beside Jordan, and the other, with a square chocolate box, in front of Charlene. 

“Not another box, Jordan.” Charlene’s voice seeped disappointment.

Jordan pushed the key across the table to her. 

“Open it, Charlene. I have to know if I’ve finally unlocked the key to your heart.” He held his breath and it was as if the world held its breath with him.  

She picked up the key, and placed it into the lock of the chocolate box. She turned it, and opened the box, as if afraid to see what was inside. 

Jordan watched as her expression went from fear to surprise to shock. She slowly reached inside. 

“Fried chicken,” she said in a reverent whisper. “You got me fried chicken.” 

Charlene picked up a piece, and raised it to her nose. “Sweet ambrosia,” she whispered.  She bit into it; her eyes flew open in surprise. She groaned in ecstasy. 

“Oh, Jordan!” she cried. “You’ve done it. You’ve found the key to my heart!” 

Jordan went on bent knee, and brought forward the ring he had tried, so many years ago, to give her. “Say you’ll marry me, Charlene!” 

“Yes, Jordan, I WILL marry you,” she answered, slipping the ring on her finger.

“Then let’s go now, the minister is waiting, and I can’t wait another moment to call you my wife.” 

Jordan picked up his ledger, and, checking the last line, closed the book. Hand in hand, they moved to the door.  

Shannon held the door for them as they left. Removing the private function sign, she shook her head and sighed. “Hard to believe, all this time, it was fried chicken.”

This story was entered in the second round of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge in October 2014. Results of this are pending. 

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