Chapter 32:

Honey-Sweet Anniversary

Sweet like Honey

Having witnessed Bernard bodily lift Victor up and casually toss him out of the café, I had always imagined him to be invincible. But I never thought I would see a day where he was holding his head in his hands.

“What’s the matter, boss?” I asked. Bernard raised his head with a groan and lowered his fingers. He grimaced.

“No, nothing.”

Yet his eyes darted toward the calendar behind the counter.

“Is there an event soon?” I asked, raising an eyebrow. “Did someone reserve the café for an evening this week or something?”

“No.” Bernard sighed and placed his beefy arms on the counter, leaning over. He rubbed his forehead. “Actually…my anniversary with Honey is coming up, and I have no idea what to do.”

“Oh! Your anniversary!” To our astonishment, it was Shirley who spoke up from her corner. She poked her head out and gave a thumb’s up. “You need to give her a surprise! What does Mrs. Honey like?”

“Honey.” Bernard cleared his throat. “I mean, like…literal honey.”

“Yeah,” I agreed and sat down opposite Shirley. It was still early hours. Honey had gone out to purchase ingredients for today’s meals while I was on cleaning duty. Bernard, as always, had to stay in the kitchen to cook. “Oh, you probably don’t know this, Shirley, but…I believe the boss opened the café after he married the madam.”

“It was always Honey’s dream to run a café of our own,” Bernard said, staring past the counter and toward the currently empty store. “I thought it was pretty romantic too, and so I used all of my savings to buy this little place and renovate it into a café.” He beamed. “She had all these amazing ideas about honey. Using honey as an alternative to sugar…for coffee, and all the honey dishes she was coming up with.”

He threw his head back and guffawed.

“We had to experiment, you know. Honey don’t always go with everything. Before opening the store, we spent weeks making up dishes and tasting them.” He winced, though his eyes sparkled with humor. “I’m not going to lie. We had concocted several awful ones that we had to give up, even though Honey so wanted to put them on the menu.”

He chuckled, leaning back against the counter and recalling those memories nostalgically.

“While most couples go on overseas vacations for their honeymoons, we spent ours creating all sorts of honey dishes.” He looked a little embarrassed. “Since I spent all of my savings into buying this place for the café, we didn’t have enough money left to take a vacation.”

“And you always regretted that,” Shirley said, studying him. Bernard shrugged. The retired idol stared at him curiously. “What did you used to work as, before you bought the café?”

“Oh!” My eyes widened. That was right. I never asked Bernard about his past.

“I was a fitness trainer, and also a certified nutritionist.” Bernard chuckled. “That’s why I know how to cook. You’ll notice that despite all the honey in the food and drinks we make, they aren’t very high in sugar. A bit on the high side in calories, but I try to keep them as healthy as I can.”

That made sense. I shook my head, amazed.

“Don’t let Honey know I told you this.” Bernard dropped his voice to a whisper. “But that’s how we met. She used to work as a website designer for some software company and such, and would visit the gym I used to work in after she got off…to lose weight.” He smiled wryly. “She used to be a lot chubbier.”

“Really?” I couldn’t imagine. Speaking of which, I was reminded that his wife would be returning any time soon, particularly when I glanced at my smartphone. Even though I wanted to know more about their past, I reluctantly returned to the topic at hand.

“Did the ma’am ever say she has somewhere she wants to visit?”

“Not really.” Bernard shook his head. “Honestly, Honey doesn’t have much of an interest in holidays. She just likes…cooking and honey. She also likes drawing, much like you, Junior.” He grinned and gestured toward the bees. “She designed all the mascots and the packaging. I’m proud of her for that.”

Then he blinked, stroking his short, trimmed beard thoughtfully.

“Actually, I think she did express an interest in visiting New Zealand. She mentioned wanting to visit a bee farm and trying out manuka honey firsthand there.”

“Oh.” The gears were whirring in my head. “Why don’t you do that for your anniversary, boss? Take the ma’am out on a vacation. A belated honeymoon, if you will. Bring her to New Zealand and visit the bee farms and have a taste of manuka honey there. I’m sure she’ll love it.”

“But I’ll have to close the store to do that,” Bernard mused. “And I’m not sure how many days I can take off.”

“You’ll be fine,” I assured him. “Both you and the ma’am need a break.”

“It’ll be perfect timing too,” Shirley added. “Junior will be busy helping me with this new project, this, uh…thing.”


“Yes, that. So it might be helpful if he takes a break from working in the café too. As much as I’ll miss the honey beverages and food here, I think it’s more important that you and Honey take a holiday. And Junior can make use of this to assist me in getting this VTuber thing off the ground.”

Knowing Shirley, that was an excuse. She wouldn’t have insisted if she didn’t really want Bernard and Honey to go on a holiday.

“Hmm…” Bernard mused for a moment as he nodded slowly. “I’ll think about it.”

In the end, he didn’t have to think much.

Shirley and I were in the airport to send both Bernard and Honey off. I didn’t know why, but my heart felt both joy and a bit of a sting while I watched them off at the departure gate. They had been taking care of me for so long that they felt like my surrogate parents somehow.

“Take care of yourselves, you hear?” Honey leaned in and gave both me and Shirley a hug. Shirley was semi-disguised. No sunglasses, but she had her cap and a mask. Fortunately, with the pandemic just recently ended, no one batted an eyelid when she wore a mask. There were still quite a few people wearing masks in the airport.

“Yeah. Enjoy yourselves.” Shirley returned the embrace. Her eyes glistened for a moment.

“Junior, make sure you succeed.” Honey nodded toward Shirley.

“Protect her,” Bernard said gruffly. I snorted.

“From what?”

“You know.”

I chuckled and gave him a slight push.

“Go relax yourselves. I’ll check in on the café over the next week.”

“You don’t have to drop by everyday,” Bernard said. “We’ll only be gone for seven days. You should also take this opportunity to rest up.”

“You have a habit of working too hard,” Honey admonished me. She turned to Shirley. “Look after him and ensure he rests. If you take your eyes off him, he never takes breaks.”

“Leave him to me, Honey.” Shirley did a mock salute. Then she nodded. “Enjoy your honey.”

As the Chan couple turned and walked through the security checkpoint, Shirley leaned toward me and held my hand.

“I hope they enjoy their holiday. They deserve it.”

“Yeah,” I agreed, entwining my fingers with hers. In the distance, Bernard and Honey did the same, moving forward hand in hand, while pulling their trolley luggage with the other. I wondered if Shirley and I would ever have the chance to do something similar. Watching their silhouettes disappear into the crowd of travelers, I felt something in my chest twitch.

As if I was watching a version of ourselves in the future. hopefully our relationship would be similar to theirs.

“Let’s go,” Shirley said as she tugged on my hand. Despite her mask, I could tell that she was smirking. “We have a date of our own to go to.”

John Lee H. Wu
Steward McOy