The Journal | #Fortnums

Chocolate Library Short Story Winner

Fire In The Hive

by Anne Louise Avery

For our Chocolate Bar Library Short Story Competition we invited customers to create an original short story based on a title from our Ultimate Chocolate Bar Library Collection. Selected from hundreds of entries, this is Anne Louise Avery's winning story.

Honey fortune heiress, Lottie Jermyn, was looking forward to the sweet life. But after a night of champagne-fuelled shenanigans she finds herself in one mighty sticky situation.

We meet her reclining on a bench in Green Park at dawn, still wearing her evening gown. At her feet, a Norwegian bear snoring gently, yellow velvet ribbon as a lead; on her lap, a small suitcase.

It was not, however, her bear, he belonged to London Zoo, she could remember that much, but the details of the theft – she must have stolen him, she didn’t think zoologists were in the habit of giving animals away of an evening – were exceedingly hazy. She had a faint memory of a young man and something about buttered toast, but nothing more could be fished from the fog of too many Aesthetic cocktails in angular glasses.

Equally, it was not her case, being embossed with the unfamiliar initials “F. M.” Gingerly, she opened it, praying it didn’t belong to a Belgian anarchist. But inside were simply dozens of chocolate bars in silver tissue, each label scrawled in brown ink: “Fire in the Hive, 1911.”

Lottie rather guiltily unwrapped one, nibbling a corner. She sat up. The chocolate was divine, starred with hot ginger and sweet honey. Definitely not her family’s honey, manufactured in their drab commercial hiveries. Its taste magically transported her from the smog-grey park to the salt marshes of her childhood Norfolk. She closed her eyes, imagining lighthouses, barley fields, red-sailed wherries, the hum of bees, the scent of gorse.

She ate three bars in succession. Her headache disappeared. She felt a sudden, fiery joy.

She drifted down Piccadilly, trailing silks and Rose Otto behind her, oblivious to screams at the bear ambling in her wake. She hailed a cab outside Fortnum’s, arriving at the Zoo just as a keeper was unlocking the gates.

It was immensely complicated trying to make him understand her plight and he wouldn’t accept the bear. They had a blazing argument by the pits where the other bears from Tromsø were resting. Finally, he called for the Professor of Ursology, who arrived wreathed in smiles carrying a teapot.

“There she is!” he exclaimed kindly. “Thank you, Miss Jermyn, for taking Torbjørn for a stroll! Breakfast?” He gestured to his offices.

Suddenly, all returned to her. The cocktail party – the charming young professor, Fredrik – the moonlit tour of the Zoo – the jolly theft of his case – her wild promise to walk the bear which accidentally turned into a sojourn across town, for it to enjoy “a nice change of scene.”

“Should I take my suitcase back?” asked Fredrik. “Oh dear,” she cried, “I stole your lovely chocolate!”

Fredrik Mottram, BSc London, in his second-hand tweeds, looked at Lottie with adoration. It would be difficult to imagine an ursologist more desperately in love. They drank tea, he told her about the Zoo’s honey, enjoyed by the bears and used in his culinary experiments, and the crowds came and went. By the evening, they’d made grand plans to “Reinvent Chocolate”. Within the year, they married, moved to Stiffkey with Torbjørn and fifteen bee hives. Neither had ever been happier.
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