A couple of days have passed since that day, but I’m honestly still so happy. The day I first visited Alente Bistro and met Valerie, Alan, Elyssa, and Mr Li…
I was sitting at the dining table devouring leftovers from Alente that was heated up using a microwave. But even in this state, it was so good. Like really good. Like, so good that it’s turning me into a borderline addict…
And it’s so good because I can’t taste that other taste… The taste was so salty…. The taste made me smell horrendous things… The taste ruined everything… That’s why I’m happy even until now — that taste is gone. I’ve eaten a few dishes, and none of them evoked that taste. That sour taste that brought about even more sour memories… This taste plagued me for so long, so that donut was my first time eating without any disturbance…
And I know it’s not just dishes from Alente that have this effect. Even Ren’s basic recipes prepared by me and my questionable cooking skills don’t have this scourge. So basically, what I’m saying is… I’m cured — my sense of taste is no longer being hindered. Yes… Now I can truly savour flavour! Exquisite food will no longer taste just okay, and bad food no longer has an excuse for tasting bad!
I would usually be at work right now. However, I am home right now because a friend of Alan took over my shift and Valerie cannot afford to pay the both of us. The friend didn’t give an exact reason for temporarily joining, but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with money — he is in college and I think tuition is expensive. But I’m newer, so shouldn’t I stay because I need more experience? But from a business standpoint, I guess it makes sense that the least experienced member is laid off — that’s just my guess. It’s for five days, so vacation for me!.. Well, I’m usually off for three of those days, so I guess it’s only a two-day vacation…
A couple of minutes after finishing my satisfying meal, I decided to do some school work. I could have chosen to play a game on the TV or continue watching entertaining videos online, but honestly, that got boring. I’d continue my show, but I completely finished it, and it left me with an empty feeling and hope for another season! So, I’ll do academic work. I shouldn’t complain because education is important — I like doing important things!
After about 30 minutes, I heard the door unlock. Was that Ren? It’s earlier than when his work ends at 3:00. And it’s way earlier than when he usually leaves work. What’s up?
I got up and went to the door to greet him.
“W-Welcome home, Ren. But aren’t you early? It’s only after lunch…”
“Hello. Yeah, that is because our boss let me go early.”
I put my hand on my mouth in shock.
“Eh!? Did you get fired!? Oh my gosh, what happened!?”
He shook his head. Yeah, I guess Ren would never do something that would get him fired — he’s the most reliable person I know!
“No, it is not that… Actually…”
He moved his bag from his shoulder and put his hand on the back of his neck.
“Starting tomorrow, I will be on a business trip. The Boss let me go early to prepare.”
My small smile was gradually turning into a frown…
“W-What? R-Really? Why?”
“Oh… Just some things relating to work.”
“For three days starting tomorrow, I will be away.”
Huh? Three days… That’s a lot…
“Um, R-Ren… How important is this trip?”
He’ll be away for three days… Why? Why did this bother me so much? Why was I dreading this?
“Pretty important I think. We have to help another office with a rather major project. I-”
“R-Ren, please don’t go!”
I… I don’t know why I said that. I did know why this bothered me so much, but the fact was that it did. I don’t know why, but I felt sad… Why did I feel so sad that Ren was going to be away? Was… um, I don’t know…
My arms started trembling… I was staring at the floor… I felt my chest become heavy… What was going on?
I’ve been alone for a long time — I’ve been homeless for six months and I’ve never been distressed by someone leaving…
“R-Ren… Ren, please don’t go! I… I don’t know, but please don’t go!”
What? Why did I sound so desperate? Why was I saying this?
“F-Forget work, I want you to stay!”
Why… was I saying this?
“Please, don’t leave!”
Why… was… I… saying… this?..
I said those things… But why did I say them? After I said them, I could feel my breathing become heavier.
Ren walked towards me. I didn’t see, but I think he tilted his head.
“Camryn? What is the matt-”
“W-Wait, n-no, don’t listen to me!”
I swiftly turned from him, keeping my head down. I was speaking intensely, but I shouldn’t be… Was I feeling angry? If I was, I shouldn’t be.
“F-Forget everything that I said… L-Leave… G-Go… Your work’s important, right? S-Sorry for saying those things…”
My back was still turned towards him, but I straightened myself and looked normal — despite my limbs shaking. I tried speaking cheerfully and throwing my arms up to mimic the effect.
“J-Just… Um… D-Don’t worry about me… H-Hey, I’m fourteen, remember? I can look after myself! You g-gave me that recipe book, so I can cook. I’m sure I can figure out the public transit system, and I have money from working, so I can get groceries! I… Um… I…”
Ren put a hand on my shoulder. Was it supposed to be reassuring? Or was it just meant to stop me from having this outburst?
“Camryn… If you don’t want me to go, then I won't.”
When he said that, I jumped forward.
“N-No! Ren, why are you listening to me!? Um…”
I put my hand on my face… I was about to reveal the truth, but why was I sad about it? It’s the truth, so there’s no way to change it.
“Ren, I’m just a child throwing a fit, okay? I’m just acting out because I want attention, okay!? So just ignore me and go, okay!?”
A minute for me holding the same position passed. My head was down… My legs were trembling… My arms were trembling… My breathing was heavy… But there was one new thing — my eyes were slightly wet. I was crying? But why? Am I sad because of the truth? Am I sad because Ren’s leaving? I shouldn’t be…
My feelings just don’t matter…
Ren put his hand on my shoulder again.
He… Did he speak calmly? I-I’m not sure. He was speaking in his usual monotone voice, so it was kind of hard to tell.
“Camryn, I can see that you are distraught about the situation… And honestly, I am a little confused — do you want me to go or stay?”
“Sta- Wait, I mean go.”
I was not speaking in a loud voice — I already used most of my energy revealing these confusing feelings.
Geez, what am I saying? Just go… Seriously, I’ll be fine alone…
Ren removed his hand from my shoulder and walked forward. I raised my tear-stained eyes and looked at him… Basking in the afternoon sunlight peering through the window…
He shook his head.
“Um… I do not think that is right. You are obviously disturbed… And you are not saying what the true reason is, and honestly, that is okay…”
He turned to me to look me in the eyes — my distressing eyes riddled with tears. But his expression did not change… He was not bothered by my look.
“Look… Leaving you alone does not seem like a viable option, and staying would only do harm for the company… Therefore…”
He stared at me… He meant everything that he was saying.
“A solution to this is for you to come with me…”
As I expressed my disbelief and opinion of his absurd proposal, Ren handed me a white handkerchief.
“Here, please compose yourself and we can talk properly…”
He nodded as I swiftly whipped my face with it.
Ren put his hand on the back of his neck again.
“Yeah… You can come with me on the business trip. Really, it is no hassle.”
I was still shocked. I mean, the suggestion was just absurd.
“I mean, you do not have work for those days — you also have the day after off because of Alan’s acquaintance wanting to work.”
“I will also be most likely working the whole time…”
“There will be enough room given the hotel that was booked…”
“We will drive to the city, so there will be no expenses there…”
“I’ve never been to the city so I don’t know what it has to offer, but there you can still be entertained…”
“Also, my co-”
He looked at me again when I interrupted him.
“Why are… Um… You know, I… Uh…”
But I did not know what to say… I obviously conveyed to Ren that I did not want him to go. It would be unreasonable to think that I was saying he should not work anymore given that he’s worked there for a long time, so he probably thinks I don’t want to be separated from him — how petty and sad. And as usual, he also alleviated my worries of being a burden to him. So I should probably accept, right?
But it was not so easy to accept. I mean, from Ren’s standpoint, accepting would be fair, maybe even encouraged. But, it was not so simple. It… The thought of accepting felt so weird. I felt… ashamed for doing it. But I should accept it… My feelings… The only thing they do is make things complicated, and I hate it!
Ren put his hand on my shoulder again.
“Camryn, you do not have to look so sad… Seriously, you can come.”
I guess I have no choice. But it’s not like I don’t want to go…
“Sure, I’ll go!”
I really shouldn’t look so sad, so I smiled at Ren through my tear-stained face.
“Th-Thank you, Ren…”