chapter 15: in dreams 3

28 0 0
                                    

He did not lose any days after that. The kitchen staff would not lie about something like that. Because they all had to work fast and work well to serve the brigade, they all had to work in harmony always. Anything that would adversely affect work in the kitchen was immediately brought out in the open and dealt with. All other things that did not directly affect the kitchen were not discussed.

Thus, none of the kitchen staff would lie that he was absent for a day, since they now relied on him for vegetable-chopping duty. But none of them asked what was going on in the shadow barracks on the fourth floor, it was not their business and it did not affect Soji’s performance in the kitchen. Once it started affecting how he chopped the onions, THEN, and only then, would it be their problem.

Soji was grateful for all they had done for him. The assistant cook taught him how to chop the leeks very finely. He chatted with Shiro about Shiro’s little brother while they mopped the floor. With Yoko he sometimes talked about his weird dreams while they prepared lunch.

Now that he had received the month’s brigade allowance, it was time to repay all their kindness.

When work was over for the day, he headed on to the market. He bought all the ingredients, fruits, and vegetables he would need as he consulted the cookbooks. Flour, eggs, sugar, butter, peaches, and so on.

He did not head back to the barracks that night. He lay out on the pantry and went to sleep there for a few hours before starting on the baking. And he did manage to wake up by himself sometime while the moon was still out and the whole capital was quiet. Maybe he was just too excited, but it was still an incredible thing.

For some reason, since he began to live in the fourth-floor barracks he always saw the sun through the window in the morning. Back in the common barracks sometimes he got up and got a glass of water, some time in the night while it was still dark. It had never happened since he moved to his own room in the fourth floor.

It was probably the bad dreams that made him sleep longer than he should, but why did he not have those dreams this night that he slept in the pantry?

It was probably nothing to worry about, he told himself, as he rubbed off the sleep off his eyes and yawned, heading to the oven and the baking area. He was a cook, not a baker, although he had baked a few cakes before he entered the defense brigade. He opened the cookbook to a peach cake he read earlier, placed an apple over the pages, and got his ingredients ready.

Mixing batter, adding peaches, and warming an oven did not take much time. It was waiting for the cake to bake that took longer. Even when he finished making salads and the head cook’s grilled favorite skewered vegetables, the cake was still not done.

So he placed an elbow on the table beside the salad and leaned his head over his hand. Slowly the salad blurred and disappeared from view, as the scent of baking batter wafted around him.

He saw his mother, washing the dishes while waiting for the peach cake to bake. She turned and smiled at him as he munched on a peach.

“As soon as you smell even the peaches from the oven, Soji, the cake is done. Soon we’ll call in your grandmother and we can celebrate your birthday. Could you help dry the dishes? We’ll put them on the table in a while.”

He walked up to his mother and took up a clean towel. He looked up at his mother smiling as she washed the glasses.

“You’re a good boy. I hope you’ll always have good birthdays, even if they are simple ones.”

He nodded and wished the same.

“Soji?” It was a different voice. “Soji?” It was not like the voice in his head, it was more distinct, and sounded closer to his ear. “Soji!” The voice even began to shake him at the shoulders. “Soji! When did you start that cake! I think it’s over-done!”

That snapped him fully awake, and he found Yoko’s hands over his shoulders.

He quickly stood up and grabbed some mittens. He took out the cake. Yoko was right. The cake still smelled like a peach cake, and would still be edible, but the top was now toasted.

“Good morning, Yoko, and thanks,” he sighed at the dark-brown cake. “You think we can still eat it?”

Yoko peered left and right at it and took a few sniffs. “I think it should be alright. Just needs cream. Who’s the cake for?”

He rubbed his nose. “It’s for you all, the kitchen staff. It’s…it’s my birthday, and I wanted to thank you all. There’s salad and skewers too.”

“That’s so sweet,” Yoko smiled. “Although I think we need to make another one of these. This will just fit you and me and the cleaners,” she chuckled as she looked for some cream.

“I still have enough batter for another one,” he set to work, as some of the cleaners came in.

The sun was now rising, and he saw it.

The peach cake was critiqued to an inch of its life by everyone in the kitchen. Soji simply took notes on everything they said. Add more peaches. Lower the oven heat. Less sugar, more butter. At any rate, they all ate the cake, and no one coughed it out, and no one said they did not like it. They all liked the salad and the skewers.

Soji was happy. He would live off the happy memories for several days, as he bunked in the pantry.

The assistant cook and even the head cook found him asleep there several mornings. He was asked about it by both of them. Soji had no excuse, and he said as much. But he also said it would be easier for him to get up, collect the fresh herbs, and start the water for tea in the morning.

Code of the kitchen: What does not directly affect the kitchen, it is not discussed. The head and the assistant looked at each other, and consented. As long as it did not the kitchen in trouble with the defense brigade or the brigade commander, there was no problem.

Soji bowed and thanked them profusely.

So it was for a week or so, that Soji collected the herbs and started the morning tea, after bunking in the pantry for the night.

Until the brigade commander called for him again.

ActivatedWhere stories live. Discover now