“I’ve never liked candy corn.” I wrinkled my nose at the proffered bag. He continued holding it out, rattling the bag slightly as if to make the brightly colored candy somehow more enticing. I shook my head again and raised a hand as if in self defense.
He laughed. “How is it possible not to like them? They’re almost entirely made of sugar.” He withdrew the bag, shook a few pieces onto his palm, and, throwing his head back, dumped them into his open mouth with obvious relish.
I made a face and shrugged. The wind was brisk today, tugging insistently at my hair and making the fallen leaves skitter around our feet and the park bench we sat on. It was a classic autumn day: sunlight filtering through the trees and creating golden pools on the ground, the almost chatter-like sounds of desiccated leaves rustling in the wind filling our ears, and that deep, piercing scent of almost-frost in the air. I leaned back on the bench, closed my eyes, letting the sunlight warm my eyelids.
“I just remember them tasting funny. I guess I was pretty picky as a child, though,” I amended, trying to think back.
“Then maybe your memory of their taste is outdated, and you should try them again to update your memory bank,” he suggested playfully, and I heard the crinkle of plastic close to my face again. I opened my eyes and gave a mock sigh.
“Okay, fine. Just one…” I dipped two fingers inside the bag and withdrew one candy corn piece. Gingerly, I put it on my tongue, letting it rest there briefly before biting the candy in half. The familiar sickly sweetness assaulted my taste buds, and I grimaced.
“Ugh! Nope, they’re just as awful as I remember,” I spoke through the pieces of candy in my mouth – pieces I now refused to swallow. I turned my head away to spit the candy out onto the grass.
“Wait. Here.” His hand on my shoulder stopped me, and I turned to see his other hand, half-cupped, raised level to my chin. I blinked.
“Um. You – you want me to spit it out in your hand?”
I hesitated. I wanted to ask why. I wanted to just ignore the offer and spit the candy out on the ground. I wanted to look away from his suddenly serious eyes. My mouth half-opened, full of questions and mild outrage and protests. But no sound came out. Seconds ticked by as I looked at him, trying to gauge how serious he was. My eyes narrowed. Was this some kind of game? A test? An opportunity for ridicule?
The corners of his lips curled slightly in a smile that was more a challenge than a taunt.
I made to spit the candy out, thinking he’d pull his hand away and laugh. Instead, he just lowered his arm slightly, so that I had to bend further down to avoid missing his hand. I felt oddly, ridiculously committed to the action now. I pushed the two pieces of candy out of my mouth, depositing them – and a generous coating of saliva – onto his open palm.
My face flushed at this thing I’d just done. Flushed with embarrassment … and – something else?
I gave him a sidelong glance, but he just smiled and pulled his hand back, closing his fingers around the candy. He turned and threw the candy a few feet away. His face, when he turned back around, held only a gentle, satisfied expression – no malice or mocking glee there. I swallowed away the lingering taste of the candy corn. Not quite knowing how to dispel the strange, confused sensation that had suddenly filled my chest, I just wrinkled my nose at him again.
He laughed lightly, ran his clean hand through my hair, and gave the back of my head a few gentle scritches.
I closed my eyes again, letting the sensation of his fingers in my hair melt away my confusion.
“Why do I feel like I’m being patted on the head like a puppy who’s been good?”
He laughed again.