Jeanine said, "One of us needs to go to the store."
This statement, uttered in bed, generally indicated some sort of feminine hygiene emergency, and the one who 'needs to go to the store' is generally me. It is a law of nature that the gender which does not use or need a product, or is most likely embarrassed by its purchase (I am long over that, at least), is the gender which must buy it.
"What do you need?" It wouldn't embarrass me. I'd get her to be specific; plugs or pads, regular or maxi, normal or super-absorbent, scented or unscented, wings or strings. My last SO used to rip the end off the last box and hand it to me. It's harder to screw that up and nothing to explain.
"There is no chocolate in the house." This was delivered in an aggrieved tone. It must be my fault (if true, which it was not.) She was a chocoholic, and that involved rule 9: "Q. Why is there no such organization as Chocoholics Anonymous? A. Because no one wants to quit."
"That turns out not to be the case," I replied. I'd read in some Heinlein novel, or maybe a Tom Clancy, that this was the correct way to say "Wrong!" politely. I knew The Rules. I also knew where all of the secret stashes were.
"Would you care to make a little wager on that?" She had that single eyebrow raised. She watched too much classic Star Trek. But she bet like Riker - she seldom lost. Maybe she knew where all the secret stashes were, too.
"What stakes?" Best I determine penalties before I commit too rashly. Remember Rule 7: "Money talks. Chocolate sings."
"The winner gets to perform oral sex on the loser."
"That's a win - win situation," I laughed. "I could just forfeit right now. What's the catch?" There had to be a catch.
"The loser is bound, gagged, and blindfolded. The winner decides when to quit."
My heart almost stopped. This type of thing had been discussed early in our relationship and rejected, not by me. I figured there were trust issues, and planned to bring it up again at some later date. Apparently, today was some later date. Either that or she was extremely confident about the absence of chocolate.
She was plainly waiting for my response. I was plainly stalling for time, reviewing the locations of the aforementioned caches in my mind. Some were fairly ingenious, if I do say so, while others were decoys to distract from the real stashes. At least one of these stashes had to have survived her curiosity.
"Deal. Any restrictions on this bet?"
"I go with you, to make sure you don't use the phone and arrange for a delivery, or sneak outside for any reason."
"That's not fair -you'll know all my secrets." If you didn't already, I added to myself.
"Too late for that. I already know all your secrets, and I want to watch your face when you realize that. I won't be seeing your eyes for a while after that. And there has to be a time limit, say twenty minutes. Then the loser goes to the store and comes back to be bound."
"Okay, you come with. Any restrictions on the penalty? Are we talking oral only, or can other parts play?"
"Hmmm. Nope. Lips, tongue, teeth - and you better be carefull with those, in the unlikely event you win. Nothing else."
"Agreed, with the same warning. Start the clock."
I jumped out of bed, taking a few seconds to put my boxers back on. She stretched slowly before getting up, choosing to pad around in the nude. An obvious ploy to distract me. Despite her chocolate fetish, she remained slender. Rule 8: "Chocolate has many preservatives. Preservatives make you look younger."
It would normally work, too, but I had a goal firmly in mind. Another thing was firming, but I could ignore him for now. I lifted the mattress. No Nestle Crunch Bars. Too obvious.
Next, I lifted the cap on the brass head rail and felt inside. Ah ha! The tape still held the string in place. Grinning, I began to lift the string from the tube. Instead of Kisses, the string held only little tinfoil bow-ties. Now it was her turn to grin.
The nightstand drawer came all the way out. The Hershey bar wrapper was still taped in place to the bottom, but the foil-wrapped bar was gone. Likewise, the Heath bar wrapper was taped to the back. I eliminated all other drawers from my list of hiding places. Her grin widened.
In the bedroom closet, I patted the pockets of various coats, stowed now until more appropriate weather. Jeanine had been there first, but I expected that. I eliminated all similar locations in the other bedrooms, based on the fact that if she found any one type of location, she'd have checked all similar locations. Shoe boxes were too obvious for me too bother.
In the master bathroom, there were no Turtles under the toilet tank lid and no Rollos in the shower curtain rod. I wouldn't bother with any other curtain rod in the house.
I had a lot of faith in rule 5: "If calories are an issue, store your chocolate on top of the fridge. Calories are afraid of heights, and they will jump out of the chocolate to protect themselves." I needed the stepping stool and a screwdriver.
Her face was neutral when I set the stool under an air conditioning vent and removed the plate. But that smug little grin was back full force when my hands found nothing in the ductwork. So much for the half-pound bags of M&Ms. I wasted a minute restoring the plate.
Down the hallway past the Laundry Room. I wouldn't hide anything there - any room with a dryer could only end up with a lot of messy, gooey slime. The same applied to the closet containing the water heater. Into the living room, then. Various CD jewel cases, DVD cases and tape boxes in the entertainment center contained only CD's, DVD's and tapes, plus an assortment of empty wrappers.
The bases of the lamps contained only wire and switches. Cushions contained only foam. Upholstery was just that. The electric wall clock had a new battery, but no Snickers - those came from Jeanine. I was running out of time. To the kitchen I flew.
This was another shared domain. Breakfast is my meal, lunch is hers, supper we shared. Nothing in the kitchen is sacrosanct; therefore hiding places were few. I rotated the flour jar rather than sifting through, and repeated with the sugar jar. No surprises were hidden there, either, though I could hope. The paper towel dispenser had been refilled with a new roll, so the Cadbury's were gone, too.
"Time?" I asked.
"Running out, slave," she replied. After a few seconds, she started counting down from sixty.
I went through a mental checklist. What had I overlooked? What might she have overlooked? The smile on her face as she passed thirty was insufferably smug.
One last place, and there wasn't much chance she's overlooked that. Rule 12: "If you can't eat all your chocolate, it will keep in the freezer. But if you can't eat all your chocolate, what's wrong with you?"
I opened the freezer door. The box was still there, Jolly Green's Brussels Sprouts. I reached in. It was still heavy. I shook it. I peeled back the flap opposite the one I'd glued back in place. I looked in.
"Yes!" I held them out to her. Two Mars Bars, still in the baggy, frozen solid. She hated Brussels sprouts. Ostensibly, they were there for visits from my brother and my sister-in-law, who loved them. Fifteen seconds to spare.
The look on Jeanine's face was beyond priceless. She'd found all of my best hiding places and cleaned out every one. She was so confident. She had made the bet with every confidence of winning. Now she was a deer caught in the headlights.
I plucked the baggy from her fingers and took the hand in mine, leading her down the hallway to the bedroom. She moved as if dazed, trying to come to terms with the bet.
"We'll forego the trip to the store for now," I told her. "Rule 3 would just get in the way." Rule 3: "The problem: How to get 2 pounds of chocolate home from the store in a hot car. The solution: Eat it in the parking lot."
.... There is more of this story ...