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The Restorative Powers of Hot Chocolate and Marshmallows on a Winter’s Afternoon

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“Kat, would you make me some hot chocolate while you’re in there?”  Joanna stretches out on the sofa and watches the fire dance in the fireplace across the room.  “Oh and make sure to grab the marshmallows!”


“Sure thing,” Kat replies from the kitchen.  She rummages through the cabinets in Joanna’s kitchen for two mugs and the tub of hot chocolate (the powder that doesn’t come in individualized packages so you can choose your own level of chocolaty goodness).  

After a few minutes, Kate emerges from the kitchen a mug in each hand and a bag of mini-marshmallows dangling from her teeth.  She sets the mugs down and flings the bag onto Joanna.  

“I would’ve helped you,” Joanna says as she rips the bag open.  

Kat shrugs, “I had it.”  She smiles and taps a finger on her lips, “Teeth are a good tool for those of us that can’t move objects with our minds.”

“You’re just jealous.”

“Hardly.”

Joanna points to the fire, “But I can’t do that.”

Kat shrugs.  “It wasn’t so long ago that I couldn’t either.”

“And I couldn’t move things with my mind.”

“Or seduce attractive young men with the power of your beautiful brown eyes.” Kat giggles and bats her eyelashes at Joanna.

Joanna lobs a volley of mini-marshmallows at Joanna, most of them finding a home in the curls of Kat’s red hair.  Joanna laughs, as Kat shakes her head trying to shake the marshmallows loose.  She watches Joanna’s gaze stray back to the fire and Kat thinks she looks lost for a moment.

“Does it bother you?  I’ll put it out...” she straightens and turns to the fire, mentally preparing to extinguish it.  

“No...no,” Joanna says spacily.  “I’ll be fine.  It’s nice.”

“You’re sure?” Kat asks as she turns back around, letting the fire be forgotten.

“Positive.  Now,” Joanna pats the empty space on the sofa next to her, “let’s get this marathon show on the road.”

“Let me just make sure it’s all set up,” Kat says turning towards the television and checking over the DVD player.

Joanna watches her friend for a moment before letting her gaze stray back to the fire.  She can feel the warmth from across the room, but it’s more than that.  She feels drawn to it, mesmerized by it and slightly terrified at the same time.  It’s been nearly two months since the Bonfire incident (as she calls it) and she thought she was doing better.  But, watching the fire crackle and dance in the fireplace stirs something in her, it makes her long for something she can’t place her finger on.

Kat flops down on the sofa next to her, drawing her attention away for a moment.  She smiles and turns her gaze to the television.  The opening credits for “White Christmas” roll, and she hears Kat humming along with the credit music.  

“What time did Roxie say she’d be here?” Kat asks as the movie battlefield comes on screen.

“Not for an hour or two, something about a party Mia going to a party.”  

“Hmm.  So we have “White Christmas” all to ourselves?”  

“Looks like,” Joanna leans over and bumps into Kat’s shoulder with a smile.

“More for us then,” Kat returns Joanna’s smile and leans down to pick up her mug of hot chocolate.  She breathes in stills slightly steaming drink and takes in a small sip.  “MMmm.”

They watch the movie in quiet appreciation for several minutes, with tiny interruptions of hot chocolate indulgence.  The fire sparks and crackles and Joanna has to fight with herself to keep her attention on the movie each time there’s a noise from the fireplace.   She thinks Kat must have caught her attention drifting a few times when marshmallows get lobbed into her drink or bounce off her nose or glasses.  Each time they both giggle like school girls and turn back to the movie.

About the time Bob sings “Count your Blessings” to Betty, Joanna loses the fight and lays her head down on the arm of the sofa so she can watch the fire.  Kat leans over Joanna’s legs to get her attention.

“Sweetie, is everything alright?  Really, I’ll put it out if it bothers you,” she follows Joanna’s gaze to the fire.  

Without looking away, “I don’t know what it is Kat.”  There’s a quiver in her voice when she continues, “It’s just...I’m drawn to it.”

“I don’t think that’s uncommon.”  She slips down onto the floor and slides over to sit cross-legged in front of the sofa.  “You went through a traumatic event, I think it make sense that you feel a connection with it.”

“You think so?”

“Sure.”

“I’m sorry,” Joanna shifts her gaze to look at Kat’s worried face.  “I’m ruining our Christmas movie marathon.”

“Don’t worry, sweetie.  We can watch them later, it’s not like “White Christmas” is going anywhere.”  Kat reaches over and hits the pause button on the remote leaving Bob and Betty frozen mid-blessings on the screen.  

“Thanks,” Joanna forces a smile to her lips.

“Hey I have an idea,” Kat jumps up and grabs the blanket from the back of the sofa and another one from a nearby chair.  She lays them out on the floor in front of the fireplace, scoots the coffee table out of the way, and tosses a few pillows down on the floor for comfort.  “Why don’t we just enjoy the fire for a bit?”

“Okay,” Joanna says a bit halfheartedly.

“Wait here.”  Kat disappears into the kitchen and re-emerges a minute later carrying kebab skewers in one hand, and the bag of large marshmallows in the other.  She tosses the supplies down onto the blanket and reaches a hand down to Joanna.

Joanna takes her hand and lets Kat help her up onto her feet.  They arrange themselves amid the pillows and blankets and Kat lets Joanna lay down with her head on her lap while they both watch the fire flicker and dance.  Kat skewers a marshmallow and hands it to Joanna and then does another for herself.   They roast their marshmallows in silence, removing them from the fire as they brown and flake and testing them tenderly with fingertips.  

Kat jumps slightly when hers turns out to be warmer than expected and Joanna sits up.  “Are you okay?”

“Fine, I’m fine. I haven’t done this in a while.”

“I’ve never done this,” Joanna whispers.

“What roasted marshmallows in the fireplace?” Kat grins and puts her finger to her tongue trying to take some of the pain away from the burn.  

“Yeah,” Joanna tentatively tests the edges of her own marshmallow.  “Or roasted marshmallows period...or been so mesmerized by,” she uses her free hand to gesture to the fire and then lets the word ‘fire’ die on her lips.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“I don’t know that there’s anything to talk about, Kat.  It’s just like a magnet.  Like I want to be close to it and I can’t stop myself.”

Kat takes her now cooler and stickier marshmallow off it’s skewer and carefully takes a bite.  “Mmm. Try it,” she says between bites.  

Joanna tenderly pulls hers off it’s skewer and for a moment looks at it like she might eat it before reaching out and dropping it in her mug of hot chocolate and dragging the mug towards her.  She shrugs at Kat’s inquisitive look and takes a long sip of her somewhat now lukewarm chocolate.  “Still good,” she says.

Kat reaches around for the bag to grab more when Joanna’s hand is on her arm.  “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“Marshmallows,” she nods towards the television, “movies, being a friend.”

“Anytime,” Kat says with her usual sweet smile.  

“Can we just sit here a while?”

“Sure, if that’s what you want,” Kat’s eyebrows knit together in concern.  “You’re sure you wouldn’t rather put it out?”

“No,” Joanna scoots across the blankets to sit at Kat’s side.  


“Aright,” she replies, putting an arm around Joanna’s shoulders.

“Kat,” Joanna whispers.

“Yeah?”

“Can you just hold me for a little while?”

Without a word, Kat pulls her into an embrace and plants a quick kiss on the crown of Joanna’s dark head.  They lean their heads together and watch the fire and outside, light, fluffy snowflakes tumble down.