I watch the froth develop as I pour from one cup to another; lift my arm high, let the liquid descend like an earthy waterfall.
“Prepare the finest chocolates, Chantico,” he’d instructed. “Choose only the freshest beans. Add some chilli, honey, green vanilla. These drinks should befit Montezuma.” I’d wondered at this request, but noble men often asked for such embellishments.
So now I’m busy skilfully making them all. I grind some chilli for one pitcher, crush vanilla for another, swirl honey into a third. I add ground flowers to another. I stir and blend and breathe in the rich aromas, but I do not taste one drop.
I observe him drinking at the banquet and stand beside to offer refills; absorb the merriment and relish watching him. I take pride in the results of my work. His laughter mingles with the chattering voices; his presence, obvious to all, but especially to me.
As the orange sun sinks, the bold colours of headdresses begin to fade, the gloss of golden cups becomes muted. Fireflies dance amidst the mess of leftover food. A success, I think.
I feel the cool air drifting from Texcoco, as I do every evening. If you stand at its edge on a clear night, its surface reflects a thousand stars. My work clearing the table beckons, but then I turn to find him standing next to me; inhale the herbal scent of his skin. Deep down, I’m beginning to know this elegant man.
“Can I…?” I search his eyes for an answer, but instead of speaking, he reaches out and gently tips my face up to his. He smiles then, so close that feathers whisper across my temple.
“Such beautiful chocolates tonight, Chantico. Will you stay; talk with me a while?”
I think I understand why he’d requested them; so that I’d be acknowledged for my impressive creations. I’m dissolving inside now, just a little. “I’d like that,” I say softly, as the last sliver of orange vanishes, and the stars appear to light our way.
Christine Collinson writes historical short fiction. She’s been long-listed in the Bath Flash Fiction Award and by Reflex Press. Her work’s s also appeared in The Cabinet of Heed, Ellipsis Zine and National Flash-Fiction Day. Find her on Twitter @collinson26.