Phaedra was stirring a pot of chocolate in a double-boiler, drizzling
in milk. Brother Lapis had arrived earlier than was his usual custom
tonight. He was a good lover, attentive in bed, and didn’t make demands
on her time otherwise, so she never minded when he arrived earlier than
“I should make a habit of coming for supper more often,” Lapis said
as he lifted the cover on the stew pot to see what she had made. “At
least I know I am not being dosed here.”
“It’s in the puddings. I’ve been ordered never to share my portion.”
“I had no idea,” Phaedra said, taking a playful swat at him with the
wooden spoon, leaving a smear of chocolate on his hand. “Valentines is
coming.” From the corner of her eye she saw him lick the chocolate from
the back of his hand before he wiped his hands with one of the folded
cloths she kept folded on the butchers block.
She removed the double boiler from the heat and turned to look at
Lapis. He lifted his fingers to his mouth, puzzled and looked up at her.
His eyes were uncharacteristically wide and, very oddly, were shining
“I….I’ll never love you enough, Phaedra.” His lip quivered, he put
his hand to his forehead and sank to the floor. “I don’t deserve you. I
don’t know how you can stand me.”
Phaedra frowned down at him, he looked up at her, his face streaked with tears. “Oh dear,” she said to herself. “Too strong.”
“You’ll leave me. Please don’t leave me. But I deserve to be left
I…I’ll do anything,” he said through a sob, “anything at all.”
She rolled her eyes heavenward. From a kettle she poured a glass of
chocolate and sprinkled a bit of red powder into it. “Anything?” she
“Anything. God, anything. Just tell me what to do.”
e took the cup obediently from her hands and took a sip, blew on it,
and took a longer drink. Within a few moments his face clouded with
confusion and he stood up from the floor.
“What the hell was that?” he asked.
“Too much milk, apparently.” She sighed and made a note in her recipe
book. “Too much damn milk. More chili pepper, I think, in the next