|Rafael Atala (freyr) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-03-31 08:58:00
|Entry tags:||freyr, uke mochi|
all that's left
Who: Alice & Rafe
What: tiny swimsuits and dinner party plans
Where: lounging by the Pax pool
When: March 31st, midafternoon
Rafael's morning surf had gone well enough that he had had his fill of the beach for the time being, but the day's weather was too good to simply linger indoors. He had taken care of what few errands needed attending -- an email interview, a proofing of a recent solo photo shoot, a quick cleaning of his small apartment -- and headed outside, a large plastic pitcher's worth of frozen margaritas in his hand. He found himself alone on the broad expanse of the patio, affording him first choice among the numerous lounge chairs. He chose one that currently enjoyed direct sunlight, and stretched himself lazily out over it.
He had not been there long, and was only one margarita deep, when he heard the door open and close. He glanced up from behind his tortoiseshell-framed sunglasses, immediately breaking into a bright smile as his gaze alighted on the new arrival.
"Alice!" he called. He patted the lounge chair nearest him. The small shift caused his black swim trunks, already small, to ride lower still on his hips. "Come sit. This is perfect timing. I've got more than I should really drink alone..."
Alice’s smile flashed in Rafael’s general direction before she directed her flip-flopped feet toward her friend. She had her red hair tied up into a bun on the top of her head and the straps of a bikini top peeked out from beneath a tank top she wore over the ensemble.
In her hand was a book and a glass of water--she had applied sunblock back at her apartment--and over her arm was a towel with bright flowers patterned across it. “Hi!” She called as she got closer, glad that she wore sunglasses so that Rafael didn’t see her eyes bulge when she noticed his rather small swimming trunks. “I didn’t think anyone would be down here at this hour. How’s Mr. Fishy?”
"Doing very well," he answered. "Earlier today he watched The Inexplicable Universe while I cleaned. I thought about bringing him out here, but I feel like he might not appreciate the heat. And he definitely doesn't appreciate margaritas."
His head lolled against the plastic straps of the pool chair, turning toward her as she sat. "How have you been?"
“Okay,” Alice replied, laying her towel down and settling on top of it. She twisted in her chair, putting her book and water onto the table on the other side of her chair and taking that moment of being turned away to pull her tank top off. She folded it neatly and left it on the table as well before turning back and kicking off her flip-flops. “I realized I haven’t come out here yet, this is my first chance since moving here. I thought it may be nice to just take a little time off at the pool.” She smiled at Rafe and eyed the margaritas. “How lethal are those? I can’t afford a redo of Saint Pat’s day.”
Rafael laughed, shaking his head. "They're reasonably non-lethal," he said. "I don't make them very boozy if I'm going to be in the sun. Dehydration is real." He gestured lazily toward the rec room beyond the patio. "I think there's water in there, anyway. I'll take care of you."
He raised his glasses, pushing his tousled hair back with their frames. He squinted a little as he looked to her. "I'm glad you're out here. You need a little time off, I think. Do you work at the shop every day?"
Alice gave a little shrug. “Not every day. The bakery’s closed on Wednesdays so I'm off then…” she reached looked at the pitcher of margarita and her glass of water, opting to drink the water quickly in favor of getting a half cup of margarita. “And I took off Friday and Saturday for the mixer, too!”
"Thank God for that," Rafael laughed. "Do you not usually give yourself a weekend? One day surely isn't enough, especially with the hours you keep. I imagine you get there very early, don't you." He shifted onto his side, one arm bent to prop up his head. "Have you thought about hiring some help?"
Alice looked sheepish as she poured the margarita into her now empty glass. “I do have a register girl and another baker but…” she gave a shrug. “I just feel bad making them do everything. I know that's stupid but… I don't know. And no, I don't really take a weekend off. Two days or whatever.” She sighed and leaned back into her chair before taking a sip of the drink. “I am pretty exhausted though.”
"Please don't take this the wrong way," he said, "but I can tell. You look great, of course, I don't mean that. But you look tired. And you can only keep that kind of schedule for so long. Trust me, I know first hand." He flashed a bright grin, uncharacteristically teasing. "Seriously though? That's what you hired them to do. Let them work. Let them help you. Besides, they probably want the hours. You know how expensive rent is out here..."
Alice took a long breath in then let it slowly slip out again. She fidgeted with the edge of her shorts which she still hadn't taken off and frowned. “I know you're right. It's just...seems too soon? I've been open for barely half a year. What if all the people visiting the bakery are here just because it's new? What if the size of the crowd starts to go down? Then I'd have to fire people…” her frown deepened. “But I suppose I could give who I have hired more work. Maybe like two full days where I don't go to the bakery at all. That would be amazing.”
"It would," Rafael said, pointing an index finger at her. "And you'll be more creative when you're well rested. So your product will be better, you'll feel better… it'll all work out. You'll see." He pushed the cocktails closer to her, encouraging her to fill her now half-empty glass. "Maybe don't take on any new people. But yeah, more hours for the ones you trust, see how they do with that…" He smiled, and slipped his shades back on. "I think the shop will do better than you think. You're very talented, Alice. You should really trust yourself more. And that means trusting the people you hired, too, you know?"
“Thank you,” Alice whispered. Her cheeks and the tip of her nose had grown pink, perhaps from the alcohol but likely due to Rafael’s compliment. “I'll work it out. I just...I don't want to fail. Everyone in my family is overachievers, it's how I was raised, so it scares me to fail. I am probably the worst person to be a manager.” This lightened Alice’s tone and she even laughed, even looked at her friend. “I don't like confrontation and telling people what to do makes me uncomfortable. I think I'd be happier if I could just make cupcakes all day and never interact with people.”
He laughed, shaking his tousled head. "No you wouldn't," he said. "You could do all that, but you'd be in someone else's shop, doing exactly what they told you to do. Probably making boring cupcakes with too much bland icing piled on top. Or cakes that are mostly Rice Krispies and fondant, or ripoffs of Duff Goldman designs…" He sipped straight from the pitcher, then licked his lips as he set it aside. "No, you need creative control. And once you find the right mix of employees you can make one of them do the work you don't enjoy. You can just kick back and create."
Alice couldn't help but laugh. “You should be a life coach,” she decided outloud. The alcohol and sun warmed her and washed away what shy nature she had. She wasn't drunk, she was simply more comfortable, and stood from her seat to shed her shorts in favor of laying out fully in her strawberry printed bikini. “You have a lot of good advice, sir. You should be paid for it!”
With a flourish Rafael affected a bow, or at least as much of one as he could manage while still lying down. "I try to be helpful," he allowed. "But you make it easy. Not everyone actually is talented, or off to such a good start as you. Which makes for much more awkward advice-giving…" Too, there was the small matter of Rafael's giving better advice than he ever took, himself. But that was a matter for another time, he knew. He rolled over onto his belly, his head turning to still look at his newest friend.
"So what else have you got going on?" he asked. "Any plans… or, wait, I'm sorry. You brought a book and I'm talking your head off."
“No, no it's fine! I like talking to you. I never get to see anyone outside of the bakery so this is nice.” Alice flopped back into the chair, emphasizing her point. “Nothing else is going on though. Just work. Although I have gotten to meet some people! Everyone seems super nice.” She closed her eyes for a moment, savoring the warmth of the sun. She was certainly a day person through and through, night always just felt wrong. “How are you doing? Did you eat up all the leftovers from the party?”
"Absolutely," Rafael said. "What little you all left me. Not that I'm complaining. I'm glad it was all so well received. I'm glad you got to meet Nish, too. She needs to get out more. She was actually kind of nervous about meeting you, I think…" He shook his head, wiping sweat from his brow. "I think it went really well. Which isn't surprising. You're right, most people here have been very friendly. Maybe there's a method to their madness, after all, when it comes to their tenant selection process."
“I saw Nish, actually,” Alice turned on her side, looking at Rafael. “She stopped by the bakery and got some treats. She seems a little more comfortable now than at the party. But it was fun, seeing her and the party. I’ve never had a grown up dinner party before.” She was fully grinning now, growing steadily excited by the sunshine, company, and liquor. “It’s so stupid but I feel like a grown up. Finally. I’m 25 and just starting to feel like this is what being an adult is about. Dinner parties, a full time job, living on my own without my parents or sisters nearby…”
"That's not stupid." He rested his head on the blade of his arm, watching her with an earnest smile on his face. "I think it's great. Sometimes I still don't feel like an adult. But I think everyone has those moments. You just have to remind yourself they'll pass, and you've got everything as figured out as anyone else does."
A teasing grin played on his lips. "You know this means you're hosting the next party, right?"
Alice’s eyes went wide and she quickly lowered her sunglasses to look at Rafael directly, surprised eyes and all. “Are you sure about that? I am ok with baked goods but I’m not so great with other meals. It’d probably end up being something simple, like chicken parm. Nothing unique like what you made.” Pushing her sunglasses back on, she let her head drop against the chair. “I cooked for my family a lot but they were always on the run so everything was pretty simple. Meatloaf, potatoes… we’re Irish but not so Irish that we have family recipes. I don’t know if my dinner could compare to yours!”
"It was nothing." Rafael waved a hand, dismissive, chuckling all the while. "And anyway, simple things are the hardest to get right," he said. "Ask me how many times I made bechamel before Chef didn't pour it into the garbage." He shook his head, and reached up to grasp the pitcher and take a lengthy, chilly sip. "I love chicken parmesan. And potatoes and meat of any kind are always a great idea. Oh, what about steak? Salad and steak and baked potatoes… something chocolatey for dessert."
“I never cooked a steak before,” Alice replied woefully. “I don’t even know the differences between cuts, or kinds? Whatever it’s called.” She lifted a hand to her brow and sighed dramatically. “You’re really daring if you think I can cook a steak. Do you know how to cook them? Can you give me pointers?”
"Of course I can," he said. "I'll even go with you to pick them out, if you want. And for the temperatures… this is actually kind of cool…" He shifted again, raising his left hand. With his right he pointed to the knot of muscle beneath his thumb; one by one he pressed each finger to his thumb, touching that same spot with his right index finger each time. "Rare, medium rare, medium well, well. Easy. Can't mess it up."
Alice watched Rafael carefully and gave a small nod. “Okay, so that’s not too hard.” She sipped at her drink and gave another nod. “Okay, let’s do it! Let’s see who is available. And I’d love if you could come with me to pick out the steak. I don’t even know how much to get for however many people would come. And I’ll have to clean up my apartment… and dress it up… I should probably get, like, cloth napkins or something, huh? I have all these baking things but not much in terms of fancy dinners.” As she rambled, she dug into her book where her cell phone was wedged between pages, along with her kings. Flipping through the cell, she began typing a list of items to remember. “Maybe like candles? The steak, potatoes, salad… hmm, maybe we shouldn’t do chocolate for dinner. Maybe a tart, it’ll be a little lighter after having a heavy meal, don’t you think?”
He only shrugged, rolling over onto his back again as he did. He was draped over the lounge chair like a contented cat, soaking up sunlight, a seemingly permanent smile affixed to his face. "Chef's choice," he said. "You know dessert much better than I do. I know you'll come up with something brilliant. And I'll help wherever I can. Sous chef for a day, right?"
“That would be nice! I can teach you how to make tarts if you teach me how to cook a proper steak, would that work?” Alice asked, sitting up fully and grinning at Rafael. “It’ll be a lesson and dinner. We get to eat what we worked on!”
"That's perfect," he said. "You just set it up and let me know when, and I'll be there. I'll even drive. I know the best butcher shop…"