Hint of Mint
People often turn to their favorite foods, consciously or otherwise, to comfort them, soothe their troubles. Most people select things like cookie dough ice cream, or their mother's piping hot chicken soup. Pleasant memories are often attached to certain foods, allowing them to satisfy more than simple hunger. Lauren's somewhat unconventional choice of comfort food was gum, spearmint. She chewed it almost constantly.
Scents are very provocative, often evoking strong emotions without clear memories. For Lauren, spearmint gum reminded her of a time when the terror and anguish she'd felt over a horrific event, the specifics of which were buried somewhere in the shadowy recesses of her mind, had been driven away, soothed by someone she couldn't quite remember.
Lauren had a sketchy recollection of the night her parents were murdered; a few four year old's impressions that seemed to always dance just beyond the grasp of her memory. Mostly darkness and yelling, loud noises that she now supposed must have been gunshots, wanting to cry but almost too afraid to breathe. Someone had told her later that she had stayed hidden in the closet for over an hour after the shooting; the police hadn't thought to look for a child until an officer noticed crayons strewn about in a corner of the victims' living room.
She remembered being whisked from the safety of the darkness to bright lights and red stains, sobbing. Strong arms were carrying her from the apartment; she was curled in them, nestled against a warm, comforting presence that was wrapped in a leather jacket. He spoke to her, still holding her, telling her everything would be all right, and his spearmint breath tickled her cheek. Her sobs slowly quieted to muffled whimpers as she listened to him talking to her, calming her. Lauren couldn't remember what the spearmint voice had said, only that it was reassuring, soothing. Finally, she'd fallen to sleep, utterly exhausted by her fear. The last fuzzy memory that had registered before her red-rimmed eyes closed was something plaid.
Nine years after she'd drifted off to sleep on the scent of spearmint, Lauren slowly unwrapped her own stick of spearmint gum, the last one she had. She'd tried to buy more at the corner store, but vaguely familiar man wearing a leather jacket had just beaten her to the last pack. She had stared at him, her mind trying to connect him to an elusive thought that she couldn't quite catch. A man who looked strangely right, somehow, in his plaid tie. A man with spearmint breath.