|Rafael Atala (freyr) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-03-06 19:43:00
|Entry tags:||freyr, uke mochi|
on the edge of the lamplight
Who: Alice & Rafael
What: Rafael finds a new safe haven.
Where: Rosemary & Thyme Bakery
When: 8:45 a.m., February 25th
One week had passed since his job gone awry. Rafael's bruises had at last begun to fade, their sickly yellow color at last subsumed by his ever-present tan. The few narrow cuts he had been left with were healing, closing up and stitching together with little difficulty. He had been able to go to the gym early that morning, and had openly beamed with pleasure upon completing his weight training session and finding no newly reopened wounds, no blood stains or freshly deepened bruises to care for. He had left the apartment complex with a renewed spring in his step.
Upon returning to his first-floor studio, Rafael had seen his neighbor's mention of her bakery. It seemed a fine way to spend the morning, and so after a quick shower and even quicker feeding of Mr. Fishy, Rafael set out to meet the new tenant on her own turf. He entered the shop at a quarter to nine, his pleasant smile still firmly fixed on his face.
He breathed in the warm, sweet scents around him as the door swung shut at his back. "Good morning," he said, sidling up to the counter. He peered into the cases, his hands kept neatly in his pockets to curb the boyish instinct to touch the glass cases.
“Oh, hi!” Alice replied, flashing a wide smile as she shifted a tray of croissants into one of the counter displays. “Welcome to Rosemary and Thyme! Can I get you something?” She brushed off her hands onto the flower patterned apron she wore and made her way toward Rafael with no indication of knowing who he was or where he came from--she was simply that eager and welcoming to all customers. Brushing back a loose strand of red hair from her face, she leaned against the counter. “We’ve got coffee, tea and hot cocoa and all the baked goods are marked in the displays.”
"Everything looks so good," he mused. His bright gaze flicked from her to her wares, as though uncertain which he wanted to pay attention to first. "I saw your post this morning on the forum," he explained, "and the pictures looked excellent. I don't think they did these justice, though." He smiled up at her. "I'm Rafael Atala. I'm at Pax as well. Um… what would you recommend?"
Alice’s bright smile seemed to brighten more. Eyes lighting up, she stood up straight. “Oh! It’s so nice to meet you! You’re the first person I’ve met from Pax! Well, other than my friend, but she doesn’t really count because we’ve known each other since high school.” Stepping closer to the largest display, Alice began to point at the various treats. “My favorite is the chocolate croissant. But I also make croissants with cheese and ham inside, I eat those more regularly since it gives a bit more substance for a morning breakfast item. There’s also a few muffins left, today’s muffins are blueberries but they change every day. Or at least they’re going to change every day til I’m able to hire more people on. And if you really don’t care about breakfast stuff, you can always go for the cupcakes and tarts and the likes, but I’m suspecting you’d like something for breakfast.”
She looked at Rafael, her eyes still bright although her smile became less full, a little more quiet, as she waited to see what he would like. Plenty of people complimented her work regularly, but it always meant so much to her when they did and she found herself nervous that the food Rafael came here for wouldn’t live up to expectation.
He was nodding as she spoke, mirroring her motions as they moved along the case. His teeth worried at his lip; his gaze kept falling back to the croissants. "Everything sounds so good, it's hard to decide... I think coffee and a ham and cheese croissant today," he said, though his tone made clear he wasn't entirely sure. "Chocolate next time though, definitely."
He stepped back toward the cash register, tanned fingers delving into his back pocket for his wallet. "Who else do you know at Pax, if you don't mind my asking? I'm still learning people, to be honest, and always meeting someone new, but maybe I know them..."
Alice was already grabbing the ham and cheese croissant and popping it into the microwave to heat it up. While they were made fresh in the morning, they were often cooled off by this point. Grabbing a recyclable cup, she returned to the counter and placed it before Rafael. She noticed his hands holding onto his wallet and gave a shake of her head, her red hair swinging from its ponytail. “Consider this one on the house as a neighbor to neighbor gift.
“And it’s Brittany,” Alice replied to his question as she placed her hands on on top of the other at the edge of the counter. “You may know her as BB; she lives on the second floor. She’s my friend from high school and moved into Pax first. I just got settled out here and she was doing nothing but raving about the place and I thought it would be nice to live a little closer to her. Still, I live on the fourth floor so we’re a bit separated.”
Rafael could not help but laugh. "Yes, I know her," he said. "Not well, but…" He took a ten-dollar bill from his wallet and stuffed it into the tip jar in spite of her insistence, utterly incapable of taking something for nothing. Alice blushed. "I met her right after we'd moved in. She's something else, isn't she?"
He raised his coffee to his lips, blowing over its steaming surface. "I'm glad you got to be so close to her, all the same. It really helps to have friends around, I think."
“Me too. We’re both from the east coast so it’s comforting to have a little bit of home a few floors down,” Alice replied with a content sigh. She parted her lips, ready to say something else, but was caught by the ding of the microwave. She quickly grabbed the food, shifting it to one of her colorful plates she had purchased specifically for the store, and placed the warm croissant before Rafael. “She really is something though. Always high energy and flitting back and forth, but sort of in the best of ways. I was super shy in high school and she sort of dragged me kicking and screaming out of that. But I think if she didn’t, I wouldn’t have gotten to the point of opening this place.”
She gave a shrug and glanced around the shop. She loved every bit of it, from the creak in the floor just outside the bathroom, to the well lit kitchen. If Brittany hadn’t been there through her life, building her confidence and reassuring Alice when she was nervous, she wasn’t sure the bakery would have ever happened.
He was smiling still, nodding encouragement as he plucked a napkin from a nearby dispenser. He moved out from in front of the register in case other customers arrived, but lingered close enough to continue their conversation. Gingerly he tore off the end of the croissant.
He popped the bit of croissant in his mouth, making a satisfied little sound as he chewed. It was delicious, rejuvenating and pleasant in a way he found difficult to describe. He washed down the mouthful with a sip of still-hot coffee. "Wow. I do need to thank her, then. This is outstanding." He tore off another bite, larger than before. "Sometimes we need someone like that. There's nothing wrong with being shy, I don't think, but it certainly makes doing things like this--" He gestured to the room around them, her warm and welcoming bakery. "--much more difficult. I'm glad you had her to help."
Alice grinned, feeling both relief and pleasure. “She’ll be happy to hear and I’m sure she’d thank you.” Alice stepped back from the counter, looking out the front window and seeing the utter lack of people coming to the store. It had been busier before with an early morning rush of busy parents and hung over college students who drifted through and left quickly, but now it was getting to the slower point of the day before the minor lunch rush. “Would you like to take a seat? I don’t want to force you to keep standing. I can chat with you over at one of the tables and just help anyone who comes through. I mean, unless you want to just have your breakfast in peace which I would completely understand.”
Rafael waved off her concern, but moved to sit all the same, carefully gathering up his drink and plate as he did. He found a small table nearby, close enough to allow her to quickly return to her work should anyone else drop in.
"I've had peace and quiet all morning," he said. "This is nice. I like meeting my neighbors." Most of them, he did not add, unable to pinpoint precisely what he had found so unsettling about one of their number, and unwilling to speak ill of him, regardless. He put all thoughts of Abel from his mind and focused instead on his host. "I'm sure BB will have you meeting everyone else in no time. There aren't that many of us yet, after all."
Alice followed Rafael to the little table and sat down, her body turned toward the rest of the bakery, ready to go help any customers if necessary, but her attention fully on her neighbor. “That’s right, Brittany gave me a rough estimate of who is living at the apartment complex right now and there definitely isn’t a lot.” Alice crossed her legs and bounced her one foot, her arms crossing as she leaned against the edge of the little table. “I’m really surprised it’s even able to run sufficiently with so few tenants. It’s a little weird, but maybe that’s just based on how it is on the east coast. If an apartment is going to open up, they usually have a wait list of people wanting to move in before it’s officially open so the place is actually really busy right off the bat.”
He nodded as he chewed, politely swallowing before attempting an answer. The croissant was already half gone; whether it was due to his hunger or its quality, even Rafe could not have said. All he knew for certain was that he felt more at ease in the presence of this relative stranger than he had in quite some time. Even the knowledge of the long night ahead at his work did not dampen his light mood.
"I thought the same thing," he said. "I put in for a studio assuming I wouldn't get it. It's a very nice building, after all, and the amenities…" He shrugged, sipping at his coffee. "They seem oddly selective, that's all I can guess. I've seen others come in asking after apartments, and Stephan seems to turn them away, one way or another. It's very strange."
“I know!” Alice exclaimed, her eyes bright. She leaned forward and lowered her voice. “I was talking to Brittany about that. It’s so picky and I don’t understand what they’re looking for. I mean, I haven’t lived here very long but like I told Britt, I’m not exactly the poster child for secure welfare. I just opened a bakery, it’s a financial risk. Yet they accepted me after I came in for a tour without issue. It’s just so… strange.”
Alice leaned back into her seat with a huff of air and bit at her bottom lip. “I mean, don’t think I dislike the place or anything. I just find it odd. It’s otherwise the nicest apartment I’ve ever lived in and I really love it so far. So you’ve only been at Pax for a little while yourself?”
Rafael nodded, sucking the last bit of buttery, flaky croissant from his fingertips. He wrapped his fingers around the cup of cooling coffee. "I have," he said. "For about a month or so, now. And like you said, so far I've enjoyed it. Other than the stray cat problem. But that's a very recent thing, and hopefully over…"
He shrugged. "Sooner or later they'll have to let more people in," he said. "I can't imagine this is very cost effective for them. But it is nice to have so much space to ourselves."
Alice grinned. “It is nice to have an entire floor to myself. I’m always worried I’m going to end up living on a floor of someone who has a peanut allergy or something. Even when I bake inside my apartment the smell always seems to get out in the halls. It’s kind of like playing house right now; all these empty spaces and only a few of us living there.” Alice mindlessly reached for her ponytail, gathering it in her hands and running her fingers through the strands. She seemed, for a moment, content, but it was short lived as her eyes sparked at another idea. “There’s a cat problem? That’s the first I’ve heard of it, but I’ve only been around for a little bit. Are they just mulling around outside?”
"I believe they're gone now," he said, clearly hoping to ease her mind. He sipped at his coffee, thinking back over the events that seemed to have touched off with his new floormate's arrival. "I first heard them at the windows. They were very loud, and seemed to be fighting, I think?" He chuckled. "At least at first. After a while there were some found inside, though. Your Brittany found some, I believe."
“Oh gosh, really?” The corners of Alice’s eyes crinkled and finally, she let out a small giggle. “Of all people to find the cats, Brittany is definitely not the person. She’s not a pet person. But don’t tell her I told you that.” He pantomimed zipping his lips. Her gaze moved to meet Rafael’s and then his empty plate. “Would you like anything else to eat?”
"No, thank you," he said, waving a hand atop the table. "It was delicious, but I'm full enough. That was delicious." He balanced the coffee between his fingertips, his elbows propped up on the table. "You really are very good at this. I hope your business does very well. It certainly deserves to."
Alice grinned, her eyes brightening and seeming to glimmer. Alice was the type of person that when she smiled, when she was truly happy, it was like a little light turned on within her. “Good! That makes me so happy!” She got to her feet and glanced toward the kitchen. “I really appreciate it and I’m really glad you liked the croissant. I should probably go get to baking though--I always try to start making the dough and stuff for tomorrow’s goods around now anyway. But it was so nice to meet you!”
"You too, Alice." He smiled warmly, throwing her a little wave as he finished off his coffee. She had more than set the tone for his day; he felt good, better than he had in quite some time. This place would become a regular stop, he could already tell.