The Y-files [GL]
Anna and I had split ways before I entered the brasserie. She knew I wanted to talk with my mom and decided to give us some space. We would see each other tomorrow for our date at the Wellness Center, which I won in my bet with the mayor.
As I entered, I noticed that our brasserie was full again. If this continued, mom would have to hire plenty more people just to keep up with the work.
I could feel the eyes of the customers on me. It had become an unwritten rule, that people should not approach me here, because I lived here, I should be given some peace in my own house. Our regulars had enforced that policy by talking to people that harassed me for autographs and the like.
When Tory passed me, I decided that I should say something about her concert yesterday.
“What's up Claire?”
“Congratulations on your sold-out concert in Bozart. I was really surprised that our Tory was that famous.”
Tory blushed and then started laughing. “I did not know you read the newspapers. Well, they did mention you too. It was only the small hall, that hardly counts as a sold-out Bozar in my book. I can't wait until the day that I get to play a concerto and fill the large hall. I had not expected that kind of crowd to be honest. Ans, my old teacher made some publicity for me on the radio. After that, the concert was sold out in a matter of hours.”
Newspapers? Had I been in the newspapers again?
Then a blitz looking dark-haired woman, in a short dress with boots up to her knees carrying a fancy camera approached us “I am sorry to bother the two of you, but rather than take a sneaky paparazzi shot, I wondered if I could take a picture of the two of you together, and then have a little interview. I am sure, showing how connected she is, will benefit Tory's career. A nice picture of her and the Yuri Jeanne D'Arc could do wonders.
She gave us both her card: Rita R. Dando. Collegium Musicum Magazine.
“Oh my God! You're from Collegium Musicum!” Tory became so excited that Mari came to take a peek from the kitchen. Apparently, this is a big magazine in the world of classical music. She looked at me with puppy eyes.
Well, it became really hard to refuse, after seeing Tory like that... But before I said yes, I asked “May I ask what it is exactly that you want to write about?”
Rita's eyes started burning with passion, before answering in a swirl full of passion “I want the story of the hard-working international student. Slaving away in a small brasserie in Brussels, while striving for her dream to become a laureate of the Queen Elizabeth Competition. The protegee of the great Ans Semble with such a humble background. I just had to write about it, after seeing that wonderful concert yesterday.”
“I'd love to help, but I think we need mom's permission too. Since Tory is working, and you want to write about the brasserie.”
“Oh, the owner? She can join the interview and be in the pictures too! I'd love to add some pictures of everyone in the brasserie.” She seemed to be really enthusiastic. How long was this article with only a “short interview” going to be? I started regretting not running to the kitchen immediately. I was beginning to realize that this “short interview” wasn't going to be short at all.
I called mom over and she was delighted but said that Rita would have to interview the staff separately because the customers needed to be served.
So Rita started out with a photoshoot.
First a quick picture of Mom, Tory, and me, and a real quick picture of all the staff together. After that she started asking Tory and me for a few different poses, it was immediately clear that I was going to be a big part of this article.
When the interview started, I got to hear some of Tory's background, and I was impressed by her determination to come to Belgium, and compete in the Queen Elizabeth contest.
She asked how we got to know each other, and I just said that I walked in on their job interview. I did not mention the eclairs, and luckily Tory didn't either.
Rita moved over to interview the other employees one by one and after half an hour of talking to mom, she came back excitedly. “Tory, I heard you play here sometimes. Lisa gave you permission to play for the customers tonight so that I could take some pictures.”
When Tory and I started rolling out the piano, the other customers were looking curious about what we were doing.
Then, when Tory started to play, the whole dining hall became silent and listened. She played a very catchy jazzy tune that I did not immediately recognize. When her song finished, she received big applause, asking to play another song. I heard one of the regulars ask if it was going to be a regular occurrence, that Tory played here, so mom said “As long as Tory works for us, and she agrees, this will be a regular thing on Friday evenings.”
Tory seemed really glad for the opportunity. To be paid for playing music is what being a professional musician was all about after all.
While Tory played, I helped mom do Tory's job, because it was really busy. Some customers were really glad to get into contact with me this way. When I had a moment I brought Rita an aperitif on the house and a few of my shrimp croquettes, to get her in a good mood. When I saw her surprised face when she ate one of the croquettes, I knew for sure the article would be really positive.
I caught her saying to herself “She plays jazz too, and has a regular gig, obtained by merit alone. Splendid. And then this brasserie. Traditional, but open to modern values, and if these croquettes are anything to go by, the food here is marvelous for the prices. This has everything for a splendid article!”
Rita was clearly finished with her work and kept watching as long as Tory played.
When Tory returned to her duties, I could finally make my way to my kitchen. When I got to the apartment, Frank was playing with Emma. “Good, you're here, then I can go back to work.”
Oops. I think we forgot to mention Frank for the article. We just went over everyone present and took a group picture among everyone there. I hope Frank would not get his hands on the next Collegium Musicum. I am sure he will feel cheated out of his moment of fame. Well, whatever. What were the chances of that ever happening?
“I'll prepare dinner,” I answered.
“Fine, but I'll skip. I will make something for myself downstairs. You can eat with mom and Emma. I cannot take a break after not being there for so long.” Frank always kept up an amazing work ethic.
To be sure that Emma wouldn't do anything wrong, I put her in front of an animated film with a headphone. It was something about two princesses, she was always talking fondly about.
That way I could be myself in the kitchen.
I decided to make a 'philosopher'. Since I had lost so much time, I could win some back to make deserts while the dish was in the oven.
I started by hacking the veggies. I had a lot of pent-up emotions from that whole situation with Fien and my dealings with Kath that I had to let out now. I decided to get more ingredients from the brasserie and make large quantities. That way, it could serve as the day special for the brasserie tomorrow. When making a tomato sauce, it was easy to make larger quantities with only a small input of extra work.
My biggest problem was the fact that I did not know what Kath was going to ask of me. I hacked and slashed away, and before I knew it the lovely waft of a simmering tomato sauce was filling the kitchen.
I added a good amount of cognac and let the alcohol boil out. I did not want to deal with a drunk three-year-old at the dinner table.
While the sauce simmered I prepared the mashed potatoes. I hoped Anna would at least eat something decent tonight. I had no idea what she cooked for herself. I guess she would be fine. She had been living by herself for a while now, so I am sure she can make something for herself.
After portioning everything for the brasserie and for our meal tonight. I put our dinner into the oven. That gave me a good 30 minutes to make some dessert, and I knew just the thing. Since the oven would be warm, I could make some Apple balls from Antwerp. It wasn't too much work, and I could put them into the oven while we ate.
I went downstairs to tell mom dinner was ready.
Then I started putting dinner on the table. When Emma saw, what we were eating for dinner, she became tremendously enthusiastic. She loved this dish, and I knew it. I loved pampering her like that. Well, I was her godmother, so it was my right to do so.
During dinner, there was some tension between me and my mom. I was expecting her to say something about her date yesterday, but instead, we sat there in loud silence. With that, I meant, that we were catering to a loud Emma, while not saying anything to each other. I wanted her to be the one to start talking though.
“Claire, about yesterday.”
Ah, there it was. Finally, I would find out who this mystery bloke was.
“There are going to be some serious changes around here. First of all, I met an old friend in Ostend, and she called me today to ask if her daughter Sam could start living and working here. She wants her daughter to get a taste of life in the capital. So she will be moving in here this weekend.”
This weekend? That was fast. This was a big change, but not what I wanted to know.
“Is Frank okay with that?” I was sure mom had already talked to Frank, during the day.
“Frank will have to be okay with it. I need the help waiting tables, packed like we are these days.”
At least it was a good thing extra help was coming. I hoped it would be someone nice if she was going to live here though.
“Well I will be out most of the weekend, but I look forward to meeting her.”
It was an important change, that is true, but I hoped she would go over by herself to address the elephant in the room. I wanted to know how her bloody date went. The only thing I know is that she ended up at her best friend's house. So something must have happened. I lost my patience and decided to ask myself.
“Won't you tell me anything about your date?”
Mom started laughing.
“I was wondering how long you would last without asking.” mom said with a teasing voice, still avoiding the subject of course.
“Fine, fine. Well, that is the second change. I am quite serious and decided that I want you and Frank to meet my new partner.”
So it was serious and went well. But then why did she end up at aunt Bernie's place?
“Won't you tell me his name? Do I know him? Come on, tell me more.” I said. I was dying of impatience in the meantime. Who was this scoundrel that had taken away my mom?
“That will be a surprise. But I can tell you, that you know them, and if you and Frank agree, I want to invite them to live here with me.”
To be honest. I did not like the sound of that. I did not want some father figure to boss me around.
“When?” I said in a much colder voice.
Mom had noticed the change in my tone and stopped the teasing.
“Next Thursday.” She answered me rather curtly.
“Fine. I'll make sure to arrange with Ms. Lourdes that I'll be home in time.”
“Just tell her I asked. I am sure she will agree.” I heard a new pleasant tease in her voice. She was having fun with me, wasn't she?
I got up to get the apple balls out of the oven. As soon as I got them Emma ran back to the table to get some of the fresh sweets. I cut off some pieces for her and told her to blow on them before putting them into her mouth. "We don't want her to burn herself, now do we?"
The conversation with mom was clearly over, and we went back to our loud silence. I could not really enjoy the dessert as my mind was preoccupied with everything that had just been said, but I noticed mom was enjoying her scheme of teasing me and letting me in the dark.
Filosoof (philosopher): Is a dish that consists of a tomato sauce with minced meat, celery, carrots, a bouquet garni, and hacked parsley, usually with some cognac. The sauce is then covered with mashed potatoes and gruyere cheese. Then it gets grilled in the oven. Kids are crazy about it.
Antwerpse appelbollen: Apple balls from Antwerp. Apples that are rolled in and filled with a sugar and cinnamon mix, packed in a puff pastry ball. A type of sweets mostly found in the region of Antwerp.