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Victory Bar: The Crispy Rice Bittersweet Candy

Let me start by saying that Kevin had loved her for nine years, even though they were separated for three of those nine. And, all right, I didn't exactly realize it until we were thirteen, nine years ago.
Kevin... Ah, the jerk. I guess you could say we were friends, but I saw us as rivals. We often challenged each other to video game battles. I would win the strategy games, he would win everything else.
To be honest, I didn't think he would fall for Gwen. Gwen was my best friend. She had long, blond hair, and big blue eyes. She was tall (Taller than me) and she liked to swim. I didn't think he would fall for the sportsy type.
I thought he would like anyone but her. I thought he would like the girl who played video games and beat him at his own playing field (I could never beat him at his own Playing field.) and was just like him (Don't get any ideas!).
Gwen was like a brick wall. There was some sort of emotional shield that she designed to protect her from crying and being sad. She laughed, certainly, but there was a certain coldness to her. If you told her some something sad, she would awkwardly hug you, but that was it. Nothing else.
I don't remember how or the exact time he fell for her. She didn't see much of him until she turned twelve, and both of us were thirteen. She could've passed for a teen, that's for sure. I don't even remember introducing them together. I was pretty sure I was the reason they met.
But two things I remember for certain: When I realized it and when it all ended.
*****
It doesn't really matter how I found out. I found them lying on the ground talking to each other and Kevin looked like he was in heaven, just laying down there beside her. Was I surprised? Sure. Was I disturbed about the look on his face? Oh, yes. Very much. Did I tease them about it? Of course. I teased them for years.
There were also the incidents where he would flirt with her in an attempt to get her to touch him. There was the time when he messed up her hair right before a dance. She was not pleased. They didn’t talk for a while, but it was still quite apparent that he liked her. Every time she got a new boyfriend, he would make it his top priority to humiliate her or the boyfriend so they would break up. It usually worked, sadly.
When we were 18, we, Gwen and I, both went to college in Idaho. Kevin still called occasionally, mentioning every time that he was single. Gwen didn't notice. That how it went for two years. He would call, they would talk.
He finally said they were in a long distance relationship. She said it was an open long distance relationship. But still a relationship. He sent her gifts on her birthday and Valentine's Day. Once he got her 24 red roses, a teddy bear, and a whole dozen of Dove truffles for Valentine's Day, while he was in Utah. He loved her. Truly, madly, deeply. And it looked, just barely, if you squinted your eyes and saw closely, that she could reciprocate those feelings.
But the day it ended changed all that. Heck, it changed me too. That was one of the worst days of my life. Wouldn't it be yours? Seeing your best friend break your best rival's heart, stamping it on the ground before lighting it on fire?
Okay, I'm exaggerating. Gwen didn't do that. But the aftermath was the same, whether she lit it on fire or not. He was crushed. Broken. Emo.
And that day, or week rather, I could remember everything word for word. It started on June 14th, just after me and Gwen got out of college for summer break.
*****
"You wanna stop at McDonalds for breakfast?"
"Don't have time."
"You never have time these days, Roxy." Gwen said, crossing her arms and glaring at me as though it would magically change my work schedule. I sighed while I put on my heels.
Gwen was there, in jeans and a blue T-shirt. I, on the other hand, was wearing a light purple blouse with a black skirt and matching blazer. After putting on my heels, I stood up to tidy up my hair before I left for work. She didn't have to work until noon, but I was going to be late.
"Gwen, you know that The Victory Bar just got out. It's causing havoc, they want me to design three new flavor wrappers and show up for the meetings with Target and K-Mart because Mr. Kendall's wife just had a baby. I don't have time for anything." I said. Looking in the mirror, I straightened my red hair and clipped my hair together with a cheap gold barrette.
"Well, can we do something fun tonight?" Gwen pleaded with me. “Go out, maybe?"
"Sure. We can have dinner and maybe rent a movie." I said. I glanced at my watch. I had twenty minutes, and I had to get rolling in this morning traffic. "Gotta go, Gwen. See you at six." I snatched up my car keys and headed out the door.
I managed to get in the office before I was considered 'in trouble'. I spent the first three hours of the day with my designing crew coming up for the new Victory Bar flavors: White, Mint, and Dark Chocolate.
"Roxy, you're late again." Jan, part of my design crew, told me when I came in. I put my purse on my desk.
"I know, I know, spare me." I said. Jan laughed, and Vinny just smiled.
The crew consisted of me(Overall Design), Jan (Color), Vinny(Text/Font), and Mr. Kendall(Formatting and currently absent). I was assistant head designer, so I was in charge when Mr. Kendall was away.
"Okay, so what are we doing for the White Chocolate design so far?" Vinny asked.
“Well, what colors are you using, Jan?" I asked him. Jan spun around in his chair and clicked on something in his computer.
"Well, I was planning on using a classy white and black." He said, showing me. He basically used the my original design and swapped the colors.
"Okay, Vinny?" I turned to him.
"I was thinking a mashup of the texts on the first bar." He said. I nodded.
"Sounds like a plan guys." I said. "But I think we'll need a different design entirely for the Mint Bar."
"Well, better get crackin'." Jan said teasingly. I rolled my eyes at him and sat down at my desk, sketching. I enjoyed making bright, sudden blasts of color. The original design for the Victory Bar was a chocolate brown background with rainbow fireworks. I really liked that design.
The time flew by as I sketched. I was only torn from my world once before when Jan asked me what sandwich I wanted from Jimmy Johns. The last potato chip was in my mouth when my phone rang.
"Hello?" I said.
"Ms. Roxanne Bradley?" A female voice asked.
"Yes, that's me." I replied. I assumed she was Mr. Jameson's (The big boss) secretary.
"Mr. Jameson would like you to be in Conference Room 2 in 15 minutes." She said.
“I'll be there." I replied. We both hung up. I brushed some crumbs off my skirt, snatched my briefcase, walked out the door.
*****
The meeting wasn't too bad.
Translation: I didn't embarrass myself too bad. The K-Mart guy agreed he would sell it in stores, the Target man still needed to think it over. He'd get back to us on Tuesday. I personally felt like a failure and idiot. Mr. Jameson didn't notice, he was too busy showing the men his fabulous office. Pros of having a narcissist boss: They’re too busy dealing with their perfection to notice your imperfections.
I hopped in my car at 5:30 when my cellphone rang. An unfamiliar number. Wait, the area code was Utah. I had family and friends in Utah. And I was in traffic, and it wasn't like I was going anywhere for a while. I answered it.
"Hello?"
"Hey, Rox! How are you doing?" I knew that voice.
"Hey, hey! Kevin!" I said, relieved I knew him. I inched closer in the line. My heels were next to the break while my sore feet worked the pedals. The line halted again.
"What's up, Rox? Your company doing anything big? Like a chocolaty big?" I smiled to myself. He was still the same kid who messed up Gwen's hair at dance night, eager and hyper. I could tell. Why was he calling me? He always called the landline....unless Gwen wasn't home and/or she didn't pick it up. I assumed the latter. She didn't know what to say most of the time.
"How'd you guess?" I asked. I hadn't told him that my company released The Victory Bar or that we created it. Kevin sighed.
"Puh-lease, Rox, I know your graphic signature." Kevin said. Curses. He knew it because of the design of the wrapper. I had wanted to be a graphic designer for a while, and I often showed him my creations when we were teens.
"Fine, fine you got me. My company released The Victory Bar." I said. Traffic moved along until another red light. I hate 5:00 P.M. workday now.
"What's it like?"
"You didn't try it?" I wasn't surprised to be honest. He didn't like chocolate. I know, I assumed he wasn't human either once.
"You heard me. What does it taste like?"
"Well, it's bittersweet, but a bit better. First you taste sweetness, then bitterness in your mouth. Then you take another bite to get the bitterness out."
"So you are addicting people to your candy? Like drugs?"
"What?!" I asked. Where had he come up with that idea? "No way! You could also take a cold drink via ice water."
"Oh, good." Kevin sounded satisfied. I rolled my eyes. "Hey, I'm coming into town soon."
"Seriously? Isn't it a little early?" I asked him. This was part of the long-distance relationship. He would come and visit us (Really just Gwen) for July and August before going back to school. I didn't see them very often, at the end of June and through July and August, I work for a theater on the weekends and night hours while working during the day. Very busy, but the pay gets doubled. I need the cash, I'm going to a designing school after I finish college.
Forget that, why was Kevin coming in the middle of June?
"No, nothing's too early." He said. I raised my eyebrows. Say what? 'Nothing's too early?' Did he read poetry now? "I'll be at the airport at 8:30, so can you pick me up?" He asked, almost sweetly. I sighed. He hated public transportation. I didn't really like it either, to be honest.
"I can't tonight. Sorry." I said. Ah, traffic was speeding up. I was almost home. After spending time with Gwen, I had to come up with the Mint Victory Bar wrapper design. I didn't count on getting much sleep.
“Fine, I'll grab a taxi. Thanks for nothing, Rox." He said miserably.
"My pleasure. Why are you in Rexburg anyway?" I asked. I wanted my questions answered.
“See you. I'll visit before I go off to my hotel." He said, hanging up and completely ignoring my question.
The whole drive home, I wondered why on earth he was in town. As I parked, I grabbed my bag and headed up to the apartment. My mind was whirling. Why was he Rexburg? Why now? To visit us? He usually visited his family for June. Why come early? What was more important than family?
Then it hit me, seconds before my hand touched the doorknob. The thing more important than family was growing the family. It wasn't us he was visiting, it was Gwen. There was only one reason he wanted to come to town to visit her early.
He was going to propose.
*****
"Roxy?"
I came back to reality. I found Gwen's big blue eyes staring at me in concern.
"Are you okay? You've spaced out a lot tonight." She said. I shook my head.
"I'm fine." I assured her. She backed off, but eyed me suspiciously.
I turned back to the racks of DVDs. Blockbuster wasn't usually bustling with it's normal Friday night crew, but everyone else was watching the game. I didn't really care for football, and Gwen didn't really like football unless it had the Steelers. She was a crazed basketball fan, though.The cashier was a college student we knew who was opposed to football as well. His name was David. I knew him from the theater I worked at.
"How 'bout this?" Gwen asked, holding up a romantic comedy starring Emma Watson.
"Maybe." I replied. I didn't really liked romantic comedies all that much, and to be brutally honest, I can't picture Emma being anyone other than Hermione.
I had picked a couple of drama and actions while Gwen still lingered in the RomCom section of the store. We eventually decided on two romantic comedies and two action movies. I picked up some soda and popcorn as well. David smiled when he saw us.
"Hey guys, purposely missing the game?" He asked us jokingly. Gwen and I laughed.
"You know us, Dave." I said. He smiled and rang everything up. I grabbed the bag while Gwen waved goodbye. David seemed sad to see us go.
On the drive home, I was listening to Gwen talk about her work. She was a chef for Olive Garden. She really like Italian Food.
"So there was this one girl who kept saying she was allergic to mushrooms, so we had to wipe down everything any mushroom touched. But then there was a problem, after we cleaned everything and had to hold up some orders, she told us she just didn't like mushrooms. I nearly killed her." Gwen said. We both laughed.
I pulled into the driveway of our apartment. We were still chatting about mishaps at work, such as the time Jan starting flirting with the delivery girl or when the new kid mistook 'Eighty-sixing' the penne pasta. We didn't notice the unfamiliar red car in the parking lot.
Gwen held everything as I unlocked the door. We opened it to find a very strange surprise on our couch, playing with his iTouch.
Kevin.
"Kevin! You should've told us you were coming, we would've gotten things cleaned up." I said easily. Kevin looked up and grinned at us. I grabbed the bags from Gwen and proceeded to the kitchen just down the hall.
"Don't worry, Rox, it's no worse than my place." He called back to me. I overheard the two still in the living room. "Gwen, why are you staring at me like that?"
Gwen was standing in the doorway with her mouth hung open. Even I could tell, despite how far back I was. I smiled to myself as I pushed a bag of popcorn into the tiny microwave.
"How on earth did you get in the house?" She demanded of him. He laughed and stood up.
"The nice landlady let me in when I explained that you are my girlfriend." Kevin said. My ears pricked. His tone had gotten a touch deeper than I talked to him on the phone.
His voice went even lower on the word 'girlfriend.'
I headed back over to the living room. Making it a personal commitment not to watch the romantic comedies while Kevin was here or mentioning we had Rom Coms (I feared for Gwen), I snatched up one of my Drama/action movies and waved it in Kevin's face so he could clearly see it.
"Hey, " I said. "We're gonna watch a movie. Come back tomorrow." He doesn't move. My eyes widened. "So you want to stay with her, at night, Romeo?"
His cheeks turned a light pink at the nickname. I called him Romeo even when we were younger. "F-Fine. I'll come back tomorrow." He stammered.
He planted a quick peck on Gwen's forehead before closing the door behind him. I went to the window to see him get in the red car that didn't belong there. Then he drove away to the hotel area. I turned back to Gwen. She was as red as a tomato.
"I don't like it when he does that." She said sheepishly. This time, I laughed so hard I had to sit down.
That's my Gwen.
*****
Kevin visited most of the day.
I didn't see him that much. Work was demanding, and the theater was short-staffed at night. He came to visit Gwen most of the night after she worked. When I got home at midnight, she would tell me the details of everything.
"Kevin took me to the new movie. He did the move." Gwen told me one night. The 'move' was wrapping his arm around her shoulders while pretending to yawn. He did that in every movie. I don't understand why she wasn't used to it.
"We went to the fair today. Kevin won a giant teddy bear for me," Was another one. The giant bear lived in the living room from now on, looking at the couch like he was going to eat whoever was sitting there. I didn't like it's beady little eyes.

One night, I came home to the most surprising saying. Gwen wasn't there to greet me. I came home early, around six. It was a Saturday and the theater hired extra help because it was slammed. I didn't have to work with the crowd because I helped put up the set. They let me go early with a nice check in hand.
When I came inside, the lights were off. I heard some noises coming from the living room. I left my purse on the coat hanger and went to investigate.
The living room lights were off as well. That noise...I knew it. It's the unmistakable noise of lips locking. I went to high school and college, I know what is sounds like. I shuddered and flicked the lights on. The culprits covered their eyes. Kevin and Gwen, sitting close together on the couch, looked up at me, startled I was there. Gwen moved away. The giant teddy bear watched over them like a stern mother. I gasped.
"Kevin! Gwennie! I expected you two to know better!" I exclaimed in false horror.
"What is wrong with kissing your girlfriend?" Kevin demanded once the sudden brightness of the lights wore off. Gwen's cheek went red as a tomato. I knew it!
"It's fine as long as it's not in my house and not in front of the bear!" I replied, pointing to it. "It has to be on a date!" I added.
"Since when?" Kevin challenged me.
I shook my head. "Kevin, Kevin, Kevin." I said, almost sympathetically. "Don't you know how to impress the ladies? It's on a romantic walk to a starry night hill you kiss her, not in the middle of an apartment living room with a homicidal giant bear watching! Who wants to watch you two kiss?"
Kevin was about to counter with a comeback when my words hit him. He seemed to realize that this was, in fact, not romantic. He stood up and offered his hand to Gwennie.
"Well, we should go on a date then. Where to?" He asked her. I rolled my eyes.
"Um...How about-" She was cut off.
"The drive in theater! Perfect!" He said, not bothering to let her finish. He grabbed her hand and pulled her off the couch. As the went to the door, he shouted: "We'll be back late, so don't wait up!"
Gwen stuck her head in the living room quickly. "Don't eat my cake!" She shouted before Kevin pulled her away and the door closed behind them. I shook my head happily.
"Lovebirds." I said to the bear before entering the kitchen, wondering what I would do about dinner.
*****
It was late when I woke up to the sound of someone...laughing? No, that wasn't it. It came out in short breaths...Crying. Someone was crying. Who was crying so loud I could hear them?
I blinked sleepily and looked at my clock. 1:30 A.M. Gwen should be here by now. Oh. That was Gwen sobbing. The thought made me sit up straight in bed. What? Gwen sobbing? Something bad happened. I climbed out of bed and looked.
Gwen was sitting at the kitchen table, the overhead light on, weeping into her hands as quietly as she could. There was something clutched in her hands that I couldn't see.
"Gwen?" I asked quietly. She snapped her head up. Her eyes were red and puffy. She'd been crying for a while. She wiped them.
"Oh. Roxy. Sorry I woke you up." She said in a chocked voice.
"What happened?" I asked, almost scared to know. If it caused Gwen to cry, then it was extremely bad.
She looked sadly at the table and burst into tears again. She opened her mouth a few times, but seemed unable to speak.
"Um, if you don't want to tell me-" I started, but in response she held out what was in her hand. A box.
I took it and examined it. It was a blue velvet, small and- Oh, no. Oh mercy. I opened it. My stomach flipped. I was right.
Inside the box as a ring. A diamond ring. Glittering in the light. Kevin has proposed.
"He did it." I said softly. He finally did it.
Gwen nodded her head. "He asked me to marry him." She whispered.
So why was she crying? Wouldn't this be a happy time? I looked at her quizzically. Then it hit me.
"You don't love him?" I said aloud. Gwen stared at me and threw her hands in the air, standing up.
"Roxy, you know why I’m having doubts.” She said. It took me a while, but I did realize. I swallowed a lump that formed in my throat.
Kevin wasn’t one to stick with one girl. Even while he made it apparent that he liked Gwen in High-school, he would date others and even two girls at a time. He would date a girl if he found her interesting, he would ask her out, date her, but if he found someone else interesting yet she still were as well, he would date both of them at the same time, then drop one when she wasn’t interesting anymore. Gwen was probably the girl who he liked the longest. But if she gave in, then he might not find her interesting and drop her just as easily. Either way, we expected that he had proposed several times. It made terrible sense.
“Is there anything you do like about him?” I dared to ask. She didn’t glare at me like I expected.
“He’s cute.” She whispered. “I like to kiss him. I like to hold his hand. When he’s romantic, he’s like Romeo. He’s very good at it. And when he can’t think of anything to say in a conversation, he’ll just smile at me like I’m the most beautiful girl in the world.” She said dreamily.
Cons outweigh the pros. I thought to myself, then quickly dismissed it. I did not need to think about that right now.
"What did you tell him?" I asked. “About...the ring?” It somehow became a forbidden word. The M-word
"I told him I would have an answer by tomorrow." She said. Then she looked at me. "What should I do, Roxy? Should I marry him? Or not?" She asked me.
I wasn't the one to ask. I just teased them. I didn't know anything about this insecurity or possible infidelity or divorce. I was only Gwen's best friend. Who was I to decide?
"Just..." I scrambled my brain, reaching for some sort of advice without a direct answer. "Just go with your gut feeling. If you think if you'll be happy with him, go for it. If you feel that he’s going to drop four months later, don't accept." I said.
Gwen looked back at the box, which was still in my hands. I quickly handed it over.
"Okay." She said. She got up and wearily walked to her room.
"Oh. And Gwennie?" I said. She turned to face me.
"Don't forget, you wouldn't be the first girl to turn down a marriage proposal." I said. She smiled sadly, nodded, and disappeared into her room.
I looked at the lamp hanging over the kitchen. "What do you think she'll do?" I asked myself. I didn't want to know the answer. Quickly, I reached up and turned the light off.
*****
I didn’t find out what Gwen said for three days. Whatever the case was, whether she said yes or no, I didn’t talk to her about it. It was her decision. If there would be a wedding, I would know eventually. She would tell me or I’d get an invitation or something. If she denied him, I would know that too. I just had to wait.
She seemed back to normal. Not overly happy or sad, just normal. Whatever her choice was, she accepted it and was ready to move on.
I found out on the evening of the fourth day. It was raining out, work had ended, and I didn’t have a car. Gwen borrowed it to go grocery shopping earlier today. I had to take the bus. But another one wouldn’t come until 5:45, so I was relaxing in a nearby cafe. I had some warm peppermint hot chocolate and an unwrapped Victory Bar. They sold them here too, since my company was so close.
I didn’t see Kevin come in until it was too late. He came in wearing a black raincoat and went straight up to the counter. I sunk further into the booth, hoping he wouldn’t see me. But he did.
“Hey, Rox.” He said, sliding into the booth across from me. Great. I sat up a bit more and greeted him.
“Hey, Kevin. What’s up?” I asked. He took a deep breath. I didn’t know if that was a good sign or a bad one.
“Nothing.” He said quietly. I looked at him with raised eyebrows. Nothing? What, had he completely forgot that he proposed to my best friend?
He sighed, annoyed. He always hated that look when we were kids. He reached into his pocket and slammed something on the table. Heads turned towards us briefly and looked
away.
He moved his hand to reveal the ring. The same one that Gwennie had that night at the table.
“She gave this back to me.” He whispered quietly. I felt sick. She had said no. Gwen didn’t want to marry him. But I know why. Did he as well? Did she tell him?
I stared at it for the longest time. The ring seemed to be gloating. Every sparkle seemed to remind Kevin how beautiful and strong Gwen was, every laugh they shared, every date, everything about her. And how she just threw it all away.
Not just the dates. Every memory they had as kids, playing and teasing and growing up together. All of that was gone. Simply gone. Discarded like trash. He didn’t seem like he had the strength to move anymore. This was probably the first time he got dumped by a girl. She denied him. She didn’t want him. But...didn’t she?
“...I don’t know what to say, Kevin.” I said. He ran his fingers through his hair.
“Well, I won’t be in Rexburg for a long time.” He said softly. “So don’t expect to see me anytime soon.” I nodded.
“Well, do you want it?” He joked, half-heartedly holding out the ring to me. I’m sorry? That quickly? You don’t just offer a ring to the best friend in this situation, pal. The jealous technique never works. While I was cursing him in my mind, I wore a thin smile as I shook my head.
“Just return it. You’ll get your money back.” I replied.
“Yeah.” was all Kevin said. He got up and readjusted his jacket.
“Bye.” He walked out the door.
I looked out the window to see the bus. Grabbing my Victory Bar, I ran out, pulling my hood over my head. I was able to barely see Kevin in the downpour enter his car and drive away.
“Are you coming on or not, sweetheart?” The bus driver asked me. I nodded and got on.
I sat down near the front and opened my candy bar. I hurriedly bit down, wanting to get rid of this sick feeling in my stomach.
Maybe I shouldn’t have said to trust her gut feeling. Maybe I should have told her to go for it. There was always divorce. Maybe the could have been happy together. Maybe they would remained in love until they died. Maybe they could have a beautiful family. Girls with Gwen’s blond hair and Kevin’s eyes. Boy who looked exactly like their father. Maybe it would have been a long lasting happiness. Maybe, maybe, maybe.
I guess now we’ll never know.
I looked out into the rain once more, and let the bitter taste stay in my mouth the whole ride home.





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