Her father's kisses were candy bars, which her mother had forbidden.

Every evening at seven, Charlotte would hear his key in the lock and run to greet him. He would not lift her into his arms, but he would smile their secret smile before he removed his hat and coat and hung them in the closet in the hall.

She would wait until he had walked wearily down the hall and into the bathroom to wash his hands. Then she would open the closet and put her hand in the pocket of his heavy brown overcoat. She would smell it before she felt it, thin, flat and hard. The words of her parents' sharp voices were garbled, but she could hear the round sound of her own heart beating. She would lift her treasure quickly from its hiding place, and hide it again, hoping her mother was too busy feeding, or finding fault with, her father to notice.

After supper, which she would pick at, after I Remember Mama or Father Knows Best, she would brush her teeth and hair, take off her school clothes, and put on her pajamas. She would turn off the light, climb under heavy blankets, reach under her pillow, and unwrap it slowly and quietly in the darkness. She would close her eyes and open her mouth.

It quieted and excited her at the same time. Everything about it was a relief--its flavor, color, fragrance, even its name, which was so like hers. Sometimes she would whisper it, like a magic word, as if by saying it, she could taste it. It was a word of consonants, a collision of hard and soft sounds. She would utter them slowly, savoring even the tiny silence between the two syllables, and the almost inaudible t.


To Charlotte, a chocolate bar was a Hershey bar. Nothing else could provoke the same hopeful, fearful anticipation, or provide the same profound pleasure. And although it was milk chocolate (which, otherwise, she hated), it was darker; to the innocent palate of a child, it was almost bittersweet.

She loved its plainness; almonds would get in the way. She loved the glossy brown paper and the shiny silver letters that caught her eye in movie houses, grocery stores and subway stations, long after she had grown up. She even loved the stories of American soldiers who gave them to grateful French girls. Her father was her American hero, and she was his jeune fille. Until she turned twelve and entered that brief time in the life of a woman when she is, or believes herself to be, herself.

At twelve, she knew things, and could do things. Snap pictures with her own camera. Take the subway to Coney Island and ride a Steeplechase horse. Buy her own Hershey bars at the candy store around the corner.

At twelve, when her mother did not even cook, other mothers baked. She was not impressed by cakes, not even chocolate ones, or brownies. Too much cake; not enough chocolate. But when another mother made fudge, she let Charlotte stir the bubbling brown mixture with a wooden spoon, tracing the shape of a figure eight on the bottom of the pot. The pot was a cauldron; the figure eight, a hex symbol.

Her first taste of fudge came years before her first kiss, but it was just as sensational. A familiar, beloved taste was suffused with warmth and depth, and it stirred her in a completely new way, instilling the false hope that her own mother, who considered sugar poison, would make fudge too.

In the middle of that night, on her way to the bathroom, Susan saw a light, and in it, her mother, with a strange and sad expression on her face. Her book was lying, facedown, on the arm of the easy chair. Charlotte's gaze was as fixed as her mother's, until her eyes wandered to an open box of Barton's kosher bonbons. A relative had brought them for Passover, but they had disappeared faster than the afikomen. She returned to bed, angry but resolute. The other mother would teach her how to make fudge; she would give herself permission to eat it.

Shortly after her thirteenth birthday, the window that had opened began to close. The boys she wanted were not the boys who wanted her. She was baffled. Her father adored her; why didn't they? But her father left her every morning before she awoke, so that he could be in his office in New York at seven. New York was what people who lived in Brooklyn called Manhattan.

Long before she left home, she had forgotten how to make fudge, and withdrawn the permission she had given herself to eat chocolate. She had become her own mother, and could no longer receive her father's kisses.

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