I bought a marked-down box of chocolates today, February 15. There were a few boxes left—red, heart-shaped, and wrapped in cellophane. I imagined they felt dejected and forgotten. No one wants a Valentine on the day after February 14. But I bought a box anyway. I’m a chocoholic and marked-down chocolate is even better. I don’t care about the date; I just need to get my fix.

It’s easy to empathize with candy abandoned on store shelves, bright red boxes left over in an ever-growing green season full of shamrocks and leprechauns who dreamed of being someone’s Valentine. Most of us have experienced that feeling of being left over—a soured romance, a rejection when it seemed love was a sure thing. Rejection is all too familiar for most humans. We don’t need a holiday to highlight it.

In honor of those lost and lonely boxes, not destined for sealing the deal, I offer you the assorted flavors of Not Meant for Each Other, Lost Boys Press’ anthology about love that wasn’t meant to be. Find your favorite in the box of marked-down chocolates, but please, try not to take one bite and put the chocolate back. They’ve already been rejected once.

He Wore a Poe Smile by L.T. Ward: The dark chocolate truffle is a bold choice in a box of marked-down chocolate. If you choose it, be sure to eat it slowly, savor it. Ward’s story of love lost, found, and then lost again, is a treat to be treasured. Just when you think you can’t take the richness of the tale, you’ll be surprised by the decadence of the darkness in the center. And this one is dark! Ashy and raven-black.

The Shape of Your Shadow by Stephen Howard: Chewy and crunchy, the pecan caramel cluster is often included in assorted chocolates. This candy doubles your pleasure, and Howard’s story does the same. I have to admit that I thought the tale would take me in one direction, but the ending was a pleasant surprise. Feminine leadership makes this story one of caramel over the nuts.

Betrayed and Buried by K.A. Warhurst: Toffee is hard to eat. The first bite can be treacherous, and the more you eat, the harder simple acts like chewing become. Love is hard too, especially if you’ve betrayed and lied. Warhurst’s heroine is hard, like toffee. She is treacherous, but with reason, and her acts are anything but simple. 

Overshadowed by Joseph Anderson: The strawberry cream chocolate unites blissful sweet chocolate and tart berry. This Beatles-themed story is the strawberry cream in the box, where Prudence and Jude meet, and of course, fall in love. But don’t forget: this box of chocolate isn’t about relationships that were meant to be. The berry in this story turns sour when the couple finds themselves in a place they never should have been.

Goodbye to Jerusalem by Harry F. Rey: If you love milk chocolate and almond, you appreciate the classics. Is there anything more satisfying than the familiarity of smooth milk chocolate with the crunch of an almond? Rey’s not-meant-for-each-other, forbidden love story is classic, but it’s also a nod to those who are looking for something just a little different. Set in a war-torn country, this heartbreaker is for those who want to experience the familiar, but aren’t afraid to find something new along the way.

Love Across Time and Space by Jamie Perrault: Orange creams might not be what chocolate lovers thought they wanted. In a poll I totally made up, most people report they are most likely to put the orange cream back in the box with one bite taken. In Perrault’s story one-half of a couple not-meant-to-be leaves her other half behind on Earth and seeks new worlds. What’s nice about those orange creams left in the box, however, is that someone else is bound to come along who loves the half-eaten chocolates. What’s rejected can be reclaimed. That’s the magic of this tale.

Mouth by Scotty Milder: If I am honest, this is my favorite story in the anthology. And, if I am honest, I admit that I am the person who loves the obscure honeycomb candy in the box. What in the world is this honeycomb candy? Candy made with baking soda, the crunchy choice is odd and yet pleasing. It’s a lot like Milder’s story. I can’t stop thinking about the holes in honeycomb candy. I can’t stop thinking about the hole in Mouth, either. Creepy. What in the world is this?

Nameless by Jess L. Tong: Don’t ever discount the simple milk chocolate bar found in every box of chocolate. Choosing it does not make you simple. Choosing it makes you a lover of what fills a void time after time. Tong’s story is a heartbreaking, timeless telling of two souls meeting at the wrong time and the wrong place. It is a classic tale of not-meant-to-be. I know I’m not the only one to crave chocolate, and I find myself thinking about this story a lot. Another installment, please, Jess?

The Spoons by Priscilla M. Goins: A hazelnut in the center of chocolate is like an almond, only fancier. And that’s what this story feels like. I know we said forever, but damn, you couldn’t appreciate the finer things in life. The spoons deserve their own space, just like the hazelnut chocolate in the box. Goins’ story reminds us of how the elevated expectations of life get lost in the midst of everyday events.  

For the Love of the Wind by J.F. Capps: Coconut evokes scenes of paradise. If you choose it, you are surely transported to an exotic locale. Capps’ story of divine beings lost and losing in love takes place in paradise. Their love is perfect, but perfection in paradise doesn’t last when greed or jealousy exist. Capps’ lovers depart, but their essence, like a whiff of coconut in the breeze, remains. 

I feel like a glutton, gorging myself on chocolate on the day after Valentine’s Day, but I regret nothing. Love that is lost is still an experience that lingers, lessons learned and innocence lost. What matters is that it happened. Even if they weren’t meant for each other in the end.

You can indulge in a box of chocolate any time you want. Check out Not Meant for Each Other  in the Lost Boys Press bookstore, along with some great merch to let your new crush know that you are now available.

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