Chapter Three - Introductions (b)
“Are you a baker?” I asked as I turned to her. “Or do you have a different position?”
“I don’t have a particular job in the bakery. I simply assist everyone with what they do,” she replied. “And as you can tell,” she briefly raised the basket. “I’m the one who is tasked to buy whatever ingredient is needed.”
“Well, I should get back inside. They might be looking for me,” she started to slowly walk towards the entrance.
“Oh, of course,” the tone of my voice changed quickly as my emotions changed from being happy to disappointed. For some reason, I didn’t want her to go. I wanted to spend more time with her. She seemed so calm and her kindness radiates all over her, which is something that can’t be found in my realm. Maybe it’s the reason why I find her so intriguing.
“Are you all right, Robert?” she asked as she walked back to me.
“Laura, where have you been?” our conversation was cut short as an old man walked out of the bakery. He headed towards Laura and he wasn’t angry, just confused and perhaps, curious.
“Oh, Grandpa Ben!” Laura ran up to him and gave him a quick kiss on his cheek. “I got the ingredients you told me,” she showed the basket filled with different fruits. “And I bumped into someone on my way home.” She then gestured in my direction.
This Grandpa Ben doesn’t look like a grandpa at all. Sure, his hair was gray and is shining underneath the mild sun but his overall appearance made him look like he wasn’t young enough to possibly be called a grandfather. He was wearing a humble attire: a white shirt with brown pants and brown suspenders finished off with black shoes. His grayish-white beard was beautifully placed on his chin and his chin alone. His face was clean.
I could already tell that this man matters to Laura so much. To see a lady kiss an elder and act as if she’s a young, innocent child when he’s around, I can tell that Grandpa Ben loves and spoils her in whatever ways he can.
“And who’s this fine fellow you’ve brought, child?” he asked with a smile.
“Oh, um, this is--”
“How are you today, sir? My name is Robert,” I bowed as I introduced myself, not letting Laura finish because she’s struggling with her words. I stood upright and held out my hand for a handshake. “It’s an honor to meet you.”
“I’m Grandpa Ben, it’s nice to meet you, too,” he moved his walking cane to his left hand and shook hands with me with his right hand, smiling throughout. We then put our hands down. “Are you a friend of Laura?”
“He’s an acquaintance, Grandpa Ben,” Laura interrupted as she entered the conversation. “We just met a while back.”
“Laura, haven’t I told you that once you introduce someone to me, I will consider them as your friend?” he turned to Laura.
At this point, it seemed like this conversation would be between the both of them so I cleared my throat before saying, “If you don’t mind, I’ll take this as my queue to leave. I’m just here to make sure that Laura returned safe and sound.” I had to choose my words carefully because I didn’t want to sound like I was being rude by leaving them in the middle of a conversation. I did what I had to do for Laura and now, I have to go.
“Thank you again, Robert,” she looked at me and smiled a gentle smile.
“Wait,” Grandpa Ben stopped me as I started to hop on Lady. “Who said who’s going home?” he smirked as he put his cane in front of him, resting his hands on top of the handle.
“Grandpa Ben, please don’t do this,” Laura slightly whispered to Grandpa Ben as she hid her face from me.
“You, young lady, are going to have to work on your socializing skills,” he scolded her as he briefly pointed a finger at her.
“What?” her eyes widened while her brows furrowed in shock, confused on why Grandpa Ben is scolding her.
“As for you, young man,” he then turned to me and started to walk towards me. “You’re not going anywhere until you have tasted some of Laura’s specialty in the bakery: her version of apple pie.”
“There’s no need for that, Grandpa Ben. I’m sure that Robert still has things to do,” Laura continued to protest behind him.
“Oh, shush, Laura, there’s no need to be shy about your talents,” Grandpa Ben turned his head to the right for a quick second. “Come on in, son,” he moved to the side as he made way for me to enter the bakery.
As I entered the bakery, the atmosphere was very light and cheerful. Everyone was smiling at one another and they all seemed to be on good terms with one another. The big window pane by the front brings in so much light and openness into the whole shop. There were five to seven tables with four chairs each and a long counter: half of it was for dining and the other half was for those who were taking their orders on the road.
This sort of interaction has the feel of being too perfect, unrealistic. This doesn’t happen in our realm. Everyone is always serious about their kingdoms and keeping everyone in check when we instantly forgot how to smile at times. And for me who has been in that kind of environment for the longest time, this is very refreshing to me.
“Robert!” Grandpa Ben shouted from the counter where people were dining. “Please sit here. We have a long chat ahead of us,” he continued, pointing to a chair right in front of him.
I rushed over to the counter and quickly made myself comfortable on the last stool. Grandpa Ben handed me a list of what they have in the bakery.
“What would you like, son? Choose anything you want.”
As I read down on the menu, everything on it looked… delicious. The list contained the name of the meal. At the bottom of the name was a short description of what that meal has and at the right side are beautiful hand-drawn illustrations of a certain meal. Such careful planning has been incorporated in this menu and it reflects on how radiant the atmosphere is inside the bakery and its effect on its customers.
I would buy all of these just to make sure I’d try every single one. Unfortunately, I can’t. I shouldn’t spend all of my money and I can’t spend any more after giving seven pieces to that bastard a while ago. It might also cause another riot inside here and I wouldn’t want to disturb the peace.
“Is there something wrong, son?” he asked, a hint of worry reflected on his face as he leaned closer to me.
“Grandpa Ben, all of these appear to be quite scrumptious,” I replied with a smile as I lifted the menu for a quick second. “Just by their names and their ingredients, it’s enough to make one’s mouth water.”
“Then how come you haven’t chosen anything yet?” he asked another. “You seemed to be in deep thoughts. You couldn’t possibly be thinking about this too hard.”
“I would like to buy one of everything on your menu. However, the money I have with me isn’t enough to let me do so,” I lowered my voice as I scratched the back of my neck.
Grandpa Ben suddenly burst into laughter. He enjoyed it for a few seconds then stopped, wiping a tear from his left eye. “Oh, boy, you just made me cry,” he snickered, trying to stifle his laughter. “Don’t you worry about it, Robert. You won’t have to pay for anything,” he explained as he calmed down. “It’s a rule here that if it’s your first visit, you can order what you want without paying.”
“Are you sure? I don’t want you to lose profit because of me,” I replied, worried that I might cause trouble.
“Calm down, young man,” he answered, stopping me from speaking by giving me a tap on the shoulder. “You don’t have to worry about anything. Just choose what you want and you can have it.”
I stared down at the menu once again, trying to decide if I should order the whole menu or just choose a few.
Grandpa Ben then put his hands on each of my shoulders. “Don’t stress yourself over this, Robert. Just choose anything that catches your attention.” He pulled his hands back to give me space to think.
A few seconds have passed when I finally decided, “I think I would like to try your special tea and the apple pie that you said Laura makes.” I then returned the menu to Grandpa Ben.
He turned to his staff and began giving instructions. “Rodrigo, I need one of your tea creations.” He then turned to Laura, “And you, little one, I need one of those pies.”
“As you wish, Grandpa Ben,” she nodded with enthusiasm and went to work.
Grandpa Ben pulled a chair and sat right in front of me. “I’m so happy my granddaughter has finally found a friend around here,” he started.
My brows furrowed. Did I hear him correctly? Did he just call Laura his granddaughter?
“I beg your pardon, good sir. Did you say granddaughter?” I asked, incredibly baffled. Laura said she was an orphan. How could she be his relative?
“I was pertaining to Laura. And please, don’t call me ‘sir’, I don’t own this town,” he replied, shaking his head as he stifled a chuckle.
I smiled as his was contagious. “Sir--I mean, Grandpa Ben, how come you said Laura’s your granddaughter? She said she was an orphan,” I continued as I leaned closer, keeping my voice at a low volume.
“Well, she wasn’t lying about that. She was an orphan,” he replied, his voice changed to a bit more serious tone. “I’m the one who adopted her. Originally, I signed up to be her grandfather but I have since adopted her as my own which makes me her father as well.”
Laura is fortunate to have a father and a grandfather in one person. Perhaps that’s why she has such a gentle nature: it’s because of how Grandpa Ben treats her.
“So, Robert, who are your parents? And where do you live?” he asked, crossing his arms and putting them on the counter.
His question made me stop and think everything through. Up to this point, I’ve introduced myself as a random stranger that happened to pass by and assist Laura. I can’t tell him that I’m not of this world. My identity as an immortal must be protected at all cost or I’ll end up with a crowd again. I don’t think that Grandpa Ben is the type of person that tells people everything but still, I don’t want any eyes on me in this place.
“Did I say something wrong, Robert?” he asked as he noticed my silence. “Did I say something offensive?”
“Oh, not at all, Grandpa Ben. It’s just, um…”
Come now, Robert, think of something.
I continued, trying to be as careful as I can be, “You see, Grandpa Ben, I’m not from around here so I don’t think mentioning my parents would be worth it.”
“Is there some kind of family conflict? You seemed… uncomfortable talking about your parents,” he said.
“Let’s just say that there are so many things that happened with my family that made our relationship as a unity turn sour,” I replied, my lips formed into a firm smile.
“Can you share a bit about that?”
Maybe I could share a few things to lift some weight off of my chest. I didn’t tell him that I’m from a family of immortals so I think it’s safe to share a few of my frustrations with him. He seemed to be interested and concerned as well.
“I think… I think it’s the marriage arrangement they pushed me into that ultimately destroyed my relationship with them,” I answered, looking down on my hands that are now intertwined with each other.