Chapter 40:

Valerie Capperman: Introduction Part 2

New Leaf!

“Yo Valerie, what’s up?”Bookmark here

“Hello Valerie, what do you need?”Bookmark here

Appearing from the door that Valerie came from was Alan followed by two people that were both wearing the place’s uniform. One was a girl that was also about the same age as me with wavy blond hair that was shoulder-length. The girl was about the same height as me. Another was a man with short grey hair and was about the same height as Connie. He was an elder, maybe in his 60s — I would imagine that an owner of a restaurant would be around his age.Bookmark here

Valerie turned to the three.Bookmark here

“Nothing really. Just stay out here to lighten the mood — You know, make this place more lively.”Bookmark here

“Sure.”Bookmark here

The old man agreed, but the girl scoffed.Bookmark here

“What, just that? Seriously? Nah, go ahead and call me for anything import-”Bookmark here

She turned her head towards us and her mood lightened.Bookmark here

“Woah! Who’s this!? What a total hottie…”Bookmark here

What? No offence to Ren, but he probably looks more intimidating than handsome. And no offence to this girl, but is she out of her mind?Bookmark here

The girl walked up to us and slammed her hand on the table. She stared at me.Bookmark here

“Hey girl, what’s your name?”Bookmark here

Oh, she was talking about me… I’m, um, flattered?Bookmark here

Alan grabbed the back of the girl’s collar and dragged her to the front counter.Bookmark here

“Shush, Lily. And you have a boyfriend, don’t you!?”Bookmark here

The girl who is apparently named Lily laughed nonchalantly.Bookmark here

“It’s fine, it’s fine…”Bookmark here

Yeesh, how unfaithful… Bookmark here

“No, it’s not… It’s really not… C’mon, you were also called because we usually get a bit busier at this time.”Bookmark here

Well, I guess I am cute, but it’s still unfaithful. She’s just joking, right? Right!?Bookmark here

When they left, the old man walked towards us and bowedBookmark here

“Thank you for visiting. Please enjoy your stay at Alente Bistro.”Bookmark here

“Y-Yes, thank you…”Bookmark here

Afterwards, the man turned and walked towards the other two.Bookmark here

Valerie smiled proudly — a real “pat yourself on the back” type of feeling.Bookmark here

“Yup, that’s my team! Ah, I’m so proud of them — they’re the most well-mannered, hard-working, and charming crew you’ll ever meet.”Bookmark here

“Yeah…”Bookmark here

Yeah, they are… Wait, how big is this store? Not physically, but in terms of business, because there have to be more than four people.Bookmark here

“Um, Ms Valerie…”Bookmark here

“Just Valerie is fine.”
“Oh, s-sorry. Valerie, are they the only other employees? Four people including you don’t seem like a lot…”Bookmark here

“Not at all. There are three other people that are out right now.”Bookmark here

I see…Bookmark here

Valerie propped her elbow on the table and leaned her neck on her hand. She surveyed the store as she smiled warmly.Bookmark here

“Compared to other stores you’ve seen, we have fewer employees, right? That’s because we’re only a local eatery.”Bookmark here

I knew this and nodded.Bookmark here

“We aren’t like those big restaurant chains with locations everywhere. We only have one, and it’s this one. But even if we’re just a small business, we’re busy a lot of the time.”Bookmark here

Valerie turned her head towards Ren.Bookmark here

“We’re busy because we’ve worked really hard. My crew and I have shaped this business into what it is now… Sure, it might have been just me in the beginning, but I really can’t take all of the credit now — maybe I’ll take a bigger portion than everyone else, but that’s all.”Bookmark here

Valerie chuckled.Bookmark here

Why was she looking at Ren when she explained the restaurant’s status? I sensed a second meaning of thanks in Valerie’s words. Then was she thanking Ren? Maybe, but he doesn’t work here. Did he work here in the past? Hm…Bookmark here

Maybe this is how they became friends — I think. Well, Valerie seemed friendly with Ren, but he didn’t really express the same feelings. Maybe this is like the relationship he has with Connie — seemingly one-sided on the surface but actually isn’t.Bookmark here

“S-So Valerie, can I ask about your relationship with Ren?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, yeah, of course. Or rather, do you want to explain, Ren?”Bookmark here

Ren nodded.Bookmark here

“Sure.”Bookmark here

He turned to me.Bookmark here

“Camryn, Valerie is an old classmate from high school.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, but can I add something? I’m an old friend from high school. Now, I’d say best friend, but Connie already occupies that position.”Bookmark here

I nodded.Bookmark here

Ah, so they are friends. But it’s still seeming one-sided. Oh and she knows Connie. I guess that makes sense if they attended the same high school… Bookmark here

Bookmark here

“Oh yeah, guys, don’t be shy.”Bookmark here

She slid the plate of donuts towards me.Bookmark here

“Here. Oh, and it’s on the house. Enjoy!”Bookmark here

“Oh, t-thanks…”Bookmark here

“Thank you.”Bookmark here

Ren and I both reached towards the plate to grab a pastry. Ren took one that was a plain brown colour and took a bite out of it.Bookmark here

“Is it good?”Bookmark here

Ren nodded at Valerie’s question.Bookmark here

I took one and stared down at it. I… I was a bit hesitant about eating it. Just by looking at it I could tell that it was the same flavour as the one I ate about a week ago, but that wasn’t the reason. I think… I think I was just scared. The last time I ate a donut like this one, that flavour was hardly noticeable. But I did not know what the cause was. I was scared that this phenomenon wouldn’t occur again. Yeah, I’ve become accustomed to the taste over time, but oddly, I dreaded it this time. Why? Hm…Bookmark here

Probably because I had a brief taste of food without this scourge — and it was bliss. Yes… It’s like how someone who ate fast food all their life would change to only want to eat at fine dining places because they got a taste of that — obsession. Yeah, that has to be the reason! I don’t want to go back… I have a chance of not having to taste that awful flavour of terrifying memories, and I want this to work out!Bookmark here

“Camryn? You okay?”Bookmark here

“O-Oh, sorry, it’s nothing…”Bookmark here

I should stop — I’m just needlessly worrying Valerie. Besides, nothing will come from just staring at the donut. If the taste isn’t there, I’ll be happy and nothing else. And if the taste is present… I’ve tasted the flavour plenty of times, so there won’t be a difference — but I have a feeling that it’ll be severely worse…Bookmark here

“T-Thanks.”Bookmark here

I took a bite, and…Bookmark here

My eyes widened… The fluffiness of the dough… The slight chewiness… This was undoubtedly chocolate flavoured, but why did it taste different from the one I ate last week? Was it because that one was take-out? Was it because this one was fresher? Was the atmosphere contributing? Or was my memory making the other one seem worse because a week passed? I don’t know, but all that mattered right now was that this one… tasted better. My arms slightly trembled.Bookmark here

Valerie smirked mischievously at me, but I could sense some concern. Ren was also staring at me, and the old man employee was looking at me from behind the counter in concern.Bookmark here

Valerie asked me a question.Bookmark here

“So Camryn? How is it?”Bookmark here

I quickly chewed and swallowed the piece.Bookmark here

“I-It’s go- Huh?”Bookmark here

I couldn’t speak — when I tried to, I couldn’t. Bookmark here

“I… Um… It’s… Um…”Bookmark here

It was hard to speak.Bookmark here

“Um…”Bookmark here

I wasn’t sad… or mad… or feeling any negative feelings. However, it was getting harder to think. Many different thoughts came into my mind, and I had trouble sorting through them and finding something to say. Bookmark here

I was staring down at the table. That was when I noticed… something. I was feeling a thin and wet stream run down the right side of my face. I barely flinched when I saw a small water droplet fall on the table on my right. I… was crying…Bookmark here

“Huh? What is this?”Bookmark here

Valerie brought her head closer to the table and leaned forward, meeting my eyes.Bookmark here

“Earth to Camryn! Did Alan give you a dud or something?”Bookmark here

“Huh? No, it’s just…”Bookmark here

When I tried to speak, the tears started to fall relentlessly. Many droplets soiled the white table, and my face was wet with tears and snot. But I wasn’t sad… or mad… or feeling any negative feelings. It made no sense to me, but… I was feeling so happy.Bookmark here

I took another big bite of the donut and spoke with my mouth full.Bookmark here

“Gah, It’s… I-It’s so good. It’s just so good! I… Um, thank you! Thank you so much!”Bookmark here

As I scarfed down the rest of the donut, Valerie started laughing.Bookmark here

“I hear my food is delicious, but to receive tears of joy over it? Hah, you’re flattering me and inflating my ego!”Bookmark here

I continued eating the donut. The dough had a light and fluffy texture… The chocolate was sweet… The amora was alluring… I remember the last time I ate this, I also scarfed it down, but why was I crying this time? It was because I was happy… The dough had a light and fluffy texture, the chocolate was sweet, the aroma was alluring, and…Bookmark here

That other taste wasn’t present. Of course, I’d never intentionally look for it, but when I intensely focused on the flavour, it wasn’t there. No, the only thing that I could taste was the donut, and I could truly savour its taste… It was surreal and I was in paradise…Bookmark here

After a while, I completely finished the treat.Bookmark here

“Thank you so mu- huh?”Bookmark here

Valerie had a rag and was wiping my eyes with it. She smiled at me and signalled for me to take another one. I did and started eating it.Bookmark here

“Ah, this one is so good too!”Bookmark here

“Really? I’m glad you’re enjoying them…”Bookmark here

And as I took large bites out of the donut, I savoured the flavour — it was sweet and I could taste a hint of apple in it.Bookmark here

As I ate, Valerie turned to Ren.Bookmark here

“Hey, Ren…”Bookmark here

“Yeah?”Bookmark here

Valerie once again assumed her relaxed position of crossing her legs and leaning on her arm propped on the table. She looked at me and smiled warmly.Bookmark here

“She’s just precious, isn’t she?”Bookmark here

“Hm? Y-Yeah…”Bookmark here

I heard their compliments towards me, and I was grateful… But, the thing hogging my attention at the moment was the treat. I blissfully took bites out of it and savoured each one of them, and I was ecstatic… I was so overjoyed because that other taste that haunted me for so long wasn’t present — I was glad that I was able to finally abandon the harbinger of these horrific memories… Bookmark here

“Thank you so much!”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.