Flames of a Lie

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Chapter 5

"What the hell this gray eye monster is doing here" I whispered under my breath in my shaky voice.

What is he doing on stage with all the members of the judging council?

My heart started beating even faster like it would abandon my chest and run away on its own leaving me behind to face that gray eye demon. I immediately lowered my head as his narrowed eyes tried to figure out the familiarity. I felt his heated curious eyes on me trying to figure out if he had seen me. I lowered my head more, still looking at him from the corner of my eyes he too tilted his head a little to see my face clearly.

Why the hell they assigned me the kitchen counter in the first row. Because you are small as a squirrel in front of all this giraffe. Why God why didn't you bless me with little height why I have to be freaking small as chipmunks.

Cold sweat was forming on my forehead as my heart was beating fast. I lifted my hand and tried to wipe it to not let him see my face. If it was possible I would have slid down like a snake to hide behind the counter from his harpy's gray eyes. The only thing stopping me now is my capability of not turning into a snake.

Why can't I turn into a snake?

I bit my lower lip as I can't do anything as I was standing in the first row. I was complaining to God under my breath with my eyes closed. I opened my eyes and looked at the contender standing beside me. He was looking at me with his suspicious eyes as if I was some freak.

Why is he looking at me like that? Did he too recognize that I'm a woman dressed as a man? But I have never met him before so why the hell is he looking at me like that. If you don't want him to look at you like that then stop acting weird you stupid. Stop acting like your chanting some curse under your breath with your eyes close to making everyone lose in this event.

My inner voice mocked at me. Yes, she is right. I'm making him look at me like I'm some kind of witch. I cleared my throat and stood erect. He was still looking at me with the same look in his eyes. I looked at him with a poker face while raising my eyebrows to ask him what. He moved his head in denial and instantly looked in front. I smirked at my small victory. My poker face still works. I used to use it a lot with boys in my University who used to stare at my face more than needed.

I was now standing erect but still with my head held lower as I didn't want to have direct eye contact with his harpy gray eyes again. I don't know what he will do once he finds out I was the same person who spilled strawberry juice on his expensive clothes. I even kept money in his breast pocket to mock him. I bit my lower lip in resentment. In my life it's the first time, I was regretting my action. I need to make a full-proof plan to get out of here. What if I faint then they let me go. Then who the hell will compete in the competition remember you need this chance. What if I hid my face with the help of a pan then he won't be able to recognize me.

Wow, I have never heard of an absurd plan like this before.

My inner voice mocked at me again. I have to think about something else. I was still thinking of a way of getting away without getting caught but it looked impossible to me. As I was immersed in my running away thoughts my attention was caught by a strong voice which made me look up at the person.

"All the contestants listen to all the rules properly. They won't be repeated again as at Villins we prioritize discipline" said a man who looked like a chef. He was tall with a strict look on his face. It looked like he didn't accept any kind of mistakes from the people working for him.

Is he Xanthus Villin? I didn't pay attention when he was telling me his name.

"As it's a talent hunt competition you are free to choose whichever dish you feel like presenting. I want you guys to remember that this competition is no joke if you think you can win by making anything then I advise you to leave this room now. Remember you are competing in this competition not only for prize money but also for the place of the intern of Villins personal staff. Even students from elite colleges can't get into that position. Villins host this composition in search of pure talent so don't take it lightly" he said in his strong voice making everyone nod their head in yes.

"You all have to go throw three rounds. The first round will be in which you have to cook a soup with a side dish. In the second round, you have to cook the main course and in the third and final round, you have to cook a dessert. Each round will be thirty-five minutes. Not a single second more be granted if you fail to complete your dish by second you will automatically get eliminated" he said in his loud voice, making all the contestants mumble to each other. My eyes widen after listening to time limits.

Only thirty-five minutes. Are they kidding? It's so less!

"Silence," he said in his loud voice making everyone shut up. "Time of each round is less because we judge how you can give your best under pressure. After each round panel of judges will test your food and marks will be given on presentation, taste, and talent of creativity. Am I clear " he said in his loud voice making everyone say yes. I was feeling like I was in a military camp after listening to his words. A cold chill passed into my body at the thought of not completing the dish in a given time.

This competition was not as easy as I thought.

I bit my lower lip thinking what will impress the judging panel. I involuntarily moved my eyes to look at the judging panel and my blood ran cold as a chill passed to my whole body when I found him looking at me with his blazing eyes. From the look on his face, I knew he had already recognized me. He moved his gray eyes all over my face passing another cold chill to my body. I swallowed hard as he smirked looking at my scared face. I don't think he will even let me pass the first round.

God, already I have the pressure of competition and now I have to leave in fear of getting eliminated in the middle.

Stop overthinking Sage and give your best. Apply all the knowledge, all the things you learned in Kings. After all, you have learned from the best and it's your dad. My dad is not an easy person in the kitchen. You have to leave all the relations out of the door if you want to learn from him. If I was able to impress dad then I can impress the judging panel too. Suddenly all the thoughts of running away vanished from my brain.

I have to do my best. I won't let him kick me out just like that. Even if I don't get the job I have to get the prize money. Sage brace yourself and get ready to win you can't let it go from your hand just like that.

"Get ready guys pantry is over there and your time starter now," he said in his loud manly voice while gesturing at the pantry. His words made all the contents rush over the pantry to get their things to start cocking. I ran and got all the things I needed for the first round. Taking time into consideration I have to make some which taste good also and Are made in less time so I can see some time on presentation. I got mushrooms and chicken stock with green beans.

I'm going to make mushroom soup in chicken stock and garlic butter green beans as a side dish. It's healthy and tastes good too. I started making it. First I started cutting mushrooms while keeping a pot on the flame. I put all the spices in clothing as I wanted their flavor in the soup. I added chicken stock and clothed spice in the soup.

"Don't forget to keep your eyes on the clock," he said, making me look at the clock. Ten minutes have passed already and I need to increase my pace. I felt his eyes on me but I didn't lift my eyes to look at him as I don't have time to waste.

I cut the beans and then washed them so they don't lose their crunchiness. I tossed them with garlic and butter and with some herbs. As I was doing it my soup simmered I added washed mushroom in it and covered it. I looked at the clock and twenty minutes we're passed. Why this block is running so fast. All the people around me were still running to the pantry to get something. As my beans were done I placed them in the dish. I garnished it with little grated parmesan cheese. My soups were also almost done. I removed the spice from it and let it simmered for a few minutes as I took the bowl to plate it. I tasted it as it was simple with a touch of spice. I looked at the clock and only five minutes were remaining. I did everything fast. I was garnishing the soup with mint leaves when I heard the voice.

"Get away from the counter," said the same man. I immediately moved away while wiping my hand on my apron. Some people were still near the counter and he eliminated them without thinking twice. It made me gasp in horror. All their hard work will go down the drain. As they were made to leave we were instructed to take our dish to judge.

I was second so I went and explained my dish. They tasted it but my eyes were fixed on the gray-eyed monster. He just smelled my soup and took a few beans. His face was so neutral that I couldn't even judge if he liked it or not but I knew I had very few chances to go in the next round as he didn't taste my soup. I took my dish back as they were done with tasting. I looked at Sophia and moved my head in no and she got my message but she gestured to me with her palm to wait for results. I stood with my head low as the remaining contender's food was tasted. Soon the time of the result came. I stood there while grabbing the hem of my apron while biting my lower lip in nervousness.

"Results are here," the chef said and started taking names. Five names were already taken and I was still waiting for my name but it was still not taken when ten names were announced my hopes had died now as I looked at Sophia. She had a small sad smile on her face trying to console me.

"And the last name is Sage King," said the chef, making mine and Sophia's eyes widen in Shock. She gave me a bright smile with thumbs up making me smile in return. With a big smile on my face, I looked in front and my eyes felt expressionless of gray eye monsters. He was looking at me with his keen eyes as I was smiling ear to ear. I cleared my throat and diminished my smile.

God bless the remaining judges, they gave me marks.

Soon the next round started. I grabbed all the needed things. As fast as possible I have to make the main course which can be made in thirty minutes. I took a tilapia fish as it will take minimum time in cooking. I was going to make saucy lemon fish fillets. I cut it and removed the skin to crisp it for crunch bites. I started marinating the fish. I wanted it flavored full. I was going to serve it with some rice tossed in vegetables to balance the dish. I put the rice to a boil and started cutting vegetables into small pieces.

"Xanthus" I heard the name being called and I looked up to find the person in his late forties who instructed us first was talking with the chef and beside them stood a gray eye monster.

So the chef is Xanthus Villin I knew from his aura that he was him.

Feeling my gaze, the gray eye monster looked at me with his hard eyes making me look back on my dish. I put the marinated fish in the pan and looked at the time only fifteen minutes were left. I need to do it fast. I drained the water from the rice and added it to the pan where I had already tossed vegetables with some ground herbs. As everything was cooked I started plating it not before tasting the balance of the dish. Only five minutes left I put some olive oil on the fillers and placed the crisped skin over it and rice beside it.

"Contestants get away from the counter," said the chef, making me move back from the counter with a wildly beating heart. My hands were shivering as adrenaline was running through my blood in full force. I took a breath of relief as I got away from the counter on time. Again one person was eliminated as he was still giving the last touch. The tasting of the dish started and I took my dish to them. They all looked at my presentation as I stood in front of them like an obedient child with my hands back.

They took a bite of fish and I saw the chef who I think is Xanthus smiled at me as he tasted the fish. It raised hope in my heart then he took a bite of vegetable-tossed rice and nodded in approval. The remaining judges like my food too as they gave me a small pleased smile. Only the gray eye monster didn't taste my whole dish; he just took a bit of crunch skin. Why the hell this man is taking his revenge like this. He was so unpredictable as I didn't know what he was thinking. Stop worrying about it, Sage.

Chef Xanthus likes your dish and other judges too so stop worrying. If you win you will be a chef Xanthus intern, not these gray eye monsters.

With this thought in my mind, I took back the dish to my counter. Standing there I waited for the result. I looked at Sophia and she smiled like telling me to be calm as my heart was still beating fast. I patiently waited as the other contender's food was being tasted.

"Results are in my hands and let me tell you only three people have passed this round as per the judging panel standards" The chef announced making my heart beat fast. Often, people, only three have qualified to go in the last round. My hands started sweating at the thought of if I'm ever in the three people. The first name was taken and it made heartbeat skip as it was not mine.

"Sage King congratulations you have cleared the second round," said the chef, making me look at him with wide eyes.

What really did I clear in the second round?

Still not believing what I heard I gave him a nervous delighted smile while looking at all the judges. He was still looking at me with his keen eyes. I don't know how many times he murders me in his head. If I win he will be my senior at work then he will bully me. He makes my work harder than it is. I swallowed hard thinking about it.

Don't worry Sage you can complain to chef Xanthus when he bullies you. After all, you are going to be his intern, not his.

I took a deep breath to make my nerves relaxed. From the corner of my eyes, I saw Sophia saying thanks to God.

"Who will take the prize money and prestige of winning an internship of Villins for a year. We will come to know soon. Final contenders get ready for the third and the final round is about to begin. This round will decide your fate so best of luck" he said in his firm voice after announcing the final name of the contender and then indicated that the final round has begun.

I ran back to the pantry thinking what should I make that will be prepared in less time and taste good too. I decided to make semolina pudding, my dad's signature dessert. I love it and dad makes it on Thanksgiving for everyone. I grabbed all the needed material. As soon as I came to my kitchen counter I started heating the butter in the pan and as it was fully melted I added milk and sugar to it and kept it on medium flame to let it boil. As it started to build I stirred the milk while adding the measured semolina to it. I mixed it well and added a little milk powder and vanilla extract to it and mixed it well so its consistency becomes thick.

As I was busy making it I felt his gaze on me again but I kept working as now only fifteen minutes were left and I still had to cut the almonds and tossed them in sugar to coat it for garnishing. As my pudding mixture was ready I put In-mold and to cool it and started working on almonds not before testing the sweetening of it. I put some sugar granules on the pan and cut almonds to toss on it as it started becoming brown. I tossed the cute almonds on it with some cocoa powder. As the pudding was set I placed it on a plate and garnished it with the toss almonds.

I breathed in relief as I was done with my dessert even before time was up. I gave Sophia a small smile who was praying, setting in once she smiled back at me. The time was up for the remaining people to get away from the counter so no one was eliminated. Now I was the last one to go so I waited for my turn to come with a nervous face. As the first person went I kept looking at judges' faces to see their reaction as they tasted his dessert. They all had a pleased look on his face and it made my heart beat fast.

He was a talented and tough competitor as he was the always first person whose name was announced in every round. He had made some brownies and it looked delicious. All the bad feelings started to come into mind but I took a deep breath and waited for my turn. He went back with his plate and the second person walked in with his plate. As judges tasted his cake like a dessert they had mixed emotions on their faces. The train went back and now it was my turn. I grabbed the plate with shaky hands while swallowing hard nervously and started walking towards the judges. The intense gray eyes we're following my every moment were not making my situation any better. I kept the plate in front of them and smiled nervously.

"It's a semolina pudding with garnishing of tossed almonds in sugar and cocoa powder. Hope you like it" I explained the dessert I made in my little firm voice with a nervous smile on my face. I didn't dare to look at intense gray eyes and kept looking at chef Xanthus. He nodded at me with a small smile. They started tasting it. I waited patiently and tried to read their faces. As soon as they tasted it they smiled in approval as one of the judges took one more bite. It made my smile widen a little bit.

From the corner of my eyes, I saw a gray eye monster take the spoon, and the first time he tasted food made by me properly. I kept looking at him as he took the first bite. As soon as he tasted it I saw his expressionless eyes widen a little bit but soon he covered it back to his normal expressionless one. I nodded at them for the final time and took the plate back. They started discussing among themselves. As we waited for the result to get announced. In less than ten minutes they were done with their decision.

"So the results are with me. I'm the first time in history we have had two winners. One will be the winner who will get an internship in personal staff and the other one will get an internship in our restaurant business. Both will get the prize money though" the chef said, making my heart beat fast.

Two winners.

"So the first winner's name is Benjamin Turner," he said, making the brownie guy jump in happiness as I stood nervously. I knew he was going to win. "Second name is," he said in his suspense voice making my heart almost come out of my mouth. All the things that happened in my life started in front of my eyes. Two million dollars. Mom, Dad, and Elijah had sad faces. What if my name is not taken I will go back to zero then. He was taking so long to announce the name.

Why is he trying to kill me? Just say the names.

I grabbed the hem of my apron tightly as I felt I was soon going to collapse on the floor.

"And the second name is Sage King congratulations to both of you," said the chef Xanthus making my eyes almost come out of their eye socket. A sharp happy cry was heard from the audience and it was none other than my best friend Sophia.

"I knew I knew you will win" she shouted happily while doing a victory dance making me laugh at her in happiness. All people looked at her in amusement. My eyes were getting a little blur as happy tears started to form in my eyes at my victory. All the people applauded to congratulate us. I took a deep staking breath to calm my little shivering body. I still couldn't believe I had won the competition.

"I call the winners to come to the stage to receive their prize and an official internship call letter," said the chef made me and another guy go to the stage. The guy who was in his late forties gave us the prize and letter. I came to know he is the manager of all the chain restaurants owned by Villin groups. I asked my hands with the judges. I didn't shake my hand with him. He didn't even want me to win so ignored him and went to share my hand with a person I was going to work with.

"It will be a pleasure working with you chef Xanthus," I said in my happy voice, making gray eye moisture look at me with an amused face.

"It will be but I'm not chef Xanthus. I'm assistant chief, Oliver " he said with a polite smile making me look at him with an apologetic smile still shaking hands with him. If he is not him then who. Is he not present here. "Well come I will introduce you to him," he said while taking me to gray eye moisture making my eyes wide in horror.

"You will be in his personal staff as an intern as he personally chooses you," the chef said with an admiring smile on his face and it made all the color drain out of my face. I was not able to believe what he said. His words echoed in my ear like broken records. I gave a nervous smile to my gray oh sorry Mr. Xanthus Villin. He just smirked arrogantly at me.

"I want you in front of my office at sharp six-thirty and I hate latecomers," he said in his dominating voice making me gulp loudly. He smirked looking at me saying that he left. His smirk was screaming.

Welcome to hell Sage King.

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