Hours passed and it was currently the end of the workday.
I was walking up to the outside of a restaurant called Alente Bistro. This was the place that I was called to help. I was not called here for any work-related reasons, an acquaintance asked me for some help.
Alente Bistro was not a large restaurant in terms of business; it was just a local eatery. But, for a local establishment, Alente Bistro was doing pretty good. That was because according to reviews, the staff was welcoming, the interior was cozy, and the food was delicious. The bistro was located in an area on the outskirts of downtown Tronito. It was attached to a relatively medium-sized apartment building.
I walked inside. I have been here a couple of times in the past so I had a general idea of what the place looked like, and right now, nothing was really different. I could see why reviewers say that the interior gave off a cozy vibe. The walls had brown and beige patterns. The floors were hardwood and were of a matching colour. The place was lit with hanging lights, and a brown pendulum clock hung on a wall. Along the wall on the left of the entrance were booth seats with green cushions. In front of those seats was a long table lined with stools, and behind that table was access to the kitchen. On the very right of the long table was where the cash register was, and above the register was the menu printed on four large boards.
I walked to the cash register. Behind it, there was an old man with short grey hair wearing the restaurant’s uniform; a white shirt with a collar, black pants, and a green apron. The old man warmly smiled at me.
“Welcome to Alente Bistro. How may I help you?”
I shook my head.
“Actually, I was called here by Valerie.”
“Ah, then you must be Mr Ren Morales. Yes, Valerie is currently out right now and won’t be back until tomorrow.”
I knew this and nodded.
“She gave me some paperwork to pass onto you to do. You can use one of the booths to work on them.”
I nodded and received the files he handed me.
I also might as well buy something and support this place.
“Thank you. Can I also get a medium Arabica coffee please?”
“Certainly. Give us a minute and we’ll bring it to you.”
I paid then went to sit at one of the booths.
About an hour passed and I finished. It was currently a few minutes after 6:00 PM. I was about to leave, but someone stopped me from doing so.
“Ren? Woah, didn’t expect you to be here.”
It was Connie. He quickly sat in the seat across from me and smiled.
“Good evening Connie.”
“Good evening to you too, my friend. So, I take it you’re taking the time out of your busy schedule to relax here at Alente?”
I shook my head.
“Not really. I am here because Valerie asked me to help with some work.”
“Oh? And what work is that?”
“Manage restaurant finances.”
This made Connie slightly chuckle. He propped his right elbow on the table and leaned his head on his fingers.
“Gah! That sounds like something she’d do… Sorry you have to put up with her. Y’know, that cheapskate should either hire an accountant or learn to do her own homework.”
“No, it is fine.”
Connie’s smile was as relaxing as this bistro.
“U-um, are you Mr Ren Morales?”
That was not Connie, but rather a young boy. He was also wearing the restaurant’s uniform and looked to be around the same age as Camryn. He spoke politely and in a welcoming tone. He also had a box in his hand.
“Okay. These are for you.”
He handed me the box in his hand. It was a box with six doughnuts that were prepared in this restaurant. The box had a light blue colour with a transparent screen. Based on the colours, the doughnuts all seemed to be different flavours.
“Valerie asked us to give you these for free as thanks for helping us… again.”
It would be rude not to accept.
“Thanks. And I am done with these.”
I handed the files to the boy.
After that, Connie cut in.
“Hey, how are ya, Alan?”
Oh, does Connie know this boy? Considering his job, there is a good chance he does.
The boy whose name was Alan bowed.
“Oh, Mr Capperman, I-I didn’t see you there.”
“Hello, I’m good, thanks.”
“Working hard, right? Say, can you fetch me a glass of water?”
“Yes, right away sir!”
It only took a few seconds for Alan to run to the kitchen and return with Connie’s water.
“Thanks, kid. I’ll let you get back to work. Enjoy your Summer.”
Alan seemed to be a bit nervous, but that did not concern me right now.
I was in no rush to return to my condo. The only consequence of staying a bit later would be Camryn eating dinner without me, but I knew that she would put my share away for me to eat later. And regarding Camryn herself, I do not think anything would happen to her if I were out for long; she barely asks things from me. Since that is the case, I decided to stay and keep Connie company.
I was drinking my coffee when he asked me something.
“So Ren, how’s life been?”
After asking, he drank from his glass of water.
I did not know why, but every time we met, Connie would ask something like this, and every time he did, I had nothing to say. But it was not like he or I minded this. This time, I had something that I could tell him — Camryn. I did not consider housing her to be a secret I had to keep, but I also did not consider it to be a fact that had to be known by others; this was probably the reason why I did not deliberately bring up the topic when I conversed with Bailey or anyone else. Since Connie asked, I might as well tell him.
“About a week ago, I-”
Connie spat the water in his mouth back into his cup and was choking.
“Gah, wait, timeout, timeout!”
He briskly put his cup on the table.
“I attentively listen every time I ask, but the one time something happens is when I'm not expecting anything? Why is this irony being bestowed onto me!? Anyway...”
Connie leaned towards me and propped his arms on the table.
I nodded and readied myself to tell him about Camryn.
“About a week ago, I came across a young girl named Camryn. She was homeless, so I decided to house her at my condo for the time being.”
“O-oh… I see…”
Connie looked down and stroked his chin and he contemplated. This continued for a few seconds.
“So Ren, you’re not doing anything… indecent to her, right?”
“Yeah, of course you’re not… So Ren, why did you take in this poor girl?”
I looked down and put my left hand on the back of my neck.
Why did I take her in?... To be honest, this was the first time I critically thought about that question. I reminisced on the night I met her. What happened was I was being charitable, she followed me home, and she tried to seduce me. Then in the morning, she told me her situation — she was homeless. She could not go to the police or homeless shelter for help, so I decided to house her. Yeah, but why did I decide to house her?
“To be completely honest Connie, I do not know. When we talked, she told me that she had no adults she could rely on; she said she could not reunite with her parents at the moment. She did not want to explain why. She also told me that she did not want to get help from the police or a homeless shelter. She also did not want to explain why for that.”
I looked Connie in the eyes again.
“I think the main reason why I decided to house her was that her situation was dangerous. Since she is underaged with no support from adults, there are a lot of things she cannot do.”
Connie stared at the table again and went back to thinking. After about a minute, a sly smile spread across his face — why was this?
“So Ren, what are you gonna do about Camryn now?”
“Oh? I do not really have anything in mind. She said that she could not reunite with her parents at the moment, right? So that probably means she can reunite with them at a later date. I think I will continue to allow her to reside at my condo until that day comes.”
Hm? “And?...”? I did not have anything else to say.
“That is it.”
When I said this, Connie started to shake his head in discontent and pointed at me.
“Oh, no, no Ren. That’s no good — no good at all.”
“You see Ren, kids are stupid.”
Are you sure you want to be saying that, especially since Alan, a kid you are familiar with, is nearby?
“Since that is that, this Camryn girl is going to do something stupid. So, you gotta be more aggressive with her, y’know. Er, sorry… By that, I meant you gotta guide her more. Care for her, help her with her troubles; you know, the basics… You’re the adult and she’s the child, right? You gotta look after her — it’s the righteous thing to do, isn't it?”
Righteous… I guess that makes sense. But being a leader — can I really do it?
Connie moved his face closer to mine.
“Take responsibility for her, okay?”
I reluctantly nodded.
“I-I will try my best.”
Looking after her… This was kind of like parenting, right. Parenting is just giving a child their basic needs and helping them with things they struggle with, right? Based on my experiences, probably. With my current job, home, and capabilities, I think I can provide for Camryn.
Connie smiled and rose from the seat.
“Alright Ren, that’s all the time I have today. See ya!”
Since I had nothing to do, I decided to leave. I took the box of doughnuts and left Alente Bistro.
As I climbed the stairs, I contemplated my friend’s situation.
So, Ren is housing a homeless girl named Camryn, huh? Ren, please take what I said seriously — take responsibility for her. Provide stuff for her and give her advice on things. Also, since she’s in this state, she’s bound to have a lot of things on her mind. Please help to solve her issues — you never know, it might lead to you solving your own...